Emily’s Law. (Murder Hobos!)

Emily being ‘Emily Dresner-Thornber,’ who is on my private list of People Who Consistently Write Better Than I Do; and Emily’s Law is:

Given an infinite amount of time and actual economic pressures, all adventuring groups become neutral evil.

She does a damn fine job of justifying that law, too. ¬†Admittedly, she had me at ‘Murder Hobos.’

Via Ken Hite, who is also on that list, and whose Mythos Expeditions supplement for Trail of Cthulhu is even now more or less out and waiting for the cash to flow in just the right sequence to permit me to acquire it.

Moe Lane


  • Grue says:

    I’m a sucker for fantasy world economics. One of the reasons I primarily GM is because of an irresistible tendency to fiddle with the overall dynamics of a campaign world as a player (which I find fun but isn’t really the area most of the table is interested in).

    Anyway Emily is sortof overlooking two things (well maybe three) when it comes to murder hobo economics. The first, to paraphrase Terry Pratchett, is the ‘potato standard’. You can’t eat gold. In most standard fantasy campaigns, actual land property is extraordinarily expensive. It’s not 100 gp for an inn, but 10 to 20k. With labor (far in excess cost of what actual historical labor would cost). Wealth is land and the people on it, not the shiny stuff you haul out of the trove. Most hobos never graduate to that stage of the game (in most cases her scenario is strictly theoretical).

    The second is, the extreme pressure of alien races and man-eating monsters present in the environment putting a great deal of pressure on the local social structure. Most fantasy worlds, while possessing the technology beyond 16th century hyper-gold inflated Spain, are more akin to a 5th or 6th century Europe. The world is extremely dangerous and wants to eat you. In any historical parallel, the feudal arrangements would be reinforced. Full granaries, cattle, land and skill at arms far more valuable than bits of useless soft metals (Potato and Protection economics). It’s a constant invasion of cannibal barbarians… and there’s no compromising or co-opting of the savages. Adventurers fill a vital societal niche and if they get out of hand, the scenario she mentions is the most likely … there are other adventurers who can be hired to remove them (or they become the new lords…either way barring societal failure the system reinforces).

    The third is most murder hobos are hobos;-). There is something mentally wrong with most of them to start with (most likely because 90%+ of them are orphans). When they start their murder sprees they are generally 5 years past when most common people are married, have little understanding or interest in asset management (carrying or wearing king’s ransoms towards the mid-point of their careers and usually 100% of their wealth…plus that sense of reward they get from collecting useless shiny things), and usually have some sort of inexplicable desire (mental illness) to be ‘liked’ and viewed as a ‘hero’ by the folk of the land regardless of other economic considerations (doing jobs for a pittance of the actual swag seized from the corpses of their victims).

  • MichaelN21209 says:

    I’ve always been hesitant to assume that fantasy-world economics were going to be closely related to historical economics. Point the first, the equipment list prices that we are given rarely (if ever) have any real economic basis. This means that the price signals can be wildly out of whack, and there’s no way to easily modify the systems to reflect the pressures of supply and demand. Point the second, if magic is known to exist (or even Renaissance-level technology), then that’s going to warp systems as well. How much can you charge for a “Cure Light Wounds” or “Cure Disease” spell, for example? Will the gods show favor and teach favored folk how to purify water, or give out the basics of germ theory? Point the third, geographic factors are often grossly neglected — I’m not sure Misty Lackey ever wrote a character who had even *seen* an ocean, for example; widely-accessible mineral deposits can sharply change development, too. Don’t overthink the thing, that’s all I’m saying. Still, if either you or Em choose to write on a subject, I’m willing to go read it. I miss being part of a gaming community that you both contributed regularly to — there was some really good stuff back on the In Nomine list, lo these many years ago.

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