Monday, April 14, 2014

Dungeon Gold and the Nearby Town

There are a handful of small things that are different between ACKS and the other retro clones in delivering that classic dungeon delving experience; the big area where ACKS is significantly different is the amount of space allocated to setting creation and campaigning.  The core rules balance detail and utility to provide a straightforward approach to structuring domains, from the largest cities down to the smallest villages.  If the player characters stumble into an otherwise non descript village, answering these types of questions is a snap - the odds of finding a few hirelings, whether there's a cleric with a cure disease spell, or just how tough is the local knight.  There's nothing stopping a referee from winging it based on the needs of the story, but in ACKS, you don't actually have to wing it.  There's an underlying method.

One area where I found the rules silent was the effect adventurers have on a local economy.  Characters return to town with thousands of gold pieces over the course of a level, and the local lord is taxing them along the way.  10% seems to be a fair rate, both in ACKS and from the 1E DMG's recommendations.  If the player characters are the only adventurers in the area, perhaps there isn't a noticeable effect from an occasional windfall to the local lord.  If you’re using scattered lairs across the countryside, the effect of adventurers is diffused.  But when you're considering a well-known megadungeon, with lots of rival adventuring parties launching similar excursions, the amount of gold returning from the dungeon becomes significant.  A week ago, I pointed out how a standard party would return a few million gold pieces from a 10 level megadungeon.  That's a lot of money to tax.

Castle Greyhawk wasn't that far from the free city of Greyhawk.  Adventurer's gold wouldn't warp the economy of a major city.  But how about that frontier village or borderlands castle where a stream of dungeon gold represents more revenue than the annual economy of the place?

What I'm doing in the Taenarum game is assuming that consistent exploration (and retrieval of dungeon gold) has shifted the economy of the village higher on the revenue charts.  The charts use population to derive the base income, market class, and demographics of the village.  The dungeon gold gives the town more income than an equivalent village that isn't near a giant megadungeon.  This results in a higher class of market - more readily available adventurer goods and hirelings - along with a tougher local thieves' guild and a stronger local ruler.  It's a nod towards the gold rush \ boom town effect where glory seekers head to the frontier to find their fortunes, along with merchants and specialists to service them.  However, it's only shifting the class of market slightly when compared to other small habitations.  The player characters still need to travel to the nearest major city for significant expenditures, powerful spells, and rare items.

Adventurers are knuckleheads, and putting a lot of them in the same place at the same time guarantees tavern-clearing brawls that spill into the streets.  Our little frontier town needs a "sheriff".  The higher income supports a demographic shift for the major NPC's in the town - an in-game explanation for why the local lord is a retired 8th level fighter, or why there's a higher level cleric on hand for 3rd level spells.

One area I'm less knowledgeable about is inflation.  Do any of you put inflation into your games?  In Taenarum, the village of Psammathous Bay is less than a day's journey by boat to the nearest city.  It's not that far for resupply.  Still, it seems reasonable to assume adventuring gear is at a premium.  ACKS has some arbitrage rules.  They seem like the next thing to look at to determine an appropriate inflationary modifier for adventurer gear on the frontier - as long as it's not too complicated.  At the end of the day, it's still a game about the dungeons and the dragons, and not papers and paychecks.


  1. I believe inflation was built into the originsl price lists according to Gygax. Imagine a silver based economy is normal but you buy near the megadungeon and everything is available and priced as per the players handbook lustings.

    What he forgot was the non-inflated prices but a number of sources have filled that gap since.

  2. I wrote something that's at least partly similar to what you're doing:
    I'm 99% sure you already know that, though.

    The basic idea is, write down thresholds for availability of given commodities. Once enough money has been pumped into the economy, those commodities (hirelings, magic swords, custom-built shields with torch holders, etc.) become available or become more available.

    You can also do the same for prices - once you pump 100,000 gp into the economy, say, magic stores selling +1 swords open, but then you can also say prices for all normal goods double. Inflation has begun, but it's also simple and while painful, it comes with some good things. Prices rise, but so does availability. It's not unrealistic, either:

    Dungeon Robber takes a similar approach tied to character hoards and retirement.

  3. You could introduce inflation in a very rudimentary way as follows. Calculate what the money supply is in the local region. That is, the total number of copper pieces, silver pieces, and gold pieces. Not the price of assets, but the actual total number of coins. This can obviously be a rough, ball-park figure. Let's imagine it's a total of 100,000 gps. Take that value as 100%. Now, the adventurers go to a dungeon, bring out 5,000 gps and spend it. The money supply in the region is now 105,000 gps - it has increased by 5%. This means that the value of a given gold coin should commensurately decrease by 5%. Or, to put it another way, prices go up by 5%. This grossly oversimplifies things, but it is workable for game purposes I think,

  4. I don't generally worry about it. If a player asks I just tell him, "Hey, it's a game. I don't have time to simulate an economy because I spent a bunch of time preparing this adventure for you." Then if that player still isn't satisfied, I kill his character and have the local king seize all of his property... okay, that last part was just a joke. But you really don't have to worry about inflation. The players most likely won't notice, and if they do then inject a little fantasy into it. Maybe most of the taxes collected go toward satisfying a local dragon (either good or evil). Maybe the king is afraid to take too much of the PCs gold, but has no qualms about over-taxing the commoners and merchants who sell to them, hoarding the wealth or putting it to some other secret purpose. In smaller towns, maybe it's the local Sheriff who's lining his pockets. Or even paying tribute to a "bandit king".

    Of course, I understand that if you WANT to have inflation in your game, then that's fine. I'm not bagging on anyone who wants to include this. I'm just saying that it probably isn't necessary and it most likely won't be noticed unless you point it out.

  5. Inflation could be an interesting adventure hook. A Mansa Musa type is travelling across the country showering everyone in gold. Subsequently, gold prices become fantastically depressed.