Sunday, March 27, 2011

Some Observations on the Treasure by Module list

First off, there was some selection bias in the OSR modules listed - I picked ones I've reviewed, and the reviews were chosen because I've either run them or was most interested in them.  There are a lot of good ones still in the queue (and some I'll wait to review because they might be in the near future campaign).

One thing that jumped out is that OSR modules I chose tend to feature less encounters and gold, with a lower encounter density.  I find this leaves more space in the module for exploration; some of those TSR modules are grind-heavy.  YMMV, but I see this as a good thing.  I've been running an OSR-heavy campaign and my players tell me it's been some of their favorite games - modern publishers are definitely doing something right.

Another difference is that modern adventures purport to be built for the party of five, whereas TSR often advised a party of 6-8 adventurers, plus henchmen.  I'm sure that plays into why the TSR modules are treasure and encounter dense.  There's also a difference between "tournament modules" and "campaign modules".

Part of why I built the list is because our goals in doing Gothic Greyhawk as a campaign was to get to the point where I could run Against the Giants; since I'm seeding modules in a sandbox setting, having a handle on the "weight" of the modules will help me gauge the pace of advancement.  I'll be adding more in the coming week - Ravenloft, Night's Dark Terror, the C-series, and then whatever I review this week.

Check out this factoid - a party of 9th level characters will have accumulated like 2.5 million to 3 million gold pieces along the way.  I know smarter folks than me have bemoaned the D&D economy - should be fun figuring that one out!

Something that became apparent while working through S4 Lost Caverns, or the various G-series modules -   those weighty treasure volumes will require massive logistics to actually get the treasure out of the mountains - I'm seeing a small army of mercenaries, porters, mules, and wagons will have to go along just to cart off the spoils.

Something to look at next - are there significant differences in monster XP between editions?  Pat in the previous comments pointed out that monster XP is less than 10% in BX, where I thought AD&D was weighted heavier.  Also, does Basic BX or the clones address the lack of magic item XP by upping the amount of treasure?

I know that many of us convert between editions on the fly when running these adventures in our rules of choice, but there might be some subtle tweaks to experience that bear further investigation.


  1. Less treasure in LL (I assume B/X as well) but less xp to advance than AD&D. Not sure how that will compare in the long run. I've never played a B/X type campaign, before the one I started today.

    From my cursory examination a few months ago, the monster xp for lower hd creatures is fairly comparable, but that changes once you start comparing monsters with higher HD and more powerful abilities, with AD&D monsters being worth more xp.

  2. "Something to look at next - are there significant differences in monster XP between editions? "


    B3 (Green) ~9700 xp for loot
    - B/X: 2448 xp for the monsters
    - AD&D: 6579 xp for the same monsters

    U1 ~25000 xp for loot
    - B/X: 1154 xp for the monsters
    - AD&D: 3283 xp for the same monsters

  3. Guy - that's a huge difference - more than 250% experience in AD&D for fighting than BX.

    The two low level AD&D modules I analyzed had similar treasure to their BX counterparts, yet adventurers will get quite a bit more XP from monsters in AD&D, *and* get XP for magic items.

    It's definitely worth a follow-up post taking at look how the popular clones rate out as well.

    I'll add the U-series to the list as well as L1 and L2 (Bonehill and Assassin's Knot).

  4. As you've pointed out, party size is the key to understanding the greater amount of treasure and "encounter density" in old modules. I've seen it lamented time and again on the net that old modules had way too much treasure, with the folks doing the lamenting not seeming to understand that parties back in the day were much larger than the current norm of 4-6 characters. In my experience back then, there were more players at any given game back then (6 or more was typical, rather than 3 or so these days), and there were almost always henchmen, hirelings, and followers to take into account.

    We still play this way to this day, which is one reason that new modules are tougher for us to run. They don't have enough treasure and/or monsters to effectively challenge a party with a good number of hirelings and henchmen. To me, this illustrates well the fact that "old school" has shifted almost completely away from the wargame paradigm from which it began.

    In our games, even at low level, acquiring hirelings and henchmen has always resulted in the building of a stable cadre of npc soldiers and "mooks" that will eventually serve as the core for an armed band led by the party, with the potential to become a small army as the campaign goes on.

    Of course, there have always been characters and parties that didn't survive long enough for that to develop, but overall its been the organic result of our campaign play.