As the ACKS conversion of Dwimmermount moves forward, I've been able to look at how well the distribution of treasure on each level matches the XP available from combat. The results for levels 1 through 6b are here:
The last columns show the levels that the first rival NPC party would reach if they a) went into the dungeon with two henchmen (such that XP would be divided in six shares) and b) totally scoured each level in sequence, taking no losses in the process.
Those assumptions are obviously flawed (especially in cases where there's a lot more combat XP than treasure), but the overall pattern is clear: the first 4 levels are heavily skewed toward treasure, the lower levels are equally skewed toward combat.
As a Judge running this adventure, would it be more important to you to:
1) preserve the original intent - "here's Dwimmermount as it was written" (perhaps with some notes about how rival parties might take away treasure from the upper levels, while wandering monsters might add combat XP; while, on the lower levels, NPC patrons might start paying for information, maps, and other outside-the-dungeon-key sources of GP to go with the plentiful combat XP down deep)
2) tweak the treasures listed so that you can run the ACKS conversion from the book and get the right ratio of monsters to treasure?
The spreadsheet shows quite a stark shift in the ratio!
I definitely prefer option 1 (Dwimmermount as written) with the notes and suggestions (ACKS conversion implications).
Partly because this is one of the joys of ACKS, that the economic integration has emergent implications everywhere. So any specific tweaking becomes part of the individual campaign.
Also because there is such a stark change in the original, it seems like a dungeon ‘feature’ that should not be removed.
I’m with KarlM on this. I think the original intent should be preserved with notes to help DMs bring the treasure in line with ACKS.
I know it’s a lot of work, but possibly an ACKS conversion spreadsheet could be posted as a PDF on the Autarch board for DMs that really want the converted numbers, and a link to that sheet referenced in the ACKS Dwimmermount release.
The work is already invested in http://www.autarch.co/file/dwimmermount-level-roster-spreadsheet-11-30 - that's where the calculations about how many XP and GP there are per level is coming from. Changing the treasure column would be a simple way to tweak treasure, and changing the # appearing for monsters would be almost as easy.
I think that the advice is probably more useful long-term; many great adventures don't follow the ratio (despite its having been a stated design principle of Red Box D&D), so knowing how to put a finger on the balance during a campaign is a good skill to have. However, if folks are really plug-and-play it's less convenient - although such people are probably not invested enough to be here on the forums!
I honestly think it should be left as written (though again, maybe a heads up for the DM who cares). Low level B/X is where most of your casualties are, so having more treasure is (to my mind) preferable. Every fight could kill a character, so you need more treasure so that replacement characters can catch up.
And as you say, most old school modules don’t follow the formula (cough Castle Amber Cough)!
I actually have to wonder if players won’t lose interest by the time they get to the deeper levels, in part because of the relative lack of treasure (on top of the usual megadungeon fatigue). From what I gather, the lowest levels haven’t really been playtested, not in a campaign.
I've been talking to James about this in our weekly conference calls. He says it is not an intentional feature of the design. I think that the trend toward an increasing ratio of combat XP to treasure is due to the combat XP climbing - especially with new monsters that have many special abilities and thus XP awards - while the hoards do not keep pace. We had discussed this issue before level 9 was drafted and I recommended that he put a lot of treasure on the level, both to reward those who got that far and to help address the imbalance.
As it turns out, level 9 does have the second-highest treasure content of any I've looked at so far, but it also has so many combat XP that it also has the second-worst ratio of combat XP to treasure. I think it worked out this way because, absent a spreadsheet, it is not easy to track this ratio during the writing. However, it is an issue we'll address in editing and development. I do think that it's not just a matter for the ACKS conversion; characters in any system who are facing very stiff opposition session after session, and not finding the gold to restore their companions who fall in these intense battles, are going to find it hard to explore the full extent of the dungeon.