Newish GM Question: Wealth Gains Per Encounter

Rules Questions

I am running circles around my head trying to figure out Wealth Gains per Encounter and feeling like I am missing something. I am looking at Wealth by Level, so starting out, PCs have 1000 credits to start with, and by level 2, they should have gained another 1000 credits to be at 2000 credits by level 2.

Sell back is 10%, I read that as well.

What my question is, Wealth Gains per Encounter, is the number written for a single person or should divide the number written by the amount of players?

I feel that should be for former?

Maybe I am a bit bias, I am coming from Pathfinder 1e

So IMO Starfinder wealth is more important than any other system that I have played as the power level of your characters is sooo dependent on the gear they have.

Armor and weapons need to be upgraded about every 2 levels prior to lvl 10 and almost every level after 10 or the players will be behind the curve.

(I want to take a minute and say that players being behind the curve is not a problem and wont ruin the fun of the game as long are you are aware of it as the GM. If you want to run a low item/low magic game just be aware that you may have to adjust down the encounter power from the default.)

The tables are as follows.
Wealth Gains per encounter-is total party wealth gain for an encounter of that CR.
-so if the party fights a CR 1 Mob they should gain 460 credits worth of stuff/cash
-but if they fight 3 CR1 mobs that would be a CR4 encounter and the party should get 1400 credits worth of stuff/cash

Character Wealth by Level- is the total VALUE of gear that a character of that level should have.
-This means that if I am a lvl 5 character I should have 9000 credits in gear.

(A character leveling from 1 to 5 would have had alot more money go through their hands than just 9k.)

The reward system in Starfinder IMO assumes that the rewards are supposed to be about 50/50 cash/items. That way players dont get to auto have everything they want, but do get to customize their guy/girl the way they want to.

We level by milestone rather than xp so I have created a table to make sure that my rewards are not behind and if you are interested here is the total rewards by lvl that the game assumes you will get in a mix of cash and gear.

1 1500 (Going from 1 to 2 you get 1500 worth of gear/cash)
2 2500 (Going from 2 to 3 you get 2500 worth of gear/cash)
3 4000
4 5000
5 9000
6 13000
7 15000
8 18000
9 35000
10 45000
11 70000
12 11000
13 150000
14 225000
15 340000
16 600000
17 800000
18 1200000
19 1850000
20 2500000

I hope this helps, and again please understand that as a GM you can increase or decrease this as you see fit just understand that itemization is a huge part of the power of a character. So if you are way behind as a GM you will prob have to town down the power, and if you are ahead you will prob have to turn up the power of the encounter.

Also make sure to assume that any items the PCs likely won't want or won't use you value at 10%.

Your PC killing 5 CR 1 mooks with them all having Azimuth Laser Pistols, knifes and Second Skins aren't going to contribute 4k credits to the total value of the encounter. It should be figured to be worth about 400, what they'd get for selling it all.

As most things when you're designing it yourself, feel free to be more generous or stingy depending, or design a group of encounters with a large reward in mind. At the end of an abandoned manufacturing facility after fighting through 8 encounters, none of them really dropping anything worth mentioning, it's good for the PCs to find some really fancy stuff locked away, factoring in all the 'accumulated' wealth per encounter they didn't get from the malfunctioning robots they broke.

Pathfinder Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber

Let me give even more emphasis to that: the wealth per encounter is the amount PCs *should* get. If, for whatever reason, the PCs don't actually get that? Its the responsibility of the GM to make it up to them later. If they don't explore the armory in the abandoned space station and miss half the total wealth in that adventure? Give them a suitable cash payment later, or something.

I would generally recommend including an excess of wealth when designing an adventure, well more than the amount the PCs require for Wealth By Level. Partly this is because the PCs will never actually get all the available loot in practice, either because they don't follow every branch and search every room, or because they don't actually use stuff that is theoretically useful ( and thus kill 90% of its value ). Partly, though? Its because inadequate wealth can break the game, but an excess of wealth generally won't. Level requirements keep players from buying gear too far in advance of their means, and the 10% resale value means even the most valuable of gear eventually loses its worth. A windfall is, at most, a temporary boon for the PCs, unless its truly absurd. And even an absurd windfall can't really break the game for more than a level.

Sovereign Court

When I GMed an adventure path after having played through one previously, I ended up giving 10x what the treasure values were. Since PCs cannot buy super powerful weapons way above their pay grade, the extra money just helps to let them splurge on interesting items. Never seemed to have too much of a detrimental effect on encounters.

Sovereign Court

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Metaphysician wrote:
Let me give even more emphasis to that: the wealth per encounter is the amount PCs *should* get. If, for whatever reason, the PCs don't actually get that? Its the responsibility of the GM to make it up to them later. If they don't explore the armory in the abandoned space station and miss half the total wealth in that adventure? Give them a suitable cash payment later, or something.

Missing out half the money in the entire adventure is indeed rather extreme, and you might need to take steps as a GM if that happens.

But because the amount of money you earn from encounters goes up so fast, if you miss out on a bit of loot, that might be a 10% loss now, but in a few levels it'll be only a 2% loss compared to the amount of stuff you've earned by then, and a few levels after that it's just vending machine change.

This is actually one of the strengths of the Starfinder money setup. Doing something particularly well and getting a reward for it is quite sweet in the short run, but doesn't throw things off in the long run. Likewise, if you have a disaster and lose out on loot (or lose some of your gear!) that's a setback right now, but won't cripple you in the long run. You were going to sell that gear for peanuts at some point anyway.

So it's actually possible to have "wining" or "losing" outcomes to particular adventures without derailing WBL in the long run.


Responding more directly to the original post:

Both the Wealth by Encounter table and the XP by CR table are divided among the whole party. This is important, your gains from both tables are supposed to stay more or less in tune.

The tables are designed with the idea that a 4-player party needs about 13 equal-CR encounters to level up. (You usually have encounters slightly higher CR though, so a bit fewer than 13). By the time they've done that, they'll also have gained enough money to stay on top of WBL.

On top I say because if you sum up all that money you end up above WBL, but that's because you also leak money:
* Consumables
* Various costs (bribes, spell services, docking fees etc.)
* Replacing gear and getting only 10% return on the old gear. This is by far the biggest loss.

I ran the numbers a while back and the Wealth by Encounter scale basically allows you to replace any piece of equipment every 2-4 or so levels. Notice also that many armors have higher variants of the same model every 3-4 levels; that's a clue. It's an okay strategy to keep wearing the same kind of armor for a long stretch of your career, for example going from Lashunta Tempweave 1 to 2 to 3.


Where can it go wrong?

Adventure Paths aren't necessarily good at carrying out the instructions in the CRB on how much loot to place. The CRB says that items that the PCs won't use should be valued at only 10%, but an AP writer can't tailor the enemy loot to the PCs. They try to compensate for this by including more monetary rewards though.

When you suspect that an AP doesn't give enough loot, sum up the monetary rewards. Compare the rewards earned between "you should be this level here" and "you should be that level there". Compare it to the amount of money needed to go from WBL at the start to that on the destination level. The pure money awards should be about 1.2x that, per player.

Playing an adventure path with not exactly 4 players. If you used the straight from the book rules but had say, 6 players, you would split the XP and loot from encounters 6 ways instead of 4, so everyone levels up slower and has less gear. A bit deeper into the book, the players start to run into enemies notably higher CR than you'd expect to face as a 4-player party. The PCs make up for that a bit with sheer numbers, but it's still chancy. Especially with bosses that would have been challenging for a 4-player party because a CR+3 boss is quite hard to hit, a 6-player party that's fallen a level behind is in deep trouble.

A lot of people "fix" this problem by using the milestones written in the front of the AP that say "you should be level X by the time you get to part Y of the adventure" and just tell people to level up at that point. This approach has some big advantages - less bookkeeping, not awkward for people who miss a session and miss XP, you don't have to grind random monsters to go up a level when you're supposed to, less gamey "we're almost level up, let's pick on some random encounters and level up before facing the boss", and of course it avoids XP woes for non-4-player parties.

But this decouples going up in level (at a speed determined by monster XP divided by the number of players) from gaining appropriate loot (at a speed of encounter loot divided by the number of players). Encounter loot is still divided by number of players, so each player still gets less; but people don't level up slower anymore. So each player gets too little loot, though the party overall got enough.

As I said before, much of the wealth in APs is actually contained in monetary rewards, and you can just scale those by the number of players. 1000 credits for four players becomes 1250 for five players or 1500 for six players. Enemy gear can also by scaled by adding more enemies, which you probably want to do anyway to keep combat challenging when there's more PCs.

Grand Lodge

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Maps Subscriber

I did regular loot dumps on my players when we were playing Dead Suns. I asked the group for loot wish lists of things that I could sprinkle in, telling them that I would only pick some of their wished-for items.

One thing that I found freeing as a GM was that the 10% sellback and built-in obsolescence meant that if I was overly generous with loot one level, the problem self-corrected in a level or two.

Dead Suns in particular posed some interesting loot conundrums in Books 4-6. Although it is possible for the party to go back to Absalom Station, upgrade their ship and shop, and then go to the next threat, the narrative of the story is pushing you to GO, GO, GO! Stopping for a shopping excursion caused narrative problems in my head. So I actively looked for places where I could offer UPBs or a larger than normal loot drop. I equipped NPCs in stuff that I wanted to drop to the players and actively used it against them.

Some of what helped me with all this was requiring public ITS (item tracking spreadsheets) for all players. If the players got gear, they added it to their ITS. I could track their gear. They could track their gear. I could look for what was missing if I needed to do so. Though to be honest, I didn't comb through the ITS sheets more than three times. Most of the time, it was obvious when they needed to upgrade.


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