Saturday, October 6, 2012

Death and Wealth

This is something I've been thinking about this week. How do you deal with death in your game?

Well, maybe not death exactly, but the resulting loot overflow that follows. Say Ted the fighter, Ron the thief, and Deborah the ranger have roughly 30,000gp worth of equipment apiece and during one unfortunate encounter, Ron perishes. After some discussion, Ron's player decides to create a new character and the remaining party members bury/cremate/dispose of the body. Do they take his loot or leave it with the corpse?

NOT BLACK LEAF! Chick comics always give me a chuckle.

Let's say they take the dead player's equipment and gold and head back to town in the hopes of finding a new companion. Fortunately for them, they just happen to stumble across Don the wizard! Very convenient! Ron Don the wizard is of a similar level to the party and has all of the trappings that a wizard of his level should!

The problem mechanics-wise is that you now have a three person party with the wealth of four. Heck, if they split Ron's loot three ways they could each purchase something downright powerful.  Knowing that deceased characters will be quickly replaced with new ones, it seems almost beneficial if a player or two dies every now and then, just for a quick influx of cash.

This is an issue we've ran into recently and have had to house rule it, as we've had a few characters replaced with new ones. Our current rule is that a dead character's equipment (not including quest related items) go with the character. Maybe the equipment was destroyed by the fireball that killed him (or, as the rules would state, the gear would catch fire the moment after he died, as it would no longer be 'an attended object'). Maybe they buried him with his gear. It isn't unheard of for knights to be buried in their armor w/sword or even some policemen to be buried with a firearm. Maybe they sent his equipment and share of the loot off to his family? Who knows?

While the game takes place in a fantasy setting, elements of reality still exist. In reality the passing of someone close is both psychologically and financially stressing. For some reason in the fantasy genre that slice of reality has been flipped to a point where the death of a close friend is actually beneficial.

What's your take on it?

Until next time, happy gaming!    


  1. Pretty simply. Whoever is with the guy when he dies, divvies the equipment on the corpse as desired. Usually that means giving out stuff that's useful to those who can use it, and selling the rest.

    We haven't had anyone try the last will and testament thing. I'm curious how everyone would feel about that. I know they shot down "my next guy is the exact same height and weight as my last guy, so I can coincidentally wear his armor" as lame, though.

    1. Oh yeah, I forgot to say that as for 3 guys getting the wealth of 4 . . . yeah, I have no issue with that. There should be genuine concern that your companions really do benefit if you die and they can split the treasure less ways. Veteran adventurers with a rep for coming back a man or two short should be viewed with a healthy suspicion for this reason.

      Out-of-game, I'm fine with it too. The realistic consequences of "we kill the newbie and sell his stuff" will catch up long before anyone gets too rich doing that. And anyway, that's how we equipped all our guys in Wizardry and Bard's Tale - hire new guys, take their stuff, and roll up replacements. ;)

  2. I allow the party to loot the corpse, but this doesn't present much of a problem in my games because I use carousing rules that allow characters to go on post-session binges of drinking, gambling, and wenching. They get one experience point for each gold piece spent in this fashion and it really encourages characters to spend their money as fast as they get it.

    Consequently, characters (like sword & sorcery heroes) are usually flat broke and dead characters never have large sums of money on them. Only their equipment and whatever coins they managed to find during the session they died in.

    This method probably wouldn't work in a Pathfinder game, though, because WotC (and related) versions of D&D have extremely rapid level progression compared to old school games, and the XP for gold mechanic would probably break the game. But it is an excellent means of disposing of treasure in old school games and keeps the players hungry.

    1. that is brilliant. Maybe I'll work out something like that. Maybe 1/4 xp per coin spent....

  3. I'm used to a DM who plays quite harsh when it comes to this kind of thing. Sure, grab the sword and the cash, but armour doesn't come in one size fits all. I think most dead characters get buried in their armour, magical or not, partly for this reason, plus, it just seems like the right thing to do. And we always leave them a weapon of some kind. Who knows what they'll face later, and a sword is the least we can let them keep.