Basic Fantasy RPG (a Basic D&D retro clone) has the XP for Gold optional rule: 1 GP of coin or treasure returned to a safe place rewards the party with 1 XP. This is in addition to normal XP rewards. What do I need to look out for if I use this rule?
BFRPG is a very tidy clone of Basic D&D with some mechanical heritage from d20, but it's still very much BD&D at its core. Judging what feel and style of campaign you're going for by your question and comments, giving full XP for gold will level them too fast for your taste:
The Game Master may also assign experience points for treasure gained, at a rate of 1 GP = 1 XP. This is optional; GMs wishing to advance their players to higher levels more quickly may choose to do this, while those preferring a more leisurely pace should omit it. If experience is awarded for treasure, it should be awarded only for treasure acquired and returned to a place of safety. Alternately, the GM may require treasure to be spent on training in order to count it for experience. This is a highly effective way to remove excess treasure from the campaign.
It sounds like using an optional rule has been compounded by a module that had treasure far in excess of what is normal in a BFRPG campaign. And it sounds as if the damage is already done – your players have had their sense of the "right" amount of treasure calibrated for the entirely wrong amount, and their characters are overflowing with gold and high-quality gear. The gear and potions aren't a real problem – d20 players assume gear matters, but it only matters a very little in BFRPG because the system is less swingy around gear – the real problem is that the players have set this as their new baseline and will expect their PCs' quality of living to be maintained at this new level.
Basic D&D is all about the striving, and the players will want as much gold as they can get a hold of, but ironically having it too easily will make the challenges they face hollow and rob them of the essential fun of the game. To fully appreciate a Basic game the players have to have a sharp appetite for gold, and nothing dulls the appetite more than having plenty to go around. There's some fun in turning on "god mode" in a videogame, but it pales after a little bit of rampaging – for a long-term, sustained campaign, the players have to hunger for improvement, and relish every scrap they wrench by their own cunning and skill from the hostile campaign world.
There are only a few ways to recover from this, and none guaranteed. Some can be mixed and matched, while some are obviously incompatible with each other.
If your players are extremely reasonable, you can reset the campaign. They keep their XP and basic gear, and get a certain small fraction of the monetary value of what they'd gained before. No plate (unless they re-buy it), no magic, no potions. The "history" of the game is reset, so that this is the new start of the campaign – whatever they did before never happened. This is your best bet for cleanly recovering the game.
The compromise is to keep going, but to dial back future treasure significantly. You need to recalibrate your players' expectations to something more reasonable, else they will lose their edge, the game will lose its appeal, and the campaign will end with a whimper.
To do this you'll have to rewrite the rest of this module's treasure, and any future ones so that they have treasure more in keeping with the treasure generation rules that BFRPG comes with. For each cluster of monsters, roll them up new random treasure according to the Treasure chapter (p. 118, Basic Fantasy RPG 2nd edition, revision 75). Collect it all together for the entire module, then parcel it out into the places where the original treasure hoard was, keeping the new treasure caches roughly proportional to each other's original values. This will give you an amount of treasure that will probably be far lower, but make the module's treasure and monsters match up better (though still roughly) with BFRPG's intended balance. It will still only be a roughly matched to the monsters because it's random, but the amount of variation random generation creates is still going to be far, far less mismatch than the huge gap between the monsters and the treasure you report them getting.
Something you should consider doing if you're not already, is capping how much XP can be won in a single haul. The traditional way of doing this is to limit the amount of XP you can gain at once to the maximum possible without levelling twice. So if a 1st-level Fighter hauls home 4,500 XP worth of gold, they can only gain XP enough to get to level 2 and 1 XP below 3rd level; their sheet would say 3,999 XP and the remaining 501 XP (or more, if they didn't have 0 XP to start with!) is just wasted.
The point of doing this is two-fold. First, it prevents levelling too quickly. Second, it requires them to make a trade-off: do I keep adventuring for more treasure, or do I get back to civilisation sooner and use the treasure-for-XP more efficiently? Giving them a conundrum like this means that it's up to them: the rule is hard but fair, and how they choose to adjust to it is in their hands. It gives them a bit of agency while not letting the levelling spiral out of proportion.
When doing this, always, always make your dungeons a living place. Did the PCs decide to haul home what they'd found so far without exploring the whole thing? Find some dungeon-restocking rules and make sure that it doesn't just stay frozen in time, conveniently waiting on their pleasure to pick back up right where they left off. If going back to civilisation is going to be a meaningful choice that your players will weigh and consider, it must present a trade-off.
Don't use XP for gold rules
The XP for gold rules are optional. They're intended for DMs who want the PCs to level quickly, which it sounds like you don't. Eliminating the XP for gold rule means that every XP has to be fought for, tooth-and-nail. (If you do this, consider giving XP for defeating monsters, not just killing them. Forcing them to surrender or flee should be good enough, and if it's worth XP, you'll see less fighting just to pop the XP pinatas.)
The disadvantage of eliminating the XP for gold rules is that using them encourages a very different playstyle that you might prefer. With gold worth so much more XP than the monsters, the players are heavily rewarded for finding clever ways to get to the treasure. A game with XP for gold sees players backtrack and find ways around monsters, or ways to sneak by them, parleying with intelligent monsters, and avoiding monsters they know are mindless and unlikely to have gathered any treasure. A game without XP for treasure sees players hunting down every last monster in the dungeon because they want the XP and it's the only way to get it, and not very much at that. The former game has more cleverness and survival, the latter game has more brutality and PC death.
Modify the XP for gold ratio
This is a typical compromise. Instead of giving out 1 XP for each gold returned to civilisation, DMs may aware 1 XP for every 5 or 10 gold. This makes treasure still very much worth the effort to get around the monsters, keeps the levelling somewhat faster than it would be without, and keeps the players from seeing monsters as merely meat to grind into sausage.
Use training rules
This is an easy way to make gold flow a bit more freely without having it flood the players with XP: make them buy training to get that gold to convert into XP. This means they will have to choose between supplies and XP, which is again a fair but hard rule that puts the fate of their character into their own hands.
Alternatively, let them spend gold "uselessly" in order to bank XP for their next character. Usually this should be at a lower ratio (I've seen 10 gold to 1 future XP work well), so that it's not too easy to start their replacement character at a very high level.
The gold spent must be spent in a way that cannot possibly benefit the character – anonymous charity and tithes are good examples. Carousing is another traditional way to "uselessly" spend lots of gold; just make sure that everyone who benefited from the PC's largess doesn't feel like they owe them anything for the party, else it'll start becoming useful as well as a way to bank XP.
Another necessary limit to this option is that the XP must go to one future character, and only upon death of the banking character – it can't be taken out of the bank a little at a time, but must be put all into one basket. This "heir" will inherit all the banked XP, and then the bank is empty. This is to prevent the player from hedging their bets and treating death as only an inconvenience. By having the bank empty every time they start a new character due to the last one's death, they have to protect their investment and use it wisely.
The advantage of this is that it's an excellent outlet for excess gold, and it takes it entirely out of the game for the time being. No supplies, no XP for the current character. It also serves as a constant reminder that death can easily happen. The disadvantage is that they might end up banking so much gold that they short themselves on necessary supplies, and end up making death more likely for their current character – I had one player do that, and it wasn't pretty watching them scrabble for coin enough to feed themself and their horse when they otherwise could have started to get a little comfortable and have a bit of coin to spare.
Don't help them find the treasure
I look at a module and I see all the cool things the PCs can find, and I want the players to share my enthusiasm. I want them to find all the treasure they can. This is an impulse to absolutely stifle. I know the feeling, but it's harmful to the campaign in the long run to indulge it.
A player must always be wondering if they missed something, else they'll start treating it as a computer game that they need to get 100% completion on, and less like a scary, living world full of threats that they need to carefully judge and weigh the worth of facing. A player that knows you won't let them miss treasure is a player that is resting comfortably on a pillow, and they won't be able to take the risks to their characters seriously. Entitlement is the death of many a game. Make them earn their treasure, and they will become cunning, careful, and clever investigators of the world. Give them even the slightest hint that you're handing them easy victories and they'll stop trying so hard, be less entertaining to DM for, and simply become careless with how they interact with the game world. And then when they (or a retainer) die to a trap they should have learned the habits to avoid three levels ago, they'll blame you. In a way, they'll be right.
I have no experience in Basic Fantasy, but this rule also existed in AD&D 2nd for rogue classes, and we used it in our campaigns. If you use individual class awards, it is a must to use this, as otherwise rogues would be at a disadvantage. Everyone gets bonus xp for what his purpose is: warriors for defeated hit dice, priests and wizards for spells and item creation. And getting loot is what rogues are for.
D&D 3 regulates how much loot (equipment, money, you name it) characters have by tying it to character level. AD&D 2nd did it the other way around by tying level to loot. It is an indication: if your rogues are leveling up quickly, you are handing out too much loot for the level. Of course, if you prefer well-equipped but low-level characters, you can always cut down on the GP2XP ratio.
First, I'd point out that the optional nature of this rule in BFRPG is a big difference from B/X:
Experience points (abbreviated XP, as ep stands for electrumpieces) are given for non-magical treasure and for defeating monsters. For every 1 gp value of non-magical treasure the characters recover, the DM should give 1 XP to the party (this will be divided among all the player characters).
-- Basic Dungeons and Dragons page B22
In the early editions of D&D (prior to AD&D 2) treasure was designed to be the largest source of XP. I know a lot of people didn't play that way but the rules were written that way.
Things to watch out for if you use this? Resource problems will disappear fairly quickly. It will be the odd 2nd level fighter who isn't in the best armor. By 5th level it would be down right weird for him not to wear it.
Second is giving out treasure too easily. Modern dungeons in the 3.x and later errors are designed so the players find all the treasure. In fact, if they don't something probably went wrong. It's pretty much the opposite in older games. There was an expectation that most treasure wouldn't be found. This is because the dangers of the old school environment: traps on treasure hiding places, wandering monsters, and so on created risks in just searching for treasure. This leads to my third point.
XP for treasure is one component in a broader play style. Taken and used in isolation from that play style it will lead to faster and easier advancement. I think this is why treasure for XP was ignored for a lot of groups even in the late 70s/early 80s. They didn't engage in that play style so XP for treasure resulted in fast advancement.
If you are giving XP for GP don't make treasures easy to find. Killing a monster and then finding a chest of 100gp shouldn't be common. Treasures need to be in locked and trapped containers, often ones that can't be broken open. They should be behind hidden doors, under floor boards, and so on. They shouldn't be easily portable coins but furs, large pieces of furniture, or a whole jade throne that requires planning and risk to get back to civilization.
If you want to use XP for GP bring in the other aspects of the play style that it supported. Read Matt Finch's guide to old school play. Read Gygax's columns from Dragon. Read discussion on various old school blogs. Look at older Judge's Guild products to see how treasure is hidden and guarded more than just by a monster.
I have never played Basic Fantasy, but I have used similar variant rules in AD&D and Shadowrun. I will say that for flavor reasons I always required the characters to find a trainer and spend time in addition to the gold/nuyen, but with that in place it worked quite well.
As I see it there are a few different problems that can come with levelling/gaining-skills-through-karma too fast:
- It makes levelling feel too cheap and not earned.
- It makes the characters overpowered for the plot.
- The players don't get a chance to adjust to the new options with the level.
But I think paying money takes care of 1 & 2 by itself. After all, they have increased their power in one way (gaining personal abilities), but decreased it in another (giving up money means giving up equipment options and the chance to hire henchmen and services.) As long as you aren't selling the XP too cheap, balance is retained and its just letting the players express their preferences.
Number 3 can be a big problem in tactically oriented games with inexperienced players. But much less of a problem in more narrative games or when most of your players have experience with the rules anyway, especially if they have played their particular class before.
Gold For Exp. Works and can work very well.
I have been DMing Basic D&D Games for 33 years. (And no I am not a stick in the mud, I play other systems too) We are about two years into our current campaign My 22 year old Daughter and her friends are playing a long term campaign, its a good sized group of 8 players.
Gold for exp works very well as long as the campaign environment is designed to accept this and the game master knows how to dangle the proverbial carrot to keep the system lively and always have reasons to need money.
The current campaign has now reach the levels (the characters are levels 14-17) where they (the players not the characters) now realise as the characters will never be able to earn enough money and that the role playing must also focus on how characters can generate more money so that they can achieve their goals.
For Example, Sylvia the Cleric of Ordana, who has now been granted the Writ to expand the churches influence into Norwald, needs large amounts of money to build temples, keeps and citidles. The population bases are still small enough in the north that they do not earn enough revenue to accomplish her desired goals, adventuring helps (and so the the 50% the church offers for the personal temples), the Tithing helps also, but combined these are not enough. The main temple complex with its surround improvements and higher quality city complex will require this character to raise approx 12 million GP. Well i excess of what she needs to get to level 36. Admittedly the complex will take approx 10 years to complete, so Sylvia is now focused on how she can set up her characters realm & church facilities to raise money to fund the building process
Athena has gone a step closer. Her owner wants a big castle for her character. She saw one in a book that she liked, (And as luck had it, it had a scale rule on it). We sized it up and then priced it, this castle will cost approx. 6 million gp to build. So Athena decided that since she has become a Baroness of Norwald that she will focus her characters drive to become the most reknown military training school in the known world. Which potentially will provide a very lucrative income, and also provide her with a highly skilled mercenary army that she can hire out for more income.
Silinous Vox (the main mage in the group - and as magic hungry as any mage I have met) has such a craving for making items and doing unique D&D magic spells that he is for ever broke. So he is setting up a net work of benefactors that will sponser adventuring groups for a cut of the treasure. it is a little more complex than that, he also will utilise the groups to power train his apprentices, these apprentices will also go through military and engineering schools and his goal is to produce a force of highly trained engineering mages who can build complex cities and structures with higher level magics. VERY EXPENSIVE AND VERY FINANCIALLY REWARDING. At present at level 15 with 1100000 xp and potentially at least 700000 of that being gold income, he is the effectively broke with a mere 20K to his name.
These are some of the guidelines that we have utilised in our campaign, they may not work for your world, or the style of role playing that you and your friends prefer.
Design your role playing world, so that its not just a dungeon crawl.
There is a world of opportunities for role playing outside the dungeon. This is where the money is spent and this is what can be used to drive the desire for gold. Develop a realm and characters that will focus a health portion of your characters development around non weapon proficiencies and lineages that keeps the characters involved outside the "adventures", It is these that offer opportunities for the DM to drive the characters desire for gold.
BASIC D&D IS A FULL CAMPAIGN DESIGNED AROUND THE DEVELOPMENT OF A WHOLE WORLD Not just dungeon crawling.
Understand and install mechanics that suits the varying levels of gold flow.
At low & even higher levels the focus of buying items that are better than what they have can suck up large amounts of cash. Keep magic rarer at lower levels and the characters will leap at the opportunity to buy expensive master crafted items or superior mounts that offer benefits that are only available to the rich.
Higher levels , land, power and growth outside of your personal items is expensive and should keep the players drive for gold going and going.
For example, this weekend is a tourney and magic items are band I have been inundated with requests to find master crafter items, as the world we play in has significantly higher level NPCs than the characters, and in a tourney against fighters 10-15 levels higher they need every edge they can get.
Focus on Non Weapon Skill Development and the Lineage of the Character. This works in the real world, so why not in role play. Nearly everyone in the real world wants more money. Why? Cause the awesome things are so expensive and on a scale that is ridiculous, you don't need these items to survive in the real world, but none the less I would like half a million I could blow on a Lambo. Though honestly I enjoy gaming to much to focus past my 4WD (Also the lambo wont get up the drive so I would need to move some where more expensive)
Use the 90:10 rules. Like in the real world, 90% of wealth should be with the few, and the items the wealthy enjoy should be ridiculously expensive.
Always aim to running kingdoms and empires These are woefully expensive to run. Bit most people would love their characters to be the King or Queen. Start of small with a small amount of land and small expenses, beat up on the characters with larger armies from larger realms and quickly the characters want to expand as you cant always assassinate the villians (especially if they are very high level NPCs)