May Day Madness – we ponder spells and socialism
A: Well, now that we have our wine—
C: And since it was recently May 1st, a day in which all workers, including fantasy workers, should unite—
A: Let us discuss one of the most important aspects of D&D: money and spells.
C: So here’s my take—
A: This is very nice wine. Cheers.
C: Cheers. In a video game series, you’ll sometimes have a mechanic in the later games that’s kind of a holdover from the first in the series, but which won’t really serve a purpose any more.
A: And that’s what you think money is?
C: No. Well, also, like, capitalism is a prison. But for spells, at some level, the cost is a holdover, it’s—what’s the word for it in evolution? It’s atrophied, it’s vestigial, right? Sometimes, at least in our game, I feel like money for spells feels a little vestigial.
C: Like, with Pathfinder, we’re playing game number five in the series, and I wonder, if we were building it from the ground up, would we make spells cost money?
A: And by ‘cost money’, I assume you mean spells which have really expensive components? The sort where you’re like, ‘Ah yes, let me just pull out my pouch of diamond dust worth 250 gold so that I can cast Stoneskin.’
A: Because I want to say, one of the things which annoys me most about this is that it makes no sense for these amounts or items to be ironclad in their worth, given that this would change depending on the situation or location.
A: Like, if you have multiple regions, or even just multiple shops selling the same items, the cost will vary. Maybe you have a jeweller who raises the prices on his diamonds so that he can afford to send his wife to the coast so that she can recover from her bout of influenza. Maybe he just dislikes you. Either way, he charges you 250 gold for a diamond which elsewhere would only have cost 200 gold. Does the spell still work? Does it, Calder? Answer me!
A: Who knows! That’s the answer. I get very upset about this. All spells should be done on weight of items, which can be regulated far more easily, and then they should come with a recommended retail price.
C: That is a very good point. I guess it depends on what you think happens to the items in a spell. Does the magic consume them? Is it like Khal Drogo and his brassiere that melts gold because of magic? Or if you’re a cleric, is it just the gods being like, ‘Prove how much you like me, knave. Spend this money, and I’ll let your spell work’? Also—also, yes, I have just realised that it’s brazier, not brassiere—
A: That is correct.
C: Anyway, moving on. I was kind of thinking about the cost of spells specifically with big, expensive things like Resurrection. Now, technically my game does not have any sort of coming back to life for the player characters—like, if you die in my game, you’re done.
A: Die in the game, die in real life.
C: But if we did, I wouldn’t want the focus of this moment to be, ‘Do we have enough money?’ Dying is bad enough anyway. And should it be something you can buy your way out of? Why is even our escapism a capitalist hellhole where we suck the blood of the poor to keep advancing the (multiple) lives of the rich?
A: It’s like that film with Justin Timberlake. Limitless? No, that’s a different film. Anyway, the plot is: everyone has a certain amount of time to live, and the rich buy time off the poor and live forever.
C: Isn’t Limitless the one with Scarlett Johansson saying, ‘To knowledge’?
A: I think that might be Lucy.
C: Well, cheers anyway. To knowledge.
A: To power. Cheers.
C: And to a better world.
A: Side-note, whatever film I’m thinking of, that would be a cool setting for a one-shot.
C: True, I'm sure.
[The film Angela is trying to remember is: In Time.]
A: Also, we have now drunk a lot of this wine. Do we have any other points?
C: Look, to sum up: could you remake the game without having any spells that cost a ridiculous amount of money? Are they vestigial or do they serve a purpose? I’m not sure, but they feel funky, and I don’t like D&D being all about monies.
A: True. I don’t want the acquisition of wealth to be the solution to everything.
C: Can we not escape the shackles of our landlord-ruled universe even within the world of swords and sorcery? In this case, I guess the dungeon is capitalism and the dragon is capital.
A: We could make the dragon Das Kapital.
C: Break free of the dungeon! To knowledge, to freedom!