Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Wealth Levels & IC Necessities

It is expensive work trying to outfit a ship.  In my Flashpoint Campaign none of my players' NPC sailors has any armour.  Most of them are common sailors.  They didn't come equipped.  One was a prisoner.  They're level 4 so, in truth, if I counted their ship as part of their loot they probably would still be walking around with nothing but the odd Masterwork item.  This wouldn't work out for them when the enemies they are facing are designed around certain equipment requirements (which really starts rearing its head around level 5).

At present, if they're lucky the NPCs they hire on might have their own equipment.  There's certainly more of an urge to loot any daggers or cutlasses that haven't even been Masterworked.  But they still have food, repairs, water barrels, crew payments, clothing, armour, and weapons to worry about in general.

So how do I handle it?

When I estimate how much loot they should have for their level, I don't count ship or NPC equipment.  Its a rule of thumb, though, and I trust my players so I don't have to worry too much about them giving expensive weapons to NPCs to wield just so that they can then accumulate greater wealth.  If they even tried it, I'd notice right away and tell them not to and they'd shrug with a smirk and say something like, "Worth a shot."

Now this isn't to say that they get so much loot that they can dole it out with impunity.  They actually struggle a bit on the day-to-day level with reaching their wealth levels and are generally a fair bit below and that's fine.  If they want to spend their loot on their ship than that's good.  They'll be low for awhile but then they'll catch up.

This prevents them from over-spending on the ship because those short-term money constraints are an issue but it doesn't create a barrier of "Should I spend my money and grow progressively underpowered or should I not spend my money and have a mutinous crew and an ill-equipped ship?"


  1. last time I played a high seas style game, we had everything worked out on 'shares'. Each job brought in X amount of money that was divided up into about 50 shares. Each crewman got one or two, with an increase in line with rank. Then, what was left over was split between maintenance of the ship - repairs and restocking - and hoarded against future dry spells when money was lacking but the ship still needed to be looked after.

    The player characters got their share just like everyone else, but we were a bit more careful when it came to how much of it we blew on rum and good company...

    1. Hopefully they'll get to that point but at the moment the only ship they've 'taken' was pretty gutted of goods. Luckily their good deeds have gotten it fixed and refitted but provisioning is still a pain. Once they start privateering they should be in much better stead as they can always take what they need from those ships.

      They just need to clear out some of that pesky quest log....

  2. Hello from someone who came over from Shorty Monster!

    The setting I've been working on would be great for a high seas adventure, and I've always been interested in running one. Unfortunately, I've found that one needs a particular type of player to make it work. Most of my players aren't as interested in the resource management aspect of roleplaying as they are in figuring out how to hit bigger things harder.

    Still, your comments on equipment struck my memory of the last campaign I ran. I prefer using leveled NPCs as templates for foes, including monsters, since I was typically using humanoid baddies. I figure "Why should a half-orc be tougher than your average orc? Why not treat all orcs as leveled NPCs, especially in cases that they're working as equals with villainous humans who are leveled?"

    The problem with this was that the average level 3 to 4 orcs, orogs and bandits often didn't have a lot on them, especially since I tended to give them standard equipment. Every once in awhile one out of four falchions might be masterwork, but mooks typically aren't going to have anything particularly spectacular on their persons, and, like most folks, would tend to leave anything other than the essentials back at their camp in their footlockers and chests. Big bads would often have a particularly nasty weapon or impressive set of armor or cool trinket that might offset some of the loot discrepancy.

    1. I'm really naughty in this respect. My enemies have equipment that generally responds to what I want to give to the PCs. Oftentimes this will be pretty standard but there's an upcoming wealthy NPC who'll have more loot than a PC of the same level would.

      Why? Realism-wise, this person is rich and can afford it. Game-wise, I want to give the players all this tasty loot. I could always split the loot amongst lower mooks but I like the realism angle. Will it boost the enemy's CR? Not by much.

      The nature of the equipment isn't likely to give it much of an edge over the PCs as its the sort of stuff you buy because its awesome and not the sort of stuff you buy to create an ultimate combo of winsauce.

      tee hee, hope my players read this so that they keep their eyes peeled in anticipation of the loot-person!

    2. I think in gaming the connection between experience and wealth is an odd one. It's typically assumed that characters of a certain level of experience will also have a certain level of wealth as well. Real life shows this to not be the case.

      Bandits may have stolen their levels in wealth and then drank it up to the last copper. Villainous oligarchs may have lost their wealth in poor investments (hence their need for villainous means of reaccumulating that wealth!)

      I just did it to maintain game-balance, though. ;)

    3. That's why I randomise it, in truth. They might beat up four 4th level thugs who have nothing but base gear and then fight a 2nd level aristocrat whose got great gear.

      There's plenty of reasons to do it differently - players who won't fight unless there's a loot incentive, players who are annoyed if a hard fight gives little loot but an easy fight does - but in my group it works out just fine.