The CRPG mindset vs. RPGs – how do you defeat the greed?

I suspect that we’ve all had that moment while gaming when our characters finished a battle or encounter and suddenly had a whole lot of loot to determine how to divvy up and carry out. It’s a gaming staple – doesn’t seem to matter whether you’re playing in a fantasy, modern, or futuristic setting. But it seems to happen a whole lot more while playing a fantasy RPG like D&D.

For some time now we’ve lived in a world where computer roleplaying games (CRPGs) have been around. I remember playing Bard’s Tale, Might and Magic, and the Gold Box Forgotten Realms computer games like Curse of the Azure Bonds to name a few. And from then to now, the general pattern is your character or party heads out to find bad guys to fight, you fight the bad guys, and then you collect the loot. You may not be able to haul it all away, so you leave useless items behind and take the good stuff until you can sell it.

Most of those games came out while I was in high school or in college initially. And I have to admit I played the heck out of them and enjoyed myself quite a bit.

But by that point I had already been playing RPGs (especially Dungeons and Dragons, James Bond, and a few other games) for a good 3-5 years. In that few years, I went from being the treasure hoarding munchkin to GMing and trying to achieve some kind of game balance. Though it was fun to kill the monster and take the loot, that wasn’t necessarily the goal any more by the time I left that period of my life.

And yes, we did all the munchkin things you’d expect. It was 1st edition D&D so we were kicking butt and taking names, even going so far as fighting Tiamat in her lair. (And it’s been asked, so I’ll answer here – no, I don’t recall if it was on her home plane or the prime material plane, but we did it nonetheless and got hoards of loot as a result.) We went up against the forces of Orcus. Did we die? Not usually – the GM and the mood at the time typically gave us enough room to survive. Was it Monty Haul? Of course.

That however was a phase. It lasted a while and then we got tired of simply collecting every coin, scroll, potion, sword, wand, etc. just because it was there.

Now if you look at CRPGs you see the same thing happening over and over because there’s no GM there to prevent it. We (yes, I’m just as guilty) stuff our pockets, backpacks, and saddlebags with everything we can get our hands on that is of value and leave the rest. The good thing is that we do run out of room so there has to be a bit of prioritization typically. The bad thing is that typically we have an infinite amount of time to gather, sort, and figure out where to stash everything.

Because I and many other gamers of our generation moved from traditional pen-and-paper RPGs to CRPGs, we’re less apt to take a CRPG approach to our RPGs.

Unfortunately, I’ve seen others that have gone the other way – from computer to game table – that just don’t get that you can’t haul off the kitchen sink and curtains or the other inhabitants of a particular city might take it the wrong way. Maybe you can do that in a dungeon after you’ve cleaned it out – there’s a certain amount of time you have there. But not every situation has the benefit of time.

Have other GMs and groups run into this bizarre trend? If so, have you solved it? And if you solved it, how did you solve it? We’ve tried lots of things, but logic doesn’t seem to work in this case. Or perhaps we just haven’t provided the right object lesson… I don’t know.

Thoughts? Anybody? Anybody? Bueller? Bueller?

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This article has 6 comments

  1. Shilling Reply

    “You can also try to enforce encumbrance rules, but that’s a lot of effort on the DM’s part”

    I would be tempted to turn that on its head. Use the annoying maths as a soft punishment. If the players want to pick up everything, tell them they can – but first they must work out the encumbrance and show the results to the DM. While they are doing that the DM can have a nice break or prepare the much more interesting next section (perhaps occasionally muttering things like “cool!” to herself).

    Once they get back to a merchant make them work out the value. Also tell them the merchant doesn’t want all of it.

    If this works then the players will start to avoid mass looting because it is boring for them and their time is better spent elsewhere – having adventures.

  2. Brian Reply

    Honestly, the best solution is to point out to the players, “Hey, the cops will come after you for this sort of thing.” It’s not that hard a concept for most folks to grasp

    Are they properly fencing the loot? If they hang on to it, they run the risk of “locate object” spells tracking them down. If they try to sell it on the street, they’ll be arrested for possession of stolen goods. So just what does happen to all this stuff they’re taking?

    You can also try to enforce encumbrance rules, but that’s a lot of effort on the DM’s part. Your best bet, honestly, is to explain the situation to the players, and then play true to the setting.
    .-= Brian´s last blog ..Honey Cakes for Cerberus =-.

    • Fitz

      @Brian – Definitely a good point. One we’ve tried before I believe, but we can try it again. Thanks for the input!

  3. Swordgleam Reply

    I’ve actually encouraged this in my current party – they’re in a post-apoc setting and their town has scant resources, so every scrap of usable material they can bring back pulls the town further back from the edge. But since we keep track of encumbrance (sort of) they do have to prioritize. It’s a bit like a fun mini-game. But then, there isn’t much loot to be had in this setting, so going Monty Haul isn’t a problem.

    • Fitz

      @Swordgleam – But here’s the thing – that makes sense in a post-apocalyptic setting where you’re scrounging for technology and resources. That’s actually a roleplaying aspect even if it is like a mini-game from a CRPG standpoint. And you minimize the “Monty Haul” aspects through a reduced amount of “stuff” in the setting and through endurance.

      In our case, we have a mostly city-based fantasy RPG adventure where there are… guards, innocents, not-so-innocents, and the party… and if honestly if we hung around too much longer in the last session after a particular battle we probably would have been arrested by the guards, which might have made an impact on the looting but we ran against a hard time stop for the session.

      The post-apocalyptic setting sounds like fun… Sort of a Fallout 3 or Book of Eli approach?

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