Friday, September 30, 2011
Treasure, Experience, and the AD&D Economy
For some reason, perhaps it is my reinvestigation into Harn as a setting, I've been thinking about the AD&D economy quite a bit lately. I can't remember where, but there was a thread on some forum that discussed a comment from Gygax saying he might have changed experience for treasure to a 5xp to 1gp ratio. A commentor stated that they believed this would be coupled with a switch to a silver system, which would actually mean an overall reduction of xp.*
Assuming for a minute the two do coincide, I don't think it would actually mean fewer xp. When one looks at the Standard Hirelings Table on page 28 of the DMG, the monthly costs for most of them don't go above 5gp, with the notable exception of Limner. So a tailor would make 18gp in a year. This is less than the PCs would make in even an unsuccessful delve. The general economy would likely be powered by sp. The high prices for weapons and armor are reflective of the pseudo-medieval/early modern society that AD&D seeks to represent. Gold hoards are found in dungeons because they're the remnants of the golden age that made them.
So let us assume that the 5xp/1gp ratio is designed with the current economy presented in the PHB and DMG in mind. One thing I noticed using the treasure rules as written for Nightwick Abbey was that after 25 sessions (c. six months) only one PC was level 3. This strikes me as an incredibly slow rate of advancement, especially if one remembers Old Geezer's tale. Granted that's a different system than AD&D, but they're obviously related.
For the sake of argument, let's see what this new ratio does to a hypothetical dungeon. Based on the stocking chart in the DMG, a 100 room dungeon should have 20 rooms with treasure in it. Using one possible reading of the rules, which will skew high, treasure is determined entirely by the level of the dungeon and not the monsters present. Using Kellri's Old School Encounters Reference, our hypothetical dungeon has about 3,600 gp on its first level. A party of 6 would only get about 600xp from clearing out all of the dungeons treasure. Now I don't have to tell you that's barely a drop in the bucket on an Prestidigitator's path to becoming an Evoker. If you assume 5xp for 1gp though, the total xp available becomes 18,000 on the first level. That's 3,000 a pop for our hypothetical party of 6. If we assume a high number of 8, that's still 2,250, which is a much bigger boon to that aforementioned Prestidigitator.
The problem then comes with Training Costs. If that Prestidigitator managed to get the 3,000 experience from clearing all of the dungeon, he still would only have 600gp to spend. Ignoring upkeep, he still can't pay the training costs to level up. This brings up the ultimate question: what is the pace of advancement supposed to be in AD&D? Even with the inflated xp advancement is just as glacial as it was in the Nightwick campaign. It would possibly be even slower.
Somehow, I don't think this is the goal. It could be a function of Gygax's game meeting more often than most modern groups or it could be that I'm a relentless powergamer for my belief that it shouldn't take six months to get to level three or the system could just be poorly thought out. A the end of the day, I'm still not sure what to think. While I won't adopt it for my current Greyhawk campaign -- instead I chose to inflate the treasure -- the 5xp to 1gp system is very attractive, if only because it allows me to use the treasure rules as written.
The training costs strike me as highly unrealistic. In a world where a light-footman makes 12gp in a year, it would seem unreasonable that his sergeant must pay 1,000gp just to train for a few weeks. I imagine it's a way to get gold out of the players hands, but if you're only getting 604gp each dungeon level, that doesn't really strike me as game breaking.