Thursday, January 3, 2013

Stuff I Learned About Treasure in DF

One theme in my DF game is that I don't, or at least didn't, give out enough treasure. This is probably true overall, because I can be stingy for fear of giving away too much.

How much do they need?

First, they need to make a profit, because that's how I determine XP awards.

Upkeep costs in Dungeon Fantasy are $150/week, per PC. I have increased upkeep costs for people with appropriate disadvantages, like Compulsive Generosity or Compulsive Carousing or others that would have a steady additional cost.

Recharging Power Items isn't expensive, but neither is it cheap.

Potions that get used don't count against the trip's profits, but if you have to sink money into potions to ensure survival and success, you're going to spend a lot of money. Same with arrows, flasks of oil, rations, etc. - some of which do count for determining XP, but many of which don't.

Gear is really expensive in GURPS. You start with $1000, but a greatsword sets you back $900, a suit of plate several times that, and even light armor and weapons add up quickly. So a broken sword or rust-armor-rusted armor can cause a disastrous loss of money to an expedition that's barely making it by.

So they need a lot. $500+ per person per trip isn't a bad idea for a rough base. Higher is probably better, especially the more death they risk. If you're converting D&D module treasures to GURPS, you have to at least go with 1 gp = $1 and go up from there; 1 gp = 1 standard DF sp ($4) is better and you might want to go still higher as the money doesn't go as far. 1000 gp in AD&D split four ways is a solid profit for a trip for beginning adventurers. For DFers, $1000 split four ways barely covers the bar tab for a week, nevermind any incurred costs in expendables.

Whatever you think is enough, probably isn't.

I started low. A few thousand would be okay, right? Wrong. PCs were broke in no time, often coming back to town knowing they'd be broke before we convened game again. I dealt with that a few ones; the important one here is by increasing the amount of treasure.

Why more treasure?

They didn't find it all. A good portion of the treasure I put there was overlooked, missed, skipped over by mistake, not recognized as treasure, or left behind in the confusion. "Sorry guys, no one mentioned the chest of silver again after you opened it, so it's still back in the orc lair." That kind of stuff.

They kept stuff even when they needed the cash from selling it. Evil looking shield with a demon face on it? Plate armor of the evil cleric? That magic sword no one knows how to use? Those potions no one is willing to use? They held on to all of them. You can't expect them to cash in everything they can't use immediately, just because they need cash. My PCs held on to stuff they might need and borrowed money to eat.

(Although conversely, they'll often sell stuff you expected them to keep. Don't place stuff they need to continue the quest or they need to defeat a specific monster. Murphy's Law predicts instant sale.)

40 cents on the dollar. DF gives you 40% for sold gear. 100% for cash, gems, and jewelry, but 40% otherwise. So even if they do sell gear, they might not get much for it, and then they need to divide it up. My players found that armor and weapons made a good sale, but it wasn't a gold mine of profits.

It's a tough job. Multiple deaths to get this treasure, and regular severe risk of harm. For what? For a while it wasn't for enough. So I needed to up the treasure to justify this. Why would you go into a dark hole full of monsters for profit if there isn't much chance of a profit? That smacked too much of desperation and not enough of real fun.

Plus, the more money that comes out of the hole, the more intrigue that goes into getting it. Rival adventurers, say, or the fun of expanding the city's trade through sheer spending and demand. More money means bigger expeditions, more hirelings, more risk taking, and more crazy expenditures. The more they see come in, the more likely they are to spray it back out again.

Last session, the PCs took home about $5K each. That's much better than a dry hole for getting the players to risk their characters again and again.

So yeah, I learned I had to add treasure. My advice is, don't stint on it from the start like I did. Put in some cash and gems and jewelry, and give them a lot to blow it on. You won't regret it.


  1. This is interesting to me, because I'm currently prepping my next campaign, and I'm experimenting with stocking much less treasure than normal. I intend to award 10 XP for every 1 GP recovered.

    My idea is that in AD&D players quickly accumulate more money than they know what to do with, and the DM is encouraged to bleed a lot of it off through upkeep costs, taxes and so forth, which is kind of a drag. It seems like it could be more fun for the players start dirt poor (1/10th normal starting funds) and reinvest their treasure directly into improving their character with better arms, armour and equipment. By my estimations, at 1st level a suit of armour could easily eat up a PC's entire share of a score. By the beginning of mid-level play the players should be fully equipped and can start to get a little more lavish with their wealth, and by the time they're approaching name-level they should have just about the right amount to start thinking about building a stronghold.

    What's your opinion? Since in GURPS equipment is a lot more expensive your situation seems similar. Do you think it's fun for your players to have to be economical, or would they rather have enough money to buy whatever they need and focus on the dungeon exploration? When your players go broke after spending their score, is it because they're buying new and improved armour and equipment, or are they just paying upkeep costs and replacing what they've lost?

    1. I think it's fun that money enters into the equations both ways - people are more careful with their gear, and less willing to dump money on gear, and more greedy about getting loot.

      We've also played almost 20 sessions and people are still making adjustments to their base non-magical gear, as things become more affordable.

      For me, this is a pretty cool thing to have happen.

  2. This kind of information is very useful for the DF series. GURPS is a collection of rules while AD&D is a game first with rules to fit the game. GURPS is by nature generic and universal but D&D type games need rules to keep the genre in order. Gygax did a great job because he made D&D a complete game that functioned well a a whole. It was not generic and that was why it was so interesting. I think that your experiences of actually running a DF game are helpful because they help to fine tune the GURPS rules so they work well with dungeon delving. I truly wish there was more stuff like this because GURPS can be clunky at times.

    1. One thing about my experience, though, is that I'm trying to model something specific. DF is modeling something more broad. So I can afford to get really specific with my systems. Ported to another style of DF game, they might not hold up as well.

  3. How does your experience line up with DF8's suggestions on treasure awards?

    1. Somewhat hard to say, because if I hand out a $4000 suit of armor and they keep it, it's got full impact on a specific person's wealth and power. If they sell it for $1600, it has a minor effect on everyone's wealth and power. If they can't haul it out because of injury or death, it helps no one and they're broke. So it's a little hard to say what happens when I give out X (money and gear value) because of Y (number of players) and Z (number of items actually recovered).

      DF8 is great, but it doesn't really give you a baseline of what is in what room, with what monsters, etc. It does "in what form?" very well, though, although I page flip a lot (and wish for a hoard generator app).

  4. When, pre-DF, I did a dungeon-bash game in GURPS 4th using various modules from Dungeon magazine and similar, I found that 1gp=$1 was pretty generous. Mind you, my players were horribly experienced dungeoneers.

    1. Might depend on the dungeon, of course. Overly rich rewards are overly rich rewards, regardless of the system.

  5. When I was designing dungeons for my online DF game, I estimated the total recoverable treasure at 100% of the value of the PCs' total wealth. So a party that found everything and sold everything without taking any losses would double their wealth every delve.

    In practice, they didn't find all the treasure and they didn't sell all the treasure at full price, but a successful delve increased their wealth by 25-50%. Seemed reasonable for an exceedingly difficult job - especially given that my delves had significant travel time and a single dungeon could take a month or more of game time.


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