Friday, August 19, 2011

D&D and the Gift Economy

As I was looking through some of the old school modules I realized that they were jam packed with magic items and that in fact there probably was more weapons and armor than a party could really use even with upgrades.

After some thought it occurred to me that maybe these were supposed to be given to henchmen as part of a D&D gift economy.

Let me explain, the default play style I am used to is

The Party, this is the PC's , and the occasional pet, NPC or familiar.

However there is another option I've seen mentioned in extended play,one I call the Warband

This setup consists of the PC's, their pets (dogs, familiars, mules, animal companions, horses) NPC hirelings (Mercs to keep monsters away from the MU or horse, torch bearers, specialists) and henchmen (NPC's with levels)

This kind of set up lowers the difficulty of the module and means more treasure recovery (more eyes to search means more chances to spot loot and concealed or secret items) and that extra magic treasure instead of being sold for cash (a difficult task all in all) is gifted to increase both the power and loyalty of henchmen. Thus instead of the module having tons of treasure it has basically about enough for a larger troop.

This hearkens back the original idea of D&D as a war-game extension and explains why there is as much emphasis on Charisma. In such games not only is Charisma not a dump stat but its vital to the long term success. It also ties into the "followers" system for Fighters, Thieves and the others too . Reaching "name" level gives you a free boost to your leadership as a bonus for playing that long.

Now I'll note that this does slow down the advancement rate (XP sharing and all) a little at low to middle levels but thats an intentional as it results in longer more involved campaigns. And it has only modest effects in high levels, also intentional as by that time, the PC's are playing the post game anyway.

So what do you all think?


  1. Great insight as to why Charisma was so important. Not sure I had seen it put forth before. The connection that it was a RPG that still had most of its roots in war games makes many of the arguments about some of the mechanics being silly a lot less valid. When looked at a hybrid or chimera it explains much away. The way AC and damage work can probably be attributed to that as well.

  2. Very good observation. And it opens up to a forgotten style of play :-)