17 February 2013

XP for Gold: Trade

Trade is a little trickier to handle, and I think the notions of personal bodily risk and martial skill will be helpful in determining whether or not to give XP for wealth gained through trade.

Two polarized scenarios present themselves immediately.

Milanese Trader

The first is a wealthy merchant living in Milan. He inherited an estate, a large sum of coin, and five ships from his father. Now, obviously he does not level for his inheritance.

But neither should he level from the profits he reaps from shipping finished suits of armour to England. There is no factor of personal bodily risk, and no application possible for martial skill.

Medinan Caravan Leader

The other is a caravan leader from Medina, carrying spices to Egypt. The caravan leader personally accompanies every caravan, and plays a part in defending the camel train from the numerous bandits on the way.

In this case, the caravan leader has taken on personal bodily risk, and demonstrated martial skill. These are the things which are being represented by the XP for gold mechanic, and therefore the caravan leader should be receiving XP towards his character class not only for the bandits killed and driven off along the way, but for the net profits reaped by the sale of the spices.

Note that only the net profits should be used for the calculation - otherwise you're potentially giving XP out for the same gold twice! Imagine our leader had obtained 1000gp from a dungeon delve (and received XP), sunk that whole 1000 into a caravan laden with spices, and sold the whole lot for 1250 in Egypt. Our dusty caravan leader would only get 250XP for the sale, as he's already received XP for the initial 1000gp investment.

Grey Areas

I think that by applying the tests of personal bodily risk and demonstration of martial skill, the GM should be able to intelligently make rulings on grey areas. Consider on one hand a trade route where a caravan is almost certain to be waylaid by well-armed and organized bandits or dangerous monsters, and another where there is no risk of banditry or creatures, and interpolate between the two.


  1. Should a 1st-level fighter who buys plate mail after his first adventure need to deduct that cost from his next session's XP?

    1. Only if he's trading in plate mail...

      I was referring to getting XP for the proceeds of trade.

      So if you bought the plate mail for 100gp, endured personal risk to get it to a buyer, and sold it for 120gp, you would get 20XP for the sale.

      If you just buy the plate mail and use it personally, that has no effect on XP.

      You never need to deduct XP, or deduct anything from XP earned - that's why I say to use net profit.

  2. Does the risk need to be known?

    I'm an adventurer. I raided a keep on the borderlands and I kept a lot of loot (as well as some servants, horses and carts to carry my stuff). On my way back into civilization, I start selling my goods. As I travel from the "borderlands" (where, presumably, there are orcs, goblins and bandits) to the "civil lands" (where banditry is unheard of due to the work of the King's Men), I continue to make money but I get further and further away from any real danger.

    At what point do I stop earning additional experience (on top of what I've already obtained from my adventure at the keep)? And what if I never stop protecting my caravan? What if I'm just paranoid?

    I don't mean to be difficult. I'm genuinely interested in answering the question of where to draw a line.

  3. You got all of those goods by adventuring, right? So you would earn XP for all of it. You wouldn't earn XP on it twice (once for getting it from the Borderlands and once for guarding your caravan).

    But if you sold it all, took the gold, invested it in trade goods, I'd probably prorate your XP based on how much of your trade route was ever at risk of attack (which I know, because I'm the DM and therefore omniscient). So if I figured that half of your route had any real danger, you'd get XP for half of the profits.

    It's all about common sense, at the end of the day. And really, it's just a game - we're all playing it to have fun. Fighting over every last pfennig's worth of XP is not fun. Make a common-sense judgement and move on with the game!