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Real world problems for D&D characters: taxes, fees, and surcharges

Written by MythicParty - Published on August 10, 2015

Today we’ll start talking about stressful stuff that happens throughout our daily lives that, realistically should happen also to people in fantasy worlds. The inspiration for this comes from technical issues that affected DungeonMastering.com recently such as dead links, site outages or email notifications for older posts. First off, we apologize.  Secondly, we’re working on solving the various problems.  Per our Tech Priest what occurred was “mass login attacks on numerous sites which caused MySQL to slow down and all sites to become unresponsive.  Basically like a DDOS attack but specifically trying to log in and gain admin access to the server.”  That’s Geek Speak for some people are Chaotic Jerks.  Anywho, while this Neuromancer stuff is being sorted out, here are some suggestions for how to incorporate the real world pain of taxes, fees, and surcharges to your D&D games.

We’ve talked before how dying in D&D isn’t the end.  But the other half to the “only two things in life are certain” quote- which isn’t Benjamin Franklin’s, is taxes.  Kingdoms require revenue.  If the party completes a dungeon or conquers a dragon horde, unless they handle themselves with Batman-like secrecy, word eventually gets out.  Envoys from the local ruler to the regional ruler to perhaps those representing the ruler of the realm itself will want a conversation.  And then their share.   How this request is presented and how much is requested is up to A) where the party is, and what that area’s leadership is like + B) if this new treasure will cause game imbalance.  Unless it’s in the interests of the story don’t anger the players but don’t ignore the logic of basic tax policy or let too much treasure erase the difficulty.

After a few such run-ins the party may decide to stick to locales where the taxation is low or collection not enforceable.  In this case they could encounter another real world PITA for these places which are fees.  In fantasy worlds the possibility of payments for carrying large weapons or being a wizard or bringing in mounts/animal companions could be common.  Think of all the ways a real life government collects needed revenue through indirect tariffs like parking tickets, red light cameras, or dog licenses. Now transport these revenue streams that to a society living near an area where explorers such as the PCs come through.  Again, unless its in the interests of the story you’re not looking to drain the party so much as have believable responses.

Finally there are the inevitable pricing increases that happen whenever adventurers arrive into town.  Sometimes equipment should be more than list, sometimes it won’t be available at all, and sometimes they won’t buy things from the PCs for even 50% of MSRP.  After all, the average party after going through an adventure is walking around with more wealth than most small towns.  Yet rather than a list of rules, use your head when it comes to economics.  If they walk around buying things like big shots, the townsfolk will assume they’re big shots.  But the laws of supply and demand still apply.

Roleplay Idea: The players are in a Lawful Neutral territory where slavery is legal.  After a very successful dungeoncrawl, they’ve been summoned before the ruler who, per the law of the land for windfalls and inheritances, offers them a choice.  They can keep 90% of their haul, and only hand over 10%; yet that 10% will directly go towards continuing the enslavement institution.  Or they can keep just 10%, but that 90% will go towards purchasing freedom.  Not surprisingly though most of those with newly found fortunes opt to hold onto them, making the chains remain.

Twists: Switching out various aspects could change how players respond.  For example, if the slaves came from sentenced criminals the players might accept the practice.   However if the slaves were from the poor who couldn’t pay debts or otherwise victims of unfortunate circumstances, the PCs may be more inclined to or possibly actively resist.  Double twist: The party has to completely agree as a group about the split or the entire haul will be seized.  This could be an opportunity for some dynamic roleplaying as the players debate fairness vs liberty, with their wealth- not to mention the lives of those enslaved- on the line.


While one of the reasons we play fantasy games is to escape from reality, that doesn’t mean we should ignore some aspects from our lives even if they’re the sucky ones of taxes, fees and surcharges.  They may not be the stuff of heroes but they are stuff that even heroes have to face.

Written by MythicParty

Dog-loving, movie-watching, pizza aficionado. Content Editor for DMing.com, Project Manager for AvatarArt.com, & player of the coolest characters in a weekly D&D game. Halflings are the real heroes.

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Thanks for reading.

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3 Responses to “Real world problems for D&D characters: taxes, fees, and surcharges”
  1. Darkwarren says:

    Some good food for thought. I especially love the Roleplaying Idea section.

  2. Jason says:

    Your stupid social share buttons render overt content on my android phone making this completely unreadable and useless.

  3. MythicParty says:

    Jason, I’ll pass along your feedback to the appropriate person. FYI, none of the contributors here do the site design.

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