Friday, February 8, 2019

In Praise of the Gold Piece and the Lume

One of the genius moves Gary or someone there at the beginning came up with, and I think it was Gary, was tying all of your advancement to the gold piece.

The goal of the game was to get rich.

Therefore, the gold piece measured your XP advancement. 

But it also measured your encumbrance. 10 GP (or 10 coins of any kind) equal 1 lb, and you can only carry so much.

So encumbrance was measured in coins. This gives players a concrete tradeoff between what they carry and how much XP they can conceivably earn on a dungeon trip. Carry more in, carry less out.

Unless you're willing to drop potentially life-saving gear on the way out, that is.

But it gets better.

Encumbrance, which is measured in coins, also measures your movement speed. So there is a direct tradeoff between how much you're hauling and how far in you can explore. 

Advancement in XP is directly proportional to advancement in through space inside the maze.

So now 
advancement in wealth is proportional to 
advancement in XP is proportional to 
advancement in space (and as it is measured in speed) is proportional to 
advancement in time.

All through the device of the humble gold piece.

Now fast forward like 40 years and Patrick Stuart moves the ball downfield a ways more with his concept of the Lume. You can read about it and thousands of other incredibly useful and flavorful OSR concepts he personally invented in Veins of the Earth, which is a seminal work.

With art by Scrap Princess. Yum.

A Lume is a unit of light, or more concretely, a unit of oil. 
One Lume also equals one silver piece, or ten Lumes to a gold. 
One Lume also equals one hour of light. 

So the Lume tracks the time you have and the distance you travel based on that time, and relates it directly to money.

How far can you go? How long have you got? When will you be swallowed up by the darkness?

This is way better than a pint. A pint of oil doesn't track well with encumbrance, to be honest. Off the top of your head can you remember how much a pint of oil costs and what the encumbrance is on it? And can you do the conversion in your head to how many hours you can be in the maze per gold piece worth of oil?

Maybe. But the Lume does it for you.


  1. One Lume equals one silver piece, or ten Lumes to a gold...

    Does that mean that you can purchase 10 units of oil for a gold piece? What about encumbrance? Does 10 units of oil have the same encumbrance as 1 gp? That doesn't sound right.

    1. It's conceptual. I don't know exactly how it works. Maybe it's on a silver standard and it's 1 Lume to a GP? That would be more realistic I think. more like 1.6 ounces per hour.

  2. There is an encumbrance system tied with spelunking in the Veins. It tracks each individual item in slots that vary in quantity depending on all your stats except CHA (so if you have high CON, you get more items, but also high WIS, INT, etc.) - I don't remember the numbers but I'd guess 10 items is around how much stuff a regular PC can carry.

    1. It seems to be just brilliant work, like a whole new game that’s conpatime with the old one. In a notoriously cheap bastard but maybe I should buy it.