|Who says leather armor has to be cheap?|
Let's leave out the advice of Gygax in the DMG to soak the players with taxes and training fees - which turns the game into an unsatisfying caricature of bureaucratic capitalism, denying the players the freedom of a robber-baron frontier. What remains are two economic phases. In the first phase, players complete their character's acquisition of the best equipment available for adventuring. In the second phase, they get more ambitious and spend on things that establish them in the game world, ultimately leading up to a stronghold.
The problem in many rule sets is that phase 1 is very short, with an excess of treasure and a shortage of expensive things to buy. We saw previously that in some rulesets, the amouint of coinage amassed getting to level 2 alone can buy several suits of plate armor. In my current games I've succumbed to the temptation to have a bigger and better equipment list. Potions of healing ("vitality" because they only restore the metaphysical character hit points rather than actual physical injury) can be had, reducing the absolute need to bring a "healer" along. Armor and weapons for a steep multiplier can be had in dwarven or elven steel, which give limited bonuses, less than the magical versions of those things. Spellcasters need to spend money to inscribe new spells in their books. Eventually mounts, camping supplies, boats and ships may be bought.
All this time the players are supposed to be saving up for their stronghold. A second problem arises - the road to settled status tends to be a dull process, with a long mid-level haul before the ultimate payoff. I'm looking to the next generation of old-school games to make this progression a little more interesting, with more subsidiary goals along the way. If anyone knows whether Adventurer Conqueror King makes good on this, I'd like to know. I have a few ideas toward this goal, and also see an inherent problem in the stronghold goal, but that's a whole separate post.
My estimate is that after 3rd or 4th level or so, adventurers should have enough cash to buy all the equipment they can reasonably buy on the market, and around then should start adventuring for items of power and increased respect in society. The game system should then be designed around this, with an intricate balancing of experience, cash, levels of equipment. I guess as people level up in my game it'll remain to be seen whether my house-rules are doing the job. Anyway, those are now getting into good shape so I'll post some of them up as One Pagers throughout this week, with commentary.