Friday, 22 January 2016


I think it is fair to say, that when I was 8 years old, the idea of successfully liberating hundreds of coins of purest gold from a deep dark dungeon, held a great deal of appeal to me.

I'll be honest, these days, when it comes to money in RPGs, I prefer to be scrabbling to get together the food I need for survival, let alone the purchase of better equipment (which is a big part of the reason I am seriously looking forward to +Caleb StokesRed Markets. It is a game about economic horror and zombies.)

The economy of Basic is just plain old weird. In an adventure like Castle Caldwell, the PCs earn thousands of GP, yet a fighter can purchase all they might conceivably need for a few hundred gold pieces. While their are some high priced purchases that will certainly eat up gold, such as fortifications and ships, these are not the stuff that I especially wan
t the early game to be about. Then you have the fact that every dungeon being full of vast amounts of wealth, entirely removes any sense of awe of larger hauls of loot. Or that the lack of scarcity means that copper, and silver coins might as well not exist.

And all that is without taking into account the fact that the GP counts as EXP, with the level of treasure given out being more than enough to push a character up a level

So I am going to need to take a spanner to the economics.

The plan

  1. De-decimalise the currency.
  2. Modify the haul of loot from dungeons.
  3. Make loot interesting.
  4. Alter the EXP to GP relationship.
  5. Give the PCs things to spend money on that matter in the early game.
Pennies, Shillings and Crowns
There comes a moment in many adventures where the PC discover a few thousand copper coins. In reality, all they are actually finding is a small number of gold coins in an cumbersome and time consuming form.

Copper and even silver coins have historically served little to no purpose in DnD. Either they should be made to matter, or they should be gotten rid of.

I happen to value the existence of such coins, so I would rather make them matter than get rid of them.  First step. Give them a little more character. Lets go with  Pennies (Copper), Shillings(Silver), and Crowns(Gold).

20 Pennies to 1 Shilling.
12 shilling to 1 Crown.

With a stronger character applied to each type of coin, it then time to start differentiating between the uses of different types of coin.

Crowns tend to be used to pay for land, trade, ships, magic and training.
Shillings tend to be used to pay for livestock, high value equipment, hireling wages and travel.
Pennies tend to be used to pay for hospitality, food and low value equipment.

A village trader, just can't easily break a gold coin into change, and moneylenders charge for breaking coins. The for, it is always useful to have a supply of pennies and shillings on hand

Modify the haul of loot from dungeons
The second step in making the humble copper piece matter is a general lowering of general wealth level. Scarcity means that the smaller economic interactions matter more.

Make loot interesting.Coin is dull. Trade goods, Art, Jewelry, are all potentially more interesting. The reasons for this greater level of interest can be varied. Trade good might help the PCs work towards some goal, or present a logistical obstacle to being retrieved.  Art and jewelry might have a story to it that the characters can investigate, or have differential values, depending on the circumstances in which it is sold.

Alter the EXP to GP relationship. 
So, rather than just say, no, GP has no effect of level, which was my initial reaction, I think it would be interesting to allow characters to purchase training.

To do this, a PC my spend 1 Gold Crown and two days in training, in return and receive 10 exp. A PC can earn no more than 50 exp in one month by this manner.

Give the PCs things to spend money on that matter in the early game.
Money only matters if it gets spent. The changes I have planned for encumbrance offer one area where the PCs can improve their affairs, by purchasing better backpacks, pouches and other containers, so they are better able to manage loads in the dungeon or on the road. It should also but a greater emphasis on pack animals and hirelings.

I also want to explore ways to encourage characters to live the high life when they aren't adventuring, as well as giving them meaningful choices about what food they take with them on adventures.

Speaking of which...We need to talk about Food...That is what we'll cover next time.


I have mentioned this before, in the past elsewhere, but it needs saying again. If your interested in money in RPG systems and settings; the money is the root of all fun panel from gencon 2014, is well worth a listen


  1. I like what you're saying there generally. It does sound like your exp for training is very slow. Keep in mind that characters commonly level up every one to three adventures. I would say even five conservatively. Page B22 states that the DM can hand out XP. That or you could maybe scale up the exp for copper and increase exp gained for besting foes. I agree the vast hoardes don't really balance out.

    1. I am going to be providing some quest exp, though I am not yet sure how exactly I want to manage that.