Adventures rush to loot the dragon’s bed, after the dragon is dead. Heroes, they may be, but they all run toward the demon cult’s treasury. Before they save the princess from her fate, they must, the fee, negotiate. Why, because money is the grease that lubricates the gears of a civilization and it is part of the Players’ reward for their PCs succeeding. (2015.04.16) (2015.05.28)
In many ways, gold (also called gold pieces, g.p., GP, or gp) is simply a score card for D&D. The more money the PCs have, the more “magic stuff” (magic armor, enchanted weapons, raise dead spells) they can afford. David Noonan, in a D&D Insider podcast, once said that there was no real economy in a Dungeons and Dragons Game. The silver pieces given to the NPC baker for a loaf of journey bread are not then given to the NPC miller, so that the NPC baker can get more flour. This is true in any Player/GM encounter. Coin only appears in a game when the PCs have it. (I do not count treasure listed in monster/NPC write-ups to be “in play,” since their only purpose to tell the GM what to give the PCs, if they “win.”) It is a counter and nothing more, but it doesn’t have to be... (2015.04.16) (2015.05.28)
Each version of D&D has had a monetary system that consisted of coins of various metals and denominations. Each version of D&D has used the gold piece (gp) as the standard unit of measure for wealth, but the rates of exchange between coins have changed. In 1E, there was the copper piece (c.p.) which was valued at 1/10 of a silver piece (s.p.) which was equal to 1/10 of an electrum piece (e.p.), which had a value of ½ of a gold piece (g.p.), which carried a value of 1/5 of a platinum piece (p.p.). Thus (to lift the example from page 35 of the first edition of the Players Handbook): “200 c.p. = 20 s.p. = 2 e.p. = 1 g.p. = 1/5 p.p.” In 2E, the ratios between the coins remained the same, but the abbreviations for the coins changed to CP, SP, EP, GP, and PP. Money in 3E was simplified. 10 cp was equal to 1 sp, 10 sp equaled 1 gp, and 10 gp was worth 1 pp. 4E numismatistics gave use a new currency: astral diamonds (ad) and changed the conversion ratio between gold and platinum. 1 pp was, then, equal to 100 gp, while an ad was equal to 10,000 gp. 4E, clearly, saw the PCs running around with LOTS spending cash. 5E has also had its hand in fiddling with the value of a gold piece. Now, 100 cp = 10 sp = ½ ep = 1 gp = 1/10 pp. Sweet mercy, this is a boring paragraph.
Despite the obvious snooze factor in the previous paragraphs, coinage does not have to be simply a scorecard or boring. Coins do not appear ex nihilo, they are products of the civilizations and cultures that produce and use them. They are artifacts that can be used to tell stories of a lost people or give PCs clues to possible dangers in the area where the coins were found. Differing monetary systems between neighboring nations could offer Players roleplaying opportunities. I have tried and will try again to put such devices to use in my games.
During my 1E days, Lewis Pulsipher, in Dragon #74, suggested changing from the sometimes arcane D&D gold standard to a decimal-based silver standard that dropped electrum coins and changed the size and weight of coins, so the number of coins went from 10 to pound to about 216+ to a pound. I changed to a silver standard and decided that there were 100 coins to pound. Mike Magee (Gareth Eybender’s Player and designer of Elethar) took this idea and created a currency system for the elven kingdom of Elethar.
Base currency: Pyramid (silver piece)
Coinage: 1 argentel Gareth = 10 platinum Castles = 100 gold Crowns = 1000 silver Pyramids = 10000 copper Tenthmids = 100000 steel Centimids (often referred to as “cents”)
Eletharian currency is noted throughout Rilmorn for its purity. Counterfeiting is a capital crime in the Kingdom, and Elethar’s Intelligence Service works diligently at home and abroad pursuing those who would forge or debase the kingdom’s currency
Robert Hegwood provided some images of coins used by the Empire of Xshathrapat. I’m going use some of those images (slightly altered) in my Pellham campaign. I don’t know if I will attempt a return to the silver standard, since my present players seem fairly attached the standard system, but I am going to start making coins from different countries unique and attempt to use those differences to improve the feel for each region and give more depth to my setting. (2015.04.16)
I am not the only one who works on making their world’s coinage more than a counter on a scorecard. D. at Fluer de mal has a post about currency on his world here and here and here.
Do any of you, my good readers, make use of coins to spice up your games?