The Economy Engine, v0.2

I made a thing.

For D&D 3rd edition, so it might not be that interesting to a lot of people. But I made it and I think it’s cool.

The 3rd edition Dungeon Masters Guides has a system to determine various traits of any randomly generated town or village. The rules for making a list of all NPCs that live in a city by class and level are pretty silly, as they easily produce considerable numbers of level 20 commoners in every major city. But the guidelines for what kind of equipment and other things are available for sale in a random village that the party might come through, and how much of their treasure hauls they will be able to sell there always seemed like an interesting idea to me. You can’t sell off a dragon’s hoard in some remote village, and you won’t be able to quickly recruit a hundred mercenaries and have them decked out with plate armor in a small town, even if you have the money to pay for all of that.

I am currently working on a West Marches inspired campaign concept in which the players would grow the local frontier economy with the treasures they haul up from ancient ruins, and in the process more rare and specialized items and services would become available in the growing villages in the area. Since the plan is to make it a D&D 3rd edition campaign, using the DMG’s guidelines is as good a start as any. To make tracking of how much of the local stocks of various items the players have already bought up, and how much of their treasures they will be able to sell before they might have to make a trip to the big city where the major buyers are, I put together a spreadsheet that automatically does all the calculations that the DMG suggests.

Economy Engine v0.2 (.0ds)

Economy Engine v0.2 (.xlsx)

The only thing you have to do to get the entire store inventory list for any settlement is to enter the population size at the top. It then automatically sets the correct gp limit and calculates the asset values, and then uses those to determine which items are available for sale and how many of them are in stock.

Because I want to use this for an open table campaign where players might have several characters and there might be a number of different parties going on their separate adventures at different times, which might have very different uses for certain items, I made the Economy Engine with an option to keep track of how many items of a type are currently on stock, based on what players have bought, as well as what they have sold. And the sheet also calculates how this makes the cash reserves of the local businesses go up and down.

I’ve put all the equipment lists from the Player’s Handbook into the sheet, but I would recommend to either delete or just hide all the rows with items that are not produced in the setting of a campaign. New rows can be added to the list and nothing should be caused to break from this. You just have to enter the name of the item and its price in gp. The other rows look empty, but will automatically be filled in once you have the price typed into the B column. The formatting goes down to row 1000, and even with just the most very basic spreadsheet skills you can extend the formatting further down as much as you want if you should need it.

I really don’t know if anyone still has any use for this tool 17 years after the game ceased publication. But I made it for myself, it’s really easy to use, and it doesn’t take up space. So have it.

I updated the files to v0.2 because the code for tracking current stock was completely borked. This is also now properly attributed with a Creative Commons Do Whatever You Want License.

Speeding up play by Delaying

In the 23 years that I’ve been playing RPGs, I played more Dungeons & Dragons 3rd edition than anything else combined. And then Pathfinder might be on spot two. And perhaps the most annoying issue I had with the system the entire time was how much combat can drag out. By going from one initiative count to the next, the game has a build-in Feedback Loop of Inattention.

Player 1 takes a while deciding on the action for the current turn. Player 3 knows it will still be quite a while until 1 and 2 have made their turns, and there will be monsters acting inbetween as well. By the time it’s Player 3’s turn, the tactical situation will have changed so much that it’s pointless to decide what action to take yet. So Player 3 get’s bored, stops paying attention, gets distracted. And suddenly it’s Player 3’s turn, and the surprised Player 3 needs a minute or two to take in the current situation in the fight, and then a bit more to consider all the possible actions that the PC could take.

Player 4 knows this will happen. So player 4 gets bored, stops paying attention, …

And this is why a single round of combat can take 15 to 20 minutes. Not to resolve the actions. Most of it is surprised players trying to figure out what has changed since their last turn and considering all the actions they could take on their turn, while it is their turn.

One way games can deal with this is by having a group initiative system. All the PCs act on the same turn, in whatever order they are ready to announce their action. All the players can think simultaneously about the action they are taking right now, and those who need less time to think don’t have to wait for those who take longer. And when it is the monsters’ turn, the players know that the new situation that is taking shape is the one they will actually have to react to on their turn. Unfortunately, the d20 game engine has lots of mechanics build on the assumption of an initiative order, and switching to group initiative isn’t quite seamlessly. Andnif you want to play the game online, when you can’t see where everyone is looking right now and can’t gesture to indicate things, which makes talking over each other a bigger issue, having an initiative order really does have some positive sides.

I think a lot of GMs have entertained the thought of giving players a time limit to take their turns, but it seems fairly obvious that this probably would be a bad idea that only adds pressure and tension and won’t make the game more fun for anyone in it. But it just occured to me that the d20 system already includes a mechanic for players taking their turn at a later point in the round.


By choosing to delay, you take no action and then act normally on whatever initiative count you decide to act. When you delay, you voluntarily reduce your own initiative result for the rest of the combat. When your new, lower initiative count comes up later in the same round, you can act normally. You can specify this new initiative result or just wait until some time later in the round and act then, thus fixing your new initiative count at that point.

Delaying is useful if you need to see what your friends or opponents are going to do before deciding what to do yourself.

When there’s nothing really useful you could do with your action on your turn, you can just wait for some more things changing in the fight that hopefully will create opportunities to do something efficient and interesting. But there is no reason why you can’t delay for any out of game reasons when you’re not quite ready for your turn yet and not make the next player wait unneccesarily. And you can easily make this a rule: When it’s your turn, and you don’t have a plan yet what to do, let the next player or the GM skip ahead in line.

If you have questions for the GM before committing to the action, that’s fine. If you still need to figure out how to move or where to best aim your spell, that’s fine. You don’t need to be able to execute your full turn instantly the moment your number is up. But you should have a plan what you want to do when it is your turn. If the PC’s or enemy’s turn right before yours changes the situation significantly and your plan is now obsolete, you can have a minute to adjust. Maybe choose a different target for your spell, or fall back to making a regular melee attack against the enemy next to you. But when you’re not ready to make a choice yet, let the next player go ahead. You probably just move down one or two positions in the initiative sequence. It’s no big deal.

But I think the potential payoff in reducing slack could be huge, if this is applied consistently by the GM. Not only can you fit more combat encounters within a given amount of play time, it also makes the encounters a lot more fun for everyone when you don’t have to sit around for ages watching a person looking at a map, a character sheet, or spell descriptions.