Monday, June 22, 2009

Gygax and Arneson's best idea - coins

I have talked about coins before. Now there was a good post over at Black Dougal, that once again got me thinking. I want to pot the spotlight on the design effects of using collecting gold as a measurement of player advancement. According to me the fact that gp = xp is a strike of genius with many interesting effects on the game. I will view both of D&D and T&T through the golden lens of a coin.

In Basic D&D a suit of plate will cost you 60 gp. In AD&D it will cost you 400 gp, and in T&T 7 th ed a suit of heavy plate costs 1300 gp and in 6 th ed it will cost 600 gp. In BD&D and AD&D you get xp for gold, and in T&T you don't. In AD&D you have to pay for training to level up, and in T&T you have to pay the Wizard's Guild to get new spells. All this will of course influence how the game plays.

In my old D&D3 campaign (which I have written about before) I managed to get into the situation where my players considered coins as useless treasure. They barely bothered with gold, unless they got enough of it to buy a magic item they wanted. In my T&T campaign I have now started to see some of that as well, and I was wondering about the effects of the gp as xp rule.

In T&T, what happen when you have gotten the best armor and weapon you can get? You still have to pay the Wizard's Guild if you're a spellcaster, but if you're a fighter you probably only want gold to buy magic items. The latter is not something I really appreciate. Getting magic items to order have a high chance of making the wonder of magic turn into the blandness of Wallmart.

In D&D you very easy get the best armor and weapons. Frankly, surprisingly easy! After that you will still be interested in gold, since then you need to start saving for a stronghold when you reach level 9. When you have to pay for training it makes even more sense. I think this is a very good way to make sure that at all levels of play you still have a reason to go adventuring.

Here we can now see how the simple design of gp as xp have many small effects on play. Since you get a lot more xp from gold than you'll ever get from killing monsters, it encourage you to get your money without combat. In T&T you get most of your points from Saving Rolls so it has a similar effect. I like how those games make murder of other intelligent beings something that might happen, but not the point of the game. All these points of how this rule influence play impress me. To achieve so much with one rule is impressive. It's good design in my book if you can get much mileage out of a rule like that.

The shift from AD&D 2 nd ed onward to giving most of the xp from combat, combined with the “wallmartification” of magic, is the biggest shift in how the game is played throughout its history. I'm not sure I like it. In my 3 rd ed campaign it clearly became ridiculous when gold wasn't “worth it's weight in gold” any longer.

For T&T I'm thinking about experience. The gp = xp is neat, and I wonder if I'd “fix” a problem that isn't there if I try to import it? I do think it is a bit troublesome when a fighter basically don't have any more reason to get gold when he has gotten his plate armor. Sure, he can chip in and help buying some spells which he'll benefit from, but it isn't the same thing. From some conversations on Trollhalla lately I'm wondering if the experience rules don't could use a tweak or two.

9 comments:

  1. It depends if you want getting gold to be the goal? Is money the be all end all?

    That said, I don't think the GP made "not murdering someone" a main goal, it just meant it was often "not worth the time to murder them". If they had alot of money murder was still the option of choice.

    Of course thats just my take, I deal with "not murdering" in different ways, I wrote about them recently.

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  2. We explained gp = xp in our longtime Classic D&D games by saying that xp represented your hero's fame and renown.

    So you could gain more fame (ie, gain more xp) by, for example, killing the Ogre, or for being known at the guys who recovered the treasure of King Alsayin the First, or the heroes who wandered into town with thousands of gp. The richer the heroes became, the more famous they became, so the more xp they had.

    This also, of course, meant that really rich people (kings, etc) tended to be Really High Level.

    Makes sense, really!

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  3. Thats not a bad way to describe the mechanic. Still not my cup of tea but I like the "people remember the guy throwing money around" bit.

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  4. Trouble being poor (or atleast, not rich) people shouldn't be high level, which does pose a few problems with a 'normal' fantasy world, as various rangers, druids and pious churchgoers could be levelled up but not be rolling in $$$.

    Rolemaster used to have a vague extra (companion) rule that I always assumed was based on this D&D mechanic, where you could destroy expensive gems to gain Exp. Trouble was by the time you had the power to do this, you were high enough level that you needed bucketloads of Exp to even think about advancing.

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  5. I really like Greywulfs way of describing it. Just "makes sense"!

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  6. That said, I don't think the GP made "not murdering someone" a main goal, it just meant it was often "not worth the time to murder them". If they had alot of money murder was still the option of choice.


    Sure, it might be a bit to strong to say main goal, but it sure gave a strong hint that being known for sneaky deeds of daring would get your further with less threat to your own hide.

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  7. Trouble being poor (or atleast, not rich) people shouldn't be high level, which does pose a few problems with a 'normal' fantasy world, as various rangers, druids and pious churchgoers could be levelled up but not be rolling in $$$.


    Well. It's part of the problem with level based games in general. You could always postulate an NPC class which is really easy to progress in, but will save and attack as a Normal Man or whatever it's called.

    I'm not in the least surprised that there was an option for good old Rolemaster to tweak this. :) I kind of miss those days.

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  8. Interesting. We HATED this mechanic, and pretty much never played it. We upped the XP for killing monsters a bit, and started to award role-playing XP long before anyone ever wrote it into a set of rules. And then we found RuneQuest, and never (well, seldom) looked back...

    ~~G'Noll

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  9. Hehe... yeah, I guess some people just roleplay and give xp for that. I did start with a RQ derived game myself, not D&D.

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