Saturday, April 4, 2015

Death and Taxes...and D&D

So today I worked through the annual nightmare that most dreaded event of our cushy modern lives, calculating Taxes. Now, for most of the year, I'm a pretty laid back guy. Willing to go with the flow. But on tax day I feel like a crazy-eyed, long-bearded Libertarian survivalist who lives deep in the woods, sitting in his a fortified cabin on a pile of hoarded gold, and ranting about the overbearing government and their jack-booted reptilian tax-collectors.

Some days you just want to go full Swanson.

Suffice it to say, the process of filling out tax forms does not fill me with civic pride. Nor does it make me think of all the good things my tax money might be going toward. Its not because I'm not willing to pay my taxes. No, I had that childish idea of fiscal independence stamped out of me long ago. I'm more than happy to pay my taxes and keep the government from throwing me in jail. But its not the money they force me to pay them that peeves me off these days. No, its the grueling process they use to take the money from you. It feels like I have to be dragged through a threshing machine of federal and state paperwork every year so I can try and dig up esoteric 1099-INT forms (that may or may not exist) before I am given the opportunity to pay an online site an extra $100 for the privilege to file taxes. Every year the process of filling out our tax forms becomes a little more complex, and the verbiage on the forms so grueling that I am amazed I don't have a stroke trying to parse them together. Especially State Forms. Those things are unbelievably long and tiresome, with having to read through the new tax credits and laws and deductibles lists for whichever local politician's pet project is in favor that year.

Monopoly. What a piece of shit game that is.
*Ahem!* Anyway, all that tax-rage got me thinking about how we act as adventurers when we're gaming. As a DM, have you ever tried to get your players to voluntarily pay taxes in your games? Not just making the Paladin tithe his 10% to the church (which he's more than willing to let you forget about), I mean to say, have you ever had a contingent of King's soldiers come up to the players and tell them they need to pay 36% of their earnings for that fiscal year, or else they'd be thrown in the dungeon? If so, did it go well? I bet it didn't go well. I bet there were a few smoldering corpses of tax-collecting soldiers in the Forgotten Realms after that little conversation.

Enter on line 13a how many silver pieces you obtained from the Lair of the Dreaded Necro-Beholder of Kal'thalash. Art objects, gems, and magic items worth more than twelve farthings will go on lines 46b-67a.
Of course trying to collect taxes from your players doesn't go well. I've actually done the tax-collector encounter before to my players, but only ever to make them despise the local ruling party. Its really a perfect encounter to get them to do just that. I imagine most DMs who institute a tax-encounter in their games use it the same way. There's something about being forced to pay taxes to some ruling party that just is anathema to the spirit of a freedom-loving Adventurer. No matter how kindly and benevolent Good King Randor seems to be, Wormtongue the tax-collector will not be welcome. As soon as comes to the door of the Adventurer's Keep demanding to be given access to their treasure vaults, so he can assess the value of their magic items and give them a bill for a third of the value in gold pieces, you're just asking for the players to find a reason to overthrow that despotic monarch, "Good King Randor." (Or leave town on their own treasure-laden pirate ship. That's always a fun option.)

See you later, chumps.
But we all know that tax-collecting would happen in any fantasy realm with adventurers and Kings. It would be the first thing on the ruling parties mind! "Sure, I know they saved the City from the Vampire-Lord's horde of zombies, but how much gold do you think they hauled out of that haunted manor? You know, for sending out the request for help and telling them where to go, I deserve a cut of that treasure! ...uh...for the good of the Kingdom, of course."

This picture requires no caption to get the point across.
Yet we pretty much ignore taxes in our games, the same reason we gloss over our PCs having to go to the bathroom or to hold down their day jobs. Because we want to have fun. And Taxes are not fun.

So, in the interest of forgetting about tax day, let's Game On!
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