Dragon Economics

Author: DHBoggs / Labels: ,

I’m very interested by the French and Indian war period in North American history.  I’ve made it a point to visit, repeatedly if possible, any sites from the period I can.  One that’s on my list of yet to do’s is Fort Frederick in Maryland.
Not much happened there during the war, but the place itself is of unique interest because of the fort.  Unlike most of the British and colonial log forts, fort Frederick is made of stone.  Otherwise, it is much the same in design and situation.  It was a wilderness fort, built to guard the frontier, but built with permanence in mind.  It has four large corner bastions, three large interior building and four 180’l x 17h curtain walls.

Recent discussions on the Adventurer, Conqueror, King system, got me thinking about fort Frederick.  The parallels to building a D&D “borderlands” stronghold really struck me.   True, its not medieval, but for all intents and construction purposes, fort Frederick might as well be, but unlike your typical medieval scenario, we have an actual record of what it cost to build.  Further, we know the general range of wages being paid to craftsmen, so it provides one opportunity to convert real money into gaming gold. 
The actual historic cost to build Fort Frederick was 6000 pounds
Carpenter’s wages around 1760 when the fort was completed were circa 45 - 50 pounds a year (about  1/125th the cost of the fort) , and wages for other types of craftsmen are in the same ballpark. 
If we turn to the 3LBB’s and the equivalents in the FFC we can look at how much it would cost for an OD&D gaming character to build a stronghold identical to Ft Frederick; they would need to pay for the following:
Four  180’ curtain walls (7000 gp each)    28,000 GP
Four bastions (3000 + 20% for added height)  14400 GP
Three stone buildings  (2500 each)  7500 GP
Total  GP 49,900
Now, since we know that a mid 18th century carpenters yearly wage was about 125th the cost of building Ft Frederick and that it would cost 49,900 GP to build in D&D land, we can calculate the carpenters wage for D&D.   The Carpenters yearly wage should be 400 GP (33 GP per month).
Now here is where it gets interesting.  It is no secret that original D&D’s economics come almost straight from Dave Arneson’s Blackmoor campaign.  Indeed the original drawing showing castle construction and prices in the first through 3rd print of the 3LBB’s is one of Daves little sketches.  I’ve always wondered at the costs and wages given in OD&D, whether there really was any logic behind them or if they were just pulled out of the proverbial arse.  It turns out that a wage of 33 gp a month is entirely consistent with the wages for OD&D craftsmen.  A smith for example makes 20 gp a month (25 in the D&D draft), an armorer 100 GP (75 FFC, 80 per the draft).  So, as far as non military wages go, the wage to expense ratios seem about right in OD&D.  The equipment lists may have some issues, (armor for one) but most things are reasonably priced in regards to the wages being earned.
Oddly, this changes dramatically in AD&D.  AD&D is much more nuanced and varies a bit between 1e and 2e; the yearly income of the average craftsperson varies between about 20 - 40 GP a year.  A tailor earns 30GP a year, a carpenter 40 calculated as 300 work days at 3sp a day and 20 sp = 1 gp.  That’s only 3.3 GP a month – one tenth.  The construction costs are indeed much less too, but not nearly enough to balance out.  Building fort Frederick using the AD&D structure cost yields a fortress cost of around 11,000 GP.  Instead of a ratio of 1 to 125, wages to expense – that’s a ratio of 1 to 275.  In other words, using the AD&D carpenters wage and the fort Frederick historic rates for wage to cost, the AD&D fortress should cost 5000 GP,  instead of more than twice that.  What is further odd about AD&D is that some of the wages given for specialists do not change from OD&D, creating a wildly swinging economic picture – Armorers are still 100 gp/month, smiths, 30.
Interestingly, 2e restores construction cost to something more in line with OD&D, but the poor carpenter gets only a slight bumpt to 5 gps a month, making his lot in life even worse!
The upshot of all of this is that Arnesons rates – particularly if you use the adjusted ranges given in the FFC, seem to work well together in terms of historic norms.  I wouldn’t be too surprised if he was using Napoleonic era data as a base of some sort, but whatever it may be, the numbers weren’t just pulled out of a hat or an arse.
Except, for mercenaries.  Here the OD&D prices are screwy.  Soldiers are dead cheap (20 GP a year for Heavy Horse!)  It may be that concessions were being made for wargaming purposes, but the root of the trouble with troop costs is that the started off as nothing more than the CHAINMAIL “point” costs.  Observe:




Light Foot

Heavy Foot

Armored foot
2 ½





Light Horseman

Medium Horseman

Heavy Horseman

I didn’t give the FFC prices here because there are two different lists and it’s not straightforward  how they work.   Some calculation is required.  Perhaps this is exactly why Gygax used his own Chainmail figures for the mercenaries lists, while using figures derived from Arneson for the other Hirelings.  The Horse rates in the 3 lBBS are just the Chainmail rates times 4 (rounded), the others look as if the wrong column was being read, just a point off.  Clearly, the mercenary GP costs were only a slight variation on the CHAINMAIL point costs rules, with little relation to the rest of the economy.    
Looking closer at the FFC, one list is prices for the 2nd Coot Invasion (1973).  The income was calculated by season, but what’s not clear is if the expenses were by season also, meaning multiply cost times 4, maybe.  The earl of Vestfold and the King of the Great Kingdom must pay 550 gp for a heavy horse, but if that’s per season then the yearly cost is a pricey 2200.   
A couple page later Arneson gives another list that seems to be the basis of the Hirelings list found in OD&D, which it basically matches, thus revising the earlier Coot Invasion figures.  Here the rate for an unequipped Horseman is a mere 10 GP a year, but add Horse armor (320), chainmail, (24), a horse (l25,m100,h400), helmet (2), saddle (6) spear (5), etc., and we are already looking at close to 800 GP a year for a heavy horseman.
So, in both cases Arneson had a much more economically consistent wages to expenses economic mileau in place, which became somewhat muddied in OD&D and utterly trounced in AD&D.

critiquing the comfort zone of gaming habit

Author: DHBoggs / Labels: ,

Some well received and inspiring lessons;  
The process of learning to DM/story-telling is best discovered in the trenches by  creating our own dungeons/locales.  This personalizes the experience 100% and builds in layers of confidence, objectivity and other enhancements of a greater type not found in running  pre-made adventures. The difference between creating your own story and reading it aloud rather than reading aloud another's.
For the most part many of us were weaned  in "Fun House" climes; but whatever the "adventure"  environment, one learns rudiments and essentials and these thereafter take root and grow according to the prevailing creative force in every individual as expressed through personal understanding and application, and in differing degrees.
Robert J. Kuntz, Aug 2011 http://lordofthegreendragons.blogspot.com/ (Rob has a lot more to say on the subject - have a look)

I distinctly remember Dave and Gary in early 1974 reacting with astonishment to the relative avalanche of letters asking for settings, backgrounds, and "how do I do this in the game." For them, coming up with those things WAS the fun part. They couldn't understand why people wanted to pay somebody else to have the fun for them.
Michael Mornard
ODD74 Forum: Re: More thoughts on how D&D has changed, « Reply #8 on Jul 23, 2011, 1:14pm »   http://odd74.proboards.com/index.cgi

When Dragonlance DL1 is held up as the module that heralded beginning of the end by OD&Ders there is something they are not making clear enough. If you are producing adventures like that yourself, terrific, but to use such a well-knit published module is a dead end because there is no room for personal touches and what do you do when you've finished it? Try to mimic the designer's style from then on? Bad idea. These modules influence how you think as a DM, as did the classics from the old days (if you used them) even if they allowed each DM more autonomy.
I say 'why use published modules at all?' At intermediate level as a DM your sources should be fiction, literary as well as straight fantasy, so READ widely…  At beginning levels use your imagination and look for artwork, ruined abbey by a river, witch's house in a small wood, stone circle on a barren coast, and use the monster manual. It takes so long to play a game, have confidence (if you have talent) that plenty of ideas will come to you so you can grow from the simplest start. Think of the cliche and discard it. Now think of something that needs explaining or investigation; a handsome young knight is seen leaving the witch's hovel; on a stormy night a tentacle reaches up over the clifftop, rights a toppled stone from the ring and touches each other stone in turn before disappearing; a terrified but determined painter is discovered near the ruined abbey spending many hours trying to capture the evening light...
Kent, January 2009.

...there are only three OD&D bonuses, when not using Greyhawk: missile bonus, hp bonus, reaction bonus.  And the first two are pretty limited.  And I'm struggling to think of non-ability bonuses in the LBBs.  There are some percentile bonuses for the evasion rules, and bonuses from magic, but I don't remember seeing any codified bonuses or penalties for combat situations (attack from behind, darkness penalties, etc.) Bonuses seem to be impromptu for the most part, and few and far between. … I think impromptu bonuses versus codified bonuses is just another example of the DIY vs. official support split in the way the game changed.  Just as in the past you played in the DM's world, you played in the DM's ideas about who had the advantage in a situation, so you got a +/- 1 or 2 as the DM saw fit, and really not much else.  But that changed to playing in an official setting, with official rules, and thus the DM becomes not someone with a good idea, but someone willing to be tricked into mastering all the minutiae of both the setting and the rules.

 Referring to using the AD&D monster manual with it’s added statistics and monster details in an OD&D game Dave Arneson wrote, “As I have said many times before. Work with what works for you. But be very aware that this adds complications and draws you and your players away from the real treasure, THE STORY.”

% in Lair

Author: DHBoggs / Labels: , ,

The first book of gaming goodness that I ever owned, months before I ever played in a roleplaying game or really even knew what RPG meant, was the AD&D monster manual , 4th edition, which I have sitting on my lap now.
Many of the stats listed for the beasties seemed cryptic to my 11 year old brain, but perhaps none more so than % in Lair.
I think I, along with a great deal of other gamers  thought this little stat meant “How often the monster(s) is home”, and that seemed pretty useless considering the game was supposed (I thought) to revolve around detailed adventure modules in which the designer choose what room or other a particular monster was in.
% in Lair was thus safely ignored for 30 years.
And then I read this little bit in the FFC.For each encounter, consult the Encounter Matrix for the type of creature that lives at each spot…   The normal chances of the creature being in it's lair are worked out as they normally are. So if Encounter Six has a 30% chance of being found in it's lair, then that percentage is used and the number of creatures encountered will then be any number up to the total number present in the hex.  Again to avoid confusion, you may wish to take the maximum number of creatures that are listed on the Monster Matrix as representative of the population in the hex for each encounter, given a plus or minus 10% to keep the players on their toes.   For each time that the creatures are found in their lairs, there will be a chance that a portion of them are out in the countryside.  To determine this number, assume that 40% of the population is always in the camp and that up to 60% (10 - 6O%) are always outside of the camp.”

Wait, what?  Here Arneson is saying percent in lair is not a statistic telling us how often the monsters hang out in their lairs.  Arneson tells us that where several monsters exist in a lair, 40 – 90% of them will be found “in lair”.  hmmm.  Next I turned to my trusted MM in the hope of clarification and read:

“% in Lair indicates the chance of encountering the monster where it domiciles…..”


So % in lair, whatever else it might be, it indicates the chance that players have actually found a lair in a given hex, be it a dungeon, a castle, a thieves den, whatever.  It turns out to be a vital statistic for hexcrawling.

Gygax, in the MM goes on to indicate that it will also mean encountering the monster.   But he seems to be missing something here, the fact that not all monsters are singular and multiple type monster populations – bandits lets say, aren’t always all in the same place at the same time.  It would seem that % in Lair was one of Arnesons stats for hexcrawling that Gary may not have fully used or understood in the same way, leaving out the % not home part.  So when we turn to the FFC and read 40 – 90% of a given population may be out of lair when the lair is encountered – it becomes clear that the "in Lair" stats most important function, one very useful to the hexcrawl Referee, is telling what the likelihood of randomly finding a lair is, regardless of how many or who may be home.

For single creatures, it gets interesting. Dragons especially so.  The FFC, gives different chances of a dragon being in its lair depending on type and gender and it does so in two different and conflicting entries – one co authored with Richard Snider, the other, older d6/CHAINMAIL based material.  Arneson and Snider’s AiF  also gives a % chance a dragon is home that differs yet again.  None of these are anything like OD&D’s % in Lair stat for dragons.  So in the case of dragons, it’s easy enough to use one of Arneson’s stats for determining when various types of dragons are in their lair, and OD&D’s % in Lair for when the lair is found itself.

In summary, a % lair roll should be made after a positive encounter roll occurs when adventurers enter an area to see if they have stumbled on the lair or some wandering group outside their lair.  if it is a wandering group, it will be some portion of 10 – 60% (1-6 on a d6, split in half for each roll of 6) of the lair population.  

The Narrator

Author: DHBoggs / Labels:

A brief thought for this morning
What are role playing games?  They are collective stories told, usually with the aid of dice to randomize some results.
The players are the protagonists.
But I mean all the players, including the game master – as the voice of the setting they are a “character” of the world too.
The narrative structure of the story is the rulebook.
The question then is; do you prefer the narration to have a more overt, heavy handed presence?  Or would you prefer the narration to fade, usually unseen, buried into the background of the story? 
That’s the experiential difference between rules light and rules robust gaming.

Random Humans and Their Lairs

Author: DHBoggs / Labels: , ,

In the D&D Draft it tells us this. “Castles: Castles can be specified on the map, or may appear much like wandering monsters, …".

Two of the entries in the random Humans table for CoZ  ought to be immediately familiar to OD&D players: Bandits and Nomads.  The “monster descriptions” haven’t been published yet so you’ll just have to take my word at the moment for what is there. 

The Nomad entry incorporates Buccaneers and dervishes (as raiders) in addition to the new label of Drifter, and the Bandit entry has a sub category of rebels.  These granularities allow for different circumstances.  Even so, all of these are built off their familiar FFC/3lbb counterparts and are pretty standard fare.

But there are two other human encounters listed in the CoZ table that aren’t easily found in the traditional monster manual.   First, lets look at “angry mob”.  Angry mob is none other than the quirky “angry villager rule” of OD&D.  In OD&D, encounters with angry villagers of near unstoppable frenzy are suggested as a method for punishing unruly players.  Rather than have it come up never or only at the whim of a capricious DM, I thought it made most sense to allow angry villagers as a possible random encounter.  Arnesons version in his manuscript expands a bit on what is already in the 3lBBs in terms of their ferocity and resilience and I weave that into CoZ.

The next possible encounter is that of Retainers – that is to say, armed courtiers of some lord or leader of some kind, who may or may not be present.

You won’t find “retainers” in the OD&D monster lists; but then again you will find plenty about them in the Underworld and Wilderness section on Castles.  Retainers, as presented in the CoZ “monster” description are modeled on the rather extensive rules for randomly generating castle inhabitants.  The “inhabitants” are the retainers.

Why would I turn “castle inhabitants” into a wandering monster?

 Immediately after you generate your monster for the Hex, you generate its lair.  It is therefore entirely possible to generate a group of retainers (or bandits, or an angry mob) who live in or have occupied a castle, a cave, or some other structure.

So, by incorporating both angry mob and retainers in the lists, Champions of ZED takes two of the more quirky and interesting encounter types in OD&D and seamlessly embeds them into the map generation rules in a way that allows a great deal of variety in how they might actually play out.

Next, a closer look at lairs and the ideas behind them.

The Somewhat Random Board

Author: DHBoggs / Labels: , ,

Here’s one of the secrets of 3lBB OD&D – it’s a game of poker, not a game of chess.
In Chess, the board is set a certain way every time, in poker the hand you are dealt is random.
Empire of the Petal Throne pioneered the “chess” route for game worlds, but in 1974, EPT and complex top down worlds were not what was on Gygax and Arnesons mind.  D&D was designed around the idea of deal the out the cards and let the chips fall where they may. 
Dice and randomizers were being used in wargames to determine hits and so forth, but OD&D went an order of magnitude further by encouraging players to let the dice randomly generate the whole world, and the encounters in it. 
Dice rule CoZ.
And so, adventures start with a map.
A blank map
From there the fates take over.
But of course, the fates help those who help their elf. The idea behind these tables isn't to push a button and have the whole campaign world spread out before you, but to create opportunities for decsions about the world within the general guidlines desired, while still leaving a good bit up to chance and mystery and allowing for organic growth as the campaign unfolds.   One tricky bit when translating those OD&D tables into something broadly useable, and this is doubly true of Arnesons FFC tables, is that the assumption throughout is that you will be recreating a fantasy northern Europe.  To be sure, that assumption is not always the case, mention is made of Mars for example, but the default always seems to be oak forest and wheat fields under a cloudy sky.
So in recreating the tables I made a deliberate effort to make sure there was flexibility there.  The first tables talk about choosing a biome, making it clear, from the get go (I hope) that you can generate your map in whatever kind of world you want to, or if you really want to, you can let the dice pick that for you too.
Another thing I felt was needed was an elevation table.  OD&D & FFC tables just call for hills or canyons.
Dave Arneson’s detailed instructions for drawing your own fantasy map are what inform the bulk of  the first two sections, including the tables for population centers. (FFC 80:25-27)
Creature Encounters, section 3, then draws more from the 3LBBs.  The first table, both in D&D’s Underworld and Wilderness Adventure and Champions of Zed is broad and generic and based a category of creature you might find in a given terrain.  Coz then  recognizes that the individual tables rolled on need to be specific to the campaign world and designed by the referee just as the 3LBB’s give examples of creatures in a Martian campaign.
Although Coz strongly encourages the making of custom encounter tables examples are given  with lists of creatures that will be found in the monster manual.  Of these the Humans table is likely the most interesting, and I’ll talk more about that in another post.

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Game Archaeologist/Anthropologist, Scholar, Historic Preservation Analyst, and a rural American father of three.
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