C is for Coin

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?

Game On!


B is for Bull


In the history of Rilmorn, two Players, John Hesselberg and Robert Hegwood, have made use of bull imagery when designing countries within the game world.  John did it within the game as the PC Alkin du Fey Duncan; while Robert created Xshathapat externally as a designer.  While they each came to the art of creation from different directions, John and Robert both gave me ideas, events, and images that I intend to use in my Pellham campaign.

The first use of the bull imagery in Rilmorn came when John’s half-elven ranger, Alkin du Fey, attempted to free an area from an oppressive bandit overlord.  After a bit of deft diplonacy, Alkin and his friend and fellow adventurer Gareth Eybender convinced the overlord to a contest.  The contest would be a fight between two bulls.  The winner of the contest would take leadership of the populace and the loser would depart.  The local populace would attend the contest and assure that both parties abided by the outcome.  There was supposed to be no magic involved, but of course the bandit overlord had his bull’s horns enchanted to be sharper and deadlier than normal bull’s horns.  Alkin, on the hand took a nursing male calf and had a blacksmith craft a harness with large spikes at the shoulders.  The day before the contest Alkin and Gareth kept the calf from its mother; so when the calf was released into the arena with the bandit overlord’s enchanted bull, it rushed toward the first cow it saw and attempted nurse.  Even though the populace acclaimed Alkin their ruler, Gareth and Alkin were still forced to fight and slay the bandit overlord.  After that was done, Alkin declared the red bull as the symbol of the Alki; a symbol that would remain when years later the ruler of Alkis would marry an heir to the Duchy of Dyskor and form the Kingdom of Alko-Dyskoria.  The

The next time I encountered bull imagery in Rilmorn was when Robert Hegwood handed me a red folder; handwritten on the cover were these words: “A NOT BRIEF ENOUGH OVERVIEW OF XSHATHRAPAT, THE ISLAND Empire of The WEST.”  Robert had designed an entire culture based around some background history and mythology that I had created for Rilmorn and Persian Zoroastrianism with a touch of medieval Christian missionary zeal.  Among those pages I found coin emblazoned with a bull’s head and the note, “The bull is the symbol of “Godly Rule and Might.”  Later I found the flag for the Xshathrapatian Navy, which bore a winged Bull.

Robert also created a timeline for the combined efforts of Alko-Dyskoria and Xshathrapat to colonize an unnamed continent to the West.  I never really dealt with any of that information until I started working on Iolta and Thrain.  Using Robert’s work, I filled in a lot of geography and history about Iolta and created the legends of the Tribes of the Winged Bull and the Red Bull.  Also, there are “Bulls,” gold coins bearing the image of a bull, hidden among lost treasure hoards.

The point of all of this is that letting your players create can help a GM to build other things.  I don’t recall planning on letting Alkin become a ruler, but I am glad he did.  Having Alkis as Alkin’s home base gave me plenty of hooks for games.  Alkin and Gareth had to defeat evils threatened the populace.  Some games required Alkin to be a diplomat; while others made him an archaeologist in his own kingdom.  Robert’s work offered broad stroke history from which I could mine.  Xshatrapat became a story to be told around tavern hearths.  Legends of its rise and collapse added to relics and artifacts found in dragons’ hoards and ancestral tombs.  Later all of this would be used as underpinning for Iolta and Thrain.

Game On!