Thursday, January 26, 2012

How Much (Precisely) Is Your Life Worth in D&D?

The concept of money in D&D has always fascinated me.  Our adventurers seem like very poor investors and planners.  They go out, risk life and limb in pursuit of coin and glory, and then blow it all on ale and whores! 

Or at least that’s what we’d like to think.  But in the campaign that I play in (not the one I’m DM’ing), it seems like our characters are always walking around broke not due to partying, but due to the high cost of paying for clerical spells!  That’s not nearly as fun as carousing!  Case in point:  We have a party of four PCs who are, on average, about 2nd to 3rd level.  We had built up a sizable war chest of about 11,000 gold pieces as a party, partially because we lucked upon a 5,000 GP gemstone!

My halfling, Priggle Bottomsworth, was already making plans for how to customize his little hobbit hole with his share of the loot and pay for an elaborate little hobbit wedding down the road.  In short, he was planning for his future – as sensible people do.

But alas, life- or should I say death - got in the way!  One of our adventuring party was ambushed by some Trogs and hacked into little pieces.  He was Ahkhir the Elf.  At the time he had 3,850 XP – which means that he was 150 XP short of the 4,000 XP needed to finally hit 2nd level.  Adam (his player) was seriously miffed at being so close to finally leveling then dying.

But we took the body back to town.  And in B/X, Elves can be raised (unlike AD&D).  So we went to the local Lawful temple and inquired how much it would be to raise him.  Our jaws hit the floor when we were told 8,750 GP!  I immediately said “sorry Adam, life’s a bitch.  It sucks.  But no way should we pay 8,750 GP for an almost-2nd level Elf to be raised!”  To his credit, Adam was cool about it.  But I could tell he was bummed, so we finally made some negotiations about who would get the next magic item and we agreed to raise him.  His PC actually paid more than the other PC’s, so it seemed reasonable.

But it got me thinking.  How much is a PC worth?  And so I came up with a formula.  Basically, nobody gets Raised, Cured of Curse, or Cured of Diseases unless the following formula comes up higher than zero:

“Current XP of PC” minus “Cost of Clerical Spell”

So this means if it costs 8,750 GP to raise someone, we shouldn’t raise them unless they have that many XP.  If it costs 3,150 GP to remove a curse, we shouldn’t pay for it until the PC has earned 3,150 XP and therefore proven his worth and survivability.  If he is cursed and only has 2,000 XP then he will have to deal with it and fight and scrape until he hits 3,150 XP.  Then he is “worth it.”



  1. Too metagaming. The characters are the ones paying for a resurrection. Unless you have a very unusual game going, PCs don't know their XP. This should be a roleplaying decision. Do the PCs like this guy that much?

    1. Never thought of it like that. I definitely wouldn't want to be metagaming in my d&d game.

  2. That's a fair comment. I'm suggesting the formula as an objective proxy for "how good is this guy? How much do we like him?" But if you are opposed to any form of metagaming, this may not be for you. Thanks for commenting!

  3. conversely, especially in a game where GP are themselves worth XP, you suffer the condition ('death' might be a negative level that you can't shake) until you gain that much XP. Whether you use that as a measure of how much time it takes to recover and you still get the XP, or the XP goes entirely to paying off your karmic debt (which limits your level advancement for a time) is a matter of taste.

  4. Interesting points, Keith. I like that whole negative XP or karmic debt concept.

    @ 123 & Taker: I'm normally not a fan of metagaming, so if my post is implying that then I'm not communicating it well. This whole post started with me trying to think of a way we can decide who is "save worthy." This metagaming aspect hadn't crossed my mind.