Friday, December 3, 2010

Short Changed...again

A couple of weeks ago I had an unusual experience in a Pathfinder game...

The DM started off our gaming session by telling us that he should have been giving us more treasure throughout our adventures and he wanted to "reward" us by having the God of Good Fortune and Winning Lotto Tickets grant us extra treasure to bring us up to what we should have for our levels.

His basis for this was on page 399 of the Pathfinder Core Rulebook. Table 12-4: Character Wealth by Level. After reading through the "rules" for this, it's clear that its a guideline for starting character's that are above 1st level so they have equipment that will give them the best chance of survival against encounters of that level.

Next to Table 12-4 is, not surprisingly, Table 12-5: Treasure Values per Encounter which shows the approximate value of the treasure that a party should get from an encounter based on how fast the party is advancing (i.e. Slow, Medium or Fast).

I understand the need for balance in a game, but it seems to categorize characters in terms of wealth. I always saw character's in a game in sort of their own little bubble in their own little world. Whatever they managed to kill, borrow or steal was theirs to do with as they pleased and if they managed to collect a fortune, then more power to them. If not, they're just not slaughtering enough helpless creatures. If a new character jumps into their world, you made assumptions as to how much carnage that person managed to inflict on the kobold population up to that point.

I don't want to say my DM was wrong for what he did, but he looked forward into the modules he was running and realized we were very ill-equipped to handle what was coming down the pike. I can't really put my finger on what the problem is, but it doesn't "feel" right that a party should have to have a certain level of magic items by a certain level or they're in deep trouble. Granted, a party of 1st level character's aren't gonna stroll into Lolth's boudoir and slap her around without having their collective ass handed to them, but should the difference in surviving a 7th-9th level adventure come down to that extra 10,000 gp worth of equipment?


  1. You just hit upon the snags of Wealth By Level, and why it's so incredibly dumb. Unfortunately, it's a D&D sacred cow, starting with monsters that can only be hurt by magic weapons and now ending with everybody needing magic bling to keep from falling off the game's mathematical scale in a bad way.

  2. I must respectfully disagree with Wyatt, the chart is simply a guideline. None of the campaigns I have been in or run have tried to measure and match what the characters have acquired to the wealth by level charts. Most would, I suspect, be under the WbL curve but it is really not important.

  3. Wyatt does have a good point about a LOT monsters of a certain level having very high resistances requiring magic weapons and bling to even be effective against them. This can cause a DM fits if he runs low-magic campaigns or isn't paying close enough attention to what the party is equipped with and doesn't read far enough ahead. He can wind up with an encounter that the party can't handle due to the fact that they don't have the right ITEMS. A character should be able to rely on his abilities and tactics to get himself by and have equipment to augment that.

    But I do also agree with you that it is merely a guideline.

  4. I agree that the table is a guideline as opposed to a hard and fast rule. Your DM adjusted the PCs based on the upcomming encounters in the adventure. He could have decided to adjust the upcomming encounters based on the relative power of the PCs. Maybe it was easier for him to let the PCs go shopping for new gear than it was to read, review, and revise every monster.
    I tend to prefer adjusting the encounters as opposed to ret-conning the PCs. It really just comes down to DM choice.
    Many see it as a flaw in the system, that the PCs NEED certain items to fight certain monsters. I say, "do the PCs NEED to fight those monsters?" I knew a player who insisted that his character HAD TO HAVE twenty +3 holy crossbow bolts to fight rakshasas. We NEVER encountered rakshasas.
    If a particular range of magic item that the party doesn't have is required to fight a monster, the DM should pick a different monster. The encounters in pre-printed adventures aren't written in stone.

    Maybe it doesn't feel organic to you to beef up your character this way, but count yourself lucky that your DM thinks this far in advance and didn't make this adjustment AFTER a TPK or two.


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