Friday, January 22, 2010

Gold: Lifeblood of the Underworld

Why Adventurers seek it, Dragons hoard it and Goblins idolize it.

Gold is woven into the very fabric of the fantasy role-playing campaign, often being the catalyst for adventure. Characters pursue gold because it is a means to an end for their goals, providing experience and wealth in order to realize greater power within the framework of the campaign world. Gold is, after all, power.

Adventuring characters gain experience through the wealth they extract from the underworld. As detailed in The First Fantasy Campaign by Dave Arneson, adventurers in the initial version of what was to become D&D were required to spend their plundered gold pursuing certain motivations in order to gain experience from it.

Gold allows experienced adventurers to bring order to the wilderness on the surface through the construction of strongholds. The forces of Law desire the plundering of gold from the clutches of Chaos in the underworld that they might spread the will of man across the land.

To further their own cause and maintain their grasp in the fantasy campaign, Chaos must oppose these efforts. He who has the gold makes the rules in a manner of speaking.

The underworld itself relies on gold, its presence attracts and emboldens monsters while luring adventurers into the unexplored reaches below. The absence of gold can lead to a dungeon's dormancy or perhaps eventual abandonment. Gold is the lifeblood of the underworld.

With the assumption that gold is more then mere currency, allow certain monsters in the fantasy campaign to become more powerful based on the amount of gold they are able to amass or otherwise keep hidden within the underworld. The underworld will often reward their efforts much in the manner that adventurers are rewarded for capturing and spending gold.

Goblin Hordes: Keeping the Lifeblood flowing

At the far end of the gold/underworld spectrum are the lowly Goblins. Being an abomination of fae-blood and spawned from the very Chaos of the underworld, Goblins find themselves attuned to gold in a manner not shared by most beings. It is their duty to keep this lifeblood of the underworld flowing, and they do so in a number of ways. Goblins place gold above all other motivations because it is one of the surest means of survival in the dark pits they call home.

Nocturnal surface raids, kidnappings and general Goblin mayhem assure that gold is always entering their world from the surface, robbing the forces of Law even if in but a small manner. Following this flow of gold are adventurers who seek to reclaim that which the Goblins have absconded with from above. The forces below value the activities of the Goblins in luring over-dwellers to their demise, and appreciate the fealty often paid to them by these dungeon underlings.

Goblins garner the benefits of gold as a collective, not individually. A typical Goblin community, or tribe for lack of a better word, consists of 40-400 Goblins as well as a King with 5-30 Guards. The King and Guards form the unit which gains a rudimentary type of experience, while the standard Goblins enjoy greater numbers and more powerful leadership.

Goblins do not earn any benefits from simply hoarding gold; removing it from circulation is how they are able to benefit from gold. Here are some possible methods through which Goblins may gain experience from plundered gold:

Goblin Gold Disposal Methods
Bury/Hide: The intent was to use it later but it is forgotten. Map optional.
Sacrifice: In pagan worship, dropped into a mindless monstrosity's lair or deep hole.
Recast: Typically into pagan idols, sometimes into nose-cleaners and the like.
Distribute: As long as the gold goes deeper into the dungeon, either as fealty, payment or tribute, and falls into the clutches of something more capable of guarding it.

Goblin tribes do not begin to gain experience until they have established a lair, with King and Guards, and subsequently disposed of 8,000 gold. At that time the King and Guards will continue to accrue experience. Individual Goblin Kings and Guards will be replaced if they perish, with no penalty, but if the entire royal court is slain the tribe loses all of its accumulated experience.

Goblin Hordes increase in membership while the King and Guards become more powerful based upon an accumulation of experience earned through gold disposal. These scores are tracked in increments called Goblin Horde Ranks, detailed below.

Goblin Horde Ranks
I – 8K: +25 Goblins, +1 Guard, K&G: AC 5, HD 1+1, SA: Max hits.
II – 16K: +50 Goblins, +2 Guard, K&G: AC 5, HD 2, SA: RT Saves.
III – 32K: +75 Goblins, +3 Guards, K&G: AC 4, HD 2+1, SA: RT To Hit.
IV – 64K: +100 Goblins, +4 Guards, K&G: AC 4, HD 3, SA: RT Damage.
V – 128K: +125 Goblins, +5 Guards, K&G: AC 3, HD 3+1, SA: Lucky.
VI – 256K+: +150 Goblins, +6 Guards, K&G: AC 3, HD 4, SA: Two Lives.

K&G: Stats for the King and Guards. King and Guards all possess Move 9 and +1 Morale, regardless of Rank. The Special Ability (SA) is only learned by the King himself, and all six are cumulative.

King Special Abilities: RT (Roll Twice, using the higher result), Lucky (King can Save vs Death to avoid a killing blow), Two Lives (King will spring from the dead once, fully healed).

Gains in tribe members are cumulative across the periods of growth. For example, a tribe at Horde Size IV would have gained 250 Goblins and 10 Guards, its King and Guards would fight with an increased level of expertise (AC 4 and HD 3).

Keep in mind that the King and Guards will often make use of any magic items found or captured if at all possible. Optionally, if gold disposal is focused in the methods of Sacrifice and Recasting into pagan idols a tribe might also realize members with shamanistic or anti-cleric abilities. These Shamans can replace Guards, or complement them.

Dragon Hoards: Establishing Hearts of Adventure

While Goblins keep the Lifeblood flowing, Dragons and potentially other powerful underworld denizens benefit from the hoards of gold they are able to establish and protect. These hoards create hubs of power, or hearts of adventure. Fed by the flow of gold above and around them, these hearts increase in size through a steady influx of wealth.

Dragons long ago learned the importance of gold, the mythical element. By hoarding wealth Dragons were able to realize greater power while preventing the growth of Law. While Dragons may take a stance of Chaos or Neutrality, and even Law in the case of Gold Dragons, they are normally opposed to the spread of civilized man as his influence sweeps across their ancestral lands. Given the ferocity and cunning of many dragons it is only natural that they are often able to collect vast amounts of gold. This then is the motivation for Dragons, by hoarding gold they gain a limited form of experience which impacts their existence in the fantasy campaign.

Dragons establish a proper Hoard much in the way characters build a stronghold; by gaining experience and using wealth. In the case of the Dragon, experience of this sort is a measure of surviving to the very old age of 100 years. The Dragon may have been accumulating wealth in its younger days, but the proper establishment of a Hoard requires a suitable lair, boasting 70,000 gold or more, and the aforementioned age requirement. Once the proper Hoard is established and cultivated the Dragon will begin to acquire greater power while attracting followers.

Dragon Hoard Ranks use a total gold equivalent value which includes copper, silver, gold, gems and jewels. The collection and massing of this wealth is measured in the increments detailed below:

Dragon Hoard Ranks
I – 70K: Followers: 30 HD. Growth: Maximum HD if not already very large.
II - 140K: Followers: 60 HD. Toughness: 7 hp/HD.
III - 210K: Followers: 120 HD. Prowess: Bite deals double damage.
IV - 280K: Followers: 180 HD. Resilience: +2 on all saves.
V - 350K: Followers: 240 HD. Fearsome Breath: penalizes saves by 3.
VI - 420K+: Followers: 300 HD. Long-winded: able to breathe 4 times per day.

Dragons surviving the loss of their Hoard will not lose their special abilities immediately but may stand a chance to watch their followers abandon them. Hoard-less Dragons so pilfered of their wealth will do everything within their power to reclaim their gold and riches. Such Hoard-less Dragons will begin to watch their experience-earned power wane over time. Subdued Dragons on the other hand will lose their special abilities once their wealth is captured and they are removed from the underworld.

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The above Horde and Hoard benefits are just basic ideas; there's certainly much more that can be dreamed up to flesh out this concept of the gold/underworld system and the advantages earned by the monsters propagating it.

Just a little something I've been bashing about and I thought I'd share for your enjoyment on a rainy Friday.

~Sham, Quixotic Referee