Tuesday, January 7, 2014

The Root of all Evil

I have a thing where I am fascinated and appalled by the ramifications of gold being the source of all power in old school games. It makes me think of Blood Meridian and of Cortez and like all the things with which I am deeply emotionally entangled I prance and caper at the margins of the thing because I cannot stare into the heart of the mystery and cannot bear to try to hold it for fear it might be crushed by my apish forepaws. It reminds me also of this bit of Milton;

There stood a hill not far, whose grisly top
Belch'd fire and rolling smoke; the rest entire
Shone with a glossy scurf, undoubted sign
That in his womb was hid metallic ore,
The work of sulphur. Thither, wing'd with speed,
A num'rous brigad hasten'd; as when bands
Of pioneers with spade and pickaxe arm'd,
Forerun the royal camp, to trench a field,
Or cast a rampart. Mammon led them on,
Mammon, the least erected Spirit that fell
From Heav'n; for ev'n in Heav'n his looks and thoughts
Were always downward bent, admiring more
The riches of Heav'n's pavement, trodd'n gold,
Than aught divine or holy else enjoy'd
In vision beatific;

__________________________________________________________

So you've been tested in the crucible of direst peril  and won wealth as seems beyond the wildest dreams of mortal man. And now against unfeasible odds you've dragged it forth by the exercise of will and cunning and the expenditure of blood and magicks and by the favour of the gods. Here on the sunlit surface world you expect reward, staggering under the weight of booty and wounded comrades, going back to town. Thinkest thou thy trouble done?

Alan Lee, Petty-Dwarves



Roll 2d6 + 1 per thousand groats retrieved, a further +1 per special item

2-7. Lucky. No hustlers but watch out for bandits.

8. Local peons have various worm-eaten victuals and moldering accoutrements to sell at inflated prices which they'll attempt to press upon you with some degree of enthusiasm and vehemence.

2d4 appear. Demands: Triple normal prices for substandard shite

9. A band of apothecaries, quacksalvers, barber-leeches and the likesuch worthless charlatans descend, they will charge outrageous prices for ineffectual healing and dangerous remedies.

2d6 appear. Demands: 50 groats per healing. CON check each time, if successful gain one hit point, if unsuccessful lose one.

10. A troupe of travelling players and tinkers gather, selling popinjays and jackanapes and extravagant garb and flesh and mysteries and a hundred other things, hutling and gambling and getting you drunk, the prices are high but not absurd and the dozens of laughing children are all pickpockets.

4d10 appear. Demands: double normal prices + 1d6 pickpocket attempts per party member.

11. Desperate mothers with starving children in barrows and lepers and the scrofulous and plaguey come clamourous for alms and mercy in the name of all the saints. They follow and pluck at hems or prostrate themselves weeping in the path.

3d6 appear. Demands: at least 5 groats apiece and they'll leave you alone, any more and the numbers will double each day, a random miasma will accompany them.

12. A mob of drunken louts in clogs and rancid smocks and beshitten trews all armed with swingle-flouts and cudgels and dung-forks come offering protection 'gainst the unfriendly world, eager to ensure the gold does not fall into the wrong hands. Their leader has an open face and hard little eyes.

4d8 appear. Demands 10 groats apiece plus they'll attempt robbery at first sign of weakness. Their leader yearns to see gruesome and humiliating tortures enacted.

13. A wheedling, reedy and peevish reeve of the ward comes bearing documents signed and notarised by bonnet-lairds and burgomasters decreeing the immediate forfeiture of one half of all that has been borne out of yonder hell-gate, citing fees and tarriffs and tolls payable. Seven sneering horsemen accompany him of grim aspect and loaded crossbows.

Demands: half of all treasure, The horsemen are 1st-level fighters.

14. Painted blue and black, dark-eyed and tall comes a heathen warband thirty-strong. There seems to be a degree of acrimony amongst them regarding whether outright murder be the truest way but a sallow and sardonic bard among them comes forth to declare the land and its underworld theirs and their chieftain's by right and bloodline an hundred generations deep. All goods and chattels are to be seized immediately and all saintish priestlings shorn of hair and ears or the land will drink of thy drenching gore. 

Demands: 100% of everything + d8 dmg to clerics, 30 Heathens plus 2nd-level leader

15. Thunderously presaged by echoing hoofbeats comes a troop of heavy cavalry in rusted harness and bearing heads on pikes and such other grisly trophies of long campaign as are accumulated by those men to whom death and killing are a daily chore. They declare themslves outriders of a vast and terrible vanguard on the march to unseat an apostate demon-king from his ghastly throne and do vengeance to the night and all her legions. This crusade is imperative and it is hungry. 

Demands: 100% of all treasures or 80% +  joining the crusade, 20 3rd-level fighters plus 10,000 more soldiers on the march

16. A huffing little herald and his dangerously slouching bodyguard come to declare each of the party newly granted title and demesne in the name of the Emperor (in far-flung, squalid and untameable districts) in recognition of their efforts in beating back the enemies of all. Of course, the Empire requires ongoing pecuniary recompense for the building of roads and aqueducts and the garrisoning and outfitting of troops.
These titles are;

The Baroness Impecuniary
The Underking of the Blodsea
The Landgrave of Kettlesprechen
The Laird Grootmanke
The Marquess of Netherclough
Implacable Intransigent of the Erstwhile Fletches
etc.

Demands: 90% of treasure plus the same amount quarterly in perpetuity, the titles are worthless and potentially hazardous.

17. Trumpets sound and bells toll and gleaming in gorgeous panoply of glory everlasting comes an embassy of the Utmost Pontificate of the Ineffable Truth. Pale choristers step lightly through the mud and upon their heels one comes clothed in the raiments of sainthood riding a brindled nag. She accepts graciously the offer to sacrifice wordly cares to the construction of a new cathedral upon this spot. Clad in light and thunder comes an angel in her wake.

9th level cleric +2d100 in entourage + unpredictable angel. Demands: All wealth and perpetual devotion to the Truth.

18+. It seems that one has followed ever since we came out of the hole. A little man, gnarled and hunched.

1 dwarf. Demands: Your money and your life, and roll again.

Additionally it needs to be restated that all treasure carries with it the threat of avaricious dwarfish claim: 1% per hundred groats plus 20% per special item, this is in addition to other claimants.

Yes, I am a bastard and I think this is how it would be. Tolkien was right.

6 comments:

  1. Excellent ways to separate PCs from their loot.

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  2. Flavor-wise, I really love this. Game-play wise, I worry it would be super harsh and taken poorly to have to "earn" their treasure twice, especially if using a money spent for experience system. But maybe I'm just too nice to players. If they get the experience elsewise, then gameplay could still be fun, you just wouldn't expect to get rich.

    Also, "beshitten" is my new favorite word.

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    Replies
    1. Criticism noted, I thought of that myself. Once they learn to bury their treasure in the wilderness and launder funds through merchant houses or get 'emselves a private army or grease a few palms I'm sure they'll be able to keep some.

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    2. Excellent. I was right, I am just too nice.

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  3. I like this, it doesn't fit every campaign, but it has a poetry and a sheen of the real to it. It reminds us that it's not the treasure hunters that prosper but the rentiers and the con men. Oh maybe needs more con men - promises of success or protection of wealth with no return.

    Also reminds me I need to remember about the greedy paws of the Council of Proper Apportionment, The Unyielding Fist Veterans Fund and the tithe seeking United Inquisitional Orders of the Orbital Pantheon in my ASE game.

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