Sunday, November 20, 2016

A question of plate

Thesis:  First level PC fighters really shouldn't start out with the ability to afford plate.  Sure, they've got a massive 8-10 HP, so they need all the help they can get pretending to tank their way at the front of the party.

But that's not what that initial funnel is about, now?  It's about scrabbling through that first dungeon, avoiding the giant frog, learning how to skulk and retreat, and getting out with enough coin to get that coveted equipment upgrade...

So let's take a quick review of where a few version of the game sit with respect to the economy of armor.

For consistency, I'm just looking at the three basic armor types that are persistent through various versions of the game (at least the ones that I have laying about right now) - leather, chain mail, and plate mail.

The Moldvay/Cook books line out leather, chain, and plate at 20, 40, and 60 gp, respectively.

S&W spreads out the cost a bit more - 5, 75, and 100 gp.

Basic Fantasy prices the three types at 20, 60, and 300 gp.

1st ed. AD&D puts them at 5, 75, and 400 gp.

Labyrinth Lord costs are 20, 150, and 600 gp.

In the first case, an average-rolling PC (120-130 gp on a 3d6x10) can afford plate.  S&W can make plate available for strongly-rolling 1st level PCs, unless they skimp on other accouterments and supplies.  And plate is out of reach for 1st level characters in BFRPG, AD&D, and Labyrinth Lord

(Later on, 3.5/Pathfinder makes most medium and all heavier armors out of reach for 1st level characters, and perhaps even for 2nd or 3rd level depending on their treasure hauls: 10, 150, 600 for 'half-plate'/1,200 for 'field plate'/1,500 for 'full plate'.)

I doubt that many of these values have much grounding in any 'real' economy. There are limited resources on the historical prices of armor.  However, here is one that lists out some example costs for a few common armor types (typically chain mail, a few helmets, partial armor bits like curiasses, as well as some values for custom armor made for nobles.)

Anyway let's move on to starting GP for 1st Level PCs:

Prior to 1st Ed. AD&D, all character classes rolled the same starting gold - 3d6x10 GP. The OSR clones generally stick with this model.

Of course, we probably can all recall more than once a magic user PC rolling high and buying out the town market's daggers, oil and pack animals.  And a fighter rolling 40 GP and gamely heading out of town in their leather and spear, with a bag over their shoulder.

Then comes AD&D, and the starting gold values get skewed by class.

This skewing is not simply starting GP as buying power, it is also proportional to the types of equipment required/allowed by the classes.

But... perhaps another way to think about these variable starting gold values may actually be as part of the backstory for the individual PC.