Just Gimme GP (That’s What I Want)

I was pleasantly surprised by the positive reactions I received to Death of a Die Roll; apparently, quite a few people like the idea of playing Pathfinder with an old-school feeling. Given that, let’s stay on this particular train of thought for a bit and focus on the actual motivations that PCs tended to have back in the proverbial day.

Pathfinder, and D&D before it, is a game about playing heroes…but there’s a perception that in previous editions of the game, PCs had a more mercenary bent. This didn’t mean that they killed purely for coin, of course, but rather than striking it big and become rich was a larger motivation for PCs; often, it was why they had struck out as adventurers to begin with.

Few know that Uncle Pennybags made his fortune killing kobolds.

There’s nothing wrong with playing this type of character. Oftentimes, adventures are constructed in such a way that even if your character feels no moral obligation to go slay evil, the stakes are high enough that they’ll suffer if they don’t take action. When the world is going to be devastated by the meteor that is being pulled towards it, for example, that isn’t really a problem you can ignore, even if you have no shred of altruism.

Leaving aside that even greedy characters are motivated by necessity and self-preservation, however, is an unspoken aspect to playing a PC that’s just in it for the money – how much money is enough? After all, a greedy character is generally presumed to be trying to achieve enough to be independently wealthy, but how much money does that take? Let’s crunch some numbers.

Greedy Bastards are Fi-douche-iary

In order to figure out how much money a character needs to retire and live a carefree life of luxury, we first need to define a few things.

First, what constitutes “luxury”? Well, according to Pathfinder’s rules for cost of living, an “extravagant” lifestyle is 1,000 gp per month. Sure, we could go for “wealthy,” which is only 100 gp/month, but if your character wants to be able to live in the lap of luxury, why not go for the highest rating (that said, reduce all of the following totals by 90% if your character just wants to be wealthy for the rest of his life, rather than extravagant)? So, your character needs to square away 1,000 gp per month, or 12,000 gp per year every year for the rest of his life.

How long will that be, though? Let’s turn our attention to Pathfinder’s age rules. Right away, one thing should become clear: longer-lived races will need to acquire more money, simply because they’ll need to sustain themselves longer.

Now, let’s take an extreme look at the age ranges and get some initial figures. If we take the earliest possible starting age for each race (that is, in the Random Starting Ages table, taking the “adulthood” age and adding the minimum result possible from the “barbarian, rogue, sorcerer” column), and subtract it from the maximum result possible in the “maximum age” column of the Aging Effects table, multiplying the result by 12,000 gp, we get the following:

  • Humans will need to pay for 94 years, costing 1,128,000 gp.
  • Dwarves will need to pay for 403 years, costing 4,884,000 gp.
  • Elves will need to pay for 636 years, costing 7,632,000 gp.
  • Gnomes will need to pay for 456 years, costing 5,472,000 gp.
  • Half-elves will need to pay for 164 years, costing 1,968,000 gp.
  • Half-orcs will need to pay for 65 years, costing 780,000 gp.
  • Halflings will need to pay for 178 years, costing 2,136,000 gp.

Okay, so these are a fairly good baseline, but we can do better. For one thing, we’re assuming the longest lifespan possible (and that this wealth will be acquired almost immediately upon hitting adulthood). Let’s trim that a bit; we’ll keep the standard we used to generate a character’s minimum possible adventuring age, but this time we’ll figure that a character will live to their race’s average lifespan (taking the average die rolls given in the aforementioned “maximum age” column). This trims things a bit, giving us the following:

  • Humans will need to pay for 75 years, costing 900,000 gp.
  • Dwarves will need to pay for 308 years, costing 3,696,000 gp.
  • Elves will need to pay for 438 years, costing 5,256,000 gp.
  • Gnomes will need to pay for 307 years, costing 3,684,000 gp.
  • Half-elves will need to pay for 135 years, costing 1,620,000 gp.
  • Half-orcs will need to pay for 56 years, costing 672,000 gp.
  • Halflings will need to pay for 130 years, costing 1,560,000 gp.

Okay, now these numbers are a little more accurate. We’re still erring on the side of a longer life by presuming that they’ll strike it rich in their first year of adventuring, but given how most campaigns seem to take place in a year of game-time, this isn’t a bad idea.

Now, we mentioned that these numbers are achieved by taking the cost of living an extravagant lifestyle every month for the rest of their lives. But what if there’s some sort of disaster with their finances? What if the character lives longer than expected? The above numbers are a bare-bones estimate, and any financially-conscious character should have at least a slight cushion to catch them in the event of something unforeseen. So, let’s increase each of the previous totals by 20%:

  • Humans will want to achieve 1,080,000 gp.
  • Dwarves will want to achieve 4,435,200 gp.
  • Elves will want to achieve 6,307,200 gp.
  • Gnomes will want to achieve 4,420,800 gp.
  • Half-elves will want to achieve 1,944,000 gp.
  • Half-orcs will want to achieve 806,400 gp.
  • Halflings will want to achieve 1,872,000 gp.

Now those numbers are more conducive to living a long and comfortable life. But let’s go one step further; let’s assume that your PC isn’t a junior accountant carefully tabulating the costs for his dream life. Let’s instead presume that your character has a single figure in mind, and is working towards that. It’s still based off of what he needs to retire as a rich man with a long life ahead of him, but it’s not quite so academic in mind. Hence, we’ll round the above numbers off to the nearest whole, giving us our finally tally.

So, all things being equal, if your character wants to retire young and live a rich life, he’ll be adventuring to try and make the following amount:

Humans will want to earn 1,000,000 gp.

Dwarves and Gnomes will want to earn 4,500,000 gp.

Elves will want to earn 6,500,000 gp.

Half-elves and Halflings will want to earn 2,000,000 gp.

Half-orcs will want to earn 800,000 gp.

One Rich Witch…or Fighter, Oracle, Rogue, etc.

The above totals are pretty astronomical, even for a character that campaigns from 1st-level all the way to 20th. According to the Character Wealth By Level table, only the half-orc would meet his financial goal by 20th level, and even then he’d have to liquidate almost everything to do it. Hence, there’s little reason to worry that a PC will suddenly meet these goals and decide to retire, leaving the rest of the party (who wants to keep adventuring) in a lurch. (Though, that possibility becomes more likely if you, as noted above, reduced the above to 1/10th of the listed values and retired at the “wealthy” level.)

The reason to max out your ranks in Swim.

Even if your character does retire, however, that doesn’t mean they have to stop adventuring; remember, major-threats demand a response. Likewise, smaller but more personal events can force an adventurer out of retirement as well – for example, while your retired character might not be so rich as to be on The Forbes Fictional 15, he’ll still have enough wealth to attract thieves. Your character fought hard for his wealth, and it just might turn out that staying wealthy is just as difficult as earning it.

Finally, there are other methods of adventuring, such as entering the arena of politics. One needn’t wield a sword to do battle, after all, and that’s especially true where money is concerned.

Even after raiding many dungeons and finding lost treasure after lost treasure, a character can find more excitement and danger in retirement than he ever did while adventuring.

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4 Responses to “Just Gimme GP (That’s What I Want)”

  1. rorschachhamster Says:

    One thing I’ll try to do in my more Old-Schoolish Pathfinder Campaign is to re-introduce the name-level obligations from Mentzer (or D&D-Encyclopedia (via the excellent Dark Dungeons Clone)). So after 9th or 11th level everybody (and that includes the king of your realm) will expect you to built a stronghold and tame the wildernis… you don’t have to, of course.

  2. Will Says:

    I suspect that part of the reason why D&D has slid away from ‘mercenary’ and more towards ‘good at heart’ is because a lot of the time it’s actually kind of hard to provide a reasonable motivation for a character to want to risk their life for profit. The official modules, if looked at from the perspective of a for-profit character, rarely seem worthwhile even if you are somehow psychic and know the total value of treasure you can expect; look at it from the PoV of the character and often the adventure seems positively suicidal.

    Add to that that a lot of players tend to consider ‘in it for the money’ as synonomous with ‘amoral and willing to murder for a few coppers’ and you have a recipe for confusion and difficulty. I suspect this is also why a lot of GM’s tend to demand ‘good’ characters.

    I do like your numbers though, kind of hammers home how much it sucks to be an Elven adventurer though 😀

  3. reignofjotuns Says:

    I don’t know if you check your comments…

    I’m starting work on a project on my own blog, building an RPG from scratch. Could I ask you to be a consultant on the project?
    I’ve been enjoying your blog for a while now, and I’d like your input
    on this.

    • Alzrius Says:

      Hey reignofjotuns,

      I always check my comments, though I don’t always reply (I wonder if I should?). I’m happy to look at the RPG on your blog, but I don’t know how useful I’d be as a consultant. My expertise is fairly well limited to Pathfinder/d20 matters, and I’m always struggling for free time.

      In other words, I’m happy to offer what help I can, but I doubt it’ll be very much.

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