Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Player Impact on the Megadungeon City

As I mentioned in my last post, I've got a vague but persistent world for my Dungeon Fantasy game. It's vaguely defined but it's a sandbox within the PC's immediate area. I figure it's broad enough that I can keep setting any future DF games within it, regardless of the addition or subtraction of special powers, races, technology, and other stuff.

I like the idea of players affecting the setting. Their home base for the local megadungeon/big damn dungeon is the 20,000 person city of Stericksburg. I decided the make the place easily affected by the PCs. So I'm currently tracking the city of Stericksburg and the spending of the PCs.

The idea is that PCs spending money in town increases the value of the town. It doesn't matter how much you loot or hoard, it matters how much you spend in town. For example, right now I set a few die rolls I can use when I want to know if a given odd item or adventuring-only is available.

No roll: Basic items.
15 or less: slightly odd items.
12 or less: adventuring items.
9 or less: special order items (spider silk rope, crossbow sights, potion belts, etc.)
6 or less: lesser magic items
Unavailable: special magic items

Anything people want to buy, I roll against.

I've got some (currently vague) thresholds for improving those numbers. Once the PCs spend enough money on upkeep, bribes, carousing, etc., the categories shift up one each. So the more the PCs spend, the better. You want the city to support multiple alchemists? Keep spending money and sacking the dungeon and more guys will brew more elixirs and more of them will be kept available for sale. This encourages PCs to squander their cash, order crazy stuff, and - yes - upgrade their gear. The "wasted" money might count for more, to encourage people to blow cash on the intangible partying over new swords, etc. But any way the spend it, it increases their access to gear they want and need.

This will be similar for services, hireling availability, access to the upper class (everyone loves a big spender), etc. The more they spend, the better the city gets.

I know I should factor in players buying, but I figure, once money starts flowing in, everyone will produce more in the hopes of getting a piece. Plus it's simpler. The players know this, so they have a direct incentive to spend, spend, spend.


  1. One word: brilliant. If I ever start up a DF game again, I'm stealing this, whole-cloth.

  2. This is off topic but I am curious about how you keep the PCs from killing the shop-keepers and trading posts? Do you have a powerful town guard? Or do the shop-keepers have a mercenary force to protect them? It is kind of funny when you think about it because the PCs are out killing dragons, demons and undead to acquire their treasure yet there is some guy in a shop with enough gold and magic items to be able to buy their magic items or exchange them with other magical items. It seems the shop-keepers would be easier for the PCs to loot.

    1. Is this an an actual problem you have had? It would not be wise in any case, because who would buy loot from the PCs in the future? A large number of guardsmen are probably another disincentive.

      Also, merchants in my campaign with enough resources to buy expensive art objects deal in banker's notes, not gold pieces. And, magic items are neither bought nor sold.

    2. What holds them back is combination of personality constraints, law, armed force, and long-term economic interest.

      Personality constraints - not everyone is purely greed motivated, and robbing Balto instead of sacking the Proving Grounds of the Mad Overlord just isn't an option for them.

      Law - it's illegal to rob the merchants, and so you suffer the threat of legal repercussions. Even if they can't beat you in a fight they can make you a pariah, which sucks even if you are wealthy. Spend it on what, basically, if you're an exile from society?

      Armed force - even a badass can get swamped with numbers, and the townsfolk will have numbers.

      Long-term economic interest - aka greed. You could rob the merchants, but then what? In the long run, stealing (legally) from monsters and selling the take to merchants is a stable enough way to make money. A one-shot grab that makes it impossible to grab more isn't a good long-term idea. Don't burn the furniture.

    3. I can see this being a problem on the way out of an area. But not in an area where the characters plan to stay for long. Why? Eventually, the PCs start to look like the monsters they're out killing and looting -- being powerful, dangerous and likely destructive. So adventurers take up the quest to slay the slayers. It might go well for the PCs the first time or two, but if there are survivors to tell the tale, their weaknesses/strengths will be known and presto: the magnificent troupe comes along, slays the PCs and takes their stuff, quite possibly receiving a large reward for taking out the "gang of criminals" who are going around slaying innocent shop keepers and townsfolk in various places.

      B-dog -- please DO steal this idea. I'm surprised that I've never run into this problem with a group, even on a small scale. It makes sense for some characters/parties. But equally so their new problem -- groups of adventurers who are just as tough or even tougher deliberately hunting them down. Were I playing a member of a group like this, I would expect to eventually be hunted down and killed, or to travel far, far away and retire (living out my retirement back always to a wall, or perhaps in my own fortress of solitude -- away from my former adventuring companions!).

    4. Peter, I know I've seen you mention somewhere that killing things outside of the dungeon is illegal, even on the way there. What kind of legal repercussions would there be for breaking this law? Just curious and seems (almost) relevant here.

    5. Mostly social repercussions - merchants won't deal with you, you'd be banned from the city, etc.

      Basically you'd cut yourself off from the benefits of civilization. You'd probably be able to get off with a steep fine and Social Stigma (Criminal Record). It's not a weregild society, so they can't pay and fully undo the damage.

    6. Gotcha. That sounds like it would be a pretty serious disadvantage for your group, then.

  3. I've been doing something similar for years -- i.e., rolling to see if more obscure items can be found in a given locale. I really like your formulation of it!

    1. Thanks! I really should tie it to an existing mechanic if possible, but it works well enough here. And it sure does have the potential to get people to spend money. :)

    2. I think there is something like this in Social Engineering. DHMBWM

  4. Consider this stolen. Fantastic idea.

  5. Thanks, and I hope it works well in your game!

  6. I run a similar mechanic, just with a d100. It usually goes something along the following lines:

    Player: "I look for a nifty sword that might help me on the next delve"

    rolls d100:
    1-10 - basically out of luck, all the swords are crappy (-1)
    11-50 - just garden variety swords
    51-80 - better (masterworkish) stuff, maybe a 1-trick enchantment
    81-90 - something vaguelly magickal
    91-95 - +1 and the like
    96-99 - +2 and more
    100 - now we're cooking with gas.

    If the players start overdoing it, they get penalties on subsequent rolls.

    1. I like it. Do you adjust upwards if they spend a lot, or offer extra for what they want?


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