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How I Fixed “Too Much Gold And Nothing To Spend It On”…

It’s a common lament in 5th edition Dungeons & Dragons that players accrue bags and bags of cash, but have very little to spend it on.

Inquisitive players start to wonder why they bother delving into dungeons, or accept life threatening missions, to amass more and more gold, when they can’t even spend the coin they have… and Dungeon Masters start struggling to motivate them, accordingly.

In the tier 1 adventure Dragon Heist players can swag a cool 500,000 gold pieces…

The issue stems (as most of you already know!) from the fact that, once upon an edition, 1 gold piece of loot garnered you 1 XP point; and thus player advancement was neatly tied to how much treasure PCs could drag out of the depths of the local catacombs.

Fifth edition players however are rewarded for being heroic, rather than mercenary, and gain XP through killing monsters and completing quests – rendering their cash rewards as something of an afterthought.

Sure, for a couple of levels, a bit of pocket money might come in handy for upgrading their starting equipment, but once they’ve gone out and bought their plate armour, it’s hard for characters to get any reliable mechanical benefits from being rich.

Trinket, by Robin Ward graced the cover of several early D&D supplements (buy a print here!).

Generally speaking, this has never been a problem that bothered me much. I like my heroes to be heroic, and I’ve got close to zero interest in campaigns centred around commerce, or saving up for a stronghold full of liveried lackeys.

BUT… having said that, I do like my players to be at least partially money motivated, because – apart from the fact that negotiation scenes are always fun! – a need, or desire, to enrich oneself creates extra tension at the table. Provided there are ways to spend it and/or necessary expenses to adventuring, gold can become a vital resource that players have to manage, and how they spend it can have big repercussions in the game.

In short, I want money to be meaningful in my D&D games. Recently I feel that I’ve been quite successful in achieving this…

10 Ways of Making Coins Count…

Here a few ways you make treasure important in D&D, mostly based around creating a desire for it (to buy cool things)… or creating a need for it (to pay for essentials or settle debts!).

Some are fairly obvious, but I think even experienced DMs will find a few little innovations on this list. The last one is a technique I used in my Waterdeep: Dirty Jobs campaign that is working a treat!

  • Create a black market for magic items. Like most DMs, I shy away from magic item shops that a) trivialise the rarity of such items b) take away from the joy of discovering them and c) defy credibility in most settings… but equally, if players are willing to make a few Investigation checks, it can be fun to dangle a few DM-approved items for sale on the black market. Such a market also allows them to trade items they don’t have much use for, usually for much less than they’re worth to an intermediary or fixer.
  • Create a ‘white’ market for single-use magic items. One and done potions and scrolls rarely break the game, and can prove useful get-out-of-jail cards for players that find themselves in a hole, usually when a combat takes an unexpectedly nasty turn. Crank up the prices at the local temple, apothecary or wizard school, and let the kids go shopping. Magic items motivate 99% of D&D players, and if there’s a reliable pathway to them your players will continue to appreciate the boring old bags of coins they have to lug out of the dungeon. Another cool thing money should be able to buy, IMHO, is a magic tattoo… (available at Mystic Ink tattoo parlour!).
  • Homebrew some rules for superior weapons and armour. There’s something beautiful about owning a finely-honed blade, and, while much cheaper than magical weapons, you can easily justify charging between 5 and 25 times the price of a standard longsword for the marginal gains a masterfully crafted weapon offers. Such equipment should either carry a small bonus (eg. +1 to damage rolls only), or some other minor benefit, that rich players will find worth paying for. Some more ideas here. Superior armour might help you get rid of mobility penalties, or increase your protection against Lingering Injuries (Critical Hits)… if you want to build off my homebrew armour rules.
  • Enforce lifestyle costs during downtime. Think of your real world outgoings, and then insert them in your game (not your Spotify subscription obvs., but rent, bills, food, booze, clothes). The Player’s Handbook suggests 1 gp a day is required to maintain a modest lifestyle, but you could also hit your players with bigger expenses once in a while, such as replacing their well-worn weapons and armour. And speaking of downtime…
  • Clamp down on lucrative side hustles. Don’t let players game the system and acquire risk free cash between adventures. If they say they spend 3 months pickpocketing for financial gain, have them roll three checks. “25, 9 and 13 you say? Well the 25 represents a great haul, and in your first month you make 1,000 gp in stealing purses. A 9 is not great however. You are caught by the city watch and fined 1,000 gp. You also have your hand cut off, and the local temple charges you 5,000 gp to restore the limb. For the 13 you make a modest haul of 130 gold pieces, before the local thieves guild have a word with you. They want 50% of everything you’ve stolen in the last 3 months…” Apply the same principles to any ‘business ideas’ your players have, stacking the odds to remind them they are adventurers, not entrepreneurs, for a reason.
  • Enforce spell component costs. Spells like revivify are expensive to cast, especially if the cheapest diamonds clerics can get their hands on are far in excess of the min. value required. In general, overcharge your players for everything… they will appreciate the realism!
  • Charge players eye-watering sums for healing services. If you’re doing your job right, your players will need frequent access to spells like greater restoration, remove curse, and raise dead. Check out my temple casting rules to see why the whole clergy will have to get involved, with no guarantee this powerful magic will work. Naturally, the cost of the service is the same, regardless of whether it works or not. Surely your players aren’t questioning the Gods?
  • Insert Training Costs. I have never used this myself, but a DM I play with makes us shell out a fair chunk of cash on training before we can level up. This is irritating if you never get back to your home base, or a city, in order to do so, but provides a nice reliable expense that DMs can impose, and makes sense really. Were I to run this, I wouldn’t do it every level, I’d just improvise it during downtime, so it doesn’t interfere with adventuring. “So you’re level 4 now, but you’ve learned as much as you can in the field for now… you’re going to have to invest X days and Y gold before you can hope to gain more levels.”
  • Arrest your players. Put them on trial. And then fine the **** out of them. In fact, if they don’t pay X amount in bribes (where X = more money that they’ve seen in their lifetime) to their sentencers, they will be hung, drawn and quartered instead… who knows, do this enough and they might even start to respect the local laws!
  • Give your players an agent. Probably my favourite way, and certainly the most effective I’ve found, of keeping my players in permanent need of cash is to give them an agent. This solution came to be when running my ‘West Marches’ style campaign, in which the players start their adventuring life as members of Drake’s Dragonslayers Guild. This tinpot agency, run by the flamboyantly greedy Drake himself, has plenty of work for budding adventurers, but charges them 20% commission of all fees AND treasure. So you found a magic item while on the job? Great, just pay the guild 20% of what they say its worth and you get to keep it! (The result of this little set up is that 75% of my players are now wildly in debt to Drake, and keen to bite on any adventure hook that comes with a generous cash reward).

So there you go, hopefully, after implementing some of the ideas in this post, you’ll never need worry that your players have too much gold and / or nothing to spend it on again…

As always, I’d be keen to hear strategies that other DMs (i.e. you!) have employed to tackle this infamous D&D issue. Comments section this way… 👇.

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8 Comments

  1. Eric

    Hirelings are a great means of adding an expense to drain the coffers. They provide a reliable direct mechanical benefit in a game that relies on an action economy. Sure, they can help carry more loot out of the dungeon, but they’ll also need gear, equipment, supplies, mounts, food and keep. And danger pay. And maybe even the promise of a share of loot, lest you emerge from the underdark to discover your base camp abandoned.

    Another gold drain is paying for research. This includes of course the expensive kind with laboratories etc, and also consulting sages .. but it also includes splashing some coin around the local watering holes in the hope of bolstering reknown and hearing sourcing rumours/gossip. Don’t just hand out d6 rumors the moment the PCs arrive in town, the locals will be sure to point out it sure has been a hot and dusty day. And anyway, why should ruffian strangers with no tales of derring-do or evidence of beneficial intent and generoisity of spirit be privy to local secrets?

    • duncan

      Hi Eric

      Yes, hirelings are expensive, although I never use them as I find the game pretty tedious when players control more than just their player… I’m just not into that play style.

      Research is a good one, and I agree that sometimes we forget to charge players for simple information. Any savvy peasant will see the fancily dressed PCs as a potential pay day if they need any info from them…

      Cheers for the comment!

      • Rick Coen

        An idea I’ve seen to incorporate Hirelings without *playing* them is to make them “Camp Aids”. Like hiring a cook who gives the benefits of the Chef Feat. Or an organizer that gives the Inspiring Leader feat when they long rest (start with some Temp HP). These guys stay outside the dungeon, run away from danger when traveling, but hang out and give discrete bonuses for specific pay, without giving the players a dozen extra turns. (And in 5e, those “level 0 man-at-arms” mooks from previous editions can be effective in numbers – stay away from that!)

  2. Rick Coen

    I’ll respond more later (’cause I can’t keep my e-mouth shut), but a quick response is “Yes! Consumables!” My party acquired a lot of gemstones recently, so in each town they traveled through, I made a point of highlighting unusual consumables that town produces. King’s Brandy from the dwarves gives you the effect of a bless spell and 5 temp hp if you quafe half the 150gp bottle… but it’s so alcoholic that you get a level of exhaustion from it (the “ten levels, -1 to everything” version). The bless spell at least cancels the performance penalty, so you’re good for a minute… The next town sold Neutralize Poison potions, and Oils of Slipperiness. The next, Burnberry Brew and Alchemist’s Fire (both from the same plant… and if you would like to sidequest and get the herbalist some more supplies…). Etc. Each draining 100-300gp from the thousands in the gem-bank!

  3. Rick Coen

    This is a topic I’ve struggled with in every edition, but the struggle changes based on the edition. Mostly, prior to 5e, the issue is not “how do I spend money”, because there *are* places to buy magic items. And they are obscenely expensive. The issues are generally one of two things: loophole “sweetspot” items that are too cheap for their effect (looking at you, “Shield spell, only 3 times per day, 100gp” from 3e); or “how does an economy function when food costs silvers, and PCs are buying +5 weapons for 1.25M gp” (which also means there are people *selling* things for millions of gold, and therefore a finance system has to exist where this is reasonable).

    In 5e, and the point of your article, the first issue is still there (even though 3e’s custom items are gone, the Ring of the North does everything a Ring of Cold Resistance does, cheaper, and more). And the second issue is basically still there, in its lack — there *isn’t* an economy based around having a bazillion gold… so what to do with it? However, I think I can mentally wrap my head around 5e’s (laughable, like all D&D editions and world) “economy” better. Every town you go to in America has a Walmart, and a local chain grocery store. And an upscale grocery store (organic, locally-sourced, no nitrites and nitrates, etc.). And an upscale, well, anything is upscale from Walmart. Not every town has “if you have to ask the price, you can’t shop here” stores, but they are available in most cities. And the “D@mn, how many zeroes is that??” are available in every metropolis. But you still might go to Antwerp to get a special diamond, or Germany to pick up your custom bulletproof sportscar with the (highly-illegal everywhere) “upgrades”. Or, for enough money, hire someone to go get it, because at that point, what’s an extra $50k in salary for a full-time on-call personal delivery person when you dropped $4M on the car?

    If you make $50k or less, you shop at Walmart, and maybe Target; you might not have a car; you vacation by not going to work. If you make $100k, you might shop at Walmart and also Whole Foods; Target and occasional Nordstroms. (Or you might have a cultural opinion about “those Walmart people”, and only shop at Sir Upington’s!) The quality of your car and the size or location of your house probably improves, and maybe you can afford better schools, and the occasional downtown stage performance. You can take the family on national vacations; you might save up for the dream trip to Europe. When you make $500k, you can afford to fly your kids all around the country for sports, “pop over to California” to see a friend, and take “day trips” to Europe… and mostly, still live a “normal” life. When you make $1M+… you have “silly money”. Multiple homes you don’t bother to live in; multiple expensive cars you don’t bother to drive. I forget which nanny has the kids today; come to think of it, which day is it? I’ve lost my diamond encrusted watch… I forget if I took off swimming in Nice yesterday, or did I leave it in Barcelona when I changed for dinner with the Cardinal? No, the $5M watch doesn’t have a laser cutter or GPS or anything, just 40 carats of sparklies…

    Same in 5e land, then. When the adventurers start out, they are shopping at Walmart. Do we get 40 arrows, or just 40 arrowheads and an antitoxin just in case? We can’t afford the Potion of Healing from Whole Foods, but maybe a couple of those Herbal Healing Teas from Auntie Ethel that expire in 3 days? Then they get a payday, and earn three months’ salary in a weekend delve into a crypt. Whoo hoo! Why the heck would we ever go back to waiting tables or building houses for the uppity rich merchants? Whoa, maybe we can get *one* Potion, don’t get crazy, I want to stay in the inn.

    A couple adventures and months later, they’ve each earned a year’s salary, can stay in the nice hotel all year long, eat what they want (but not the imported neogi-claw truffles), buy the nice car (horse) without haggling, and really anything their town sells. But if they want a trained destrier (Ferrari), they need to go to The Big City… there’s just no market for that here. Or stay here, and be the $200k Daddy Warbucks in the $40k town.

    Being adventurers, though, they feel compelled to do the next thing. (Sane people would either return to their $40k life and take a few years off, or maybe outright buy their house and just live a little free-er.) Now they realize that they not only need a watch, but they need one with GPS and a laser cutter. That’s just not available in Podunkville, time to go to Bigton (who has a guy who get one), or Cityopolis (where Gary, the guy who makes them lives, and has a selection)! Oh, and in Cityopolis, Gary has a friend who can after-market upgrade them with different color lenses on the laser cutter (i.e. “enchant” it).

    But then, there comes a point where the adventurers have amassed “silly money”. they can walk into any store in Cityopolis and buy whatever they want, just because it matches today’s outfit. They’d love to buy a power-armor suit that nano-unfolds out of the watch – they’d drop “a couple mill” on that today! – but no one makes that. But hey, Gary heard of a guy in Faraway Point who might know a guy who claimed to have figured out some “alien” tech, maybe he can help you out?

    … What was my point? Um… yeah, so adventurers get to silly money faster or slower, dependent on the campaign, but I’m okay with them having silly money in a not-silly world. Easier to wrap my brain around “nobles might buy the diamond-encrusted watch for 3000gp to show off wealth” like RW celebrities do, but most nobles aren’t buying James Bond gadgets. Adventurers might have contacts who have contacts that can get them unique things… but these require rare/illegal materials and unique otherwise-unmarketable skills, and therefore aren’t available in stores. Do the adventurers thus mostly end up with money no longer having meaning to them? Yup. Are there RW people who have the same problem? Yup. (Not many, and most of us think “that seems like a good ‘problem’ to have!”)

    And this, as a DM, actually can be a good thing! You can then get the players interested in whatever you want them to have, simply by making it available to be purchased. (Forget about “balance” from a money perspective… just make available things you’re fine with, see the results, and move on.) Maybe they can’t walk into Ye Olde Blacksmithe and buy the Vorpal Halberd. But they *can* buy a really nice-looking one, and get a lead on Gary up in Bigton who supposedly is a mastersmith – his halberds cut armor! (+1 damage, nonmagic). Gary then shows you his fine spread of quality halberds and other bladed weapons, pointing out his specialties of Serrated (reroll 1s on damage), weighted (+1 damage), pair-balanced (+1 to hit on the second weapon if the first hits), and ironshod (haft does 1d6 damage instead of 1d4) polearms. And Gary reminisces about *his* teacher, who could work blades out of argentium (counts as “magic” against undead and aberrations), crysteel (counts as “magic” against golems and elementals), and cold iron (fey-bane). And he heard tell of Old Man Wallaby who would enchant weapons if paid in gemstones (why would he need so many gemstones? he’s always dressed in rags?). And so forth. Now your players have some upgrade ideas, can get existing weapons enchanted (instead of replacing them with new magic weapons), and a money sink (Wallaby needs powdered gems for his spell components, so he charges prices that are high because gems are hard to find – he already “acquired” and spent them all!).

    So, to your ideas…
    1) Black Market Magic Items. Obviously, I’m all about this. Make it random what’s available, or pick and choose what would be fun – or have a bizarre/awesome story about!

    2) White Market Consumables. I responded to this as well, but I love this too. My world has “herbal remedies” which cost half to a tenth what a “potion” would, but only last a few days to weeks. Then, a few masters live in specific places that can provide the “permanent” versions, but you need to travel there or pay a premium. Oil of Slipperiness is only available in Garren’s Point on the edge of the Poisonscale Fens… but you can buy greaseleaf almost anywhere that does the same if you use it in three days. I’m also a big fan of cheaper “does what you want, but with a side effect” consumables. Like the King’s Brandy mentioned before, which is basically a “bless potion”, that is highly intoxicating. Or the super-cheap Herbal Healing Tonics that provide a d6 healing and cost only 5gp… but taking more than one a day might upset your stomach (CON save or nausea / “poisoned” condition for an hour)!

    3) Homebrew superior items. Oh, I’m so “all about this” I have lost myself in pages and pages and pages of ideas that I’ve had to scale back from. Right now, IMC, “magic” generally starts at +2. +1 items are all mastercrafted or superior material; if an item is *both* it is starting to duplicate magical quality. But the materials are found in specific places, and have limits; likewise, the location of the various masters is known. Mariha has a polearm mastercrafter, while Alfendel has the bowyer masters. The dwarves of Burrowfound know how to work argentium and occasionally find it in their mines. The capital of Argus provides its nobles and heroes items made of Argossian Bloodsteel, which itself can be found in three qualities (the least of which is “requires less maintenance”, but the greatest and most rare actively guards the owner’s life). The empire of Jendar sells an alchemically treated leather that is as supple as clothing (Leather Armor AC 11, does not count as Armor), but can be layered and padded to form a lightweight flexible Brigandine Jacket (treat as “studded leather +1”). And so on.

    4) Enforce lifestyle costs. Well… see the longwinded essay about “silly money”. In the first dozen sessions, yes. I do/did this. Just like I charged for food, tracked arrows, and the bard worked to earn free nights at the inn. Then, the PCs’ money eclipsed the relevance of these costs, excepting special circumstances. In this particular campaign, they have received lodging/guest-rights as rewards a few times instead of money, to hand-wave this away; in the previous campaign, they simply “spent” 1500gp each and called it “noble lifestyle, whenever and wherever possible” and we assumed they were always kitted out the best they could be.

    5) Side Hustles. There’s almost no downtime in my game, as much as I try to give the opportunity — the PCs/players are always raring to go on to the next thing. “No threats here? Let’s head south and look for Araylia’s parents! Shut up, Moon, no studying in the Academy! But hey, we’ll stop by your folk’s castle on the way.” They *have* “invested” a few thousand gold each into rebuilding the dwarven economy after a disastrous war. It makes them about 5% per year. Nice solid stable investment, and they’ve got an “in” with the Baron there. No one cares about the 75gp though. Maybe this is more of an issue your game, though. (The Fighter and the dwarf cleric did some Bloodsports during one downtime, but the *players* hand-waved their winnings away to build their popularity – lavish parties, free drinks, gifts to sponsors, etc.)

    6) Spell Component Costs. Absolutely! Track the ones that have listed prices, especially revivify! Related – in my game, you need Jade to survive traveling through “Tainted” areas (think “magical mutating radiation zones”). It has a minimal cost, but the longer the journey, the geometrically increasing cost (since it all starts wearing away at once, you need thicker and bigger pieces, not more small cheap ones). And there’s only so much Jade in an area, used primarily for jewelry (no one else has learned of its Taint-protecting effects yet), so once it’s bought out, more has to be found, shipped, or prized from owners at a premium. Revivify has only happened twice, and coincidentally, they had a few diamonds from a purple worm battle. Now they don’t… Lots of rubies and emeralds and some big topaz… none of which work for revivify! But bat guano and sulfur? It’s in the 25gp “component pouch”, I don’t care. Any more than I actually care if the rogue has “enough” hand crossbow bolts – but I know she only has 3 argentium-tipped ones left, and two coldiron!

    7) Healing Prices. Mostly irrelevant, except when low-level (and they don’t have the money anyway), or if the cleric died. Otherwise… the cleric just handles it. In my world anyway. As I posted in your other thread on this idea, I *love* your temple casting rules, as I use a very similar system. And in my world, the level-cap for NPCs is basically 5th, and that only for unique / legendary peeps. So when the party needed a Cure Disease (actually they needed Remove Curse, but didn’t know it), they went to Cityopolis, where the High Priest could gather a congregation of several hundred believers, and get a prayer service together to help the PC — at cost of several hundred gold (most in a donation to the church, but also a gratuity for each congregant). (And it failed, because ultimately, it was the wrong spell for the need.) Raise Dead was needed by the PCs just a few days later – they accidentally killed the Count’s daughter due to mistaken identity – and were informed that “maybe the Emperor could pull that off in Jendar, but ain’t happening here in Northern Kingdoms! There’s that one legend about the Paladin and the shrine he found on one of the Southern Islands, though…” Yeah, no 5th level spells being thrown around by NPCs. Likewise, the party uses Sending *a lot* (the warlock has it for free with limited targets, *and* the bard has it as a Spell Known for anyone, *and* the now-retired cleric has it as well!!) — but I remind them that just “ringing up the Duke” isn’t a thing you do! Protocol aside, that’s 3rd level magic, and the best that “master” wizards and “incredibly powerful” Mageborn (sorcerers) can accomplish. It’s not “everyone’s got a cellphone” mundane! So unfortunately, this option doesn’t really work for my campaign as a “money sink”. However, I could maybe exponentialize (is that a word?) these costs to allow the three capital cities to “break the level cap” perhaps?

    8) Training Costs. Ugh. I *did* require training *time* in this game, just to try to force some downtime. They get half their HP gain from the new level immediately, and maybe “one thing” from the new level (like a single daily use of the new skill/power/ability, or just the extra Bardic Inspiration, or just the Sorcery Point). But I declined adding a cost because I didn’t know how the campaign flow would go, so I left open the option to “train in the wilderness” – they aren’t “training” so much as “soldifying the ideas and new techniques they’ve been trying out and building on since last level”. It takes some quiet time to review, perfect, and internalize/practice-makes-habit. Now, learning a totally *new* thing, like buying a new skill prof, or multiclassing in a non-organic way, or maybe even training into a new feat (lots more time)… *that* costs money because it requires a personal mentor. The dwarven cleric did this, hiring a retired cavalry colonel to train him in Mounted Combat. The cleric spent every moment of downtime he could with the colonel, and spent several thousand gold over the course of 6 game months, as well as RP anecdotes about trying out the new ideas in-game (with no benefits). That colonel has now bought himself a fine country manor and a couple herds of horses, and the cleric gained Mounted Combat as a “free” extra feat outside of normal progression. Meanwhile, the rogue learned Elven and Dwarven, and made herself 3 new Contacts for future use…

    9) Arrest your players. Um… I don’t *encourage* this, as it can lead to an adversarial feeling between the players and DM. However… enforce rules/laws that make sense, when they are obviously broken. Remember earlier I mentioned the death of the Count’s daughter? Yeah, the Bard had loudly declared his name as the party set about breaking up a ring of pickpockets in Lowtown. One of whom was discovered to be the Count’s “dead” daughter (insert political intrigue sidequest here). The bard was arrested at the inn that night, thrown in jail, and all his gear confiscated. Followed by some amazing role-playing, background use, and great sessions, which ended with the bard – rightly as it happens, the *rogue* killed the girl! – cleared of all charges, and the prosecutor fined for wasting the court’s time! (Then a private meeting between the warlock baronette and the Count, and a polite urging to gtf out of his town.) In another town, the party has been “detained and questioned” for rabble-rousing, interfering in ongoing investigations, and fomenting war with the local Tribes… all valid accusations, as it happens, but again the players have managed to talk their way out of it. (Except one PC was confined to house-arrest, and fled, while another was exiled.)

    9.5) Taxes! You didn’t list this separately, but I think it fits perfectly here between “Arrest” and “Agent”. Depending on the setup of your world and adventure, it is perfectly reasonable for the Powers-That-Be to demand their “fair” share of recovered loot. In the USA, income taxes range from 14 to 50% (most are 22% – 28% ish), with different taxes on different things (15% capital gain, 50% inheritance over a certain amount… lots of silly rules and loopholes, but you get the point). It hasn’t applied in my campaign, but is easy to see how the local mayor might claim 20% of the loot from the mysterious crypt the party looted, “in the name of the King”. Or maybe the dwarves of Wave Echo Cave demand 90% of the loot belonging to *their* ancestors — but you can keep the clearly-marked slavers’ property. Those gems? Um, yeah, dwarven, sure… (insert RP / negotiation opportunity). Or the Count saying “go hunt these bandits I think are disguised soldiers from Jendar… return any goods and coins to be distributed to the merchants they were stolen from, but you can keep any gear the bandits have – and we can discuss anything uniquely Jendarran.” The PCs recover 4000gp in loot, eight suits of leather armor and miscellaneous weapons (all but one sword being generic, and the sword clearly marked with the Black Heart Merchant Guild crest), and two Brigangine Jackets; they earn their 400gp pay, sell the misc gear for another 30gp, and negotiate keeping one of the Brigandine Jackets (worth 400gp) while the Count takes the other for politcal reasons. [In addition to brief haggling and roleplaying interactions with the taxmen and whomever, it also opens up sidequests and consequences. Maybe they didn’t tell the Count about finding the *third* Jendarran Brigandine, or the two suits of Noble-outfit Jendarran Leather they found? And maybe that information slips out or gets noticed later? Maybe the Count sends agents to investigate/confiscate? Maybe the Jendarrans look for who’s wearing their gear?]

    9.75) Confiscation. Very related to Arrest, and the examples with Wave Echo Cave. I did this in a previous campaign. After a long battle with a possessed tree on a Fey Crossing, the party finds the bodies and gear of a slain eladrin group. Superior-material gear, some magical weapons, a suit of magical armor, a really nice amulet. Four *levels* later (lots of in-game time), the party is in the Feywild trying to get a Favor from an archfey to Do A Thing for their quest. They show up for their audience in full gear, because Fey – they needed to look good, and also be ready for anything. Partway into the negotiations, the Lady of Summer stops suddenly, stares at one PC for a long tense minute, then calmly has the group arrested and put on trial for murder. They were wearing the equipment of her missing son! Ooops!

    10) Agent. I haven’t done this, but I love the idea, as I love the idea of the Dirty Deeds campaign! You *don’t* have a blanket license to “kill them and take their stuff”. Yes, you’ve been hired to “kill them”, but you are being paid for that – the “stuff” belongs to your employer, or maybe *their* employer (murder is fine, but theft / looting the bodies is just “Not Done”!). Maybe you slip that shiny ring in your pocket during the fight… but you *have* to tell Slick Marty about it when you return from the mission, and then maybe get a chance to buy/barter for it.

    I’ll throw one more idea out there, something I initially did in the current campaign (but then it got away from me). Don’t give (much) money! Don’t give much loot!

    The PCs’ first mission paid only guards’ salary – standard 1sp a day, doubled for Hazard Duty, but free access to the barracks and equipment repair. They turned in the recovered bodies of the slain guard patrol – WITH ALL GEAR – and no one wanted the goblin-gear from the slain assassins. The one exception was a strange blue crystal that the wizard wanted a look at, and the amazingly well-carved wooden wolf, which they sold for 2gp (and saw for sale two days later for 10). The next mission was “go investigate the source of the blue crystal”… again for Guard Pay, with a pre-draw on gear for a week-long trip. Again, no one buys goblin gear, but the PCs were able to get a commendation for returning some recaptured Guard weapons. (And on the side, they pocketed the handful of coins recovered from a slain colonist family.) They also got a curiously consistent 9 silver pieces from each member of a couple goblin patrols… but they were goblin-minted coins, and were “worth” only half value for the metal alone, as they had to be resmelted and minted to be used. When the third mission resulted in them finding two ancient chests of gold and platinum from a long-lost dwarven civilization… the Baron of the dwarves “happily reclaimed his lost heritage” and gave the PCs a gift of potions made from his druidic wife’s magical garden. The party was now level 3, had about 20 gold to their name, but some magical and nonmagical potions, an alchemically-wrought obsidian dagger that scored crits on 19s, a powerful but corrupted Wand of the Woodlands that couldn’t recharge, and a few gems they held back from the dwarven Baron… They headed to the provincial capital to sell the gems, do some research, and figure out what was wrong with the bard (the aforementioned Curse they thought was a disease). “what to do with all this money” wasn’t a thing.

    Duncan, thanks for the article, and the soapbox!

    • duncan

      Hi Rick

      Wow, thanks for weighing in on all those points… to not repeat myself, I will content myself with just picking up on the new entries you listed:

      9.5) Yes I forgot about this… in some lands adventuring requires a license and loot recovered in the dungeons of King Greedy need to be declared and paid tax upon. Of course, many adventurers don’t declare themselves or their gains… but better not to be caught!

      9.75) I am a fan of confiscation and theft, but most players aren’t… common wisdom is not to take away their toys, but it also depends on the expectations you set in your campaign.

      Thanks mate… maybe see you in Barcelona for a cervesa one of these days?

  4. George S. "Hl'g K'l'l"

    Here’s another two choices: (11) Making friends by giving NPCs money — or valuable-but-not-usable magic items; and (12) Investing in an existing or new ‘future business’. I had a ‘brown box’ Fighter (before ‘Greyhawk’, folks) retrieve a huge value in magic items neither he nor the party could use — so he used most to buy a tavern&inn&stable combination.
    Most new businesses — especially those run by the inexperienced-in-that-field — go broke. This was a ‘gold sink’ he had to repeatedly re-invest in, which inspired major adventure-and-loot seeking. Those that endure and grow, generally can’t but develop all sorts of interesting contacts which spark off more adventures (and parties of adventurers).
    Another whole line of adventuring sparked off his finding and bringing back, originally as a trophy, ‘Were-wolverine Boots of Haste’. Which led to a fortuitous gifting to another PC’s randomly-generated character and another series of adventures entirely. The apparent moral to that tangle seemed to be “no good deed goes unpunished”.
    Both led to tangles with ‘higher authorities’ (city governor, nobility, & up), especially as he was a Neutral in a Lawful city. Other, additional efforts included the ‘grey businesses’ (rooms for rent by the half-day or even hour; private & secure spaces for unmonitored meetings, some quite political; “club” buildings just by chance rented to the Thieves’ Guild) that created more spin-off story lines for other adventures. Think ‘Chicago’ or ‘New York City’ in the pre-police, pre-Pinkerton eras…and as a neutral, he’d also let space for the Pinkertons. Just no arson, and no extortion — that hurt business for everybody.
    Investing capital to enable others to work ‘offstage’ — with simple rulings for taxes, troubles, and politics. The plentiful gifting to the Good Temples both ate coinage and created yet more adventure links. Because it can be useful to have a neutral space for those crossing-the-boundaries concerns for the many groups’ work and living space.

    • duncan

      Hi George

      NPCs that need financial help is not a bad shout! Esp. if the players have already developed emotional ties with them.

      I try to avoid running games in which players start businesses… commerce, admin, taxes etc is what I want to escape from in order to fight monsters and save the world etc.. But you’ve raised a good point, in that these businesses could a) prove to be money sinks (similar to my “Clamp down on lucrative side hustles” bullet point) and / or b) lead to some really cool adventure hooks. So maybe I shouldn’t dismiss this style of play!

      Thanks for your input…

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