Managing a Hub Town: Buying Equipment after first level

Taken from a Ren Faire website.
Taken from a Ren Faire website.

The second thing players want to do in town is exchange their money for useful stuff. In most games I’ve played in & run, the same problem starts to crop up after the players have had a few successful adventures: what do they do with all their money? The classic solution of buying property property and building a citadel doesn’t appeal to many players. The game needs a money sink.

Based on my thinking, the money sinks in a hub town can essentially be broken down into 5 groups:

1. Equipment
2. Services
3. Nonspecific information / quests / hooks
4. People.
5. Property / Business

If you have any ideas which fall outside of these groups, let me know. I want to be as inclusive as possible here.

“Equipment,” which covers nearly all material goods, is obviously the broadest category. I’ve chosen to term it “Equipment,” instead of merely “goods,” because in this post I am only really concerned with what the players will find useful. Could they buy a dining room table and chairs in town if they wanted? Sure. But they probably won’t want to, because it’s a game about exploring dungeons and killing monsters. They’ll want to buy things which help them do that stuff better.

So what qualifies as useful? Obviously standard equipment like swords and armor is part of that list, but that stuff is cheap! Aside from plate mail, I’ve never played in a game where a player couldn’t purchase the standard equipment they needed with their starting money. So, obviously, this will not do as a money sink.

Players need easy access to equipment which costs a lot more than standard equipment. And it needs to be useful enough that they don’t feel like they’re being ripped off when they buy it. And both of those goals need to be achieved without resorting to any god damned magic item stores. *

I can think of two good ways to accomplish this. The first is to create items crafted with extraordinary materials or skill, that confer a small but significant benefit for a high price. For example, a 500sp length of rope which is just as light as normal rope, but is rated to 1000lb. Or a longsword made of extremely light materials, which thus does not require an encumbrance slot.

The second way would be to create fairly powerful items which have extremely limited usage. Like a 300sp smokebomb which, when used, allows the players to escape from combat without any chance of the monsters following them. A healing potion would also be a good example of this kind of thing.

I have an added advantage in Dungeon Moon, because it’s a post apocalypse. I’m allowed to make Standard Equipment much more scare. I’ve been thinking that standard equipment in Dungeon Moon is of extremely poor quality. If purchased at the normal prices, it has a -1 to its effectiveness, and breaks on a critical failure. For x10 price, you can get it with only a -1 penalty and no breaking chance. You’ll need to pay base price x100 to actually get a normal quality item.

*(I should mention that Courtney has one set of super cool solutions to this problem in his Numenhalla campaign, and a completely different set of even cooler solutions to it in his Perdition campaign. Unfortunately I don’t get to talk about those, I think. But I can be inspired by them!)


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9 thoughts on “Managing a Hub Town: Buying Equipment after first level”

  1. I found that the Black Company campaign setting for 3e D&D had an excellent set of solutions for both handling this and the glut of magic items. They switched to a silver standard and made things rarer and more expensive. However, the real gem of an idea was they created “above average” items. There were six levels of above average items ranging from above average to masterpiece. For each level, a DM could assign an additional bonus to an item. Bonuses ranged from a +1 to hit (but not damage), a +1 to damage (but not to hit), reduced weight, increases price (ornate item), a bonus to diplomacy checks (item of status), etc. So instead of having magic item shops, players can buy an excellent quality item with +1 to hit, +1 to damage, and ornate or “the sword my father made for a six fingered man that refused to pay and killed him.”

  2. While it may not work in your particular campaign (judging from what I’ve read) one of the larger money sinks in my own campaign is travel expenses.

    I try not to put too many dungeons near each other. I have a couple of low-level dungeons that PCs can explore a few times when they’re in need of some coin, but the big dungeons are all far away places (imagine a modern-day adventurer from the UK seeking treasures in the Egyptian pyramids, or Indian temples).

    While most of the travel happens “off-screen” (not every sea journey is attacked by pirates or giant squids), the expenses for provisions, passage, guides, translators, and the rest are usually enough of a money sink to keep the adventurers from getting too powerful, but the promise of gold from visiting those far away lands is still worthwhile.

    I also adhere to very strict training costs for leveling up. So, while the amount of gold the PCs have coming out of the dungeon are significant, they still have to expend a portion of it to become more powerful. Gaining XP from finding gold is only half of it. They also have to SPEND the gold in order to fully benefit from it.

  3. How about a vehicle? The party in my campaign has a boat they use to travel and explore the world. The boat itself was not only expensive, but also it motivated the party to accumulate wealth so they can invest in repairs, upgrades, and weapons for the craft.

  4. How about magical research? I use a pretty expensive scale (close to AD&D rules) for funding such projects. It tends to drive a pretty aggressive search for treasure by players of magic users. Of course, not all things required for magical research can simply be purchased, but it’s a pretty decent money sink nonetheless! Even non magic user classes can get in on this kind of racket, if you allow for other classes to pick up Alchemy, Herbalism, and other crafting-type proficiencies. One interesting side effect of this kind of money sink, is that otherwise mundane treasure items, like strange lichens and pots of mysterious liquids, can become valued finds for the players…

    1. Absolutely, magical research is one of the money sinks I’m working on including in the completed form of this idea.

      Though, it requires very little innovation from me. I’m relatively satisfied with the default LotFP rules for magical research.

  5. Give the players the opportunity to buy a share in an Inn. The inn can be a money sink of repairs, a source of rumors, and straight out adventure hooks as the local Thieves Guild tries to get their cut, the bandits cut off wine supplies, and the co-owner starts making demands.

    I also concur with the ship idea which has the same advantage as an inn with the advantage of mobility.

  6. One of the ideas I’m planning to use in my new campaign is to have the descendents of the owners of the treasure (there’s a good chance they’re going to be looting I mean exploring an abandoned Dwarf city) stake a claim on what they bring out. I mean, they could take the 60,000GP (or whatever ) and do a runner, but then they have angry Dwarves pursuing them, for ever. Or they could come to some arrangement that leaves honour satisfied on both sides and relieves the party of some seriously excess treasure.

  7. I allow my players to obtain lands, title, and property. I also developed a way to introduce farming into my campaign by having them roll for crops and prices. If the land is fertile they can grow crops and raise some substantial gold that way, although the initial start-up costs are immense. It’s a nice long-term goal for the PCs to shoot for. They all desire to own land now and it’s not cheap, nor is the upkeep, or inevitable security force they will need to make sure it stays in their hands. I’m currently devising ways to expand upon this concept and allow the PCs to explore more ways to trade in other goods, setup investments, and have a real marketplace with fluctuating prices. To even get in the game would take some large coin. Imagine having to build or purchase 3 large ships to transport items, not to mention fitting them with a crew and not being assured they’ll even make it back. Talk about a gold sink!

    Another highly sought after and costly endeavor is the raising of an army. My PCs haven’t even begun to scratch the surface of this. I’m still in the process of creating a price chart on how much it costs to hire what particular mercenary. Maybe have various levels the PCs could hire: average, above average, veteran, elite, etc. The base cost to hire, say, one mounted calvary is 2,000 GP. You can see how this would add up quick. If anyone has any ideas about army cost or troop types please post and let me know.

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