6
\$\begingroup\$

In my current game I have implemented a faction system where the relationships with and between the various factions have a direct impact on how the game plays out. One of the factors it impacts is how gold is spent in other factions.

Each faction has its own identifiable currency (by shape, size, etc.) but all use the same Copper, Silver (10cp), Gold (10sp), Platinum (10gp) denomination system. What my system changes is how gold from other factions can be spent based on their relationship.

Faction Relationship Fraction of Face Value
Allies Face value
Friendly Face value
Neutral 1/2 face value
Un-friendly 1/4 face value
Hostile N/A will not accept

For example:

  • Faction A is Neutral to Faction B. While in Faction A, an item worth 5gp can be bought for 10gp of Faction B currency.
  • Faction A is hostile to Faction C. While in Faction A, an item worth 5gp cannot be bought with Faction C currency.
  • Faction A is friendly with Faction D. While in Faction A, an item worth 5gp can be bought for 5gp of Faction D currency.

The goals of the system are:

  • Encourage the party to engage with the faction system (one the central themes of the campaign).
  • Prevent large treasure hoards from unbalancing the game. PCs can't solve all problems with money.
  • Make they factions feel different by giving them a different cultural value of wealth. In one faction a platinum piece may be seen as trivial, while in another it is a display of extreme wealth.

So far I have got only positive feedback from my players regarding the faction system. They enjoy both the narrative and the conflicts that it brings. However as they have gained wealth, tracking the various currencies is starting to become a hassle. Therefore I'm looking for a solution I can provide them to make managing their money easier.

How can I make tracking multiple currencies easier for my players?

I'm looking for tools, techniques or system changes that will maintain the premise of this system but reduce the bookkeeping overhead it requires. We play in person and try to keep technology at the table to a minimum. Therefore manual or low technology solutions are preferred.

I have already provided the ability to trade currencies through certain NPCs. However my players have indicated they see the value of having a variety of currencies available and would prefer not to just convert it all back to a single base currency.

\$\endgroup\$
9
  • 11
    \$\begingroup\$ When you solve the problem, release it in the real world and make a fortune \$\endgroup\$
    – Dale M
    Jul 22, 2022 at 0:52
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ I must admit that if my players were interested in seriously engaging with this mechanic, they'd make themselves a shared Google spreadsheet to help. \$\endgroup\$ Jul 22, 2022 at 1:34
  • \$\begingroup\$ @LouisWasserman We typically don't have technology at the table, but at least one of the players is also actively looking for a solution. \$\endgroup\$
    – linksassin
    Jul 22, 2022 at 1:38
  • 7
    \$\begingroup\$ This isn't really an answer to your question (about the record keeping and logistics of the system), but a comment on realism: No historical currencies were ever so debased that their rivals wouldn't accept their coins at all (or for even as little as 1/4 value). The gold in a GP is going to be most of the value of the coin. A king might get a little seigniorage for making the coins, but not anything like 75%. Unfamiliar (or otherwise suspect, e.g. from an unfriendly or hostile realm) coins would be assessed for purity, then bought for their metal by weight, without regards to face value. \$\endgroup\$
    – Blckknght
    Jul 22, 2022 at 1:53
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ Or is the issue that they are supposed to track how much value each currency has in each alternative jurisdiction? Which means each currency has something like 12 values and they are trying to track all of that? \$\endgroup\$
    – SeriousBri
    Jul 22, 2022 at 9:03

6 Answers 6

33
\$\begingroup\$

Why is this really a problem?

Assuming the number of factions is reasonable (4 or so) the party just needs to keep track of how many coins of each currency they have.

It is blindingly obvious that when they buy something they will always use a local, allied or friendly currency first if they have it, neutral second and unfriendly third. Anything else is sub-optimal.

If you want to obsess about it you could build a spreadsheet.

This isn't really how metal coinage works

The value of a gold coin is that it is, quite literally, gold. The coins of a hostile faction could be melted down and turned into the valuable metal so they would never be worthless. Historically, coins usually traded about 10% above their metal content because their weight and purity was known - unless someone was debasing the coinage.

However, token coinage (which is what we use) gets its value from what it represents. Historically, this was a claim on the gold and silver held in a vault somewhere; today, it isn't even that - fiat tokens get their value from the fact that everyone agrees they have value.

If your faction's issued coinage made of something with no or low intrinsic value but hard to counterfeit - base metals like lead or tin, glass, the solidified tears of the faction's mascot (there is magic after all) and this was a token currency, then the problem disappears. We don't accept that factions tokens because they have no value to us.

\$\endgroup\$
12
  • 11
    \$\begingroup\$ “The idiot working the till who refused to accept your gold has been sacked. Please come again.” \$\endgroup\$ Jul 22, 2022 at 7:48
  • 2
    \$\begingroup\$ " something with no or low intrinsic value but hard to counterfeit" - such as gold? \$\endgroup\$
    – user56480
    Jul 22, 2022 at 9:45
  • 8
    \$\begingroup\$ @user56480 the value of gold is because it’s gold, the value of a banknote is not because it’s paper - you seem to be confusing utility value with intrinsic value. \$\endgroup\$
    – Dale M
    Jul 22, 2022 at 12:25
  • 3
    \$\begingroup\$ Even if coinage doesn't have intrinsic value, the PCs could start carrying things that do, like gems. Buy them for full value at City A in currency A, sell them for full value at City B in currency B. Now you have easy access to any local currency. \$\endgroup\$
    – MJD
    Jul 22, 2022 at 13:17
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ @DarthPseudonym volume! \$\endgroup\$
    – nitsua60
    Jul 23, 2022 at 2:15
10
\$\begingroup\$

Get rid of the denominations or limit the number of different currencies

With your faction system you are adding more complexity to the currency system and increasing the bookkeeping overhead. With 4 denominations and x factions that makes 4*x different types of money to keep track of. Limiting the number of denominations to just gold will reduce that to just x and might make it easier to manage. Optionally you could keep the copper pieces and have 100cp be worth 1gp if you don't want to work with fractions and have something like for example 2.45 gp although I would just disregard realism for the sake of simplicity here. For what it's worth, I can recall reading somewhere that breaking a gold coin into pieces used to be a thing historically so maybe it would work for you.

If you have lots and lots of fractions, you could simplify this by having only the biggest and most important ones have their own currency and all the small ones just using those, logically they would still prefer the currency of the factions they are allied with most closely so it fits in nicely into your system. For a very small faction minting their own currency is probably too much overhead cost to make it worthwhile to them anyway.

\$\endgroup\$
2
  • \$\begingroup\$ +1 for reducing denominations. I pretty much always just track money as decimal gold values. After the first few levels, the PCs usually have enough money that anything less than 1gp is chump change anyway. \$\endgroup\$
    – MJD
    Jul 22, 2022 at 13:09
  • \$\begingroup\$ Re: "breaking a gold coin into pieces used to be a thing historically", a relevant question on History.SE (albeit about silver, not gold): How did people cut "pieces of eight"? \$\endgroup\$
    – V2Blast
    Jul 22, 2022 at 20:41
10
\$\begingroup\$

I see two possible solutions for the players, and two for the GM. I’ll cover all of them here.

For the players: Track value only at transaction time.

In other words, track exactly two things:

  • Total amount of each currency the party has, as an exact single number (or set for P/G/S/C pieces).
  • Known relations between factions. A simple table is probably easiest here.

Then, when they actually want to buy something, they just use the table of faction relations to pick what currency to use, and treat it as a ‘normal’ transaction from a typical perspective.

This greatly simplifies things for the players while still keeping the aspect of economic fallout from wars that you state you want in the comments. It can also be simplified even further by the players just asking the merchant they are buying from what currencies they accept at what rates, thus eliminating the need for the players to track faction relations.

For the players: Carry wealth in non-monetary highly liquid assets.

Essentially, when selling things, instead of asking for money they ask for the equivalent value trade goods, gems, or similar things. Choice of what they’re using here is going to have to vary by where they expect to be buying things (small villages will probably not care about gems or things like platinum or saffron for example), but should not be too difficult.

From there, they either exchange these assets as needed for local currency, or barter directly when possible (for example, the inn they’re staying at may actually be happy to accept payment in the form of rare spices).

Depending on how this is handled, it can either be much simpler than what the party is doing now, or it could be much more complex. However, it inverts things so that the problem becomes one the GM has to deal with (because this completely sidesteps your goals of making wars have an economic impact unless you take an absurd amount of time to make a full economic tracking system)


For the GM: Throw out this system, and have wars impact availability of goods.

In other words, instead of adjusting effective value of currency based on faction relations, adjust what can be bought based on the overall state of diplomatic relations in the region and whether the party are allies or not.

If the party are known to be hostile to a given nation, and that nation is at war, said party probably will have difficulty purchasing anything in that nation.

Similarly, if the party are neither allies nor hostile, they may have trouble procuring weapons, armor, and healing potions in a nation that’s at war (because production of those items will likely be directed solely towards national defense), but may not have significant issues procuring more mundane things like regular clothing or trade goods.

In essence, instead of manipulating exchange rates (which essentially never happened IRL in pre-modern times to the degree you’re using), manipulate market availability directly (because that was an issue historically, and actually had a far bigger impact than the value of currency X in nation Y).

For the GM: Throw out this system, and instead make diplomatic relations have tangible RP implications for the players.

This is the approach I would actually take to achieve your goal in D&D 5e. The reality is that 5e, RAW, has essentially nothing for players to do with gold once they get their full non-magical kit set up other than buy healing potions, and possibly components for high-level spells. IOW, unless you have some other important gold sink you’ve created in your setting, high level players will be (mostly) unaffected by the system you describe.

Instead, if you want to make wars feel impactful, actually play out the diplomatic issues resulting from them. As a trivial example, if two nations who share a border are at war, then crossing that border becomes extremely dangerous and difficult (possibly even impossible depending on tech levels). That, by itself, can have a huge impact on the party because at minimum it increases travel time, and at worst may make it borderline impossible for them to get into a given nation for a while.

Similarly, if the party are known to be allied with a particular nation, then they will effectively have to deal directly with the fallout of diplomatic issues between that nation and other nations when trying to deal with the government in those other nations.

These kinds of issues will still impact even high level parties, albeit in different ways from how they impact low-level parties (sure, you can use a Gate to get around the border closure, but if it’s discovered it will probably be an international incident), allow more granular control on the part of the GM, and only require extra effort from the players when they actually encounter such issues (instead of imposing a constant overhead on them all the time).

\$\endgroup\$
3
\$\begingroup\$

Track only total coin value for each currency

There's one very easy simplification you can do: instead of tracking the number of each type of coin for each currency, just track the total value. If you're in the USA and you have a $10 bill, 3 $1 bills, 2 quarters, 2 dimes, a nickel, and 7 pennies, you wouldn't list them out like that when saying how much money you have. You'd just say you have $13.82. You can do the same thing here by tracking the number of "gp equivalent". For example, if you have 15 pp, 130 gp, 15 sp, and 8 cp of Faction A coins, then you would just write down that you have 281.58 gp for Faction A. Now you are only tracking a single number for each faction, which is about the same amount of number tracking that you'd need to do if you were tracking cp, sp, gp, and pp individually for a single currency system.

By doing this, you are abstracting away the inter-conversion between different coin denominations, or to look at it another way, you're assuming that either the players always have exact change or merchants are always willing and able to make change. Given the complexity of dealing with multiple factions, abstracting away coin conversion is probably worth doing to preserve the same level of complexity as what you'd normally have (e.g. tracking 4 factions instead of tracking 4 denominations of coins).

\$\endgroup\$
3
  • \$\begingroup\$ Coins have weight, but often money is glossed over when tracking character details \$\endgroup\$
    – Fering
    Jul 22, 2022 at 15:51
  • \$\begingroup\$ Yes, this is one of the things you'd be abstracting over when using this suggestion. You'd just assume that the PCs maintain a reasonable distribution of coin denominations, trading up to platinum (or even gems) as needed to reduce weight for large sums of money. \$\endgroup\$ Jul 22, 2022 at 17:21
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Fering In one of my games, we once suddenly came into possession of a large number of coins in the middle of an alley. I computed that it was about 177 pounds of coins, or about 4 gallons. \$\endgroup\$ Jul 22, 2022 at 18:08
1
\$\begingroup\$

Use a party treasurer

This way, just one player has to deal with the issue, a quarter of the maintenance if you have four players. They can just have a treasury sheet with the number of coins of each type and faction owned by the party if you are playing pen-and-paper without electronic gadgets. (Else, a shared document or spreadsheet could be used).

That’s what we do, even without faction money because even for normal cp, sp, ep, gp and pp and gems and jewelry it can get a bit much to track for those not interested in bookkeeping. If the group needs to buy something, the treasurer deducts the funds, if they find new treasure or get paid rewards, the treasurer adds them.

The treasurer also tracks money owed by individual players against the party (typically the player also makes a note of that on their character sheet), if someone asks for a larger sum to pay for a magic item they want to personally own or for a barrel of special ink to write spells. This in your case can be generic (non-faction) amounts to keep it simple.

P.S. I do agree with the comments and Dale M about metal coins being a choice that would not make sense if you want the value to be zero or even 1/2 for some factions —- there is too much value in just melting them down into bars for that to work. Someone always would be willing to do that and earn arbitrage money. In history rulers were notoriously short of precious metals which led to ever decreasing gold share in denominated gold coins in England in the middle ages. Even an opposed factions would have an interest to buy gold at a low price, melt it, and mint their own coins from it. Of course, if you all are fine with it, you can ignore that.

\$\endgroup\$
0
\$\begingroup\$

Just write them down

It's not clear exactly what your players are struggling with, but I have used a similar system before. However I don't use fractional currencies, each entity has their own single currency. Be it mun, cowry, or ducats, you just have 1 number to keep track of.

Players all fell into the obvious solution simply writing down the name of the currency and the number of coins they have. I imagine simply writing it down would be fine for you, you do have 3 numbers per currency but your book keeping should be fairly minimal.

Simplify

You may find that the breadth of your system is simply too big. For example you have 5 tiers of "value", each currency system has 3 coins, and who knows how many currencies you have.

Perhaps you can simplify to just 1 coin per currency. I used silver and copper but they were simply by type, not tied to a currency (the assumption being commoners didn't care too much exactly what minor currency they were - and keep in mind barter was more common back then-, and merchants would go by weight).

As for how many currencies, maybe you can streamline it a bit. If two factions are deeply allied they might share a currency (either literally or effectively). Factions that are part of a larger organization (nominally or actually) may use their currencies. A good example would be there are many modern sultanates or kingdoms which use fiat currencies of sovereign states. It's not unusual at all

Desystemification

You may have jumped the gun a little, do you really need a "system" for this? Rather than issuing payment in their own currency, they might do so in the state currency, or using other rewards (if you want something with the utility of currency, it could be an amulet, token, or tablet detailing the reward. Marco Polo's paiza is an example of a non-currency reward which could be given by a faction).

Merchants can handle transactions on a case by case basis. Unless your game is heavily themed around mass industry you probably don't need an extensive system. In my experience shopping does not take a lot of time at the table. If you do want interesting merchant gameplay, then systemizing it can take away from that.

\$\endgroup\$

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .