Archive for September, 2014

Tall tales, whiskey and blood doth Mazy’s spray! When clear’d espy those drinking at third place; home to Robert Footswift, Bob’s own table. ‘Twixt tankards do spread crimes and plans most foul; those caught bragging catch the cutpurse’s pick. Worse Bob himself may flay standing liars and cheats caught dressing the table in brass; dress your tales plain ‘fore jousting this drake sooth.

Hear now then news from your bards faithful tongue!  Now that gold burst sacks  from  honest work, the fairgrounds neat, stalls pitched and prey espied we might, on this eve of viscount’s tourney turn anxious eyes to fear a Patchwall’s dawn.  Ha ha ha we, rogues, sharpers and robbers all, fear?  Drink!  Devour!  Shoot forth thy sacks bounty on yonder doxy’s rouged and faithless cheeks.  Live!  And to Istus a shill for morrow’s turn.  Still know thou Brewfeasts tithes for drunken turns; Trithereon’s week shows poorly Wenta’s flow’ring, and poor delvers are turn’d ‘way first at Needfest.

Well now fear not, pick not thy true bard!  Hear ye now promising news of employ.  Has it sooth patrons few a plan; a project lucrative and dangerous.  Adventure, southern and east of Hommlet, east of Hommlet say I this humble bard!  Dip now tankards full and toast to pleasure, and realize,

Small pieces and patience mend broken walls,
with flocks of strong hands working the pace.
Patient Cyril does promise together on call
a company to work that wretched space
while Rufus works practice martial anew,
turning eyes and minds in the aging sun.
Dain tinkers scrap through word and gift into
cuirass and greave in prime condition.
Long tales share secrets in summer’s twilight
through amber ales to dungeons sealed
by might and sacrifice true, lifting night
that cooks and squires take right to field
phalanxes strong. A temple army, forsooth
to rend winters sinful silence with truth!


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No doubt, this could be the death of any Dungeons and Dragons campaign.  Having slogged through foul dungeon corridors riddled with harrowing traps and populated by creatures written specifically to kill, what delver in their right mind wants to face the ultimate challenge – THE TAX COLLECTOR!?  What DM could possibly be so cruel, having levied through violence and atmosphere a price for glory, a fee for simply walking into a town?  Well Gary, for one (May His name ring around convention center concession stands for all time!) –

“It is important in most campaigns to take excess monies away from player characters, and taxation is one of the better means of accomplishing this end.”  (DMG 90)  See, cruel right?  Or is it?  After all he wrote AD&D as a long form means of exploring “Heroic fantasy” with rewards “made of fortunes and king’s ransoms in loot gained most cleverly and bravely and lost in a twinkling by various means – thievery, gambling, debauchery, gift-giving, bribes and so forth.”  Not much of a Tolkensian, Gygax preferred more fantastic, and economically debauched heroes like Fafrd and Grey Mouser, Conan, Elric etc.  And no small wonder!  Even Lawful Good parties dedicated to eradicating Elemental Evil need weigh their lofty ideals against the needs of the many – and the many need roads to travel, water to drink, and of course men-at-arms to guard tax monies..

Gary (May His dice always crit in play!) then goes into lavish detail defining and describing the duties, exizes, fees, tariffs, taxes tithes and tolls levied to keep the powerful in power and the orc hordes at bay.  We have a campaign to play here, so I’ll skip most of that for a modest summary of some costs delvers, crusaders, raiders and other adventurers will encounter in and around Verbobonc County.  The ‘Bonc in this case comprises the city and immediate metro area, as well as Hommlet, Nulb and even far off Sobanwych – the reasons for which I’ll make clear.

Duties on goods foreign (ie not originating) in Verbobonc County = 1% sales value, 2% for non-residents.  Note this applies to the City, Hommlet village, and even Nulb.  Some fancy pants Castellan got it in his head less taxes would spur trade and rejuvinate the area – what was he thinking?!?

Luxury and Precious Goods Tariff = 2% sales value, forms required for completion granting right of sale

Entry fee to Verbobonc city = 1 copper per head, 5 for non-residents

Flat Residence Tax of 10 copper per peasant, 5 silver per freeman, and 3 gold per noble or gentleperson per year.  Needless to say the count is not loved, but it makes up for the low duties on foreign goods..

Sales Tax of 5% charged to all non-residents

Tolls of 1 copper per head, 1 per wheel, twice that for non-residents exists for the road leading to and from Veluna and Furyondy.  Tolls aren’t levied on the low road from the Kron Hills through Hommlet, Nulb and Sobanwych.  Then again there’s only about thirty men at arms to patrol that stretch.  And we wouldn’t want to damper free trade..

These relatively low taxes on everything save the ordinary joe were meant to spur trade, trade that would help the Count pay off the usurious loans issued by Veluna and Furyondy to pay for their role in the Temple Wars.  However the resulting lack of funds means the important road from Dyvers is almost entirely without patrol, and the Velverdyva river is a free for all.  Cheap to travel, but dangerous.  Furthermore the high Residence Tax (did I mention the property tax?) most places save Hommlet means most folks are not big fans of the count.

Remember those men-at-arms, patrolling roads, eating donuts?  Yes they keep the orcs (Bugbears, Gnolls, Kobolds and the occasional Bullitt) at bay.  They also, um, ‘assist’ the tax collector from time to time, bringing into town those travelling without a bill of goods showing a ‘Taxes Paid’ stamp for prosecution on tax evasion.  The penalty?  Well a hefty fee of course..

One final note on taxes in AD&D.  Recent debates surrounding the origins of our hobby (See Jon Peterson’s 2012 Playing at the World; you’ll see I’ve included his Blogspot above) contemplate the cross over in role play from Napoleonics to Fantasy in 60’s versions of a LARP called Braunstein.  In it Napoleonic companies are managed (or mismanaged) to and from the battlefield through a fictional city, replete with a cast of characters including burghers, merchants, thieves, strumpets, beggars, proles and, of course, tax collectors.  Without the pesky hack and slash monsters afford these early parties were forced to role play their way through this town.  So just because Gary (may his Hot Pockets long sizzle!) first proposed these taxes doesn’t mean enterprising and imaginative players cannot find ways around them..

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