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Larpcast 24: Treasure

An episode about Treasure!


- Mickey and Bill

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  • Malkntnt

    One of the things which I feel NERO has really done wrong with treasure are the changes to the Formal Magic system (post-2001), specifically the requirement for casting costs of Formal Magic. Back in the day, Formal castings used to required C2s, and C4, and E4s, and P4s. Now, only a P2 is required for Greater Extend.

    If we returned BACK to a system where RARE and SINGULAR Components were required for higher level castings, this would create not only more difficult castings but limits what can be cast. Then PCs would have to adventure for those Destruction 4 components (or whatever).

    This would also create additional factors for the in-game economy. RARITY creates demand. Again, back in the day RARE and SINGULAR components had real value. Now, who cares? No one. Power 2 (P2) is the only RARE that matters these days.

    Also, Formal Magic in general these days sucks. No one casts anymore - this also really makes Components less valuable.

    Feb 27, 2012 at 5:48 pm
  • Jyn


    I wasn’t around for the previous incarnation of the formal system so I can’t speak to that. I was around before they doubled the treasure distribution for components, and I must say, my experience is that the more components we have, the more formal magic we cast!

    Because of the way the formal costs vs. treasure distribution in NERO, there are some kinds of formals that just aren’t cost-effective (like making +3 swords, for instance), but at the chapters I play, we cast formal magic all the time, especially “plot formal” like Dreamvision and High Horoscope. Now, that may make it less cool in the minds of some, because it’s less rare, but lots of folks have fun with it.

    Sort of related, but a side note: I find it funny when people talk about how in NERO “everyone” does this or “no one” does that, when it really varies so widely from area to area. Not picking on you in particular, lots of people do it, just something I notice.

    Feb 27, 2012 at 6:19 pm
  • Jyn

    Re: Information as Treasure

    I first heard of this concept from somebody in the Madrigal scene (maybe JJ?), but I guess the basic idea is that one purpose of treasure is to interact with and affect the story of the game. Treasure can let you do this, by giving your character access to extra abilities, or the ability to bribe characters into doing what you want. In games where information is very central to the plot, knowing the secret weakness of the Evil Sorceress is 10 times as useful as a magic sword. So the reward for a very difficult mod might be a magic sword, or it might just be that bit of knowledge, or an introduction to a contact who could tell you. I think people sometimes take this too far. . . If being effective in the game requires tangible treasure, than you need to put it out there, especially to have something for the players who maybe aren’t interested in that particular plot, but where just there to help out. But overall, advancing the story can be as valuable a way to reward players as anything else, provided that the PCs are invested.

    In regard to Bill’s comment, yes, I think its worth is subjective. Then again, I think the worth of all game abilities and treasure is subjective. . . they are only valuable in so far as you have opportunities to use them in ways that are fun. If players are complaining that a given type of treasure is worthless, it seems a good time to question whether staff can do anything to give it worth. I know you mentioned it as an example of a useless NPC contact, but we had a baker NPC once at NERO ETN who was awesome. You collected random alchemical components for him that were hidden in the woods on other mods, and you could trade them for alchemy or cookies! I think treasure you can eat is the best kind :D

    Couple of other random thoughts:

    -I think one of the reasons for the perceived “fairness” of random treasure vs. stuff NPCs give you is that while there’s still subjectivity involved, it’s dispersed among many untraceable encounters, as opposed to someone being able to point at one interaction and say “favoritism!” Like you, I’m kind of skeptical of how much more “fair” it is, but I’m okay with there being multiple ways to get advancement in a game, and if one of them is the cumulative result of searching a thousand goblins, so be it, as long as I don’t have to. :)

    -The vast majority of treasure in NERO is alienable. You can give it away, it can be stolen, and it’s the same item. In Madrigal, at least, there is coin, crafting components, and info treasure, but there’s also a lot of inalienable treasure: boons, grants, refreshes, and other power ups from NPCs. Sometimes they’re major and sometimes minor, but I think those kind of constitute the other “invisible” treasure type. Any thoughts from you guys re: that kind of treasure?

    Feb 27, 2012 at 6:53 pm
  • Malkntnt

    @ Jyn

    Yes, I made generalizations. The way I talk is the way I type LOL

    I guess what I really mean to say is “Rarely does anyone really sit down and make anything.” Why should I bother making a +3 sword when it’s very likely that some plot team is going to put one out? ZERO! I’m not going to.

    Treasure is a way people keep score - Mickey and Bill are absolutely right about that. The other way to “keep score” is by character levels. Without these two, I think a lot of people would lose interest. Every RPG game of any note has a level system and a reward system.

    One of my main issues is Risk vs Reward, which I was surprised was not touched on at all (maybe in a previous LARPcast? I’m not yet up to date). It seem that players just want the reward, without the risk. Again, I’m old-school, so I can remember going on long quest chains to get… GASP! A rendered indestructible longsword! Yep, that was the treasure… well there was some copper and silver in there too I should be fair.

    Players these days feel that “running away” means the encounter was not stated correctly. “We had no chance!” Well, maybe you missed something? Ever think of that?

    I’d love to see (hear) some discussion about Risk vs Reward and the feeling of Entitlement that some players seem to feel because they paid to attend an event, they are Entitled to treasure and entertainment.

    Feb 27, 2012 at 8:25 pm
  • Tobin


    Players that play an event are absolutely entitled to entertainment. Granted, part of that entertainment comes from risk (hence why people gamble). But players should really expect to have fun.

    NERO has changed. Lots of people long for the days when it was harder or grittier, but the fact is that enough people like the new game, so that’s why it’s evolved to that.

    We’ve talked about many factors regarding risk, but risk doesn’t always mean dying. It means losing something in dramatic fashion. Maybe a contact, a mentor, a plotline, or a group. Maybe the player has to make a sacrifice and his or her life is forever changed. Death in this game tends to have either no effect (they came back) or a huge effect that leaves an untold story. And many of these permanent deaths are not to the hands of epic adventure, and thus do not make for good story, which inevitably does not make for a good game. Hence the evolution.

    Finally, nobody makes magic items because the formal magic system is broken. The costs to make the items that people like is so absolutely ridiculous (127 components and 41 levels of formal for a 2 year 5x imprison). No one would make the decision to make that item. So instead, formal magic and cantrips are used for spirit or plot related magic that cost significantly less or cantrips, which have become necessary. And it will stay that way, until the cost to make items is more compelling than the alternatives.


    Alchemy and cookies are tangible. Which brings up a great point for NERO chapters. SELL CANDY FOR COIN. It would probably cost you less than buying the new coin, and fixes your economy.

    Feb 27, 2012 at 11:14 pm
  • Jyn


    I might have a friend or 3 who got rich IG at various larps selling sloppy Joes and stew on cold events. I think it’s an awesome idea.

    NERO’s particular coin problems boil down to the fact that coin, which costs the chapter real money, doesn’t expire and everything else does. Guess which thing PCs are gonna hoard?


    I’ve made my share of cloak items, rendered things, and elemental blades, it’s just really pricey things like 9th level activates and +3s that are always more cost effective to just get as Magic items. I think it also doesn’t help that the batch system makes item creation very time consuming, which I find dull after a while. There is only so much of my event I want to spend playing with candles and incense. Also, in many chapters, item creation scrolls aren’t easily available which makes it more trouble than its worth.

    I think that risk vs. reward and danger level is one of those things that is somewhat tied to treasure, but is also tied in to the type of game you want to run. I think a lot of complaints about “entitled players” or “draconian staff” boil down to a failure on the staff’s part to communicate what kind of game they want to run, or a failure of the players to choose a game appropriate to their expectations. People choose to play a political roleplay-focused, epically emotional game for very different reasons than they choose to play a scrounge-to-survive game where people perm every other session. Some people want to run games with very personalized, targeted storylines, where staff take the initiative to make sure everyone gets hooked into something. Other people just want to run plot that is catch as catch can.

    All these types of games are totally valid, and include some amount of danger, risk, and reward but they are really different in how those elements interact, and what kinds of risks characters take for what kinds of reward. Basically, this podcast from 33:00-35:00, and at 42:30. As long as staff and players are conscious of and explicit about what they are aiming for, and what is expected, it’s fine. But often people aren’t, and that can definitely lead to a world of frustration.

    Feb 27, 2012 at 11:53 pm
  • Malkntnt

    There is a heck of a difference between feeling that you *could* be entertained by attending an event and actually feeing that you *must* be entertained because you are in attendance. Players have the opportunity (the chance) to become involved in plots and story, they don’t just get to demand “I shall be entertained now. You there! I have paid my fee, so be a good lad and fetch us a hook and make sure it brings us treasure! Team, gear up! I feel something is about to happen.”

    If players stay in or around their cabins all weekend and never really venture out or try and get involved, they have chosen to do that. However they often still (having made the choice) feel they are entitled to entertainment. Meaning, plot staff should send a hook to their cabin, and then whisk them away for some adventure (as illustrated above).

    Being entertained is different in my mind. I can be entertained sitting in my cabin with friends. Maybe a hook could pop in or maybe not. If I specifically want to get involved in the local happenings, I’ll go to the tavern or another in-game area (like the healer’s guild). It’s not that my cabin is not a valid location for a hook to drop in, it’s that my team and I should be out in the world interacting with it (role-playing). If I’m out walking in the woods looking for trouble I might find it OR I might miss the chance to find the trouble that attacked the tavern, because I’m in the woods. Yet I should not get to complain later that I didn’t do anything or earn much treasure. I had just as much chance to get whatever as another player, my actions or inactions cast a course on my results.

    Risk & Reward – YesI know that risk is not always life and limb. You are right about everything you said here. My point was that players seem to want the rewards without the risk. Why? Maybe because some chapters have trained them to be that way. There are some very bad chapters that set the minds of players a certain way. When they exclusively drill into their local players that “traveling is bad” and should be avoided because their games are not our games (and they cheat and give out extra treasure). Players these days seem geared for failure when presented with problems that cannot be solved with sword and spell. Few players have skills like Pick Lock or Disarm Traps anymore mostly because they get little use.

    Stepping Backward to Move Forward There are a things NERO has changed over the years that I feel were mistakes or steps in the wrong direction. Formal Magic is just one. Can it get fixed? The system we had pre-1999 was far superior to the auto-success, 5-effect, no cloak/bane 9th level spells, 2 year max, 5 item limited attunement, full spell incant one we have now. The old system needed 5-7 tweaks and it would have been perfect IMO. Has NERO ever once considered a step back to an older way of thinking about something?

    For example: right now Hasbro/WotC is re-doing D&D. Their 4th edition rules have really been widely hailed as a great big fail, where as other systems (such as Pathfinder from Pazio) have been seen as a huge success (some people admittedly feel 4th is wonderful, to me it’s just a board gave that mimics MMOs). Having played both, I think 4th blows personally and love Pathfinder. Hasbro is going back to its roots and redesigning D&D for 5th edition and getting lots of player feedback and playtesting.

    This is exactly what NERO needs to do!!! They should look at the previous NERO editions and figure out why the game was great then. I’m not saying add flying or invisibility, but look at the game and its evolution with a fresh perspective and then get some core values and direction from that. Dumbing-down the game has not been a good move on the whole. We’re nerds damnit, let’s act like it!

    Feb 28, 2012 at 1:07 pm
  • Zoe

    I tend not to play for treasure– I play for plot. Treasure is beneficial when it drives plot, amplifies my characters etc. For me, treasure is a character perk. For instance, the required shetra makeup, that lets me look more like a spidery evil character, is a form of treasure. I got a pin with a spider web on it that I can wear in game– while the effect isn’t anything amazing, I like the look of a magic piece that goes well with my character design.

    Feb 28, 2012 at 3:36 pm
  • Patrick D.

    I’m in the same boat as Zoe. Treasure is only important to me in as much as it allows me to interact with the various plots. Magic items aren’t super important to me, although I do admit they can be useful at times. I tend to like souvenirs from plots, I would consider a mark as treasure, even the rep from a “dead” plot based item. My character still wears/carries a couple of items that are left over from a plot years ago. I don’t wear them openly, but they’re there for me, the plot was important to my character, so he keeps them.

    I think part of the reason I don’t tend to care about effect based items is that I’m a caster so it’s just another spell to cast, it isn’t anything really new to my character, not like it would be to a fighter or rogue. I’ve never had any protective items (Bane/Cloak).

    As far as gold goes, I’m more likely to spend it on various foods or candies, or other stuff than IG items. Extra money goes to the group when we need a new sword or polearm or something.

    I’ve never played in a heavy production based game , but I’d be really interested to see how it worked.

    ~Patrick D.

    Feb 28, 2012 at 5:21 pm
  • Tobin


    “Why NERO used to be great.” From what I can tell, the game has grown since those previous editions. There’s more chapters and until someone proves it otherwise, I assume there’s more players (minus whatever from the split).

    The game is great, thanks to a lot of hard working volunteers (and some chapter owners that ultimately are like volunteers). Sure, it might not be as hardcore or gritty, but objectively (in terms of number of people entertained) the game is better.

    I’d much rather look outside at some of the other stuff doing well (Accelerant) and formulate a plan based on that. And from what I can tell, it appears that lower impact from and lower buy-in on items appears to be the name of the game.

    Now, is there a place for a hardcore game? I think so, but I also don’t think it would hit as broad an audience, which makes it hard to be successful. And in my opinion, those two communities don’t really mesh well, so it’s hard to cater to both groups.

    @Zoe and Patrick

    I agree that a lot of times plot reps and “reminders” of a plotline you were involved in makes for good treasure. But often you need the other treasure for the mercenaries that show up to help out, but aren’t intimately invested. I think that’s why objective treasure is important. I personally almost never take treasure when I get people to help me with my story, because my treasure IS the story.

    On the other hand, I love the fiscal side of games, so I can totally get behind hoarding gold and trading with others.

    Mar 2, 2012 at 4:24 pm
  • Patrick D.


    Oh, I agree, objective treasure is still a vital part of most games. It’s just not my most important objective. I think I’d probably respond to a more production based game, or one where treasure had a more direct impact on plot.

    That said, my character isn’t exactly giving away his items or coin to poorer players, so take what I say as you will.


    Mar 3, 2012 at 10:54 pm
  • Jeremy Reel

    As someone who burns through between 10-14 components in a weekend to play at the competitive level that I enjoy, I like treasure.

    Mar 5, 2012 at 12:32 pm
  • LukeM

    Better late than never, Mickey, I wanted to throw in that the “magic to hit” used to be just another method of threshold which allowed for NPCs to last longer. The game has changed and less of those go out because, I think, so many players have magic weapons its no longer effective as a mechanic to extend the life/threat of an NPC. Instead, we now see Cap X, Threshold and Immune to blah. They’ve replaced the magic to hit norm.

    May 15, 2012 at 6:40 am