"Black Dougal gasps 'Poison!' and falls to the floor. He looks dead."

Saturday, June 20, 2009

The Colour of Money

Looking back at B/X and OD&D and reading 3.5 and 4E the role of treasure has changed over the years. I believe that the change really came about in 2E when the Experience Point system was changed away from the simple and straight forward GP=XP system.

Arranging the uses for treasure in a spectrum from "old-school" to "new-school" I get something that looks like:

Experience Points
Better Equipment
Spell Research
Magic Item Creation
Purchasing Magic Items

Not to say that magic item creation is not present in B/X (see page X51) or OD&D (see page 6&7 or Men & Magic) but (at least in my games) the focus has been skewed more towards the uses higher on the spectrum.

One interesting thing that Barbarians of Lemuria has done is make the spending of treasure mandatory. All treasure must be spent before Advancement Points (XP) are awarded. The player gets to describe how the money is spent and the GM is encouraged to use this to develop hooks for future adventures.


  1. I've actually been thinking about this myself. My campaign is now in the state where all the players have the best standard equipment they can buy. What is left is buying magic items, for which there are actually some pricing guidelines in the 7th ed. (and I'm not sure I like that) monsters and treasure book. Apart from that the classic T&T way of spending treasure is to buy spells, which costs an arm and a leg.

    Now, this is not really that interesting for anyone not playing a wizard, and if it weren't for the fact that one player is starting his own business, coins would be a ignorable part of treasure from now on. I'm almost considering bringing back the gp=xp idea. It's one of the most genious ideas of D&D, in my opinion.

  2. Even the difference between magic-items giving no XP in B/X and giving XP in AD&D changes things a bit.

    The “spend the gold to earn the XP” thing was done in Arneson’s Blackmoor campaign. You could hoard gold and earn the XP, but if you got robbed you lost the XP! So, “wine, women, and song” was the best way to turn gp into XP. (Basically, you come back from the dungeon and then waste all your earnings on a big party.)

  3. I don't like any rules that "makes" the player do something with their gold. I prefer to let players choose their own path. Everyone, and I mean EVERYONE, does XP differently...and that's the charm of D&D, because for the most part any method works.

    However, I have to say the Arneson method is sheer lunacy. Not only does it explictly reward every character becoming "Conan the Barbarian" type of spendthrift (stifling individual motivations and play), but I'm supposed to believe if my 9th level fighter gets robbed of a million GP then he's suddenly forgotten enough fighting skills to become 3rd level? Bleh. Arnesonians can keep that method, no thanks

  4. Youäre missing something Mike. Your 9th level fighter is not loosing anything more than gold. His big pile of a million GP is just that. Spend it and *then* it will turn into XP.

    It wont make everyone into the same character than any other XP mechanic. Saving or spending is another strategic decision. Decisions are good.

  5. Badmike,
    I think it depends on what you are going for. If you want a pulpy sword & sorcery type game there is nothing wrong with having mechanics that impart that feeling. The "heroes" in S&S always find the massive gem and next adventure are poor as dirt again.

    If instead you prefer a heroic high fantasy type game, then not giving XP for treasure but instead giving goal based rewards might be the preferred XP method.

    I find that the method used to award XP is a great way to tailor the feel of the game.