10' Poles Through the Ages

One of my players just pointed out a discrepancy in the equipment list of Labyrinth Lord.  According to the equipment list, a 10′ pole costs 2 sp, while a 10′ ladder costs only 5 cp.  Thus, 1 10′ pole = 4 10′ ladders.  But surely one needs two 10′ poles to construct a 10′ ladder, right?  It seems one could make a killing by simply buying up 10′ ladders, knocking them apart, and then selling off the two 10′ poles individually.  That’s 15 cp profit right there, not even including what you might get out of the 8 or so rungs.

So where did this come from?  Like much in Labyrinth Lord, this is right out of the 3.0 SRD.  Take a look at the chart on the right side of this page, and you will see the same two items with the same costs.  Of course, I couldn’t leave it there, and started back tracking other systems.

In 2nd edition AD&D, a 10′ ladder is listed in the equipment section as costing 5 cp.  The 10′ pole is not listed at all.  Not listed at all?!  I am amazed that any version of D&D would leave out this staple of adventuring gear!  Let’s go back a bit further.

In 1st edition AD&D, a 10′ pole costs 3cp, while it’s the 10′ ladder that’s not listed.  That sounds a bit more reasonable to me.  Also, it would seem to be the origin of this error.  If you just blindly take stuff from the 1st edition list and stuff from the 2nd edition list and ram them together, you get this weird pricing of 10′ wooden implements.

Likewise, B/X and OD&D list only the pole and not the ladder.  OD&D of course lists no prices, but B/X shows a 10′ pole as 1 gp.  That’s quite the price increase from AD&D, though I suspect it’s simply because everything in the chart is listed in units of gold pieces with nothing costing less than 1.

It appears we have 2nd edition to thank for the ladder and the ham-fisted combination of 1st and 2nd into 3e for weird error.  For my own game, I’ll be increasing the cost of the ladder significantly.  Given the addition of rungs and the labor of construction, I think a 10′ ladder should cost well more than twice that of a 10′ pole.

2 thoughts on “10' Poles Through the Ages

  1. Jovial Priest reports that the Dungeoneer’s Survival Guide (1e) prices a grappling hook at 75gp with a weight of 75 coins. That is, grapnels are literally worth their weight in gold.

    Makes me wonder why plate mail is so cheap.

  2. You know, OD&D does also list the 10′ Pole at 1gp (likewise only units of gp; Vol-1, p. 14).

    But otherwise this is an awesome post, and you are a magnificent bastard for writing this up.

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