Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Displaying Wealth

One of the hard things to do as a GM is really sell the feeling that an NPC - or even PC in some cases - is incredibly wealthy. This doesn't come up all the time in games, but it does come up enough that it's good to have some ideas Today I want to talk about a few common things you find across the social elite - even across national borders and different cultures.

I Got People For That
Movies and TV shows joke about this. Someone will be trying to prove they're rich and so will say they have a person to go shopping for them, then they'll clarify saying actually they have a person to go shopping for the person they originally hired to go shopping for them. It's silly, and it kind of shows the disconnect, but it's not wrong.

The wealthier you are, the more important you are, the more likely you are to have people who do things for you. You don't drive. You don't go shopping. You don't do much of anything. That is, of course, unless you want to. Consider Tony Stark in the first Iron Man movie. He drives his own car to the airport, while his driver drives his luggage in another car. He does this for fun as much as anything. Beyond that though, he has a driver to bring him places.

Things Move On Their Schedule
Speaking of Tony Stark and the first Iron Man movie, there's another fun thing that is shown right after the car scene. Tony shows up to his plane for it to be ready and waiting for him. This is another perk - that can become assumed - when someone reaches certain levels of wealth and importance things move on their time, and not the other way around.

Because of this, people who are not on the same level have to wait. Even a punctual person of extreme wealth or status will be the last to arrive to certain things. It's part of where the idea behind being fashionably late comes from. If you have someone of extreme wealth/importance waiting for the PCs when they show up, it's likely super important, or you're simply doing it wrong. Just remember, the less wealth/import you have, the more you wait for everyone else.

Lots and LOTS of Stuff, Including Space
One of the first tricks for displaying wealth I learned was that a wealthy person will have a lot of space when space is at a premium. However, there is more to it than that. See, if you just have a lot of space it could be a sign that your importance doesn't match your wealth. Perhaps you inherited something, or got moved into a place you don't fit. No, to truly sell wealth you need to have lots of space - when space is at a premium - while also having LOTS and LOTS of stuff.

Consider Wayne Manor. That place is stacked with treasures, but you could play soccer in every room and probably not have to worry about breaking anything due to how much space you have. One room of that manor would probably fill a good sized home anywhere else in Gotham, and I mean almost to the point of being unlivable. But its just the decorations of one room, and that room has tons of space.

Luxury Is A Constant
Finally, if the rest didn't get it through, luxury is a constant with the heights of wealth and import. Beds are not just big, they're huge. They're soft enough to sink into. You don't ever have to wear the same clothes twice - and I mean that literally. You can casually buy expensive things - assuming they're not just given to you.

Whatever nicety you can think of, is likely available to the social elite. And yes, that includes ice for desert cultures and other things that may seem improbable. So don't be afraid to play it up, especially with the high end of the spectrum.

What Else?
This list is far from complete. What else do you have?

1 comment:

  1. Oh nice, I'd been wondering how to introduce one of the richest persons in my campaign, but I think he's going to let the party dance to his tune before he even bothers to show up.

    But the fun thing about the social elite is... When they're so filthy rich they don't have to keep up appearances. In my campaign, that's the difference between the "Nouveau Riche" and the "Old Blood", it's the ones who feel insecure in their wealth who have to 'prove' to the world that they're really that rich (and thus spend a large part of their fortune on things like extra parking space and other things they don't really need, thus decrease their wealth). It's the ones who don't need to spend their wealth who manage to hang on to it, and become even richer that way. The Discworld books have a very good explanation on it, it's called Sam Vimes Theory of Economic Injustice. Someone who can afford the really expensive stuff won't need to replace it for years and years, while the cheap stuff needs to replaced every few months and thus cost more in the long run.

    That random beggar on the street? He's actually the richest man of the city but decided that having everything he wanted wasn't for him so he gave everything away. He still has an income larger than the rest of the city combined, but most of it goes to keeping the largest hospital of the city up and running so it can provide health care to everyone who needs it.