Thursday, July 25, 2013

Carousing, Cavorting and Carrying-On: Turning Loot into XP in Ur-Hadad

I realized a few minutes ago that I currently use at least three different sets of carousing rules depending on the game that I'm running. While I might call it "carousing," it's actually "blowing your hard-won treasure on crap that you could probably do without, pursuing one interest or another, usually drinking and ladies." I know that some DMs like to look at carousing as yet another way to separate PCs from that selfsame treasure, but personally, I have no problem with PCs accumulating vast amounts of treasure, but I feel like choices to spend that money on things that have no value in the long run or simply stockpiling treasure to build the biggest damn stronghold they can at 9th level need to be meaningful. Carousing for xp provides a meaningful choice, and the degree to which it provides xp depends on the game I'm running (some games call for a higher "gp to xp" ratio, some require a lower one). Here's a brief rundown of how I handle carousing in some of the different games that I run, both live and over G+. But first, a quick clarification: I use the terms "gold," "gold piece" and "gp" as a generic term for the base unit of currency, so don't get confused. I'm talking about bits (in Ur-Hadad), Marks (Black Giant) and all the other "base unit" currencies active in my games. Further, I talk a lot about "carousing activities;" by these, I don't necessarily mean drinking, feasting, whoring and so on, but rather any sort of activity a PC might be interested in that likely happens off-camera (although it could happen in-game) that has no lasting mechanical effect on the game. The kernel of inspiration for my take on these rules comes from Dave Arneson's First Fantasy Campaign, where he had a sophisticated matrix of what different sorts of people are interested in and how much xp it should net them; I didn't want that complicated of a system, but I loved Uncle Dave's interpretation of "carousing" being "blowing your loot on shit you're interested in."

Swords & Wizardry of Ur-Hadad

One of these days, I'm going to come up with a name for this campaign. This is the game that I'm running over G+ using S&W where the players are a misfit group of bounty hunters cashing in on terrorist plots, revolutions and other nefarious activity in the First City. Maybe "Adventures In Ur-Hadad?" Nah, too bland. Anyway, carousing hasn't yet come up in this game as something that the PCs have actually done, but rather it's come up in an academic sense. For every 1 gp spent on stuff that does not directly benefit the PC (weapons, armor, potions, lotions, tinctures, stuff like that), the PC gets 1 xp. Yep, 100% payoff. Rarely does this stuff happen "on camera," but it can. For me, the key is that the PC has an experience or learns about something that he might not have otherwise. This system doesn't just reward spending money, we need to talk about where that money's going, because your PC's new experience should be meaningful. For example, a character who spends his loot boozing and whoring might end up meeting an NPC who becomes important later, whereas the character who invests his treasure in season tickets to the opera might become knowledgeable on the comings and goings of the cream of Hadadi society.

Iron Coast Carousing

One of the nice things about Adventurer, Conqueror, King is that it includes carousing rules that have an interesting slant. In ACKS, players are encouraged to have a stable of PCs, partly because of the lethality of the system, partly to allow for more options for players and DMs. To further this encouragement, 90% of all gold spent on carousing activities (whatever they are) shows up as xp that a player's stabled characters (the other characters that the player has who are not active at the time of the carousing) may split. Only one-half of the xp amount earned by the stabled characters (45% of the gold spent) comes back to the active character as xp. So, for every 100 gp spent on carousing activities, a player's stabled characters get to split 90 xp while the active character gets 45. Here, effectively, 100 gp = 135 xp, which is an interesting bit of inflation; the active character is bearing the financial burden of leveling up the stabled characters at the cost of "slower" (when compared to other carousing rules) advancement himself. With ACKS's excellently-integrated economy, the trade off between having money that you can use to affect serious in-game change and experience points (which also give you the ability to affect in-game change) represents a very real and very serious choice, and I particularly enjoy that the real benefit isn't aimed at the character the player is playing but the ones he might end up playing. Again, I use my "tell me what you're doing" guidelines for determining any end results of the carousing, but there's also a chart below you can use if you don't feel like thinking about it too much. While I'll continue to use my "carousing by doing a thing teaches you more about that thing," this sort of knowledge will never bleed over into the realm of proficiency-scale knowledge; thus, if you spend a bunch of money learning, say, healing arts, you might know a bunch about it, but wouldn't be able to practice it until you take the proficiency.

Carousing With The Metal Gods

Since DCC handles xp very differently from other OSR-style games, you have to expect that I'd handle carousing differently. Months ago, I tried to craft a carousing mini-game (Wastrels & Winos), but then realized that it was getting out of hand and never completed it. It really just felt way too complicated and, thereby, not really gameable. Now, the DCC rulebook suggests that 1 or 2 experience points should be the limit earned through the sorts of activities that I lump in as carousing (training, feasting, magical research, etc.), and this makes a lot of sense: since the entirety of xp in DCC comes from defeating challenges (rather than finding treasure), the expenditure of treasure should have a smaller effect in DCC. Further, with a "1 to 2" scale, this carousing xp is more of a "just that last little bit to push me over to level 2" sort of xp award rather than a "meat and potatoes" sort of one. Here's how I handle it: if the PC spends at least 100gp per level on carousing activities, he gets a point of xp. If he spends 1,000 gp per level on carousing activities, he gets two points of xp. That is all. We'll probably come up with a good story about it and what happens during the carousing, but that's the bare bones. Roll on my carousing table below if you decide to, if not, don't sweat it.

Novelties of Carousing

What's the new thing you're exposed to during your carousing? Roll d11. (1 - 2) - A new idea. (3 - 4) - A new person. (5 - 6) - A new culture. (7 - 8) - A new place. (9 - 10) - A new fad/style/art form. (11) - A new religion. Things Get Better: The something new is beneficial for the PC (a new person is a friend or a high-placed contact, a new idea is a secret overheard or a lead on something great). Things Get Worse: The something new is a threat to the PC (a new person is a rival or enemy, the new religion is out to kill him for offending their god).