Time, Encumbrance & Light V2; The problem with upkeep

The differences between oldschool games and newschool games remain a frequent topic for discussion. Anything from the focus on customizable class features, character fragility, procedural generation vs premade storylines or roleplaying vs exploration are often cited as possible differentiators. One of the most important points that is often cited for OSR games is a focus on resource management. I have previously articulated that I consider the interaction between encumbrance, light and upkeep to be of vital importance to the early stages of the game.

Unfortunately, during my discussion of the topic, I was deviously outmaneuvered in the comments section by a random encounter, and only the timely assistance of Mr. Becker, appearing at dawn with a host of Rohirrim, enabled the centre to hold and reason to prevail.

Formally: The criticism r.e. including upkeep in the game was that at 2nd level, a fighter would have over two thousand gold pieces at his disposal, rendering the cost of rations, torches and ammunition utterly trivial.

This critique is probably true, if you apply the principles of B/X only and neglect to apply any other opportunity costs and consequences.

Briefly, let us consider a case using the Labyrinth Lord Revised Ruleset [5th edition]. We conservatively assume 1 8-hour delve taking place every week. The dungeon might be considerably closer to town, or we might have multiple delves between forays, but based on personal experience, with limited access to healing spells, 1 week is not unreasonable.

During his foray, Bob the Fighter consumes about 2 sp worth of food per day [1], presumably sleeps in an inn (we have to estimate this cost, which can be anywhere from 1 cp for the stables to 1 gp for a fine establishment, so we set it at 1 sp). He spends about 2.1 gp per delve on what amounts to unavoidable upkeep. It is assumed a shrewd GM will allow one to try hunting but will exact a toll in ammunition, random encounters and set a level of success that makes foraging in a civilized area less cost effective then simply staying at the inn and eating food.

When actually moving into the dungeon, Bob the fighter requires light, ammunition for this weaponry, and miscellaneous equipment like ropes, iron spikes, sacks, mirror etc. etc. Very weird compositions of only Elves & Dwarves might be able to get by without light, but assuming the party plays normal DnD and not some degenerate Tolkinian pastiche, light is essential.

For an 8 hour delve, we require about 8 torches, or 2 flasks of lamp oil and a lantern. However, not everyone needs to carry a light source. A tactical consideration occurs when parties only carry a single torch, which is that targeting or dropping that particular character becomes an interesting possibility for monsters, particularly if the GM decides there is a chance the lantern shatters or the torch goes out if the character is dropped. Regardless, something like 1 light source for every 4 characters is feasible. Since Oil is both lighter and ultimately cheaper then torches (per hour), we will assume Oil use. An 8 hour delve consumes 2 sp worth of oil. In my experience Characters tend to spend torches and oil at considerably higher rates, particularly when using it in combat, but this will be covered under ammunition. Effectively, Bob spends 2sp/4, or 5 cp on light each delve.

Ammunition is also a consideration, and considering the hit bonuses for close range, are a highly attractive tactical option for low level parties. Your particular interpretation of rules for firing into melee will probably affect the rate at which ammunition is depleted but for the purposes of this exercise, we assume 1 ranged weapon per party member, and we generously assume he goes through about half his ammunition in an 8 hour delve. Ammunition prices vary from free [2] to 3 ep [3] to 5 gp [4] so we take a middle option, Heavy Crossbow Quarrels, at 3 gp. We tack on half the price of a flask of oil, as adventurers will go through these like candy, so 1 flask of oil for every two people per 8 hour delve is not far-fetched. Bob spends about 1.55 gp per delve on ammunition.

A miscellaneous category of semi-consumable items exists, the rate of depletion is highly dependent on the properties of the particular dungeon, as such the cost can only be approximated. This covers such items as rope, iron spikes, containers, digging tools and so on. These are alternatively used, left behind or destroyed during the course of the adventure. Unlike light sources or ammunition, the rate at which this equipment is used scales unevenly or poorly with the number of characters because of their widespread range of attributes.  For now, we set the cost per character at an uber-conservative 1 gp of misc. equipment lost per delve.

The total fixed operational cost for Bob the Fighter is thus set at 6.85 gp per delve.

How much does this matter? This depends on the number of delves Bob will require to level up.  How many sessions until a character levels up? Gygax set this at 6 [5], the consensus seems to be the in my opinion rather unfeasible 3-4 sessions [6] and I suspect if you actually play B/X RAW and account for attrition or missed or abandoned treasure it will be more on the order of 8. Regardless, 6 delves seems a reasonable assumption. The total expected upkeep cost for Bob for the transition from level 1 to 2 is 41.1 gp.

By way of Moldvay [7] and verified in this excellent article by Delta’s DnD, about ¾ of the XP is expected to come from treasure, again, we should take into account that players will miss an amount of concealed treasure in any dungeon but for now, 75% seems reasonable. Going purely by this ratio, Bob the fighter can expect to hit the second level with a mind-blowing 1500 gp in the bank, meaning the upkeep would represent less then 1/30th of his total income, less then a single +1 on a d20 roll, and thus ignoring it seems obvious. However, this is the total max potential GP, not the realistic figure.

First we should not neglect to look at a major purchase for Bob the Fighter, a suit of plate armor, set in most editions of DnD (including LL revised) at a princely 450 gp. Next, given that our average fighter will have starting gp on the order of 105 (3 * an expected value of 3.5 * 10 starting gp) and will spend the bulk of that on the best protection affordable, we can expect some sort of weapon upgrade, albeit from mace to longsword, the purchase of a longbow or heavy crossbow, a backup weapon, a silver dagger and so on. To account for the vaguaries of starting gp, on-site-procurement and possible theft, we set this number at 25 gp, the cost of a heavy crossbow. A total of 475 gp is easily within the remit of expenses for level 2.

It is also worthwhile to consider an upgrade in mobility and carrying capacity, and look at the prices for a Saddle, saddlebags and Riding horse, a mere 100.1 gp that will pay itself back over the course of months in the form of more rapid travel time, added carrying capacity, and cost-effective means of escaping otherwise fatal wilderness encounters. The added 1 cp/day upkeep is handwaved for the purpose of this example, although as the party size increases, it should be added.

Here is where we should stray beyond the rules as written in LL and back into the common practice of OD&D and AD&D. Magic items are abundant in the earlier game. Going by the observed trend of my B2/Necropolis game, I do not think it unreasonable to expect that each character obtain about 2 magic items, not counting scrolls and taste-able potions. These might be suits of armor, shields, +1 daggers, minor enchanted objects and so on. If you allow these items to be identified by Sages (as you should!) this amounts to 200 gp/level for the first couple of levels (presumably the number of items accumulated each level increases gradually as the number of delves increases and the treasure is set higher).

At higher levels, we can expect, once again if we follow AD&D and not B/X, that characters will spend large amounts of gold pieces on Raise Dead, Remove Curse, Cure Disease and possibly Neutralize Poison. At lower levels, the cost of any single casting of these spells is potentially ruinous so we can expect they will not be utilized often if at all.

So, at level 2 we can expect Bob the fighter to have an effective amount of available gp of 775, about half his total. The expected upkeep of 41.1 gp represents ~1/18th of this amount, not formidable but noticeable. This can and should be reduced further by the cost of hiring and equipping retainers, buying rumors, bribing powerful monsters, bribing officials, exorbitant taxation and possibly acquiring more esoteric equipment like poison, antidotes, a cost for learning spells or rare material components.
At higher levels, the expected amount of available gold will increase exponentially and only the readily availability of spells like Raise Dead, Stone to Flesh or possibly Contact Outer Plane can prevent the fictional economy from breaking down.  Indeed, since XP increases exponentially for the first 8-10 levels, the expected total upkeep must increase by more if the ratio of upkeep to total available gp is to be maintained. The GM has his work cut out for him.

There are two cases to consider when discussing the value of upkeep as a measure to set a fixed rate against which the character’s progress can be measured. The first is that of a particularly inefficient party. Whether it is because character movement rate causes them to run into too many random encounters so they have to abort a delve before a suitable amount of treasure is acquired, too much time is spent commissioning equipment or overpreparing, carelessness causing them to miss much treasure, downtime because of disease or a raise dead spell, or tactical incompetence leading to many retreats or deaths, this does not greatly matter. If Bob performs twice as many delves, the percentage of his available resources that is swallowed by upkeep increases by more than double. The total upkeep is doubled, and the percentage of XP from treasure is reduced because of a greater frequency of the normally treasure-starved random encounters, meaning there will be less gold when the Character reaches 2nd level.

Upkeep also serves to attach a permanent cost to the hiring of retainers, one that nicely compounds the usual loss of a share of treasure and XP. Normally hiring retainers is a direct trade-off between safety and speed of advancement, swapping added protection for a share of monster and treasure xp. Once again, the percentage of total available wealth that is sapped off by Upkeep increases, and the price for slow advancement increases likewise. Retainers are unique in this that the burden of slow advancement does not fall on the NPC itself but on the PC hiring him. The more retainers you hire, the more you will be punished for slow advancement. If the total percentage of his available gold that is bled off for slow advancement is 1/9th at 1st level normally, the total percentage with two additional henchmen increases to about 1/3.rd Certain factors like ammunition might not scale with the number of additional henchmen, as fighting in tunnels with limited light sources might mean the number of combatants that can act in the same round is limited.

Because of the nature of XP for Gold, and the lack of xp for magic items and training costs, the B/X economy has all the stability of a nuclear reactor. One must either implement the rather brilliant fix of only awarding XP for treasure that is spent frivolously, or invent new measures and opportunities for the PCs to spend money that will not translate into a faster rate of progress, yielding even more money. For the first couple of levels, Upkeep represents a nice speed bump. GMs seeking to keep the pace of a fixed cost are well advised to implement some sort of living cost that increases with the character’s level, representing an improved standard of living. And if they play ACKS they probably already do so.

In summary, I propose the solution to B/Xs almost vestigial upkeep features is not to excise them entirely, but rather to implement all manner of other procedures so the players are kept lean, hungry and driven to advance. For all you new GMs out there, good luck, you are going to need it.

Update: To clarify, the effect of missed gold resulting from slow and inefficient delving should be noticeable at early levels by delayed advancement to Plate Armor, particularly if the Party is used to pooling resources to purchase items and at mid levels reaches terminal proportions if it causes the PCs to drop below the level where they can afford a Raise Dead, Remove Curse or Cure Disease Spell. Starvation because of poverty is extremely rare in DnD and would only happen by either over-zealous expeditions into resource poor areas like Deserts or perhaps overspending followed by a series of disastrous delves. Even then PCs could simply elect to sell off equipment at 50% of cost and survive on the proceeds for months. Selling off magic items to afford Raise Dead spells would be a desperate recourse in this case. The low cost of food and shelter implies practically that this can only ever be a contributing factor, not the sole cause of such an event, unless the party is very large or very inefficient. For example, in this model in a party of 8, each extra week comes with an upkeep of 54,8 gp. When compared to the cost of a Cure Disease Spell (500 gp), taking an extra week of rest or recuperation somewhere is unlikely to cause significant problems. Only when a pattern of slovenly and timid delving is followed over the course of multiple sessions will this deficiency manifest itself.

Clarification: I assume 1 8-hour delve taking up 6-8-hours of real session time followed by a week of downtime.

[1] Equivalent to the cost of unpreserved rations
[2] Sling bullets
[3] Light quarrels
[4] Quiver of Arrows
[5] The Strategic Review #7, April 1976
[6] Becker illustrates how unfeasible this is at later levels in http://bxblackrazor.blogspot.com/2010/11/bx-d-flaw-of-design_12.html
[7] Tom moldvay, DnD Basic Rulebook 1981

62 thoughts on “Time, Encumbrance & Light V2; The problem with upkeep

  1. A few thoughts.

    First, the cost of upkeep at low levels can be levied in a thousand ways. During adventures that I run, all sorts of unexpected expenses arise. Onerous tolls and potion sellers present themselves. Outright robbery is not unheard of. If your campaign world lacks an effective and insured banking system, then one wonders how PCs are to haul hundreds of pounds of gold with them wherever they go.

    And that leads me to my second thought: resource management is more about what you can effectively carry with you into a dungeon crawl than what you can afford. Sure, you can hire peasants to carry around your gear, but (1) this is a potential source of theft (see previous paragraph), and (2) one might imagine the high attrition of unleveled NPCs in mid-level dungeons (and beyond) would cause these to be in short supply, especially after the word gets out.

    Third, even though I end up giving PCs all sorts of ways to lose their money, I think it would be burdensome for the GM to feel compelled to keeps the party in penury. I’d expect this to irritate the players, too.

    And finally, as I’ve mentioned elsewhere, I think the oft-forgotten point of old-school D&D is for characters to build their own domains. Higher-level characters are expected to automatically accumulate followers, and both B/X and AD&D rules outlined costs for building fortifications. A lot of people seem to overlook the Companion Set, which was one of the most deliberate attempts by TSR to formalize this kind of play. Whereas the Basic Set described dungeon delves and the Expert Set provided mechanics for wilderness adventures, the Companion Set dug into domain-level play. Even the adventures (at least up through CM4) reflect this.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thoughts!

      1) Yes! Wealth being cumbersome to carry and hard to store sort of incentivizes spending it.

      2) It is the intricate ballad of encumbrance, money and speed/efficacy.

      3) I don’t think you’d have to keep the party in literal penury. But I do think there needs to be an incentive to keep going and a penalty for persistent slow advancement. There’s the domain stuff, sure, but that’s at level 9+, this is level 3-4, say, we have 5000 in gemstones for a rainy day (a.k.a one raise dead). I think the meaning of penury will change as the game gets higher but we can all agree that resources do need depletion and having them walk about with a bag of holding with 30k in jewelry unchallenged makes them lazy. The best cost is still just opportunity cost: Identification of magic items, dubious rumors, costs for learning spells, that’s easy to sell. A great island with a treasure map? Now you have to buy passage, or even your own boat!

      4) True, but Companion was sort of A-historical. I love the idea of domain play but it is at level 9. The problems with abundant wealth creep in and must be adressed before that time.


      1. Right? “Why did I even bother?”

        The thing that always bugged me is that as they added more levels to D&D, they ended up having to downscale the progression of thief skills so you’d be paced for a full THIRTY-SIX freaking levels. Madness. Let the character be good at his job fer chrissakes.

        I think 2e had a good approach by allowing you to allocate percentages to skills upon gaining levels. As with LotFP, your thief can specialize, which is always a good idea.


      2. @ Edgewise:

        OR, if you *really* want to get “a-historical” (while playing B/X), you can use my B/X Companion book in place of BECMI/RC for post-14th level play. No nerfing of thief abilities there! Instead, I leave them where they end at the expert set and introduce *new* thief abilities (as the Cook/Mentzer Expert set stated would be found in the forthcoming “Companion” rules. Mentzer simply ignored this and Alston followed suit).

        Just saying.
        ; )

        Liked by 2 people

      3. @Jonathan Becker

        That’s sounds pretty terrific. What sort of skills do you give them? Set traps? Gossip? Read languages? Disguise? I suppose there are a lot of cool possibilities.


      4. @ Edge:

        From the Expert rulebook (Cook/Marsh, p. X8):

        “Levels Beyond Those Listed…

        “Thieves: It will be noted that thieves have high chances of success in their special abilities when conditions are favorable for that action. Thieves will therefore gain new abilities requiring greater skill and danger. These will include the ability to climb overhangs, upside down, ventriloquism, powers of distraction, and the ability to mimic voices.”

        This paragraph was the base inspiration for how I handled L15+ thieves in my Companion book.


  2. “implement some sort of living cost that increases with the character’s level, representing an improved standard of living”

    I assume this is to be from a social necessity, as the characters growing in power, fame and wealth brings with it an increased contact with the higher echelons of society. Showing up covered in shit and smelling like beer (or the other way around) would quickly close the doors necessary to advance in such avenues, not to mention the oft mentioned (see above) endgame of domain level play. After all, in most societies modelled in games of D&D, having money is the bare minimum not the sole requirement to climb the proverbial ladder.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. In some games, I’ve played around with various mechanical advantages to living well. At the very least, I think that mundane HP recovery should be proportional to your quality of life.


    2. Yeah in the ACKs game we played it was sort of expected. No one would put a sword to your neck but it was implied it would cause severe problems if you started living below your standard, probably understandable if viewed through the lens of some sort of caste obligation.


  3. In (Moldvay) Basic (and OSE), Plate Armour is only 60gp. I assume the reasoning is that one sturdy blow will kill many Basic characters (no hovering on Death’s Door until you bleed out at -10), so this is a chance to make them difficult to hit after one reasonably lucrative delve. Probably more a case of saving Carlos the Cleric and Evelyn the Elf rather than Bob the Fighter. But it is reasonable that (cheap) plate armour costs money to maintain.
    If people don’t want to use training costs, I’d certainly recommend taxes. Do the powers that be want heavily armed groups with lots of money wandering about, threatening their position? They will be tolerated (even protected) if they pay their taxes.


    1. Oh yeah it was 50 in the original game as well. We discussed it when we were talking about the B2 game, which would have been made with those assumptions in mind. The ability to reduce one’s AC to 2 or below at character creation would have contributed to the survivability of the 1st level PCs (although I still recommend max hp at char creation).


      1. Very late to this particular party, but for B/X (OSE) I suggest the following house rules for character creation:
        (i) roll 4d6, take best 3 for each of the six stats; (ii) roll hps “with advantage” (better of two rolls) at 1st level.
        (i) pushes you into the 13-15 range much more often, with accompanying bonuses, and now you don’t get the problems that Settembrini talked about. And yes, it is that old favourite, calling on AD+D to sort out B/X’s problems. (ii) leans towards your house rule, but with more excitement at character generation.


  4. A big problem with managing game economy and encumbrance systems is that it detracts from the Appendix N mood we want in D&D. Property management and training costs are boring. Saving up gold for a resurrection spell like a college kid saving up for his first car is even worse. I’m not adverse to occasionally pissing the players with a shakedown at a toll or something, but I would want that to drive play (let’s kill those bandits and take over the toll ourselves!), not become a core part of the game.

    The carousing for XP method I like. It’s the closest way to emulate the wild boom and bust behavior we see in sword & sorcery and westerns. Getting a big haul and blowing it all on cognac, champagne, and hot strangers is cool. Rolling on carousing mishaps tables is great fun, my group were over the moon when someone rolled a tattoo. The players actually get excited to use the mechanic.

    This method can also address the issue of too-slow advancement that Becker brings up. If you allow players to double-dip and get XP for treasure looted and XP for treasure spent frivolously, they can level up faster.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hmm. Wouldn’t say that’s entirely accurate…perhaps depends on which books of Appendix N you’re reading. Dealing with being broke, petty bureaucracies (and circumventing them), and the burdens of encumbrance, provisions, accounting, etc. can all be found in various places of the “suggested reading” list.

      From The Hobbit (Tolkien):

      “I am pleased to hear that you had other business in these parts besides gold. In that case you may, perhaps, not altogether waste your time.
      “I don’t know if it has occurred to you that, even if you could steal the gold bit by bit — a matter of a hundred years or so — you could not get it very far? Not much use on the mountain-side? Not much use in the forest? Bless me! Had you never thought of the catch? A fourteenth share, I suppose, or something like it, those were the terms, eh? But what about delivery? What about cartage? What about armed guards and tolls?” And Smaug laughed aloud.

      [talking to Bilbo…though it could just as easily be a DM talking to his/her players]

      ; )


    2. I think of encumbrance as a good background system. My experiments with encumbrance management in B2 have borne fruit. It does add to the game, it does make a difference whether or not you move 90 or 30 ft., it also grounds the game and prevents everyone from becoming pack mules but at the same time you want most of the game to be about murdering orcs, not re-distributing lamps, crowbars and copper coins until a switch is flicked on somewhere and you can suddenly move half again as fast.

      Ultimately, the problem of having too much money rendering the rest of the resource management virtually irrelevant exists, so you need to find something for them to spend it on. I recall the Fever Dreaming Marlinko rule where any money spent on expensive fashions was immediately banked as extra XP.

      A useful alternative for carousing if one is not willing to fuck around with the XP progression, I’m not sure if it was ACKS, was that by frivolous spending one was allowed to bank 90% of its value in XP for ones next character.


      1. I think that the simple system presented in B/X is pretty straightforward. Your movement speed is based on your armor and whether you are hauling treasure. If my players lard their characters down with five different kinds of polearms, I treat them as if they were bearing treasure, or disallow it completely.

        When one of the players found a suit of elven chain that weighed as much as leather, he was over the moon. That was a couple sessions after another character drowned in his chain while being pelted with bandit arrows.


      2. @ Mr. Becker
        I’ll admit that I was thinking of Conan and not Bilbo when I wrote that reply. In any case, I should have been more clear that I do consider encumbrance important and enforce it. Smaug makes excellent points. My game has killed at least two PCs who were too heavy for their own good. My players are now much more careful to travel light. As for petty bureaucrats, my opinion is that such things should be a spur to adventure, not a part of regular play – even if the players really did want to play audit/DMV simulator, I do not!

        @ Prince
        I agree that encumbrance is a necessary evil, I personally use Gavin Norman’s alternative slot based system (which I believe he mostly lifted from James Raggi). It’s intuitive and my players like it enough. The party elf was even glad when she rolled Floating Disk as her spell! My disdain is really directed towards taxation, cash4spells, etc. as a drain on gold.

        I’ll have to give Fever Dreaming Marlinko another look. I think the XP for frivolous spending concept has untapped potential. XP for sacrifices to the gods? Slaughtering a prize bull in the agora would be cool. Perhaps the concept could be extended to domain game. Steer the game away from the ACKS farming simulator and incentivize building monumental tombs. Hmm…


      3. The ACKs rule for Heir’s: ” Unless the player begins playing an existing henchman, a
        character’s heir is assumed to be a new 1st level character, and a
        player is only allowed to leave a character inheritance one time. A
        player can allow his heir to begin at a higher level by establishing
        a reserve fund of experience points that will be available to the
        player should his original character be permanently killed and
        he needs to roll up an heir. The number of experience points
        in the reserve is equal to 90% of the gold piece value of money
        allocated to the reserve.

        Money is allocated to the reserve by spending it to no other
        tangible game benefit whatsoever. This could include anonymous
        tithes to churches; reckless spending on wine, women, and song;
        elaborate funeral pyres for deceased henchmen; and so on. “


      4. @ Starmenter:

        Just to be clear, *I* was thinking more of Vance and Leiber, not just Tolkien. But it’s quicker and easier (for me) to find examples in Tolkien, as I’ve read their books so many times.

        I am sympathetic to your position, by the way. I will say, however, that (in my experience) your game will begin to take on more depth if you pay at least some service to these “real world” issues…and that is far more conducive to long-term satisfaction with one’s campaign. That’s fine if you don’t believe me…play the way you want. It took me some 30+ years to figure it out myself.


  5. HA! Now that I’ve become a footnote reference, I feel like I’ve finally made my mark on the gaming community. Cheers to me!
    ; )

    @ Prince:

    I don’t disagree with anything you’ve written here…well, certainly not much. But a simpler solution (as I’m sure Settembrini would point out, were he here) is to move the game over into the AD&D realm of play, where such accounting has become far more hard-wired. No, it’s not a perfect system, but it is a satisfactorily play-tested one, and one that functions…whereas the Basic game (designed to introduce players to D&D and then graduate them to “real” play) was never meant to be stress-tested into long-term play.

    [Mentzer himself never ran BECMI as his system of choice. At least in the interviews I’ve heard (GrogTalk for one, and perhaps Delta’s “Wandering DMs” channel), Mentzer’s Frankenstein system of choice is AD&D 1.5 (add in the UA) with SOME of his Companion and Immortal rules “glommed on” to *supplement* high-level play]

    Solid world-building is what it ultimately comes down to, but limiting yourself to a B/X chassis (or any “basic” system…Holmes, OSE, LL, etc.) ends up resulting in more addition just to shore up the leaks in the ship. Better…and easier…to buy the ugly, battle-tested vessel that is 1E, and polish her up. You’ll have much smoother sailing.
    : )

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hell yeah dude, very legit article, also a good putdown delivered to that heckler in the comments section, no mercy.

      Playing, reading and experiencing B/X, albeit it in LL form, has led me to similar insights, in particular because many of the fixes for the problems are almost always in AD&D. And I’ll make the leap to either AD&D or ACKs someday. But by golly my B2 game still has some life left in it, there’s guys in the level 2 area and those chaotic clerics are in need of an ass-whuppin.


      1. @ Prince:

        You do you, Prince…didn’t mean to nag, just felt it worth mentioning.

        As an aside: since I’ve been busy with other projects (including my adventure for the NAP2 contest), I’ve been playing in my son’s campaign rather than running my own. He is using 1E to run B2…a fairly simple conversion (mainly adjusting monster HPs by +1 per HD). It’s my first time *playing* the adventure…and definitely my first time playing it with AD&D…and I’ve encountered some surprises (like “charm person” failing to affect the ogre…a fairly common B/X tactic).

        It’s pretty brutal, but I’ve managed to get my MU up to 3rd level. Most of the party’s money has gone into hiring and equipping mercenaries, pack animals, provisioning, and petty bribes. Scarcity of armor at the Keep blacksmith’s has been an issue, but we’ve managed to wipe out the lizard men and bandits, and if the elven thief hadn’t just got surprised and killed (in a truly idiotic move), I’d be giving considerable thought to trying to build an alliance with the orc tribes. As it is, the party is lacking an interpreter (the language rules for 1E humans are pretty rough…another reason to carry demihumans in the group), and I’m wary of getting into any kind of pitched battle with the humanoids. Heck, a reprisal ambush from surviving lizardmen nearly wiped us out (we lost six hired swords…they got us coming back from the bandit camp, after our spells had been expended).

        Point being: it’s not too tough to transition even a hoary B/X classic to the advanced game.
        ; )


      2. It’s all good.

        B2 by way of Gygax to AD&D probably feels very natural. There’s a few edge cases for modules I can think of where you’d get different results, like Rahasia for example (not being able to Sleep the elves is pretty big). Most of it is fear and autism.

        Keep is very rough I have found, but maybe excellent as a training tool. Traumatized players weep bitter tears at the depredations they have suffered at the hands of the Orcs and Goblins. It did not help that the crazed Berserker from the Bugbear caves has since teamed up with a band of bandits in Nuromen.


        I think what I mean when I say it is A-historical is that this sort of shit was put together but it was never play-tested or much play actually took place in those levels. Its probably why B/X gets notoriously rickety in the upper 6 band and the high level stuff is rocket-launcher tag.


    2. “was never meant to be stress-tested into long-term play”
      So what did they think, people will play a series of one-shots from level 1 all the way to level 36? With pre-gens? I can’t even imagine what went through their heads. The whole thing could’ve ended with B!


      1. @ 3llense:

        At the risk of taking your questions too seriously:

        I’m more familiar with the beginning part of the “basic” publication saga than with the ongoing evolution of the basic line. The original thought was that an intro package was needed to get (new) players up to speed…that was Holmes. Then B/X was created as a “improved version” that basically repackaged, reorganized and streamlined the original LBBs (OD&D) in two parts: a basic (dungeon) intro and an “expert” (wilderness) set.

        Mentzer’s republication of B/X happened for a number of reasons. The B/X set made quite a bit of money for the company, and a reissue was deemed a lucrative prospect. The line was aimed at even younger players, and various “controversial” elements were excised (no gods in Mentzer) or subtly shifted (heroic PCs fighting evil rather than grubby treasure hunters). The success of the Endless Quest books (based on the Choose Your Own Adventure model, popular at the time) was chosen as a good teaching vehicle for the basic rules.

        But Mentzer’s Expert set (the “E” of BECMI) is a nearly exact duplicate of the information provided in the Cook/Marsh Expert set. It offers almost NOTHING NEW (a couple new clerical spells), though it changes the “gnome stronghold” for info on the town of Threshold and a handful of sample adventures. Even the thief skills presented in Mentzer’s Expert set…I believe…are at the same percentages provided in the original “X” rulebook.

        What happened next was the interesting (and, for me, murky) bit that might (somewhat) answer your question. As part of making pre-packaged adventures for what was deemed to be an introductory version for children, modules were written that were set in the introductory “Known World” (later called Mystara) that was originally taken from Lawerence Schick’s home campaign and used in X1 (the introductory wilderness module included with both the Cook/Marsh “X” and, later, Mentzer’s “E”)…and as the setting became more and more detailed, groups started using the setting as the basis for their campaigns.

        This ended up providing a feedback loop of sorts: a group started with Basic and Expert and…instead of transitioning into the draconically complex “Advaced” system…just decided to campaign in a supported world with a compact system that it was built for. The C, M, and I sets of BECMI (Companion, Master, and Immortal) were created not only to take financial advantage of this phenomenon, but to provide supporting rules/systems to campaigns that were progressing beyond the scope of the original “basic” sets. I currently believe the ORIGINAL assumption with B/X was that 14 levels were deemed enough time to in the introductory rules before even children would be ready for the “advanced” game.

        [speaking for my own player group, this was the case…we discovered and transitioned to AD&D right around the top end of the B/X level system, though we’d already been incorporating monsters and magic items from Advanced sets into our B/X game]

        One of my reasons for this belief is that the top end demihumans of B/X (12th level dwarves, 10th level elves, 8th level halflings) are EXTREMELY comparable to top end human classes (cleric, fighter, thief, magic-user)…in terms of both HPs/fighting ability, and X.P. needs. If you progress beyond B/X, those demihumans start to be left far, far behind…not only in terms of effectiveness, but in terms of ability suites (assuming you give characters more skills, spells, multiple attacks, etc. as suggested in the Expert rules).

        Frank Mentzer was, at the time, THE “rules guy” on TSR’s staff, and a competent designer and designing supporting rules to extend play for what had become it’s own, separate, popular line was probably a challenge that tickled both his fancy and ambition…a chance to put his OWN stamp on the game beyond just rewriting the Moldvay/Cook/Marsh set. Of course, it was also his job.

        But THEN, once you had the systems in place, you needed MORE pre-packaged adventures to go with them, right? The Companion, Master, and Immortal sets did NOT include adventure modules in their box, unlike the Mentzer Expert set (which had X1), or the original (Moldvay and Holmes) basic boxes. So TSR had to come out with adventures to fill the space. Enter the (generally not very good) C, M, and I lines all of which started taking their cues from the trend of the times (circa 1985):

        – more attention to story than open-ended gaming
        – more emphasis on implied or assumed “heroism”
        – less (or nonexistent) playtesting prior to publication
        – more attention given to prose and box description (more reading, less playing)

        The same phenomenon was happening with the AD&D line, of course, but most 1E players already had a set way of playing, based on earlier assumptions (people like my own group ignored the majority of Dragonlance modules being published for AD&D at the time, for example, because they were usually terrible).

        In some ways, 2E was a last chance for TSR to transition these new “introduced-through-basic” players to what was the flagship line (AD&D) with its more expensive hardcover books and its large catalogue of classic adventure modules…and you can SEE that in the way they repackaged the Mystara setting for 2E in the 1990s (see Jeff Grubb’s Kingdom of Karameikos, for example, which is nearly the same as Allston’s original GAZ1, lifting text directly from the latter for most of the book).

        The Mystara Gazetteers were a response to players already in love with Mystara who didn’t want to transition. Allston’s Rules Cyclopedia (which compiles most of Mentzer’s BECM and adds supplemental rules from the GAZ’s…non-weapon proficiencies, magic item creation rules from GAZ2, etc.) was a last catering to this fan base and a last chance to wring money from their pockets in the form of an excellent hard cover tome.

        BUT…while you can see how the whims of popularity and business led to the evolution of the BECMI line into this thing that is now lauded today for its “completeness” it doesn’t appear (in my opinion) to have ever been a line that TSR intended to turn into an ALTERNATE form of D&D.

        Businesses need/want to make money. You adapt or you die, right?

        The majority of this happened after Gygax was ousted from the company (which itself occurred long after he moved from designer hat to CEO hat). The people running TSR in the mid-80s till late-90s were running it as a business…which is different from the way the company started.

        [boy that was a long-winded comment]

        Liked by 1 person

  6. RE: Giving Characters Ways to Spend Money

    I think its worth mentioning that another solution to the problem of characters accumulating large amounts of wealth is allowing them to spend it on stuff that is meaningful to the players. If you give a player the opportunity to spend large amounts of his character’s cash on something he actually wants he’ll happily oblige. This is one of the interesting things that LotFP attempted to do via the (extremely fickle and unforgiving) magic item creation rules, which allow even low-level Magic Users and Clerics to spend all their treasure trying (and probably failing) to make scrolls and potions, as well as the excellent system for building up and running an estate.

    The conceit with estates, at least the way I see it, is that instead of jumping from being wandering vagabonds who sleep on the taproom floor at the inn to suddenly becoming Lords, mid-level characters can leverage their sizeable wealth to transition from murderhobos to petty landowners by level 5-7 or so. It gives them a default goal to work towards (getting rich enough to afford property of their own), and once they make it there it becomes the default way for them to spend their loot and the perfect motivation to keep them looking for more: taxes, upkeep costs, servants, retainers, more property, etc.

    In my old LotFP campaign we ended up getting a lot of use out of the estate rules. At first my players were skeptical of the idea, but they ended up getting very invested, going so far as to draw up a complete floorplan and a map of the grounds and managing a staff that eventually exceeded a dozen servants and retainers. It turns out that designing your own secret club house for you and your buddies, populating it with comely serving wenches, and decorating the place with the mounted skulls of all the hideous beasts and unnameable horrors you’ve slain is actually pretty fun.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Providing a lavish but essentially vestigial (unless you also build a research library) sub-system for the PCs to dump their cash into might be one of the best takes I’ve heard yet. Lotfp keeps you going for a while with its coterie of very expensive tricked out blackpowder weapons and full plate but yeah, at some point it is indeed house-buying time.


      1. Well if you really take a deep look at history, there is a vast amount of gold in this world of ours. The vast wealth the most ancient empires had is staggering. Where has it all gone, assuredly it has just changed into a more mutable form. The pillaging of Central and South America by the Spaniards, being the most recent.. The conquest of the Romans, Greeks, Egyptians, Assyrians, Mesopotamia’s, Babylonian, Sumerians…etc… Where has all that gold gone..?


  7. Greetings Prince, though I am fan of Tolkienian fantasy I do force upon my would be heroes rules for encumbrance, and expenditure. Thusly from which sprang our name, The Merciless Merchants. This due to spending entire gaming sessions selling and buying or crafting new gear. That being said, I also require characters to maintain their armor which becomes damaged with each successful blow, or energy attack against them, otherwise it will be ruined. This can be a costly endeavor for low level characters, and even more so for enchanted armor. Though I do have demi humans in my realm I’m rather treasure light in my adventures, as has been noted on a few reviews. I dole out XP for actions taken instead of gold gathered. Be that as it may, there are many ways to drain the parties coffers…And certainly Bob the Fighter won’t be toting around 2000gp in his pack, way too heavy if he wants to be able to move in combat.


    1. Sounds harsh:P I mean treasure light but more XP for other stuff is a way of dealing with it assuredly. I believe armor having to save vs crushing blow or magical attacks is AD&D RAW so you won’t find any fault from me. Armor upkeep I’ve always found too much to bother with but if you can make it work have at it.

      We’ve had ‘logistics’ sessions in our ACKs games where you spend the bulk of the 3-4 hours buying shit, hiring henchmen, paying henchmen, resolving business with village NPCs, deciding on what stuff to identify, getting people rezz’d etc. It’s a bit of a tax if your wagon train and relations with various parties get too complicated but if it happens every 6 sessions or so it’s no biggie.

      I think there’s a good balance between being drained of gold and being able to spend gold on cool shit.


      1. I do provide XP for magical items found and such, or may even give XP for gold discovered if that was the actual goal of the adventure. “Find the Hidden hoard of the Dread Pirate Roberts” Also for monsters slain, battles won, puzzles and traps figured and successful actions taken. Plenty of ways to gain XP. The more the players involve their Characters the better.
        Logistically I agree, one gaming session out of several for buying , selling, training etc is fine. Sometimes there’s some great roll playing events that happen.
        As for the Armor maintenance and upkeep, well the counter point for having to pay to repair or replace is that armor absorbs damage. Light Armor 1d4, Med 1d6 and Heavy 1d8. At first my lazy players whined about having to keep track of how many “HP” their armor had. But when they realized just how much damage their armor prevented they simmered down. Of course they always find something to gripe about, but they keep coming back to the gaming table..hmmm.
        Don’t know if anyone here is following Malrex on his Hex Craw along the Pacific Crest Trail. I think he’s now hiked over 700 miles..! He did bring his dice with him, just in cast. I suggested an ax or a sword,..


      2. No axe or sword, but Malrex has become a dual wielder of ski poles. He talks quite a bit about (water) encumbrance, and recently used his ranger skills to avoid a random encounter with a bear. And what a mighty beard.

        Liked by 1 person

      3. Malrex may have some dwarvish blood in him. He seems to always find his way to the nearest ale house. He’s got heightened beer sense I think..


  8. I am sick, and so have not read all the comments as I normally would before commenting, so if this has been pointed out elsewhere I can only blame the evil humours which are responsible. Or the cough syrup. I’m starting to like the taste, which can’t be a good sign.

    There is an underappreciated role for nice equipment in parting PCs from their treasure. Money gives them the opportunity to have BETTER stuff. Things that break less often. Things that fit better. Things that are better made. Things that are better at doing whatever they are for.

    Made-to-measure equipment giving a +1 bonus at whatever it’s made for would do a lot for that (and, of course, costing appropriately more). There are probably more creative solutions, but even that will see people dropping a lot of money on it.

    And then you add in the customization options. Would milord like the velvet lining? How about a nice fur collar on that cloak – so much warmer! Perhaps some scrollwork on the plate? And that brigandine would look much nicer with brass rivets – so pretty, yet also functional. There is not a player alive who wants their character to look scruffy AND be uncomfortable all the time. Even if they don’t care about scrollwork and gold trim, they’ll care about better quality metal and superior leatherwork and the armor being perfectly sized for them.

    I’d say mechanically-pointless customization of equipment purchases should definitely count for XP as well in a carousing-for-XP campaign.

    Also, if your equipment is obviously valuable, your enemies may hope for a ransom and take you prisoner instead of killing you. Thus hijinks and roleplaying and, if nothing else, survival may be achieved.

    There’s also the practical concern that really, it’s OK if the PCs have a ton of gold. PCs are adventurers. And historically, adventurers who made their fortune either retired, capitalized on it, or lost it. If they’re retiring, fine. Perfectly reasonable thing to do. Start playing that character again in a bit when his money runs out. Or maybe it never does, and your other characters will visit him sometime. If they’re capitalizing on it, great: what investments are you making (i.e. what adventure hooks will you be turning your gold into)? If they’ve lost it, they have two options: die in penniless misery remembering what they once were, or go make another fortune. I hear there’s another dungeon in the next village over…

    Or just extrapolate from the ration prices. If rations for a day are 2SP, you can extrapolate to a GP being worth about $100-150. So a second level fighter has landed with about $200,000 in cash. No, he cannot retire forever. Yes, he still has to worry about all kinds of things. No, he is no longer concerned about the price of individual meal, and it’ll be hard to take that security away from him as long as he’s willing to keep doing something.

    Oh and people, the way characters carry a ton of GP around is gems i.e. the way historical travelers did it. Though as someone pointed out, the cartage fees on that dragon’s hoard before you can turn it into gems are the tricky bit.


    1. I am on board with expensive specialist equipment like spyglasses or having to purchase the finest of fur-lined cloaks and worked leather saddles to impress courtiers and barons. That is good. I recall in my home game that my PCs would neglect to sell treasure and since jewelry was lighter then gold, they ended up just wearing it and strutting around like gangster rappers, which I thought was excellent.

      Retirement is a good in game reason but from a game perspective players might not want to stop playing, yet carrying around too much gold can remove something of the consequence of the game. I think a balance is probably required. You say its fine if they are extraordinarily wealthy but having that gold sit inertly in a bank or having every character carry around 100.000 gp in diamonds, opals and rubies in a purse removes something of the challenge of the game. I don’t particularly care if you spend it on galleys, mercenary guards, lavish banquets, loggers to make a forward base and other stuff, but having an incentive to keep adventuring is good.

      D&D shouldn’t be about being able to afford bowls of gruel but I also don’t want to play a game where the monetary value of treasure is essentially only good as an abstract because everyone is already fucking rich. Arguing for things to spend the money, especially frivolous things, hints that you agree with me the gold does need to be spent.


  9. Cant be rich if they spend have to spend the cash! Bill Webb does is good at getting players to spend. If they horde thats less xp for them


  10. I commented back on the other post in response to your response just now, and as you say here, I think we 100% agree it needs to be spent. I just think we may disagree as to our reasons why we think it matters. Or perhaps, as David Mitchell once put it, you agree with me, you just don’t realize it yet. 😛

    In any case, THIS comment is a bit more scattershot than that one.

    If most of the really valuable treasure is in forms other than coins, getting rid of it is likely going to involve finding someone who can take it, and even then they’re unlikely to pay cash. Services, land grants, letters of credit, whatever. You don’t actually pay the innkeeper 2SP a day each, you negotiate a bulk rate for the party for the month for a jewelled figurine of a long-forgotten fertility goddess.

    One ponders the idea of writing up even half-decent treasure (maybe anything over a certain GP amount?) on index cards and giving it to the players (or something of a similar nature). Might increase the chances of them hanging onto some nice stuff for its own sake. Could use those little recipe card boxes (or tiny chests, even) to contain PCs and their stuff. I think I’m going to try that.

    I think you overestimate the need to motivate continued adventuring through poverty. For one, the player presumably isn’t motivated by the GP value of their haul – they’re motivated by the adventure itself. Decent chance the character is somewhat similar – after all, the rational way to make money is NOT to enter a death pit. They will adventure, even if they’re rich. They can’t help it.

    If they ARE motivated by the GP value of their resources, but also want to keep adventuring, and yet still sulk about how silly it would be to do so when they’re rich and can live in safety now…first, get better friends. But second, just have lots of adventures around people trying to steal their stuff. “Destroy the local thieves guild because they took your jewelled figurine of a long-forgotten fertility goddess and now the set’s incomplete and DAMNED IF YOU WILL BROOK SUCH INSOLENCE” is plenty entertaining.


    1. Ultimately, in an ongoing OSR campaign, players are motivated by (a) XP and (b) emergent role-playing elements. Since GP => XP, the players want to get gold.

      The thing is, this makes it fairly easy to separate players from their gold. Since the players don’t actually care about GP, they’ll actually be happy if you give them something fun/useful to spend it on. Constantly hitting them with fines and expectations of bling will just make them shrug and pony up.

      One of the simplest approaches is probably to have some kind of potion merchant. Good GMs scoff at the idea of magic item shops, but potion shops make more sense and are far less imbalanced. Their effects are rarely as powerful as other magic items, they are one-use, and they are also very breakable (something GMs tend to forget).


      1. A VERY unrelated idea that occurred to me when thinking about this stuff.

        We all know that D&D worlds have vastly, vastly more gold than ours. They also, of course, have magic.

        Clearly, these things are related. Gold is magical. It explains why people in our world are so batshit irrational about it (and why dwarves and dragons are, at that). We just don’t have enough for real magic. Or perhaps we do, and that’s why all those people keep stockpiling it.


  11. I resolve this in Into the Unknown by requiring that XP is earned from recovered* gold, with two conditions:
    A/It must be spent
    B/It must be spent frivolously

    So yes, you can buy plate armor back in town to equip your fighter, but you aren’t getting XP for that gold. Probably, you’ll want rewards to have enough gold to equip your next expedition. The downtime rules are basically dedicated to spending gold for XP between sessions.

    *ie from the wilds or the dungeon. No XP for highway robbing or pay cheques.


    1. Alternately, if you want to aim the campaign towards domain-level play, you could reward XP only for GP that are saved towards building a domain. The PC could dip into these savings if they need the gold, but then they would have to replace what they withdrew before they earn anymore XP for wealth.


  12. I’ve found that a combination of Dolmenwood’s camping mechanics making outdoor sleeping as uncomfortable as it ought to be and LotFP’s service prices (25 sp a night for a nice inn in a city, 1000 sp for a set of plate) do well enough to get the PCs constantly struggling with poverty while not delving into rules for frivolous spending or whatever. And in case that wasn’t enough, I assign chances of not sleeping well and getting items stolen to lower-class inns to make they sure they don’t cheap out. Entire dungeon delves worth of treasure disappear in a week this way.


  13. This is one of the greatest threads on a D&D blog that I’ve read for some time. So many of the posts and replies stirs thoughts of mini games to rid BX PC of their excess treasure!


  14. At one point in the home campaign, my mid-level players agreed to foot half the cost for marching the kingdom’s army off to break a siege on a certain keep they were invested in. That put a big dent in their finances. Easy come, easy go.


  15. If a DM requires gold to be spent in order to get XP they’re admitting something unfortunate about their campaign: it has little which would prompt an outlay of money without a requirement to do so.

    Requiring spending also erases flavor from the campaign, as the prerequisite of spending is converting value into coinage. Now players must artificially choose between keeping the game and jewelry vs gaining experience for them. Such abstractions which tie players into the campaign, such as acquiring a collection of priceless objects d’art are eschewed because now there is a penalty in XP for doing so. The DM will now only tie these priceless oddities into future adventures, as the muse raises adventure tie-ins into his subconscious, indirect of personal stakes (if at all).

    A requiring DM’s players are also likely not to invest a portion of their abilities into such measures as the anti-theft spells until a campaign is years older than the levels those spells come, or acquire non-“stronghold” property. New spells are less likely to be researched until the entire cost can be spent from a single share of treasure.

    Spending requirements are in truth dependency requirements. Player agency is limited to that agency enjoyed by the impoverished everywhere; which is to say always at risk of not meeting next month’s expenses. Prudent accumulation towards great ends of player design is structurally discouraged.

    The OSR resurfaced many simple and important truths in its review of 1970s D&D. It also added some of the most idiotic embellishments.

    Liked by 1 person

  16. I was reading through the comments, planning to go on a somewhat deranged rant on how “upkeep sucks ass” until I saw EOTB’s comment at the end here, articulating what I wanted to say better than I would have. That said, have the rant anyway.

    Upkeep as an obligatory cost, things like training costs in AD&D, lifestyle costs, as a means to “keep players hungry”, suck ass. Your suggestion to expand them sucks for the same reasons. The players didn’t show up to play D&D with you to be “kept hungry” to motivate adventuring, they showed up because they wanted to play an adventuring game. Making the motivation some external penalty just makes the game worse. It makes players ask “why is my character going on this adventuring, if they’re almost back to square one after everything?”, rather than “when can I go on the next adventure?”. If I’m spending money on something that has a point, like many of the fine commenters suggested, then money feels good to spend, and ramps me up for the next adventure. Upkeep of unbelievably steep training costs, lifestyle costs, and other obligatory measures that are meant to be a “gold sink” do the impossible; they make adventuring feel like a chore. Nothing, nothing does this more than “spend gold frivolously or you don’t get XP”. Players will spend gold frivolously anyway for reasons they like, it’s a mechanic to suck the joy out of frivolous gold spending. Either the money is for something in addition to experience, or it’s easily replaceable with some other mechanic like Murder for XP.

    If you find yourself taking away so much gold as a mechanical thing, why was it there in the first place? Don’t say verisimilitude, because that’s a bullshit answer when you’re introducing things like several thousand gold trainer fees (as recommended in the good old DMG) that somehow PCs never collect when they get to appropriate level during apparent downtime. Just lower XP thresholds and treasure awards commensurately.

    Aside: The extreme stinginess of retainer magic-users recommended in the DMG about requiring both a a couple extra spells and magic items from a PC to copy one of the retainer’s spells is bizarre when their throat is in stabbing distance and the spellbook can be taken for the price of free instead. It’s particularly insane in the case of requiring one spell and a magic item if the PC had saved the retainer’s life!

    The proper mechanic to drain gold from PC’s pockets is A) Spend money on cool stuff, B) spend money on necessary stuff, C) spend money on seemingly obligatory things but it’s really a penalty for not finding a way around the thing. Cool things are already there; custom swords, decorated armor, clothes, jewelry, log cabins, throughbred horses, drugs, fine wine and winecellars, you name it. The coolest things to spend money on are great constructions and investments that somehow make further adventures possible. Adventuring gear as an expense is fine, it’s a big part of the game for a reason. Food in wilderness, wagons, pack animals, torchbearers and retainers, all stuff you’d spend a lot of money on to aid in adventuring. Likewise, spending money on spells is fine, but it is important to make sure that the price isn’t too high, or spellcaster PC’s might ask themselves “why don’t I make my money doing this for a few weeks instead?” Taxes, tithes, tolls, and other things are obstacles to be overcome, not fees to be paid out unnecessarily. Bribe or charm tax collectors for a much lower fee. Kill the tolltakers and take over their bridge. Bluff gate guards that you’re a visiting noble and your possessions aren’t to be touched. Deal with the consequences of said evasion.


    1. No.

      The inevitable logic of Gold for XP and the amounts required to level up mean that if nothing is done even low level PCs end up with thousands upon thousands of gold pieces that the game, frankly, has little recourse for. You get your warhorse and your full plate, then you get it for all of your retainers. Okay, what do I do with my other 18.000 gp? There is an orc stronghold? Okay I will purchase five trebuchets and hire 100 men at arms to drag them to the opposite cliff and lay siege to it. Great level 3 adventure. There is a reason AD&D 1e and ACKS, both games that are particularly thorough AND playtested when it comes to having procedures for long term campaigning, have an upkeep system that’s expanded considerably. 100 gp/level/month and something on the order of 1.000 per level in training costs for AD&D. I’m sure ACKs has something similar. The point is that in B/X these procedures don’t really exist and all that gold must go somewhere, hence a call to please attach some checks and balances, something I figured out while playing it. Even in games like ACKs, mid-level PCs walk around kitted up like gangster rappers with magic bling worth a fortune and aren’t exactly poor. Speed is good. Draining resources for inaction is good. Ole’ Gygax himself talks about keeping people lean and hungry in the DMG.

      Your suggestion of lowering XP requirements and treasure requirements is less exciting then the original and make the game lamer. Finding huge amounts of gold is still more exciting then finding tiny piles of gold or moderate piles of silver. I have yet to see any attempt at doing so that does not diminish the lustre of the original game. It is much better to have to drag home infinite piles of gold and then maybe have to spend a tonne of it to level up, or on rites and gifts, or even taxes (even though I agree taxes are not very exciting).

      If you stab that magic user in the throat, do you think your other retainers are going to stick around? Do you think this procedure hasn’t been considered? Openly murdering a retainer in front of the other retainers is going to cause problems. The idea here is, once again, that magic is not easy to come by, wizards are secretive and will generally charge exorbitant sums or demand outrageous tasks. That’s good. That makes magic hard to find and any time you do get a spell it has real weight to it. Have you ever had the PCs cheer when they found a whole fucking wizard’s spellbook and got to copy six fucking new spells. Holy shit! If that happens every time it becomes par for the course. Intermittent reward is the best reward.

      To give you an idea of how little 100 gp per spell level is for scribing a spell: A spellbook has 100 pages. Filling up an entire fucking spellbook costs 10.000 gp, less then half of a 5th level wizards total xp requirement. Paying money for spells is something you generally do because you do not have access to these services normally, and when you do get access to them, if you want to retire and become a 2nd rate spellmonger spending most of his days casting fertility spells for affluent peasants and burghers while the rest of the party goes on adventuring, by all means let them.

      I am open to the idea of Frivolous spending for XP only being a bad idea. As for “Food in wilderness, wagons, pack animals, torchbearers and retainers, all stuff you’d spend a lot of money on to aid in adventuring.” I took the trouble doing some calculation above to figure out how much you’d need. This stuff here, would 3000 gp be enough to get that? Because a 4th level party (about the minimum for safe wilderness adventuring) that doesn’t have upkeep can drop 3000 gp like it’s nothing and not even think about it. What if instead of being able to afford entire caravans worth of animals and wagons, you’d be quite affluent, especially after a delve, but you’d have to either re-invest that money into further delves quickly, giving some consideration on how to spend it before the cost of your affluent lifestyle (this assumes jewel-studded sword hilts and fancy robes and dinner parties btw) reduces it and you are considering whether or not it will be time to adventure again. What if the response of having 12 warhorses get obliterated in a flash flood is not ‘how many warhorses in this village?’

      You did get a screed out of me so well done. Have a good one!


      1. >Training Costs
        Saying training costs specifically is necessary for health of the game is not defensible. Gary’s own training costs laid out in the DMG require 1500 GP per level per week of training (could be as high as 6000 GP total!) to go to the next level, but only requires money to be spent if the character performed less than “Superior”. If the thief is thiefy enough, he only needs to go 250 GP × Level in debt every time he levels up. This is just money spent for “leveling up” too, not even money spent on getting tutored, which isn’t necessary for the top performers, but then they have to pay a minimum of 3000 GP × Level instead. I’m crudely summing up the section that Gary spent nearly a whole page on, but it’s really worth a careful read, because it’s emblematic of Gary being fucking nuts. If this is the baseline for a GP sink in your game… find a better baseline.

        >PC Upkeep by Level & Mandatory Gold Sinks in General
        I can “nuh-uh” your “uh-huh”, meaning I can admit my revulsion to a certain kind of upkeep is at least partially a matter of taste. Difficulties in recruiting mercenaries and purchasing siege weaponry without ties to power structures aside, what’s the issue with performing a siege as a 3rd level adventure? If the PC’s want to do that, that sounds like a good time. If they die because they’re effectively bandits and they don’t have the cash on hand to keep the ball rolling (100 armed mercenaries in the green), that’s a hilarious way to lose a batch of characters. If your players don’t want to do the quick siege/neophyte bandit lord thing… why not let them spend their gold on whatever? A PC could live like a heavily armed Diogenes, but most players don’t want that by default. Spending 100 gp/level/month on nothing makes no sense unless the character is trying to maintain some sort of high social station (one they won’t actually have until name level). Go with your “Stays in an inn and eats their food” upkeep, by all means, but AD&D should not be treated as a gold standard for automatic expenditure.

        Again, the default assumption is that players are playing D&D, an adventure game, to go on adventures. If they need a stick to go on adventures, there is something wrong with your game. Spending time out of the players real lives to fail at acquiring treasure and possibly die exploring a dungeon is punishment enough; there’s not really a need to hammer the point home.

        >Upkeep for strongholds, animals, mercenaries, and other adventuring resources
        I have no issue with this. Starved animals, balls of angry mercenaries, crumbling strongholds, and other issues from lack of upkeep are a natural thing. My only beef would be a lack of systems to deal with this kind of upkeep going unchecked.

        >Lowering XP & Treasure Requirements
        I suggested this more or less as a joke, but it would go a long way in reigning in the hyper-inflationary economy of D&D. B/X handles this by having some of the stingiest treasure tables, in comparison to the treasure of AD&D and OD&D, so all your equipment costs you approximate are multiplied by a significant amount.

        >Murdering Retainers
        “Hey buddy! I saved you from that poison gas trap, could I at least have a copy of that Dispel Magic? I’ll even let you copy my Lightning Bolt spell!”
        “Hmmm… you did save my life after all. Throw in a magic item and it’s a deal.”
        The retainer is then “lost” on another expedition, but fortunately he left his spellbook at the campsite. Because the mortality rate for adventurers is high, his death isn’t considered suspicious.
        Are all wizards secretive and demand onerous tasks for their magic, or is it just the NPC ones?

        >Spell Research
        In AD&D, it’s 200 GP/spell level/week for a minimum of spell level in weeks to research a spell, for a minimum of 8 hours a day, with no interruption. There’s additional costs included here (including ×10 if the character doesn’t have access to a library, because it means they’re creating one), and it includes some DM fuckery (another of Gygax’s bad ideas), but it isn’t cheap. Generally, even a 1st level spell would cost around 6000 gold to research, so it’s a suitable as a gold sink and one that a player would happily pay if it got them what they wanted.

        >Wilderness Travel
        I actually think having a system for tracking food for wilderness travel is a good idea; it puts limits on expeditionary scope, and if food runs out due to being trapped in a snowstorm, the PCs can always start eyeing up the pack animals and torchbearers for a Donner party situation (as they’re certainly doing in return). I just don’t think the finance is the interesting part of it; the encumbrance and possible necessity of foraging or hunting is. Rations might serve the role of gold sink on the expedition, but they’re more interesting due to where they might be kept, how they might be lost, and what the party does without them.

        If the PCs lose all their warhorses in a flash flood, the response shouldn’t be “How many warhorses does this village have”, it should be a mad scramble to see what they can recover because *those horses were carrying valuable things*, like food and weapons. Even if the village does happen to have another 12 warhorses for sale, it might not be carrying everything else they lost, including enough food.


      2. >Training costs
        Peripheral. Whether or not you agree with training costs or how they have been implemented precisely is irrelevant. The major point is that both ACKS and AD&D, games that are by far the most adapted and shaped by long term play, have significant costs to core gameplay activities and utilize a comprehensive form of upkeep to attach meaning and limitations to actions and rather then limiting the game, these limitations actually create meaning, in the same way that encumbrance or light sources do. It is an empirical fact. It does not matter if you cannot rationalize it, it was built into the game for a reason.

        >PC Upkeep.
        The use of mercenaries and armies was intended for high level play. You can look at the advancement in B/X or at the retainers that you get at name level for examples. If you would take umbrage with it I’m sure I can dig up the relevant quotes but it seems fairly obvious.

        The 100 gp/level/month is already assumed to be because you are maintaining a certain lifestyle that is far beyond that of a freeman or peasant. A Conan or a Fafhrd, drinking, wenching, and partying, wearing expensive silks, hosting lavish parties and keeping paramours.

        Your conception of all carrot no stick is again, less interesting and just wrong. You can apply the same logic to random encounters, or any other sort of mechanic that is intended to curb player ability or penalize failure. A good game uses both carrot AND stick. Playing with a type of pressure where you occasionally have to make trade-offs or difficult decisions is much more interesting then playing with abundant wealth at all times.

        > Lower XP + Equipment Costs

        The tables might be stingier for 1st level but this doesn’t matter, the ratio of Gold to XP to total Xp is the important thing and it is similar, probably greater then AD&D because it doesn’t have xp for magic items. B/X equipment is, by and large, cheaper and it doesn’t have the comprehensive system of checks and balances either. Hyperinflation is more fun, the silver standard is lame.

        > Killing that wizard
        Again, you think your other retainers are going to stick around? These scenarios have already been considered, there are solutions for them.

        > Spell Research
        Spell research is more expensive then the cost of merely learning a spell from a scroll or spellbook but it also should be. Making unique spells should be possible but infrequent, giving the GM time to adjust. It is also a fantastic goldsink and is pure Carrot, no Stick.

        >Wilderness Travel
        I agree, yes, having limited resources such as food to contend with adds depth and gameplay to the exploration part. But if you can accept this, why baulk at the idea you have limited available monetary resources?


  17. Quick Correction: GP needs to be spent no matter what for level gain training, I thought I deleted the section that indicated otherwise. It’s just that “Superior” or better characters don’t need to find a tutor.


  18. >Training Costs
    You missed the entire point; if training costs are this badly implemented in AD&D, then they aren’t “built into the game”, they’re a shoddy infrequently used subsystem that was introduced at a later point in development. I don’t play ACKS, which I’m sure is a fine game and has more reasonable training prices, but given that AD&D 1e is the odd child out of all of D&D with training prices, it’s incorrect to say it’s “built into the game”. If I had to guess, I’d say Gary introduced the mechanic it when characters were already mid or high level, and hand-waved it for the lower levels.

    >PC Upkeep
    “It’s intended for high level play!” So? If the PCs are in a place where there’s a lot of mercenaries and they’re willing to pay the extra costs, let them make the shortsighted fortress assault play. It’ll be a hell of a lot more interesting than telling the player “Your character spent 300 gold on fine foods, clothes and parties this month”.

    There’s a place where you have to make choices and tradeoffs during gameplay. It’s called “The Wilderness” or “The Dungeon”. Those places have the stick of “make the wrong decision and your character dies”. Upkeep isn’t a particularly interesting stick unless you’re doing some form of long-term training such as spell research, in which case it makes more sense to prefigure it into the cost of the training. You’re not living like Conan if you spend your entire day in a library researching a spell.

    It raises a lot of reasonable questions like “Why is my character, who needs to be exceptionally cautious and meticulous in the dungeon to have a chance of survival, suddenly stupid with finances when outside?” or “Where did the money go?” or “Why can’t I stop spending even when I’m verging on broke?”. I’m fine with retainers paying this (that is, paying retainers for monthly upkeep), there’s a reason those guys earn 50% experience and listen to me.

    Sticks are supposed to be used to motivate to avoid of stick, but there’s no way to avoid this stick.

    Hey, I’ll share what’s worked in the past to prevent players for playing super cautiously and bailing out at the first sign of trouble! Wandering monsters! A lengthy enough travel time to the dungeon with a high risk to reward ratio for encounters! Dungeon restocking, including factions responding to player movement! All of which are sufficiently sticky to prevent overly cautious dungeon play. If you really wanted to, you could institute upkeep through bandit “tolls”, which is almost the same as the upkeep above, except that now the players have the dream of killing said bandits when they’re strong enough and taking their wealth.

    >Kill the Wizard
    Given this was originally an aside, my point here was that the behavior makes no sense outside of the world of game balance. In previous campaigns I’ve played in, retainers and PCs died so frequently at low-mid levels that the death of a few more would not give any reason for suspicion. Better for a wizard to wizard deal to be equitable, or for PCs and retainers to share spells for added chance of survival. If that’s an issue, the method of “few/no magic user retainers” is a workable one.

    >Wilderness Travel
    Limited resources are fine. Limited resources add gameplay. It’s the artificial and automatic expense of resources that causes issues. You can always race to find a well-stocked town or try and buy yourself time through hunting and foraging in a wilderness adventure, even if you’re ultimately doomed due to lack of planning. There is nothing to do about upkeep of the “hypothetical conan” variety, no problem to solve beyond “we’re running out of money -> get more money” that will already happen naturally if you have worthwhile things to spend cash on.

    Have worthwhile things to spend cash on.


    1. >Training Costs
      You have not demonstrated there is anything wrong with it, you have merely done some calculations and illustrated that it can differ. There is no hypothesis to your example. You have a premise: AD&D Training costs is “fucking nuts”, and then you illustrate some differences based on performance. Okay. Why? We can indulge in all sorts of speculation r.e. its inclusion but in general I find that trusting the designer of the game over a random hot take yields better results.

      ACKS and AD&D are odd ones out compared to a million B/X clones, but they are odd-ones out in a very good way. They are specifically geared towards long term play, they have large swathes on domain type games, and they are comprehensive and complex, refined by actually playing the game and running into problems that must crop up sooner or later. The comprehensive approach, the way there is an opportunity cost to certain actions, or the way checks and balances are implemented across a whole swathe of factors, that is the point.

      >PC Upkeep {mercenaries}
      The initial point was whether or not you are supposed to be carting around vast swathes of gold and hiring large amounts of mercenaries at level 3. I say no in general and the various editions of D&D have seen fit to regale this type of gameplay to high levels, which makes sense. You can look under ‘mercenaries’ and the performance of various types of officers to see what level they roughly equate too. If you don’t like that, play Arduin.

      >PC Upkeep
      You have already (and I do think it took you quite a bit of brainpower, but you got there), conceived of an interesting scenario where having limited resources and having to make trade-offs or risky decisions is interesting. What do we buy with our shit? Do we save up to research for a new spell, do we hire additional henchmen, do we store it somewhere for training costs. We can’t wait around for the spell to be done, then we all pay a tonne of money, I guess we will go adventuring with your other character. There is plenty of interesting gameplay that comes from these factors. Whether or not you appreciate this is really not my concern.

      >Stick + Reason
      Why would a person who is essentially an andrenaline junky who is exposed to extreme life and death situations spend his money on entertainment, wenches, booze etc. when he is safe. Ask soldiers or extreme sports fanatics.
      These ‘reasonable questions’ are generally easily solvable with a bit of GM ingenuity. Most ‘reasonable’ objections to procedures and rules are self-serving and their solutions make the game objectively worse.

      You can use the same reasoning for having to eat in the wilderness. “I can’t avoid having to eat. It’s not fair! This is all stick.”

      > Kill the wizard.
      Once again, you seem very willing to jump to conclusions r.e. how ‘reasonable’ a procedure is, but have you considered the procedure is good, and you simply do not like it, and thus do not expend enough cognitive effort into rationalizing it? It is perfectly possible to come up with a rationale for many of these supposedly ‘unreasonable’ conventions.

      “It’s not fair I have to eat everyday! Food has no extra game mechanic besides forcing me to explore faster. A real adventuring party doesn’t need a stick, they should be exploring out of sheer adventuring spirit. Therefore food should be abundant so I don’t have to worry.”

      And so on. Have both. Have good stuff. Attach consequences to actions. Include meaningful stuff to purchase at the other end. Always have more interesting material available then the PCs have money to spend on. Having to make trade-offs and decisions is good.


      1. >Training Costs
        If you can’t figure out what’s wrong with becoming more broke as you level, there’s no helping you. Because you seem to have trouble with the math here, even the lowest cost/best performing thief loses more money per level than they can possibly gain.

        “If you don’t like it, leave!” sounds a lot like crying baby noises.

        >PC Upkeep
        Yes, if you both read and comprehended what I wrote, you’d figure out I agree with limited resources being a good thing, and that was never the point in contention. My issue was entirely with abstracted upkeep, which causes more problems than it solves. I pointed out a problem with the spell research precluding the “conan party” lifestyle, which you conveniently sidestepped.

        >Stick + Reason
        You’re continuing to misuse stick here. A stick is a punishment, not a tax. Upkeep, concrete or abstract, is a tax. The stick is what happens when you fail to meet upkeep obligations. Abstracted upkeep is a poorly justified tax.

        Ask soldiers about what? Are all soldiers extreme adrenaline junkies and gambling fanatics to you? That’s an unhinged take if I ever heard one.

        >Kill the Wizard
        No. You present a counterargument. I ain’t going to argue with myself here.

        Your arguments are starting to boil down to “You haven’t put enough work in justifying it!” which is nonsense. YOU, or the GAME DESIGNER need to put the work into justifying your points. If I point out problems with them, you don’t get to pretend I’m the one who needs to figure out the solution.


      2. I am downgrading you further because simply reading the DMG is enough to refute anything you say. I don’t mind, it’s good training for actual discussion, but you will have to step up your game. I have stuff to review. Either start providing interesting takes or at least troll with flair.

        >Training costs.
        DMG P. 86. 1500/level/week, with performance as a modifier ranging from 1-4 weeks. Since XP doubles every level while training costs increase linearly, it is in fact possible to attain more gold then xp at later levels. 2nd, you might not have read it since I don’t think you are in the habit of studying before you opine, but XP for gold is actually adjusted based on the challenge of the monster (p. 85) so you can actually obtain cash for xp on a basis that is not 1:1. 3rd you can just obtain more gold, as you will not be levelling up until you do training costs. The idea is likely, and I am not surprised you could not conceive of this, that as a Thief gaining extra wealth is absolutely essential. There’s plenty of other sources for disparate xp/gold, such as magic items for example.

        “I demand you explain why this game is like it is or else I won’t like it,” said the dullard.

        >PC Upkeep
        No you did not point out anything. Spell research was simply mentioned, never linked to anything, no coherent train of thought was formed.

        That last maybe troll guy was pretty good (I admit my troll detector needs refinement). You however, are very slow.

        A stick is anything that inflicts punishment for inaction. A carrot is anything that rewards action. That you have a different defenition is of no importance to anyone but yourself.

        I think I will provide counter-argumentation when you either start providing amusement value or start having good takes.

        > You have to do the justification.
        Not really no. The problems you point out are things that have been discussed for aeons in magazines like Dragon and afterwards on forums like dragonsfoot, or on 4chan or anywhere else. They are not new. They are also not particularly interesting. As we have already established with the Upkeep example, you either do not have adequate background knowledge to discuss the topic or you simply are not very adept at correlating disparate points of information to reach conclusions. I recommend reading the 1e DMG and then taking another stab at it. It’s really quite good.


      3. Until this morning, I was really too busy to follow this thread, let alone weigh in with any kind of response. The extreme saltiness here makes me wonder if Prince just hasn’t had a good internet fight in a while: you two are both (I believe) MORE on the same page than not.

        RE WOTI’s initial rant (“obligatory upkeep sucks ass”):

        It’s not unusual to dislike game mechanics (why can’t my magic-user wield a sword like Elric? why doesn’t armor reduce damage? why do I have to go to jail if I roll doubles three times in Monopoly?), but part of mastering a game is learning to play within the parameters of the rules as defined. It is what it is.

        Having said that, the GREATNESS of D&D is that it allows us to have a particular type of experience precisely because of its verisimilitude (this being the APPEARANCE of reality, not “reality”) within a fantastical environment. We can have grand adventures that we could never have in real life (at least, not without excessive risk to life and limb). So it helps if we can provide some justification for mechanics designed to ape reality…if only to not break our immersion and suspension of disbelief.

        Now, I can’t speak for anyone but myself, but PERSONALLY, I tend to piss money away nearly as fast as I acquire it. When I was younger, I had LESS income, but my bank account was close to empty…as a more mature individual I have far more…and my bank account is STILL a lot less than I’d like. It’s a fact of this country (the USA) that many lottery winners end up broke within a short time of hitting it big…money is just a means of exchange and we tend to redistribute it even as it arrives at our doorstep (conservative spenders hoard a bit, while spendthrifts will be constantly in debt REGARDLESS of quantity of income). The D&D system of upkeep provides a mechanical system for abstracting this concept.

        “But wait! My character isn’t a spendthrift barbarian from Cimmeria or a gutter rat from Lankhmar! He took a vows of celibacy and abstinence as part of his training and has zero interest in wine and women and song!” Certainly there are other expenses to be paid: room and board, new clothing (tailors) and laundry women, bathing/bathhouses, shaving/barbers, cobblers (repairing boots/shoes), fees/dues (to mystical orders, guilds, etc.), smithy/armorer costs (maintaining armor/weapons), tithing/donations, general largesse (money to beggars and orphan children in the medieval streets), occasional parties/balls and the rental of formal wear/masques/etc., lessons in dancing, prostitutes, payments to sparring partners to practice against different opponents/combat styles, room rental for meditation (away from the hustle and bustle of the inn), expenses for feting a friend or paramour (whether it be a night on the town or a countryside picnic requiring the rental of a carriage, footmen, food, wine, chef, cutlery, etc.), money paid to minstrels/entertainers, money spent to access libraries, money wasted on books that provided no useful info (and then were cast aside), money spent on frivolities (hats, capes, fads) that are later discarded for lack of usefulness/practicality, candles, torchbearers (for lighting dark streets while being OUT at night), rented muscle/guards (for watching your back and keeping away the beggars while you’re going out at night), stabling livestock, care and maintenance of mounts/livestock (horseshoes, feed, vet bills, etc.), rental of horses for the day to make a short excursion on something other than your prize warhorse, paying leeches/dentists for personal care for that annoying rash that comes from never taking off your armor, general markup by cagy merchant types who see your character is a person-of-means, etc., etc.

        Trying to keep track of all this minutia IS a fool’s errand…so an abstract system is helpful. In AD&D, you spend 100/g.p. per level per month. I consider a gold piece to be the equivalent of a $20 bill (one silver piece is $1). At 20th level, that 2,000g.p. per month is the equivalent of $40,000 or $480,000 per year…half a million in annual expenses is a drop in the bucket to the top 10% of the economic spectrum in our REAL world. What percentage of characters in D&D world are 20th level?

        Again, in my PERSONAL experience, I threw the occasional party in my youth…and the money spent was much less than what I’d spend today for a similar soiree. My means have improved, and if I just had a couple six packs and a bag of chips for my Super Bowl party, my guests would wonder what the hell was going on!

        Thing is, D&D isn’t really about going to the barber or getting a venereal disease from the town brothel. These things happen “off screen” because what we’re REALLY interested in is the experience of the next adventure (and the planning/preparation that goes into such excursions). Thus, an abstract method of calculating “upkeep” (monthly life expenses).

        YES, you can absolutely still pay money for cool stuff (a filigreed suit of armor, an authentic Ulfberht sword, a beautiful mandolin, or an amazing hat). You can throw coins to the beggars, etc. or buy the most expensive joint of mutton on the tavern menu during your game session. These things that happen in play are ADDITIONAL costs over and above your “normal (abstracted) expenses,” and if you do that kind of thing a lot then…congratulations! Your character is a spendthrift and will probably be broke or in debt! If you are fiscally conservative, great! But you still have to buy toilet paper (or the medieval equivalent) sometimes.

        I REALLY don’t want my D&D game to worry too much about buying toilet paper.

        Okay…just two more notes:

        RE Training Costs

        Anthony Huso is as big a proponent of Rules As Written as anyone on the internet, and even he has modified training costs…he uses the same rate, but in SILVER pieces, rather than gold. For me, I’ve tried running training As Written, I’ve tried using it with (Huso’s) silver mod, I’ve tried running it with ONLY for characters wanting to learn new spells or special abilities, and (at this point) I’ve dispensed with training costs completely.

        Here’s the thing about AD&D training: it’s not really about sucking $$ out of the players’ coffers. Let me repeat that: TRAINING IS NOT A MECHANIC FOR SUCKING MONEY OUT OF THE PLAYERS. Especially as characters progress in level, training costs become MINUSCULE compared to the amount of treasure coming into the party.

        Training costs exist to SLOW THE PROGRESS OF THE CAMPAIGN. Advanced D&D is designed for the “long haul” campaign. Training draws out game play by 1) extending the length of time PCs explore/experience low levels (as they have to acquire enough treasure to level up), and 2) by forcing PCs to experience periods of inaction (i.e. taking them out of active play for weeks while training).

        Why do we want to enforce periods of inactivity? Because it is assumed the game will still continue AND SO the player with the missing PC will have to CREATE A NEW PC FOR ACTIVE PLAY. Why is this desirable? Because it keeps the game “fresh” for the player! Playing a cleric for some dozen+ levels is likely to get tiring…but when the cleric has to train that allows the player to break out his/her halfling thief or elven fighter-mage! As the campaign goes on, MOST players will develop a stable of different characters…some favorites and foundational pieces of the campaign, some just to be played for a lark now and then. AD&D is designed to be played in the LONG FORM…and training rules are one of the things that help this go.

        Why don’t I use “training costs” in my own game? Because I don’t need to at this point in time. My players are young enough that EVERYTHING about the AD&D game is interesting (and difficult) enough to keep them enthused. They’re also dying a lot and thus creating new PC types so they’re getting lots of chances to play different things…but generally, 6 months SEEMS like a super-long time for a kid of 11 years, unlike a 30/40-some year old adult. At this point, I’m not interested in “slowing down” the game play…I’M making up for lost time (the years when I didn’t have an AD&D campaign going).

        RE Spell Exchange With Retainers

        Gygax’s admonitions can come off as adversarial because he was writing to address a particular type of audience (i.e. the kind that would take a mile if given an inch). The proper way to view this is from the perspective of the henchman/retainer. Henchfolk want to be valued and respected: they have hitched their wagon to their liege with the assumption they WILL be valued and respected. They have not been hired simply to provide spells to the PC magic-user’s spell book…treating them as such devalues the retainer as a person! And in addition to respecting the spell-caster’s personal space (his/her spell book), the NPC’s unique spells are EXACTLY what they “bring to the table” in terms of service. If Thigru teaches Olaf the suggestion spell (the example on p.39 of the DMG) than Thigru’s value to Olaf is LOWERED…after all, Olaf can then memorize the spell himself when he needs to cast it. Giving Thigru TWO spells in exchange for one not only shows the retainer that it’s NOT just about “what you can give me” (respect), but gives Thigru a greater arsenal of magic (IMPROVING Thigru’s value).

        Again, this IS about verisimilitude: the APPEARANCE of reality. The NPC isn’t real, but treating the NPC as a real person (rather than a disposable resource) creates a more robust game experience for players. This is the LONG game of AD&D…it has many of the challenges of REAL LIFE (for example, dealing with group dynamics and personality conflicts). You don’t HAVE to play this way…but if all you want is to gak some fantasy monsters with your buddies, why not just invest in a World of Warcraft account and a solid internet connection?

        Last Thing:

        From p.25 of the DMG:

        “You may reduce costs according to prevailing circumstances if you feel it is warranted, but even so doing should not give rise to excess funds on hand in the campaign.”

        NONE of this is STICK, really. In truth, it’s ALL “carrot.” The acquisition of treasure is what draws player characters out into the world on adventure. If they are so broke that they can’t meet expenses, DON’T CHARGE EXPENSES. Tell the PCs they’re just camping outside the closest town, living off the land (or the scraps of what others throw away) like any other hobo. If that’s what they want to do at 5th level…fine. Let them be bearded, stink-ass Jeremiah Johnson types (truthfully, I already view rangers this way). At some point, perhaps, they’ll find they want more…but until then, the DMG explicitly gives you leeway to ignore those rules depending on the “prevailing circumstance.”

        In my own campaign, my players purchased a ship and a load of lumber to sell off in Elf-Town (not its actual name). They paid a lot for the privilege in costs, fees, duties, taxes, storage, cartage, wages for hirelings, etc. They netted a profit of some three-four thousand gold off the venture, and it only took them a couple-three weeks, and gave them all the knowledge they needed to run a tidy little sipping operation (the ship I count as part of the “profit”).

        However, its quicker and more profitable work to raid an owl bear nest for eggs (2,000 g.p. each)…if one can handle the danger involved. They opted for the latter, losing several party members, but getting a HUGE score. Risk vs. reward. Adventure vs. safety. D&D vs. real life.

        It’s all carrot. All of it.
        : )

        Liked by 1 person

      4. @Becker

        This is probably the strongest, most in depth explanation of training costs and upkeep that I have seen, I certainly won’t begrudge you it, it is fit adornment for the article and reminds me of forum days. Linking the long downtime with the overall concept of having multiple characters is particularly sharp. The idea that you have multiple PCs per player is alluded too in the beginning of the DMG and the frequent downtime for levels, spells, getting reduced below 0 hp but not dying, or Raise Dead recovery all feeds into this.

        After interacting with people on a Discord for a while, you begin to notice that its always the same people with the same objections. It is not the result of reasoning or a good faith effort to understand the material, something is learned of, there is an intuitive dislike for it, and the first objection that the subject can come up with is used to justify the dislike. These are then discussed, but the subject’s mind is not changed in response to new information even if they are sincere. I find it a waste of perfectly good cognitive effort to engage in thinking that should have been done before the opinion is ventured, not afterwards, although for general educative purposes your explanation is stellar.


      5. Hey, man. I understand. The internet is a big place and it’s oh so tiring trying to find different ways to enlighten folks (even those looking to be enlightened). I’m not sure why I feel compelled to try…maybe subconsciously I’m hoping for some kind of medal/trophy.

        [on the other hand, I coach a soccer team composed of 21 eleven-year olds, 14 of whom are new this year…maybe it’s just my destiny to develop patience in such circumstances]

        For what it’s worth, an internet person reached out to me via email, claiming to be Mr. WOTI (he provided me with an actual name, but I won’t list it here…). He told me that he, too, appreciated my explanation and it was quite what he was looking for. As I wrote, I don’t think you two were very far apart, but the back-and-forth was getting in the way of resolution. I understand…I’ve had a blog for 13+ years; I’ve been there. But you’re doing good work over here, Prince (in addition to entertaining work)…breaking some new ground with new appreciation for an older style of play, reaching folks who haven’t paid attention to the more boring (me) or more curmudgeonly (Alexis) types. The No ArtPunk contest is the highlight of my last couple years puttering around the OSR…no joke!

        Keep bringing folks to the table, O Prince.
        : )

        Liked by 2 people

  19. You are a good person, and I will endaevour to cultivate more patience, because it sounds like he was not a bad guy and you did help the man out. Thanks Becker.

    Wrong on the Internet, it seems I was uncharitable. I apologize for my rudeness.

    And good luck in the listings 😉

    Liked by 1 person

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