Tuesday, April 1, 2014


I don't think shopping is much fun.  In the real world it is tedious and repetitive, not to mention loud and crowded and annoying if attempted in physical buildings instead of online.  I don't like it much in games either and I don't think I am alone in this.  Recently the DnD Next blog talked about the new systems they are putting in place for characters shopping for gear in Next.  They are planning on having a hybrid system where characters can either shop for things individually or just buy gear packages from a short list.  It all just seems ridiculous and really shows how much the focus is on old school dungeon crawls.  In those mazes full of deadly traps and magical teleporters characters needed a ten foot pole, chalk, a bell, fifty feet of rope, a grappling hook, and pints of lantern oil.  When the door to the place randomly seals and you need to spend ten sessions underground it is critical to know exactly how long your lantern can hold out, after all!

What makes me shake my head is the idea that this is how people play.  I can't imagine that groups regularly spend their time clearing out these insane labyrinths and actually make use of all of this junk, much less think that obsessively recording the cost of these simple things is worthwhile.  I always loved how the game apparently was built around the players hauling mountains of copper pieces out of dungeons and keeping track of each of them as they were used to purchase candles while also assuming that the characters regularly dealt with amounts of money in the millions of copper.  Do normal people obsessively track the number of pennies in their pockets or the change jar at home?  Why would anyone think they want to do that in a game?  I have actually seen people talk about how new players don't know all the tricks for optimizing a characters's inventory against the standard sort of challenges that come up and this mindset just leaves me boggled.

When fantasy games are built around the premise that the characters are powerful and important it just doesn't seem reasonable to also assume the players will want to count utterly trivial sums of money to keep track of their purchases.  It isn't as if this is even defensible from a realism standpoint as the costs of things in game books do not reflect historical reality at all.  It seems to me that barring some kind of game where the characters are and remain dirt poor (and where the players want to roleplay being desperately broke...) the only sensible approach is to just let people acquire whatever they want in terms of mundane, simple gear.  You want a rope?  Fine, whatever.  Write down what you carry with you, forget about the price, and ignore the list of gear tailored to professional dungeon delvers because those don't make the *slightest* bit of sense.


  1. I liked optimizing my 22gp starting money. And figuring out how much everything weighed. I'm a resource optimizer - I like spreadsheet gaming to a certain extent.

    At least, I do at first level. Later on, maybe not, but at first I'm just a country bumpkin, making a name for myself, trying to get a few gold pieces so I can afford better armor. And sometimes I spend my last gp on something big.

    It's fun when a 50 cp trove is actually meaningful. Sometimes I'm in the mood for "gritty" or "realism" gaming where running out of light matters. And merely having "bell" written on my character sheet means I'll try and think of ways to use it. To be honest, I've never had a character with a bell before, I'll have to get one and see what I can do with it.

  2. "Fine, whatever. Write down what you carry with you, forget about the price, and ignore the list of gear tailored to professional dungeon delvers because those don't make the *slightest* bit of sense."

    P.T. Barnum (and the average D&D shopkeeper) would sharply disagree with you. :-) The real world is chock full of overpriced goods for people with money to burn. Heck, large portions of our economy depend upon it!

    I think the real thing that you need to provide for wealthier players is things to spend their wealth *ON*. A billion gold coins doesn't make you rich: having the spending power that a billion coin coins comes with does.

    Let them have people to impress; things to buy that show status and power; and ways, mundane and magical, to use their money to transform the world. Let them know that there's a chance to get an in with a Count who might confer a barony on the right contender; if they can make both solve the quest, and then show themselves to be suitably presentable at the Count's court.

    Let them know that the party dwarf's second cousin has good a good lead on a new mine that's about to open, and he claims they can make a huge amount of money if they get in on the ground floor.

    Let them buy businesses; armies; favours; buildings; magical beasts and wonderous items; enchanted entertainments and lavish parties; let them use their money to win power and influence in their areas of expertise or interest. Let them buy licenses; rights; and priviledges: and let them know that no matter how rich they get, there's always someone richer to impress, and someone wealthier to out-think or out-manuver.

    Let the thief know that the madam of a well-known bordello is about to retire, and for a tidy sum of money, the new madam might be willing to pass along any useful bits of gossip that her girls hear about.

    Let the fighter buy his own training hall; and let the costs of maintaining the place and training his students count as part of the experience necessary to advance to the higher levels.

    Let the cleric know that he can vie for a post as a village priest; a bishop, or even, eventually, a cardinal or pope.

    Let the mage buy arcane tomes of magic; purchase rights to practice restricted sorcery off limits to others; or simply to buy precious metals or rare substances necessary to create powerful rituals or items.

    So, no, don't make them count pennies: let them spend their money on whatever they want. Just make sure they know what's out there to buy; and give them hints in-game when the standard list of items runs out, so they know that there *IS* an Elixir Of Ascendance that is rumoured to confer divinity when coupled with a Wish and a Miracle spell; available in exchange for the land rights on a newly colonized and highly a contested continent.

    Otherwise, they'll just sit there with billlions of coins "in their pockets", and "nothing to spend it on": but only if you let them.