Goodbye 2018, Hello 2019
In many ways 2018 has been a good year for me and the tabletop gaming hobby. I attended both Origins and Gencon and hung out for extended periods with good friends who I only see at conventions. I played what seems like a good many games, both at the convention and with my home groups. I got to travel south and spend an extended visit with my oldest and dearest gamer buddies. The hobby saw the publication of many really top shelf products, both board games and TTRPGs. The online streaming and vlog community put out some informative commentary on the game and some entertaining gameplay video. Yes, it has been a good year.
As with many good things, however, the year 2018 has produced some darker events. The hobby continues to lose members of the old guard, those who were present for the beginning and who have shepherded the hobby along these many decades. I will especially miss Greg Stafford at Gencon 2019. Mr. Stafford founded The Chaosium to publish White Bear and Red Moon introducing the hobby to his world of Glorantha which has been the setting for several games including RuneQuest and HeroQuest. We also said good-bye to Eric V. Clark this year. Eric was a driving force behind the Legends of the Shining Jewel living campaign and ran the biweekly Pathfinder game in which I frequently played over the last decade and he was a good friend.
Looking forward into 2019 I am excited about several things. The Castles & Crusades campaign run by a good friend is starting up again and we are already a couple sessions into that. I have not got to play enough Gloomhaven yet and am hoping that game is again in my 2019 future. Scythe is another board game I was introduced to last year that I would like to play more of. I have enjoyed Legacy of Dragonholt as both a cooperative group experience and in solo play this past year and hope to finish it in 2019. FFG's Lord of the Rings LCG continues to provide thrills as well.
Tabletop role-play games I hope to run this coming year include a one-shot of Rolemaster set in 4th Age M.E. which I started working on this year. Rolemaster is an older system which I think does a nice job at the table if the referee knows the game well and has prepared the charts. I will use pregens for a couple reasons - it gives me more control of PC abilities so the session can feel like M.E. and frankly creating and leveling up PCs can be a chore in RM (more on that project in a future post).
I picked up the Mongoose Traveller 2e this past year and have a mini campaign setting in mind I hope to run in 2019. Conan 2d20 is still on my short list, so I hope to see it at the table in 2019 (as referee or player). I watched Kevin Madison run the new Legends of the Five Rings on his Youtube channel Dungeon Musings and as a result I recently purchased that game, despite it using a variant of FFG's Narrative Dice System. I like the way Kevin Madison ran the game and I think I may be able to live with the FFG funky dice/narrative mechanic as long as I am the one running it. (I'll say more on that thought in a future post.)
My love for the White Box and the OSR remains as strong as ever and I will be jumping at every chance I get to run old school games again in 2019. I have been with that system for over four decades and still enjoy it. It seems my homebrew sandbox gets bigger each year and I have had several thoughts I added this past year that can be developed into Dreadmoor game sessions fairly quickly.
Under the renewed leadership of Greg Stafford, Rick Meints, Sandy Petersen and friends Chaosium is once again turning out the quality products I learned to expect from Chaosium back in the day. Call of Cthulhu 7e is my favorite edition of a favorite game going back to 1981 and the supporting game aids being released for 7e today are nothing short of awesome. I just added the beautiful Masks of Nyarlathotep 7e slipcase edition to my collection and I may bring it (or some other CoC module) to the table in 2019. RuneQuest is back with Chaosium thanks to Mr. Stafford and the new RuneQuest: Roleplaying in Glorantha book is awesome in appearance and content. If I don't run RQ:G, I will be looking to play in a session or three. I believe one of the last things Mr. Stafford accomplished in this life was to bring his King Arthur Pendragon RPG back under the Chaosium tent. Pendragon has been on my favorite game list since I grabbed the 1st edition box set off the shelf and played it later that same day. Mr. Stafford sold me a copy of the beautiful new 5.2 edition this past Gencon.
I ran three sessions of the Pathfinder 2e Playtest beta this past year and my players seem to have enjoyed the changes from PF 1e. If the interest is there, I will be happy to referee more of that system in 2019. The Playtest beta is limited enough in options at present to make it a manageable affair for me and I do like some of the innovations - the 3 action combat economy for starters. I own several rules-lite FRPGs that I believe are a good choice for one-off sessions and I would like to experiment a bit with them in the coming year. Tiny Dungeon immediately jumps to mind.
OSR setting material I acquired in 2018 includes some real gems. Midderlands is a unique take on the English midlands from a creative fantasy perspective and an absolutely beautiful product I highly recommend. Hubris is a setting for DCCRPG and in keeping with the spirit of that system is full of weirdly entertaining and frightful material I can borrow for use in Dreadmoor if I don't decide to set a campaign in the land of Hubris. Finally I have to mention Hot Springs Island, a generic self contained setting in two beautiful volumes that begs to be inserted into any campaign. There is so much good stuff contained in these products that any one of them could form the basis of a lifetime of adventure gaming.
As for anticipating products for 2019... I am hoping to shortly get my hands on the Black Hack 2e. The Black Hack is one of those rules-lite games in the spirit of White Box that has seen some popularity in the last year or so and which I supported through Kickstarter. Steve Jackson Games acquired the rights to The Fantasy Trip last year and ran a Kickstarter for a new edition of Melee, Wizard and a whole lot more in that line. I backed it and am hoping to have my game(s) this coming spring. The Fantasy Trip was one of my favorite systems during the 1980's and has an elegance never quite equaled by GURPS in my eyes. I am also in for the Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea player handbook Kickstarter and a couple of cooperative RPG in a box type board games (Set A Watch and Dark Domains) expected to deliver in 2019.
Cubicle 7 released Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay 4e late this year and thereby complicated my life. WFRP 4e is an awesome and beautiful book, but I was just working my way up to conning my friends into some Zweihander by Grim & Perilous Studios when I received 4e. Zweihander won the ENie's GOLD Award for 2019's Best Game and Product of the Year, so you know it's awesome (for me it's beyond awesome!). Having read through WFRP 4e it is awesome too! Both are fresh takes on the original grim and perilous WFRP game by Games Workshop, but while Zweihander sticks closer to the original, offering fixes for the 1e's troublesome bits and adding a host of supplemental and original new material, all grand, and frees us from Ye Olde World setting (owned and monkeyed with by GW) so that we can use a fresh setting of our own wonderful creation, hence 4e is an awesome game too (the combat mechanic using success levels is brilliant imo). The changes 4e makes excite me in a way few modern games have. The folks at Cubicle 7 have a Best Game/Product of the Year contender for 2019. Unfortunately, I don't have a player group primed for either. Grim & Perilous adventure is right up my dark alley, but many gamers I know seek a more "heroic" experience. Although we play them, it often seems that White Box and Dungeon Crawl Classics RPG may be pushing their limits.
Thinking ahead, I am as excited about this hobby as ever, which is not bad medicine for a gamer turning sixty. Here's hoping you too have lots to look forward to in the coming year.
Thursday, December 27, 2018
The non-human character "races" or ancestries in White Box and many later editions of the World's Most Popular RPG are sometimes referred to as "Tolkienesque", a term I frequently use on this blog to mean they are derived from the fiction of the good professor. There is little doubt in my mind that the popularity of the White Box has been enhanced by the inclusion of these alternate character ancestries, or races, as the game terms them. Much printed ink has been devoted over the years to what these characters should be like and how best to portray them in the game. Various descriptions have been detailed in the many game editions and in later editions additional non-human races not derived from J.R.R. Tolkien's work have been added to the list of playable characters.
Elves and dwarves of course appear in traditional fairy tales and Professor Tolkien's estate could lay no exclusive claim to the exclusive rights to such, but the estate reportedly did send Mr. Gygax and company a cease and desist letter over the appearance of the term "hobbit" (along with "balrog" and "ent") in the original printings of the 3 Little Brown Books (see Vol. 1, page 9, for example) that make up White Box. Hobbit is changed to "halfling" in the 6th printing and all subsequent editions (so as to avoid lawsuit, I suppose). I venture to speculate that the Tolkien Estate has sold quite a few copies of The Lord Of The Rings and The Hobbit to folks who first heard of these books (and fantasy in general) through playing White Box or a later edition of The World's Most Popular RPG. What debt is owed to TSR for this interest is anyone's guess.
So what exactly are "elves", "dwarves" and "hob-lings" like beyond the physical descriptions and illustrations. They seem remarkably like humans to me, both in the works of the good professor and in the game. It is my position that the elves, dwarves and hoblings are stereotyped exaggerations of certain human traits often found in more moderate proportions among us living humans. Elves are wise, aloof - even haughty, tall slender, merry and somewhat flighty folk. Dwarves are short, stout, grumbling, earthy types who enjoy ale and are plagued by greed and grudge holding. Hoblings are short, worrisome, barefoot bumpkins who tend toward folksy attitudes and over eating. Yes, I can think of at least one person in my own family that resembles each of these descriptions.
The literary fictions of Professor Tolkien and the fantasy role-playing games of TSR seem to go hand-in-hand despite a higher level of magic use in the game. Inspiration for the game is drawn from the novels and interest in the novels is developed playing the game. In the 21st Century we can add the widespread viewing of the Peter Jackson films to this mix. I suppose each product benefits from the popularity of the other(s).
Those of us who role-play an elven, dwarven or hobling character may draw upon depictions encountered in novels and film when we portray our PC, but to an even greater extent we are drawing upon our experiences as human beings. Ultimately this is what J.R.R. Tolkien drew upon when writing about his characters. Our non-human "aliens" are really more human than anything else. Maybe that's why we like them so much?
Wednesday, December 26, 2018
White Box gives the player a choice of making their character one of three classes. The Fighting Man excels at combat with the highest hit points and the best combat scores to hit creatures, even gaining multiple attacks at higher levels against 1 hit die monsters. The Magic User throws arcane spells and although weak in combat due to a lack of armor and fewer hit points, at higher levels the damage dealing spells this class commands can make them the most powerful class. The Cleric is a spell caster of a different sort relying on divine magic which is more geared to a supporting role. The Cleric falls between the Fighting Man and the Magic User in combat effectiveness and has the unique ability to turn away undead things. What they all have in common is they are "Adventurers" - a sort of super class.
An Adventurer is a player character, a game piece. Each player controls one or more player characters of the above 3 classes. White Box has no skill system and I assume all Adventurers have the basic dungeon delving skills, exploration skills and survival skills or they wouldn't be Adventurers. After all, a cobbler can make shoes, a butcher can prepare raw meat and a tailor can sew clothing. Although it isn't explicitly stated in the 3 LBBs, it stands to reason that Adventurers have some skill at creeping down hallways, listening at doors, climbing a rope, riding a horse or mule, making a camp for the night and following tracks in the snow, mud or tomb dust. If the referee wants to have the player make a die roll because the outcome could be meaningful or dangerous, the mechanic to do so is left open for interpretation. (Tom Moldvay suggests in his Basic rolling a d20 against the most appropriate ability score.)
Supplement 1, Greyhawk introduces the Thief class and muddies the waters some. The Thief has printed skill levels for various tasks, which until reading Supplement 1 seemed to be universal among Adventurers. Specialization up until Greyhawk has been the ability to cast magic spells or turn away undead. Moving silently or hiding in a shadowy alley is something any character can do, heck the players themselves can probably do them, more or less. Because of this (and players who steal from the party), I have never been a fan of the Thief as a class. As a role in society, sure. It can be great fun to play a thieving character of any class. In fact I had great fun with a thieving Magic User during the early 1980s.
Later editions of The Game (and many other systems) add a number of skill scores at character generation. Players may choose what skills their character has and that choice may go a long way toward defining the character and their role in the adventuring party. Some players in these systems like to "specialize" and develop certain skills at the expense of all others. Some players prefer a more rounded character build and have a basic competency in a broad array of potentially useful skills. In a system that is built around skill choice and development there are advantages to either approach. Specialists are really good at what they do, but require other specialists to cover the skills they don't have. Generalists have a wider array of skills, but are not as accomplished in any one skill as a specialist might be. White Box, by default, seems to assume everyone is a generalist in basic Adventurer skills.
Assuming everyone in an adventuring party can follow tracks (or any other skill) can lead to players who each take their turn at rolling to track until someone succeeds. This can be tiresome if each player rolls every check for every character, but even in a skill based system with specialists there will be times when the specialist fails and all the other characters take turns casting near impossible rolls on the off chance they can "get lucky". I like to as the players which character is taking the lead on any given group task and have that player roll the die.
The mechanical solution I currently favor in my old school game is to use a d6 for skill checks and every character has a 1 in 6 chance of doing something/anything reasonably possible. If a player is interested in specializing their character we negotiate how this comes about and they can get a skill bonus making their chance 2 in 6 or even higher. It isn't an original idea, but one I am finding I like. My players have quickly caught on and I believe they seem more apt to try something imaginative assuming they will have a 1 in 6 chance for it to succeed. I am all for encouraging imaginative play. Perhaps if they succeed in a dramatic way they will become the character who is good at that particular thing and receive a bonus from then on when using that particular skill.
Friday, December 21, 2018
Whatever you call the person behind the screen, game master (GM), DM, referee or judge, the position can be the most awesome seat at the table. I enjoy being a player, but I never hesitate to take my turn "running the game" because I find it very enjoyable...mostly because I do it my way. The role has developed and changed over the decades and I definitely enjoy running some game systems more than others, but this post is about how I have fun as a referee and why I think being the referee is awesome.
Probably the most awesome thing about being the referee of a role-playing adventure game is the creative freedom that goes with that task. The referee designs the setting, milieu, world. In the old days that was a dungeon drawn out on graph paper and keyed with encounters, puzzles, traps, and anything you could imagine. The goal was to make it interesting and fun for the players to explore. Soon the hobby ventured outdoors and the referee becomes a world builder. How fun is that! Again, anything you can imagine is possible. New races, unique cultures, wondrous cities - invent, borrow or steal, but use any idea that is appealing. The referee has creative control of their world.
The players get one (maybe two or three in older games) character(s) to play, but the referee has an infinite number of non-player characters. Some are helpful to the party of adventurers and some are villains. Some are around for a single encounter, but some are recurring and can become among the most memorable characters of a campaign. (Never let your NPC upstage the PCs, however.) I have fun with my NPCs. I use voices and give them motives and personalities based on characters from novels, film and real world memories. My goal is to make the NPCs seem like real beings.
Entertainment in the form of watching the players discover my world is the reward I get for my efforts. Players are amazing and funny. Players do the unexpected. They sometimes challenge the referee to keep up as they take the game in unforeseen directions. Working with the players following the adventures of their characters through your setting is awesomely rewarding. To hear them talking excitedly about the adventure afterwards is priceless.
Some lessons I have learned about helping the process along and having a good time as referee are:
Listen to the players. Find out what they are interested in.
Remember as referee you are the eyes, ears, nose, etc of the player characters. Try to be as descriptive as possible without boring anyone.
Encourage players to ask questions. Be a teacher.
Be enthusiastic. If the referee is enthusiastic about the game, it is likely the people listening will also be interested.
Be flexible. Preparation is a necessary and fun creative process, but players will always do the unexpected. A referee must follow as well as lead. Thinking quickly while at the table is a skill and the more one practices it, the better one becomes.
Narrate the mechanics. Rolling dice and shouting out the score is fine, but I see part of the fun of being a referee as interpreting the mechanical outcomes in terms of the emerging fiction. "The orc swings and his halberd cuts high above your head as you smartly duck under the intended blow."
Remember to encourage the players. The PCs are the movers and shakers of the story, the protagonists. Help the players have a good time by giving each character a significant part to play in the session and note their successes with some colorful language.
Keep the game moving. The beauty of "rulings not rules" is not stopping the action to look up a rule. Be fair and be consistent, but don't worry too much about what nobody at the table can remember about what the rules say. Be assertive, you are the "judge".
If the players are stuck, give them suggestions. We referees have all the answers and it is too easy to forget not everyone thinks just like we do.
Run a friendly, welcoming table. Be respectful.
And encourage others to take their turn behind the referee's screen, it can be awesome!
Thursday, December 20, 2018
Rules matter. Style of play matters. Personal preferences matter. In a hobby that is based on fun and entertainment, and our hobby is getting bigger every day, it pays to give attention to the available options. Finding the right game system for you from among the many now available and finding people who seem to want the same thing you want from gaming is essential to everyone having a good time.
In 1974 TSR published the Original Rules of the Game, White Box or the Little Brown Books. That started a new sub-genre of wargaming which came to be called adventure games or role-playing. At that moment there was only one choice of rule systems, although the rules encouraged a do-it-yourself approach and each referee tended to run the game a little differently from others. The adventure game concept caught on quickly and folks other than TSR began publishing their own way to play the game and entirely new systems became available. The trend has continued and today there are thousands of games available.
It isn't hard today to find a published game that does pretty much what you want your game to do. With the internet connecting all us gamers together, it isn't even hard to find others interested in the same game system we are. This is important. Playing or running a game you aren't especially into can sap the fun out of the experience for everyone. Playing with people you don't really get on with well, can be taxing and lead to a loss of interest in playing.
If you are like me and prefer to game at the table with the other players present in the same room, it can be a bit more challenging to get it all set up right. Finding people I like to game with hasn't been hard for me. Gamers are generally people I like and get on well with. We are a tolerant, accepting and friendly hobby in general. Finding a rule system we all enjoy equally can be a challenge, however. Often there are compromises made in the face-to-face group and that can mean an individual's favorite game gets played rarely, if at all.
Setting is as least as important as rules when it comes to playing the game you desire. There are many published settings and even more home-brews. Each referee basically runs a different setting as interpretations and additions are made to published material and of course those who make their own settings are presenting something unique. Most referees today take input from the players and are willing to incorporate many suggestions so that everyone in the group enjoys the setting.
Style of play is very similar to setting. Some rule systems support a certain style of play better and some settings do as well. Those choices, together with the personalities of the actual players goes a long way to determine style of play, but there is still room for discussion and adjustment so that everyone involved is having a comfortable, enjoyable gaming experience. It just takes a little self awareness, communication and flexibility.
So are you feeling trapped when it comes to your game? Maybe you aren't playing the right game with the right people. Explore about a bit. Why not try a new system or get involved with an additional gaming group (we can never make too many friends). Games are a social thing and are not "all about me", but really, it's a big hobby and there are lots of options.
Friday, December 14, 2018
I am not sure when we started calling it role-paying, but among my friends the term didn't really apply until we discovered Call of Cthulhu and became investigators. Up until that point we played heroes, magicians, priests and thieves in pen and paper wargames where we each controlled one or more individuals with specific talents. It was a natural extension of skirmish wargaming with miniatures where each figure represented a single individual and we had our own guy or playing piece. The object in these games was to kill or capture the other player's guy(s).
Early on playing White Box we had learned to ask "Who, What, When, Where, and How?" in our back and forth dialogue with the referee; mostly in an attempt to outsmart the "dungeon" and grab its treasure while avoiding the loss of our playing pieces or characters. My gaming friends were all wargamers excited about the new game coming out of Lake Geneva, Wisconsin. We were history buffs and science-fiction, fantasy fans much like the creators of the new game. It was fresh and fun and we were obsessed with climbing the experience ladder of success, each trying to get a more powerful character so we could reasonably descend to even deeper and unexplored levels underground.
Talking in character? Not so much. Asking ourselves what would our character do, think, feel, say? Not so much. We generally played ourselves, even if our character sported a distinct name borrowed from a popular source, such as "Conan", Ragnar, Harald Hardradda", "Lancelot", "Roland" or "Corwyn". Then Chaosium published Call of Cthulhu in an attractive box with quality booklets and maps. We were already enamored with Chaosium as a company because of their previous game products including Thieves World and the RuneQuest line. We purchased our copies at Gencon and had the enormous benefit of having the game explained to us by the folks at the Chaosium booth so we had some idea of how to play as soon as we opened our copies. Being a bunch of history buffs we rather enjoyed the idea of playing a game where we could make some use of our knowledge of the American 1920s.
Armed with a new game and some ideas from the Chaosium staff regarding role-playing we set about investigating ghosts and ghouls, cults and hauntings. We learned to think like role-players, to imagine a person separate from ourselves, often very different from us in age, education, values, and goals. We asked questions in a different voice, literally and figuratively. The 1980s was a transition time for our gaming group as we looked for and found new game experiences including new systems like Call of Cthulhu and we adjusted our style of play to include more actual role-playing. Gary Gygax and Dave Arneson introduced us to a new hobby. Sandy Petersen taught us how to play a role.
Tuesday, December 11, 2018
Come and see - Rules for Fantastic Medieval Wargames Campaigns Playable with Paper and Pencil and Miniature Figures - the subtitle for the World's First Role-Play Adventure Game describes what the game is about and suggests who might be interested. It is a wargame playable with paper, pencil and miniature figures (figures optional) aimed at people who play wargames. There is no adventure game or role-play game market as no such game has existed until 1974 when newly formed TSR published the White Box rules.
As rules for wargames the 3 LBBs contain quite a lot about combat and hitting things, throwing spells and dying characters and such. The second volume is devoted to monsters and their treasures; the monsters to fight so as to acquire their treasure. To be sure, White Box is also a game of exploration and castle building and space in the rules is given over to these tasks, but combat is never far from the central theme. The underground and wilderness, subject of the third of the LBBs, is a place full of adventure for there lurks monsters and hostile encounters, wizards in their towers and knights who will challenge travelers to a joust.
As I recall, the role-playing gradually grew over time as characters developed and we read articles about the game and eventually encountered the rules to other games. The taking on of the character's role happened gradually. At first we had our character, our guy or playing piece as opposed to the other players' guys and the NPCs, some of which we controlled as hirelings and henchmen. Our guy was just a special playing piece, a ticket into the game and when he died, we were temporarily out of the game. As time passed we eventually made statements like "my guy says this, or does that", thus the beginng of role -play! Generally we made decisions as ourselves...what would we do? It was a bit of a jump to start considering "our guy" as separate from ourselves; not so much an alter ego as a separate and distinct fictional entity, a "role" to play, rather like acting a part.
As the years have gone by and more and more games, both the original and subsequent variations on the theme, have been played the way we play has changed. Roll-play gives way to role-play. Killing the baddies and taking their stuff evolves into let's make a deal. The nature of our adventures now includes investigation and negotiation as often as exploration into the unknown and our characters develop skills other than just for fighting. Most sessions still have violence. It's kinda how we roll.
Thursday, December 6, 2018
There are two types of magic in the fantasy adventure games we all love: 1) in-game magic using the rules for magic and, 2) the feeling of wonder we get playing the game. The first magic is what's in the book. The spell descriptions, magic items, things that produce effects beyond what is expected in the mundane world. This magic is part of the draw of fantasy gaming, the ability to bend reality and impose one's will on the laws of nature, physics and chemistry.
The second magic is the sense of amazement, surprise and delight that discovering something new and unexpected gives us during play. It also draws us to the game, but in a different way. While years of play may add to the number of spells and magic items, it often diminishes the wonder we personally experience. How do we keep the second magic alive?
Various ideas have been written and talked about regarding this topic, so I doubt I am adding anything new...which is actually the secret to keeping the magic alive. New, unexpected and unusual, those attributes help keep the magic alive. Referees, design your own magic items, make them unique one-of-a-kind objects who give up their secrets only slowly and perhaps reveal new abilities as the PCs level up. Limit the availability of magic items to those found. Pay attention to players and try to customize the found items to the characters, rewarding players with the treasures they most desire as opposed to allowing them to peruse the printed lists and go shopping at the "magic mall". (If you must offer a market for magic, let it be with other adventuring parties.)
Roll for starting spells and don't freely offer new spells for sale. The rare magic will be sought and prized. Finding a scroll will be special and whole quests can be built around the magic user's search for a legendary spell book. Encourage players to research spells, both to learn the ones in the rule book and to develop new ones. I rather favor an abbreviated list of known spells for my players partly so as to encourage them to develop their own through research. It gives the player a sense of ownership and accomplishment...and perhaps bragging rights!
Introduce new spells through NPCs. Allow players to witness, or perhaps be on the receiving end of magical effects that are not on the list. Let them wonder! Always give them a chance to acquire such rogue magic for themselves, however. Make some magic "perilous", even evil in its effect. Let the players make the hard choice to try and use such magic or destroy it.
Consumable magic items are much more useful in a campaign where they may be the only easily acquired magic. After-all who wants healing potions/scrolls when one can purchase a wand of healing? Resource management is a part of the original game design and can add to the tension and suspense or just be "bookkeeping" depending on the prevailing attitude. Part of keeping the magic in the game is agreement among everyone to do so.
What to do with all the cash adventurers recover if they can't purchase expensive magic items? Those consumable magic items are one option, as is the old "build a stronghold" (a place to keep your wealth safe from thieves if nothing else) option. Paying henchmen and hirelings and seers and experts can consume money. Level drain and restoration, disease and cure, death and raise dead can all cost the player characters dearly. How about upkeep and living expenses (including dependents)? Armor repair, spell components? Luxuries like a yacht? Most campaigns I have played in have hand-waved these expenses, but if the referee is worried about gold/silver accumulation, taxes, living expenses and such can help relieve the anxiety and keep the adventurers hungry.
I like to make the world as magical as the items or spells. Magical beasts and especially magic areas add to the wonder and verisimilitude. An enchanted forest where certain magical effects are acting on those who enter, a cursed ruin where evil magic affects all who enter adds potential adventure as well as something novel to a campaign. Why is it cursed and how can the curse be removed? These are potential questions adventurers may like to explore...or exploit. When things generally work like they do in the real world, and then they don't...it feels more like magic.
I have heard it said that magic exists in our world today. It certainly existed in the Minneapolis area and Lake Geneva during the early 1970's when groups of tabletop wargamers and history buffs were drawn to add some of the magic they had been reading about in fantastic stories to their tabletop games. Something new and wonderful came into being, something that has been a source of fun for countless players and has changed popular culture as its tropes have spread into the digital age. The magic of the game.