Wealth & Milestones

Looting of dungeons and forbidding tombs is such an integral part of old school swords & sorcery games that it would be remiss not to give this activity it’s proper place within Fate of the Forgotten Realms. No doubt inspired by the opportunistic tomb raiding of pulp fiction heroes like Fritz Leiber’s Fafhrd and the Grey Mouser, Gary Gygax’s Dungeons & Dragons game rewarded players who discovered treasure with a mechanical reward where pieces of gold (or their equivalent in gems and curios) translated into experience points allowing player characters to level up.

Fate handles PC progress episodically so when the DM ascertains that a scenario or story arc has played out PCs are allowed to select new abilities, upgrading skills and stunts and eventually aspects to reflect important changes in that character’s life. There’s not much place there for treasure hoarding and booty. Thematically this is a problem because the realms were designed for dungeon crawling and tomb raiding. This suggests a need for treasure to represent something more than mere story padding.

What we do in FotFR is to imitate Gygax’s old school system to a degree. Instead of having a resources skill we let accumulated wealth represent experience accrued, higher standards of living equating to better care of weapons, armour and magical paraphernalia, not to mention apothecaries and healers to keep the body in fine fettle. This doesn’t necessarily mean that the PC will now be regarded as a highborn and be treated as such, that’s the preserve of the Aristocrat profession but even this score may be improved by ‘buying’ upgrades with gold. So in this case wealth is recorded in material terms, as an Extra. This may even necessitate an expanded character sheet with added sections recording coin and recovered treasure.

As Dungeon Master you will need to set a budget, determining just how many gold pieces will be required to upgrade a skill or stunt or indeed even add a new stunt. Be sensible, take a look at the equipment rosters and cost of living rules in the D&D 5th ed.  Basic Rules or Player’s Handbook and use them as a guide. These rules will invigorate any campaign featuring even the occasional dungeon crawl, instead of the DM setting the pace of change concerning PC’s abilities the players themselves may alternately advance quickly or slowly based on their own luck and daring exploration. That antique chest secluded under mouldering floorboards could see a lucky thief grab a new stunt during her first scenario. Equally a hapless party may see their abilities remain static for a number of sessions should luck prevent them from noticing any of those hidden doors.

Also consider how trinkets or even the odd, ancient coin can cause a session to become truly memorable when a player character succeeds with style during some exploration based activity. A boost is not always the best reward for succeeding with style on every action and it can be a little anti-climatic to simply have that player describe themselves doing something ostentatious. Instead, keep a roster of minor valuable trinkets that players can stumble on and acquire whenever they succeed with style – so you manage to loosen those bars on that large sewer grate, getting a Great result your eye catches on a gleaming, silver necklace mired in slime. Or even in combat, a thief makes a deadly attack out of the shadows, succeeding with style she also manages to filch that curious looking wristband in the process, her target being none the wiser.

Realistically players should only be able to cash in on these upgrades during appropriate periods, in a location where there are not only merchants and jewelers who will exchange coin for the adventurers’ bounty but also resources where player characters can unwind and actually benefit from the fruits of their exploration. It might be useful in an ongoing campaign to have at least a couple of supporting NPCs who deal with your PCs in this respect. With the right aspects they could become memorable characters in your story and provide the impetus for future scenarios.

The most expensive milestone available to any player should always be the extra refresh point – it’s more flexible than a stunt and really marks the character’s progress through an arc.  This would obviously make stunts more affordable: that’s fair – and balanced. What you will you end up with is essentially a points-buy system predicated on loot.

It is also worth making temporary fate points available that can be bought during play (at a reduced rate), like boosts they’re ephemeral – once they’re used they’re gone.

Of course not every game using the rules on this site will focus on dungeon crawling so if, as DM you need an equivalent to the resources skill from the core rules simply look to the Aristocrat profession. Happy adventuring!

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