RPGaDay2019 Day 18 – Plenty

Plenty. That’s the inspiration for day 18 of #RPGaDay2019, following One yesterday.

How often do we consider the implications of things being plentiful? I know D&D isn’t meant to be an exact simulation of the world and that’s one of its strengths, but anything common becomes inherently less valuable.

In the BECMI days, 80% of XP was expected to come from treasure. Not only did this encourage a looting approach to adventuring, the requirement to provide plenty of treasure had several other effects.

  • There’s the question of how you get the treasure home. With a coin (cn) being the unit of weight and being 1/10lb (presumably to keep the maths easy), your 5000gp hoard weighs 500lb. A large sack had a capacity of 600cn, and a character could carry a maximum of 1200cn before being slowed to a crawl (quarter speed up to 1600cn, 1/8 up to 2400)…and this includes weapons and equipment. So getting the treasure home was a logistical nightmare…and it only counted for XP if you got it home. And at higher levels you could require tend tens or hundreds of thousands of XP for the next level…
  • Once you got it home, it became effectively meaningless. You could pretty much afford anything unless you wanted to start building castles, at which point you might find the local ruler objecting.
  • But then, if you wanted to pay for something while out adventuring, to probably didn’t have that much on you (remember the encumbrance…)
  • And to make the money a bit more meaningful, the prices needed to go up so that the wealth got shared about, so you needed to carry more with you. Economists have a term for this: inflation…
  • And then you were a target for all the thieves and con artists in the area erg who wanted a share of your fortune…

The conflict between value and availability is also the fundamental tension in the perennial “high magic vs low magic setting” debate. If magic is something everyone does and has, it cheapens it, and it’s no longer something wonderful.

It now seems that whatever character you’re playing, it comes with a side order of magic and cantrips provide an unlimited source of magic which can be as powerful as BECMI first level spells. So magic casting is no longer as special as it was. And clerical magic is available to paladins and bards and rogues (with the right choices) and… It makes for less differentiation between the classes. If everyone is special, no-one is special.

And if magic items are easy to come by (and if you have a high magic campaign, why wouldn’t they be? ) it’s less exciting to receive another one.

And if they’re that common, surely they’d be for sale? And you’ve got loads of money from your adventuring so let’s go on a spending spree of buffs. Which then means the DM has to raise the bar to find opponents to challenge you, and has to raise the bar to give you interesting rewards ‘cos you’ve already got everything…

It’s much easier to give than to take away. So my setting is fairly low magic – magic items aren’t owned by common people (except in Glantri, land of magic, of course), and aren’t generally available to buy (except in Glantri), and why the characters only have a handful of minor, mostly miscellaneous items between them.

Plenty? Be careful what you wish for…

Tomorrow we have “Scary”.

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