Thursday, October 26, 2017

Dave Arneson and SWCL

For those of you who have read this blog over the years, it should be no surprise that I am a huge fan of the Dave Arneson rule of 1 gp spent = 1 xp. In my experience, this motivates players to take ownership of the world their characters inhabit. For example, in my Lost Colonies campaigns the following places exist because players spent money to bring them into being:


  • A Tavern that specializes in stirge meat.
  • A cheese factory
  • A camel farm
  • A monastery and chapel
  • A stone and statue garden
  • An abandoned dwarven home

The Road from Headwaters to Trisagia

  • A stone toll bridge manned by half-giants


  • A merchant company the specializes in shipping

The Elflands

  • A cathedral with an illuminated text

Note that only the last one qualifies as a standard Stronghold in B/X terms. I really love this stuff because it enriches the campaign world in a way that I could never do purely on my own. These places have been adventure fodder and/or direct results of adventures. Each one has multiple stories attached to it. I firmly believe none of these would exist if it weren’t for Dave Arneson’s rule of 1 gp spent = 1 xp. As a consequence, whenever I run into a version of D&D that does not use it, I try to find an easy way to shoehorn it in.

Enter SWCL. I actually love the leveling mechanic of this game: complete a given number of sessions/adventures and you level. No math, no trying to assign experience value to non-combat encounters, just go on adventures and be done with it. This idea is so elegantly simple I am actually loathe to mess with it; however, I am also loathe to get rid of the incentive for players to invest in all of the kind of world-building goodness that the Arneson rule has produced in my games.

Thus, I propose an Optional Rule for SWLC:

In order for an adventure to be considered “complete,” a character must spend at least half of the treasure gained from that adventure.

Thus, if my character’s share of the booty is 20 gp because we overlooked the real treasure trove, I need to spend 10 gp to complete that adventure in terms of gaining levels. If that booty is 2000 gp (because we went back and found the hidden treasure chest) I now have to figure out a way to spend 1000 gp.


Scott Anderson said...

We do 1 GP earned = 1 XP. But we do have a spending = XP rule that goes like this:

Whatever money you spend that does not benefit you, your friends or your henchmen, 90% of that money is awarded as XP to your next character.

How do your players save up money for a castle if they are always spending it all?

FrDave said...

Note that a lot of the investments are businesses. This allows for income not based on adventuring. I also allow characters, if they have done the ground work, to start on strongholds at earlier levels in bits and pieces. The toll bridge, for example, was step one in a plan to build a castle.

Scott Anderson said...

That makes sense, thank you.

My inner rules lawyer troll is already coming up with corner cases that would tax your system, but as long as everyone's an adult about it all it should work great - and it seems that it does which is a testament to your table.

Ifryt said...

How do you find prices for such things? Players buy shares of a business? Prices for buildings (strongholds etc.) according to D&D Cyclopedia (but in other books they are similar) are ten of thousands gp.

What can players do for example with 500 gp?

FrDave said...

It is actually amazing how creative players can be.
For example, my players had the need of making some magical prosthetics for some NPCs and needed to pay bounties for stirge meat so that their NPC cook had a regular supply.

Part of why I love this idea so much is the surprise that comes from player creativity when it comes to finding ways to invest their money in the campaign world and the consequences of those actions.

Ifryt said...

So it is more helping/investing in particular NPCs than buying properties?

FrDave said...

So it is more helping/investing in particular NPCs than buying properties?

Some of the more creative stuff, yes. But I've also had characters bring back chitin from giant insects and have armor pieces made out of the stuff. Again, when incentives are in place to spend large amounts of cash, it is really interesting to see what happens and to see what kind of opportunities I am given as a referee for adventure ideas. For example, the first time chitin was brought back, I told the players it was enough for a pair of gauntlets, so the players promptly decided they wanted to go on a giant insect hunt for more chitin...