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That is, characters doing frivolous stuff like drinking too much ale at the tavern and getting drunk. Spending gold to see a minstrel show. Gambling and brawling. Patronizing the local house of ill repute. Splurging on a lavish meal. Activities which real adventurers or soldiers would do in real life after surviving a harrowing adventure, but which a D&D player hoping to maximize XPs or gold earnings wouldn’t consider. By “encourage” I mean mechanics that use either a carrot or stick approach to prod PCs.

For me in particular, maintaining suspension of disbelief in an adventure is important. That means characters aren’t just monster killing machines but do believable things that add color to the adventure. I’m not saying players need to roleplay all of these activities; a simple die roll to check if a character is wise enough to steer clear of the whorehouse would work. If he doesn't make the die roll he's out 1d8 gp. (Although if the PC is a country bumpkin who's never been to the big city, maybe there would be an XP reward for doing crazy shit at least once?) I’m limiting the discussion to adventure themed activities that are potentially fun – so for example having a picnic or falling in love and getting married probably isn’t something players want to simulate in a game even if it is something “real people” might do.

I’m interested in D&D v3.5 and Pathfinder rules, as written or homebrewed, but rules from other versions or even other RPG systems that can be easily ported into D&D are welcome. I suppose I could come up with rules on the fly, but I'm hoping someone's already thought of this and has tried and true rules that are consistent, intuitive, and of course fun. :)

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Comments are not for chatting in. –  Brian Ballsun-Stanton Nov 26 '13 at 21:47
Reading the list in the answer by @HeyICanChan, I’ve been in many 3.5 games, played more-or-less by the rules without special consideration for these behaviors, where all of the above occurred. They occurred because the players wanted them to. Which begs the question: Have you asked your players if they are interested in these sorts of activities in the first place? If they are, but feel the system penalizes them for doing so, then you should fix that. But if not... then you need to have a conversation with them about what everyone wants from the game. –  KRyan Nov 27 '13 at 1:26
@KRyan, good point - this is something that needs to be discussed upfront. –  RobertF Nov 27 '13 at 17:00
You can check downtime rules in Pathfinder Ultimate Campaign. paizo.com/pathfinderRPG/prd/ultimateCampaign/downtime.html paizo.com/pathfinderRPG/prd/ultimateCampaign/… –  Yücel Okçu Nov 27 '13 at 22:11
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3 Answers

up vote 10 down vote accepted

The simplest and most common (it's part of many D&D retroclones) is to let "wasted" money convert to XP in some way. This hugely encourages spending it on things that otherwise give no advantage (carousing, careless gambling, anonymous church donations), while balancing it against the desire to use that coin for practical advantages. This balance ("do I throw a party for some bonus XP or do I buy a batch of healing potions?") adds an enjoyable layer of strategising to the game. A variation on this is to have the XP be "banked": it's not immediately available, but is added to the starting XP of the player's next character, as a kind of death insurance policy. Yet another variant in campaigns with XP costs for magic item creation or when cheating death, the bank can be used to pay these XP costs instead of the XP a PC is currently "using" to maintain their level.

Not everyone enjoys this though: players who keenly feel the need to make optimal choices may pull their hair out at the idea that they can't do both and have to choose. This will largely depend on your group's play focus preferences.

It also alters the dynamic of resources in your game: you may see a divide between PCs who go for more XP and those who go for more gear, resulting in a divergence of levels and of situational-readiness. This works in those other editions of D&D and in their retroclones because they are built in such a way that level and gear disparities are non-issues (a 1st-level can adventure with 8th-level PCs), but will not work if you and your group's campaign structure rely on PCs advancing in tandem.

Despite the caveats, when it fits a campaign structure it works well: players do react to the incentive to spend their coin on ephemeral frills, which are sometimes fun to roleplay and can establish character even when not. You will see some characters who are conservative and eschew the partying, and others who break the bank every time they come home with a good haul.

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Worth noting: the rules for wealth in 3.5 talk primarily about assets rather than income. If the players blow a lot of money and don’t get assets in recompense, they are now below the rules’ expectations, and the rules recommend finding ways (gradually, so as not to invalidate the investment/risk they took) to bump them back up to where they should be. By the same token, split-level parties are often a headache and the XP rules are designed so lower-level characters automatically “catch up.” Using these rules well can effectively achieve the same result without specific gp to XP conversion –  KRyan Nov 27 '13 at 1:31
(This is not to say that such a system wouldn’t help answer the asker’s problem; this is a good suggestion that I’ve upvoted. It was just a bit of extra information about the subtleties of the existing system, for everyone’s consideration.) –  KRyan Nov 27 '13 at 1:32
Excellent - I like the idea of converting gold to XPs. The gold is being spent on recreation and downtime, which players may or may not care to roleplay. If we really want to simulate reality, I can see the DM in fact mandating some gold be spent on downtime for the psychological health of the PCs - avoiding PTSD. Could gold also be spent to buy Reputation Points? That would abstractly represent going to parties, the theater, hobnobbing with the nobility, etc. –  RobertF Nov 27 '13 at 16:49
@RobertF I have no experience with Reputation Points, but I don't see any reason not to try to to see how it works! –  SevenSidedDie Nov 27 '13 at 18:23
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The Easy Thing

You want PCs to do the stuff normal folks would do. Encouraging that is challenging in Dungeons and Dragons 3.5 because the game assumes the PCs aren't normal folks. Their cash goes toward adventuring and time spent not adventuring is time wasted--at least insofar as the game is concerned. XP is awarded for challenges, and unless its a drinking (or more esoteric) challenge, just chugging as much dwarf booze as one can won't be rewarded by the game.

The DM can still reward such activities, though: Allow such activities to count as Gather Information skill checks. It only takes a DC 10 Gather Information skill check "to get a general idea of a city's major news items" (PH 74), and as low as DC 15 "to find out about a specific rumor... or a specific item..., or obtain a map or do something else along those lines" (PH 74). As a house rule I charge PCs the amount of time the Gather Information check takes in gp (i.e. the check takes 1d4+1 hours so the PCs spend an equal 1d4+1 gp), but what the PCs can get depends on where they ask and what they're asking for. Major news items are different--depending on city size, obviously--in the court of King Gaston than they are in the halfling rest stop near the Briarwood on the outskirts of Ptarmagin Roost, despite them being in the same city.

Specific Suboptimal Things Characters Can Do (and Associated Rules)

Instead of town being a place where gold is spent to replace gear destroyed by rust monsters and disenchanters, there's other ways to waste time there.

  • Go Sightseeing: Okay, you needn't actually go; all you really need's the trinket for the feats Touchstone (Sa 53) and Planar Touchstone (PlH 41), but it's more fun and rewarding if you do.
  • Get Blitzed: Go drinking using the rules on page 32 of the Arms and Equipment Guide.
  • Get High: Take drugs using the rules from Book of Vile Darkness on pages 41-3.
  • Learn Secrets: There are actual secrets in Dungeons and Dragons 3.X--true names of evil outsiders, how to build some weird stuff, origins of things--that aren't mechanical at all but are still cool. Pledging yourself to an elder evil, for instance, is a good way to temporal power, but it's not like you can just dial one up.
  • Make Contacts: The rules are scattered across the Dungeon Master's Guide 2, Cityscape, and, I think, Races of Destiny, but when combined there's a fairly robust I-know-a-guy system in Dungeons and Dragons 3.5.
  • Perform or Profess: The Perform skill can be used untrained, so any character can just start singing and try to make some cash (PH 79-80) (and trained characters can use the Sleight of Hand skill, too). Any character with 1 rank in a Profession can spend time making extra cash (PH 80).
  • Shop Hard: If the DM grab a Dragon magazine and drop a mundane yet weird item on your PCs. If a PC grab a Dragon magazine and ask for something weird at a shop.
  • Start Businesses: Become an investor using the wonky rules from the Dungeon Master's Guide 2 on pages 180-8.
  • Torture Folks: Extract information--information you don't even need ("What's your favorite color? Tell me!")--from the unwilling using the rules from Book of Vile Darkness on pages 37-9.
  • Train Pets: A lone rank gives any character a slim chance to spend a week training an animal to fetch. Or whatever. Rules are on Player's Handbook 74-5.
  • Train Friends: Does the party have any teamwork benefits yet? And some downtime? Teamwork benefits are available using the rules from the Dungeon Master's Guide 2 on pages 189-93. The system gets expanded in later books, too.

Most of the PCs' screen time is better spent adventuring and crafting stuff to help adventuring, but many--arguably most--Dungeons and Dragons 3.X books have at least 1 minigame you can play that doesn't require adventuring at all, and Dragon magazines have all sorts of articles on things like this, especially gambling.

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Cool, thank you for the ideas + sources, very helpful! –  RobertF Nov 27 '13 at 16:50
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Borrow the Lifestyle Concept

Shadowrun has the concept of "Lifestyle". Essentially, the character pays a fixed amount of money to cover all the various parts of life that aren't part of adventuring (in that case, shadowrunning). There are different tiers of lifestyle that they can buy with varying amounts of money from (I don't have the source book handy, so this is from memory) "slumming" where they are living on the streets to "Luxury".

For the most part, Lifestyle is just a flavor device and tells the gm what kind of food the character is eating, the (non-armored) clothing they are wearing, and that sort of thing that has very limited mechanical affect. But it can have a mechanical affect in things like the type of security the character has available if they are actually attacked at home or when dealing socially with people from a different lifestyle.

This concept could easily be imported into just about any other setting. The character pays a fixed amount each month so they don't have to worry about tracking every little bit of spending, and they describe their activities accordingly. The characters with the higher lifestyle have better clothes, better wine, etc.

If you want to make it more mechanical, characters with a higher lifestyle get better reactions when dealing with "high society" and that can be a bonus to checks. Characters with a low lifestyle are more likely to be attacked while sleeping. (But a high-lifestyle character might be more likely to get mugged by walking into the wrong part of town.)

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More awesome ideas, thank you. Hmm I would even go as far as permanently raising a PC's Constitution score by 1-2 points for living in luxury. This would represent living in a clean environment, having access to unspoiled food, fresh water and the best doctors. And like you suggested, higher lifestyle could = bonus Reputation Points and security. –  RobertF Nov 27 '13 at 16:57
@RobertF You want to be careful about offering stat bonuses for things that players might not want to do for roleplaying reasons; I've seen more than one ascetic monk or miserly rogue who wouldn't spend money on improving their own living conditions. –  GMJoe Nov 28 '13 at 3:24
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