Content of the article: "Can we talk about money?"
I recently started DMing my third game ever. My first two were absolutely learning experiences, and I've learned a ton. There's still plenty of things I'm grappling with, though, and one of them is… money.
I'm using Ghosts of Saltmarsh as a base, with a great deal of amendments and re-arranging. My party are four players (Bard, Barbarian, Cleric and Druid), three of whom are Saltmarsh residents.
One of the issues my previous campaigns have run into is money becoming worthless rather quickly, and I'm considering ways to manage this a little in GoS.
In my previous games, this is the pattern:
- Players start out dirt poor, and money feels super valuable. Players spend a great deal of time considering simple adventuring gear purchases and finding money feels super rewarding
- The players do a few quests, earn/find a few hundred gold, and they feel pretty comfy. Basic gear from the PHB isn't an issue anymore. Players now start exclusively spending in magic shops, accumulating magic items. Since money is losing value, looting enemies gets less exciting, so I felt compelled to start offering minor magical items as rewards instead. This has the awkward side-effect of giving the players even less to spend their money on, because they're getting magic items for free
- The players reach level 6-7 or so. They now have several hundred gold and very little to actually spend it on, so the pile is only growing. They have a good stock of magic items. Occassionally they'll see something expensive in a magic shop and drop a pile on it, but they're generally accumulating faster than they spend. Money has now become nearly worthless.
My party just reached level 3, and I'd say they're somewhere between the first and second bullet point. They aren't quite comfy yet, but I can see them approaching it.
I've got a few ideas I'm floating around for addressing this. I'd love to hear from people who have maybe tackled this problem in the past, or get feedback on some of my ideas – what you think will work, what won't. Some of these are pulled from insights I've read about managing RPG economies in MMOs and such.
- Firstly; provide drains on cash that feel valuable that the party want to spend money on, but that don't directly feed into the party's wider wealth. The party live in Saltmarsh in their own homes, so living expenses aren't a reliable source. However, the party are very soon going to be getting their own sailing ship, and I'm pretty keen to make keeping the ship running a massive cash sink. Supplying the ship for foyages will cost a small but persistent amount. Sailors may need to be paid off to maintain loyalty. Damage dealt to the ship will need to be repaired at a moderate cost. And, most overwhelmingly, upgrading the ship with rare and unusual upgrades will cost quadruple or quintuple figures.
- I'm going to be more careful about magic item acquisition. Saltmarsh only has one magic item shop (The Quartermasters of Iuz). They have a very limited inventory, where unpurchased items will rotate out periodically. This feeds into…
- More of an emphasis on crafting and making things for themselves. I picked up the excellent DM's Guild Monster Loot sheet for Saltmarsh, and the party have genuinely loved engaging with skinning, harvesting and crafting, all aspects that did not appear in previous games. Saltmarsh has plenty of local craftsman willing to turn, say, an Owlbear hide into leather armour if they pay him a premium. Even though our Druid already had perfectly decent leather armour, they wanted to spend their gold on a neat, Owlbear-themed (but otherwise mechanically identical) armour set. Result!
What do you guys think? Ideas?
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