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

Sunday, May 27, 2012

The Typical B/X City

One thing I am fascinated by is the setting that is implied by the rules and tables in the B/X rulebooks.  For example, the average B/X Armourer is far better off than the average Calgarian in terms of the ratio of average housing price to average annual income.  The average house price in Calgary is about $470,000 and the average household income is approximately $125,000 per year for a ratio of about 3.76-to-1. Page X52 in the Expert rulebook says that a typical two-storey wooden civilian building costs 1,500 gp. The average an Armour is paid 100 gp per month (1,200 gp per year) for a ratio of 1.25-to-1. I'm not too sure this really tells us anything but I find it interesting.

While I was recently looking at the wilderness encounter tables on page X57 and X58 I was thinking about the probabilities of city encounters. Below is a table that lists the probability of having a specific encounter given in the random encounter tables as well as how many times each encounter would happen in a year. It assumes one random encounter check per day using the dice rolls given on page X57 and X58:
A few observations off the top of my head:

1. The typical B/X city is a place of commerce - the highest probability is with a Trader followed by Bandits.

2. Two encounters with Ghouls in a year?!? What kind of place is this? How do the normal humans survive?

3.  You will encounter a Dwarf, Elf or Halfling as often as a Goblin, Orc or Ogre. I find the low probability of encounters demi-humans interesting. Also, the chance of encountering a chaotic humanoid is higher than I thought. Not quite Mos Eisley but more monsters wandering around the city than I thought.


  1. One important thing to remember, though, is that these encounter tables are specifically for adventurers, not normal folks. Thus, these tables indictae that the average adventurer encounters ghouls in the city twice a year, not your average joe.

    The fun part is trying to explain the difference...

  2. I now have the image of workaday ghouls in ragged tophats and tails doffing their hats to passing townsfolk.

  3. One interesting part of B/X...there's no stated method by which this undead is created (they are not 'spawned' s in other editions).

    The traditional myth of ghouls is similar to the wendigo legend...that they are humans that have succumbed to the damning vice of cannibalism. Now how does THAT sit with your worldview of the B/X town?

    (in fact, just re-read the ghoul description in Moldvay:

    "They are hideous, beast-like humans who will attack anything living."

    They are beast-like HUMANS? Wow.)

    ; )

  4. I think ghouls in older editions are really close to the Lovecraftian description. In Lovecraft's story, ghouls are corrupted humans and never really seemed like "undead" to me. A little bit of cannibalism and woops, suddenly I'm a ghoul - totally unfair!

  5. 1500gp is the construction cost of a wooden building in a castle the PC already owns, & I would rule that this is above & beyond the wages they are paying to their various hirelings. So just the materials cost.

    I would definitely double that to get to "civilized" retail, treble for "boomtown" retail.