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I've been playing for some years now, and with nearly all of my groups, keeping track of resources is always a hassle. To make things efficient, we basically eliminated all the multiple wealth levels and condensed into gold and gems.

A character gets 50cp, 11sp, 2g, a bracelet worth 25g, and a 50g diamond.

What my players write in their joint Bag of Holding inventory sheet is 27g + 50g (Gems). We eliminate the copper and silver right away, merge gold and jewelry, and don't bother having to go to vendors in towns to haggle bracelets for gold, or gems, or whatever else. The gems are kept separately because they're a compact way to transport large amounts of value, and because they're common reagents (looking at you, Revivify! If a player is looking for specific gems as reagents, then those go to that character's specific sheet).

Anyway, all these ways of tracking treasure, we need to simplify them. It's hard for my players to keep track of ammunition, charges in magical items, rations/water (which we've already reduced as well, food is bought in units of rations), and a bunch of different units of treasure.

Is there any issues that can arise from simplifying the wealth rewards system like this?

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    \$\begingroup\$ @SeanDuggan “How you handle it” answers are subject to our “good subjective” guidance and are still appropriate. This sort of question is fine, and answers should be backed by actual experience using the methods put forward with details about how it worked, how it was received, what to watch out for, draw backs, etc. \$\endgroup\$ Jul 18, 2021 at 11:54
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    \$\begingroup\$ @BlueMoon93 I've revised this question to focus on checking your existing simplification. “How do tables handle this?” is a survey with no correct answer and can't work on our site, but verifying your work is something we can handle. Alternately, “how can we resolve [specific issue] that is causing [specific problem] for us?” would be a valid question, but in this case you already have a specific solution you want to verify, so that'd be a different thing entirely—asking about verifying this is fine. \$\endgroup\$ Jul 18, 2021 at 12:52
  • \$\begingroup\$ I have backed out my Close vote. My bad. \$\endgroup\$ Jul 18, 2021 at 13:00
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    \$\begingroup\$ Since rations are so cheap, we just hand wave their purchase. It's assumed that we fill up every time we go to town. If we were to lose our equipment, get lost in the desert, etc, then it would come into play. Until then, who cares. Cheap ammo falls into this category too. /// We largely don't care about encumbrance either. If we find a room full of large items, or a dragon horde's worth of gold coins, the issue will be raised. But we don't worry about the normal stuff. \$\endgroup\$
    – ikegami
    Jul 19, 2021 at 5:49
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    \$\begingroup\$ @ikegami Same. We don't really worry about rations or ammo at all, and I much prefer that to eliminating different kinds of treasure. \$\endgroup\$ Jul 19, 2021 at 6:37

4 Answers 4

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I've noticed a couple of very small ways this approach influences the game, but they haven't been very significant. Your mileage may vary

I've played out both the "stuff is stuff, and if you want money you have to sell it" and "stuff is just money, so selling it is just fluff". I have picked up on a couple of changes that the latter imposes over the former, but whether or not they cause any issues is far more about how your games have been structured around these details. The headline answer is it can make a difference if you're playing with encumbrance or have worked the objects into the plot or setting, otherwise not so much.

In no particular order:

  1. Items-as-money is quick and easy, and requires less clutter on a character sheet. This has generally been a bonus for my players, and in the game in which I'm currently a player we've given most of this task over to a "quartermaster" PC anyways (he has the Bag of Holding). On a player preference basis, this one could go either way.

  2. Items-as-money tends to really highlight when a quest reward doesn't have more to it than just a cash value. If you get "a collection of statuettes and fine dining ware worth 250 gold" it's pretty clear that it's just stuff to be converted into cash. When you instead get a bunch of things with no price tags I've noticed a bit more effort to examine each individual object. Also, when some items come with cash values and others specifically don't it's easier to identify which items are plot-relevant. This can be more immersive, but can also be a pointless hassle.

  3. Sometimes there is some adventure in selling things. I've had characters who wound up with something valuable but difficult to liquidate, and these can be great opportunities to establish plot points, develop NPCs, or get some value out of traits like Thieves' Cant or a criminal or merchant background. But you can still do this with specific items, even if most are immediately reduced to money.

  4. Keeping treasure as treasure objects can also bind players to a specific location-- if the only fence they know is in Baldur's Gate, they may have to return there periodically to sell things. Depending on a specific game this may or may not be a benefit. It's also a good reason to get players back to a place where plot events may happen, though far from the only one. I've never relied on it to get PCs where they need to be, and I've never had an issue doing so. At least, never an issue that treasure objects seems like they would have solved.

  5. It's not necessarily fun to have to go through the motions of selling things every time you come across a minor treasure hoard. That often gets streamlined down to "I'd like to sell this stuff" --> "you find an appropriate merchant and sell it for roughly its face value". If that's all the process is, it's only worth including if players specifically enjoy it or else it's just a time sink. I've gotten a bit extra out of it with haggling for a better price, but it's never made a material difference for me.

  6. You often can't do much with the items. If you're playing with encumbrance rules this can be a problem for PCs, especially when they have to choose to leave some things behind. But in my experience this gets mitigated at players' earliest opportunities: stopovers in places where you can sell stuff become more routine, and magic items that help them haul stuff become high priorities. But at the same time...

  7. The game mechanically defines many treasure reward objects only by their cash value. They don't have characteristics that could make them relevant in other ways, such as weight, quality, style, etc. Unless you want to do some extra design work they're just pre-money anyways. The game itself generally doesn't treat these objects as meaningfully different from money and so there isn't much to unbalance by leaning into that.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Excellent answer! Though, there's one thing I would add: The rules for encumbrance (if you're playing with them) can add a layer of logistics challenge/puzzles to adventures. Abstracting treasure into wealth likely removes part of this challenge, making it less complex. \$\endgroup\$
    – GMJoe
    Jul 18, 2021 at 22:35
  • \$\begingroup\$ I'd add one more point: players can get items which might be good to hang on to, or can be sold -- 8 potions of waterbreathing; or arrows of werecreature slaying. \$\endgroup\$ Jul 18, 2021 at 23:26
  • \$\begingroup\$ Using it as a means to get players back into a town is a big one for me. That's where my quest givers and signposts are so getting them to come back to civilization once in a while for the sake of fencing items is a great excuse for them to bump into these things. \$\endgroup\$ Jul 19, 2021 at 17:38
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It sounds like you have a collaborative campaign and it is working well with simplifying wealth into gold pieces (gp).

My players and I myself have used this method in particular with copper and silver before, too. Yet, many carried a few copper pieces and silver pieces with them still "just in case".

Thematically, my players in the past have struck deals with merchants, gem-collectors, and smiths by acquiring and/or selling rare gem or precious metal items; or they have simply provided the materials to reduce the overall cost, e.g. for a silver-coated weapon. They have bribed a dragon with a ruby for instance by telling a whole story about how the ruby came to be in their posession - I would not have allowed this bribe if it had been a case of "Here you go old dragon, have 5000 gp".

There is of course, also, the use of gems in many spells, some of which have material component requirements whih can be re-used but have a specific value and other spells consume the gems or gem dust. For example:

  • Continual Flame, you need "ruby dust worth 50 gp, which the spell consumes. (PHB, p.227)
  • Infernal Calling, you need "a ruby worth at least 999 gp". (XGE, p.158)
  • Raise Dead, you need "a diamond worth at least 500 gp, which the spell consumes". (PHB, p.270)
  • Drawmij's Instand Summons, you need "a sapphire worth 1,000 gp". (PHB, p.235)
  • Resurrection, you need "a diamond worth at least 1,000 gp, which the spell consumes". (PHB, p.272)
  • Sequester, you need "a powder composed of diamond, emerald, ruby, and sapphire dust worth at least 5,000 gp, which the spell consumes". (PHB, p.274)
  • Gate, you need "a diamond worth at least 5,000 gp". (PHB, p.244)
  • True Resurrection, you need "diamonds worth at least 25,000 gp, which the spell consumes". (PHB, p.284)

Depending on how you run your campaign these components may be purchased from merchants, found in loot, or you may even have a house-rule where the players can assume they have the component as long as they have the worth in gold (gp) on them. This last option might work well with your campaign.

This question goes into thes more in detail, too: What is the expected way to acquire costly material components?

So, I believe there is an element of how you like to run your campaign in this simplification (rather than an issue) and it will come to the DM to decide this.

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It would depend on the nature of your game.

I would find this approach unenjoyable for several reasons.

  • I find the nature of treasure to be interesting. I like that my character doesn't just have a tally of gold, but has some coins, some gems of various kinds, several fine bearskins, a good (but not great) painting of the king, ...
  • As a player and as a DM, I often use treasure as clues and plot points. Where did those coins come from? Does this piece of jewelry have inscriptions, or does the sculpture have history and meaning? This gem has great value, but where and how can you actually spend it (and if you do, who notices it)?
  • I like to run a fairly entrepreneurial world -- if you just pick up the cash, you may be leaving a lot of value behind. How much worth is in the weapons and armor of the monsters? If it's an unusual or exotic monster, do its body parts have any value, or magical uses? If so, how do we harvest and preserve those parts, and where and to whom can we sell them? We just killed a Giant Constrictor Snake; is there any value in a 40-foot-long intact snakeskin?

All of that can add a lot of interest and roleplaying to a game, and I find that far more worthwhile than tracking ammo and food. Indeed, the Adventurers League's continual progression away from treasure being interesting and useful, and reduced to an "award" of X GP per level, regardless of how you behave, is one of my big dislikes of the AL games these days.

If your game is mainly a succession of combats, and treasure is just a method of scorekeeping, then simplifying it to a number is fine. I would rather have a game that is complex and interesting. D&D isn't a good enough combat simulator for that to be all there is to the game, IMHO.

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Probably not an issue when converting between types of coin, provided you preserve value.

In short, all the parties I have every played as part of or run games for prefer to do what I jokingly call the ‘magic coin purse’ approach. In this setup, it’s assumed that platinum, gold, silver, and copper are freely interchangeable without any issues, and players inherently convert everything to either gold (what most people prefer to do when doing this), or whatever the highest value possible is (a better choice if you are tracking encumbrance from coins), and as they need lower values they just subdivide without needing to worry about it. In your example, the coins would come out instead as 3 gp and 7 sp, and a player could theoretically take 9 sp from that without issue and be left with 2 gp and 8 sp.

The only part of this that’s problematic is completely eliminating fractional gold value. This is really important, because in your example ‘conversion’ you actually lose 7 sp worth of value. That doesn’t sound like much, but when tracked over dozens of payouts it adds up to a potentially significant amount of cash.

Auto-converting appraised items to cash is an acceptable shortcut in most cases.

A lot of parties I’ve played with also do this. There are a couple of potential disadvantages though. If the items are stolen goods, and you convert like this, what do you do if local law enforcement come after you for their return after you’ve spent the gold? Additionally, that 25 gp bracelet probably weighs less than the 0.5 pounds that the gold pieces would weigh, so if you’re actively tracking encumbrance, keeping trade goods like the bracelet may be more practical than just auto-converting things to gold.

Certain gems need to be tracked independently by type.

This is important because some spells require gemstones as material components (for example, all the spells that can bring a person back from the dead eat diamonds for breakfast, and Identify needs a rather valuable pearl). In 5e, you need to do this for at least rubies, diamonds, sapphires, pearls, and possibly emeralds (depends on how your GM rules about the material components for Sequester). Some other gemstones may be required for other spells, and some spells may even require valued components that are not gemstones (I know some did in 3.5e, not certain about 5e though).

The alternative here is to hide this away as an abstraction in a similar manner to the solution for the coins and let players convert gold directly into the required material components. This approach has a nontrivial impact on gameplay, because it eliminates some need for players to plan ahead that exists under the normal rules. Whether or not that impacts your game is up to you though (I’m personally not fond of it, but I know players who have no issue with it at all).

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  • \$\begingroup\$ One advantage of not tracking gem material components directly is that there could be an implied effect on how many of a particular gem you need if you try to bargain down on them - abstracting that out means that your players only deal in direct cash values, and won't be trying to figure out specific replacements to paying for gems, if that's not something you want to handle as a DM. \$\endgroup\$ Mar 18 at 6:14

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