Following is a list of things to do if your PCs become too wealthy. Somehow, it never gets easy.
(The original discussion arised on behalf of CrimsonShadow, with much aid of MoonHunter. Enjoy and add your own.)
So what to do if they are too wealthy?
- Taxes - always a good start. Besides common taxes, there can suddenly arise “special taxes” on the wealthy adventurers. No ruler’s advisor worth his salt should pass a good opportunity!
- Speaking of tax collectors, wealth attracts thieves of all kinds, crooks, burglars, and brigands. A fantasy setting is a dangerous place. Their wealth could be the basis for entirely new adventures. When robbing the players, a thief could leave a note… making it personal and launching the players on a new quest.
- Make them “develop their characters more” to find new ways to spend money - so they find a liking for that delicious wine and foods and whatnot.
- Look at what happens in our world to people that become to be known as rich. Besides thieves, suddenly everyone needs their help, for charity, investment or whatever. Even family and friends could be shown in a new light when they borrow some money. (Also see the plot Jackpot for inspiration.)
- However powerful they may be, if they become really wealthy, they will need bodyguards just to get through the streets.
- Make it a plot hook - if they gained their fortune by selling stuff, there can be a wealthy villain that secretly bought it all to do evil stuff. Now they have to face this evil (expenses) and think twice before they spread magic items, quality weapons, spellbooks or whatever around. Blindly selling for profit is rarely a good idea, even with relatively innocent items. Who bought all those dragon steaks again?
- Fantasy worlds often have no banks, and gold can be bulky. Let them worry about proper storing and the means to protect the wealth (more expenses). Investment takes time and can fail easily.
- Or have a whole army come after them. With so much money, nobody is powerful enough to protect it, especially if the army has the support of magic.
“Nobility” is a word for a whole array of means to deprive the PCs of their money, and to add plot hooks. In modern worlds, you could replace the word for “celebrity” and adapt most pitfalls.
- Bribes. Err, _gifts_ to those that can grant a noble title.
- Also, every noble needs a coat-of-arms - there are costs for registering one, putting it on all your stuff, and the annual tithes to King’s treasury coming with that. (And fun things like the law stating they can’t become noble until they have a crest; and only nobles could register one - solve that.)
- To be a knight, there has to be quality armour and lots of equipment and personnel… which they may have, mostly. But when they find out a noble suit of clothing costs as much as their platemail…
- So all the gear - clothes, jewelry, more clothes, all of fine quality and design.
- Plus, these guys don’t know the prices - they can be gouged by every merchant they meet. “Oh sir, this is not just silk, it is Cathay silk. As you can see, it is of a much finer quality.” “The Sir should not be seen in lesser garb. This helps him make a statement.” etc.
- They need lessons for skills that adventuring does not teach (remember the new Zorro movie). Foremost, there is the etiquette they must learn (yes, a character skill to train up).
- A noble must have land/property, and the manor home of course.
- And now they just can’t beat up the people who piss them off. (Well sure they can… but then they become outlaws…)
- And now that you are noble and such, the king could ask you to do “favors” or a military action for the kingdom.
- But if they fulfill the King’s wishes, they may be suddenly “too popular”, “too close to His ear”, or “too trying to get higher”. All sorts of intrigue follows. (Including backstabbing, and assassination attempts).
- On the other hand, there is always “The King is afraid that you are so rich and powerful that you will take over, and declares you enemies of the state.” Or lets you declared heretics by the church - so the King is all innocent, and result the same. (And that stigma can cross national borders…)
- And especially beware of insulting a high-ranking noble or High-priest.
A few more sources on the ways of spending money:
Additional Ideas (8)
Entourages cost coin, as do mounts for them. Acquired lands need upkeep, ranging from repairing broken down equipment, paying taxes, or simply payroll for the guards in the PCs new tower.
The main thing is that when I can forecast a PC windfall, I will arrange a few money sinks for the PCs to stumble into. This is ample room for RP since there is interaction with NPCs making repairs, dealing with old loyalists who oppose the PCs covertly and the like.
Besides the ever present gate tax, wage tax, and windfall tax, for each new location they go.
Now that you have all those noble trapping, you have new taxes. There is the title tax (for those with new titles), property taxes, paying the tax for your servants, paying sales/ transaction taxes on all those better goods, hoof tax (tax on all those animals past the second horse), and so on. It works pretty well. And, if they have become invested in being proper and noble, they will pay them rather than skip town.
You want to go up and comming? Get yourself a high ranking significant others and marry yourself some legitamcy. Of course, there are all the costs for courting... gifts, gifts, services, musicians, and so on. Of course, the bride price will also come up.
Of course, if one is to be knighted, or invested into the nobility, one needs to have the proper pomp and ceremony. Historically, many a squire of gentle birth wasn't knighted because of the expense of hosting an extravagant celebration with all the land's great nobles in attendance. Arranging such an event, with the attendant feasting, tournaments, and religious ceremonies often cost a fortune.
Dreadfully expensive, and dreadfully easy to lose. Especially if they are lost before any gain has been made with the ship.
One little seamonster or navigational error, and well, did they do business with Lloyds of London?
It was common in the Middle Ages for ships to be insured, and merchants could come to the wealthy characters, asking them to insure their vessels against mishap. Such contracts would cover the cost of the vessel, the value of the cargo, and even the expected profit from its sale.
This could become a source of income for prominent heroes, and could stimulate adventures as they try to eliminate the pirates/hostile powers/sea monsters that are preying upon ships they have insured.
One of my favorite tricks as a Shadowrun GM is the 'Combustible Lifestyle'. My characters must maintain some form of 'lifestyle', that is, they have to own a house / rent an apartment / squat in a crash pad somewhere, pay the utilities on it, keep up with the housekeeping, etc. Mechanistically, downtime healing is affected by the level of the lifestyle you maintain - If you're crashing on a half-rotten mattress in a sewer somewhere and spending a hundred dollars a month on food, you can't heal because of infections, you smell from not bathing, etc, etc. Higher lifestyles, like a nice apartment somewhere where the soy is warm and decently flavored, get expensive fast, the price rising exponentially. And as the price rises, you have to sink more and more into contractual payments, regardless of whether or not you're actually there. As they are criminals, and frequently have organizations fighting over the right to take them down, it behooves them to move often. It also behooves them to keep emergency bolt-holes in the city, etc. Their homes get raided. They get exploded. They get burned down. As a result, I can get one person paying for up to four, five, six places at once, two of which they die if they ever show up at again, and one of which doesn't even exist anymore, but they're not gonna be able to get that down payment back...
In "the real world", money does not trade as nicely as it does in most fantasy worlds where money is metric, based on the material (and all of it is reasonably pure), and nobody cares a wit about where it was pressed - just how much it weighs.
Reality is very different. You could have a great deal of money that nobody wants to take because it is from elsewhere. The coins might be worth 50 units of value each, but only made of 30 units of value worth of gold/silver/whatever. Thus you can recoup some of your loss by melting the coins and converting them into gold.
(Of course the local government might want to question you about where you got all that gold).
Money Changers are the answer. With rates from 1-10% charged, they can convert gold/ money from one country to the local country, if you can find someone who is willing to buy that much of your "odd money" from you. Traders are often willing to do that, but the farther you get away from a trade route, the harder it is for you to find money changers. (Though they are often known to hang out on the temple steps.)