Saturday, October 25, 2014

Money, It's a Drag?

I'm beginning a major delve into the Iron Kingdoms and very quickly I've discovered that the conversion rates on the various coinage in the setting are giving me conniption fits. A large part of the problem is that the money conversions aren't given to me in a format that my brain can quickly convert. That's a me problem though, and not some issue with the book. All the same as I'm working with the conversions I started thinking about the various settings I've played in and it occurred to me that I've never played in a setting where the coinage required conversion. Let me restate that: I've never played in a setting where converting the coinage between the various currencies mattered in a way that went beyond their names.

Now it's entirely possible (and even probable) that the problem has been that the various Dungeon Masters I've played under had no interest in dealing with the headache of converting and just glossed over the whole thing. -- But I don't mind dealing with those sort of things because it's an opportunity to overcome the problems I encounter. So why haven't I done it before?

Thinking back over the last decade of being a Dungeon Master it seems that my players have rarely chosen to go outside their starting nations. I think that comes from the fact that I tend to have them starting either in island nations or on the borderlands away from the majority of civilization. While the borderlands could certainly have multiple currencies floating about I usually have them playing with coins that matter by their weight so having a Golden Orb, Drab, or whatever doesn't really matter so long as it's actually gold and meets the standard weights. 

Reading the Iron Kingdoms Character Guide makes me wonder if I haven't been missing out on an opportunity to introduce a little bit of verisimilitude to the game that would actually make the game more interesting. I can certainly see the negotiations being argued for the most valuable currencies and my players converting their bulky, lower value, bulk coinage into the higher value currency and investing in foreign banks. Lots of room there for underhanded dealings and intellectual robbery . . .

What about you cats? Do you use currency conversions that go beyond name only? Does it bog your games down or does it make things more interesting?


  1. I have to honestly say that I don't get too involved with different types of coinage. Since I only run D&D now, and not a slew of other games like I did when I was much younger, I just stick to, "it's a gold piece, and that's a silver piece." I think I concentrate a lot more on an overall story that involves all of my players, and while they like getting treasure, it's just a matter of this much silver, gold or platinum, some gems (make a roll to appraise them) and whatever potions of healing they can scrounge out because no one ever wants to play a damn cleric.

    1. "no one ever wants to play a damn cleric."

      Why is that? In my groups we usually have multiple cleric / fighters showing up.

    2. Hell if I know Charles. Back when I played a lot, I tended to take the filler roles. Need a cleric, I'd play one. Need a thief, I'd play that too. Need a wizard, got you covered.

      I'm pretty relaxed as a DM goes. I tell my players to play what they want, and I'll adjust to any holes the party might have. I hate running NPC party members, but will if I have to. If there's no cleric, I'll throw them more healing potions or a wand of healing. No wizard, then I won't throw an ass load of magical stuff their way. Seems to have worked well for me I guess.

  2. Useless bookkeeping, unless you're playing with a bunch of forensic accounts. Currency conversion with precious metal cions is really just weight ratios of the coins. State all your prices in pounds of gold/silver and be done with it.

  3. Both of you gents are right - the number-crunching can really stop a game session dead in it's tracks. I agree with your point, and over the past thirty-odd years I've been doing this I've rarely done the conversion thing with my players; they are just not all that interested in the topic.

    Having said that, though, we used to do this all the time in Prof. Barker's Tekumel campaign; we did a lot of traveling to distant places where our little gold Kaitars had never been seen. Three grams of gold is three grams of gold though, and so we'd be off to the local money-changers; it gave Phil the chance to show off, as he'd been to many of these fine commercial establishments in his time in South Asia. He'd role-play the guy behind the scales, and we'd have a wonderful little mini-adventure 'just going to the bank'. These would lead to quite a few adventure of their own, as the local guy would usually propose to 'give us such a deal!' if we'd undertake a 'little errand' for him...

    It was heaps of fun, but it's something that I think the GM would really have to be well-prepared for to run effectively and not get the session bogged down.

    - chirine

  4. While dealing with the petty details of currency conversion can certainly bog your campaign in meaningless trivia if you do it wrong, I think you are missing out on a wealth of play opportunities if you don't pay close attention to "money". This ins not a new concept -- for example, read the 2E DMG section on money (pp 32-34).

    Coins give you a wealth of ways to fuck with your characters. Aside from basic stiff like moneychanger's fees and taxes, you can use their money to identify your characters as foreigners, or implicate them as suspects in a crime. You can use non-standard coinages to keep them guessing about how much any treasure hoard is actually worth. You can tax them when they try to spend foreign or ancient coins. You can have obscure coins attract unwanted attention to the players...

  5. I think it can add flavor to your setting. I once started (never got far) a campaign set in medieval Korea. I wanted everything to be different, including what was wealth. If you can get your players excited about that kind of thing, then, rock on! However, if your group just wants the dungeon crawl and is not looking for 4 hours of art and cultural history, then money conversion just gets in the way. Being a Pathfinder player, I greatly appreciate the simple 1000 cp = 100 sp = 10 gp = 1 pp.

  6. I've always wanted to have various coins with different exchanges... but it just never happened with all the other prep work. It was just going to take too much paperwork and would likely take time away from the other fun, so I dropped the idea.


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