Saturday, August 2, 2014

Malchor's Starting Gold

Above is the Encumbrance example from the Holmes Basic rulebook. We know that this entire section was not present in the original manuscript and was instead added by someone at TSR, likely Gygax himself. There's a similar type of Encumbrance example at pg 225 of the first edition Dungeon Masters Guide. (One side note: if you have the second or third edition of the rulebook, the 10' pole is missing from the end of this list, perhaps because a later editor decided there wasn't enough space before the next header, "Light").

I was going through some old notes and found a list where I calculated Malchor's starting gold. For posterity, here are my calculations:

2 daggers = 6 gp
1 backpack, 1 large sack, 2 small sacks = 9
50' of rope, 12 iron spikes, 1 quart of wine = 3
Standard rations = 5 (assuming 1 week's worth)
2 flasks oil = 4 
2 vials of holy water = 50 
1 garlic bud, 1 wolvesbane bunch = 15
1 water skin, tinder box, 10' pole = 5
1 lantern, filled with oil = 10, plus 2 if the oil represents another flask

= 107 gp spent on equipment, or 109 gp if the oil in the lantern represents a separate flask.

Plus he has 20 gp. This brings the total to 127 or 129 gp, which suggests he had at least 130 gp for starting gold. This is slightly above average (105 gp for a 3d6 x 10 roll). Perhaps he spent the 1 or 3 gp at the tavern ("drinks for rumors") before setting off.

In the manuscript, Malchor was Flubbit, based on a name that Gygax had used back in the Greyhawk supplement, and appeared in two examples. In the published rulebook, he appears as Malchor in three examples. In addition to his equipment, we learn he has an INT of 10, which means he can know between 4-6 spells of each level, one of which is Sleep, which he casts in the Combat Example. Given this, he might have been advised to make a scroll of Sleep per the Holmes rules (for 100 gp/1 week) rather than spend so much money on holy water (50 gp, by far his largest expense). Of course, Gygax wrote this example and he may not have realized that the Holmes scroll rules were tweaked from the OD&D rules, which only allow "Wizards and above" (11th level & up) to make magic items, including scrolls. Gygax's example instead follows the typical old school magic-user, who usually had a surplus of money for dungeoneering equipment because there was no need to purchase armor or weapons.  

Update: Here's an alternate idea for a dungeoneering equipment packs in Holmes, based on Malchor's equipment. It includes everything that Malchor has, except for the Holy Water Daggers, the 10' pole and the separate flask of Oil in the Lantern.

Adventurer's Pack (50 gp)
Leather Backpack
1 Large Sack & 2 Small Sacks
50' rope
Standard Rations
12 iron Spikes
Water/Wine Skin with 1 Quart of Wine
2 Flasks of Oil
1 Tinder Box
1 Garlic Bud
1 Wolvesbane Bunch


  1. Is it me, or is this guy way overburdened with rubbish? I'm all for being prepared, but it sure looks like his mom packed him for his first time at sleep-away camp. Garlic, wolvesbane, holy water, oil, spikes (no hammer), wine and water? The only things he's missing are a barrel of monkeys and his angry eyes.

    1. I think Gygax was showing us that first level characters should be prepared to encounter lycanthropes, vampires and other horrible undead. : )

  2. Minor fix: "we learn he has an IQ of 10"... actual quote "His intelligence is only 10 (equal to maybe an IQ of 100!)", 3rd edition, p. 13.

    1. Thanks, I mean to write INT 10, but Holmes reference to IQ must've throw me off. Fixed, plus I added his number of possible known spells per level.

  3. Recent observation: Gygax made a seeming callback to a wizard named "Flubspell" in the ENWorld Q&A thread of the early 2000's (in a sarcastic reply to someone suggesting that the transmute rock to mud spell could be used to collapse the entire Temple of Elemental Evil).

    1. Nice find, and thanks for taking the time to post it over here. I dug up a link to the original post, which is here