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Old 02-22-2020, 12:09 AM   #1
Jinumon
 
Join Date: Mar 2013
Default Working Stiffs or: How Much Should Professional Adventurer's Realistically Make?

This question has bothered me for a long time. Just how much money would it take to reasonably entice some exceptional Indiana Jones- or Geralt of Rivia-type to risk life and limb for a wealthy employer or with the promise of a big score? How often do they take jobs, and how long do those jobs take? Funnily enough, I feel I may have stumbled upon a solid ballpark figure while prepping for a 5E campaign of That One Game I intend to run shortly for some friends (it’s all they know, don’t hold against them… or me).

Based on my own best estimates, all of which are admittedly very rough (economics in That One Game have never made much sense), one gold piece is worth between G$50 and G$100, based on figures for a loaf of bread (2 cp) and varying costs of living. According to some math done by this fine gentleman, characters in That One Game aught to earn around 800,000 gold pieces worth of wealth between first and twentieth level, which reasonably represents an exceptional individual’s (i.e. Player Character’s) adventuring career. This results in a figure of about G$40,000,000 to G$80,000,000 over the course of an adventurer’s working life.

This seems reasonable to me. While adventuring won’t earn you Jeff Bezos levels of wealth, one would expect someone like Nathan Drake, selling archaeological finds and historical artifacts to museums and collectors, is going to make some serious dosh by the time he calls it quits. Assuming one puts about half of their earnings back into their “business,” adventurers will be able to live and retire in at least a Very Wealthy if not Filthy Rich or even Multimillionaire lifestyle.

The above figures speak only to Cost of Living and are irrespective of Tech Level. This could represent one of two things. Either the amount is adjusted for Tech Level, in which case I would probably consider the above figures to be TL8-ish, or the value of an adventurer’s time goes down relative to typical incomes as technology advances and narrows the gap between the exceptional and average Joes. Honestly, I could see a case for either and the most accurate interpretation likely lies somewhere in-between.

But how frequently to adventurer’s work? Arguably the greatest appeal of leveraging one’s exceptional nature in extremely hazardous situations is the amount of time one has between adventures in which one can essentially vacation. No one is going to punch a clock daily if it means a significant chance of losing life or limb, and even modern combat zones seem tame next to the non-stop marathon of action in an adventure-pulp serial. Again, I think That One Game might have a decent answer.

According to that same fine gentleman’s same math, every “tier” (4-6 levels) increases one’s expected income by an order of magnitude. After interpolating the data for some finer granularity, I ultimately wound up with a result where an end-game character receives about 1500 times what a starting adventurer makes. Assuming a single extensive, multi-act adventure earns the Player Characters one level and adjusting for our GURPS conversion, the first job will net each character G$8,000 - G$17,000 while the classic “one last time” will earn around G$15,000,000 - G$30,000,000, enough to retire on by itself.

Again, this seems reasonable to me. Depending on how much the adventurers spend replacing equipment and their personal taste for luxury, even a starting Player Character can live for months at a Comfortable or Wealthy lifestyle for a task that likely takes no more than a few weeks to complete.

These are just some initial thoughts, and any of these figures could likely be scaled up or down by as much as a factor of four. Let me know what ya’ll think. I might continue to expand on this if there seems to be any interest in it, and I can post my exact maths if people need clarification.

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Old 02-22-2020, 12:55 AM   #2
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Default Re: Working Stiffs or: How Much Should Professional Adventurer's Realistically Make?

You know... I've never run or played a game where the motivation for adventuring was money or personal gain. I know they exist and I have nothing against them. I think an "adventurers for hire" or "professional occult investigations for a reasonable fee" campaign would be fun. I've just never encountered one. Usually, the stakes are about something more.

How much would you charge to save someone's life? Nothing, I sincerely hope!

What about a hundred lives? Or a thousand? What if some of those lives were people you loved?

You mention Indiana Jones--he's a tenured professor. He doesn't need the money, and he doesn't expect to get paid by the museum (maybe the university will, it's not very clear). He's in it for the knowledge at first, and later to keep immense power out of Nazi hands.

The material rewards for Geralt also tend to take a back seat to fighting evil and, occasionally, doing the right thing. Certainly with his skill set he could make more money doing something else.

Even when I've played Dungeon Fantasy games (in various systems), where there's always the expectation of treasure and monetary reward, there've been character motivations beyond money.

TL/DR: I'd like to think that a hero will be appropriately rewarded, but in fiction and games, usually the hero risks his life for reasons other than money.
How much would I charge to save the world? Well, if it has to be, I guess I'll do it for free. But I'd appreciate whatever I can get.
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Old 02-22-2020, 01:11 AM   #3
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Default Re: Working Stiffs or: How Much Should Professional Adventurer's Realistically Make?

I don't know Geralt of Rivia but Indiana Jones never work for money. His whole life is dedicated to find archeological items, especially famous lost ones, and he will risk everything he has got, including his life, to follow the least track. Just give him one and he leaves home immediately.
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Old 02-22-2020, 09:48 AM   #4
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Default Re: Working Stiffs or: How Much Should Professional Adventurer's Realistically Make?

Mercenaries tend to require high levels of compensation (2x to 100x normal compensation, depending on the risk). A mercenary bodyguard for a minor official in a peaceful nation would probably ask for 2x normal pay while a mercenary bodyguard for a minor official in a war zone might ask for 10x normal pay. A mercenary bodyguard for a dictator during an invasion might ask for 100x normal pay.

When it comes to adventurers, it does depend on the motivation. In general, 600x the standard monthly income for their status divided by the probability of death or imprisonment will have normal people doing anything, regardless of the legality or risk, though some disadvantages would preclude certain actions or greatly reduce the required pay off. For example, a Status 0 individual at TL8 would require around $3 million if there was a 50% of death or imprisonment. Conversely, a Status -1 individual with Social Stigma (Criminal Record) might take the same risk for $150,000 while a Status -2 individual with Social Stigma (Valuable Property) might take the same risk for $7500.
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Old 02-22-2020, 10:59 AM   #5
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Default Re: Working Stiffs or: How Much Should Professional Adventurer's Realistically Make?

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Originally Posted by AlexanderHowl View Post
Mercenaries tend to require high levels of compensation (2x to 100x normal compensation, depending on the risk). A mercenary bodyguard for a minor official in a peaceful nation would probably ask for 2x normal pay while a mercenary bodyguard for a minor official in a war zone might ask for 10x normal pay. A mercenary bodyguard for a dictator during an invasion might ask for 100x normal pay.
That depends very heavily on whether the mercenaries have the certifications, reputation skill set and/or social position to openly take legal contracts from institutions, corporations or individuals with healthy revenue streams or whether they are low Status people with no means to assure potential employers of any qualifications or trustworthiness.

Depending on how you define ''mercenary' work, prisoners have stabbed other prisoners in exchange for cartons of cigarettes and former Bolivian or Peruvian soldiers work as base security in war zones for less than the US minimum wage. Retail drug dealing as a profession in the US averages lower hourly pay than MCDonald's and that includes some of the people whose duties include 'security' at street corners.
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Old 02-22-2020, 11:50 AM   #6
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Default Re: Working Stiffs or: How Much Should Professional Adventurer's Realistically Make?

It's certainly not a horrible starting place, but IIRC in That Other Game (hereafter abbreviated TOG) magical gear tends to have much higher pricetags than in GURPS (or at least in DF). Taking numbers from the 3.5e (which I'm most familiar with) SRD, a +1/+1 weapon has a 2000 gp ($100,000 to $200,000 by your values) surcharge for the magic on it, while a +5/+5 weapon has a 100,000 gp ($5,000,000 to $10,000,000) surcharge. The highest attack and damage bonuses in DF8 are for Accuracy 3 and Puissance 3, which together cost $200,000 (2000 to 4000 gp) on a weapon, on par with only a +1/+1 or +2/+2 (which is 4000 gp, $200,000-$400,000 by your values). Considering each +1 to skill typically gets you much more mileage in GURPS than in TOG*, the equivalency is probably lower. Heck, even mundane gear tends to have a higher cost - while 15 gp for a longsword is potentially close to the cost of its GURPS equivalent (the $650 Thrusting Broadsword; note the TOG longsword is either $750 or $1500), a Masterwork version (for +1 to hit, roughly comparable to Balanced) is +300 gp (+$15,000 to +$30,000). For the lower cost ($15,750), we can have a +23 CF Thrusting Broadsword; say, a Balanced (+4 CF) Very Fine (+19 CF) Thrusting Broadsword (for $15,600). And, because swords don't really carry a premium in TOG, less expensive weapons tend to be markedly more expensive than in GURPS - and being Masterwork is even worse, as it's a flat +300 gp rather than a modifier (a TOG mace costs 12 gp - $600 to $1200 - as opposed to a GURPS mace that costs $50 - 5 sp to 1 gp - and a masterwork TOG mace costs 312 gp - $15,600 to $31,200 - which is enough for a +311 CF mace on the low end; a Very Fine (+49 CF) Balanced (+4 CF) Poison Metal (+49 CF) only costs $5150, leaving enough leftover cash for Accuracy +1 (+$5000) and Puissance +1 (+5000).

*In That Other Game, +1 to skill is +5% to hit, +2 is +10% to hit (to a maximum of 95, but unless you massively outclass your foes this probably won't come into play). In GURPS, the worst case scenario for our Accuracy +3 is if the starting skill is at 14, such that +3 takes us from skill 13 to skill 16, going from ~84% to ~98% (a +14% boost, nearly equivalent to a +3 in That Other Game). If our starting skill is lower, the change to probability is improved; if higher, we'll turn the excess that goes over skill 16 into either targeting a higher-value hit location or spending more on Deceptive Attack, which in TOG terms means turning the to-hit bonus into an effective damage bonus (TOG's abstract HP partially represents the character's ability to Dodge/Parry/etc). Technically, a character with skill 14 doesn't get as much out of +3 as just about anyone else with business holding a weapon (skill 17 is indistinguishable from skill 16, and you need to take at least -2 - reducing crit chance - to modify defense, but this is more an issue of resolution than anything else).
Now, damage bonuses in GURPS may not be quite as useful as in TOG. A large part of this is that serious GURPS combatants can have rather high base damage. A starting DF Knight is roughly equivalent to a 5th level TOG Fighter. The DF Knight likely has ST 15 and Weapon Master (with Broadsword high enough for +2/die to damage), for 2d6+6 cut with a standard quality Thrusting Broadsword, while a level 5 TOG Fighter probably has Str 18 and Weapon Specialization, for 1d6+6 damage. So, the DF Knight averages 13 damage, while the TOG Fighter averages 9.5; thus, each +1 to damage for the DF Knight is around +8% to damage, while each +1 to damage for the TOG Fighter is around +10.5% to damage. Even then, however, +3 damage (+24%) for the Knight is worth more than the +1 (+10.5%) or +2 (+21%) for the Fighter.


The reason all this is important is because the majority of a adventurer's expenses, at least in a DF-like setting, is going to be in upgrading his gear.

Another place to consider for making a TOG gp to GURPS $ exchange rate is the cost of lodging. In TOG, including food, Poor accommodations are 3 sp per day, Common are 8 sp per day, and Good are 2 gp, 5 sp per day. In DF, Cost of Living (covering food and lodging) is $150/week, which is roughly equivalent to what Status -2 might pay (Inn stays are 20% CoL per day, including food; $150/week is right around $20 per day, corresponding to Status -2's CoL $100). GURPS' description of Status -1 (dingy flathouse) and Status +0 (typical hotel) sound similar to TOG's description of Common ("a place on a raised, heated floor, the use of a blanket and a pillow") and Good ("small, private room"), respectively, implying DF's default would be TOG's Poor ("a place on the floor near the hearth"), but let's do the conversion assuming the $150/week corresponds to each of the levels. If $150/week is comparable to Poor (21 sp/week), that gives us an equivalence of around $7 per sp ($70 per gp). If it's comparable to Common (56 sp/week), we're looking at around $2.5 per sp ($25 per gp). If it's comparable to Good (175 sp/week), we're looking at around $0.85 per sp ($8.5 per gp). A +1/+1 (Accuracy/Puissance) weapon in GURPS is +$10,000, corresponding to around 140 gp, 400 gp, and 1175 gp, respectively (compared to the 2000 gp for +1/+1 TOG weapon). A +3/+3 weapon in GURPS is +$200,000, corresponding to around 3,000 gp, 8,000 gp, and 25,000 gp, respectively (compared to the 18,000 gp for +3/+3 TOG weapon).

Perhaps a final option would be to go off of TOG's Expected Wealth by Level. As noted, a starting ([250]) DF character is roughly comparable to a level 5 TOG character. Said DF character by default is going to start out with $1000; a level 5 TOG character is suggested to have around 9000 gp worth of stuff. That implies a rather low equivalency, only $0.11 per gp; call it $1 per sp. This may well come closer when it comes to the cost of enchantments than any of the others; $10,000 becomes 10,000 sp (1,000 gp), half the cost of +1/+1 in TOG (2,000 gp), while $200,000 becomes 200,000 sp (20,000 gp), nearly the same cost as +3/+3 in TOG (18,000 gp). If we go with this, and use your 800,000 gp estimate, we see around $800,000 over the course of an adventurer's career. A successful adventurer probably only works one week out of a month (call it 1/4 of a month), and at most works for around 30 years (by which point they'd be 45 or older, and probably unable to keep up with adventuring regularly). That works out to roughly $7000 per month (if they worked full time; they only make around $1750 per month by only working one week), which for TL 3 is between Wealthy's $3500/month and Very Wealthy's $14,000/month; considering they only work a week a month, they're actually looking at income between Comfortable's $1400/month and Wealthy's $3500/month. And, honestly, somewhere between Comfortable and Wealthy feels roughly right for an adventurer (one week a month to be between Comfortable and Wealthy certainly beats the Poor/Struggling they'd have working all month on the farm back home). Note this means adventuring is less likely to be seen as a respectable profession for nobles in such a setting, which matches fairly well with what one typically sees - the nobles finance the adventurers, only those from a failing/fallen house (or a rebellious member of a functional house, probably female and concealing her identity) would become adventurers themselves.

Of course, starting adventurers may not make quite that much, as you note, but do keep in mind that 800,000 gp figure (which I assume is a rounded up 760,000 gp from the Recommended Wealth by Level) is for how much money and gear a 20th level character is expected to have, and doesn't account for lodgings paid for, rations and potions (and other limited-use items) consumed, and all the gear the character has purchased, then sold (at a loss) when something better became available/necessary.

tl;dr, I'd suggest a value of roughly $250 per party member per day an adventure is expected to take to complete (optionally, including travel time; I'd be tempted to call each day of travel only 0.25 days worth of work, however, unless it involves travel through an area roughly as dangerous as wherever they're going) in DF, or roughly 25% of Starting Wealth per party member per day. That's for a typical adventure that a 4-man party of standard ([250]) DF adventurers can be expected to complete with a decent probability of success. For easier or more difficult adventures (more suited to less or more experienced adventurers), consider a cost of $4 per day per character point of an appropriate-level adventurer. Something that a party of brand-new rookies ([62] point bargain henchmen) can manage would be worth around $250/day; something a party of moderately-experienced adventurers ([125] standard henchmen) can manage would be worth $500/day; something a well-established party of adventurers ([250] standard adventurers) can manage would be worth around $1000/day; and something highly-experienced veterans ([500] adventurers) can manage would be worth around $2000/day. Note these would be unlikely to be daily wages - rather, something a party of [250] adventurers could be expected to handle in 3 days would have a $3000 reward, and if a single maniac ("Goblins?") handled it all in a few hours, well, he'd still get the full $3,000 to himself (while if a party took a full month, provided the quest wasn't time-sensitive, they'd still just get the $3000 to split amongst themselves). This assumes an adventurer-heavy ~TL3 setting, like DF; higher TL (or, rather, higher Starting Wealth) calls for higher wages, as do settings where adventurers are more rare.
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Old 02-22-2020, 12:28 PM   #7
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Default Re: Working Stiffs or: How Much Should Professional Adventurer's Realistically Make?

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Originally Posted by Gollum View Post
Indiana Jones never work for money. His whole life is dedicated to find archeological items
I concede that Indy does it mostly FOR SCIENCE!, i.e. archeological thirst for knowledge, and also to thwart the Nazis, but at the beginning of Raiders of the Lost Ark, there is this exchange between Indy and Brody:

Indy: "Look, I got these pieces, Marcus, they're good pieces."
Brody: "Yes, the museum will buy them as usual, no questions asked."
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Old 02-22-2020, 12:37 PM   #8
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Default Re: Working Stiffs or: How Much Should Professional Adventurer's Realistically Make?

It's important to realize that most people who become what might be called adventurers are bad at math. A realistic risk premium is a couple hundred times monthly income, multiplied by the chance of death or disability, or alternately, a smaller risk premium plus a large payout on death or disability.

Actual payouts like that are rare, and thus the actual body of 'adventurers' mostly consists of people who are one or more of bad at math, have an unrealistic estimate of the risk, or have an unrealistic estimate of the potential rewards (e.g. the people who keep looking for the 'one big score' and never finding it).
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Old 02-22-2020, 03:44 PM   #9
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Default Re: Working Stiffs or: How Much Should Professional Adventurer's Realistically Make?

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It's important to realize that most people who become what might be called adventurers are bad at math. A realistic risk premium is a couple hundred times monthly income, multiplied by the chance of death or disability, or alternately, a smaller risk premium plus a large payout on death or disability.

Actual payouts like that are rare, and thus the actual body of 'adventurers' mostly consists of people who are one or more of bad at math, have an unrealistic estimate of the risk, or have an unrealistic estimate of the potential rewards (e.g. the people who keep looking for the 'one big score' and never finding it).
Realistic adventurers in a DF-like setting are likely to take one of two routes. The first are going to take a pirate-like approach, going on an adventure then spending their payday to live it up (feasting, drinking, gambling, whoring, etc) until they're basically broke, then go out for another score to do it all over again. The second are going to immediately reinvest whatever they get as a reward into becoming better adventurers in some way (better gear, enchantments, potions, etc). Most will probably take a hybrid approach (turning some of their loot into upgrades, then blowing the rest on various flavors of entertainment). Both groups will probably end up in perpetual debt in the process (basically taking out new loans as soon as they have the old ones paid off*), which will cut down on their profits markedly.

I think the rewards I suggested would be enough to appeal to such types. While I came up with those values basically assuming commissioned quests where the only reward is what you get upon turning in a completion (like subjugating monsters that don't have loot, or don't have loot worth anything), some quests will have a much lower nominal payout, but with the belief the adventurers will find sufficient loot to make up for the difference. These are the quests that high-risk, high-reward types will like, as they'll be hoping for a larger payout from loot than what such work would normally entail. A "fair" value for the sort of danger adventurers tend to put themselves in is probably enough that working for a week a month would pay as well as a Filthy Rich job (~$70,000 per month at TL 3; this is around $10,000 per person per day, or $40,000 per day for a party; note working full months would put one in the realm of Multimillionaire), but even at the Comfortable level I suggested, you'll probably have enough people trying to get rich quick to handle whatever quests need doing, yet still have them tend toward a degree of competency. Less competent adventurers may be funneled toward easier jobs, and of course some jobs may underpay due to misconceptions of how difficult they'll be. For example, in Goblin Slayer, part of what makes goblins an issue is that goblin-killing quests underpay for how dangerous they are, due to public perception of goblins as weak. This isn't an unfounded perception - most goblins are roughly as strong and smart as a particularly cruel and active 12-year-old, and plenty of villagers have driven off one or two, even killed them, on their own - but attacking them in their den leaves one open to a sneak attack, and there are some variants that are markedly stronger (spellcasting Shamans, giant brute hobgoblins, etc) and tend to be encountered in dens. Rookie adventurers go after them, and either get wiped out (an estimate that shows up early in the story is that a goblin den will typically wipe out the first and sometimes second rookie party that tries to subjugate it out before it is itself destroyed) or learn such quests don't pay enough, so those who survive to higher ranks avoid goblin quests (humorously, the titular character is implied to make a large amount of money off of such quests, but he basically spends all day every day doing them).

*And, because adventuring work is dangerous, debtors will charge incredible interest rates, to make up for the adventurers they loan to that fail to pay due to getting eaten by goblins or whatever.
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Old 02-22-2020, 07:20 PM   #10
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Default Re: Working Stiffs or: How Much Should Professional Adventurer's Realistically Make?

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Originally Posted by Jinumon View Post
T

Based on my own best estimates, all of which are admittedly very rough (economics in That One Game have never made much sense), one gold piece is worth between G$50 and G$100,
You know Gurps actually has a standard price for Gold. It's right there in a box on p.515 ($20,000 for historically realistic campaigns). It's about 20% low based on today's price as reported by Google but it's not a bad figure as an average over time.

I know that there's an alternate price for D&D-like campaigns but it's numbers have been somewhat corrupted by confusion of units. It lists silver coins (big like a silver dollar) as coming 12 to the pound. Silver (as well as gold) are traditionally measured in Troy ounces (480 grains) and there are 12 Troy ounces to a Troy pound but a Troy pound only adds up to (12 x 480) 5760 grains. The avouirdupois ounce and pound Gurps uses for most measures of weight is 16 ounces of 437.5 grains each for a total of 7000 grains (yes, there is only one grain and it's the same unit used with US firearms).

The Gurps number of $20,000 to the pound comes _very_ close to the Troy pound but if talking about values of things in character's backpacks you probably need to shift to avoirdupois for everything.

D&D coins haven't come 10 to the lb for a long time now. From the start of 2nd edition in fact though almost no one noticed they have been 50 to the pound. This _is_ the figure used on p.143 of the 5e PHB.

So we don't need to talk about oversized coins so much. We will assume that the 50 to the pound is an avoirdupois pound. So whether it's the canonical 20,000 or the 24,000 I have calculated you only need to divide by 50 to get how many $ a D&D GP should be worth ($400 or $480).

If I was going to do a conversion based on commodities (whicc is what I did in my long World of D"Y"R"T game) I wouldn't use anything as unimportant to D&D as bread. I'd base it on longswords (a Gurps Thrusting Broadsword). The price of a D&D longsword has been very stable from edition to edition at 15 GP.
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