Friday, January 27, 2012

More Money, More Problems

Another interesting thing about old school gaming: money is the driving force for the characters, but money almost causes more trouble than it's worth.

I'm making some dungeons, and I realize that using the oD&D tables from Monsters & Treasure and Underworld & Wilderness Adventures generates stupid amounts of treasure.  Any given haul can easily cause the PCs to generate stupid amounts of money.

We're talking retirement amounts of money.  If you consider that being a peasant costs a few silver a day, then the haul I mention below (16,666 gold pieces) will last you past your natural lifespan, assuming you're human.  Even if you are a little more of a big spender and average a gold piece a day to live in comparative luxury, you still won't run out of your first haul for about forty-five years.

But.  There's a snag.  You're a transient, so you don't really need much, but you're on the road hoping to get rich quickly, a life which serfdom won't allow.

Once you get money, though, several logistical problems emerge.

Let's say, for example, that there are 100,000 gold pieces worth of treasure in a dungeon.  Maybe there are six adventurers, so that's about 16,666 gold pieces per party member.

Good luck carrying that out of the dungeon.

If you're going oD&D, that's ten times more than a character can feasibly carry while moving at a quarter of his movement rate (any sane DM will say you can't move, and even the insane ones say that you'll be moving so slowly that you'll probably be attacked half a million times before you actually get out of the damn dungeon).  If you're playing Weird Fantasy Role-Playing, you're eating into your 167th equipment slot, meaning you're at something like 32 encumbrance points, and that your skeleton probably collapsed under the weight of your loot 11,000 coins ago.

This also assumes that you're totally naked, somehow carrying all these coins in your hands.  This further assumes that you lack enough common sense to know that thousands of coins are heavy.

Well, you think, I'll just make some return trips.  This dungeon isn't going anywhere, so what hurry do I have?  But each return trip to the dungeon is a risk, increasing the likelihood of your horrific and messy death.  If it's among your first delves, you may not have enough equipment to grab all that treasure at first, so you'll have have to make return trips.  To minimize those trips, you're either buying carts and livestock (good luck getting those in the dungeon), or hirelings (better pay well, or else they might just take the money and run, assuming they don't knife you in the back before doing so).

Then, once you've obtained your pilfered tomb gold, are you just going to drop it in a cave and stay there all the time?  No?  Then you need to buy property.  And since you're out and about, you'll need people (or objects or whatever) to guard that property.  And people to manage it.

It's fairly realistic, but at the same time, it almost makes you wonder why you'd risk your life to get it.

It also dampens that initial shock when you think, Wait, how much money did I put in this dungeon?

When you're wondering what in the hell happens when somebody has that much loot, the real answer is that the adventurers will be investing it into future dungeon delves.  So it all balances out.

Anyway, enough rambling.  Referring back to the title of this post, take us out Biggie Smalls:


  1. What you refer to as 'stupid amounts of treasure' are actually wickedly wonderful methods of forcing characters to make tough decisions. A lot of adventures only start to really get interesting once it becomes a matter of the player characters trying to figure out a way to get all that loot out of the dungeon and back into town...and then things get even more fun as money only escalates and enhances the corruption, greed, inflation and everything else. Prices get doubled, tripled, etc.--whatever the market will bear. Poor relations (spurious and actual) come out of the woodwork. The tax collectors will show up. It just gets more and more complicated--like in the Conan stories where he finds himself loaded down with great sums of loot and jewels...and it is not so great, nor so easy to try and to hold onto that stuff. A lot of people figured out a long time ago that it is far easier to lift gold from wealthy adventurers than to go mucking about in those dangerous tombs, crypts, and dungeons...oh and it gets overlooked sometimes, but a lot of old school games used the rule that only the gold/loot that actually gets carried back to town gets counted towards experience...and does that ever make players get inventive, creative and very determined...

    1. Definitely. The initial realization that dungeons are full of lots of treasure is tempered by the realization that dungeons are filled with more treasure than any one person can carry.

      I haven't toyed with inflation yet, although the money hasn't become so ridiculous that it's an issue.

      "oh and it gets overlooked sometimes, but a lot of old school games used the rule that only the gold/loot that actually gets carried back to town gets counted towards experience..."

      I usually assume that rule. Although leaving treasure behind can add zest to an otherwise dreary dungeon atmosphere.


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