A tuneable method for placing treasure in BX

There doesn’t seem to be clear agreement on how fast BX/Moldvay PCs should advance, but it’s clear that many people are unhappy with the rate of advancement that results. It tends to be far too slow, at least for busy adults who manage a three-hour session maybe twice a month. (See e.g. Becker’s general critique here and here, and a recent Reddit post on the meagre spoils of In Search of the Unknown).

I’m working on some adventures that I plan to publish, and I plan to stat them for BX because (as Patrick Stuart recently argued) BX seems to be the most-used system in the parts of the OSR I care about. There are often complaints about adventures supposedly statted for BX that they are far too light on treasure (see many of Bryce Lynch’s reviews).

I don’t want to use the standard treasure tables because (a) I’m using mostly custom creatures, (b) there’s controversy about how good they are, and in any case (c) I want to make a tool that we can all use to tune the rate of PC advancement without giving up on xp-for-gold as an incentive.

So, I have made a spreadsheet (Google Sheets version, Excel version), and explained how it works below. Unless noted, I’m getting any specific numbers from the Old School Essentials Rules Tome.

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Three things, mid-December 2019

Justin Alexander has a good article on why GMs shouldn’t fudge rules and die rolls — https://thealexandrian.net/wordpress/43708/roleplaying-games/gm-dont-list-9-fudging. He doesn’t mention that fudging subtly corrupts you, giving you a sordid aura and making you more likely to do murders, but I presume we all know that by now.

Alexander also has a has a plausible conjecture for why most realm/business/tavern management etc subsystems fail — because they tend to be closed systems, rather than integrating naturally with the main loop of the game — https://twitter.com/hexcrawl/status/1185260871062183936?s=09

Finally, Patrick Stuart has been looking at the OSR-space and has concluded that BX/Moldvay D&D is the common language that makes most of it work — http://falsemachine.blogspot.com/2019/11/the-bx-commons.html. This aligns with my experience — I see reddit and blog posts by people playing OD&D, but they’re rarely the people who are writing things I’m interested in. And I don’t see much about Holmes, Mentzer or AD&D at all.

Collected advice on adventure design

I am writing some OSR-type D&D adventures that I intend to publish, so I have gone looking for advice on doing that. Below, I have collected links. I have also included some summaries, but honestly in the eyes of posterity they are more for my benefit in writing them than for you in reading them.

How I Write an Adventure, by Arnold K


That’s prosaic, principled, but realistic — I can believe he actually works like that. My summary:

  • Write ten adventures at once, gathering and filing ideas as they come to you
  • Run them early — that will give you ideas and show you problems
  • Have a (short) list of themes, be strict about cutting stuff that doesn’t fit
  • Don’t commit to anything until late on, especially not to a specific map
  • Focus on making interesting snippets – you can integrate them later
  • Iterate your design, culling weak (or unthematic) bits ruthlessly

How I Make an Adventure by Patrick Stuart

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