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Treasure, Wealth, and Character Advancement

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Treasure, Wealth, and Character Advancement

Postby Gralamin » Sun Nov 21, 2010 9:01 pm

So I've been thinking a lot lately on the interaction between Treasure (Objects the players can afford to lose), Wealth (Objects that become essential to a player and are unlikely to ever be sold) and Character Advancement.

I'm sure we all dislike the basic 3.5 system, where you have a billion slots that may be filled and a bunch of other items, and it really isn't clear what is treasure (Hint: A Scroll of Time stop is treasure. A weapon that the fighter will use for two levels is treasure) and what is wealth (Hint: An item that enables flying will likely be wealth to the fighter. A wizards only real wealth is their spellbook). Not to mention XP is a river.

There are also problems with the 4e system, where the enhancement bonus is fixed and items are overall, very bland. However, in 4e it is fairly clear what is treasure and what is wealth, and what you are supposed to have at a given level. This is why the (Level+1, Level, Level-1, gold of level-1) wealth system works: The Weapon/Implement, Armor, and Necklace are your core wealth. Anything else you get is treasure.

However when I think of epic adventures, I think of people like Aragorn, who only switches his blade when he reclaims his birthright, or Cú Chulainn wielding the Gáe Bulg. Magic items are almost invariably rare, interesting, and powerful in stories not based on D&D, and the primary measure of character power is their own skill. This makes me want to lean towards a less involved equipment system, consisting of a "Core" item, some "Wealth" items whose function is to add to player capabilities, and then "Treasure" which is used to give an edge in battle. None of these should be essential for the game math.

So my question is what is your preference on these matters, and more importantly, why?
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Re: Treasure, Wealth, and Character Advancement

Postby Fax » Sun Nov 21, 2010 9:15 pm

The problem I tend to run into with a system you describe (a couple major items rather than a lot of smaller ones) is that everyone ends up homogenized as they take the 'clear best option'. A VoP-like system (or like 4e's item-less option) has the problem that there is similar homogeneity between characters: everyone has the same bonuses to the same things.

So, then, if you introduce a system wherein people derive their power from themselves rather than from items, and do so in a fashion where they select multiple, smaller options to differentiate between one another, what exactly have you accomplished? You've made the focus from items into character, sure, but the bonuses themselves are the same, and the slots have merely changed from body locations to a list of options. That really doesn't seem like it's accomplished much of anything aside for some rearranging.
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Re: Treasure, Wealth, and Character Advancement

Postby Gralamin » Sun Nov 21, 2010 9:38 pm

Fax wrote:The problem I tend to run into with a system you describe (a couple major items rather than a lot of smaller ones) is that everyone ends up homogenized as they take the 'clear best option'. A VoP-like system (or like 4e's item-less option) has the problem that there is similar homogeneity between characters: everyone has the same bonuses to the same things.

So, then, if you introduce a system wherein people derive their power from themselves rather than from items, and do so in a fashion where they select multiple, smaller options to differentiate between one another, what exactly have you accomplished?

It is more then just where it comes from, and it may not be that small of a difference - in my idea above, the "Core" items would look wildly different from each other, but in essence balanced, though not for all styles of play. The "Wealth" Items will generally be alike though, in that you would have an item that say, gives flight, etc. The Treasure items would be the most diverse, since they would take the area of scrolls, wands, wondrous items, etc. in 3.5.

You've made the focus from items into character, sure, but the bonuses themselves are the same, and the slots have merely changed from body locations to a list of options. That really doesn't seem like it's accomplished much of anything aside for some rearranging.

If we assume there is a finite number of options in a game, then there is no way to accomplish anything but rearranging. The point of handling items is to reduce the complexity of "Shopping" while leaving it a powerful strategy, and changing how the game "feels". At the base level, everything resolves into math, but how that math is applied creates interesting dynamics in the game.
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Re: Treasure, Wealth, and Character Advancement

Postby Proven Paradox » Sun Nov 21, 2010 9:55 pm

I'm actually aiming to make the system I've been mentioning in the other thread I've made mostly itemless. Even if, in the end, you're just rearranging, that rearrangement can have an important effect on the feel of the game. In core 3.5, at a certain point, one ceases to feel "I am badass" and begins to feel "my items are badass." This is not a good feeling. (I would claim that getting out of core, and into the ToB and the other 'good' splatbooks reduces this feeling immensely, but I think I'm going off topic there.) Moving item functions to character class may change little mechanically, but that doesn't stop it from altering the feel of a game.
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Re: Treasure, Wealth, and Character Advancement

Postby DragoonWraith » Mon Nov 22, 2010 6:47 am

Gralamin wrote:I'm sure we all dislike the basic 3.5 system, where you have a billion slots that may be filled and a bunch of other items, and it really isn't clear what is treasure (Hint: A Scroll of Time stop is treasure. A weapon that the fighter will use for two levels is treasure) and what is wealth (Hint: An item that enables flying will likely be wealth to the fighter. A wizards only real wealth is their spellbook). Not to mention XP is a river.

Actually... none of these things bothered me in the slightest. I don't find items in 3.5 particularly interesting, but I never really felt like they were a major part of my character; I've never had the "my items are powerful" rather than "I am powerful" effect, personally. Probably because I all-but-refuse to play "Core melee" types; all my characters are mages or MoI or ToB types.
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Re: Treasure, Wealth, and Character Advancement

Postby Fax » Mon Nov 22, 2010 10:14 am

Would an in-book separation between "Treasure" and "Wealth" help the issue, and would having different X by Level mechanisms for both be appropriate?
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Re: Treasure, Wealth, and Character Advancement

Postby DragoonWraith » Mon Nov 22, 2010 11:06 am

I'll again mention that I like the Tome of Gears system, where you have a limited number of truly-meaningful items, and most of them that are meaningful past level, say, 5 are not things money can buy, so you don't have high-level PCs stealing the dungeon's adamantine doors or whatever.
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Re: Treasure, Wealth, and Character Advancement

Postby Proven Paradox » Mon Nov 22, 2010 12:30 pm

Fax wrote:Would an in-book separation between "Treasure" and "Wealth" help the issue, and would having different X by Level mechanisms for both be appropriate?
Hm. I'm not sure there. My initial instinct is "no, not really." "Treasure" and "Wealth" are kind of already defined already, at an intuitive level: of course I'm going to think differently about getting a major sword upgrade than I am about finding a bundle of potions, even if both are of an equal value when you convert it to GP.

But if you start making that a core part of your game, I start wavering on that a bit. You could make it into a class feature perhaps. Your scroll-writing, potion brewing, wand producing mage-y type could have a higher "treasure" level than the warrior, but the warrior taking care of his precious gear, perhaps smithing some armor himself or altering equipment as he goes could have a higher "wealth" level than the mage. And the otherwise weaker noble-type could have higher than both. You have to design items with that in mind from the very start, but it could be made interesting.
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Re: Treasure, Wealth, and Character Advancement

Postby Gralamin » Fri Nov 26, 2010 12:51 am

DragoonWraith wrote:
Gralamin wrote:I'm sure we all dislike the basic 3.5 system, where you have a billion slots that may be filled and a bunch of other items, and it really isn't clear what is treasure (Hint: A Scroll of Time stop is treasure. A weapon that the fighter will use for two levels is treasure) and what is wealth (Hint: An item that enables flying will likely be wealth to the fighter. A wizards only real wealth is their spellbook). Not to mention XP is a river.

Actually... none of these things bothered me in the slightest. I don't find items in 3.5 particularly interesting, but I never really felt like they were a major part of my character; I've never had the "my items are powerful" rather than "I am powerful" effect, personally. Probably because I all-but-refuse to play "Core melee" types; all my characters are mages or MoI or ToB types.


You are in the minority then. The christmas tree effect, as well as the power not being your own are common problems with the 3.5 system. Those character types may be why though.

Fax wrote:Would an in-book separation between "Treasure" and "Wealth" help the issue, and would having different X by Level mechanisms for both be appropriate?

Quite possibly. But if you have it like in 3.5, where "Spells" are basically "Free very powerful treasure per day", you would have to account for that, making different treasure/wealth by level tables appropriate for different classes. This is of course, kind of odd from a non-game stand point, and would make divying up treasure hell.

DragoonWraith wrote:I'll again mention that I like the Tome of Gears system, where you have a limited number of truly-meaningful items, and most of them that are meaningful past level, say, 5 are not things money can buy, so you don't have high-level PCs stealing the dungeon's adamantine doors or whatever.

That is also an alternative, but unless it's balanced with a way to give characters what they need (Like a way for a fighter to combat flying foes), it will not be a realistic solution.
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Re: Treasure, Wealth, and Character Advancement

Postby DragoonWraith » Fri Nov 26, 2010 7:39 am

Do you have any basis for saying what the "minority" and "majority" thinks? I mean, I know a lot of people hate the Christmas tree effect, but I also know a lot of people who are not bothered by it and some who particularly enjoy it.

The only reason to feel that power is not your own is if you're playing shitty classes...
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Re: Treasure, Wealth, and Character Advancement

Postby Gralamin » Fri Nov 26, 2010 12:43 pm

DragoonWraith wrote:Do you have any basis for saying what the "minority" and "majority" thinks? I mean, I know a lot of people hate the Christmas tree effect, but I also know a lot of people who are not bothered by it and some who particularly enjoy it.

Yes - sheer and total arrognce :lol:

The only reason to feel that power is not your own is if you're playing shitty classes...

It can come from other places as well, but generally bad classes is a major reason yes.
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Re: Treasure, Wealth, and Character Advancement

Postby DragoonWraith » Fri Nov 26, 2010 1:53 pm

Anyway, the main idea of Tome of Gears that I liked is getting away from the gold economy sooner rather than later. Especially since the WBL/level at higher levels gets to be more than anyone could reasonably carry, which not only makes the adventurers look foolish but also means that basically no one with something of that kind of value is going to accept gold for it; gold is just far too inconvenient. I think this works nicely, because it means by like level 8 or so the characters can have any reasonable amount of gold with basically no real effect on the game, which means massive gold hoards don't become imbalancing.
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Re: Treasure, Wealth, and Character Advancement

Postby Draz » Sun Nov 28, 2010 10:25 am

And, if you have some intrigue or political elements to your campaign, gold starts to become a resource for characters to buy land, castles, armies, etc., rather than personal equipment. Which has a nice old-school-D&D feel to it. That's my favorite part of "getting the game away from the gold economy."
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Re: Treasure, Wealth, and Character Advancement

Postby DragoonWraith » Sun Nov 28, 2010 10:50 am

Exactly.
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Re: Treasure, Wealth, and Character Advancement

Postby godskook » Sat Dec 11, 2010 8:34 pm

See, here's the thing. D&D hasn't got many sources of gradual growth, and the most obvious of which is a wizard's spellbook. If you want to remove WBL as a balancing mechanic, I suggest you add another source of gradual growth. In my games, I allow players to buy point-buy and feats for xp(with caps and growing costs). This allows them to have gradual growth and take a larger control of their character's potential, without worrying about buying a magic item. Player wants better charisma? Spends a few hundred/thousand xp, and voila, better charisma.
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Re: Treasure, Wealth, and Character Advancement

Postby DragoonWraith » Sun Dec 12, 2010 10:20 am

I like the idea, but it depends on how you feel about XP costs in general. They're often unpopular.

Still, if we say something like "you can buy up to your XP in items, ability boosts, and feats", where you don't actually lose XP (as it counts towards your level-up), we end up with a system where "wealth" by level is rather strictly enforced, which could be a good thing.

EDIT: Eh, that sort of falls apart when we get loot...
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Re: Treasure, Wealth, and Character Advancement

Postby godskook » Mon Dec 13, 2010 3:57 pm

Well, instead of "up to your X", we cap everything separately. A level 5 adventurer who spent all his xp leveling up is a prodigy, while, more likely, an old and experienced adventurer has spent xp worth several times his level in alternatives.

For instance, give each bonus type a multiplier, a growing cap, and a max cap(maybe). Like

Enhancement: x2, 1/3rd, no cap
Insight: x4, 1/4 HD, max +5
Sacred/Profane: x3, 1/5 HD, no cap

And then, implement a formula, say bonus squared times type-multiplier time base multiplier.

Squares are:
1
4
9
16
25
36

To grab the max insight or enhancement bonus should be post-15, so we want it to be probably worth about about a quarter of getting to 15th level, or ~3750xp. Conveniently, that's a ballpark of 36 x 100. So working backwards, our 'base' multiplier could be 50.

For a max insight bonus, you'd spend 5k xp for the last point, plus decent amounts for the rest.

And yes, make this a 'cost', like crafting an item. That way, it becomes a choice, and allows the players to make meaningful choices without punishment(I could've bought more Str, but then I wouldn't be level 10 yet) or (I wish I bought less Str, I'd be level 10 already).

For anecdotal evidence on how PCs feel about such things, mine have had access to point-buy adjustments for a few sessions now, and are preferring to level up, despite the cost being cheap for the players with the worse point-buy(289 xp for the next point on the worst guy).
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Re: Treasure, Wealth, and Character Advancement

Postby TheCripple » Sun Jan 09, 2011 8:11 pm

Gralamin wrote:However when I think of epic adventures, I think of people like Aragorn, who only switches his blade when he reclaims his birthright, or Cú Chulainn wielding the Gáe Bulg. Magic items are almost invariably rare, interesting, and powerful in stories not based on D&D, and the primary measure of character power is their own skill. This makes me want to lean towards a less involved equipment system, consisting of a "Core" item, some "Wealth" items whose function is to add to player capabilities, and then "Treasure" which is used to give an edge in battle. None of these should be essential for the game math.


There are also plenty of characters which don't have much of anything. Conan has a sword, odds are he will lose that sword, odds are he will later gain another sword. Maybe it will be a spear instead, who knows, the point is its just some variety of arms. As such, an easy method would be to have Wealth and Treasure, with a wider category for "Core". One guy has a magical sword, another a spirit friend, another an exceptional degree of inborn luck, etc.
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