Wednesday, 30 August 2017

Living Treasures and Human Capital

In Britain, at a certain point in their career, celebrities start to get referred to as "national treasures". The exact stage at which this happens differs by the individual, but at some specific moment, as though it is preordained, journalists collectively begin to use this phrase to refer to a given person whenever they mention them. Usually these people are extremely obscure to foreigners - Bruce Forsyth, David Attenborough, David Jason, Victoria Wood, and Ken Dodd are the names that spring immediately to mind; Stephen Fry has been making a concerted effort to achieve National Treasure status for what seems like decades now.

In Japan they have a different and more official "national treasure" club. Skilled craftsmen of whatever kind can, in recognition of their excellence in pottery, metalwork or whatever, be bestowed with the status of "living national treasure" (literally translated, a "human national treasure"). This entitles them to a lifelong government stipend, among other things. In Japan, they take crafts seriously.

Anyway, I was thinking about this earlier today: what if there actually were human treasures, who were worth XP just like gold or silver? Don't think slavery. Think in-game rewards for having sway over great artists and craftsmen.

What if, as well as for recovering a treasure chest from the dungeon, you could also earn experience for rescuing a kidnapped artisan of great renown? What if you could get XP for having a famous sculptor under your exclusive patronage? What if you could gain a level by persuading a brilliant potter to switch his allegiance from one lord to that of your own liege? I suppose what I'm saying is: What if there was a systematic way of valuing human capital in D&D?


  1. That certainly seems like it would add a dimension to high level "Hit 9th. and establish a stronghold" play.

    Perhaps in practice artisans & producers of value would have something akin to HD or Levels that would dictate the quality of what they produce. (A simple example: A 4th level swordsmith could create +4 swords.) From there there's a million ways it could be slotted into campaign play.

    (My character has a Lvl 2 hatmaker in his stronghold, but he has informed me that there is a mad hermit in the orc infested mountains who is really a legendary Level 7 haberdasher. (You can tell by the stylish chapeaus all the orcs on the mountain are wearing.) If I can fight my way up there and convince him to come work for me or at least make a masterpiece for the Queen on her upcoming birthday, then her favor could mean I get my title upgraded from Baron to Count.)

  2. A reasonable reading of the ACKS domain system would give you a share of the experience points for your master craftsman henchman's products sold.

    There's an experience point threshold that increases with level, requiring increasingly more precious raw materials to reach with nonmagical crafting. So the service of a master joiner or dressmaker is more of a treasure at lower levels, but maybe finding someone who would buy a million gold piece hat is a good adventure hook.

  3. The GM should award XP for achieving great things. It doesn't matter if you rescued the best shoemaker of the land or the queen's useless lump of a son. What matters is that you did it, and the challenges encountered while doing so.


    P.S. Stephen Fry and David Atenborough are known abroad, or at least in Canada they are

    1. Davey A's totally famous in Oztralia too, and we have Oz parody versions:

  4. If we consider a "living treasure" to be "worth his weight in gold", we find a smallish craftsman of 150# to be worth 7500gp in 5th edition, or typically 1500gp (& thus 1500 xp) in the OSR.

    Of course, lesser personages might be only "worth their weight in silver", or perhaps copper, iron, oats, or dung. With exquisite masters being worth their weight in platinum (or mithral, or adamant...)

  5. If my memory serves well, in Warriors of MArs, you could win XP by freeing noblemen, princesses, etc.

  6. I'm not sure you CAN make a systematic way of valuing human "treasure." I suppose 3rd Edition made a bit of a stab at this with "non-adventuring" classes (artisans, nobles, etc.). If you used the same x.p. for rescuing an artisan as defeating one, then you'd have a basic system for treasured NPCs.

    Of course, then you end up with the madness of 12th level stonemasons and 16th level flautists, etc.
    ; )