Of packrats and walking armories

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Majestic7
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Of packrats and walking armories

Postby Majestic7 » Thu Dec 07, 2006 7:04 pm

There was discussion in another thread
( http://www.mongoosepublishing.com/phpBB ... hp?t=23643 ) about players having too much equipment being a problem sometimes, the example being players packing many pistols in a Western game. I decided to start thread of its own about the subject, in the case it sparks in to an interesting discussion on its own right.

So, have you had problems with players packing too many weapons or other equipment? What have been the solution?

Do you think player characters in Conan campaigns should be allowed to turn their success in to better equipment or is taking it all away regulary a preferable thing to do?

I don't use the high living rules myself. Instead, if players say their characters will not spend their loot, I'll make them throw will saves. Those who fail, can't resist the temptation. When they party, I often make them make new will saves - if they fail, they do stupid things, such as losing large amount of money in gambling or getting in to a drunk barfight. Corruption score, if any, comes as a penalty to the said will save.

Likewise, if the players decide to do something stupid, the world itself will retaliate in an appropriate manner to make holding on to their riches and equipment harder. For example, if they show off their gold coins too much, local thieves will get interested. If they get in a trouble with the city watch, they might well end up in jail and so on. I think that's a much more elegant way of getting the players lose their loot than just being arbitary and stating that you just drank and whored your whole fortune and half of your equipment in the town.
Campaign log & house rules at Obsidian Portal:
http://www.obsidianportal.com/campaign/conan-ae
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Postby quigs » Thu Dec 07, 2006 7:26 pm

I found the equipment to be problematic in my game, as the players were definately not impressed with the "taking your stuff away" rules presented in the Conan RPG. I enforced the high living rules though, and the group had no issues with drinking and whoring their cash away.

But as they purchased better gear they became more and more powerful, and eventually ran right over anything I threw at them.

So I would definately be careful about having them stock up on too much gear, or have it written into the story that they begin with some of their gear missing, and with a reason why.

Also, as GM, you need to flex your muscles sometimes. I had a player who got drunk in a city tavern and passed out, only to be taken into custody by the city watch later that night. He insisted on putting up a fight and thought he could just overpower the guards, when I explained that he was only dressed in his shirt and breeks and that they were fully armed and armoured. He then went into a tirade about how he always slept in his mail shirt, despite not telling me this ahead of time. Eventually I just told the group that while in a city, walking around in full armour and weapons was not appropriate as it insulted the city guard's competence. In the wilderness, you sleep in armour. In a nice comfy bed, you don't.

Hope this helps!
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Postby slaughterj » Thu Dec 07, 2006 7:56 pm

I run adventures like the Conan stories, i.e., fairly episodic in nature, and often starting in media res after giving a bit of start-up information on what happened to the PCs. Between some adventures, nothing much happened, they managed to make their way to a new city or whatnot, still have their equipment and loot, etc. Other times, something has befallen them, like they have been ko'd, captured, robbed, or suffered some other setback that they must overcome (note, it doesn't always happen at the start of the adventure, it may happen during the course of an adventure as well), which usually results in an equipment reset. I do this as a variant of the high-living rules basically, because there's not much need to enforce the high-living rules if they get back to zero from time to time. I emphasize to the PCs (most of which have read some Howard Conan) that this is not like DnD where you accumulate crap and need it to get by, but instead in Conan, you get more skills, class bonuses (e.g., dodge/parry), stat increases, etc. instead, which you can't lose unlike equipment, so even a total equipment reset isn't that big of a deal. Further, I tell PCs to not buy mundane items like torches, flint & steel, rope, etc., and just focus on a few main weapons, armor, and special items (e.g., thieves tools, etc.), assuming they have basic equipment available unless they have recently had an equipment-reset event. This cuts down on bookkeeping and keeps the focus on enjoying the adventure instead.
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Postby Majestic7 » Thu Dec 07, 2006 8:00 pm

Slaughterj, how do your players react to such resets?

I guess my approach to being GM is different from yours - rather than doing things out of a necessity for the storyline, I do things because they seem like a realistic thing to happen in the world. So I'm really shy to just emptying the pockets of player characters because I want them to be poor. Instead, I prefer to let them pay for their own mistakes in the hardest possible way.
Campaign log & house rules at Obsidian Portal:
http://www.obsidianportal.com/campaign/conan-ae
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Postby Sutek » Thu Dec 07, 2006 8:02 pm

I always say to my players that in any city, there's always a better thief.

Not only with stuff getting lifted in the streets right under the party's noses, but if you arent'keeping track of the number of arrows, water and food a party has, you need to at least look at the prices for these things to get an idea of how much a single night in a city or town will cost. This knowledge can be put to use in either rigid cost of living tables or even random, off-the-cuff, arbitrary rulings from the GM on such matters.

Services
Curfews keep people from sleeping in th estreets in most large cities, so players will want to cough up cash to stay at inns as they travel. Common inns cost 1sp poer day per person, so that can chew up a good number of the silver you might gain by selling off loot.

Passage can sometimes be negotiated, but it's often a function of what the ship carries that it has to sacrifice to accomodate the travellers it takes on. There's an equation for hiring spells (ppx50), and if the same value is applied to the cost of an average Trading Galley, passage might run upwards of 300sp! That's not very realistic, actually, and a Profession (Sailor) check for the NPC in charge of the ship might give you a better value, but if the guy's good at what he does, it can still cost a pretty penny. Often deals wil have to be brokered so that PCs can "work off" what they owe. A Profession (Merchant) check for an NPC might result in around 20sp per week, adn if a journey takes 3 weeks, the characters might be told they owe 60sp each to make the journey with his caravan. If they in turn have Craft (clothing) or Profession (Hunter), PCs can make checks to bargain with the Merchant to reduce the cost of passage agreeing to stitch clothing or hunt while on the trip.

You can use all kinds of combos and sources to get the values you want. Look to skills, the costy of a cart, addative cost of food and drink, or even the listed price of a slave to determine price of passage. Be creative, and dont'worry about being consistant between countries either. What goes as normal in Aquilonia certainly ain't gonna be the norm in Stygia!

Gear
A grappling hook and rope, a staple of adventuring cost about 2sp and weighs 14lbs. That heavy, but more than that, a broken or misplaced (ie. stolen) broadsword can run you 75 times that ammount. Just simply suggesting that a player's weapon is getting dull (see the Armor Damage rules on page 153, but instead maybe take off a point of AP on Crits inflicted by the weapon). There's also the optional weapon breakage rules on page 150, but I've never seen a player more irritade with me as a GM than when I told him, "Well, your axe just broke in half." Talk about a cold stare (lol). Far better to come up with a system of dulling that promotes your characters needing to trade in thier old gear for new gear, or at least attending the weapon smith in the next town and paying for his sword repair services.

Also dont' forget that hoarding loot isn't just heavy, it's only worth about half it's marked porice in the rule book according to page 120, Selling Loot. That means that you need to sell at least 2 broadswords for each one you want to buy. Why buy one if you have two? Well, sometimes taking trophies is a bad idea, and if you have the sword or armor of a Zamoran Slaver, people are going to think that's why you've just showed up in thier villaige. It's hard to make friends that way, and a lot easier to make enemies. However, steel is always of use to craftsmen, and if you bring them good stell to reshape, you can role play that relationship to all kinds of logical conclusions.

In essence you can bleed the party of silver as fast as you want. I tend to assume that 50% of whatever they had when they entered a city is spent before they leave, be that on food, drink and/or other ...ahem... entertainment. Basically, even getting directions to the nearest local bar can cost you a couple of silver. Bailing people out of jail, bribing for information of for the best length of rope in the merchant's stall can cost the PCs too, so never pass up an opportunity to squander the parties loot, either in some detailed, thought out, role playing way or arbitrarily.

And don't forget Reputation. Stuff always cost more when you're famous. :lol:
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Postby Majestic7 » Thu Dec 07, 2006 8:20 pm

Sutek wrote: In essence you can bleed the party of silver as fast as you want. I
Yeah, these are all the good kind of ways to spend the players money, the type of things I use myself. Saying that spending a night in the inn costs three silvers is different from just grabbing those three silvers from the player characters purse - that way, he has the illusion of choice by not being just relieved of his wealth by the mighty GM. Heh, even if a thief literally robs the characters, at least I'll allow them spot checks or something... or a chance to try to locate the culprit afterwards and show him what it means to steal from the wrong fellows.
Campaign log & house rules at Obsidian Portal:
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Postby Yogah of Yag » Thu Dec 07, 2006 8:28 pm

I think the High Living rules are a wonderful addition that raises the Conan RPG over the bland flavour of the SRD rules. I personally think they require further tinkering. I wrote up a small article elaborating on these mechanics. I'll have to see if I can get it into S&P.
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Postby Sutek » Thu Dec 07, 2006 8:41 pm

Majestic7 wrote:
Sutek wrote: In essence you can bleed the party of silver as fast as you want. I
Yeah, these are all the good kind of ways to spend the players money, the type of things I use myself. Saying that spending a night in the inn costs three silvers is different from just grabbing those three silvers from the player characters purse - that way, he has the illusion of choice by not being just relieved of his wealth by the mighty GM. Heh, even if a thief literally robs the characters, at least I'll allow them spot checks or something... or a chance to try to locate the culprit afterwards and show him what it means to steal from the wrong fellows.
Don't foget too that just entering cities can cost money. There's weapon check posts where Soldiers confiscate (obvious) weapons so that no trouble ensues within the city walls, but those wepons may not be around when the players get back.

Keep them on thier toes and make them dread the words,"At that request the guy says 'Sure, but it'll cost ya.'"
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Postby jadrax » Thu Dec 07, 2006 8:57 pm

I love the high living rules, i'm constantly either really rich or mega broke.

As for my gear, I tend to spend Fortune Points to break it a lot. ;o)
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Postby bjorntfh » Thu Dec 07, 2006 11:12 pm

In our game we get lots of loot (we literally strip every body of everythign we can, we've got 3 pack horses for carrying things) but invariably we spend it as fast as we get it.

Heck, when you calculate the actual profit pr person in a 6 man party it ends up being usually relatively low. Last cash in we made 55 GP per person and got 55% value for our goods (why, yes, profession merchant has been taken by the group...)

Mind you we end up spending it on interesting things rather than the usual items you'd expect, two of the PCs, myself and another, own golden bejeweled pocket watches (value, 100 GP) that we had made by an eccentric clockmaker/scholar. They do literally nothing for ral use, but it's kind of funny yo have a barbarian who's barely literate and an assassin with gold watches.

Overall we end up spending most of our money on random costs and adventure based cash holes: e.g. we found a tapped puzzle box the size of a coffin and had to spend 150 GP to get a master thief to open it and show us how to re-close and re-open the box for later use. Biggest problem for us: the box contained looted relics from a temple of Ishtar, thus it had no real value to us now, but might be very valueable if we find a temple of Ishtar to return them to.

Basically I've found that money is often self correcting in Conan even without high living.
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Postby rgrove0172 » Fri Dec 08, 2006 1:04 am

I appreciate this topic as this was the first snag I hit in my game. We hadnt even started playing yet and one of my players gives me his character sheet complete with detailed descriptions of his cutomized gear. "My broadsword has a black onyx hilt with a gold falcon on the pummel. My wine skin is blue velvet with tan lacing and..." He had it all worked out and was a little miffed when I announced that at the begiining of the game he had lost most of his goods and was reduced to a pauper. For a second I thought he was going to quit! Still, his character needed to be hungry for the scenario to work out so I told him thats the way it was and we had a great time afterward. This is a touchy subject with some players. Id recommend any new GMS being very up front with their new players. THIS AINT D&D!
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Postby Yogah of Yag » Fri Dec 08, 2006 2:18 am

If I choose to "award" one or more players for good rpg-manship by granting them a masterwork weapon (e.g. a vaguely familiar Atlantean sword :wink: ), or some other item of especially fine value, I may waive the High Living for that item, but not anything else they currently own. In other words, they get to keep it, but wind up losing their boots & loin-cloths. :lol:
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Postby are » Fri Dec 08, 2006 8:08 am

Spent gold = xp
Off course, this works better with a geometric xp progression, so with the standard xp table i adjust the formula to this:

Spent Gold / level = xp
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Postby Evil_Trevor » Fri Dec 08, 2006 11:01 am

Risking a bad name for myself,

I enjoy it when I get a player like some of the ones described, VICTIMS, that's all they are. For those that insist on carrying several thousend coins around (theres no paper money or cash points y'know) it's not wealth and riches it's a big, bulky heavy liability that can turn a river crossing into a life or death struggle or a simple climb into a nightmare. Every chance encounter could be a thief or bandit not to mention the fatigue of lugging that weight around. If your not in a city then there is no where to spend it either, the average wayside inn or small village is not going to be able to change it into convienient small valuable gems either.

Armour may be a fantastic idea in the heat of pitch battle, but lets use the armour check penalties to everthing else. People in chain mail shirts can't swim rivers climb mountains, sneak into tombs (or out of them).

Weapons are even worse than coins,I would say four swords are the most a man can wear, two battle axes and the rest you need a pack animal to move.

Carrying four swords means having two crossed on your back and two hanging from your belt, which then limits carrying a backpack. And with all that bulk and weight it would prevent you from drawing the two swords on your back as the thick straps of the Backpack trap the sword handles and guards, at really awkward moments too.

Ohhh and least we forget, taking things from the tombs of the dead can upset aforementiond dead no end, sometimes they want it back !
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Postby Oly » Fri Dec 08, 2006 11:47 am

are wrote:Spent gold = xp
Off course, this works better with a geometric xp progression, so with the standard xp table i adjust the formula to this:

Spent Gold / level = xp
While that's a nice encouragement to get the players spending their money it also basically means that treasure = XP, which is something that I'm glad that Conan backed away from.

Personally I frequently reset my players and have their equipment stolen/lost/gambled away. Struggling up again after being knocked down seems a key element of the stories. Refusing to accept that you've lost everything and rising up to overcome such obstacles is a common theme that I want to have in my game.

I was very upfront about this from the beginning, telling my group that this game wasn't about equipment or wealth. I run a very episodic campaign and this too they were warned about, the only things they should be attached to are their characters and their enemies.

I've warned them when they take feats that revolve around a particular weapon and they know now that they need to be versatile.

It was a change from the monty haul fantasy game that perhaps they expected but it's been accepted and worked very well.
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Postby Trodax » Fri Dec 08, 2006 12:32 pm

I use the Cost of High Living rule in my game, and the players have not had any problems with that (in contrast, they seem to take a perverse pleasure in knowing that their characters have been partying like demons for a couple of weeks). In fact, I haven't really been keeping track of money at all; if they get a hold of a bunch of loot I'd rather just say "your pockets are full of gold" than "you have 2381 gold pieces".

I've also started games with the players not having any equipment at all, and having them make due with what they can find (cause they're imprisoned, enslaved or whatever). I found that you have to be little careful about doing that too often, though, as it will really hurt some character types (the Bossonian soldier was very weakened in my game when he didn't have access to his beloved bow, for example). The players seem to have been fine with that as well. Looking back, though, a thing I could have done better is what Oly did; to really warn the players that characters optimised for using only one type of weapon will not always have that weapon on hand.

The problems I've had with "search for stuff" (as I've been bitching about in various threads), is within the adventures themselves; on some occasions when the PC's have been low on equipment, there has been too much time and energy spent on searching for better weapons and armor (too much for my taste, I should say). I do understand my players, though, because stripping that leather jerkin off a fallen foe is really encouraged by the rules.

The thing with all this is, as Majestic7 pointed out in one of the other threads...
Majestic7, in another thread wrote:Well, the reason the barbarian is sneaking through the temple is most likely that he has nothing but the loincloth and broadsword, a state of things he would like to change...
...that searching for gold and riches is a very setting-appropriate motivation for characters. A bunch of the Conan stories are basically about gathering loot (The Tower of the Elephant, Queen of the Black Coast and Jewels of Gwahlur are the ones I can think of). For a new group of players (especially ones coming in from D&D), I would explain carefully about the Cost of High Living, and that the game isn't at all about gathering stuff, but that "getting rich or die trying" is a totally OK thing for their characters to live by. The thing is, there seems to be a difference in that players seem mostly interested in investing riches in equipment and upgrades for their characters, while the characters themselves would probably rather spend it on wine, food and women (as per the Cost of High Living)...

The last thing I'd like to add is that for me it's very important that it never becomes a GM vs. player thing, so I'm a bit iffy about comments that the players are victims. I really hate the old-school type of gaming where the GM is supposed to be a mean bastard who is out to get the players, rather than work with them. I therefore think it's important that everybody is on the same page, and that the players understand that being stripped of stuff isn't about GM power, but rather a way for the group as a whole to tell cool stories.
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Postby Faraer » Fri Dec 08, 2006 12:56 pm

Maybe equipment makes too much difference in the rules. Either that, or players have been trained to go after it by other RPG experiences.
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Postby Daz » Fri Dec 08, 2006 2:03 pm

Well one way to do it is have experience points be at least party tied to the amount of money that the players blow on stuff that they get no mechanical benefit from. That way what the characters want and what even the most powergaming of players want are more closely aligned.

Also in most barbaric cultures a hero who gets a big bunch of gold and then spends it all on armor and weapons for himself would rapidly get a very negative regulation while a hero who gave his friends massive gold arm-rings, threw good parties, game money to the family of his dead lackeys and gave nice gifts to passing bards would get praised to the heavens as a great man...
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Postby Krushnak » Fri Dec 08, 2006 2:25 pm

i think the problem is that the players usually have played d@d before and that really creates a bad habit of hoarding everything you can lay your hands on.

i told my players this game is very easy come, easy go. its best to be versatile and if you specialise dont complain when you dont always have your favoured weapon handy. i use high living all the time, if the party has more the 200 sp between them than they are going to party like demons when they reach their first tavern in 3 weeks.

i really like conan for this and i dont think you need to add in any rules of money for xp in anyway. if you as a gm want to do it then fine but i really dont want to see conan head that way.

i think it really helped that i started my campaign out as a pirate adventure. everyone knows that pirates either lose it or blow it all straight away. otherwise there wouldnt be any need to be a pirate any longer.
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Postby Evil_Trevor » Fri Dec 08, 2006 3:04 pm

Trodax wrote:
The last thing I'd like to add is that for me it's very important that it never becomes a GM vs. player thing, so I'm a bit iffy about comments that the players are victims. I really hate the old-school type of gaming where the GM is supposed to be a mean bastard who is out to get the players, rather than work with them. I therefore think it's important that everybody is on the same page, and that the players understand that being stripped of stuff isn't about GM power, but rather a way for the group as a whole to tell cool stories.
I tend to allow the players to do as they wish and accept the consequences

If you strip your characters too often then your players will get tired of it too. I hoped to convey that having a lot of wealth could be a real problem as well, transporting it, protecting it, getting on with life without loosing it. In some cases taking it off them is, though they might not realise it, a big help!

I also think if someone builds a character that revolves around one concept like soilder and you them strip them of armour and weapons every time a game begins they are going to think 'Why bother with this character (or game)'

All of my players have and do play other games (some aren't even by Moongose) we play in a weekly club and run eight week game-sessions. Most are hardened gamers having played most systems and almost every plot wrote. To run a good game I need originality, good characters and NPC's and a lack of predictability. Take that 'Vampire' game, I have been 'made' and then had to do the 'meet the head vamp and he says 'why should I let you live' bit soooo many times I'm tired of it and don't bother those games any more.

And I never do 'You are sitting in the inn when..." either

I award XP points for two things playing the character and good use of abilities and skills, not neccessarilly success but doing the right thing at the right time. I give more for roleplaying since that is the point of the game. I don't give out XP for kills or loot like D&D.
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