photo credit to medievalists.net
Money. We crave it in real life, we crave it in our games, it’s pretty much the staple of life at this point. But let’s take a second to think about currency in a gaming scenario. In fantasy games, you usually have gold as currency with some other smaller currencies (silvers, coppers etc.). Is it really necessary? I don’t think so, and there may be outrage, so let me explain.
Gold really saps player focus off of the story aspects of the game at times. At my table, I try my very best to make the focus of the game the triumph of the characters, the flow of being knocked down and getting up again. Currency can be a good vehicle for this, but like a wise man I know has said to me on many occasions, “Money is boring. Favors are more fun.” Of course, he means in a real life setting. It’s much better to pick up the dinner tab next time you go out than to pay your friend back the $80 he spent on the night out. I take this idea a step further and apply it to my games. Gold/currency is a lot more fun when you’re not tracking each and every piece you have to your name.
Players usually rely on money for provisions or weapons or whatever else they think they need. It’s much easier to assume that characters can acquire what they need when it comes to food or water, and if they can’t, it’s usually clear without tracking exactly how much gold they have in their coin purses. Let your players not worry about feeding their characters unless the story really warrants it, and even then, gold shouldn’t come into play because it makes it boring. Make it more of a story piece. Did they run out of food because they didn’t plan their journey well? Or perhaps, the terrain is especially rugged. Maybe some creature took their food while they were sleeping for its own survival. Use provisions to create an interesting story, not make the world more gritty. A gritty setting can be achieved without rigorous tracking of supplies. These elements are more interesting than “I have 50 gold and spend a good portion of it on sacks of grain, the exact amount we need for the journey. Oh, it’s too heavy? Well, looks like I need to go split some wood and sell it to buy a pack horse.” Just get on with it, already! Characters very rarely run out of gold, so why track it in the first place? Acquiring gold usually wastes valuable game time at the table.
Gauge your PC’s wealth by what they’ve done so far, who they associate themselves with. It’s okay to make adventurers do mundane work to pay for something, just don’t spend so much time worrying about it. Gloss over it, make the scene 30 seconds at most. Hardship becomes more interesting when out in the field. Your players have to then hunt for food, look for other settlements of civilization, or perhaps there’s a monster den with some uneaten foodstuffs in it. This is where staying alive becomes interesting, not in the spending of coin.
The idea of provisions tracking from my experience has somewhat disappeared from gaming. When it comes to equipment such as armor and weapons, however, this is when people usually make gold come into play. I say hell to that! Equipment also becomes more interesting when you add the “who you know and what you do” idea to it. Where does your adventure start? Are the PC’s established adventurers? Just give them some non-magical martial weapons with decent armor and call it a day, let the PC’s decide how they want their characters to be. Let the rest be found in the vast landscape you’ve created. Whether it be found in a dragon’s lair or gifted to them from a wealthy companion, equipment should have a story. It makes the players attached to it. That way, when you sick a rust monster on them, they get some real sense of fear. This idea definitely works well with magical items and really is the only way (in my opinion) to handle them. Unless, of course, you have some sort of enchanter in the party that makes his own, which still makes the act relevant to the story and insanely interesting.
tl;dr: Don’t spend time tracking provisions, make it a quick sentence or two. Let the PC’s get the best stuff through playing the game, not buying it.
Stay Metal \m/