Thursday, June 28, 2012

The Danger of a Rich PC

Money can be a problem in a lot of RPGs. It can be even a larger problem when one of the PCs in the game has a lot of money as one of their defining traits. You know who I'm talking about: the Ironmen and Batmen of the RPG world. Characters with so much money that they actually could casually buy half of down town Metropolis with just the money they made while reading this first paragraph. I'm not saying these characters are bad, or shouldn't be in your game, but there are some common pitfalls that you as the player, or you as the GM, need to be aware of. Let's talk about that today.

Edit: For some reason this was set to go up at noon and not midnight. Sorry! It should be up at 9:00am EST now.

Excuse me, what's my motivation?
The most common problem you'll see with rich characters is a lack of motivation. While fictional characters like Bruce Wayne have their driving quest to rid the streets of muggers one uppercut at a time, that isn't often the case for PCs. Often, despite acting more insane than any fictional characters, PC characters will have a lot more temperance in their make up. Because of this, motivation to participate in the game's adventures can be hard to come by.

Think about it for a second, in D&D what is one of the most common reasons Adventurers are going around adventuring? Sure, there is the adrenaline aspect of it, and some are on quests to do righteous deeds of valor, but the big thing for a lot of characters - and that a lot of games focus on - is money and fame. Now, I don't know about you, but I don't see me risking my life for a tower full of treasure when I've got twelve towers, each twice as big, full to the brim with treasure back home. Do you? Sure, maybe I'll want more money, but it's easier to pay some adventurers to get it for me - say for a 40% cut - and then pay some assassins to kill those adventurers and give me the other 60% minus their fee. Sure, I'm down like 3 million gold in fees, but I'm also not tied up adventuring and can have made that money back with other adventures.

Because of this you as the player, or you as the GM, need to make sure that the character has a reason, and a very strong reason, to be out adventuring. Piety in D&D can be a great reason. Wanting the adrenaline rush can be another good one - and one I've used more than a few times for characters. A desire to directly do good - or evil - can also work. The point is, you need to have a personal reason to get personally involved in a lot of situations. Otherwise, your character will just sit there, twiddle their thumbs, and make money while hirelings do the work.

Many Obstacles Vanish
This one is more for the GM, but just how many obstacles do most PCs come across - at least in cities - that could be easily avoided by money? "We need this item, but it is locked away in a vault..." "no worry, I'll just buy it." "It's not for sale though." "Nonsense, I'll just give an exorbitant sum of money to borrow it, and he gets another exorbitant sum if I can't return it." Kind of hard to say no to that, y'know? Especially without eventually coming across as deliberately trying to deny the player one of their mechanical advantages.

Not that that means you can't deny it sometimes, some things just are not for sale, but at some point you'll have to allow it, and probably more often than you deny it. Not necessarily a bad thing either, but it means you need to be a lot more creative with some of your challenges and obstacles. Also, I don't suggest sending a private guard group - as many castle guard groups are - against someone who can casually hire them out from under their old boss. Sure, some guards may stay loyal, but that just means you have an in house civil war instead of a coup on your hands.

So Many Creative Uses
Basically the same thing I've said twice before, but in a different direction. To paraphrase a movie, "money is motive with a universal adapter on it." Often times the players who want to be rich can also be very creative in their own approaches Maybe they don't use this to solve all the problems you put in front of them, but it can also cause other issues that you have to deal with. Especially when the player does things like hire a private army to help explore the dungeon, or a small town's worth of hirelings so they have enough equipment for everything. Sure, there are ways to deal with these problems, but they are still things you don't have to deal with as much without a rich PCs.

Power Creep
The last thing I want to mention - as a problem - is that if gear is a big source of power in your system of choice (like it can be in D&D and definitely is in Dark Heresy) then expect the power of your PCs to be higher due to the rich character. Equipment traditionally costs money, and the rich PC has tons of money to throw at this. Due to this, expect your PCs to be equipped with only the best weapons and armor, and not have to worry about things like not having a roof over their head at night.

This can seriously throw off the challenge level for early encounters as the PCs will be  better equipped than the system may expect. The real problem then comes in when you compensate for that extra level of power, and the PCs low level of skill (if they're new) combined with superior equipment leads to them getting wiped by the increased threat of the new foe.

Not All Bad
Like I said in the beginning, I personally love playing rich PCs, and I love having them in my games as a GM. The things I listed before are simply things you need to be aware of as both a GM and a PC. As a player you need to not throw your wallet at every little problem. As a GM you need to be aware that one of the PCs has a very heavy wallet that can be thrown at every little problem. Still, there is a lot of good you can have too.

For example, rich PCs are often part of the social elite, which can mean that it is easier to get the players involved in things that matter for the grand scale of the plot or setting. This can also give a sense of urgency to things as the local Baron or King comes directly to the player asking for help with a matter of the utmost import.

Also, rich people have an interesting world of problems themselves. Problems that include some of my favorite crimes like every form of extortion you can think of. This really opens up the doors for the kind of challenges you can hit the player with, giving them a really fun RP experience and the game an extra level of depth that gets lost a lot of the time.

Finally, sometimes the VIP treatment that rich characters can get can lead into the situations being easier in and of themselves. It lets you play up social aspects of the world that otherwise get ignored, lets you show interactions that otherwise might happen, and can give a sense of "just what are we fighting for" - in both directions - for the PCs when things start to get interesting.

The point is, while being a rich PC opens up a lot of doors for the player to have an impact on the game, those same doors work for the GM to present challenges to the player. Embrace that, and the game can be a much better game than it would have been without the rich PC.

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