The Standard of Living

Posted: 28 October 2015 in Rules

“Agents can buy, handwave, or get parts to make pretty much anything a normal, middle-class European can buy.” – Night’s Black Agents

In a previous post, I examined the cost of living in a mediaeval society, but I’m running a science fiction campaign at the moment so I look to modern prices and wages.

As is my habit, I checked against the real world, and because Savage Worlds is published by an American company I used information from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics; it turns out to be easier to find out what someone earns than what the cost of living is, so I’m inferring lifestyles from that. As you’ll see, if your character is Rich or Noble he has about the same standard of living as a contemporary American lawyer; if you watch any TV at all, you know roughly what that means.


  • Poverty Hindrance: Starting wealth is $250, so by extrapolation from the Rich Edge, annual salary is probably around $25,000 – that’s about what a baker, janitor or taxi driver earns, according to the BLS. In the US military this would be an airman, seaman, private first class or lance-corporal, depending on arm of service.
  • Normal: Starting wealth $500, so by extrapolation annual salary around $50,000. A mechanic, police officer, nurse, teacher or military lieutenant is in this sort of area, as well as the average PC.
  • Rich or Noble: Starting wealth $1,500 and annual salary $150,000. Dentists, lawyers, generals, admirals, people like that.
  • Filthy Rich: Starting wealth $2,500, annual salary $500,000. That’s a surgeon, twice, with extra fries.


One of the reasons for this line of thought was the idea that a player character might take the Rich Edge and say it paid for, or represented the income from, a small starship.

Let’s look at the stock Light Freighter in the SFC; it’s Size 8 and has a crew of 5, which means it costs $850 per day for food and fuel, $800 per jump, and up to $50,000 per month for wages; if we assume one jump every two weeks, that’s a total of $331,050 per annum just to keep the ship running, and another $600,000 for crew wages, which means chartering a Light Freighter has to cost somewhere in the region of $7,000 to $20,000 per week. (Incidentally, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average airline pilot or flight engineer does indeed make somewhere around $10,000 per month.)

This means a Filthy Rich character could credibly pay to operate one if the crew forego their wages, and a group of two or three could keep it flying even if the crew are being paid normal salaries.

Alternatively, I can interpret the Edges, Hindrances and lifestyles for aspiring freighter captains thus:

  • Poverty: Hardscrabble free trader. Trading isn’t making ends meet; the money from adventures subsidises ship operations.
  • Normal: Getting by. You make just enough trading to keep the ship spaceworthy and pay the crew’s wages.
  • Rich or Noble: Better days. You make a comfortable living trading.
  • Filthy Rich: Merchanter royalty. Your trading acumen, and your ship, are widely known and respected.

That’s a lot faster and easier than the trading Rules As Written or anything I’ve come up with previously. Your character wants to be a successful trader? Take the Rich Edge next time you advance, and we won’t worry about exactly what he trades in, or how.

Now, while you’re at the Exchange brokering your next charter, this nervous guy in a sharp suit takes you to one side. He’s heard from a friend of a friend that you and your crew can be trusted with delicate situations…

  1. steelbrok says:

    I like the idea of using the wealth edges and hindrance to represent how well you’re doing as a Free trader captain.
    Personally I’ve been kicking around the idea that reskinning the Noble edge is the way to go for owning a starship. Noble gives you Rich and +2 Charisma but you have some Obligations (presumably Major ones to balance out the edge).

    Rich? Your running a starship. In the background (where I prefer to leave trade too) you are wheeling and dealing in the tens and hundreds of thousands of credits, an extra few thousand for the latest blaster is pretty much chicken feed, so yes you’re Rich.

    +2 Charisma? Even when starships are very common (Star Wars, say), they and their captains are still pretty rare in the population. You’re like an airline pilot in the early glamorous days, heck, your like Han Solo. Of course you’re charismatic.

    Obligation? This one needs a little more work by the GM. Who do the authorities look for when you take off in a hurry and ignore safety regulations? Who’s the one the local crimelord insists owes him a favour? Yep, you have obligations.

    It’s tempting to add in Piloting and maybe repair as requirements too but then I’d be inclined to give another benefit too, maybe a free Trademark ship edge?

    As an aside, I can’t help but think that some variant on the cabin fever rules from 50 fathoms (or maybe Pirates of the Spanish Main?) could be useful.

  2. andyslack says:

    I like your thinking, Steelbrok – I’d been thinking more in terms of wealth, but reskinning Noble does work very well.

    I’m not familiar with the cabin fever rules, but I probably won’t need them… my player characters are already prone to assault each other without any rules simulating irritability. Happens about every other session. Fortunately the actual players don’t hold grudges.

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