On Cities, Part III

A lot of the procedures will be followed by "Roll on a random table, this table will define the characteristics of the city." That seems like a lot of work, and right now I'm telling you, don't do it.

Unless the city is A) very large and reusable (such as waterdeep or baldur's gate) or B) Somewhere your players are going to be spending a lot of time, then I suggest not bothering to come up with more than 2 options on most of these tables. Ask yourself, How much time will the characters really spend there? If the tables aren't going to produce as much or more interesting gaming at the table as the time spent making them, then skip it. You can use two or four generic results for each table and add one or two unique ones. The villages in my series already have the information you need for the hooks to make a unique interaction or two. Developing a second layer or level of interaction is only necessary if the player characters stick around.

Surface impressions -> experience -> new impressions -> complexity

Today, we look at some of my more popular gold and time sinks.


Characters may deck themselves out in fashionable duds in order to gain status or experience. They do this by going shopping and buying fancy clothes. They may exchange a maximum of 200 gold for 100 experience by purchasing fancy pants and other adornments.
A character cannot spend over 50 gold a day and must locate or know of a store that sells high quality clothes, shoes or jewelry. If they don't know of a location they can use the Navigation feature to locate one. After spending 200 gold, the character is recognized and secretly thought of as a gadabout and cannot use adornment to further gain experience unless adventuring. Note that this also leaves 3 days free for other activities.
A basic quick way for someone who over-levels or is just a few points short to spend some time and gain another level.

But most players are more interested in the idea of Carousing, or turning larger amounts of gold into experience with risk. The idea is old, originating in Dragon Magazine #10, in an article about hot sexual orgies with exposed elven chests. It is about 1000% less salacious than it sounds. The perspicacious insight located in the text of the article is as follows.

“Instead of receiving experience for gaining treasure, players would receive experience only as the treasure is spent.”
Some campaigns have adopted this approach wholeheartedly, but others just expand on the fundamental article by Jeff Reints: Party like it's 999 to allow players to double dip. Get experience for the treasure, and get experience for blowing the treasure on crap and getting in trouble instead of trying to buy magic items or armies. The following is inspired by Jeff's Table, Roger G-S, and Arnold K. Thanks Roger!


You can trade cash for experience. You roll 1d8 and multiply it times 100. That is the amount of gold you spend in one week. You engage in one of several activities.
  • Philanthropy: You spend gold on a worthy social group. At the end of the week make a save versus spells. (Wisdom in 5e, DC 15)
  • Drinking/Orgies: You spend gold on vice and excess. At the end of the week make a save versus poison/death. (Constitution in 5e, DC 15)
  • Study/Research: You spend gold seeking ancient or forgotten lore. At the end of the week make a save versus paralysis. (Intelligence in 5e, DC 15)
  • Gourmandising: You spend gold seeking new things to eat, consume, or experience. At the end of the week make a save versus rods, staves, and wands. (Dexterity in 5e, DC 15)
If you lack the funds, you gain 1/2 the experience points indicated by the die roll and spend all your funds. The save has a -4 in this case (or is made with disadvantage). On a failed save, something interesting has happened. Roll on the appropriate random table of effects. These tables will help define the character of the city. Note that you can engage in these activities for as long as you have cash and the desire.
(My tables for the fairly generic home base city of Arclight for Numenhalla follow. Note the positive effects on high rolls). 
At the end of the week, unless contradicted by the entry, you gain experience equal to gold spent.


  1. Your charity is a front for a vicious gang. Start the next session with a 1d8+2 blunt critical.
  2. Your charity attracts thieves, lose 1d10x100 gold.
  3. Your charity attracts the enmity of an NPC who steals a magic item.
  4. Your charity attracts the enmity of an NPC who hunts you. 
  5. Your charity irks the pride of the receiving group, your next philanthropy attempt costs double.
  6. Donation gala the night before, you are hung over. -1 on all rolls next session.
  7. You get lost in the manse of your latest fund raiser, leave behind a random piece of important gear this session.
  8. During a toast, you are pressured to give more gold (spend 1d10x10 more gold).
  9. The charity has a windfall and returns part of your investment (1/2 gold cost).
  10. You have impressed a townsfolk. (Gain 1 free henchman). 


  1. You awake, molested and robbed. Lose 1d10x100 gold and a random valuable item.
  2. You acquire a disease.
  3. Brawl, start the next session with a 1d8 blunt critical. 
  4. Knife fight, start the next session with a 1d8 piercing critical.
  5. Trouble with the authorities, pay 2d6x20 gold to get out.
  6. Gain a "good time boy/girl" reputation. Next carousing attempt costs double.
  7. New tattoo: 1. Lame, 2. Blasphemous, 3. on face, 4. misspelled, 5. totally metal, 6. cool.
  8. Horrible hangover. Start next adventure missing 1d4 hit points, -2 to all rolls for 12 turns (2 hours) and -1 to all rolls after that.
  9. You invested all your cash in a scheme. Roll 1-6. On a 1-4 lose money, 5-6 get 110%-160% return in 1d4+1 weeks!
  10. Accidentally started a fire. Roll 1-6, 3+ party knows, 5+ Blackmailer knows, 6, everybody knows.


  1. A bookshelf falls on you. Take a 1d8+2 blunt critical.
  2. Book actually has razor edges. Roll 1d4. On a 1-3 you are that many hit points short. On a 4, lose 1 finger to the first knuckle.
  3. Research blows your mind! Gain no experience. Lose the same amount you would have gained. 
  4. Your researched disturbs a foe. You are hunted by a (1-2) NPC or (3-6) enemy.
  5. You discover a (1-4) fake (5-6) real treasure map.
  6. You stumble onto a new insight! Gain a skill, weapon mastery, or spell!
  7. While fasting, your body is permanently weakened. -1 Constitution.
  8. Your time out of the sun weakens you. Lose 1d4-1, minimum 1 hit points permanently. 
  9. You read all of the common books. Your next research attempt costs double.
  10. You discover a free rumor!


  1. Poisoned! Save versus death or take (1d6)1d6 damage. 
  2. Food Poisoning! Take 2d4 temporary Constitution damage.
  3. Terrible indigestion. You must rest 1 turn in 3 during the next adventure.
  4. You offend a dinner companion who now hunts you.
  5. Bacterial infection, gain an infection.
  6. Invigorating meal, gain 1d8 temporary hit points on your next adventure.
  7. Culinary bliss, the meal increases your health. Gain 1d4 maximum hit points permanently.
  8. Terrible nausea, you have -1 on all rolls during the next adventure.
  9. Divine inspiration, roll a 1d6. (1-2) Gain one Constitution, (3-4) gain one Wisdom, (5-6) gaine one Charisma.
  10. Parasite. Use unique one or -1 Constitution per month with a +4 on Poison saves. 
Notice that the saving throws required drive certain classes to certain activities, Fighters and dwarves will drink, mages will research, clerics will philanthropize. The critical table used is A Table for Avoiding Death, but in my current games, I use a much reduced and less fiddly table. For 5th edition games and classes, I would replace some effects (such as -1 on all rolls) with a level of fatigue or two.
 Sometimes you have a witch or warlock or blackguard in the party.


You can sacrifice gold or creatures to a dark master.
  • The blood of an animal counts as 100 gold. 
  • The blood of a sentient counts as 1,000 gold per hit die
  • This is doubled if a child (less than 19 years of age or whatever pre-adult is for the creature), doubled if a female, doubled if willing, and doubled if a virgin. 
  • On a successful charisma check (9+ on 2d6) this gold can be exchanged 1:1 for experience, 1:10 for the acquisition of a magic item, or the services of a demonic, devilish, undead, or dire creature for the length of 1 year and 1 day. The creature(s) can have one hit die for each 1,000 gold pieces spent.
    • On a failure the sacrifice is unsatisfactory and nothing happens. 
All multipliers are cumulative. So a willing, young, virgin, human, female would grant 16,000 experience, a magic item worth 160,000 gold, or the services of a creature of up to 16 HD. This can be attempted only once per month on the appropriately (un)holy day, usually the night of the new or full moon. Multiple sentients (though only one animal) can be sacrificed.

I've only had one player ever do such a thing, and the next week the whole party took the quest to discover what happened to the missing little girl. Weren't they surprised when they found out the guilty person was in their own party!

Hack & Slash 
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  1. Not a bad approach but the save DC might be a bit high in 5e at low levels. On average a save in 5e is about 3 less than its 3.5 counterpart for the same difficulty.

    Otherwise as written its going to usually be "spend a lot of money, maybe 50-50 something happens or less if its not a strong stat for you." which is not going to be a much used option.

    1. The way it usually works in B/X games is a failed save versus poison (or poloymorph, or what have you based on the type you do), which gives you a 60%+ chance for something (usually bad) to happen.

      Which means that the odds are even better for fifth edition characters that they escape unscathed.

      You do understand they are trying to avoid having to roll a result, right? That they usually get the gold spent in experience? So they spend a lot of money and nothing happens and that is good.

  2. If it is not clear from the post, the characters spend 1d8*100 gold. Characters gain that value in experience. The save is to avoid having to roll on the table.

  3. Really nice, but imho the researching table is way too harsh, especially compared with the others. As a player I'd never ever risk a roll on a table - for some XP, unless I'm very desperate - which contains permanent ability and HP reduction, with such a great chance (together 20%!).

    1. Well, you get the experience. You only roll on the table if you fail the saving throw. Over the course of a campaign, carousing can add up to 10's of thousands of experience. Everyone has to make their own risk/reward judgements.


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