Sunday, January 29, 2012

Reading Advanced Dungeons & Dragons - Part 33

PLACEMENT OF MONETARY TREASURE 

This section is of general interest for almost every DM, though as I said in my last posting, much of what is here is common-sense and even has been covered in more detail in other areas.  It talks about the need for the DM to keep in mind the economy of his milieu, tying into the believability aspect that has been previously discussed.  The general idea is that of course the acquisition of treasure and wealth is of primary concern to the players and characters in a campaign, but as they rack up more--especially if they start throwing around gold and gems (or even platinum) like candy, it's going to effect the economy of the region.  Prices are going to go up, as the basic laws of supply and demand kick in--the more money there is in a region, the higher inflation goes.

The problem here is that this has a negative effect on the local populace. The PCs are throwing money around willy-nilly, causing prices to skyrocket, but the poor are still the poor; they are not working any more or getting paid higher wages, and so they are forced to deal with the higher prices that have been jacked up by the wealthy, and they get poorer.

Look at the United States, circa 2005-2012 for a prime example of the failure of trickle down wealth.

There is, however, another inherent problem with allowing player characters to obtain too much wealth--why bother adventuring anymore when you've got obscene sums of money at your fingertips?  For most, the love of adventure only goes so far before it makes no sense to continually put yourself in mortal danger.

In an earlier section Gygax discussed taxes and tithes as a means to control player character wealth.  This section takes the idea in a different direction, and it's so simple it's elegant: they can't take it all with them. 

Just because the PCs find a dragon's hoard, doesn't mean they can carry hundreds of thousands of gold pieces with them.  Even the valuable art pieces therein will likely be far too large to easily remove--even if the characters have a horse and cart.  Excavating a dragon horde will take weeks of effort and requires leaving the hoard unguarded (or relatively so) while they gather the resources to excavate it.  Presuming that they slew a dragon to get the horde, it's likely the populace will realize the dragon is no longer around and will come to help themselves to the treasure.  Let's say the PCs stick around to guard it while sending a retainer to gather resources.  They're going to have to fight to keep it as people show up to take their share, to demand retribution for the hardships of the dragon--even the local lords may lay claim to the treasure, as it is in their realm and thus their property.  More upstanding lords may offer a modest reward to the PCs before removing most of the treasure to their lands' coffers.

The section also includes the important reminder that just because a monster in the Monster Manual has a listed Treasure Type, that does NOT mean all monsters possess treasure. The treasure types in the MM are described as the "optimum," and it is stated that they are meant to consider the maximum number of creatures guarding them. It is absolutely not a crime for the DM, after the players have defeated a flock of harpies, to declare that all the characters gain for their efforts are a few coppers in pouches on the creatures' belts (if even that--Harpies have little need to carry coin with them).  This is because the listed treasure will be held in the Harpies eyries, the location of which the PCs likely have no clue and no way to find.

Here's another good example: what if a tribe of ogres is said to be guarding a vast treasure, only when the PCs defeat them, all they find is a mountain spring?  Through a series of experiments or even accidents, they discover that the spring turns anything that is submerged in it to solid gold (this includes living creatures, of course, which naturally die when it happens--no save).  Sounds like a source of great wealth, yes?

Here's the kicker: the area is cursed and causes everyone who discovers its secret to be obsessed with greed to the point where they refuse to share the power with even a single other creature.  A successful save against this curse imparts a sense of such revulsion in the character that he has no wish to have any association with the spring whatsoever.  The trick, then, for the players becomes how to use the spring's power without being overcome either by desire or revulsion towards it?

Yes, I stole that idea from Voyage of the Dawn Treader, albeit with a couple modifications.  Isn't that what the best DMs do, anyway?

In any case, should the DM, the book mentions, make the mistake of allowing too much wealth to fall into the characters' hands, he is recommended to use taxes, tithes, bandits, tolls, upkeep and training costs, and other methods of draining funds to their maximum effort.

When looked at in this light, what many might consider a Monty Haul adventure becomes not so bad after all--just remember: you can't necessarily take it with you.

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