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7/16/2014 7:00 am  #1


Experience and Wealth

We haven't actually started our AS&SH campaign yet, so this may be only speculation; for that matter, I'd appreciate if those who have run the game on multiple occassions would enlighten me about the ratio of different XP sources on average (i.e. how much XP is gained from defeating monsters compared to recovering treasure, reaching campaign goals, etc.).

It has been a largely unaddressed issue in OSR games that, using 1 gp = 1 XP conversion rates, the familiar XP charts, and reduced XP award for defeating monsters (reduced as in "not 100 XP per HD"), most characters by attaining the fourth level of experience have gathered something like 5,000-6,000 gold per person (if not more). However, these games usually offer no options as to how to meaningfully spend the accumulated riches.

Some of these games present an upkeep cost but, assuming generally successful adventuring, doesn't matter much (100 gp per month for a 10,000 XP character). Others offer an alternate rule of earning XP for GP spent on frivolous things, but I personally don't find it satisfying as, no matter how finely does it support a particular atmosphere, it screams it is a work-around, avoiding to deal with the inherent problem of characters accumulating large quantities of gold.

There is, of course, the upgrading of equipment; but - even in AS&SH - plate mail costs merely 350 gp granting an AC of 3, and even the best standard armour set (full plate) costs 2,000 gp, and standard shields and weaponry cost much, much less in comparison.

Spellcasting classes usually have the ability to research new spells and create scrolls, potions, etc. that work well as a general money sink; but thief- and fighter-types don't usually have these options, ans even casters can be limited sometime.

What do you guys offer? What do characters in your campaigns spend their money on?

 

7/16/2014 7:58 am  #2


Re: Experience and Wealth

In my campaign, there simply isn't much treasure which the characters find. With no shops for magic equipment, there isn't really any need for it. The players also don't bother with picking up weapons and armor from defeated enemies, unless they want to wear them themselves.

In the Conan d20 game, treasure pretty much doesn't matter at all, as it all evaporates quickly and the PCs are assumed to be broke at the start of each new adventure.

What I am introducing in my campaign now, is to let the players decide what standard of living their characters maintain, and that affects how fast wealth is lost to upkeep. And how rich or poor they are looking addects how other people are treating them. It's mostly a matter of pride to not look like some hobos with swords. But if they try to live too fancy, it will become hard to maintain such a high level for long as wealth runs out much quicker. It doesn't have a meaningful impact on the character abilities, but is just an element of setting flavor.
In the long run, they can use their great wealth to buy or build themselves a stronghold and employ guards and servants to run and protect the place. The practical gain is low, but it provides prestige and respect. Once you give players a taste of being celebrated heroes and people respecting them, they usually get hooked up on it pretty quickly and will get quite motivated to maintain it that way. Players don't tend to take any attacks on their pride lightly.


"Steel isn't strong, boy. Flesh is stronger. What is steel compared to the hand that wields it?"

Spriggan's Den
 

7/16/2014 8:28 am  #3


Re: Experience and Wealth

PCs in Old School games are supposed to be saving a lot of gold to build strongholds when they reach "name" level.  So this isn't really a problem so much as a feature of the game, at least as Gary intended it to be played.  It's not really his fault that so many players and DMs ignore this aspect of D&D entirely.

Ynas Midgard wrote:

I'd appreciate if those who have run the game on multiple occassions would enlighten me about the ratio of different XP sources on average (i.e. how much XP is gained from defeating monsters compared to recovering treasure, reaching campaign goals, etc.).

In 1st edition AD&D, which AS&SH most resembles XP-wise, probably 70% or more of XP comes from treasure.  I think the ratio was even higher in the AS&SH campaign I ran.  Monsters just aren't worth that much XP compared to treasure, and you can only kill so many of them in a session.

(One alternative to giving out monetary treasure is giving out magic items instead.  They can be worth a lot of XP, and you can always prevent the PCs from turning them into gold by saying no market for them is available at the current time.)

Last edited by Blackadder23 (7/16/2014 8:31 am)


Michael Sipe 1979-2018
Rest in peace, brother.
 

7/16/2014 8:35 am  #4


Re: Experience and Wealth

Ynas Midgard wrote:

What do you guys offer? What do characters in your campaigns spend their money on?

Ynas, my friend, are you in luck! AS&SH has the *perfect* answer to this question:

The Drunken Debauchery Table!

This might be my players' favorite part of the game. Between adventures, they roll on the table, and poof. 10-100 percent of their wealth is gone. And adventure hooks just start rolling in. It is the best transitional tool I have ever seen.

I'm even contemplating giving XP only for treasure lost to debauchery--or at least risked to debauchery. I haven't quite worked out the debauched details.

But this one table secures AS&SH as the S&S-iest bit of badassery around, if you want my opinion. And that of my awesome degenerate players.

 

7/16/2014 9:43 am  #5


Re: Experience and Wealth

I have the same issue with that middle range of levels where they have more than enough money to live out the rest of their lives.  I believe the shift to getting xp for gp's spent may be the way to go.

I like the Barbarians of Lemuria system for losing all money between adventures and having the characters develop a short story describing how it was wrested from them, then meeting the other characters in the tavern to go on the next adventure.

Unfortunately they are several levels from creating their estates / fortresses / strongholds and have a lot of cash.  I may begin to let them start buying land or buildings etc in prep for the future.  This will deplete the cash, give reasons for exploring, and not seem ham handed in resolving the issue.

Morgan


“How can I wear the harness of toil
And sweat at the daily round,
While in my soul forever
The drums of Pictdom sound?” 
 

7/16/2014 10:08 am  #6


Re: Experience and Wealth

I never thought of XP for treasure this way. Is it to reward taking risks, even when money becomes essentially worthless?
Maybe it's an idea I should use in my campaign.


"Steel isn't strong, boy. Flesh is stronger. What is steel compared to the hand that wields it?"

Spriggan's Den
 

7/16/2014 12:59 pm  #7


Re: Experience and Wealth

Gary was constantly coming up with new ways to spend gold in the early days. Wages of hirelings and shares of henchmen, building strongholds, upkeep of servants like dragons and the like, investment in magical research, etc etc. Also, don't underestimate the players' ability to spend what they have. There's a sense of thrill and power that comes through the acquisition of gold and gems, and you should expect your players to come up with their own ideas on that matter - and welcome them into the campaign, taking it in unsuspected directions, often for the better. It is something that is best left to a particular referee's interpretation, I feel, though it is true one could use some help in the form of examples and broad guidelines to come up with new opportunities to spend money in the game world. 

I'm going to talk about this with Ernest.

PS: Referees often forget to ask between adventures how the players are keeping their wealth secure. Gems and such shouldn't be common in the game world, so you shouldn't just say "OK" when the players declare they convert mountains of gold into smaller, rare gems. Platinum is uncommon, not readily available from the common folk either. Placing your money in secure vaults means there's an actual location to their wealth. Who owns the vault? How much does he get from it in percentage of interests or whatnot? Does anyone else know of the place? Are there less than honest people amongst them? And so on. That's part of the resource and logistics management of the game as well.

Last edited by Benoist (7/16/2014 1:06 pm)


Author, Hyperborean Laboratories, AFS Magazine Issue 3
Co-owner, partner at GP Adventures
The Hobby Shop Dungeon
 

7/16/2014 1:29 pm  #8


Re: Experience and Wealth

Gems and such shouldn't be common in the game world, so you shouldn't just say "OK" when the players declare they convert mountains of gold into smaller, rare gems. Platinum is uncommon, not readily available from the common folk either.

Good point.

My players had the opposite problem in our last campaign, which is relevant to the OP, I think. The PCs' wealth consisted mostly of valuable gems and jewelry that were good for XP generation but terrible for spending. No one in the small border town had remotely enough gold to cash them out unless it was at a severe discount (which none of them wanted). In a bigger town, they suspected they would attract unwanted attention (see Thieves Guild and Corrupt Officials) if they tried to cash them out, so they were leery of that too. For example, I think capitalbill's guy had like 10-15k gold worth of gems and like 250 of actual gold. So, they were wealthy, but not liquid. Big difference. Ended up creating a nice always broke kind of tone that I thought was very sword and sorcery.

Anyway, keying gems, art, jewelry and antiques and other non-spendable items as treasure can be a good way to control spendable wealth [5k diamond in a ring in a pile of bones instead of bag of 5k gp] and create adventure hooks (do x and we'll cash out that diamond ring for you). I rarely key huge piles of coins unless the situation absolutely logically demands it.


Blackadder23: Insanely long villain soliloquy, then "Your action?"
BORGO'S PLAYER: I shoot him in the face
 

7/16/2014 1:33 pm  #9


Re: Experience and Wealth

Yora wrote:

I never thought of XP for treasure this way. Is it to reward taking risks, even when money becomes essentially worthless?
Maybe it's an idea I should use in my campaign.

It's an abstraction, much like hit points are in the game, that assumes that the value of the treasure and coin obtained is in direct relation to the strength or deviousness of the challenge that was faced. The AD&D DMG actually points out that the 1 GP = 1 XP ratio should be modified on a case by case basis to also reflect the specific weakness or strength of the challenge that was faced, up to rations of 3 GP for 1 XP for especially weaker situations or opponents, or 1 GP for 3 XP for impossible odds and the like. The DMG gives the example of getting only 1 XP for 20 GP if you stole 1,000 GP from 10 kobolds, for instance (page 85). 

It is a useful abstraction because it is a concrete goal and victory condition in the game (think of an exploration wargame here). If you get the treasure and secure it away from the dungeon, them's the breaks: you basically "won" at the game this time around, and you reap the rewards from that. Much like hit points, no matter how much of a discomfort it might create to the aficionado of "realism" in the game, it actually works in play. If it ain't broken, don't fix it.

Last edited by Benoist (7/16/2014 1:33 pm)


Author, Hyperborean Laboratories, AFS Magazine Issue 3
Co-owner, partner at GP Adventures
The Hobby Shop Dungeon
 

7/16/2014 1:37 pm  #10


Re: Experience and Wealth

Chainsaw wrote:

Good point.

My players had the opposite problem in our last campaign, which is relevant to the OP, I think. The PCs' wealth consisted mostly of valuable gems and jewelry that were good for XP generation but terrible for spending. No one in the small border town had remotely enough gold to cash them out unless it was at a severe discount (which none of them wanted). In a bigger town, they suspected they would attract unwanted attention (see Thieves Guild and Corrupt Officials) if they tried to cash them out, so they were leery of that too. For example, I think capitalbill's guy had like 10-15k gold worth of gems and like 250 of actual gold. So, they were wealthy, but not liquid. Big difference. Ended up creating a nice always broke kind of tone that I thought was very sword and sorcery.

Anyway, keying gems, art, jewelry and antiques and other non-spendable items as treasure can be a good way to control spendable wealth [5k diamond in a ring in a pile of bones instead of bag of 5k gp] and create adventure hooks (do x and we'll cash out that diamond ring for you). I rarely key huge piles of coins unless the situation absolutely logically demands it.

Good points as well!
 


Author, Hyperborean Laboratories, AFS Magazine Issue 3
Co-owner, partner at GP Adventures
The Hobby Shop Dungeon
 

7/16/2014 1:54 pm  #11


Re: Experience and Wealth

In my campaign I charge 100gp/level/month for upkeep. For henchmen it's 50gp/level. I also use Jeff Rients carousing system which allows players to spend 1d6 x 100gp at the end of each session for a bonus XP (and a chance for something bad to happen if they blow their save vs. Drunkeness). I also let players pay 100gp per magic item for identification.

The net result of all this has been to keep the players pretty much broke. Some players like it and think it feels appropriate to the genre, others resent it.

 

7/16/2014 2:11 pm  #12


Re: Experience and Wealth

chrisj wrote:

In my campaign I charge 100gp/level/month for upkeep. For henchmen it's 50gp/level. I also use Jeff Rients carousing system which allows players to spend 1d6 x 100gp at the end of each session for a bonus XP (and a chance for something bad to happen if they blow their save vs. Drunkeness). I also let players pay 100gp per magic item for identification.

Great ideas as well. I love carousing, partly because I enjoy gambling in real life and partly because I think the metagame aspect of it helps simulate the in-game gambling that usually happens in swords and sorcery stories.

Between illiquid treasure, upkeep, carousing and saving for a stronghold, the referee should have plenty of ways to keep the PCs motivated.

The net result of all this has been to keep the players pretty much broke. Some players like it and think it feels appropriate to the genre, others resent it.

Burn the resenters!


Blackadder23: Insanely long villain soliloquy, then "Your action?"
BORGO'S PLAYER: I shoot him in the face
 

7/16/2014 3:27 pm  #13


Re: Experience and Wealth

Benoist wrote:

It is a useful abstraction because it is a concrete goal and victory condition in the game (think of an exploration wargame here). If you get the treasure and secure it away from the dungeon, them's the breaks: you basically "won" at the game this time around, and you reap the rewards from that. Much like hit points, no matter how much of a discomfort it might create to the aficionado of "realism" in the game, it actually works in play. If it ain't broken, don't fix it.

 
In a game where magic items are readily available for sale, the purchasing power of treasure is it's own reward. It never occured to me to give XP for finding treasure as it rewards the players twice for the same thing. And picking up stuff doesn't make you stronger. You already got that for defeating the guardians and disabling the traps.

Things change quite significantly when money has relatively little value, there are no XP for traps, and enemies are placed to be dealt with in whatever way possible and not neccessarily defeated in combat.
Awarding XP for treasure is rewarding the taking of additional risks, which are not relevant for the progress, but allow the characters to learn.
One thing, I very much want to avoid, is encouraging the players to get into fights, even though there is no reason for the characters to risk their life. Simply because it gets them more XP. Which is why I give XP for progress, not for defeated enemies.

Treasure is a special case. It's a reward worth a risk for the characters, but without ways to spend it on permanent benefits, the players can't feel the benefit of being rich. By giving XP for treasure, players are getting a substitute lure to be after treasure. I like that.


"Steel isn't strong, boy. Flesh is stronger. What is steel compared to the hand that wields it?"

Spriggan's Den
 

7/16/2014 4:32 pm  #14


Re: Experience and Wealth

Lots of great things have happened as a result of Jeff Rients' carousing system. The Black Hand accidentally burned down his favorite house of ill repute, Qaan woke up one morning and found himself mayor of a tiny fishing village, and Archimedes wound up in debt to Murgos the Moneylender. The players have to be willing to submit to the sometimes cruel hand of fate, but if they are willing it adds a lot of fun to the game. Plus they get the opportunity for bonus XP, which is nice at lower levels.

 

7/16/2014 4:37 pm  #15


Re: Experience and Wealth

I've never really understood the argument that "wealth is its own reward".  You could just as well argue that "killing monsters before they kill you is its own reward".  What does that have to do with the price of lotus in Khromarium?  You could theoretically construct an argument that almost anything is "its own reward", but you still have to give out XP for something.  Why not the things that mythic heroes are supposed to be doing?

Killing monsters (and people) and collecting valuable (and magical) things are the primary occupations of mythical heroes and characters in fantasy literature.  This is true whether we're talking about Gilgamesh, the heroes of the Illiad, the characters in the Viking sagas, Beowulf, Sigurd, King Arthur, Conan, Fafhrd, Monkey and his companions in Journey to the West, or the protagonists of countless fairy tales.  They fight and they claim the rewards of fighting.  Even in "high fantasy" books like The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings you have - in addition to countless monsters slain - plenty of looting in the form of gold and magic swords taken from trolls, more magic blades pillaged from barrow mounds, suits of magical mail, magical rings, and of course people fighting to the death over a dragon's horde.  It's ridiculous to pretend (as some people do) that XP for killing monsters and gaining treasure is irrational or arbitrary, something that Gary just pulled out of his nether regions one day.  Far from it; it has a literary precedent going back to the dawn of the written word.  Fighting and garnering wealth are the traditional activities of the mythic hero, and it makes every kind of sense to reward players of mythic heroes for undertaking exactly those kind of activities.

Last edited by Blackadder23 (7/16/2014 4:48 pm)


Michael Sipe 1979-2018
Rest in peace, brother.
 

7/16/2014 4:55 pm  #16


Re: Experience and Wealth

Preaching to the choir, my friend. 


Blackadder23: Insanely long villain soliloquy, then "Your action?"
BORGO'S PLAYER: I shoot him in the face
 

7/16/2014 5:10 pm  #17


Re: Experience and Wealth

Blackadder23 wrote:

I've never really understood the argument that "wealth is its own reward".  You could just as well argue that "killing monsters before they kill you is its own reward".  What does that have to do with the price of lotus in Khromarium?  You could theoretically construct an argument that almost anything is "its own reward", but you still have to give out XP for something.  Why not the things that mythic heroes are supposed to be doing?

Killing monsters (and people) and collecting valuable (and magical) things are the primary occupations of mythical heroes and characters in fantasy literature.  This is true whether we're talking about Gilgamesh, the heroes of the Illiad, the characters in the Viking sagas, Beowulf, Sigurd, King Arthur, Conan, Fafhrd, Monkey and his companions in Journey to the West, or the protagonists of countless fairy tales.  They fight and they claim the rewards of fighting.  Even in "high fantasy" books like The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings you have - in addition to countless monsters slain - plenty of looting in the form of gold and magic swords taken from trolls, more magic blades pillaged from barrow mounds, suits of magical mail, magical rings, and of course people fighting to the death over a dragon's horde.  It's ridiculous to pretend (as some people do) that XP for killing monsters and gaining treasure is irrational or arbitrary, something that Gary just pulled out of his nether regions one day.  Far from it; it has a literary precedent going back to the dawn of the written word.  Fighting and garnering wealth are the traditional activities of the mythic hero, and it makes every kind of sense to reward players of mythic heroes for undertaking exactly those kind of activities.

And even more for getting drunk and blowing it all on pig races and magic beans!

 

7/16/2014 5:44 pm  #18


Re: Experience and Wealth

Chainsaw wrote:

Preaching to the choir, my friend.

Yeah, I suppose I am. http://cdn.boardhost.com/emoticons/cute.png
I just get annoyed when some people want to dissect every aspect of RPGs in minute detail, but they don't want to put anything in context.  They argue that Gary could have chosen any activities imaginable to generate XP, so why did he choose killing monster and taking treasure?  My response is, basically: read the works in appendix N, and you'll see why.  It's wasn't arbitrary.  But they'd rather keep talking in pure hypotheticals.
 


Michael Sipe 1979-2018
Rest in peace, brother.
 

7/17/2014 5:08 am  #19


Re: Experience and Wealth

First, thanks to everyone who commented and provided his or her thoughts on the matter.

Second, let me react to some specific things (sorry for not quoting directly; it's easier for me to just address you directly; this post will be long even without quotations):

@ Yora
I am quite interested in hearing more about the specifics of your "standards of living" rules.

@ Handy Haversack
Ah, yes, The Drunken Debauchery Table! It may be the easiest route to go, but I must add I've explicitly stated in the OP what my problem is with such rules (i.e. they seem like a cheap GM's trick to avoid dealing with large amounts of cash).

@ mabon5127
Awarding XP for GP spent only is the way I planned to do things; however, the problem is that after a while there aren't many things players can spend their money on in a meaningful way.

@ Benoist
Yes, it very much depends on the campaign, I agree. However, I feel the main loop in the game is incomplete without offering some standard options on what to spend their fairly earned money on. I mean, it's like gaining XP without ever levelling up - unless it's a competition between players or parties whose winner is determined by the amount of XP earned, what's the point?

@ Chainsaw
Not the same problem, but similar, yeah. Did you resolve it any way or just let it be?

@ chrisj
Probably offering such an option, like using the above mentioned The Drunken Debauchery Table to earn extra would be a good idea, as it seems to offer a nice choise: do you spend your money on thigns you want to buy, or gain XP and deal with some possible complication? However, it seems to me like most of the time players will choose the latter option, anyway.

@ Blackadder23
I agree; if treasure is not monetary in nature but rather magic items or useful pieces of equipment, it would mitigate the problem - although it requires completely redesigned treasure tables ensuring that the most useful items can be more likely found adventuring than bought in town. Also, it may substantially alter the feel of the game (not necessarily in a bad way, but still considerably).

As for your later remakrs on how some people seem to argue about game rules without context, I offer the following thought: these questions, although seemingly deal with specific cases, are aimed at finding out things in general about game design.

For instance, it's not really interesting to argue about what literature a game emulates (because traditional games don't emulate one of the most important aspect of such literature: the order the different types of scenes follow each other), but it is quite interesting how they attempt to do so.

Like how many people think spending GP on frivolous activities is so sword-and-sorcery that it may be argued we should award XP for it instead of earning the treasures. In a hypothetical game about vampires struggling with their humanity we can imagine the players are rewarded for not killing a victim. Or how Jack Shear rewards (by replenishing HP) characters having a monologue on nature's grandeur (something very frequent in gothic literature).

... And I've hijacked my own thread.

     Thread Starter
 

7/17/2014 7:47 am  #20


Re: Experience and Wealth

I think there are a lot of ways to do it and they all work fine. The important thing is that the DM make enough XP available so the characters can advance at the rate the DM wants.

Setting the appropriate rewards has been a struggle at times in my own campaign. In the current campaign, we've played 20 sessions and the PC's are 3rd and 4th level with no one close to 5th. That seems about right to me, but that's just how it worked out. If I want to maintain that same rate of advancement going forward, I need to increase the amount of XP that are available to the players.

 

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