Monday, June 7, 2010

The minutiae of gaming - money changing

I listen to a few gaming podcasts, and I will write about those another time. Now I wanted to talk about something that they spoke about on RFI issue 15, namely  money changing fees.

Why haven't I used money changing fees? Imagine delvers coming back from the dungeon, and their packs are filled with gold minted during bygone eras. If you want to compare the classic fantasy gaming era with the middle ages of earth history, money was often used by weight. Not always were the minted coin worth anything because of the emperor whose face was stamped into the metal, but the metal itself. If you care about "realism" then somebody with scales who will give you some usable change or be able to buy some old coins for their true value would be a natural part of the campaign. Also, the existence of money changing fees are in the AD&D DMG, which is reason enough for some people.

So. Why haven't I bothered with things like that?

Twenty years ago, I would have said that interacting with merchants, money changers and such people was roleplaying. Back in those days we had endless swaths of free time and equipping for adventure could easily take a session. We engaged in interaction with every facet of the imaginary world. Now when I think of money changing fees and encumbrance I just sigh.

The thing is I could easily see the value of these kinds of things in the game world. Encumbrance is another resource management, and paying fees and taxes are reasons for players to get inventive. But, is it still worth it when sessions are shorter and far and few between?


  1. Truth. Things like worrying about money changers and exchange rates are great when they add to the game but, as you say, when our time for gaming is short just gloss over that and move on to more adventure (unless your players are really into the economics of coinage of course).

  2. I kind of wonder if I'm loosing something. Lingering dreams of simulationism, maybe...

  3. I still think this sort of banal interaction, to choose an unkind phrase, has a place if you are gaming in that particular old-school mode that sees you take a half-dozen 4-8 hour sessions in the dungeon/wilderness/etc seperated by one session devoted to training, rest, and recovery.

    Make "townfall", change your money, drop your worn equipment at the armourer, send the monk to his chapterhouse and hit the red lantern district, rolling townie encounters all the way!

    As an adult who plays perhaps 1/1oth the hours I used to, all of the elements of the cycle are foreshortened, such that the recovery phase and its unique personality based sessions are virtually eliminated.

    Perhaps it would be best to keep the event-balance of our teen years, and exploit our adult discipline to draw arcs of play over years rather than weeks?

  4. I still enjoy that minutae. But my favorite parts of the game are the interactions between the npcs and the players. Too much combat is boring!

  5. I must admit that like the Paladin, I enjoy the interaction between NPCs and PCs. It is the roleplaying, after all.

    Maybe there are different quality levels of interaction?

    I don't enjoy the "let's get to the action quicker" that 4th ed. D&D is designed for.

  6. I agree with both impulses - the naturalistic lure of different coinage systems is strong, but the pragmatic side of me wants players to get on with adventuring rather than mandatory economics lessons. Your "300 gold grandees from the reign of Sancho the Pious" can still be flavor text, though.

  7. Yeah, that's probably how to do it. Flavour text for all that minutiae which used to be covered by intricate rules. I guess that way you could maybe get into the nitty gritty when you really want to.

    This makes me think about some other stuff which will have to be a post of its own.

  8. I have, for almost as long as I have been playing RPGs, taken great delight in devising odd systems of ancient coinage, objects d'art, etc to stuff treasure hoards full of. And just as long my players have been ignoring all that and asking "So, how many GP is it worth?"

    Now my children are just getting old enough to start playing. They are not really interested in all the minutiae. They want action, and stories, and orcs, and...

    So, I have come round to deciding that inmost towns there are money changers, and they will happily weight and value and exchange coinage, and we can role play all that if you want to, but otherwise we'll just take it as read.

    Peter Jackson said of "The Council of Elrond" at the begining of the Lord of the Rings that although it presents crucial backstory for understanding anything that is about to happen, as written, the scene in the novel is a board meeting and board meetings are desperately dull. He couldn't have a long scene of people just sitting around talking, so instead we got that nice opening scene of Sauron laying waste to the armies of Elves and Men etc.

    Same thing goes for most of the minutiae of gaming these days. I don't want to play "Papers and Paychecks", I want to excape into a heroic fantasy world.

  9. Maybe I'm odd, but I would love to see "Papers and Paychecks"... :)


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