Friday, September 26, 2008

What I Learned at the Orgy

About two weeks ago I was rhapsodizing on the old D&D rule that awarded experience points for treasure recovered during a dungeon expedition. After rationalizing the reasons behind this rule, I’m just about completely convinced to resurrect it for use in the “unnamed dungeon crawl” that I’ve been working on. Still, I wanted to poke around and see what other variants and/or systems might exist to supplement or countermand my decision.

It was in issue #10 of The Dragon that I discovered an unfortunately titled article “D&D Option: Orgies, Inc.” by Jon Pickens. I had read the article in the past, going so far as to have it bookmarked in my copy of the Dragon Magazine Archive under “Sad, Sad D&D.” Not being one to keep my mind completely shut, I gave it another run-through. And this time, I was inspired rather than depressed.

To sum up the article, it presents a variant experience point system wherein the players gain experience points through the spending of money and treasure, rather than winning it. This was presented as a viable system for DMs who had grown tired of their players having characters with vast bankrolls, but were worn out from trying to fleece/con/rob/tax those characters back into poverty. It puts the burden of blowing through cash on the player.

The base math is that a character earns (number of gold pieces/character level) experience points for spending wealth on one or more of five acceptable endeavors. Thus a 5th level fighter who spends 1,000 g.p. would accrue 200 x.p., provided it was spent on one of the five listed activities.

The five activities/causes named in the article are:
  1. Sacrifice: Available to any character, this money is basically donated to their personal church, temple, cult, or demonic representative. The DM is give the option of awarding a wish to any character who donates 100 g.p x level to their local religious institution. Tithes by paladins were included under this heading.

  2. Philanthropically Donated: Any Lawful (read "good") character could donate money to orphans, widows, retired soldier, etc. and gain the x.p. for doing so. Buying your henchmen better armor was not considered philanthropy.

  3. Magical Research: M-Us and Alchemists could indulge in research during downtime to whittle away at their purses. These experiments would have no real “in-game” effect, but would allow the character to trade gold for x.p. At higher levels, money spent on spell research was included under this activity, but not money spent to manufacture magical items.

  4. Clan Hoards: For Dwarves and other “clannish” folks (Neutrals are suggested). Basically you fork over the dough to your home warren, tribe, shire, etc. and reap the benefits of cash for experience. Like most of these activities, no “in-game” benefit is gained by doing so.
  5. Orgies: Available to Fighting Men (not counting paladins and rangers), Thieves, Bards and Chaotics (read "evil" - but not including monks.) Characters were limited to spending no more than 500 g.p. per level, per day at the orgy – 250 g.p. per day if at 50% of their hit points or less – and had the risk of reducing any psionic powers possessed by the character.
Looking back on this article now, almost 31 years after its initial publication, I’m not sure how to classify it. Is this another example of the wild and woolly early days of the hobby or is it an artifact from the swinging 1970s? Maybe a bit of both?

In any case, it certainly doesn’t meet my needs as a variant experience point system. Despite its old-school pedigree, it just doesn’t jive with my take on treasure-based experience points as a method of measuring qualitative character achievement.

However, I’d use a modified version of this variant at the drop of a dancing girl’s veil in a certain situation.

I could see this being an amazing house rule in a city-based campaign, especially one that involved a large percentage of fighters and thieves in the party. If I was shooting for a real “Conan” or “Fahfrd and the Gray Mouser” type of pulp fantasy feel, this rule would help drive that mood straight home. In fact, I’d open the floodgates on what treasure could be spent on. Luxurious inn rooms, rented villas, processions of musicians accompanying the characters on the streets, dancing girls (hell, dancing BEARS), 1,000 year old elven brandies- provided they were used to bath in, lavish weeklong parties thrown for fair-weather friends and hangers-on, etc. would all be worth experience points. I could picture the players concocting spending sprees that would put the those of Brewster’s Millions to shame. In the end, they’d be broke, a level higher, and itching to risk their lives for another grand haul, if only to watch it slip through their hands yet again.

Yes. I think there’s some value here after all. Just not for what I have in mind at the moment.

In the coming weeks, I hope to touch on this topic of treasure = experience points one more time. I’ve got one last point of discussion I need to explore, going back to the initial premise of why treasure awards experience, in a post entitled “He Do the Police in Different Voices.”

2 comments:

grodog said...

Great concept, and wonderful Trampier artwork, to boot!

Allan.

Amityville Mike said...

The Tramp piece actually accompanied that article. There was no way I could talk about the article without including the Trampier artwork as well.