He’s ready for adventure. He gathered up his buddies. He has starting gear.
He goes to the neighborhood bar. He finds the old man quest giver skulking in a concealed dark corner. He plops down heavily in the booth. He adjusts his various knives and axes when they poke into his leg.
The old man quest giver has a quest today. The goblins have infested the nearby mines. Rumor has it they’ve laced the mines with traps. They’ve hired a small ogre clan to keep out the common Murder Hobo. The local town will pay a nice bit of scratch if some Murder Hobo clears them out.
“You, my friend,” the Old Man Quest Giver says, “are that Murder Hobo.”
It’s a dangerous mission for a Murder Hobo on the go. Traps, combat, ogres and irritated goblins line the path between the bar now and the bar later.
The Murder Hobo is in.
The Goblins bought the mine from a local university, who held the land, years ago. They have a legal deed. But, no one likes living next to Goblins.
Goblins aren’t the best neighbors. They’re small, green, and weird. They’re prone to explosions. Occasionally, the forest around the mouth of the mine catches on fire. And, Goblins drunkenly drive weird gadgets at night in the fields like insane fiends.
The thought that the mine, believed gone to skunk, might be fruitful for the Goblins bothers the local townspeople. In their minds, that’s their stuff even if they sold the mine to Goblins. The fruitful produce from that mine is theirs. After all, they’re evil Goblins and townspeople are Good and Wise.
The Goblins are well aware of the perception problem.
The Goblins have tried a variety of tactics to get the local quasi-humanity on board with their presence. They’ve tried granting (exploding) presents to the local townspeople. They’ve tried a Hug a Goblin marketing campaign. They’ve held free food giveaways. Who doesn’t like free Goblin food? Maybe the problem was a food based disconnect…
No marketing campaign could solve the root of the problem. The local townspeople did not like Goblins. And Goblins, with hydraulic drilling and Goblin engineering, drilled through a layer of rock and made a non-producing mine produce.
The Goblins decided to defend their claim.
The townspeople put a bounty on the Goblins. They set up a local Quest Giver to entrap Murder Hobos and pay them to clean the Goblins out.
The two sides buckled down. A dungeon was born.
Dead Weight Loss
Theft and plunder is not free for the Goblins.
The Goblins must budget and pay for the following:
- Spikey pit traps.
- Non-spikey pit traps.
- Traps involving giant rolling boulders.
- Poisonous traps.
- Even more poisonous traps.
- Magical traps.
- Even more magical traps.
- Arms and armor for Goblins.
- Ogre hirelings.
- Arms and armor for Ogre hirelings.
None of this is free – neither in time nor in resources.
Physical traps, like spike pit traps, giant rolling ball traps, net traps, or fire traps requires both engineering ingenuity and labor to build. That design and labor time pulls away from investment in building better hydraulic drills.
Poison traps are the above (labor and design) but also an investment cost in searching out, developing, testing (ugh) and deployment of poisonous substances. Goblin shamans may have this skill in their wheelhouse. But, they still need to go find the proper weeds, process them, and deploy the poisons. Meantime, at least three Goblins died from mining-based or explosion-based wounds.
Magical traps are worse. If the Goblin shaman doesn’t have this skill, she’ll need to contract a local wizard to assist creating the various traps. Local wizards are not cheap and notoriously flighty (often literally). Finding a local wizard who will work with Goblins costs money in resource costs and time in opportunity costs.
Then there’s the Ogres. The Goblins must house, feed, clothe, arm, and pay them. They’re the Goblin equivalent of Murder Hobos.
These dead weight line items add up on the Goblin accounting spreadsheet. Protection against plunder and theft does not account for any productivity. It does not create any capital except for the leeches who pen lucrative contracting arrangements. Building dungeon traps and protecting against theft does not create any meaningful market-based activities expect for those 3rd parties involved in trap production. As traps production is not the main Goblin line of business, traps are a loss.
For the Goblins to continue to extract useful profit from the mine:
- The profit from mining > cost of traps + cost of magic + cost of mercenaries + cost of mining operations + food and lodging for Goblins.
The Goblins compete with other mines selling to Orkish hordes and other customers. To cover their losses, the Goblins jack up the price of their iron from their ironworks. This may price them uncompetitively with other Goblins who might not have Murder Hobos besieging them. To save money, they must get more clever with their traps or cut dead weight loss so they can lower their prices. This isn’t a great place for a Goblin.
If the locals send enough Murder Hobos up against the Goblins, the Goblins may go bankrupt. Then the Goblins will take off. The way to save the world from malicious and growing evil, in the local townpeople’s eyes, is to increase pressure. So, they’ve jacked up their rewards to entice more Murder Hobos.
And here they are.
Dead Weight Loss in Adventuring
But wait! It’s not free for Murder Hobos to traverse all those traps, defeat all those monsters, roll bodies, and take the treasure! They have overhead costs, too:
- Death and replacement of Murder Hobos
- Murder Hobo adventuring equipment and provisions
- 10′ poles
- Annoying contracted Thieves
- Find Traps spells
- Identify spells
- Potions of Healing
- Potions of Cure Poison
- Potions of Cure Disease
Death and Murder Hobo replacement is the highest cost to any adventuring party. Finding a new Murder Hobo takes time, effort, recruiting, and rolling up a new sheet. This is a dead weight loss against the actual mission of plunder and theft. Every moment lost is less treasure per second!
In fact, any expenditure against the worth of the treasure is dead weight. If the Goblins didn’t need traps, Murder Hobos wouldn’t need 10′ poles, expensive scrolls, or annoying, somewhat evil Thieves in their party. If Goblins didn’t need to hire Ogres to protect them, then Murder Hobos wouldn’t need potions to heal themselves and wait for the next fight.
For this contract to work:
- Worth of found treasure + townspeople payment > dead weight loss of scrolls, potions, trap protection, and replacement Murder Hobos.
Murder Hobos won’t level if they avoid bevies of traps and ignore the hordes of Goblins and Ogres and whatever else lives in those nasty mining caves. But, Murder Hobos would keep more treasure and suffer less dead weight loss in their adventure if they came up with another solution.
Despite Goblins owning a dungeon, traps, and Ogres, Murder Hobos have all the power in this business relationship. Murder Hobos can just keep coming until they, too, run out of capital. Then they’re bankrupt Murder Hobos who failed to take the dungeon. (But the townspeople keep their $$ to try again – they risk little and lose nothing).
A potential win-win solution for Murder Hobos with few Good-aligned party members* is to come up with a plunder contract. The contract stipulates the following:
- The Goblins determine a certain % of the dead weight cost provided the provided treasure was greater than Murder Hobo expectations + value of the quest;
- Murder Hobos relieve the Goblins of the private dead weight costs of plunder and theft;
- Once mutually agreed upon, the Goblins pay the Murder Hobos their treasure up front;
- Murder Hobos leave.
For the Goblins, the amount they pay in expected treasure + covering the Murder Hobo costs is far less than the costs of contracts + magic + trap construction + smelly Ogres. For Murder Hobos, the amount they’d make is greater than their expected treasure + payout. They no longer need to invest in equipment. Murder Hobos reduce their loss. This is mutually beneficial.
They sign at the door, Goblins hand over a chest of weapons, gold and potions, and off the Murder Hobos go.
This only works if Murder Hobos have a higher power hand in the relationship than the Goblins. If they do not, the amount the Goblins must invest in protection sinks and it’s not worth it to pay Murder Hobos to go away. It’s cheaper for Goblins to murder Murder Hobos. But once they exchange information – often with the first round of Ogres murdered – then this works for both parties.
And, for high level Murder Hobos, it’s profitable for them to return to extort a fresh payment. The Goblins take this payment as a write down against their profits; it’s less than they would have paid otherwise. Goblins can divest themselves of expensive dungeon upkeep and maintenance. And, their contracted Murder Hobos will periodically return to kill other Murder Hobos attempting to take over their extortion regime.
This all allows the Murder Hobo plunder process to happen peacefully. Adventuring as Organized Crime.
The losers are the townspeople, who are out a mine and stuck with loud, crazy Goblin neighbors. And now they have heavily armed Murder Hobos defending the Goblin miner’s rights to mine since they’re profit-sharing.
*No Murder Hobos are Good. Given an infinite timeline, all Murder Hobos trend to Neutral Evil.
Image Credit: Art by Jaydot Sloane of Vanity Games – http://www.patreon.com/VanityGames