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In fantasy games related to D&D the currency usually follows the 10 cp = 1sp, 10sp = 1gp pattern. This is convenient and fairly logical, but in my play throughs gold just didn't have much weight when finding treasure. Platinum pieces always got my attention when ever we found them, but I'm not sure if that was a matter of their value or their rarity.

I'm thinking of starting a campaign with a silver economy and raising the value of gold to 100sp = 1gp.

In terms of prepping it shouldn't be too difficult. The most I think I'd have to worry about is raising the value of gold jewelry by an order of magnitude. My worry though is that the 'wow' factor of gold won't be raised in any significant proportion.

Would this be an effective way to keep gold interesting, or are there cons that might make this a bad idea? Answers with reference to experience are preferred.

  • The weight of coins is an important consideration in my campaign since it revolves around exploration and dungeon crawling in wilderness areas. Coins will have a weight of about 50 coins = 1lb. So finding a pile of 10,000cp can be a logistical issue whereas finding 10gp is not.
  • My campaign will take place far from large cities, so coin-conversion to and from gold will be difficult and time consuming. So it would be better to invest the coins locally or save them up for use back in civilization.
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    \$\begingroup\$ You might want to look at pre-decimalisation/mediaeval British coinage. The British currency is called the "pound sterling" because originally it was the value of a pound weight of sterling (pure) silver. The pound was divided into 20 shillings of 12 pennies each (very nearly the same as the original D&D system of 10cp=1sp; 20sp=1gp; 200cp=1gp). That was the system in place when I was a kid and it worked well for mental arithmetic due to its resistance to recurring fractions. \$\endgroup\$ – Nagora Mar 13 '15 at 8:03
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    \$\begingroup\$ While this might have met the standards of RPG.SE two years ago, I think today this is too broad. At the very least it needs an edition of D&D, as magic item rarity and value changes significantly between editions, such as when comparing 3.5e to 5e. 3.5e has a magic item economy that players are expected to participate in, while 5e's magic items are completely optional. \$\endgroup\$ – LegendaryDude Jan 24 '17 at 13:05
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    \$\begingroup\$ On the contrary, it seems entirely system-agnostic to me. How players react to a pile of gold vs. a pile of silver has nothing at all to do with the rules in play. And the question doesn't mention magic items at all, so I'm not sure why you brought the magic item economy into it. \$\endgroup\$ – Dave Sherohman Jan 24 '17 at 14:21
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    \$\begingroup\$ @DaveSherohman Gold only has value as far as you can spend it. In 3.5e, players are expected to spend much of their earned gold on magic items based on wealth by level. On the other hand, 5e has no such expectations about magic items, which entirely changes the way players treat gold and other treasure of purely monetary value. \$\endgroup\$ – LegendaryDude Jan 24 '17 at 19:56
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    \$\begingroup\$ @LegendaryDude Yes, and that isn't relevant to the question. When GMs move their game to a silver standard, this generally includes "everything which used to cost 1000gp now costs 1000sp". Silver ends up with exactly the same purchasing power as gold originally had. The difference is purely cosmetic, not economic, and thus does not affect the mechanics in any way aside from possible effects on the value of coinage that can be carried (and even that is only affected if encumbrance for coins is enforced). \$\endgroup\$ – Dave Sherohman Jan 25 '17 at 9:12
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I can't say whether this, on its own, will change your players reactions (at the end of the day, gold is just another number on their character sheets). Certainly, I know it wouldn't interest most of mine - They'd just think "Oh, hey, our riches are 90% easier to carry, now," because assuming easy access to money-changers, the only thing you're really changing is the weight of it. That said, this does make a single gold piece have more meaning and value in a player's mind, as it goes from being "about a day's living expenses" to "enough to feed and house the entire party".

Whether it changes their reaction to finding gold depends on the precise details of your implementation. For instance, if you keep the number of gold pieces per cache the same, but only give out gold caches 1/10th as often as you currently do, your players are more likely to treat each cache of gold as a rare and fabulous treasure; On the other hand, if you give out gold caches just as often, but give out 1/10th as many gold pieces in each one as you do now, players will see gold as a convenient but rare high-denomination coin.

Besides changing the value of coins, there are other things you could do to make gold pieces seem more special. For example, in one of my current campaigns, players generally deal in gold, silver, and copper, but almost never in platinum. This is because I've declared platinum to be so rare that it's almost never used by NPCs in the setting, and therefore they can't find anyone to change their smaller-denomination currency into pp. A platinum piece still isn't any more valuable than the standard 10 gp, but because players only ever find them in rare treasure caches, they have a tendency to hoard them and treat them as precious.

Another traditional strategy to make coins more interesting is to give them names and states of origin; There's more flavour in a bag of Linnish Sovereigns than in the same-sized bag gp, and if there's a single Avench Groat in there - well, there's surely a story behind that, right? In your case, you could declare that no gold coins are minted locally, and that all gold coins therefore come from some exotic foreign land. The novelty would likely wear off sooner or later, but it'd be a start.

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    \$\begingroup\$ The way you treat platinum is how many people treat dollar coins IRL. Sure, you could just go to the bank and get a bunch of them, but most people I know are "Oooh, shiny" when they get them and don't want to spend them..... Provided that the local transit system doesn't dispense them as change. \$\endgroup\$ – Bobson Mar 13 '15 at 17:17
  • \$\begingroup\$ Yes, that's a US-ism. I'm sure there's equivalents in other countries, though. \$\endgroup\$ – Bobson Mar 16 '15 at 4:05
  • \$\begingroup\$ Do you have any experience with the results of making currency more complicated? My own (very limited) experience suggests it's tolerable, but not enjoyable; if you have experience to add here, that could further improve your answer. \$\endgroup\$ – fectin Jan 24 '17 at 13:48
  • \$\begingroup\$ @fectin Just the one already described in my answer. \$\endgroup\$ – GMJoe Jan 30 '17 at 10:38
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Edits to the question since this answer was first posted have made it clear the the asker is using a simulationist approach to managing coins. By this I mean that the number of each specific type of coin is tracked, rather than the aggregate value, that the weight of the coins is taken into account, and being able to exchange currency is dependent upon your surroundings. This answer would need to be edited so heavily to match this paradigm that I'm just going to add this warning, leave it as-is, and post another one.


I think that whether this would be a good approach or not is going to be highly dependent upon the attitudes of your players.

How you handle currency exchange is also important. Is 100 cp really the same as 1 gp, or does it simply have the same value?

Me and My Group

Trying to do this with my players or me would not accomplish anything, as we would get no additional fun from it. In fact, I would consider it counterproductive because it would consume our time with boring details not relevant to the action. That being said, you clearly had motivation for considering this problem, so maybe your players feel the same as you.

Let me explain our viewpoint on gold coins:

Gold coins are currency. Although there are some utilitarian uses for gold in the real world, gold in most RPGs (and DnD in particular) simply serves as stored value. This means that it's only value is in its purchasing power.

As an example, let's say that a horse is worth 100 gp. In that case, I value 100 gp as much as I value a horse, and I'm as excited to find 100 gp as being able buy a horse makes me.

If instead 10 gp buys a horse, then I'm equally as excited to find that 10 gp as I would have been to find 100 gp when 100 gp bought a horse. This is the exact same level of excitement as if I'd found enough sp or cp to buy the horse.

Here's a thought experiment which may illuminate this perspective:

Assume the standard DnD currency schedule you've laid out, where 100 cp is equivalent to 10 sp is equivalent to 1 gp. You have 100 cp in your left hand, and 1gp in your right. Which has more gold in it?

I would say they have the same amount.

Similarly, if I've given a player 100 cp ten times over the course of an adventure, and at the end I ask him how much gold he has, I would expect the answer to be 10 gp, not 1000 cp or zero.

Advantages and Disadvantages

I personally don't see any advantages, but it seems that you (and perhaps your players as well) would be more excited to find gold if you found it less often. This could also be accomplished by simply giving out sp packages instead of gp packages without changing the relative value.

I do see some disadvantages. Primarily, it's an additional thing to think about and will create additional prep work. You definitely do not want that. It will also create confusion when you or your players are looking at official material, which usually lists prices in gp.

Now that I realize that you're keeping track of your money's weight, which we also do not bother with because that would not be fun for us, I see an additional disadvantage. If your players are getting mostly silver and copper then their money is going to weigh a lot more, which will introduce additional inconveniences such as figuring out how to carry a big treasure hoard and where to store all these silvers. Now perhaps this could also be an advantage, because the gold coins are now a much lighter way to carry the same value, which makes them seem more valuable.

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    \$\begingroup\$ None of this made sense until you got to the gold-in-hand part, then I saw the key cultural difference: your group makes coins fungible. In a group that doesn't handwave currency exchange, that thought experiment leads to quite a different conclusion! \$\endgroup\$ – SevenSidedDie Mar 12 '15 at 3:25
  • \$\begingroup\$ @SevenSidedDie Glad to hear that, that's why I added it. After I thought about it a bit I decided that maybe the asker's group was actually paying attention to whether their 100 gp of coins was gold or silver. \$\endgroup\$ – DCShannon Mar 12 '15 at 3:27
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    \$\begingroup\$ While I think I understand your argument, I disagree with your conclusions. Players being more excited about gold coins is exactly what I'm looking for, so your horse analogy sounds like a plus to me. Later you said that if you asked a player how much gold he had it wouldn't mean anything, but I wouldn't ask how much gold he had I'd ask how much silver, and gold coins become huge pockets of silver. Lastly, you misquoted my schedule, it would be 1,000cp to a gp. And when weight's involved, holding one gold coin in one hand and 1,000 in the other, I'd say one is definitely more valuable. \$\endgroup\$ – HighlandRat Mar 13 '15 at 0:37
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One side-effect of increasing value of single gps may be unintended.

The physical size of a pile of gold treasure would be smaller for the same value. There is less visual impact to "riches beyond your wildest dreams", because there is less to see. Or it is all in cheaper metals, lessening the impact.

Whether or not this affects your game depends on how much you go in for visual descriptions of treasure.

Imagine a large dragon, curled up protectively around its hoard of gold. Shrink the size of the pile by a factor of 10 (roughly half size in each dimension). Same goes for chests full of gold coins - shrink the size of the chest (or have the gold coins rattling about in the bottom). Still look ok in your mind's eye, or perhaps not relevant? Then this is not an issue for your conversion.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ +1 That's a pretty good point, I'll have to keep it in mind for my narrations. \$\endgroup\$ – HighlandRat Mar 13 '15 at 0:43
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In fantasy games related to D&D the currency usually follows the 10 cp = 1sp, 10sp = 1gp pattern.

I don't know about D&D, but Rolemaster explicitly stated that these are basically convenient conversion values -- and the 1:10 conversion is usually oversimplifying things as well...

Personally, I came up with (gold) doubloons worth 100gp. The empire my players are travelling in also has (silver) thaler worth 5sp, (bronze) heller worth 1sp, and (copper) pfennig worth 1cp. You'll notice the spread there. Aside from having coins "scale" (*"Wow! He paid silver for that!"*), giving the coins names adds to the atmosphere IMHO.

You could have a neighbouring empire trade in pound, shilling and pennies, and there's all sorts of implicit associations going on in your player's heads. ;-)

Depending on how much "economy" and "crafting" you will be doing in your campaign, you will need to balance things, though:

  • How big are the coins, how much do they weigh? How much of the "added value" of the gold coin is due to size, and how much did you actually adjust the value of gold upward? (Note that, at similar size, copper and silver will weigh about the same, but gold will weigh twice as much due to its density.) This affects any quick & dirty rules of "so many coins weigh so-and-so much" as well.

  • Once you know how much you adjusted metal value, go over any price lists you have, and adjust the value of copper / silver / gold items accordingly. (Bronze is >80% copper as well.) This mostly affects jewelry, ornamental objects, ore, and ingots.

Add a similar scaling to precious gems, and you could hold a real fortune in a small pouch!

Of course, you need to adjust the ocurrence of the metals accordingly. If you make gold a hundred times more precious, and a diamond worth half a kingdom, the chance of anyone having gold-and-diamond jewelry will be slim indeed. ;-)

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  • \$\begingroup\$ +1 This is a really good answer, I'm definitely going to be naming my coinage! I wish this had more votes on it. Can you elaborate more on how your choices effected your players reactions to treasure/coins? \$\endgroup\$ – HighlandRat Mar 13 '15 at 0:48
  • \$\begingroup\$ @HighlandRat: We're more of a story-focussed bunch, i.e. my players aren't "treasure hunters", but I can say that the occurence of a genuine gold doubloon is something "special". (Basically a coin that says either "nobility", "filthy rich merchant" or "pirate". ;-) ). And having "real" coinage to relate to helped the story along several times: money changers, strange old / foreign coins being the clue in a mystery, that kind of stuff. \$\endgroup\$ – DevSolar Mar 13 '15 at 8:37
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From a game mechanics point of view it should make no difference. From a role playing point of view it may or may not make a difference.

If you seriously want to immerse yourselves in the weird and wonderful ways of real coinage (as opposed to what we use which is coins as monetary tokens) you may be better off by building your own system (or stealing historical ones). Be warned: for those of us (all of us?) that have lived our whole lives with the fiat currency it is an enormous pain and difficult to get your head around.

For background read:

You can take away your own ideas for that but a few that I think are interesting are:

  • You can break the link between coins and money - specifically you interfere with it being a medium of exchange and to a lesser extent a store of value.
  • There are quantities of money for which no coin existed or existed in only small quantities (e.g. the pound) - the gold piece can therefore be a theoretical coin rather than a real coin.
  • There can be different coins from the same authority that have the same fiat value. If they have different commodity values then the better coins will be hoarded - explains where all the treasure comes from doesn't it?
  • In the absence of fiat, coins trade for slightly more than their commodity value (i.e. a pound of silver coins are worth more than a pound of silver).
  • If the commodity value of a coin is worth more than its fiat value then they will be destroyed or debased to get the metal.
  • Coins were rarely if ever decimal.
  • The notion of the Arabic coins being valued on supply and demand for coins in the marketplace on any give day is a mind blower.

Taking this to a FRP setting, you could establish:

  • One (or more) current governments that issue coinage and give it a fiat value
  • Different mints within the same country that issue different coinage
  • Ancient treasure being in coins from defunct governments - no fiat value so only as valuable as the raw commodity.
  • Fluctuating exchange rates - not only between countries but between coins of different values - go nuts and use the Arabic system! The town is flush with silver (because of some crazy adventurers) so silver is worth less coppers and it takes more silver to buy goods and services.

If you do that, then you will have a role playing impact and drive everybody, including yourself, nuts.

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    \$\begingroup\$ While this is a terribly interesting answer, it mainly addresses the implementation and not really the effect which is the focus of the question. \$\endgroup\$ – HighlandRat Mar 13 '15 at 1:07
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You could easily change the sp-value of a gold piece without changing the prices for gold jewelry or the like.

When thinking about a gold piece like we know them from images/movies/books we generally imagine a big coin maybe an 3 centimeters/1 inch in diameter and some millimeters thick... Historic gold pieces however, were often very small and quite thin - exactly because gold is very valuable.

Look at this roman currency for example:

enter image description here

So if change the value of one gp to equal 100 sp instead of 10, that could just mean that the gold pieces are actually closer to what we often imagine them to be, (instead of a tiny golden coin).

So in a way you would not be changing the value of gold, but only the size and weight of gold coins - a fact which is usually ignored by most systems anyway.

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Yes. That should work.

Given that you're tracking the number and weight of individual coin types, then yes this sounds like it will make gold coins more desirable for your players.

If I were playing in your game, the main reason for this for me would be the difference in weight. If all you ever find are copper coins, then at some point you simply won't be able to carry any more. If you can then exchange some of those for silver, then you'll reduce your load and be able to pick up more coins, effectively increasing your maximum possible wealth.

Price-Weight Density

When playing games that take weight into account and where unloading is a process that interrupts your adventure, such as Fallout 3, Skyrim, or your campaign, I evaluate objects not on their total gross value, but on what I call their price-weight density.

If I can carry 200 pounds of loot, and I only pick up items with at least 10 gold / lb price-weight density, then when I'm full I'll have at least 2000 gold worth of loot on me. If I picked up items that were quite valuable but also very heavy, say 3 gold / lb, then I would end up with only 600 gold of loot when full.

If a gold coin is worth 100 copper coins, and weighs .02 lbs (the situation in DnD 4E), then it's price-weight density is 5,000 coppers / lb. If a copper coin also weighs .02 lbs, but is only worth one copper coin, then it's price density is 50 coppers / lb.

If you enact your proposal, then the gold coin's price-weight density increases to 50,000 coppers / lb, and is now effectively 10 times as valuable to the player as it was before. If you then give them 1/10th as many gold coins as before, then they are still getting the same total value, but will value each coin significantly more.

Conclusions

In other words, you're simply magnifying the effect that already makes gold coins more valuable and interesting. You said that you felt an appropriate sense of excitement when finding platinum coins, so this should push gold coins further in that direction.

As someone else pointed out, you could also simply increase the weight of the gold coins. This would have the benefit of not throwing off any figures you might already have for each metal's price per pound (price-weight density), but would also make each individual coin more valuable while still maintaining a higher price-weight density than silver or copper.

Since you've said you're designing a new GURPS campaign rather than modifying existing DnD rules, the negative side effects should be minimal. Just make sure you're not focusing so much on silver and copper that your players feel like they're always losing out on treasure they earned simply because they can't carry all these coins.

Caveat

I hope you've made sure that your players are going to enjoy a simulation at this level. If you're playing GURPS, then they're probably expecting it, but just please make sure.

If their expectations regarding currency are coming from video games or other table-top games, then they might have different assumptions. Notably, both the games I referenced when describing price-weight density have weightless currency with only one denomination.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ +1 Very good answer overall. I also appreciate your parting advice about player buy-in. \$\endgroup\$ – HighlandRat Mar 20 '15 at 16:13
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I would NOT recommend making a 100:1 relationship because it’s less immersive.

In ancient and medieval times, the relationship between gold and silver fluctuated between 12:1 and 20:1. So 10:1 is much closer.

To answer your question: YES!

The impact of making gold worth more had a positive effect among my players when I first did it in the early 1980’s. They still like it. I’ve used the silver system for 35 years because I can’t see someone needing a pack mule just to carry their gold. The silver system makes gold 10 times as valuable.

What's the silver system?

Convert prices now listed in gold pieces to silver pieces (If the table lists the sword as 4 GP, it's now 4 SP).

It’s easy on you and it’s an easy adjustment for the players. When they do find gold, they actually found something valuable.

How much verisimilitude does your table like?

If you want a more realistic medieval gold valuation, the task requires a little more work.

I also researched the buying power of D&D gold vs the buying power of gold in the 1300’s. I determined that in the real world, medieval gold was roughly 50 times as valuable as it is in D&D. As this isn't a finished system, I'll point out some of the value issues that have arisen.

I want my players to feel immersed, but I don’t want them to constantly do math.

Returning gold to its historic value and keeping 100cp = 1gp meant that I needed a coin with less value than a copper. I did some more research and found that parts of ancient Greece used iron coins as their bottom coin. So I’ve added the iron piece where 10 iron pieces = 1 copper piece.

With a gold piece in my world worth 50 D&D gold, I don’t need the platinum piece (Platinum was not discovered until after the discovery of the New World and didn’t gain value until the 1700’s anyway). I've kept the electrum though because there really were coins made of this gold/silver alloy in ancient Greece. And sure enough, the exchange rate was 2ep=1gp.

Naming coins

I've used Copper Commons, Silver Nobles, Electrum Royals, Gold Sovereigns and Platinum Imperials. The platinum and electrum coins were minted by an empire south of where my players live so they are not encountered much locally. This gives more "feel" to the money in the campaign world.

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    \$\begingroup\$ I've edited your question for format and to remove what "is a work in progress" rather than decisions you've made. With homebrew answers this site prefers something you've done and engaged at the table during play. If you just have an idea that you have not played yet, this isn't the appropriate site to bring that up. Our "Good Subjective/Bad Subjective" guidelines call for actual experience from actual play at the table. \$\endgroup\$ – KorvinStarmast Jan 24 '17 at 13:43

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