3. Money and Equipment
There is a lot under this heading that a GM should consider. It’s not as easy an affair as just having the characters spend the money they have earned the hard way (by work) or the easy way (i.e. loot).
Money has always been a motivation for people, both in real life and in the game world. But it should never be the sole incentive. For one thing, it reduces the PCs to money-grabbing simpletons – always predictable, never quite enjoyable -, for another, it takes away much of the sense of adventure and nobility that fuels a good story.
Do you care to watch a movie where every single person is out for money and lets nothing else interfere? Oh, yes, you can probably point to a few that have been very enjoyable, but they are the exception and usually get away with it because of incredible effects and showstoppers that are more memorable than the characters (or any potentially existing storyline).
Most movies rely on more noble goals, such as the rescue of a hostage, for instance. And should the characters go into an adventure purportedly for money only, there are always character incentives. A male member of the group wants to impress a female, and that motivation is likely to override his greed. Or the classic hidden agenda; a character has a secret reason for taking part in a mission.
It just takes away from the characters and the adventure, if the PCs always consider financial rewards and little else. A priest who is asked to do a service for his god shouldn’t ask what’s in it for himself. A noble knight shouldn’t ask for the exact reward before riding out to rescue the princess from the evil dragon.
The GM should keep an eye on the finances of the characters. They shouldn’t run out of money, or resupplies become terribly difficult. (Let’s remember that we’re dealing with noble characters most of the time who can’t just steal what they need. Unless they are thieves, and even then the thieves’ companions will question the origins of the goods.) Of course spending money is the sole province of the players, and if the players like to waste their money every chance they get – well, then a good game master should let them suffer for their wanton spending.
On the other hand, there are several ways how a GM can control the party’s income. She might introduce the players to adventures where there is no or little money to be won; that way, the main focus is on the adventure at hand. The players can enjoy being the noble heroes who do not require any payment from the poor peasants who hire them. (Yes, if any players should be reading this, I can hear your teeth gnashing and your gold-happy fingers itching. But, then again, you shouldn’t be reading this Game Master’s Guide in the first place, now should you?)
Other adventures provide more in the way of income. The adventure might be a regular treasure hunt, with a great, financial reward at the end. (The reward doesn’t have to be financial itself, but it could be gemstones or works of art that can easily be sold at good profit.) Especially dungeons and lost ruins are splendid locations for this, and are available to beginning players. Later on, when the characters have sufficiently advanced that the old ruin down the corner is a boring waste of time which only yields a couple of thousand gold coins (a fortune for the beginner, and pretty much anyone else on Gushémal!), then the GM can choose to unpack the bigger guns: lost dwarven kingdoms, leading a rebellion that will open the national treasure, and so on.
Sometimes it can happen that the players accumulate money – but have no idea on how to spend it. Their equipment list is complete, their weapons are at peak efficiency, and there seems to be no need to purchase anything else.
That is the point when the GM should suggest to the players to save up for a bigger investment. For instance, they might buy a house as a home base for themselves. There are numerous advantages to having a home base:
· There is always a place to store the goods safely. (The players should also invest in some sort of protection while they’re away on an adventure. That might be magical wards, or it might be a squad of henchmen who guard the house.)
· The house can serve as a meeting place when the players split up during an adventure.
· It also serves as a place where other people can come to in order to place requests on the characters – and thus introduce them to new adventures.
· Enhancing the home base – i.e. the house – with new furniture, embellishing it can actually become a worthwhile experience for the players. It gives them a sense of achievement to come home to a veritable palace. (Remember the game Civilization II? One option of the game was to see the “throne room” which was enhanced whenever the player had achieved a certain point; and the development from the bare-bones cave to a palatial, luxurious room did give the player a great thrill.)
· The home base also allows the players to establish firm connections to NPCs, to ensconce themselves in the society of their chosen home. This offers countless opportunities for new adventures, but it also offers the chance to do some serious role-playing and to explore more mundane – but nonetheless fascinating – sides of their characters. Particularly with advanced players, this will doubtlessly become a point of attraction, and you as the GM should guide them towards it, no matter how strange it might seem at first.
For more ideas on how to use a home base, refer to the adventure module B1 “The Courier’s Oath” which suggests using the locale of Clearspring in the Wild Coast as a home base.
Other things to save up for are special magical items; or they might use the money to hire henchmen to do their bidding. Acquiring a small army of henchmen can surely make things easier for the characters – and allow you as the GM to throw them into far more dangerous situations than before. It opens up entirely new venues to explore in your stories.
Please, don’t try to push your players into that direction after only a few adventures. The time of a beginner should be savored – for remembering the humble times of starting out will make the grand times of the future all the more rewarding.
Encourage the players to establish a shared purse for the entire party. With these slush funds they can pay for shared purchases, such as food and drink at an inn (or the rooms for the night). These can also be used for paying a priest to heal a character, or to acquire special equipment for the group. The slush funds can also be used for special purchases, such as the house mentioned in the section above.
They are a good way of keeping your party operational, and they also allow the GM to run some extravagant adventures.
For the slush funds, remember that every character maintains his own fortune. From the money he earns (or “acquires” in some other fashion), he can freely choose what to deposit into the slush funds. If a player hesitates about doing so, remind them gently that it is for her own good, since she will want to access the party funds as well.
It’s very important that the party be well and aptly equipped for an adventure. You as the GM obviously know best what will be needed, whereas the characters have to guess at their needs.
Sometimes it is quite obvious what the requirements are: If the adventure consists of crawling through a dungeon, torches or lanterns are a must-have. Sources of light are necessary in dark places, after all. In those cases, the players should know by themselves what is needed. But in other cases you ought to think ahead and drop a few hints at what is necessary. If you are about to send the party into an area where blade weapons are forbidden, you ought to mention that quarterstaffs (for instance) can be pretty good weapons sometimes.
Never be too obvious about this. It takes away from the players’ enjoyment of the game if all the solutions are presented to them ready-made, and the players don’t need to think for themselves.
Nonetheless your involvement is often needed.
It is important that you give the characters the opportunity to resupply. Some equipment can – and will – be used up during an adventure, such as the good old daily rations or the arrows of a bow. For things like this, you ought to insert places where the characters can renew their equipment.
On the other hand, not all equipment should be available at all places. Think about it for a moment here: Mundane items like arrows or knives are things that most people use, and therefore they are probably available at every hamlet the characters come to. Torches, ropes, and the like are also items that can be bought pretty much everywhere. (And some of these items can be made by the characters themselves as well, provided they have acquired the necessary skills.)
Special or magical items, though, are things that require particular knowledge and experience to fashion – your average peasant quite certainly won’t be able to brew a healing potion. Accordingly, those items will only be available at some places.
Don’t forget that the more advanced weapons certainly belong to this category! Your average blacksmith knows how to forge a new horseshoe, but fashioning a well balanced long sword is quite probably out of his league. By that token, a character who prefers exotic weapons should have quite a few troubles when he loses his weapons – finding a new one will prove very difficult indeed.
You also need to keep the needs of your party in mind. Let’s say that some of the characters have been seriously injured, but the party does not have a cleric who could heal them. Unfortunately, none of the villages around has a temple, and neither can a priest be found to heal the characters directly nor can a healing potion be bought anywhere. (There can be very good reasons for designing an environment like this.)
But you as the GM know that there are some very serious challenges ahead, and the characters need to regain some of their efficiency. Therefore you ought to introduce some method of acquiring healing potions, probably at a much higher price than usual. The party might meet a peddler who hawks his wares – including the desired potions – and, knowing the scarcity of these items, demands extraordinary prices.