Poll: Wealth

You all saw this post coming, right?

My recent post on Wealth prompted a fair amount of discussion on the best way to handle cash money in HD&D. If you haven’t read that post, pop back and give it a quick perusal because we’re going to decide which is the best idea to implement in the hybrid game. As far as I can see it, we have three alternatives:

Option One: The Mercantile System

This is by far the most logical and realistic option before us. Every item has a cost and you pay that cost when you buy the item. You deduct the cost of everything you buy from a cup of tea to repairs to your moat from the total money you have available. The main disadvantage of such a system is that it is time consuming and cumbersome to note down every little purchase.

Option Two: Wealth

You buy significant purchases in exactly the same way as you would under the Mercantile system. However, trifling and minor purchases (defined as anything costing 1% or less of your personal wealth) isn’t recorded. This is a formalisation of the way I’ve been running PC ecnomics in the campaign. It’s quicker and less onorous than the Mercantile system, but it can’t be applied in all circumstances. It’s open to abuse, and requires players to stay within the spirit of the rules more than the letter of the rules. However, this is my preferred option.

Option Three: Abstract Ecnomics

In an abstract system, a PC’s purchasing power is defined by status or experience level, not by the amount of gold in his pocket. Equipments may not even have cash values because they are irrelevent. This method has the advantage of no book keeping whatsoever, however, I think it’s a step too far for a fantasy game like D&D.

So there you have it. I think the Wealth option is the best way forward. You may disagree. Pick the option that most closely ressembles your opinion, and then let me know of any provisos in the comments below.

14 thoughts on “Poll: Wealth

  1. neil, stop me if im wrong, since playing in ur game a for a very long while now, i believe u have not paid too much attention to wealth if the cost is low enough or rather irrelevant to the general plot. so why bother now? unless u want to keep in the spirit of HDnD simplifying the rules…nevertheless, i have voted option two.

  2. No, I’ve never paid too much attention to money. However, in doing so I’ve largely denied the players access to resources that they should technically have been able to access.

    There are whole areas of the third edition game that we’ve never bothered with. Things like equipment and alchemy have never been properly reflected in the games I’ve run. I’d like that to change, and part of making that change is me getting to grips Wealth.

    I would like money to be more of a factor in the games from this point out. However, I don’t want to get bogged down in the bean-counting. That’s my motivation for trying to work all this out, anyway.

  3. I’m a stickler for detail and, by having to pay for every little thing, you should be able really exploit a scenrio of destitue and starving characters trying to scrape together all the copper they can.

    That said, surely wealth is specific to the campaign. If you’re all playing wealthy lords and ladies then it would be fitting to ignore petty costs (unless an underling brings your extravent spending to attention). Non-monetary campaigns could measure wealth in different terms. If playing a wholly religious campaign, physical wealth could be obsolete and a new system of spiritual wealth would need devising.

    If only B&Q had a wealth of well made nuts and bolts…

  4. You make some good points, Jake. Perhaps the rules should reflect different ways to deal with money in context of the system. Money should be handled differently in different campaigns. The question is, what’s the best way to handle it in my ongoing campaigns?

  5. HDnD is not intended for Iourn only or is it? it could be just the right system for all future campaigns? i think u should focus on a generic system to start with…

  6. HD&D is designed to be a system that works best for my campaigns, so it’s primarily designed to take into account my GMing style, and how my players tend to play. The system therefore leans toward being more utilitarian than generic.

    I’m not trying to build something that another GM could take and run and campaign with. Although, I don’t think it would be too hard to do that. Part of the problem I’m always faced with published campaigns is that they try to be all things to all GMs. HD&D is a bespoke system. By definition, it won’t be everyone’s cup of tea.

  7. I hope that one day we may return to the Bear’s Reach campaign; we were left with our only real treasure at the end of The Crucible of Youth but have not had the chance to do anything with it. Using wealth as a reward is only rewarding for a player if it genuinely means something. Knowing a character I will never see again has a big pile of stuff is less satisfying than having a character I am using with even a smaller temporary advantage. I realise much of that horde included magical items, which you are loathe to hand out in general, but on a mid-term basis smaller rewards are welcome.
    Ennui stole a large roll of coins a couple of sessions ago and is happy to hand it out like candy, since money has no real influence in the game. Also I am nto aware of any end in sight to its supply. I am happy to keep track of it and will even do so `in the spirit of the game` and not take advantage btu I would like than sense that it makes a difference to me personally.
    I did include financial incentives for a game I ran with my daughter but at 11 years old she was pretty well daunted by the costs building up. For those of us a bit older I think we can cope with cash fairly easily.
    In my opinion, be the DM. Hand it out, take it back. If it unbalances the game then rob us, tax us or defraud us but take control of it again. Hold it in trust, make it difficult to move or highly suspect. Whiteflight once conned the whole party out of the gems he found in a tomb where everyone else but him fought (I was robbing the place blind and feigning unconsciousness). The DM left it three months before a debt collector from the Wizards’ Guild came chasing him for payment when it was discovered the gems he’d traded with them had been stolen 1,400 years ago from the elves and weren’t legitimate currency. He had to work very hard to pay them back within a tight deadline or face dire consequences.
    I like broad strokes in the game but these points can work well too. Frankly, as outlaws in our current state lack of funds can force out hand in game. We all discovered a chest full of gold last session which we have no need to touch. We robbed neither the orphanage nor the elderly man atop the squat. We are paragons of virtue who have no money to eat. Ennui only stole the Speaker’s money by accident. Should it really happen that way? Put us in a tight spot and more moral dilemmas create more interesting role play.

  8. Malcolm, I really loved the Bear’s Reach game as well. I’m slightly unwilling to return to the characters, because it ended so well. Some things are best left untouched. Although I’m willing to be persuaded.

    The rest of your post goes a long way to convincing me that a Mercantile system is desirable. I wish I had the time to spend on the campaigns that I used to. I can provide figures for everyone’s gold in the Cradlelands land and see just how onorous it is to keep track of it. Seeing as though it’s taking three sessions to play through one day at the moment, spending a lot of time buying meals is unlikely to become an issue.

  9. I’ve voted for the mercantile system because I like the detail it brings to a game. You can truly know how rich or indeed how poverty stricken you are if it’s kept track of.

    I’ve found that the importance of wealth and attention to detail changes as a game progresses. When starting out it helps the feel of the game when you’re struggling to find copper to put together enough to buy a meal or buy that shiny now longsword.

    As you get further in it’s significance decreases, you can afford new weapons and to stay in nice taverns and not really notice and perhaps forget about copper entirely. Merchants will likely see their obvious wealth and round their prices to silvers to milk a bit out of the adventurers. They should look rich enough

    Similarly further along silver could well vanish to just gold being used. Merchants will be able to see the wealth flowing off the adventurers and could easily just charge gold and give them that *special* service.

    That would be my best of both worlds, sense of detail and importance early on, dropping as a game progresses. For example, say 5th level copper vanishes, 10th level sliver vanishes, 20th level gold vanishes in favour of platinum.

  10. I’m surprised that there’s quite so much love for the mercantile system. It’s now winning the poll, although not by an enormous margin. I’m willing to go with the majority on this. Maybe we should err on the side of realism if we have the option.

    Graham: you’re completely right. The significance of wealth does tend to decrease as campaigns progress. This ties wealth with a character’s level, although the relationship is coincidential rather than deliberate; or it should be.

    I guess when you say copper vanishes, you mean everything that costs less than 1 sp becomes an incosequential trifle, and at 10th level everything that costs less than 1 gp goes the same way? That’s certainly a workable compromise. It’s a lot less extreme than my Wealth idea.

  11. What i was originally thinking was that at one point things that would normally cost coppers would be rounded up to a sliver and then later on things that would cost silvers would get rounded up to a gold.

    My intention was simplifying the wealth system so that everything still has a cost but the management is much less. For example an ale might cost 2cp but once characters advance and copper has been phased out ale would become 1sp and it would be ‘premium ale’, or a round of drinks. Similarly 1gp of the same ale could become a round of ‘premium ale’ or some special vintage reserve. Or if a character just wants to get blind drunk 1sp/1gp will be enough to do it.

  12. Neil says:

    With regard to the wealth system I’m telling you now I will not be marking down every little coin if you decide to go the mercantile way. If some bean counter wants to do it for me fine but i’m not going to do it, I have enough of budgets in real life!

    I like to play epic games where the minutiae are in the background. Whilst I understand Malcolm’s and Graham’s points the fact is that I have no desire to role play being destitute to try to survive, in fact I can’t think of anything more dull!

    If I had my way I would go for option 3, however I recognise that many people want some realism and so have voted for option 2.

    I would love to reprise Krais and see how the group have got on with their vast wealth and magical items, it could be fun! Maybe play them as veteran adventurers or how about adventurers gone to seed and they need to shape up for some reason? Like Caramon in the Twins trilogy. You may be right though.

  13. Hey, Neil! That’s the blog’s 500th comment! Congratulations. I’ll send you a hamper.

    I think that it’s quite possible to increase the importance of commerce and money in the game without making it the focus of the game. Much of the mundane equipment available to characters is really cool and useful. The only thing stopping characters from going out and getting it all at first level is a lack of funds or availability.

    In HD&D I want to make use of equipment in a more comprehensive and consistant manner. A fighter’s weapons are like a wizard’s spells: he’ll want one for every occassion.

    The Wealth system is a formalisation of the hand-waving I tend to do when it comes to money, but as Marc rightly pointed out in another thread, how you deal with money depends on the campaign.

    Personally, I see some mileage in a campaign where poverty is the driving factor behind the PC motivations. They need money so they can buy food. Do they earn it? There’s an adventure there. Do they steal it? There’s another adventure there.

    I think I need the right story to return to Bear’s Reach. I thought I had one once, but various factors didn’t align sufficiently for it to happen. The trick would be to do something new with the characters that wasn’t simply a rehash of what we’d already done. As fantastic as Tarn Brewer was to play as a GM, there’s only so far you can go with him.

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