15 February 2014

An Example of Bad Pricing in D&D

LS over at Papers and Pencils has written an interesting piece about a trouble many people seem to have - what should their players do with all their money?

I don't tend to have that problem, as I use historically researched prices and plausible starting money, which ends up resulting in what a lot of people would probably think of as a pretty meagre starting-out package.

To illustrate why I think the traditional D&D prices and starting money are broken beyond belief, here's an example.

Consider that in England about 1450, a suit of mass-produced Milanese plate armour cost about 8 pounds sterling - about 2000 silver pennies.

A skilled labourer would make about 4 silver pennies a day.

Now consider that in D&D starting gold is 3d6x10gp, and a suit of plate mail costs 60gp.

That means that an average starting character in D&D has saved up the equivalent of 750 days pay for an average day labour BEFORE THE GAME STARTS, based on this example.

Where I am, the minimum wage (what a day labourer would make) is about $11/hr, skilled labour maybe $15. 750 day's wages at that rate is about $90,000 - three years salary. Consider that for a moment - if you use Basic Edition prices, you're starting your players each with enough money to buy cash for Porsche 911, or live comfortably for about three years without working.

Think about what you would do with $90,000 in cash. What material wants would you have unsatisfied if that was dropped in your lap today?

If you're having trouble finding things for the players to buy in town, consider that things are too cheap and starting gold too high.

7 comments:

  1. PCs start with too much money for wandering murder hobos but they don't start with too much money for a society where only those of adequate privilege or wealth could possibly be adventurers. 1st level fighters are "veterans" traditionally in D&D , the other classes are likely roughly equivalent in accomplishment, veterans have survived and likely done well in battle but not so well they have estates. this creates a curious set up however where we have people counting pennies who wouldn't be. Few campaigns however start with PCs that are promising and already accomplished gentlemen.

    With wealth gained by personal combat in hideously dangerous places folks definitely start with too much money and many things are far too cheap relative to the starting funds. Even having a copper piece in the game is absurd as a c.p. is worth about 1/10,000 th of an average characters starting funds.

    As for the $90,000.00, I';d want at least $90,000.00 in equipment before I'd consider doing the crazy stuff the average RPG character does. Top-notch equipment isn't cheap (in the real world). If i wanted enough money to have the equivalent of a medieval estate $90,000.00 is far short of that , (it's less than half of what a house costs in my town). It really isn't all that much money, it wouldn't pay for a home, a car, and a college education.

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    1. "they don't start with too much money for a society where only those of adequate privilege or wealth could possibly be adventurers"

      Fair enough, I suppose that's world-specific. Around 1400 in Europe you could expect a hired man-at-arms to own his own armour, sword, poleaxe, etc., but still not be a knight.

      "1st level fighters are "veterans" traditionally in D&D"

      That's the theory, but the stats don't back that up, as they have the same amount of hit points, damage potential, and to-hit chance as a normal man. It's a poor veteran that learns nothing on campaign.

      " Even having a copper piece in the game is absurd as a c.p. is worth about 1/10,000 th of an average characters starting funds."

      Agreed.

      "I';d want at least $90,000.00 in equipment before I'd consider doing the crazy stuff the average RPG character does."

      You could get set up with a good vest, rifle, sidearm, and camping/adventuring gear for under $10-15k today. What would you be spending the rest of that money on? Stinger missile in case of dragon attack? ;)

      " If i wanted enough money to have the equivalent of a medieval estate $90,000.00 is far short of that , (it's less than half of what a house costs in my town)"

      It's ten percent of what a house costs where I am!

      " It really isn't all that much money, it wouldn't pay for a home, a car, and a college education."

      No, but it's a lot of ready cash. It raises the question "where did they get all that money? Why can't they just get more the same way?"

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    2. Part if the issue with starting funds is how they are presented in the game. It's treated as if the character has all that money at the same time and goes shopping. But there's no real reason that has to be the case a Pc's equipment could be the result of inheritance, passed down equipment, gifted and more.

      As for veterans they are better than normal men. Not by much but they got themselves one extra hp(1d6+1 in OD&D) and that swag that let them get that equipment.

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    3. That's how I do it, actually. Starting out is a two-step process - roll background (which determines starting funds), and roll equipment on a random by-class equipment chart.

      Most people end up being farmers or fishermen, and having 1d6 silver pennies as starting wealth, but they may also roll some valuable equipment, which is explained as being an heirloom.

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    4. If we're talking Basic D&D, a Normal Man is a 1/2 HD creature, about equal to a kobold, according to B/X at least. The Normal Man's attack matrix is also the worst in the game, with a THAC0 of 20 compared to the 19 for Veterans (and all 1st level PCs, and all monsters up to 1 HD - Normal Men are pushovers!).

      I believe BECMI agrees with these figures, though I can't find my book to confirm it. Holmes, BlackBox and RC omit the 'Normal Man' listing, and OD&D is its own kettle of fish.

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  2. Hi Charles,
    I'm interested in your perod pricing sources can you provide a link or ref. Living in this modern industrial era I have no ball-park idea about comparative value of goods and services.

    Re starting money: it could be an inheritance, a theft, a loan, gear provided for by the family for the second son fortune seeker, dowry snatched by fleeing unwilling bride/groom.

    I am a little surprised of the perception that there is nothing to spend money on in a game world. Without modern banking available in every town. There is a real logistical propblem of dealing with more wealth than you can carry: hide it, build stuff, invest in property or busines.

    Building social status, reputation and alliances would seem to be the obvious use of moderate big cash.
    I would have thought that persons without social standing (bog standard adverturer types) in a medieval-esque world would get sick of being treated like common folk or worse like dangerous stangers.... Not allowed to bear arms in town, exlcuded from certain areas or establishments, refused entry into town, only able to sell loot to dodgy fences, getting overcharged for goods, suffering searches & offical hassle, bullying or outright persecution by nobilty, negligble legal rights. The only way to make this less of a problem going up the social ladder: buy a title, back a faction, fund local good works. And once you have a position and property to maintain there's your money sink.
    Even living the vagabond life there is the option of building and maintaining a free company of mercenaries and securing a town for your own base.
    I guess the money difficulty in much of fantasy gaming is the GM seeing it as his/her repsonsibility to maintain the fiction of the heroically successful yet penniless adventurer despite the players best efforts at accumulating and keeping wealth.

    In your world what are the ways it you could use to divest players of wealth in excess of their power to hold onto it?
    K

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    1. I've cribbed a lot of my stuff from here: http://whitebard.tripod.com/prices.htm

      Which is itself largely taken from Dyer.

      "Re starting money: it could be an inheritance, a theft, a loan, gear provided for by the family for the second son fortune seeker, dowry snatched by fleeing unwilling bride/groom."

      It could be, but it's enormous. I actually don't use 3d6x10gp for starting money (for one thing, I don't use gp), but I have a background generator that also comes up with starting money based on the background.

      Starting equipment I handle by class.

      "There is a real logistical propblem of dealing with more wealth than you can carry: hide it, build stuff, invest in property or busines. "

      Indeed.

      "Building social status, reputation and alliances would seem to be the obvious use of moderate big cash. "

      Except that in a Medieval world, a lot of that is a birth thing. It's not like the modern world, where just being rich is enough to be somebody. If you're not a Duke or a Bishop, you're small potatoes.

      "I guess the money difficulty in much of fantasy gaming is the GM seeing it as his/her repsonsibility to maintain the fiction of the heroically successful yet penniless adventurer despite the players best efforts at accumulating and keeping wealth. "

      Indeed. That's not a priority for me. People can do with their money what they will. It's not my job to take it away.

      "In your world what are the ways it you could use to divest players of wealth in excess of their power to hold onto it?"

      Outside of my starting area, wealth is mainly barter and trade goods - there's been a currency collapse and loss of faith.

      But yeah, it's much like you said. Land, power, influence. That's the real wealth.

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