On Trading Items

There are some fundamental disconnects in player assumptions.

Would you lend your car to a coworker? A friend? A cousin?

I personally would not. But what if you would lend your car out? What if, instead of a car, it was something that could not be replaced? Something priceless and irreplaceable.

Here's another question for you. Would you sell everything you own? Would you then take that money and buy armor and weapons? Would you then take mercenary contracts in active war zones with an eye towards looting the dead in the hopes of earning a few weeks salary?

Would you lend your car to someone who does those things?

Fundamentally, your characters are not you.

These people in games that you are pretending to be did not have a formal state funded education. In some games knowing how to read is a class feature. Their world is fundamentally different than yours.

It is a delicate situation, for we are playing a game and would be well advised to stay away from the non-mechanical interface of what one character would or wouldn't do. But perhaps having this perspective can shed light on rules such as why it takes so long to move safely through a dungeon, why there are rules against trading magic items, and maintaining formation during travel.


  1. Well, disclaimer, I personalty would lend my car to a good friend (and have had friends offer me the use of their car when I had car trouble)... everything else would depend on how well I knew and liked the individual.

    That said, as far as loaning/trading items I don't see why it wouldn't be allowed. I look at it less like "giving a coworker a car", and more like if I'm a merc in a battle and have an extra weapon I'm not using that an ally could use to help save our asses, of course I'm going to loan it to them.

    And all hat said I don't play any games where there are rules for the things you mentioned so I can only comment based on what I infer from your post.

  2. A lot of this has to do with culture. I used to live on a reservation, and "giveaways," where a person would celebrate a major event in their life (such as retiring, winning an important event, or even a birthday) would be accompanied by the person who was celebrating giving away a large amount of items to any who had come to celebrate the event with him or her. Its origins appear to go back to the pre-Western tribal period where a person's meager possessions would be divided up among the tribe upon their death.

    I could easily see a person retiring from adventuring keeping most of the "liquid" assets: coins, gems, etc. but giving the adventuring gear to someone else.

  3. Another way to look at it is that a party is in a dangerous spot and their lives are in each other's hands. They would want to maximize their chances of getting out alive.

  4. I get the feeling no one actually read the post.

    Their lives are not in each other's hands. You are working with people who sold everything to risk their lives. The instant you hand them a literally priceless artifact like a vorpal sword, they cut your head off with it and leave you for dead.

    You are not in it together, because not only does community not exist as you know it, the only thing they have ever known is the rule of the strong in a post-apocalyptic wasteland that is dungeons & dragons.

    So it does have to do with culture, and the players complete misunderstanding and complete inability to imagine a culture different then their own.

    You can't read. You avoid people who hit you. You look for people weaker then you to dominate. Your job involves risking your life and killing things to steal them. Everyone around you is an arrogant self-centered, narcissist who would as likely leave you for dead as help you out. This is all either directly implicated or stated in the source material.

    For all the people that "would" do these things, your basic assumptions that the characters would do these things takes away your entire upbringing of safety from literal eldricth horrors that can slay you and raise your dead body as a servant.

    1. If you really believed that your adventuring partners would shiv you for your magic, why in the world are you risking your neck alongside them?

      Especially if you are, say, a Cleric who can cast Know Alignment, or a Paladin who can Detect Evil. Seems like those guys would only team up with people who they could be reasonably sure wouldn't turn on them at the drop of a hat.

      I feel your reading of the "source material" (which is undefined, but I presume to mean the game books themselves and the novels listed in Appendix N of the DMG) is incredibly narrow. Certainly the works of Tolkien, Burroughs, and Howard are filled with loyal friends.

    2. Yes.

      The 'source material' isn't really accurate to what actually happens in a D&D session.

      The source materials are all resources for fantastical elements. They also often feature singular, paired or solo protagonists, and rarely follow the form or shape of a D&D game (which is blatantly post-apocolyptic).

      In the original game, there was no evil alignment, but there was 'protection from evil', because evil was defined as actively hostile or inimical to you at that moment.

      Frodo betrays the company and refuses to throw the ring in mount doom. Conan strikes off the heads of those who speak things he dislikes near him. John Carter is a single man, taking advantage of alien peoples for his own benefit. None of these examples speak to the loyal friendship you mention.

    3. I would say that "evil" was defined as enchanted or otherworldly.

      From Men & Magic, page 23:

      Protection from Evil: This spell hedges the conjurer round with a magic circle to keep out attacks from enchanted monsters. It also serves as an "armor" from various evil attacks, adding a + 1 to all saving throws and taking a — 1 from hit dice of evil opponents. (Note that this spell is not cumulative in effect with magic armor and rings, although it will continue to keep out enchanted monsters.) Duration: 6 turns.

    4. I was working from the B/X cleric 'not of your alignment' definition and extrapolating.

  5. I bet you'd lend your car out to your friend if your life depended on it. While it can come back to bite you, I'm fairly certain one's survivability decreases when he or she refuses to trust anyone, particularly that guy who's been working with you for months toward the same goal.

    1. Don't forget the part where it's not a car, it's literally a priceless, non-replaceable artifact. And it's just some dude you work with.

      Also, the goal you have as players, may in fact be different than the individual goals of characters, which are more akin to, "I'ma hitchin' my cart to this horse cause it looks like it's goin' places."

      Certainly your own survivability decreases when you hand away the very priceless irreplaceable things that are keeping you alive.

  6. Classic prisoners dilemma. Empirically, people do in fact work together in many cases though. See also:


    I think your assumption of zero-sum ruthless adventurers need not hold for all campaigns, not even for all post-apocalyptic treasure hunter games.

  7. Isn't what you say here (which basically amounts to "put yourself in an adventurer's shoes") completely at odds with what you said in a prior post (http://hackslashmaster.blogspot.com/2012/10/on-confusion-of-role.html)?

    Personally, I do believe you should strive to put yourself in your character's shoes and act in a fashion appropriate for someone in their place/culture...but from the point of view of "player skill", something you laud on your blog, doesn't lending magic items make logical sense?

    1. No.

      You are playing a game. The game is designed. You are the ones making decisions.

      So soon it occurs to you, why risk your fifth level fighter when you can just roll up a first level fighter and have him take the chance to win the powerful item. Then he can just lend it to the fifth level fighter, see?

      It is then pointed out that this is explicitly proscribed by the rules.

      "But," the player says, "But it only makes sense that he would trust his very best buddies and give away all his priceless artifacts."

  8. Don't forget the part where it's not a car, it's literally a priceless, non-replaceable artifact. And it's just some dude you work with.


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