Sunday, January 16, 2022

Do You Hand-Wave Adventuring Economic Effects?

Do You Hand-Wave Adventuring Economic Effects?
Knowing I had to make a post today I spent the last couple of days brainstorming some big and/or cool thing to think about that would interest the patrons here at the Tavern.

Yeah.....I don't really know why I bother as that never seems to really work.

What it does do, however, is make me compare/contrast certain aspects of different games & game systems I have played and how I might be able to do a better job running my next game...or maybe come up with an idea for a game aid that would help other GMs.

Of course "better" is such a messed up adjective to be using because it's clearly a judgment call and what I think is better for my game may totally mess your game up, or just make it less fun than it was before. 

Don't fret, I didn't actually come up with some idea for you to potentially ruin your game. 

In my mental ramblings leading me up until typing out this post I was thinking a lot about in-game economies as it pertains to adventuring parties. Dungeon-delving can seriously mess up a local economy when PCs bring long-sequestered "loot" out of the ground. Of course everybody wants a piece of that action.....local governments/tax collectors, merchants, tavern owners, you name it.

Logistically how in the hell do you handle this? Requiring a license and/or local tax is relatively straight-forward, as is jacking up prices for the party, but there are also secondary logistical effects to think of as well. The party manages to snag 10,000 copper pieces from the dungeon, IIRC that's what?.......a thousand pounds of raw coinage to deal with? Sure the players may be considering the sheer weight of the haul and invested in a donkey cart, but who the heck wants to be on the receiving end of 10,000 copper coins? 

You ever go on a vacation and even think of paying your hotel bill in pennies? Of course you didn't!

Oh...BTW those thousand pounds of copper, yeah those were minted by like three monarch ago over in the next kingdom and are no longer considered valid currency if you were in that kingdom, which you aren't. So you're going to have to pay off someone, or maybe even a few someones, to take those coins off of your hands.

Now I've been in games, and I think this is the norm, that these adventuring issues with the economy get largely hand-waived. A coin is a coin is a coin and all of a sudden having a bunch of them doesn't get much traction with the locals, aside from now you can do more shopping......

I've played in....or run, games that were on the far side of the spectrum, where coins had different names and you needed to keep track of all the assorted coinage. As a GM I'd just skim off a simple percentage off of money exchanges as needed. I left the weight (encumbrance) and record keeping problems on the players.....but I had the power to do an audit and remove PC levels if numbers were out of whack.

Now as far as affecting the economy I'm sure that getting the PCs to buy magic items removes a lot of that cash and you can factor in all the overhead stuff into that particular bleeding-off of coinage. Even then though I've seen some games where the PCs are expected to spend a specific amounts of coinage as they level up in order to maintain their  adventuring social-status and as a price for schooling itself (basically another/additional version of buying magic items).

Once I had a campaign where I fully intended to go overly-complex with the coinage/economy aspects. Multiple coinage systems, taxes, required adventuring permits, you name it. To help facilitate everything and make my end a bit easier the party had a chartering organization that handled the fiddly aspects and acted as a bank, and more importantly, and anchor to the local community. That campaign only lasted a few games so I never got to see how my "experiment" would work.

I'm thinking the simplistic idea of basically taking a good percentage of loot "off the top" in form of a simple tax and explain that this is a roll-up of permits, taxes, and money handling issues. I'm thinking maybe as much as 50% is appropriate...to start. I can easily see 10% for permit fees, 25% for taxes, and 15% for money changing not being too much. If the players balk I can just cut back, like the 15% for money changing and start emphasizing that they keep looting old coins and make spending said coins a bit more a PITA.

Unfortunately I haven't had too many long-running campaigns as a player so my experience in the economics of a campaign under other GMs is rather limited. Might as well throw it out there and ask what other GMs do, if anything, to account for the (hopefully) HUGE amounts of loot their PCs haul out of the dungeons.


  1. I charge monthly expenses of 100 gp per level per PC as recommended in the original DMG. That covers not only room and board but also drunken carousing, routine bribes, taxes, fees, money changing, etc.

  2. I think things like 'realistic economics' or 'realistic geography' are fools errands that DMs THINK make for a better game. I personally don't think this. As a player, and DM, I've seen players struggle to remember major NPC names, major landmark names, etc.

    Given that the player only cares that "over the river and through the mountain pass is the Ancient Temple of Death and Doom", they don't care that "modern techtonic theory and geography say the river should not be here".

    Same goes for economics. If you're just going to give them 100 gp, knowing you're taking 10gp away each time, just give them 90 gp. It creates problems like "Is my XP based on the value of a thousand year old coin? Or the post-tax value of my coin? Or the value after it is converted to a modern coin of the realm?"

    In my experience, players just want to explore, experience, and find treasure. Sure, they'll accept a Standard of Living charge on their weekly/monthly game life, but that is seen as a direct response to how they perceive their character living. A tax comes across as "here's 100 gp....but not really"

  3. One problem with loot taxes and adventuring permits is that they tend to make the game switch to full-on comedy mode, especially if your players are DiscWorld or Naheulbeuk fans, and then it can be very difficult to switch back.

    I would advise to simply ask the players if they want to play the looting : if they want to spend time removing the mantelpieces, choosing what they bring and what they bury, dealing with curious villagers and quickly becoming a target for every band of highwaymen in the land, so be it. If they don't, just decide for them what they could reasonably take, ask them where they stashed it, and move on.

    My experience is that the 95% of players who don't plan to establish a domain or build a tower are more concerned with the XP and the magic items than with the exact amount of gold waiting for them at the First Bank Of Karameikos.

    If YOU are interested in this sort of things, then I would say it's better to play it in the form of an adventure than with accounting and procedures : for example, the Duke's men corner our heroes and request the very useful item (or sizeable "contribution") he needs for an upcoming expedition into dangerous territories. Will they relent, flee, or come up with a counter offer?

    You can also play Barbarians Of Lemuria, where XP are awarded only once players have described how they spent/squandered all their treasure...

    1. I agree, unless you like having a big part of your campaign about your players figuring out how to do tax evasion.

  4. A monthly fee covers all the basics - tolls, basic rooms and food at an inn, miscellaneous taxes, basic equipment repairs/replacements. Bribes as part of adventuring are not, because what might be a month's pay for a watchman might be an insult to a vizier.

    I haven't had a game go high enough level to worry about domain play, but I plan on using Adventurer Conqueror King for the basics.


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