Friday, December 1, 2017

Too much loot?

By Nicolas Uvena-Stefanovich Licensed under Creative Commons

"Wait, what are you doing?"
"If you don't put loot in the dungeon, Kovath, then the adventurers won't come to be killed."
"Right, but you can't put that there."
"Why not?"
"Because if you put it there, one of the gnolls is going to pick it up and use it."
"And that's... bad?"
"I don't have time to go into gnoll tribal politics right now but trust me, a puissant, flaming, very fine broadsword of penetration will NOT be good for our population numbers."
"Fine. Fifty random coins, then, whatever."
"Don't pout, Zarlazz. It's a nice sword. We can give it to one of the wights."
Last week, I had a post about hunting dragons in which I said:

"All of that said, there is such a thing as too much treasure, and I'm not sure where that line goes for DFRPG yet."
To which the esteemed Peter V. Dell'Orto of the DungeonFantastic blog commented in response to me, saying:

"I'm really curious to see you expand on this. With such a limited supply of purchasable magic items, treasure seems like it'll pretty much be better mundane weapons, better mundane armor (and armor is highly pricey), potions, and healing. Even with pre-DFRPG pricing, which was lower, I had to dramatically increase the treasure in my dungeons just to keep pace. So I'm wondering where you see this line being, and when treasure becomes too much."
After he said that it got me thinking, and I reached out to my players (I've got 7 who've hit a dungeon with me so far).  We determined pretty quickly that it would take multiple millions of $ to zero out most delver's wishlist forever, even assuming all those items could be found on a shelf in the shop.  It's quite likely that (contrary to my previous statements) there is no sane tipping point after which delvers have too much stuff. 

What does that shopping list look like?
In theory, you could have a Torc of Exemplary Humanity (as one of my players called it) with +5 ST, HT, DX, IQ and Per for $1,025,000.  That's a cool million.  That doesn't include a weapon, so let's assume a swashbuckler: the balanced, very fine, orichalcum, silver coated, ornate edged rapier ends up costing $64,000 without enchantments. If we add accuracy, defending, ghost weapon, loyal weapon, penetrating weapon, icy weapon and puissance at their max levels we end up with another $817,000 and we aren't even done.  For armor, the aformentioned swashbuckler would probably like what I presently consider to be the world's best adventuring armor combo.  First, a fine spidersilk ornate lightened suit of cloth for a total of $18700, 2 DR and only 6.75 lb. Second, a spiked, ornate, dwarven, orichalcum, fine suit of epic plate (only 23.76 pounds and an incredible 10 DR) for $648,000, but why stop there, lets take it to the next level and lighten that ($10k, down to 11.88 lb) and add max levels of Deflect ($400k) and Fortify ($160k) to land us at  $1.218 million.  There's no adventuring gear in this list, but I've already cleared $3 million assuming you pay sticker price and don't suffer any markups for having to custom order something so insane or pay a mad enchanting markup for speed.

So, why was I convinced such a thing as too much money existed?  In a completely different game (in GURPS using the Monster Hunter supplements set in the present day) I gave players ridiculous bounties for completed missions.  If magic items aren't available to soak up money, it turns out you can buy everything you care to carry pretty easily.  My players got to the point of buying a decommissioned missile silo and several wheeled, floating and flying vehicles "just in case", after which they continued to find silly things to spend it on, but none of it was meaningful.  My players found it fun, but all it added to play was a sense of crazy wish fulfillment shopping spree.  I could no longer motivate my players with greed (which was fine in that game since they all had other reasons to do what they did) or use money as an obstacle for them.  In the end, I don't regret giving them their shopping spree, but wish I'd taken longer to get there in the campaign.  I was somewhat worried I'd be facing the same issue with DFRPG, but I'm increasingly convinced it's not a real problem and I nod to the wisdom of Peter in this matter.  If anything, I'm convinced that the rate at which loot gets handed out needs to keep going up as there is a gap between the price point on good mundane gear and incredible magical items that's pretty large.

What about your games? What's the most money you've seen thrown around? Did it cause problems?


  1. I've never seen a player save up more than $100,000 in a "TL Olden Times" fantasy campaign, and I'm famously generous with loot. I've given out artifacts that would be worth more than that if you eyeballed a fair price based on standard enchantments, and could find a buyer willing to pay that . . . but being artifacts, they weren't convertible to money. Anyway, nobody wanted to give them up.

    "Too much loot" is possible, but it's probably well past the $20,000 for Very Wealthy + $2,500 for quirk points with which the richest delver could start . . . per party member . . . after expenses. If a group of six pays $500-1,000 a head for cost of living, food, arrows, potions, poison, torches, etc., and they come back with $100,000-150,000 shared among them, they'll certainly end up rich and well-equipped, but not a whole lot better off than The Party Of Rich Newbies Who Decide To Go On Adventures.

    Now start handing out that much per adventurer on any single adventure and you're probably on your way to breaking your game. But if somebody saves it up, great.

    1. I did use the word sane in the post. :P That said, even at $150,000 per player per adventure, you'd be looking at 20 adventures before a player could (theoretically) buy this kind of madness. I suspect you'd start to see the problems with it long before you get anywhere near this point, but I can't imagine where I'd draw the line.

  2. When I realise that I give too much loot I take away the ability to purchase anything. "I'm sorry good sirs but another party of adventurers came in four days ago and bought everything. I'm clean out of stock!"

  3. I've thrown around a lot, as you've probably guessed. Not enough at first.

    But I find that the PCs burn through a lot of money very quickly for non-permanent power boosts. Healing, research, hirelings, upkeep, potions, food, replacement items trashed by corrosion attacks and fire, spare items, scrolls, power item recharges, spells cast in town, etc. etc.

    And that was even when I allowed GURPS Magic as a catalog of purchasable magic items. Following the DFRPG lead with higher prices ($20/point and up, no $1 based items except consumables) and availability (basically, the default is "not available" and magic items lists give a value, not a price list of items on sale) this has multiplied. Even without buyable permanent magic items, money flies out of the hands of delvers in a constant, hose-like stream . . . even from the most tight-fisted of the PCs.

    1. What's a good haul from a single session in your games?

    2. That's a good question. I'll ask one of my players to comment - I hand the stuff out but I don't keep track of who got it when, only what's there and no longer there. Probably in the order of $500-$2000 per session, with a few $0s (or close enough) and a few $stupids in there, like the time they all got almost $20K each for almost no actual work, or that time they took home almost $300,000 worth of gear and jewelry.

    3. Over the last 15 Felltower sessions that I played in (I missed one where there was lower than average loot), the average over that time period is around $5,844 without the major haul (average of about $1,000 per share, because the number of shares varies). The average INCLUDING the big haul where we got $141,000 in one haul ($28,200 each) for almost no work (!) is $16,241 (average of $3,153 per share for 5-6 shares). That does not include magical items, such as the magical longword from the Sword Spirit duel; the huge equipment haul from the Baron Sterick fight: @$250,000 Worth of armor; a fine meteoric iron broadsword worth $25,800; a fine balanced dwarven throwing axe with puissance +1 and accuracy+1, which destroys any shield (except meteoric iron or orichalcum) on impact and has quick draw on it, probably worth upwards of $30,000); and the magic items from the huge loot haul, which included an iron ring of endurance, a ring of three wishes, a necklace of fireballs, and a “ring of protection +1” that was really a cursed poison ring that killed one of the characters (and there went $15,000 of that $28,000, LOL).

      It’s great fun, but definitely NOT too much loot. The characters could each be earning $3,000 per session and still be dead broke every few sessions. That’s why they keep delving!

    4. Thanks for this! I really appreciate it. I'm going to see how we do going forward. My 2 player dungeon that completed on Tuesday (Session discussion coming) has some interesting decisions ahead of it with regard to loot.