Dwarf in the Playground
Join Date: Dec 2006
The British Empire
Black Bertha and the Beancounters (NPC, dungeon template, overthinking)
Black Bertha and the Beancounters
The scurviest accountants to scour the seven seas.
One of the stranger villains of maritime tales, Black Bertha has been a feared and respected name amongst pirates and sailors alike for nigh on fifteen years. Many of the great pirates have dealings with her, and the tales of the few foolish enough to cross her are well-known. Her rates might well be reasonable, but woe betide the scoundrel who misses out on an interest payment.
While most pirates were busy robbing merchants of filthy lucre by means of sword and cannon, Bertha devised a better way of robbing pirates and merchants alike. Seizing control of her captain's ship she set up the Seven Sovereigns bank in her hold, offering secure storage and loans at reasonable rates of interest to other scalliwags of the sea. Her business was initially met with scorn and derision, until she dealt with the captain and crew of the ship that tried to rob her. Hearing of their fate (which to this day is generally only hinted at in tales, so as to avoid upsets of the stomach) buccaneers began to take her more seriously, even going so far as to begin investing their excess gold into her care.
The Seven Sovereigns has since moved into an abandoned colonial fort on an island where pirates are known to moor and been fortified into one of the most reknowned and secure banks in the world. The Beancounters, a name originally given to Bertha's crew in jest, have become some of the most feared shipmates on the seven seas (and also the most capable at complex arithmetic), legendary for their assaults against tardy debtors. Black Bertha herself is now one of the richest pirates the world has ever known and probably commands at her fingertips the resources of a small city in other people's money.
If you think she is planning to stop there, you are sorely mistaken.
Lawful Evil female human (Medium humanoid)
Hit Dice: 14d6 + 14 (56 hp)
Speed: 30 ft. (6 squares)
Armor Class: 20 (+5 Dex, +5 armor), touch 15, flat-footed 15
Base Attack/Grapple: +10/+9
Attack: Rapier +17 melee (1d6+1, 18-20/x2)
Full Attack: Rapier +15/+10 melee (1d6+1, 18-20/x2) and off-hand handaxe +14/+9 (1d6, x3)
Space/Reach: 5 ft./5 ft.
Special Attacks: sneak attack +7d6, crippling strike
Special Qualities: improved evasion, uncanny dodge (+2 vs traps)
Saves: Fort +5, Ref +14, Will +7
Abilities: Str 8, Dex 18 (20), Con 12, Int 14 , Wis 14 (16), Cha 12
Skills: Hide +21, Move Silently +21, Tumble +21, Listen +20, Spot +20, Appraise +21, Intimidate +18, Use Magic Device +18, Profession (accountancy) +22, Diplomacy +18, (Armour Check Penalty -1).
Feats: Ambidexterity, Two Weapon Fighting, Weapon Finesse (rapier), Weapon Finesse (handaxe)
Equipment: merchant's scales, masterwork abacus, +2 rapier, +1 handaxe, +2 studded leather armour, periapt of wisdom +2, gloves of dexterity +2, wand of cure moderate wounds, wand of improved invisibility, 230 gp.
Combat: Although she professes to a dislike of brutish displays, Bertha relishes combat as an opportunity to demonstrate her skills. If possible she will parley with those she plans to fight beforehand, using her skill with Diplomacy to learn as many tactical advantages as necessary. In an ideal situation, she will begin combat at sufficient distance from her opponents by activating her wand of improved invisibility and vanishing dramatically before shouting out an order to her shipmates to attack. She will then draw her rapier and handaxe, stalking through the ongoing melee and engaging the enemy with sneak attacks.
She begins by targeting clerics, then wizards, to prevent anyone undoing her magical advantage, usually unleashing full attacks on them for potentially four sneak attacks and four points of Str damage. Once her magical opponents are disabled, she will move on to fighters, attempting to position herself to flank them if her shipmates are already engaged with them. Bertha is not a hero; if things are going very badly she will retreat to use her wand of cure moderate wounds and continue fighting or flee and attempt to scutter the ship (usually her enemies') before securing a rowboat for her escape.
Dungeon Template: The Seven Sovereigns Bank
The headquarters of the Seven Sovereigns is quite literally built like a fortress. It has sleeping quarters, kitchens, a mess hall, private suites for visitors and numerous other facilities suitable for a small citadel of its type, as well as a small non-combatant population devoted to serving the large numbers of guards and the general operations of the bank (including a sizeable staff of accountants). There is a permenant watch force about the fort's walls, streets and entrances to provide general protection against thieves infiltrating the fort and (should the need arise) full scale assault on the fortress. As the main bank for the island and the offshore bank for a number of powerful figures (many of whom are known villains of the world), the fort receives many visitors and generally permits only those who have appointments. Behind all of this are the interesting parts of the bank: the vaults. Statistics for how the vaults are protected and their given contents are provided.
Fortress Walls: 20 level 1 warriors on the walls at most times, with an additional 4 at each entrance. These do not largely figure into the protection of the vaults, as they may be considered to protect the possessions of the inhabitants of the citadel rather than treasure in their own right. Will generally respond should an alarm be set off, however. One 1st level warrior guard patrols between the 3 petty vaults during night hours, in addition to the guards stationed there at all times.
Petty Vaults: 3 vaults. One such vault is available in each of the three chambers devoted to accountancy and the day to day running of the bank. These vaults hold small amounts of money and goods for use in petty transactions throughout the day.
CR: 2 per vault (CR 1 from pairs of warriors, CR 1 from traps)
2 1st level warriors per vault.
Good wooden vault doors (Break DC 25) with average locks (DC 25) and poison dart traps connected to the locks (CR 1, greenblood oil).
Value in each vault: between 300-600gp.
Vault Complex Guards: There are two groups of 6 level 1 warriors with level 2 warrior leaders who patrol the outer part of the vault complex (that is, 2 groups of 7). These do not guard the vaults themselves, but will respond in the case of an alarm and may pose difficulties for infiltrators.
Outer Vaults: 16 vaults. These vaults contain funds for minor accounts, transport to the petty vaults and small change and valuables holding.
CR: 4 per vault (CR 2 from guards, CR 2 from trap)
24 1st level fighters, 4 2nd level fighter leaders, separated into 4 groups of 6 fighters to one leader. The four groups patrol the vaults, collectively contributing CR 2 to each vault.
Iron bar doors (Break DC 25) with good locks (DC 30) and poison dart traps (CR 2, blue whinnis poison).
Value in each vault: approx 1,200gp
Medium Security Vaults: 8 vaults. These vaults contain funds from private accounts and larger funds as well as bars of precious metals, minor magic items and various items of jewellery and art.
CR: 8 per vault (CR 4 from guards, CR 4 from lock trap, CR 6 from pressure trap)
8 level 3 fighters led by 2 level 4 fighters in two groups of 5 patrol the vaults. In addition, a 3rd level wizard usually travels with one of the groups. These groups collectively add CR 4 to each vault.
Solid iron doors (Break DC 28) with good locks (DC 30). Locks trapped with poisoned dart (CR 4, small monstrous centipede poison), also pressure plate behind door set to whirling poison blades trap (CR 6, purple worm poison) (hidden lock deactivates trap, Search DC 25 to find, DC 30 to pick).
Value in each vault: approx 3,400gp
High Security Vaults: 3 vaults. These vaults contain gold reserves, medium magic items, title deeds and other highly valuable items.
CR: 16 per vault (CR 15 from guards, CR 12 from traps)
One vault is guarded by a pair of level 11 wizards and 4 level 9 fighters, one vault is guarded by 2 level 11 fighters and 4 level 9 rogues and one vault is guarded by 2 level 11 rogues and 4 level 9 rangers. Each contributes a collective CR 15 to their vault.
Stone doors (Break DC 30) with amazing locks (DC 40). Insanity mist vapour trap on locks (CR 8) with a deathblade wall scythe trap set to the floor immediately behind the door (CR 8), deactivatable by a hidden lock switch (Search DC 25, DC 30 to pick). The hidden lock switch is trapped with another insanity mist vapour trap (CR 8) and a destruction trap is set to activate upon anyone who attempts to cross the threshold of the door without first speaking the appropriate password (CR 8).
Value in each vault: approx 28,000gp
Master Vault: 1 vault. The master vault contains further precious metal reserves, major magic items and other items requiring the highest protection.
CR: 22 (CR 20 from the dragon, CR 18 from the golems, CR 12 x 8 from the traps)
There is an old red dragon inside the vault who quite cheerfully agreed to guard the master vault night and day in return for a very generous wage and the right to sit on the vast hoard of wealth night and day. He knows the staff of the bank personally and takes a very poor view of people wandering in to steal from 'his' hoard. Rather curiously, the dragon considers himself a senior partner in the bank rather than an employee and actually has a very keen sense of business acumen, occasionally lending his personal skills in banking to the firm. This peculiar arrangement has turned out to be a far greater safeguard of his loyalty than any mere contract might normally have allowed. (CR 20)
The vault door is constructed of steel, 6' thick and with hardness 10, 180hp and a break DC of 35. It has three amazing locks (DC 40), one combination, two key locks. Two Greater Stone Golems (CR 16 each) guard the vault door and will attack anyone who cannot prove they are meant to be there. Before even reaching the locks, thieves would be required to pass a specially constructed pit trap (Search 30, Disable Device DC 30, Reflex save DC 30 avoids, spikes (+20 attack, 1d6 damage), 50ft fall (5d6 damage), CR 12) with a hidden lock bypass (Search DC 25, Open Lock DC 30) itself trapped with a poisoned dart (Search DC 24, Disable Device DC 24, dart (attack +19, 1d4 damage), black lotus extract poison, CR 12).
All three locks are then trapped with both the above poison darts (black lotus extract, CR 12). To give you an insight into the paranoid sense of security the designers had, these traps are themselves trapped with deathblade wall scythes built into the vault door (as the CR 8 deathblade wall scythe, with Search & Disable Device DCs of 29 and a +24 attack bonus, new CR 12). Springing the dart traps or attempting to disable them without first disabling the wall scythes triggers the scythes. They have no hidden switches to deactivate - if you had the key you would not have set off the dart traps in the first place, nor would you be so stupid as to be tinkering around with them.
Value in the master vault: approx 160,000gp
This is a template for a multi-layer dungeon, such that each level (set of vaults) is independently contained (unless someone gets to the alarm) and can be tackled with some success by a group of the appropriate encounter level. Groups of higher levels can descend further into the vaults than groups of lower levels might be able to manage without meeting capture or death.
Thus, the 1st level is suitable for EL 2-4, with a max of around 1400gp up for grabs. 2nd level is suitable for EL 4-14, with a max of 19,200gp available. 3rd level is best suited for EL 7-16, with a max of 27,200gp. 4th level is designed for EL 14-20, with a max of 84,000gp. 5th level is designed for EL 16-24, with the grand prize of 160,000gp.
Having More Money Than You Should
How to bypass those pesky wealth-by-level restrictions.
The core rules set out a series of guidelines as to how much wealth a character should possess, in order to prevent severe game imbalances and similar difficulties. However sometimes PCs will just get too much treasure or be too competitive to want to settle for only so much treasure, or you may have NPCs who should really have more money in the whole wide world than what is on their person but you lack a system to balance for that. In particular, mages who like to craft their own magic items (sacrificing XP for material wealth) can have rather more gear than the level guidelines might otherwise allow. To bypass these restrictions, instead look at the guidelines as a measure of how much wealth you can successfully protect. Theft is a remarkably effective method of redistributing wealth.
Let us assume that any character can only possess as wealth that he personally can protect up to 10% more than the wealth by level guideline for his effective level. A level 14 human ranger, for example, may only possess up to 49,500gp in gear on his person at any one time.** If the ranger carries more than this, apply a % chance each week equal to the % of his belongings above the level he is able to protect that someone of an equal CR will attempt to relieve him of some or all of his belongings. Round this % down to the nearest %. Thus, if our ranger has 50,000gp of gear on his person, he has an 11% chance of being robbed each week. If he has 75,000gp of goods on his person, the chance rises to 66%. In this case, let the PC defend his own goods against people intending to rob him and learn the lesson of hoarding more wealth than he can protect. (It is a good idea not to make these encounters fatal, as they serve more to teach a lesson than to do harm.)*
So how does our PC protect more wealth than he is physically able? He employs the age-old method of kings, warlords, misers and banks and places them somewhere with sufficient security to prevent them being misused. He must either build such a location himself (requiring him to hire guards, build traps and construct suitable buildings) or place his treasures in the care of those already capable of guarding them (typically banks). For the sake of convenience, we shall call these vaults.
Any vault can only have as much wealth safely kept within it as its CR will allow, using the same rules as above. For example, a CR 6 vault protected by a spear trap (CR 2), 40ft pit trap (CR 2) and two second level fighter guards (CR 2 each) can have up to 10% more than the average treasure guideline for level 6, or 2200gp, in its protection before it risks theft attempts by individuals or parties of an equal ECL. The chance of theft is the same as for PCs with too much money, the % over average in value per week. (So that if this vault has 2500gp in it, it has a 25% chance per week of being robbed.) Assume there is a 50% chance of the vault being successfully robbed on each attempt, losing 1d4 x 25% of the value within and destroying 1d4 x 25% of the traps or killing 1d4 x 25% of the guards in the process. It thus makes sense for banks and vault-owners to keep sufficient security for their goods as a necessary deterrent.*
Trap DCs and costs are available in the DMG and SRD, with a general construction time of 1 week per 1000gp in value (and more often than not a cost in 1000s of GP equal to their CR). Hirelings tend to be less costly, but if you want 24 hour protection over your goods you will usually need to hire three guards (who work in 8 or 4 hour shifts, each working 8 hours a day). 1st level warriors cost 2sp per 8 hour shift (requiring 6sp per day of full protection) and have 1/2 CR. 2nd level warriors or 1st level PC class mercenaries cost 6sp per shift (and hence 18sp per day), increasing by another 6sp per NPC level or per PC class level (and thus by another 18sp per day). If you are to hire a 2nd level fighter to guards your goods night and day for 1 year you will end up paying 657gp for his services. Then again, a spiked pit trap will cost you 2000gp and provide the same protection but potentially last forever. Bear in mind you will really only be able to keep 600gp in this vault.*
Guards provide excellent short-term protection, but if you are looking to keep a tomb of undead horrors and fabulous magical items locked away, traps will give you your money's worth. In addition, hirelings not counted as followers by the Leadership skill may be more likely to accept bribes or be derelict in their duties than those who follow you implicitly.
* This seems a ridiculously large amount of money to spend in order to keep your money safe, as you will actually need to pay more than the value of your money per year to safeguard it. On the other hand, if you were to employ an NPC accountant to play with your money, he could potentially triple its value per year in gross profit anyhow, paying for the high costs of security.***
** If you were to assume his given equipment level was 45,000gp. It is not, but that information has apparently not been released to the SRD. Try looking in the DMG at the table of starting player equipment for a better guide.
*** If you really want to know how I figure this to work, here it is.
Not for the faint-hearted.
If we treat the Profession (accountancy) (or Profession (banker)) skill in this instance to act as a Craft skill, we can use it to extrapolate how much money he can produce. With Craft, it is possible to create an item using one third of its raw materials (effectively tripling its value) provided one beats the DC and takes the time to produce it. We can thus treat our accountant as making a Craft check each week with your money to triple it, using his skill to determine how many sp of your existing money he is able to increase in value.
The Craft skill lays out that a Craftsman completes his check result x the DC of the item in sp of the finished item's worth per week. Although one should not strictly be able to take 10 on this, we shall fudge this (because we are making calculations over a long period) and assume our accountant to take 10 for each week of work and thus to receive a result of 10 + skill ranks + Wis modifier (or should that be Int?). If we assume DCs advance in 5s for the sort of investments he can make (DC 5: simple investment, DC 10: common investment, DC 15: slightly risky investment, DC 20: risky investment, DC 25: very risky investment etc), let us assume he makes whatever investment he would succeed at by taking 10 and work from there.
Worked Example: A level 5 Expert with 8 ranks in Profession (banking) and 15 Wis has an overall +10 bonus to his Profession (banking) check. Over a long period, it can be assumed he takes 10 for each week and so receives a result of 20, sufficient to make continuous risky investments at DC 20. He thus produces 20 x 20 sp in returns per week (40gp), using up 1/3rd of that in liquid assets (13.2gp) to produce a net profit of 26.8gp. An expert of the same level with 13 Wis has only a +9 bonus to his check and, although he might try to make risky investments they often fail and result in the same gain as if he had simply made slightly risky investments. His check result is 19 against a DC of 15, so he produces 19 x 15 sp in returns per week (28.5gp) and a net profit of 19gp.
As a footnote to this footnote, if you follow the wage-earning rules, you would need to pay your 15 Wis banker 10gp per week and your 13 Wis banker 9.5gp per week, bringing your net profit down to 16.8gp and 9.5gp per week respectively. Over the course of a year (if you gave them 2 weeks of holidays) your bankers would quite comfortably make you 840gp and 475gp over a year in profit, provided you were willing to give them 660gp and 475gp to play with (which would not be strictly lost, but which you would be unable to use during that year). The upshot of all of this playing with figures is that if you are willing to make judicious use of NPC bankers, you do not need to worry about paying the guards to protect your money from thieves, just from your accountants.
Or you can do the smart thing and leave it in a bank, so someone else can worry about it. That way, the PC does not have the lucre or expensive gear at his disposal, but still technically owns it. Gragnor the fighter can cheerfully then afford his mansion in the countryside (of no use to him out in the field) and pick whether or not he wants the fiery sword or the icy sword to go out adventuring with and leave the unfavoured weapon safe and secure in the hands of unquestioning financiers.
As a slightly scary thought, a level 20 Expert with 24 ranks in Profession (banking) and 22 Wis (without any skill-enhancing magic items) has a check result of 40, which he can use happily against a DC of 40 (insane investment?), letting him grow 160gp from 53.3gp per week (with a weekly fee of 20gp). Our banker makes a net profit of 86.7gp a week and can thus manage a profit of 4,335gp a year, on top of the 2665gp someone presumably gave him to invest to begin with. Just imagine how terrifying he'd be with that Ring of Accountancy +10. At a market value of 2000gp, it would repay itself in a little over a year.