You’re Gonna Carry That Weight

goblin hoardBoy, you’re gonna carry that weight

Carry that weight a long time

– Carry That Weight, the Beatles

Murder Hoboing is largely a cash business.

Sometimes the cash gets converted into something tangible: gems, magic items, weapons, or the occasional piece of art.  But, the business of kill a thing, roll its body, and take its stuff happens in cash.  Either Murder Hobos convert items to cash or Murder Hobos lift cash off the body to convert into useful items, like magic items or armor upgrades.  And, the town merchants 100% accept cash transactions for goods and services.

Consider the lowly gold coin.  It’s nearly the perfect currency. It’s fungible. It has a high weight to worth ratio unlike, say, silver or lead.  A bearer can divide a gold coin into smaller units by chopping it into physical smaller pieces (see: pieces of eight). Gold has a high weight density, so it’s relatively easy to detect counterfeits. Gold doesn’t tarnish, corrode, or oxidize over time like iron. That dragon in the cave under the mountain is unlikely to accidentally destroy its hoard no matter how long it naps on the pile.  Well, ex-dragon now.

Dragons are not going to nap on 3d10 art objects.  3d10 art objects have uncomfortable edges and pointy things.  And if they do, once the dragon lies on them, those art objects don’t have a chance.  They’re squished and unrecoverable.

This particular greater old red dragon was sleeping on 12d6 * 14K* gold pieces. That hoard comes out to roughly 588,000 gold, plus the associated weight of all the other interesting stuff sticking out of it.

It’s a huge sum of cash.

But there’s an issue.

A gold coin is not a zero-weight item. A single gold coin weights slightly more than 9g.**

Weights and Measures

Usually Murder Hobos don’t think much about the weight of gold because they’re not carrying much.  Take, for example, our friend the Bard, who no doubt dumped her strength stat because she’s all about finesse weapons.  She is buying the following to start:

Item Price Weight
Leather Armor 10gp 90g
Rapier 25gp 225g
Entertainer’s Pack 40gp 360g
Disguise Kit 25gp 225g
Lute 35gp 315g
Three Dragon Ante Set 1g 9g
136gp 2.7lbs

Including the weight of the bag, the bard drags around about 3lbs of pure gold from starting town shop to starting town shop getting kitted out.  It’s not that bad – enough to get noticed, not enough to slower her down.  Her friend, the Wizard, is in slightly more discomfort with the sticker price on the expensive wizard starting equipment.

Between the two of them, they are carrying ~7lbs of slightly conspicuous gold. Let’s hope no thief thinks 1st level characters carrying 7lbs of gold is a good idea.

But there’s no thief.  The two adventurers get started right.  The Bard and Wizard go on a few adventures and loot a few bodies. Let’s say, for example, the Bard survives a few high swashbuckling adventures. She wants to upgrade her rapier from a regular rapier to a rapier +1 or rapier +2*** so she does more damage. She heads over to the magic item shop in town and takes a look at the posted price list. It looks something like the following (minus the weight, of course):

Item Price Weight in Gold
Rapier 25gp 225g /0.5lb
Rapier +1 2025gp 18225g / 40lb
Rapier +2 8025gp 72,225g / 159lbs

Well, okay.  The Bard must produce more gold than her body weight to upgrade her rapier from a starting rapier to a rapier +2.  That’s going to require a cart from wherever she’s keeping her cash to the magic item shop’s front door.  Perhaps has an art item drop, she can get a smaller statue version of herself in pure gold and drag that around instead.

She turns to her friend the Wizard, who is having similar weight-based issues, and says: “So… any useful magic?”

How the Bard and Wizard manhandle the 8K gold coins out of the dungeon in the first place and dump it on the floor or the magic shop is a story of its own.  Hopefully, it all came in highly portable gem and art work form.  But, not all monsters trade in high value statuary, floofy lace clothing, or tiny bags of diamonds.

Some trade in cold hard cash.

Like dragons.

Moving a Dragon’s Hoard

At a certain point, the pile of gold is so incredibly huge the gold reverts back to inert metal. For gold coins to have worth, they must circulate in an economy.  Which means getting them out of the cave and down into the town and spent on things.

This particular pile of gold weighs 11,682lbs. Or about 5.8 tons.

The Murder Hobos have options, presumably after they move the enormous stinking dragon corpse off to one side.

1. Walk Away.  The simplest option is for Murder Hobos to take what they can carry, load up their a cart, and leave the rest of the hoard.  Then, they can seal up the cave behind them with a spectacular explosion.  Then the dragon is gone, the money is gone, no alignments have slid toward evil, and the Murder Hobos save the day.

The downside of this plan is the Bard.  The Bard will circulate songs about the lost hoard under the mountain. This spurs all sorts of unsavory characters – Dwarves, Goblins, other Dragons – to search for the Buried Treasure of the Murder Hobos and start the cycle of monster/quest/adventurers all over again.  Now the peaceful peasant village is in jeopardy. Murder Hobos must rescue it…

2. Rent Heward’s Handy Haversack, Bags of Holding and Portable Holes. If the local town has a “rent a magic item” shop, the party should look into easy coin transport. The party can cover the hourly rate of the magic item rental paid out of the hoard.  Consider it a move tax.

Looking at the properties of the likeliest magic item rentals, the party has three choices: Heward’s Handy Haversack, a Bag of Holding or a Portable Hole.  These can hold the following gold coin volumes with the # of trips back to the hoard to move it:

Magic Items Volume Coins held # of trips
Heward’s Handy Haversack 120lbs 6000 coins 98
Bag of Holding 500lbs 25,000 24
Portable Hole 283 cubic feet ~10M coins 1

A Portable Hole is the most efficient means of transporting the sheer volume of the dragon’s hoard.  However, the party may wish to outright purchase the hole from the rental shop after pushing all their newly gained cash into it.  They can then turn the Portable Hole into a convenient (although not particularly secure) mobile banking system ready to drop a 6 foot x 10 foot hole full of gold coins on demand at any store front and purveyor of expensive items.****  Sure, the party may fight and tear apart and end up at each other’s throats over hole possession and the thief might steal the portable hole and then there’s a fight at twilight on rooftops with the thief’s new found friends and the party demanding their hard gotten gains returned to them but these things happen.

And the wizard providing rentals likely charges some ridiculous rate, like 1000gp/hour + insurance costs, on the portable hole for rentals.

Should a portable hole not be available in town for purchase, stuck in the dragon’s hoard, or rental, the party may use less efficient bags of holding.  However, should the party scrape the cash into bags of holding, they do need a location to deposit the coins big enough to hold the sheer hoard mass with some level of security so they can make multiple return trips (precisely 24, see the chart, above) without worrying about the coins disappearing.  It’s up to the Murder Hobos to raid another nearby dungeon and clear it of monsters to create that location to hold their coins. And then secure it with deadly traps and monsters.

3. Rent Goblins.  Goblins provide cheap and plentiful underground movement services for a fee. Sure they’re evil, and they’ll steal coins, and they’ll likely turn on the party, but they also have access to mining equipment and are easy to murder at the end of the contract with no alignment penalty. The Party certainly doesn’t want the Goblins telling the Goblin friends about the new location of 588,000 coins.  The Goblins will need a depository location for the coins as part of the contract, so the Party needs to have that arranged before entering into the arrangement.  That is again up to the Party to secure before striking equitable terms with small goblinoids of pure evil.

Also, this will take non-trivial time to:

  • Finalize the contract and give the goblins a deposit;
  • Set up the mining operation;
  • Move the equipment in to move the coins;
  • Get the Goblin Camp stood up;
  • Ensure the Goblins have sources of food and materials so they do not raid the local village the party was protecting by killing the dragon in the first place;
  • Smokescreen it all so the local villagers don’t catch on (and this may mean tying up the Bard and putting her in a closet);
  • Dispose of the dragon corpse in a non-toxic and non-polluting manner;
  • And make sure the goblins go away after the operation.

One could pen the same contract with the same challenges with the Dwarves, of course. But Dwarves will demand a higher cut percentage than Goblins, will be less quiet, and will not take well when the party welches on the terms of the contract.  Also, it’s rarely a good act to turn on Dwarves and murder them all to keep them quiet about the party’s gold hoard.

4. Build Vault Doors on the Dragon’s Cave.  Here, if the party has no access to bags of holding, portable holes, Goblin workers, or Dwarven earth moving equipment, but the party has access to a literal pile of money, the party can commission doors built on the actual dragon cave itself.  Or, if anyone in the party has a carpentry background, they can build it.  The trick is to not let the local villagers catch on why the party is suddenly camped out long-term at the mouth of dragon cave, avoid questions about build materials, and keep noisy villagers at bay.  And, of course, not allow the Bard and her friend, the Warlock, go drinking in the local pub.

This solution is only as secure as the party members building the doors make it.  Once word gets out – and word will get out – adventurers will come sniffing around trying to gain their own access to the hoard.  The party members will have to protect the hoard with stronger doors and elaborate traps. They might want to repopulate the dragon’s cave with local nasty monsters to help guard the money pile.  Perhaps the party can position themselves in the final chamber with their weapons and magic items, waiting to defend their hoard from other adventuring parties…

5. Call the Transmuter Bankers. The Bankers have services for this sort of thing – rentable portable holes, depository services, access to banking at their various convenient and highly secure locations.  Simply summon their representative to the hoard and he/she/it will walk the party through various banking services and will explain their particular and peculiar sort of alchemy, turning this hoard of gold into credit.  In their vaults, they insist, the money is safe, secure, and proof against theft.  They’ve worked all these problems out, see. Transmuter Banker credit is good everywhere on the plains, and the party can withdrawal gold coins at any convenient location where Transmuter Bankers lurk in dark corners, haunted basements, or spooky alleyways.

Of course, this means handing one’s hard earned hoard to black cloaked wizards, not asking too hard how they make money off their money, and trusting them to treat it well… no one does that.

Do they?

After all, Murder Hoboing is a cash economy.

Regardless how the Murder Hobos decide to deal with the physical issues facing enormous pile of cash, they’ll know better for next time to focus on monsters that only drop gems, artworks, and magic items.  Like, say, wizard towers.  Anything that drops items that disappear into a pocket. And steer clear of monsters who take naps on giant piles of gold.

* CR 17 Treasure Hoard table says 12D6 * 14K for cash reward.

** 50 gold coins weighs a lb, so a single gold coin weighs 9.06g.

*** Yes,I am aware the DMG 5th Ed no longer has price lists for magic items which brought up the question of what does one do with 588,000 gold coins if one cannot spend it on anything? I pulled my price lists from the D&D Wiki which is YMMV but has decent search. These match up with the D&D SRD. But yeah, not quite right but we’ll use these prices for examples.

**** Although, again, the 5th edition system does not price magic items so it’s impossible to purchase.

Image Credit: Art by Jaydot Sloane of Vanity Games – http://www.patreon.com/VanityGames

Comments

  1. Sir Tainley says:

    When Aaron of Lincoln–a Jewish moneylender and the wealthiest man in England–died, England faced a bit of a crisis. At the time the law was that Jewish estates belonged to the crown… making Jews exceptionally valuable to the crown. But Aaron’s estate was so large King Henry II had to set up a whole new ministerial department to handle the estate “Aaron’s Exchequer”

    Ironically, while Jews could charge interest (hence, were sinners, and thus their estate was forfeit to the crown on death), the crown could not, so the value of the estate continued to depreciate over the years once it belonged to the government.

    The physics of moving all that cash, and the final appearance of the transmuters, reminded me lf the story.

    In my D&D game, Gnomes fill the role of Jews in the economy, and it’s a discussion of active debate in the temples “Do Gnomes have souls?”

  2. The Altar says:

    D&D wiki is notoriously terrible and full of homebrew entries that look just like srd entries. In order to preserve everyone’s sanity, please use d20srd.org in the future.

    • Rafinius says:

      That’s not really true. Any entry that has SRD in front of it are SRD entries and any that don’t are homebrew. With the tiniest bit of attentiveness the difference is pretty clear to make out.

  3. On the topic of the Transmuter Bankers…
    I recently read a history of Venice a couple months back, and I found the bit talking about the first Venetian banks rather interesting. Banks are “banks” because the guys running them would run their business on benches in the square – in Italian, “banco” is bench (“banca” is bank). And their banks would normally fold on their death, as the depositors would all withdraw their money (not trusting any heir).

    Other tidbit relating to Sir Tainley’s post above: those neophyte Christian bankers in Venice could charge interest on loans because the Church had recently declared that interest wasn’t interest, it was a “fee” charged to the recipient of the loan, to get around the whole “usury is a sin” thing…

    • Sir Tainley says:

      You are quite right Alan. But, the reason Jewish bankers were preferred by bottom-line-motivated borrowers, is they could offer very competitive interest rates, whereas the Italians were notoriously expensive to deal with: they charged a premium for the right to do business with Christians.

      I believe Lombard street in London got its name from being home to all the Italian bankers.

  4. 5E does feature suggested prices for magic items based on rarity. Page 135 of the DMG has this information. So +1 rapier in 5E goes for about 500 gp and a +2 rapier would be 5000 gp. I use the upper limit of the scale for permanent items and low to middle for consumable items.

    They are suggestions and the DM can always change them.

  5. Sean robert meaney says:

    I so cant wait for Em to turn this into a children’s picture book: the big book of murderhobo economics.

    Still my players would have set the dragon up as a local agent for the pcs, financed those doors, slipped the dragon a crystal ball, and employed its services as their intelligence network. With a dragon mapping every secret of that next ruin the gold can be dumped on the dragon in 500lb firkins and the silver and copper dumped in the local economy.

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