Saturday, November 13, 2010

Another Overlooked Rule

Here's another rule from the LBBs I overlook. In my defense, it's probably because it's unclear exactly what it means:
Player/Characters must pay Gold Pieces equal to 1% their experience points for support and upkeep, until such time as they build a stronghold. If the stronghold is in a wilderness area all support and upkeep costs then cease, but if it is in a village or town not controlled by the player/character then support and upkeep must continue.
As a principle, I like the idea of "encouraging" characters to settle down and establish a stronghold in the wilderness. Unfortunately, this section of Volume 3 is unclear. How often must a character pay these costs? Once per month? Once per year? Likewise, is it all characters, from level 1 on up or only characters of a certain level or higher? I presume the former, but the text is silent on this point.

Regardless, it's a rule I haven't been applying in my current Dwimmermount campaign and I doubt I will retroactively employ, but I'll certainly keep it in mind should I ever start a new OD&D campaign -- once I figure out exactly what the rule is saying, that is.


  1. Rather than try to suss out what was meant in 35-year old rulebooks, why not just decide what's right for your campaign? FOr example, on frequency, yearly seems too infrequent, monthly perhaps too often... How about seasonal? At each equinox and solstice, the city requires each person to pay 1% of their "worth."

    "If the stronghold is in a wilderness area all support and upkeep costs then cease, but if it is in a village or town not controlled by the player/character then support and upkeep must continue."

    There are some interesting assumptions behind this. A rural castle costs nothing to support? Or is it that fiefdom provides all that's needed for upkeep? (Peasant revolt!) An a strongpoint in a city (like a family's mansion in an Italian city-state) costs as normal? Are these taxes to the city's rulers?

    Interesting stuff.

  2. I take that to be "as earned." When you get 100 xp, you owe 1 GP. Thereafter there's no periodic renewal fee on that XP.

  3. A newbie character with 0 XP will have 0 upkeep costs, and presumably will have to pay for food and lodging on a pay-as-you-go basis (or camp out and hunt in the wilderness.) Let's assume that this is more expensive than automatic upkeep costs, since otherwise no one would want to use automatic upkeep otherwise.

    At 100 XP, the character now pays upkeep costs of 1 GP. So: what do you feel 1 GP will buy, in terms of minimal food and lodging at a discount? I figure 1 GP/year is way too low a figure, even for a corner of someone's house and a crust of bread every day. So, I figure it's 1 GP/month, but it could be 1 GP/week, if you think that's appropriate. My feeling is, it depends on how you feel about such costs in your campaign.

  4. It looks to me like it was written as a once-per level tax.

  5. In reading through manuals I've used for years, I'm finding there were several mechanics built in to take wealth out of the game, more than likely to keep the acquisition of wealth a feasible plot hook for all level of characters.

  6. I am in the camp that reads it as "every time you earn another 100xp, you mark off a gold piece." While it does sound like a pittance, I don't think it's necessarily supposed to have been anything but a pittance.

    Nothing stops an individual DM from charging a larger or more frequent upkeep, of course.

  7. My initial take was the same as Joshua's.

    It's like tithing to the Church so God doesn't smite you.

  8. Yeah, I'd go with the 'as earned' concept fot the upkeep costs. Every time the XP goes up, some more is taken out. I think I kinda like this rule...lots of little miscellaneous stuff like, hey, how 'bout storage space for all the crap they have but can't carry on an adventure with them - things PCs would be paying for that would automatically be taken care of if they had their own stronghold. I think Anthony is on the money about the rural fiefdom providing all the necessities while of course the costs would continue if the stronghold was in someone else's domain.

  9. I believe the cost is applied monthly, in exactly the same manner that "support and upkeep" costs are paid for troops. (Book 3 pg 23)

    And yes, it does mean that it takes a lot of gold to support the lifestyle of a high level character. But it also means you don't have to track generic room/meal costs. You could also elect to spend more and live as a high level character (and thus status) character, or be cheap and live as a low level character (but then have people react to you as if you were the level you were spending upkeep on).

    I assume that the construction of a stronghold is automatically associated with the creation of an appropriate "manor" that supports the character. Although I'd be more flexible with positioning of the stronghold. For example a cleric building a cathedral (what I would consider a type of clerical stronghold) would gain support in the city, but not in the wilderness. Although you could create a monastery or chapter house in the wilderness.

    This leads to other possibilities. For example, a fighter could create a mercenary company as their stronghold (although it is likely that it would have one or more physical bases, the actual income comes from service).

    Remember that much of OD&D was entwined with the idea of wargaming campaigns, rather than roleplaying. So the acquisition and development of a stronghold (and troops) was an important part of the game. As was developing the "wilderness" (it was generally assumed that players were operating on the frontier, rather than inside an already settled area [which was conveniently "just off map").

  10. I always assumed it was Arneson who installed that rule because it was his belief that all adventurers are of the high living type and no matter how conservatively you try to play your character YOU WILL frivolously spend your money on wine, women, and song.

    I really like Arneson's experience point gain system discussed in The First Fantasy Campaign and if I ever start an OD&D campaign then I'll supplement the upkeep costs with that rule. Instead of earning XP for finding money you earn it for spending money on

    A) Women
    B) Alcohol
    C) All the above for everyone else
    D) Keeping it (but you lose XP if someone steals it!!!)
    C) Donations with no expected return

    It ensures that people aren't always sitting on wealth like they do with later editions and it encourages people (especially clerics and paladins) to donate to worthy causes without feeling like it's forced ("I give 100gp because the rules say I give it").

  11. In the AD&D DMG, all duties, taxes, tariffs, tithes, etc are charged annually. If one didn't have proof of payment, the aforementioned fees could be charged again...and again...and again...

    But, as mentioned above, its up to the referee. Just how fair or greedy is the local government? What if taxes are increased during the year? BAM! Sudden Tax Day, pay or else! This would dictate the frequency.


  12. My first instinct is also to interpret it as monthly, similar to other expenses (R.P. mentions one above), and also the analogous PC expenses by month on DMG p. 25 (with Gygax explicitly mentioning that it's "justified by the 'fact' that adventurers are a free-wheeling and high-living lot", like Twitt touches on above).

    Secondarily I also considered the one-time-fee-on-XP idea, but that seems negligibly small to me. For the rule to motivate PCs to get out and adventure, it has to be a recurring cost, otherwise there'd be no downside to simply going inert.

  13. It could used to determine be the sum of money that the PC spends between two adventuring sessions. When I was mastering, I tried to make a chart for the monthly household expenses according to the (chosen) standard of life , but it makes sense that a more powerful PC has higher spending habits.

  14. Charge that 1% a month so you don't have to keep track of minor expenses like going to taverns and inns, stable fees and petty tolls. Part of this is also what it costs to keep weapons, armor and other equipment in good shape.
    If PCs don't cough up the funds dock them half the lack of funds in exp on the second month of non-payment. Equipment starts to break at inconvenient times too.

    Once they have an estate charge them the fee annually as they should be getting the remainder in revenue and labor out of the peasants on their land.

  15. I think a monthly charge makes the most sense, although if that month was spent actively adventuring I'd suspend the "cost of living" fee. The intention is clear: reduce the amount of piddly bookkeeping by assuming a set cost for things like food, lodging, and basic upkeep items like clothing and basic necessities.

    I do wonder about suspending the charge if the characters become petty lords. If anything, the cost of living goes up! You need to maintain your stronghold, pay your men-at-arms, donate to the church, pay for festivals to keep your peasants happy, and if you are part of a feudal system, be ready to entertain your liege lord at a moment's notice.

    Maybe it's the Ars Magica geek in me, but running a stronghold and its associated villages and support staff can be as much an adventure as slaying dragons.

  16. From a Dave Arneson source discussing the support and upkeep rule, we are tokd the following: "Costs in the Underworld are assesed on a weekly basis, but in the Upper Land the same cost applies on a monthly basis."

    Make of it what you will.

  17. I read the same as Jak, a once per level "tax"

  18. Taken at face value, the most parsimonious interpretation would be 1gp for every 100xp as it is earned. However, I seriously doubt that was the intent. In much of the LBBs, part of the ambiguity is clearly intended, but there is a lot of ambiguity that's obviously unintentional. The wording here fits the unintentional sort.

    I would expect the intent was that this support cost would be applied at the end of each 'adventure.' This is the most typical timespan for such things throughout the LBBs. Additionally, it would be applied not to the discrete amount earned during the adventure, but rather to the character's growing xp total.

    An integral part of a character's progress during playtesting was the accumulation of an ever-increasing retinue of hirelings and henchmen. The support and upkeep of this retinue would, of course, be the responsibility of the character, and would steadily become a considerable amount. One must not only keep themselves fed, clothed, kept in an inn, armour repaired, arrows replenished, etc., but must also do this for a growing body of followers.

    Therefore, it makes sense that this amount would begin quit small indeed, yet grow to astounding proportions over time.

    Also, it makes the best sense that these costs would disappear with the establishment of a stronghold, since one of the main requirements of a medieval fief is self-sufficiency plus profit, i.e. your stronghold and surrounding lands will generate their own income.

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  20. @gridlore:
    "I do wonder about suspending the charge if the characters become petty lords. If anything, the cost of living goes up!"
    Presumably, the income from an estate is net income, with the cost of maintaining the stronghold and infrastructure in the barony deducted. The LBBs specify that the baron can make investments over and above support costs, to increase the population or otherwise improve income.

  21. I have always charged a flat 100 GP per month per character level, as recommended in the 1st edition DMG. This covers normal taxes, room and board, and the replacement of piddling equipment like arrows and torches between adventures. Anything else (including tithes) must be paid in addition to these "monthly expenses."

  22. As far as this particular rule goes, I agree with this interpretation:

    "I'd go with the 'as earned' concept fot the upkeep costs. Every time the XP goes up, some more is taken out."

    A one time charge as XP is earned, on top of whatever else the PC is spending.

  23. I'd agree with those who suggest using the same support guidelines found elsewhere: Charge once a month.

  24. Thanks. I had been wondering about the frequency of payments myself. I had assumed that upkeep was paid on a recurring basis, but, as migellito says, pay-as-earned is appealing as the most parsimonious interpretation.

  25. Count me in with the once-a-month crowd. If they don't pay? Dock them the XP they didn't pay for. Upkeep not only pays the bills, but it's assumed that the character needs to spend an increasing amount of time and money to keep their skills and wits sharp. Much like professional athletes or academics, adventurers need to train harder to maintain an increased skill level. Sure, when you're fresh off the farm, you just need to do your daily calisthenics and maybe spar with one of your buddies every day to stay in shape. But a Superhero who is worth 10 men in a fight? They're out running obstacle courses with hazards that shoot fire, sparring with 5 seasoned veterans who earn a bonus if they hurt him, paying someone to keep their weapons and armor in top shape, and seeking out swordmasters to teach them the secrets of a nearly-forgotten fighting style.