While I do sometimes do blog posts especially for the Blog Carnival, I usually don’t make a big deal out of it. But this time, I have to, because they have picked my ultimate subject: Ordinary Life in RPG.
In the description of the topic they even mention that: Four of the dominating influences on our lives are Politics, Religion, Law, and Social Structure / Occupation. This is so right up my alley. The worst thing is trying to figure out what to write about. I am so torn! We’ve got Grain Into Gold; we’ve got Urban Developments; we’ve got the whole city of Rhum series. Each of them touches on “Ordinary Life”.
For a VERY long time, I have been planning to complete a book now known as Lifestyles of the Fantastic and Magical, formerly known as How the Other Half Lives. It has been laid out in a number of different ways, but now what it has turned into is a means for players and GMs to quickly determine what a PCs lifestyle is and how much that costs. As I so often ask in these posts and then try to answer: So what? Why does it matter? Well, what happens when your PCs get home from the adventure? Is there any cost for living between missions? If so, does it reflect the way that the PCs live or is there a standard cost?
The idea behind Lifestyles is to pick things like what type of apartment you live in, how fine your clothes are, and what you do to get your meals. A lot of this rises from game mastering for the last three decades plus. Worst example ever: two brother elves who lived in a cabin in the woods yet believed that their non-adventuring occupation was crafting and selling steel weapons. The cabin was generally free, they claimed to live of the land, and they claimed that they should only have to purchase the steel to craft weapons, which they also had time to sell. As GM, I told them they would not be allowed to train for adventuring skills, limited their crafting, and fought with them at nearly every turn. Wow, what I would have given for a neutral set of rules that could have been relied on.
So what are we talking about? Well, labor costs money, but it also costs time. If you want to eat out at the tavern every night, it is going to be more expensive, but can you afford the time to shop for groceries and prepare your own meals? How long does it take to train for new skills or to maintain your attributes? (Yes, Legend Quest demands that you train to maintain those peak level attributes. Olympic level weight lifters do not remain at that level when they are not training.) So you need to balance the number of hours in the day with how much money you have to spend. So if you spend most of the day training or working, you may have to pay the extra money to eat at the tavern instead of making home cooked meals.
I can’t give numbers here, as there just isn’t the space, but you can imagine how this shakes out. But what if your players don’t care about anything outside of combat? Well, this can force them to care. Most PCs will have some manner of part-time job - otherwise the GM will need to make sure they are properly compensated adventuring. Part-time jobs and spending can be matched so adventuring profits go to adventuring. But that means the PC needs a part-time job. What are they capable of? Just because you’re a trained killer, I mean “fighter”, doesn’t mean you’re a good sentry or bouncer. Swordsmen are NOT good bouncers. Bouncers eject people using non-weapon combat styles; they don’t attack with magic swords!
So that means that players need to care about something other than their to hit percentages in battle. Just because you use armor doesn’t mean you know how to repair it. But if you do know how to repair it, you can have a pretty good part-time job between adventures. How much do we believe in part-time jobs? 100 Professions was written exactly for this. (Sorry - this was never supposed to be a list of products! but it really is our strength.) In any case - PCs still need to balance the hours training vs. the hours working. We really think this balance of hours and money is the best way to realistically give players a decent understanding of their characters’ lives outside of the adventures.