Thursday, March 4, 2021


Since today is "GM Appreciation Day" (I'm not sure I knew that was a thing), let me first take a moment to thank all the GMs and DMs I've had over the years:

Jocelyn (AD&D), Jason (MSH and DragonRaid), Scott (AMSH, Battletech, ShadowRun), Rob (Traveller), AB (Toon), Ben (Heroes Unlimited, Robotech, Stormbringer), Joel (Mage, Ars Magica, Star Wars), James (AD&D2), Kris (DND3), Emerald City Gamers (various; mostly Risus), Pat (B/X), Alexis (AD&D), Luke (Savage Worlds, DCC, DND5), Randy (B/X), GusL (OD&D), and the numerous Convention GMs I've had over the years whose names I simply can't remember at the moment...

Thank you all. It was great fun, almost always. Really.

[should probably also thank my children: Diego (B/X) and Sofia ("D&D Three," which is not 3rd edition but, rather, her own game)...they will get a special thanks in the form of lunch, which I'll be making for them shortly...]

Okay. Accolades given? Appreciation expressed? Good...back to business!

Reading over the text of the dungeon I posted yesterday, it's hard not to notice that a lot of the treasure is given in coins (gold coins, silver coins, etc.) AKA "The Most Boring Treasure Of All Time," as many of my blogger compatriots would say. 

And for the record, I'm of a similar opinion...often (as in the case of the kobold mis-adventure) the stocking of a dungeon is my opportunity to express some creativity, as I figure out interesting ways to arrive at the correct treasure numbers through a whole swath of non-standard goodies. So, Why O Why, then would I open myself to the sneering contempt of my peers? What would compel me to give a river troll 2,000 pieces of copper (i.e. "pennies")? Sheer laziness?!

Well maybe a bit...but it was purposeful as well. First off, I was dealing with a constricted medium (i.e. I was trying to be terse with my writing), and coins are certainly an easy way to shorten the text. But part of it also was an attempt to make things both easier AND harder for my players.

Coins, as I've noted before, make for extremely portable wealth: easy to use, easy to exchange for good and services. What's more, coins are easy to players, young as they are, are still learning just what is of value in the world. Things covered in gold or silver are pretty obvious, but furs and fabrics and antique woods and whatnot have been passed over and left behind by these kids more than once. As we're once again starting with 1st level characters, I want to make the loot collection as foolproof as possible...because the PCs are going to need it!

AD&D is such a different game from B/X (and other editions of D&D). Money is sooo important in the Advanced game; especially at low- to mid- levels, I am finding it is the driving force behind the campaign. After the PCs have secured magical goods and tools that cut down on resource consumption, things become easier, but one still needs treasure for the cash drain inherent in the AD&D system. 

It's funny because I remember players in my B/X campaign complaining about all the treasure I was handing out..."after all, there's nothing to spend it on." B/X, while a great introduction to the game of D&D requires a great deal of tinkering to make it anything other than a pale comparison of the Advanced game. And it's not just that plate armor costs 400 gold coins; everything worth having (save for magic items) costs money, including transportation, provisions, living expenses, training, and hirelings. And generally it costs more and those costs occur more often.

Hard-won treasure of the coin variety is, thus, much easier for the players than weird stuff they have to both A) identify as valuable, and B) pawn/convert to ready currency.

[on the other hand, all those coins that goblins and hobgoblins carry on their person? That goes right out the window in my campaign. Where were they going...the marketplace? Nope. They might like treasure, but they don't carry it around in a purse. Instead, taking a page from the DMG (page 92, bottom left column) those coins represent the total value of the goods a humanoid carries. That hobgoblin's 3-24 copper and 2-8 gold pieces? That's what you'd get if you stripped his body of everything valuable...the battered helmet, the boots, a rough-worked leather belt, the crudely made morning star, and the iron torc around his neck. You might wear his clothing as a disguise (if you can stand the smell), but no one's going to buy it for any great amount of money]

I would also add that, specific to this particular scenario, I was trying to think up things that would A) have stood the test of time, and B) not award TOO MUCH experience points. So while antique furniture covered in gold leaf (like what Carter found in Tut's tomb) might feel appropriate for the theme, it would probably add up too high, too fast. So no gold leaf, and most everything is rotten and desiccated...or simply wasn't left in the tomb! The guy wasn't an Egyptian pharaoh, after all...the coins (and his magic items) were the bulk of what he wanted to take to the afterlife to "set up shop."

The chest in the tomb
isn't nearly so sturdy.
Mainly, though...this is supposed to be an easy adventure for new characters. And it already poses its own challenges (hauling a hundred pounds of coins out of the place when the chest is rotten...let alone fighting trolls and crossing rickety bridges with easily broken jars of loot) without making it tougher than it is.

Plenty of time to ramp up the toughness should they survive.
; )


  1. Goodness, DragonRaid takes me back to the days of implanting Christianity into my fantasy setting... Still haven't gotten to play that one, though I'd imagine it could be rather fun with the right group.

    1. My friend Jason was one of my first players when I started running D&D (circa 1981). But a few months after we started his mom decided to become a "born again Christian" (along with her children) and he was no longer allowed to play D&D. She got him DragonRaid as a substitute and we played once or twice.

      A couple years back, I bought DragonRaid myself just to take a look at's still sold (by the same author/company). It's quite the box set.

  2. Wow. In all the years of reading your blog, I never imagined "pale comparison" being used by you to compare B/X to another version of anything. With that said...nice post!

    1. Ha! Yeah...I didn't quite grasp the irony till you just pointed it out.

      B/X is an AWESOME starting point and intro to the D&D game. As a discreet system, it makes an excellent "chassis" to build MANY types of fantasy adventure game (I've worked up close to half a dozen myself!).

      But it doesn't have the same DEPTH as the advanced game, and I'm not just talking "rule crunch." As written, it's great for light, fun adventuring, which is probably what most people 'round these parts of the blog-o-sphere want from D&D gaming (certainly it's what *I* wanted when I started back up again in 2009).

      Nowadays, I'm more interested in a greater depth of play...which is why I've taken on AD&D. Its system still has some rough edges, but it has a LOT of meat on its bones and for the most part the system is SOUND. Like, really, really sound.

  3. I'm just messing with you, and I hear what you're saying. I would definitely run an AD&D campaign if the opportunity presented itself, and I would welcome most of the additional components and depth. However, I feel (and I could be wrong here) that I would need a bit more player buy-in and commitment when it comes to players taking their own time to learn the system to fully get the most from play. I'm pretty sure my group would not want to invest that kind of time. Again, I could be wrong.

    1. Messing or not, it was a valid point...there’s a reason I call this blog “B/X” Blackrazor!

      My players are ages 10 and (almost) 7. The ten year old learned the basics from the Moldvay Basic set (around age 9), and the upgrade hasn’t been too big a stretch. Of course, AD&D is so compartmentalized (the players aren’t supposed to read books other than the PHB), there hasn’t been much of a need. Mostly they’re learning the same way I did as a kid: carrying the book around and reading the various bits and pieces that pique their interest at the moment (or when it becomes necessary for the game at hand).

      But it helps that I’ve been doing this stuff so long I’ve memorized most of it anyway.
      : )

      The harder work is definitely on the DM’s plate, not the players. And since I’m the one craving “depth,” that’s fair. If they (the players) want to have an easier go of it, they have the choice to study up. Otherwise...well, rolling up fresh characters is still pretty easy in AD&D.
      ; )

    2. Good points, and thanks for sharing them. And it's pretty cool to see that you started your kids with the versions you played. I was 7 or 8 when my friend showed up one day with the Moldvay boxed set. It wasn't long after when I pleaded with my aunt to get me the Expert set for my birthday. She did, and I have still it.

  4. The chest in the tomb/Isn't nearly so sturdy/So diamonds are a girl's best friend

  5. Thanks for remembering that session - it was fun!

    I wish I could run stuff online again these days, but other then my home game I just can't seem to schedule anything.