The Three Dimensions
Hacking Gold out of the System
Player World Options
A Functional Boom Economy
- Simply making the numbers bigger makes everything feel pointless. If nothing substantially changes over time, then advancement really isn't advancement at all. This is one of the major problems with the christmas tree magic item effect. You need the bonuses just to keep pace. They don't really improve the play experience for your character. Whatever you add to the economy must actually provide a benefit (however small) and not simply be a tax to keep pace.
- Too much treasure is NOT a system-wide destabilizing proposition. First, let's ignore the fact that this is a game and it doesn't matter beyond the fact that it causes cognitive dissonance in some people. Gygax addresses some of this in the 1st edition Dungeon Master's Guide. An independent frontier town will become a boom town. Prices will skyrocket. The money will work its way into the pockets of the proprietors in town and from there, back to larger bastions of civilization. We have working models where this happened, it all comes out in the wash and didn't ruin the economy—mostly because the treasure required had to be converted into wealth by the economy it entered. Who cares if your party of 5 adventures reach level 11 in AD&D. 25 million gold pieces added into the global economy is nothing. Assuming that's pure gold, that's 75 billion current dollars at the medieval value of gold (3,000$ an ounce). The modern GDP of England is around 2900 trillion dollars. But the gold pieces the characters will be pulling out of ruins won't be pure gold.
- Another example is Elon Musk. Started Paypal. Started Tesla Motors. Worth around 10 billion at any given time, and has a habit of making billions of dollars in like a day, and he's made large efforts to get rid of as much of that as possible in philanthropic ways. Effect on local economy? Effect on national economy? Eh.
- People complaining about the scale of the gold piece in a local economy, haven't really considered how much wealth is in a local economy. That local inn owner makes the equivalent of thousands of gold a year. Nobels have tens and hundreds of thousands of gold in estates and troops. Other historical nations throughout history had great wealth and good economies. Dumping 500 gold into a market fair? Yeah, that's a lot of money, but how much business does a monthly market fair do in a city of 30,000?
- That noise you just heard was a small uptick in prices, not destabilizing inflation. It's also merchants fleecing the players for whatever they think they can get.
- 5e, poor lifestyle, 2sp day. To be poor costs over 70 gold a year. What the players spend isn't going to destabilize anything.
- Whatever you decide to do, it has to be by design. You have to create the item sets, you have to place the treasure, you have to decide if the players can train to use new talents and skills, you have to decide what the costs and drawbacks are of requiring training to level, you have to pick what actions the players can use money on the map to take.
- Hackmaster 4e, which uses 1st edition training is excellent. If you pay the very pricy cost to train, then you get some adventure hooks, allies, along with several free skill boosts. If you don't, you can buy equipment and it costs more experience to level up. Interesting choices for the players.
- You can have several areas on the map that require some expenditure of gold to access. A site down a chasm that requires 15,000 gp to access. It can also be accessed by a risky climb or perhaps magic, but the players can make that choice.
- Can you train up skills? I use Skills: The Middle Road which has the feature of diminishing returns. This allows players to spend increasing amounts of money for decreasing (but still significant) benefits. It also decouples skills from leveling. This is another example of interesting economy design.
- Services in town can provide options. Is there an enchanter? an alchemist? spellcasters? a sage? Each of these can provide things for players to spend money on.
- If you have a well designed economy and are using set items, interesting treasure stays interesting for the life of the character—either for the bonus it provides or for saving it because you'll need the money.
Uses for Money
What can you spend gold on?
Here are ideas of some things you can have players spend their money on.
- Consumable magic items
- Improved equipment
- Magic item construction
- Upkeep, along with associated in-game effects
- Carousing & orgies
- And as a consequence or aside, supporting a mistress
- Other carousing type choices include, research, gourmandizing, sacrificing, philanthropy, clan hoards/donations.
- Information: Rumors, in game research, and asking sages questions.
- Building construction
- Purchasing vehicles, ships, and siege weaponry
- Running a small business for profit
- and the costs, quests, and accoutrements associated with that
- Land or an organization (or access to an organization)
- Positions (Nobility, regency, dukedoms, secret society memberships, reputation)
- Clearing hexes and expenses associated with keeping them cleared
- Taxes and other forms of tribute—tithes, dues, fees, maintenance costs
- Protection, enhancements, or management of any of the above, constructions, businesses, settlements, mines, etc.
- Followers, including technical (alchemists, engineers), hirelings (secondary/backup players), henchmen (torch-bearers, treasure carriers, labors), hangers-on, support, animals/pets/livestock and others. (Dungeon Chickens mainly)
- Buying something for dear old mum, you heartless beggar. When was the last time you even paid your old mum a visit. Are you even eating out there? And why don't I have any grandchildren?
- Horses are not cheap. Animals have upkeep expenses of their own.
- Purchasing spellcasting services, including larger rituals
- Some mechanic for passing experience on to a new player.
- Talents research or spell research, allowing new powers in exchange for gold. (Note that fighters should also get nice things here)
- Allowing training to increase statistic values (something that costs more each time you do it is very useful here)
- Training to increase levels with some benefit over just automatically leveling
- Require more experience to level without training (or less if training)
- Allow bonuses to hit point rolls or some other level increased ability
- Free training or other services, like rumors, etc.