Saturday, October 02, 2010

Fabulous Wealth

This grew out of a number of conversations (some online) about the massive amounts of wealth old school characters (who earn most of their EXP through treasure) tend to acquire. Carousing rules work great, but if you don't want to use those for some reason, the PCs are going to end up with giant piles of treasure. Here's what I've done in the past to allow the players to fritter that great wealth away:

Potions and Magic - I've usually had a very small local market (usually one hedgewitch or the like) selling potions and a few magic spells. The potions are usually utilitarian things, like healing potions and waterbreathing potions, and sell for 100s of gp per use. Even first-level spells should probably sell for no less than 500 gp. Nothing above 2nd level is available, and little of that.

I also allow the PCs to pay sages and such for identifying magic items plundered from the dungeon. This also tends to be expensive, usually costing 50 gp or so to identify a potion and 300 gp for weapons and armour.

Fates Worse Than Death - catch a nasty disease from the giant rats? Or get cursed by the witch? Getting that sort of thing undone can cost some serious coin. The typical price I've seen for having a spell cast for you is 100 gp per level of the spell, making cure disease and remove curse cost 300 gp for each casting.

Transportation - Do the PCs need to travel by sea to get somewhere? There won't be regular cruise-ship traffic to the Isle of Dread, so they may need to buy their own war galley (60,000 gp) and crew it with rowers (300 at 2gp per month), sailors (30 at 10 gp per month), and a captain (250 gp per month). If the trip requires they sail out of sight of land, they'll want a navigator too (150 gp per month). Some marines (up to 75 at 4 gp per month for hazard pay) might be nice in case they run into pirates or sea monsters as well. And all these people will need potable water and provisions to consume on the voyage.

Throwing Money at Problems - Allow the players to solve some problems with money. Let them hire and outfit henchmen to accompany them on their adventures. A sage (2,000 gp per month) might be able to learn more about the dungeon or the evil duke who is threatening the region, while a spy (500+ gp per mission) might be able to ferret out the Duke's vile plans. Maybe the orc tribe will take a bribe to go pillage elsewhere, or could be hired to help take on the hobgoblins next door. Maybe the dragon won't eat you if it let it eat your horses.

Making Friends and Influencing People - Being known as philanthropists and high-rollers can result in beneficial modifiers to local reaction check rolls. This can include things like sacrifices at the local temple of a patron deity, weregeld paid to the families of henchmen who died on the last adventure, or rebuilding the orphanage burned down by the goblin lackeys of the evil duke. My college crew celebrated important milestones and achieving long-term goals with wild parties, in which they invited many of the important NPCs from past adventures. These were fun to RP, and allowed me to sow the seeds of future adventures. And, of course, they required the spending of lots of coin on food, entertainment, and clothes.

Bling - Every girl's crazy 'bout a sharp dressed man. Allow them bonuses to reaction rolls when they dress to the nines (after spending money on it, of course). Maybe a high-plumed helm or banner gives a morale bonus to their henchmen in battle. You're more likely to get an audience with the Lord Sheriff if you're dressed like someone who ought to be given an audience with the Lord Sheriff. A few bribes and a fancy gift might make things go smoother, too. If you really want to look the part, you'll need servants and a carriage and all of that as well.

And if you're knighted after rescuing the count's daughter, you'll owe him a certain amount of military service every year. To avoid having dull patrols and sentry duty interfering with far more profitable dungeoneering, pay enough scutage to his lordship so he can hire mercenaries instead.

Property - There's no need to wait until reaching "name level" before allowing the PCs to start spending money on lands and property. A small house in town can serve as a start, with a few servants and guards to protect it while they are away on adventure.

The nice thing about most of these suggestions is that they don't make the PCs feel like they are being punished for their success. Taxes and theft only make the players suspicious and angry. They can be used, but only with moderation. Instead, let the players use that money to make the lives of their PCs more fun and comfortable. Once you get the ball rolling, the players are likely to make suggestions of their own. Whenever possible, let them get what they want; "no" just shuts things down, but "yes, and..." creates new adventures and new fun.

Art by Joseph Mallord William Turner, Jean Limbourg, and Hans Makart .


Roger the GS said...

> Taxes and theft only make the players suspicious and angry.

That is EXACTLY why the rules in AD&D do not work as written. Gary must have written them coming off a hate-bender against Monty Haul campaigns; the advancement fees are brutal even without the encouragement to steal, tax and so on. Woe unto the first level thief who discovers a +1 short sword; xp without gold for the fee means he will stagnate, frustratingly.

Things like this are what leads me to believe "D&D is NOT right" when it comes to xp. If treasure be weighted more than combat, great, but at 1xp/gp you lose the "stay hungry" aspect of early levels really quickly.

trollsmyth said...

Roger: This is why you'll find most of the retro-clones seriously inflate the price of armour from the original games. Most PCs will have all the mundane equipment they could possibly want long before they reached 2nd level under those rules. Even with price inflation, it only drags it out to level 3, maybe.

I'm really curious what Gygax and company did with all that wealth. Old Geezer implies they hoarded it and then spent it all in one massive orgy of stronghold-construction. I suppose that may have worked, but I think it does explain level-draining monsters, rustmonsters, and similar adventuring hazards that forced a drain on resources.

graham said...

I've been thinking seriously about giving 1xp for every silver piece instead of gold and then reducing available treasure accordingly.

I'd adjust starting money, so they'd have enough to outfit themselves with the (bare) basics and also do some minor adjustments to equipment costs but for the most part things would be the same but 10x as expensive.

A silver standard is more historically accurate too, for what that's worth.

nextautumn said...

I've been seriously thinking about reducing all treasure found to 10% (100G.P. would be 10 g.p., etc.),keeping equipment prices the same but granting 10 x.p. per g.p. - so money continues to matter but advancement stays the same. If THAT doesn't make treasure a serious prize I don't know what will. Basically, money is simply more scarce and, hence, more valuable.

Also, in addition to the ideas you suggest (which are great by the way - thank you), every time an enemy scores a natural 20 against a pc, I rule that any non-magical armor worn is damaged, either worsening that character's ac or restricting movement. So buying new armor or repairing old armor eats up some coin (non-magical armor gets a save).

nextautumn said...

Edit: I see that this is really similar to graham's silver standard (above). Also, I meant that magical armor gets a save, of course.

JB said...

The transportation deal is a huge drain on party treasure in my experience. The Isle of Dread, for example, does little to offset the costs incurred by hiring a sailing ship and full crew plus provisions.

Otherwise, dividing XP needed and GP found by a factor of 10 (leaving monster XP the least in B/X) also allows for less treasure with consistent growth rate.

Roger the GS said...

These are great suggestions - one other note about treasure rules I've found to be necessary - if you (the DM) don't give it a gp value in your notes, it can be sold for money but doesn't count for experience. Kobold spears, chairs and tables, "hey, how much would someone pay for a nice oaken door?" all don't count for xp. Campaigns turn stagnant when the players start acting like crackhead looters.

Andreas Davour said...

Or the players could always start a chain of inns, like my players always seem to do.

Sometimes they are staffed by gnolls...

trollsmyth said...

Andreas: That sounds... less than sanitary. ;p