Tuesday 25 August 2009

Loot Whores

How many times have you played a roleplaying game where the Loot has become more important than the story? When was the last time a fallen companion was allowed to go cold before you nicked their favorite magical weapon or pulled the rings from their not-yet-stiff fingers?Loot, rewards, XP... these are central to the way games like D&D work. It is through the attainment of riches and XP that characters develop and rise in level. But does this make the DM a glorified pimp in a cynical game of acquisition?

The term Loot Whores is used a lot in MMRPG's like World of Warcraft. The forums seem to be full of threads discussing loot and its acquirement and the effect it has (both positive & negative) on the game and game designers. But as a traditional roleplayer I know the term Loot Whore has been around longer than computer games. Ever since the first D&D game players have been rewarded with gold pieces and magic items. Indeed in the Basic D&D game gold equaled experience points.

The attainment of loot seemed to take a back seat during 3rd edition D&D (at least it felt like it to me) but has had a resurgence with 4th Edition. The latest version of the game is definitely 'High Magic' and as such even low level players need to acquire magical items in order to survive and prosper. Indeed compared to earlier editions the amount of magical items required to maintain 'balanced' characters is much greater. Personally I'm not keen on this. I prefer a low magic setting myself but 4th edition has effectively removed this as on option.

I'll end with a few words from the Evil GM : "I still want magic items to be special - something to quest after and treasured when obtained (My Precious...) but the approach of 4e is to make them disposable upgrades, when you get your flaming sword +2 you sell your +1 sword and use the cash to help buy another. Magic items are commodities rather than rare rewards.

Of course it is still possible to run a low magic/low loot campaign, as long as you bear in mind that the PC's are relatively weak compared to what the game designers assume when creating monsters. Hence you need to either pit your PC's against foes of a level or three lower (which in turn will slow their advancement from the expected norm) or drop defenses/attack bonuses etc to compensate. It's still possible, but takes much more work. Mind you, 4e lends itself very badly to a low magic campaign anyway so perhaps the point is moot."

1 comment:

  1. Cool!

    I emailed this to a friend of mine who's an officer in the engineers, as it reminded me very very much of a possible missing page from the Battlefield First Aid aide memoire booklet, which - if you've never had the pleasure of reading it - is an absolute joy.

    An example:
    Is the casualty breathing?
    - Yes: go to step 3
    - No: DEAD. Move on.


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