Thursday, May 29, 2014

Initiative, weapon speed and reach

How we model melee in an RPG sets the framework for players to leverage their weapon's strengths and exploit their opponent's weapon's weaknesses. Weapon speed and initiative have been two variable commonly used in games to model this. Another variable that's used is weapon reach. Although less commonly so in my experience.

One variable that is seldom considered is character speed. We infer and sometimes we're event told that within the abstraction of combat rules characters are constantly moving, turning, evading and looking for a weak spot to attack. It is usually disregarded because characters and monsters move around each other at about the same speed as they turn, take a step forward or take a step backwards and prepare to attack. If this is constant or pretty much so that it can be disregarded then weapon length is a key element in initiative and getting the first hit.

After looking at the video I'm left with the feeling that a character with a dagger has no chance against a sword. Yet many modern sword and armor duels show the participants engaged in a way that looks more like a wrestling match than an exchange of sword swings. There's pummeling, grabbing, pulling, tripping and pinning to the ground. Movements that would benefit from the quick use of a dagger rather than a long sword. Swords are even grabbed by the opponent's gloved hand and they do little or no damage to full plate armor.

If distance grants the advantage to the longer sword and not the shorter dagger and if the dagger, nimble as it may appear when compared to the sword, is really not that much faster; where is the advantage? How can we leverage the different weapons' advantages? What happens when we change the sword for the polearm? Sure, it's longer and deadlier, but get close to the enemy and it's useless.

This brings me to initiative. To attack the polearm with a knife our hero must first wait for the initial assault (yielding initiative to the attacker), not get killed by said attack and then get close enough to attack and (hopefully) neutralize the polearm. Initiative in this case is not actually about rolling first, but rather rolling last. Wait, what if initiative isn't about going first or last (although this is a common understanding in RPGs and a common usage of the word). What if initiative is about doing things independently of outside influence or control (another definition for the word). How can we leverage the weapon's attributes in a way the character has the initiative without attacking first, or without attacking at all until she or he is ready? This would take initiative from being a round to round thing to something that spans rounds and builds on a series of successful initiative, not attack rolls. Remember the character is looking to get an advantageous position from which to attack without the risk of getting hit by the opponent's weapon. Things like armor rating and shield types don't apply to these rolls. What about mechanics that have partial success and partial failure values rather than binary hit or miss. These could be better applied to the polearm vs dagger situation. The polearm attacks and misses, but keeps the character at bay; or attacks and misses horribly exposing the character's side to a dagger attack. The dagger can use a succession of these critical misses to gain an advantage when actually stepping up to stab the opponent. The character with the dagger is losing initiative under the common understanding of the term "initiative", but he or she is actually maintaining initiative in the sense of controlling the encounter and weakening the opponent.

This post also appears on Indie+_ and is covered by the Indie+ Community Standards.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Is free good enough?

WotC revealed today what many called a bomb to OSR.

There will be a basic set and it will be free.

Although I agree it is a game changer, I would limit its impact to WotC and the original DnD. That's to say it keeps WotC in the game, nothing more. I applaud those who championed this idea and those in WotC who bought it and made it happen. It's a great step in the right direction, but it isn't a game stopper for OSR by a long shot.

Offering a product for free is a great way to get people to try it, but it hardly adds value in itself.The real test will come in a few months. I'll be honest, I haven't been following up on the D&D Next development and I certainly didn't sign into their playtest due to their NDA policies. So I won't comment on the specifics as I don't know them. I will though express my thoughts based on what has been mentioned and some observations of old RPGs, which by providence I've stumbled upon recently and have had the opportunity to read..

Lets go back two years to the beginning of the playtest. To me the NDA seemed too draconian. It's about owning and not sharing. I give WotC an idea, great it's theirs, end of transmission. They'll pick from there and build on it. We can discuss this on end as it has been done before, but that to me talks about an owning WotC and not a sharing WotC. Not a very good thing to start building a community about sharing and building together.

Second point is what Mike Mearls has commented over and over again. They're building D&D based on all that which we like from previous versions. While a valid approach, I will base my comment on the wisdom of Abraham Wald who, during WWII, suggested armor be added on bombers where the airplanes got shot the least, not the most. They returned to base because they hadn't been hit in those critical spots. Based on this I have commented that WotC should build D&D on the weaknesses of previous versions and by fixing them turn them into strengths. A fix to that which I don't like about 1st and 2nd would make me buy Next, not a copy paste of what I already have. Did they? I don't know until I read the rules (see NDA above), and I hope they have.

Corporate red tape. WotC like it or not suffers from corporate inertia and lawyers. Many OSR publishers are not slowed down by this.They call the shots, publish and get things out quickly. Their ability to innovate and take risks is higher than WotC. Many will flop, but on the other hand many do succeed, and boy do they succeed. I see WotC as the old vertical, waterfall, software development paradigm while OSR is the more dynamic and agile release early and release often. WotC spend 2 years doing what? Once again without the NDA I don't know. There is though an interesting analogy with newspapers 'Paul Berry, who helped found the Huffington Post, eloquently describes the core problem with the way The New York Times views content creation: “At The New York Times, far too often for writers and editors the story is done when you hit publish. At Huffington Post, the article begins its life when you hit publish.”' (source). Take a look at all the WotC release hype and compare it to OSR products. The big unanswered question with WotC is what comes after launch, after they've hit "publish". Is that the goal, the end, or is it just the beginning?

Innovation. What new stuff does D&D Next bring to the table? I'm sure it fixes many things, but aren't these design flaws of the past and not really innovation. Would you consider a vehicle recall an innovation? Once again I'm talking off the top of my head because to know I'd have to sign an NDA I'm not willing to sign, and once again I'd love to be proven wrong. Looking at old wargames and RPGs as well as the history of the d20 made me value the work put into creating the roots of our hobby, but it also made me look at dice mechanics differently. Not as dogma, but at a solution to a problem present in that time. The dice mechanics we so cherish today solved many issues from long ago which many are unaware today. They were innovative in their time. Fast forward 40 years and I'd ask. Is d20 a valid model? If so are we innovating in its usage? Solving problems of the past in new ways? In what way is WotC breaking away from the mainstream as Gygax did 40 years ago when he made a brief comment about coloring half the sides of a d20 (which were at the time numbered 1 to 10 twice). To answer the why of doing this Gygax mentioned he was working on a new set of rules that made use of this. The rest as we all know is history. Is WotC making history or is it making a new edition?

So as great and groundbreaking as a free D&D Basic set may be, and I applaud those who pursued and managed to achieve this goal, it's a long shot from being a game stopper for OSR. IMHO there's still a lot of work in regards to community building, community participation and innovation. Things which may be hard for a big company like WotC are much easier for the smaller and more nimble OSR publishers. WotC is still competing with people who do this for the sport, and they're damn good at this sport. So free by itself may not be good enough.

Image Source

Monday, May 26, 2014

There's always a bigger story

Many times when we create an adventure we expect it to go in a particular way. To have certain steps lead to a climax. We see it and envision it in our minds. Yet sometimes dice don't favor the players nor the GM and the adventure begins to stray from the plan. What do we do then? How do we fix it? Or is there an underlying issue we should solve first so we don't need "fixn'" in the first place.

Yes, there is a Star Wars story in which Greedo kills Solo and the Death Star isn't destroyed just then. It gets destroyed at another moment in time and by other means. If you're forcing the story to follow the footsteps of A New Hope then not only are you missing out on a great set of alternative outcomes, you're setting yourself up for a load of game mechanic pains.

The first step I take to achieve this is realizing there is always a bigger story and the initial plot line need not be the actual outcome. This requires that a) I have less of a reliance on the expected events occurring and b) have a backup plan. Realize that the world the characters are living in is a live and dynamic environment. It will continue to evolve as the characters interact with it. It isn't waiting for a preset of events to occur. It doesn't have a preset set of scenes and images like a computer RPG has. Don't throw away the greatest advantage a tabletop RPG has over a computer RPG!

Here are some guidelines:
  • Don't rely on a character or set of characters to make it to the end.
  • You should not fudge the rolls or bend the rules to force an outcome that's needed to follow the storyline.
    • Don't fudge to open a door
    • Don't fudge to save a party member
    • Don't fudge to convince the gatekeeper
    • Don't rely on a single character in the end scene. Actually now that I think about it, don't have a preset ending scene.
  • If something needs to happen and this depends on a die roll or the application of some rule with random outcomes, then there is something wrong with the adventure. You must either make the event independent of die rolls or have an alternative to handle a failure with the dice.

20 1st Level Millionaires, part 2

I continue the countdown of possible histories and backgrounds for millionaire 1st level characters. These are background stories for characters with a lot of wealth and no army nor castle.

15 - Family owns lead mine

Your family has amassed great wealth out of lead mining and ore processing. You have good access to resources to finance your dreams of adventure and dungeon explorations. While well known dungeons in the area may provide for your first levels of adventure it is possible that danger looms closer to home than you expect. A recent tunnel in your family mine has collapsed revealing a passage to a large cavern. What lies ahead?

14 - Banished nobleman

You're a banished lord or lady from a distant land. You've arrived here with gold and henchmen in a quest to rebuild your lost army and retake the throne that was stolen from you. You're unskilled, but the lineage of your family gives you great power should you learn to wield it. Will you survive to become a renown and respected warrior? Will you succeed in rebuilding your army and return home to reclaim your title as king or queen?

13 - Recently stolen loot

You're either the luckiest or the unluckiest of crooks. You've robed a wagon and it turns out you're a million GP richer. What now? What will you buy? What can you buy without raising too much attention? What will you do with this? Will you adventure and become a local hero? Will the true owner come back some day to retake this? And if so when and will you be prepared?

12 - Circus owner

You're a travelling circus owner. Wealth is not an issue. You're well over a million GP rich. You travel from land to land entertaining people. On each kingdom and barony you take time off to explore the city and its surroundings, gaining a little more wealth and experience from dungeonering. Yet there is also a dark secret. Something lives in your circus you don't want others to know. A curse of types you wish to get rid of someday. So you explore and quest to find the answer. Never staying too long in the same area and seldom returning.

11 - Bar or Hostel

You're the owner of a bar or hostel were travelers and adventurers usually stay to rest between trips and dungeon explorations. You know all there is to know about the land. The secrets abound in your bar and you've listened to them all. Suddenly you feel the urge to take on a sword and shield and explore on your own. Who will come with you and why? What new secret has moved you so much you're willing to leave the comfort and security of your home for the risk and uncertainty of adventure.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Water, food and sleep

Usually we assume our characters rest and eat appropriately, and do so even deep in a dungeon, threatened by monsters that dwell in the deep passages and tunnels. They eat "iron rations" and take turns to sleep. But what is the true effect of not sleeping or lacking abundant food and water? What happens when these effects accumulate over time or become compounded as food lacks first, then water then sleep? To show this effect I've drawn up some graphs that show the combat effectiveness of men as these three things become scarce. I've also added some rules to manage this in a game.
The graph below shows the effect of no sleep, no water and no food over the course of days. Notice the steep slope for sleep and water compared to food. Now I don't believe anyone can go for three of four days without water or sleep without serious impact on their bodies. So dropping to an effectiveness of less than 40% can be very limiting indeed. A state of extreme weakness, disorientation and near comma. In game terms going below 60% should be very limiting and reaching 50% should be very impacting indeed. Very strong penalties at that point.

Spending a day without food drops effectiveness by 12%. This can be represented in game as a light penalty when performing actions. On the other hand, a day without foot or water drops performance by an outstanding 25%! And a day without water and sleep drops performance by a whooping 45%! By the end of the second day the character's performance drop due to lack of water and sleep would drop by 70%!!! A near death situation if you ask me.

Lets now consider situations in which sleep, food and water are not totally lacking yet they're not available in sufficient quantities either. We can imagine that such shortage would accumulate over time. In this case characters having a fraction of what is required will eventually build up a whole day's worth of loss, specially when doing strenuous activities such as exploration, travelling and combat. For example going with half the required amount of water will build up the equivalent of a day's lack of water over the course of four days.

Consider the following rules:


  • A day without a warm meal counts as 1/8 of a day without food.
  • A day with half a ration counts as 1/4 day without food.
  • A day with one fourth of a ration counts as 1/2 day without food.
For example, travelling over tundra without a fire to cook will accumulate 1/8 of a day for each day. After 10 days of travel the character is suffering from a day's worth of famine (10/8 days = 1.2 days). Spending four days eating less than 1000kCal (half ration) is the equivalent of a day without food. If the rations are eaten cold it's the equivalent of a day and a half without food.

  • A day with less than 8 hours, but more than 6 counts as 1/8 day without sleep.
  • A day with less than 6 hours, but more than 4 counts as 1/4 day without sleep.
  • A day with less than 4 hours, but more than 2 counts as 1/2 day without sleep.
Your party has been pursued non stop for the past 48 hours and has only managed to sleep about 3 hours every day. This is equivalent to a whole day without sleep and effectiveness drops by 25%.

  • Each day with less than 2 liters of water but more than 1 liter counts as 1/8 day without water.
  • Each day with less than 1 liters of water but more than 1/2 liter counts as 1/4 day without water.
  • Each day with less than 1/2 liter of water but more than 1/4 counts as 1/2 day without water.
These quantities need to be adjusted for climate. Being twice as much in hot climates and four times as much in desert climates. The later can be reduced to three times if the character's activities are restricted to the cooler hours of the day.


Modern War in Minature, Michael F. Korns

This post also appears on Indie+_ and is covered by the Indie+ Community Standards.

Saturday, May 17, 2014

How we got the d20

Those d20 rules are quite common aren't they? They started back in the original D&D and have grown to cover quite a vast amount of genre. They're easy to understand and those 5% increments are sure easy to calculate. But where did it all start?

To begin to understand the story and the work it took to get our hobby up and running we must leave the internet generation behind and travel back in time. So back in time we'll leave the PC and Atari generation behind too. Even those, who like me, played with 4 bit graphics on a gaming console will be baffled by the limited technology of the time.

Sometimes this can be hard to relate to unless there's a reference we can carry back in time as a measuring stick. But what is easy to visually understand, computer intensive and can still relate to an era without video games? The Mandelbrot set. The Mandelbrot set a quite a complex image with its roots back in the 70's and will help me tell this story and hopefully carry you back in time, convey enough of the setting to help you feel inside the era and place the challenges they faced in perspective as they worked hard without many of the things we take for granted today. Without further delay lets travel back in time and see the dawn of the d20.

This is the Mandelbrot set. My cell phone (Samsung Galaxy III Mini) takes 0.97 seconds to render it, and that's on a bad day. Usually it takes between 0.45 and 0.65 seconds.

In 1984 a computer would take minutes to render it on a IBM AT at 8MHz with  80287 math coprocessor using a CGA graphics card with 640x200 resolution with two colors or 320x200 with four colors. Total hardware cost $4000 (1984) US Dollars.

In 1978 the first visualization of the Mandelbrot was made with ASCII. I don't know what computer it was nor it's cost, but I believe it was done at IBM's Thomas J. Watson Research Center in Yorktown, Heights, New York, and thus not cheap.

Now step back ten more years back to 1968...

Back then wargames were using statistical data from military experience to add realism to the game. An example of this is Korns' Modern War in Miniature (1966) which used percentage tables to represent weapon effectiveness. Yet his tables had the limitation of relating to d6 rolls. So Korns added a conversion table that related d6 rolls to percentages in, you guessed it, roughly 5% increments.

Those were numbers just waiting for the d20 to show up and it did in 1969, when they were mentioned in the "Must List" of Wargamer's Newsletter.

These 20 sided dice provided an easy way to generate percentile numbers by numbering their sides 0 to 9 twice and rolling two times.

Which brings me to Gygax's article "Four & Twenty and What Lies Between." (June 1973) and the reason I begun with all the computer stuff. In this article Gygax explains the probabilities for polyhedral dice combinations. Which he obviously calculated by hand since, as I already showed, there were no readily available computers and was decades away. Quite a daunting task once you realize how limited and expensive computers were at the time.

Finally he comments that to him "the most useful are the 20-sided dice." and adds the note "color in one set of numbers on the die, and you can throw for 5% -- perfect for rules which call for random numbers from 1-20." What use could that have? In the same article Gygax reveals that he was  "busy working up chance tables for a fantasy campaign game." That game was, of course, none other than Dungeons & Dragons.

Now let it sink for a little. Let yourself get carried away to that time. Let the setting engulf you. Reread the Mandelbrot thing again and let it take you back to a time when computers didn't help us see things as advanced CGIs do today. A time when Tron was still 15 years away. A time when your imagination created and filled in all the detail on its own. A time when everything was new and no rules were set. Start fresh and use your imagination to create you fantasy setting, one without limits.

Roll for initiative, the adventure begins...


Friday, May 16, 2014

20 1st level millionaires, part 1

So what would you do if your 1st level D&D character started off with a million gold pieces? This is a countdown of 20 1st level millionaires who didn't get a castle and an army with their gold. Without further delay here are the first five millionaires from our top 20 countdown.

20 - The Influential Cleric

Your family name could very well be Borgia. Dad's money has ensured you a prominent position within the city's temple. The temple's clerics respect your family wealth and envy you just as much. You're on a fast track to overtake many who have dedicated more to the gods than you have, and that's usually not a good thing. Your family wealth gives you access to resources such as armor, weapons, travel expenses and religious items. It buys you lots of stuff, but does not buy you skill nor the favor of the gods. You start off well equipped, but will you be able to overcome the risks ahead? The ones outside the city walls as well as those within the temple walls?

19 - Loan Shark

You've amassed a small fortune out of loaning money at high interest rates. Your wealth is in the hands of others generating a handsome rent every month. Your job is to make sure the payments are done on time and deal with those who forget who's the money is. About 4/5 of your wealth is in the hands of others. Now you must make sure that money keeps making more money. You finance trade routes, fleets, insurrections and small wars. You're an influential person when it comes to money and the power this generates. How will you manage this from now on is up to you.

18 - Crazy Wizard

You're an energetic wizard apprentice with a great family treasure supporting your wild and dangerous power quest. Getting a hold of scrolls, potions and magic items is easy. Managing their power is something else. Will your skill keep up to your ambition? This is a good character to play in a DCC game. Things can and will go astray with magic. How much will your character gamble? Will the wealth be enough to pay for the mistakes done?

17 - Librarian

You're a reserved, introverted and wealthy heir to a fortune of books. Remember that in the middle ages books were transcribed by hand and beautifully decorated. Each piece an art piece on its own. The knowledge withing a great desire to many rulers, magic users and clerics alike. Will you and your party harness the power of these books and the knowledge they hold? Or will you become a Don Quijote of sorts, driven to madness and mounting a decrepit horse in quest of imaginary giants? What yet undiscovered magic lays in the pages of your library's books?

16 - Sea trader

Your wealth is a fleet of very successful trading ships. Your a trader, merchant, pirate and buccaneer all in one. You know kingdoms and rules from the four corners of the earth. You travel from port to port trading silk and spice. Now you're driven to quest further into uncharted territory. What adventure lies ahead? 


Hostage Situation

Let's talk about hostage situations in RPGs. Not only in modern combat like games, but in general. Intuitively I feel friction, edgy. It's a situation most games I've played can't handle very well. On one side there's the negotiation aspect. Very role playish and usually one player does it. What do the other players do meanwhile? On the other side it can change from role playing and negotiation to a combat scenario very quickly. A combat scenario that needs to be resolved quickly and with little margin for error. Lose initiative and the bad guy shoots the hostage or detonates the vest. Miss and the outcome is just as bad if not worse.

The main issue I see is that a lot of games that are strong in handling character emotions and feelings are a bit weak in handling combat and games that handle combat well are a bit impervious to such aspects of character development and negotiation. More so, even if you can handle the negotiation aspect as pure player based role play between both the player and GM, what about a shoot out? Things go sour and suddenly the bad guy needs to be taken out. Do you trust your initiative and attack roll that much? Is the skill mechanics good enough to make you feel confident you'll get first shot and will not miss?

As a closing treat here's the floor plan to Big Bang Theory's main apartments. Good luck saving Penny form crazy Sheldon.

Image source

Saturday, May 10, 2014

The millionaire peasant

So your character starts with a million GP. This post has created a great deal of feedback. Some very valid if viewed from our early 21st century outlook on life. A great deal of players have said they'd buy an castle and an army. This is a very understandable aspiration from our point of view, but it rises the following question:

Who the fuck is going to sell you a castle if you're a fucking peasant?!?!?!?!

Now my intention is not to trash those who commented along those lines, but rather to raise the issue of how immersed are we in the medieval setting. BTW, I'm not using immersed in a game theory way so don't trash me back. I'm simply wondering how well players dive into the setting of a medieval society.

If you have a million gold pieces to start you already have a good social standing. Otherwise you're just a bandit, or maybe some bourgeoisie of an era still to come. With a million GP you're certainly a noble and maybe a courtesan. You'll probably be skilled at fighting, but you'll have others do the fighting for you. You will lead, and leading will exercise those atrophied aspects of D&D. You know which, charisma and that sort of stuff.

Sit back and think about what it meant to have power in the middle ages. Was it just gold? Does gold make you powerful or just a rich bandit? Who conspires in court? Who negotiates the deals? Who leads the armies? Is it the +3 attacks, x2 damage, 3d12 + 2xSTR bonus fighter or the cunning noble with an even cleverer player behind him?


Introducing the Grimscience d20++

Back in the day when it all begun (D&D, not Earth), there were no d10. Actually d20 were numbered 1 to 10 twice and you'd roll a d6 or something extra to see if it was the high or low values.

Then came this jewel of advertisement from Gamescience. Let's put pluses to half the sides and call it a d20 Plus dice. It even allows you to roll d2!!! Wait, isn't that what a coin is for?

So now that we've crossed the barrier into rolling d2 with a d20, what else can we do? How much can we overload the d20? Here at Grimscience we put d20 and C++ together and developed the d20++. Can you play D&D with just one 20 Plus and one d6?

No you say? Well with d20++ you can! With it's exclusive worldwide patented technology Grimscience d20++ allows you to roll d0, d1, d2, d4, d8, d12 and d20!!! Not only does it allow you to roll all the polyhedral dice commonly used in an RPG, it also adds d0 and d1.

Tired of your players calling it GM fiat? Worry no longer. With Grimscience d20++ you can now roll d0 so they can't say it's GM fiat.

Worried the party won't overcome a critical challenge that's fundamental for their advancement in your railroaded adventure? Worry not! With Grimscience d20++ you can now roll d1 and guarantee success every time, all the time!

Lets look at all the great new features implemented in d20++:

d0 - Like /dev/null, it's always present and you always get the same result "nothing". Commonly known as GM fiat it's done by using the patented Null Roll technology in Grimscience d20++. This provides and outcome for the GM's without actually rolling the d20.

d1 - This is like the exact opposite of d0. It's handy in poorly designed adventures and with temperamental GM's. A great railroading device it's done by rolling the d20 and totally disregarding the result. It's very useful in situations like the-only-locked-door-to-the-boss-chamber-which-the-rogue-needs-to-pick.

d2 - A carry over from the old 20 Plus. It is resolved by rolling the dice and taking the + as 1 and the blank sides as 0.

d4 - A new overload functionality to 20 Plus, Grimscience d20++ allows you to do d4s too. Just roll the d20 and divide by 5 and round up to the next whole number.

d6 - Just roll a d6, don't be stupid. Who'd patent a d6?

d8 - Another great and exclusive functionality of the Grimscience d20++. Just roll like you would to get a d4 and add a d6 if the d6 rolls 1 to 3 you use the direct d4 result if the roll is 4 to 6 you add 4 to the d4 result.

d10 - A shared feature with 20 Plus. Roll the die and read the number directly. Values go from 1 to 10.

d12 - Yet another outstanding and exclusive functionality of the Grimscience d20++. Roll a d4 and a d6. If the d6 rolls 1 or 2 leave the d4 value as is, if the roll is 3 or 4 then add 4 to the d4 and if the roll is 5 or 6 add 8 to the d4.

d20 - A shared feature with 20 Plus. Roll the die. Sides with a + get 10 added to their value.

So don't miss this great opportunity and order your Grimscience d20++ now!
Don't miss this weekends launch price!
Order now!

Not available on hangouts, roll20, electronic die rollers nor macros (yea savagedaddy, we're talking to you).

Thanks grognardia for bringing this back to light!

Friday, May 09, 2014

Starting with a million GP

Lets do a little experiment. Have your D&D character starts off with a million gold pieces. That's a lot of money. It buys a lot of stuff, but it doesn't buy skill. How does this affect the game?

It's one thing to have a + 5 sword and quite another is to defend it against a 6th level fighter. Gold plated full plate? Mithril armor? All great assets a greater fighter would like to take from you, or a rogue for that matter.

Would you fight the monsters the same way? Fighting those goblins may earn you a few hundred pieces at best, but you may lose a million if they kill your character. All of a sudden being all bloodthirsty to kill and pillage doesn't look all that tempting. So how do you earn XP to increase your character's level without risking the family fortune?

Some GMs may think this will lead to an unbalanced game in which the characters become too powerful due to unlimited wealth. I'd agree to a point. Initial wealth does solve a great deal of issues we as players face during the first levels, but it also brings a whole new set of issues to the game. Defending such wealth and the goods it can buy is one of them. It also kills one of the main drives to center the game around fighting and pillaging.

In my experience wealthy first level characters has open up some interesting options in the game. On one end there is more diplomacy and negotiation taking place. This can be interesting to players looking for a campaign less centered around hack and slash. On the other end such wealth doesn't only buy henchmen, it buys a whole army, and mass combat is lots of fun!!!

So what do you think? Have you given your first level characters huge wealth? If so, what has been your experience? If you haven't, would you?