A good OSR GM can -and at time should?- be a bit miserly with Gold, XP, levelling, Magic?

This post ties in with my previous, “Less is More” post (OSR = Less is More. In your opinion, is that true or preferred?). I have been writing and testing my own rule set with my group. And all the things below is what I have been doing (and may tweak in future) and I am curious what other DMs do in these regards or if they see any value in what I am doing?

  1. Start out the PCs poor! If they right away already have armor, torches, food, enough gold to live a few days or even weeks on, a nr. of weapons etc etc, why would they even go adventure? xd At the very least you are taking away a few of the early game motivations or goals. It is fun to find your first suit of armor, fun to find only a few GP and that, that actually triples your wealth!

All my PCs start out with 6 Copper pieces, 1 Weapon (Fighters get a backup one), a cloak that they can use as blanket, simple clothes and that is it. Well, Thieves get home-made pretty crappy picks and Wizards get 30 sheets of parchment, some ink and quill, Clerics a cheap copper Holy symbol. As the Metal song goes “Now i’ve got something to Dieee forrrrrrr!” :stuck_out_tongue_winking_eye:

  1. Leveling PCs too quick can make their progression a bit meaningless and also quickly Overpower the game as a whole, challenges and danger quickly become more scarce. A DM can decide when a party levels and why. Some DMs do goal based leveling. Personally I do like and use XP and GP for gold, but my thresh-holds to level are high, atm character progression from level 1 to level 2 might take two to five sessions of four hours each.

At higher levels beyond the 2nd and especially 6th this progression can be even slower. As a general guide each PC will earn between ca 2000 and 6000 XP per 4 hours of play, possibly 7k to 12k at levels beyond 6th. The exact amount is left up to the DMs discretion, factoring in how much treasure was recovered, how well the group role-played as a whole, how many KMs were traveled or how many new rooms, areas or buildings were explored etc.

Level 1. 0 XP
Level 2. 10.000 XP
Level 3. 40.000 XP

Level 4. 80.000 XP
Level 5. 160.000 XP
Level 6. 320.000 XP

For every 1 Gold Piece worth of treasure the party finds, each party member gets 50 XP. This value may taper off later, at higher levels. Half or possibly more of all XP everyone receives is reliant on GP (or treasure worth GP) recovered. By recovered is meant that the treasure has been found as well as been transported to a safe area.

The remaining earned XP is of course based on roleplaying, clever and creative problem-solving, exploring new places, overcoming monsters or enemies. I award additional XP for exploring new regions, places, biomes, cultures, social classes or situations. Every new/unknown kilometer traveled equals + 10 XP for each player.

The math works out that in best case scenario my players can expect to reach level 6 in a bit more than a year, providing they play 4 hrs every week… I see nothing wrong with that. But it is up to you, if your entire group has more fun if you cut that time down a lot and they progress from 1st to 6th level in only a few months or instead in 3 years, nothing wrong with those either! Not if everyone at table diggs that and is having a blast.

  1. Magic. Nothing can unbalance a game as ““too much”” or too powerful magic (too soon), if you enjoy a game where group cooperation and really clever problem solving is what you are going for, handing someone a (limited) Wish or (many) spells that spawn food, light, shelter, safety, gear, HP often, this can easily quash that style of play/goal. Why avoid dmg or negotiate/Roleplay your way through an encounter when your Cleric or many potions can heal every character quite a few HP every 3rd round of combat? Why have to carry and be careful with torches if your light spell lasts for a very long time?

I like that using the BFRPG spell table, a third level caster can only cast two spells of 1st level and one spell of 2nd level before they are tapped out/have to rest, additionally all casters are not able to cast 3rd level spells until they caster reaches 5th level.

Magical weapons too are essentially a permanent buff, if you give someone a +2 sword, that is equivalent to them levelling 2 to 5 levels at once, as far as their attack bonus is concerned and makes many monsters a lot less scary or deadly. On top of that they also get a permanent +2 to any dmg dealt with that weapon…

Like in GOT magical weapons are very! rare in my game. It really means something when you find or earn one. Most have names and a drawing that goes with them.

Another solution to this issue is that in my game I have: Regular weapons, Masterwork Weapons which are exceedingly well made and more expensive and grant a (non magical!) +1 to either! attack bonus or dmg!

Then there is Silver-plated weapons, needed to successfully hit many Lycanthrophes and Undead.

Finally there is magical weapons that generally combine the advantages of Masterwork and Silvered weapons and then some (being able to hit certain magical creatures that those other categories could not) but even with with magical weapons only some will grant bonus to both attack and dmg rather than just one of those, and only some very rare ones are +2. While +3 weapons only 14 of these exist on entire globe, most in hands of Kings, Legendary heroes or Monsters or long lost and very, very hard to find…

A. As an Aside, I keep telling myself that it is hard to go back or take things away. Once players gets used to a lot of XP, Loot, Magical Weapons or Powerful items in the world, if you suddenly decide that is not so good for the game and take those away or at least become way stingier with that stuff, many players will feel a bit gypped or cheated. The reverse does not really apply.

If after a few sessions suddenly you realize they are truly a bit too poor or underpowered, few if any players will ever complain if you hand out more healing potions or a bit nicer weapons or if they find armor the next session.

Leveling, finding GP (even just 20 of them!). Finding or buying armor or finding magic or learning a new spell, truly mean something to all my players, there is a sense of challenge and accomplishment precisely because these things are not easy/commonplace, and that is fun for us. :slight_smile:

Any thoughts on all the above? It is all an experiment and I am sure some things will change, or that I am being a bit too stingy in one or two rules or ideas, not saying this is the be all, end all, but so far, my players and I love it.

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Skimming your post the other day and processing what you wrote.

I think this is a good approach if you really wanted to emphasise the “Zero to Hero” kind of mentality that is deep within the OSR scene.

The slow progress the party has as they level keeps the challenge pressed against them at all times, whether adventuring or in downtime areas. I like how you fixed the GP = XP rate is increased to match the rate at which to match the higher XP thresholds for leveling.

Big thing that stick out is being super stringent nature with which magic items being handed out and discovered, but this is smoothed over with you wanting to ensure each magic weapon and item is wholly unique in its own right.

Given me some pretty good thoughts for an upcoming Gamma World game I hope to begin soon.

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Magic items I am indeed stingy with, but I am thinking hard about changing that. Only magic items I think are troubling are permanent ones that essentially power up the player or game permanently. Swords, spells that can casted over and over, bracers of defense, that sort of thing. But there is lots fun or interesting magical items that have limited uses, charges or utility, those I want to give more off.

I am trying to foster lots of cooperation, planning, a sense of wonder at every upgrade, GP or thing found (earned!) and also an investment in the world and their character. What I wrote is truly a starting point and general attitude and experiment, the second I thought I was being too miserly and it was detracting from the fun for any player, I would change it up, become more generous.

Of course all my players know the above before they ever play single game with me. I would imagine that a random player who has played Pathfinder or 3.5 and up beyond 6th level would be surprised and possibly shocked and appalled if you dropped them in my group without prior knowledge. xd

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That’s fair, in the (now on hiatus/petered out) Steampunk Western game I was running, I discovered handing out even a +1 Long Rifle to a PC with a +3 Dex or +1 Pistols to a PC who can pop off multiple attacks in a single round begins to make combats something of a non-issue (at least how I was making combat currently).

Awesome, this is something I need to begin to stress a little bit more in my games (or atleast try and take my hands off the controls and roll with it). I’ll have to do some milling and better framing for my future games with what you have shared here.

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