Saturday, February 8, 2014

The Greyhawk Tomb of Horrors Company - A Campaign Notion

I'm still reading Adam Smith's Wealth of Nations (it's not a small book), and I'm now reading about the various merchant companies that held monopolies to trade with various colonies of the U.K. This got me thinking about using a similar concept in fantasy rpg's.

In this case, you would have countries or city-states establish control over a mega-dungeon and the immediate region around it. This actually makes some sense, when you consider the incredible wealth (monetary and magical) held in a mega-dungeon. For a fun campaign, you would probably want to establish multiple mega-dungeons in a campaign world, with different countries controlling them.

Each of these mega-dungeons has a different adventurer company that holds a monopoly on its exploration and exploitation, with a percentage of all proceeds going to the government that gave it the charter. The adventurer company might be a joint stock company, in which different NPC's (wealthy merchants, sinister types, aristocrats, and the adventurers themselves) hold stock, with an annual dividend based on how well the adventurers have done in their explorations. The adventurer company could have multiple adventurers in it, of varying levels - so players could have multiple adventurers, bringing new ones in at times as old adventurers die off or rise to higher levels and need apprentices and squires.

Moreover, as the adventurers hit the name levels, the strongholds they establish could be in the region of the mega-dungeon, as a means for the company to control the area. Of course, rival nations would want to wrest control of the dungeon away from the company and its country, so now wargaming can enter into the campaign. The adventurers might also get involved in conquering other mega-dungeons, and even establishing their own companies to exploit them.

As adventurers become more wealthy, they can attempt to buy more shares in the company, maybe rising the level of directors and having to engage in all the intrigue that surrounds big money and royal courts.

I imagine this could make for a fun framework for running a campaign.


  1. Interesting idea. Might be interesting to have some of the adventurers have 'rank' within the company as well. They could have certain goals that might conflict with others in the party, or other parties, exploring the dungeon. Maybe they would pull rank on others....add a little dramatic conflict to the dungeon.

  2. The catch is that you need a mega-dungeon that regenerates wealth, otherwise it will be more like a mining company than trading. (Indeed, the Tomb of Horrors is actually kind of a small dungeon, since it was used a lot in tournaments).

    And the other thing is - what's in it for the adventurers? Not many people will want to risk their lives to make other people rich. Especially in a D&D game where most governments aren't overly strong, they can't send IRS SWAT teams after the PCs to collect their taxes/earnings.

    The idea I've had for my megadungeon in my campaign, is that that corporation claimed the land around the megadungeon, and then makes money off of selling services to adventurers. Like a boomtown that has sprung up, or like you see outside of military bases, all these people lining up to relieve them of their money.

    1. A major distinction between the dungeon situation and the early Stock Company model is that trading expeditions and colonies needed a lot more capital to function than a group of adventurers raiding a dungeon does. I agree that the "support services" model makes more sense for the controlling authorities in this case, though they might also seek to impose a flat-out tax on valuables leaving the dungeon as a "resource" nominally owned by the government/King.

      Certain specialized equipment and services, though, might well be costly, and justify a company structure to raise capital -- Healing potions and magic (or Raise Dead insurance policies), magic weapons for a dungeon filled with monsters immune to lesser threats, and even clerics or other specialist personnel might be funded by such means (and this could be a good model for a small group of players where nobody personally wants to play a cleric or mage or paladin).

      Another possibility might be megadungeons located in territory actively disputed by rival nations unable to exert decisive authority over them -- Then there might be competing monopolies seeking both to support dungeon delves and oppose or thieve those of competitors.


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