Dispensing with "Gold" as a real currency

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The designers have said at some point (I'm pretty sure; I don't have a citation to back this up) that the gold system in 4th edition makes no effort to simulate a real economy. The gold system only exists to track player characters' progress on earning new equipment. Treasure parcels are specifically created to allow characters to obtain the proper number of magic items to adequately combat threats.

This is great, in my opinion. The D&D economy never made sense in previous editions of the game. In order for things to be priced appropriately for player characters, they needed to be outrageously expensive for normal people. It just didn't work.

The problem, though, is that players and GMs don't seem to understand this fact. I've seen GMs and players spend gold on such things as food, lodging, mundane equipment, and bribes. In essence, the players are treating gold like it's actually money, not just a progress track for earning magic items. This behavior inevitably puts players behind the curve in magic item acquisition.

When I first DMed 4e, I noticed this problem, so, since then, I've noted how much players spent on these "incorrect" expenses and added that value back into future treasure parcels. While this is effective, it is really annoying to maintain. I hate having to track how much players spend just so that they stay on the curve.

Since that time, I ran a game of a roleplaying game similar in premise to D&D called The Burning Wheel. This game, rather than caring about counting pennies and determining exact costs of items, has what is essentially called Resources. This skill represents not only cash on hand, but also favors that the character can call in, spending savvy, and other traits relating to spending money. When a character wants to purchase something, the DM determines how difficult a purchase it is and assigns a DC for the purchase. The player makes the check; if he succeeds, he can find and purchase the item. If he fails, he either can't find such an item or can't afford it.

I think this is an excellent idea for 4e. Using a system like this, gold is not really gold, but gems, trinkets, artifacts, and oddities which are used to barter for magic items, but which have no use to most people (i.e. everyone who isn't trading magic items). Mechanically, its sole purpose is for purchasing magic items and related items (potions, rituals, etc.).

For modeling how finding piles of treasure actually could be used for bribes, properties, lifestyles, and other non-magic expenses, the DM can hand out coinage and widely-desired treasures whose mechanical effect is to provide a temporary bonus to Resources checks.

Below, I present an implementation of the Burning Wheel Resources mechanics using the 4e rules.

RESOURCES (INTELLIGENCE)
Make a Resources check to spend money, call in favors, or use material wealth or reputation to procure items or influence others.
A Resources check is made against a DC set by the DM. The purchase's general cost and availability (cheap or expensive, common or rare) and other conditional modifiers (such as regional customs and laws and who might be available to get you the item) might apply to the DC. Resources can be used to make individual purchases or in a skill challenge that requires a number of successes.
If you have selected this skill as a trained skill, you have access to a sizable source of wealth, know very well how to haggle and find the best price for goods, or are talented and making and managing wealth.

[smallcaps]ACQUISITION[/smallcaps]
Make a Resources check to make a purchase or acquisition of mundane materials, properties or other expenses which are not magic items.
Resources: 1 day or part of a skill challenge. This time may be decreased or increased by adjusting the DC of the check.
  • DC: See the table.
  • Success: You acquire the item or make purchase.
  • Failure: You either cannot find such an item available, or you cannot afford it if one is. You can't try again unless circumstances significantly change.


Availability and Information Resources DC<br /> Common item 15<br /> Uncommon item 20<br /> Rare or exotic item 30<br /> Item is very cheap -2<br /> Item is costly +5<br /> Item is expensive +10<br /> Item is extremely expensive +15<br /> Increase time to 1 week -2<br /> Reduce time to 6 hours +5<br /> Reduce time to 1 hour +10


[smallcaps]BRIBE[/smallcaps]
Make a Resources check to bribe someone in an attempt to persuade them.
Resources: 1 minute or part of a skill challenge.
  • Opposed Check: Resources vs. Will. If you can't speak a language your target understands, you take a -5 penalty to your check. If you attempt to bribe multiple targets at once, make a separate resources check against each target's Will defense.
  • Success: The target accepts your bribe and reacts favorably towards you. He may provide a small request or be more easily convinced to provide a larger request.
  • Failure: The target rejects your request. If you failed by 5 or more, the target reacts less favorably to future attempts to persuade him by any means.

Resources may be used in social skill challenges either to bribe the target or to use reputation or wealth to impress the target. If the target is easily impressed or bribed, the check may provide a success. More often, Resources might be used as a secondary skill to provide a bonus to other checks.

This system is useful because it represents in an easier manner than the core system how characters can use wealth for influence and purchases. Additionally, it preserves the balance of magic items while still requiring players to risk something (the risk of failure) in order to acquire items or use money was a tool. Finally, it actually models relatively accurately a real economy. When you have to use finite resources for player wealth and NPC wealth, it never makes sense; with this system, the balanced player wealth is independent of NPC wealth, but the player must still follow the rules of NPC wealth.
Yeah I have gotten rid of money as well. Instead there is from 1-5 Resources a PC has. What Resources can change; money, information, being in someone's debt, etc. are all Resources and can be chased in. As such doing some task for a king for instance instead of getting gold they would get a letter of recommendation from the king that would keep the PC's Resources at say 4 till they use it up.

Keeping the 1-5 loose makes it easier to model for different campaigns. In one 5 means being able to eat 3 times a day another it means travelling first class on a lightning train.
Look up the rules for d20 Modern's currency. Rather than using a value of gold, players were given a Wealth score. It ranged from 0 (although, I suppose negatives as debt would be possible) to infinity, but each point represented an exponentially larger amount of wealth on hand.

So, at 1 wealth, a bag of chips might require a roll, but since you can take 10 on a wealth check in d20 Modern, at 10, that bag of chips just gets handed to you. How it worked was that purchases (beating the DC) would reduce wealth by a point or two unless the DC was really crushed. In real life terms, when you're a beggar, a bag of chips dents your total wealth... but a millionaire doesn't think twice about buying a single bag.

In D&D terms, you could probably do the same using item levels and toss the players the chance to roll to see if their wealth score goes up. I forget how d20 did it exactly, but it's all in the SRD. If you wanted to replace gold with wealth, I'd look into modifying those rules to this new game.
A quick and dirty way to get rid of gold is this:

Multiply all gold and all costs by the same number.
Call the new monetary values "wealth points".

Yeh, it's cheesy, but it gets the job done, and as long as your players don't find out it works well.
Here is reality, read and understand: Rangers aren't dull or underpowered, in any edition. Fighters aren't dull or underpowered, in any edition. Casters aren't "god mode" or overpowered, in any edition. The tarrasque isn't broken. And you aren't voicing your opinion by claiming otherwise, you're just being a pain. Now, stop complaining.
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Thank_Dog wrote:

2Chlorobutanal wrote:
I think that if you have to argue to convince others about the clarity of something, it's probably not as objectively clear as you think.

No, what it means is that some people just like to be obtuse.

I am pretty sure it isn't printed anywhere, but I recall a podcast from the D&D team about 6 months ago (or more?) and the topic was addressed by one of the designers that the gold system in 4th edition makes no effort to simulate a real economy and really only exists to track player characters' progress on earning new equipment.

You may have heard it and remembered it from the podcast, or (if you didn't listen to the podcast) then you may have recalled a thread in one of the forums where someone referenced it.

D.
This behavior inevitably puts players behind the curve in magic item acquisition.

By minuscule amounts.
There's also the less mind-numbing option (sorry, I very much dislike the way that Burning Wheel handles these things: it is possible to both have everything and nothing at the same time) of trading Mechanical Effect items only in Residuum or some other specialized, non-permeable currency then handing out cash treasure in more realistic quantities.

Of course the main conceptual flaw there is that anything can be bought with enough money, so it makes no sense for Magic Items to not be available with cash. The proper answer there is that the PCs and the rest of the world spend most of their time dealing with silver as the common currency, so gathing enough currency poses a logistical (and security) problem, even if posessing adequate wealth is not (for the PCs at least).

In the desert
I saw a creature, naked, bestial,
who, squatting upon the ground,
held his heart in his hands, and ate of it.
I said, "is it good, friend?"
"It is bitter – bitter," he answered;
"but I like it,
"beacuase it is bitter,
"and because it is my heart."

There's also the less mind-numbing option (sorry, I very much dislike the way that Burning Wheel handles these things: it is possible to both have everything and nothing at the same time) of trading Mechanical Effect items only in Residuum or some other specialized, non-permeable currency then handing out cash treasure in more realistic quantities.

Of course the main conceptual flaw there is that anything can be bought with enough money, so it makes no sense for Magic Items to not be available with cash. The proper answer there is that the PCs and the rest of the world spend most of their time dealing with silver as the common currency, so gathing enough currency poses a logistical (and security) problem, even if posessing adequate wealth is not (for the PCs at least).

That's the way I would usually do it. My rational for being unable to buy most magic items is that the number of buyers and sellers are woefully low for most items. This makes selling or buying one a skill challenge (with a predetermined reward) in and of itself.
Well... At least we got custom avatars....
I plan on getting rid of gold pieces in a future campaign as well.

I plan on calling them "groats" instead. :D
Look up the rules for d20 Modern's currency. Rather than using a value of gold, players were given a Wealth score. It ranged from 0 (although, I suppose negatives as debt would be possible) to infinity, but each point represented an exponentially larger amount of wealth on hand.

D20 Modern has an interesting concept for wealth. The way it got implemented is broken. I DM'ed a campaign for about 8 months and it simply got ridiculous.

You know that when it takes you five minutes and a calculator to know the DC on a skill check that the system isn't working. For example, either your 20wealth score got you unlimited access to as many DC 14 cost items as you wanted (yeah, right...) *or* I had to add up all their value and compare it to the wealth-value chart. I shouldn't have to grab a calculator so they can buy ammunition.

Not to mention the cost values in the book are nonsense, looking at the chart it doesn't even make sense. A house and a minivan are the same price? What?
Not to mention the cost values in the book are nonsense, looking at the chart it doesn't even make sense. A house and a minivan are the same price? What?

What quality house? When the missus & I were first looking at houses a few years back, we looked at some that were 20k.

Of course, calling them "houses" is a bit generous...
Here is reality, read and understand: Rangers aren't dull or underpowered, in any edition. Fighters aren't dull or underpowered, in any edition. Casters aren't "god mode" or overpowered, in any edition. The tarrasque isn't broken. And you aren't voicing your opinion by claiming otherwise, you're just being a pain. Now, stop complaining.
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LIFE CYCLE OF A RULES THREAD

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Thank_Dog wrote:

2Chlorobutanal wrote:
I think that if you have to argue to convince others about the clarity of something, it's probably not as objectively clear as you think.

No, what it means is that some people just like to be obtuse.

Sorry, minor correction: A standard van and a standard Condo in the book had the same wealth check DC. Maybe my real estate market is bad, but last time I checked you couldn't get a condo locally for under 100k. Driving by dealerships in my area most 12-passenger vans are going for 12k new.
Sorry, minor correction: A standard van and a standard Condo in the book had the same wealth check DC. Maybe my real estate market is bad, but last time I checked you couldn't get a condo locally for under 100k. Driving by dealerships in my area most 12-passenger vans are going for 12k new.

Ok, yeh, that's kinda silly.
Here is reality, read and understand: Rangers aren't dull or underpowered, in any edition. Fighters aren't dull or underpowered, in any edition. Casters aren't "god mode" or overpowered, in any edition. The tarrasque isn't broken. And you aren't voicing your opinion by claiming otherwise, you're just being a pain. Now, stop complaining.
Color me flattered.

LIFE CYCLE OF A RULES THREAD

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Thank_Dog wrote:

2Chlorobutanal wrote:
I think that if you have to argue to convince others about the clarity of something, it's probably not as objectively clear as you think.

No, what it means is that some people just like to be obtuse.

Hand out residium instead of gold, and make it worthless to everyone except magic item dealers, who will only trade it for magic items. Done.
Players arent meant to interact with a game world's economy in any meaningful way... they are supposed to be spending their gold on magic items, rituals and other stuff like that... as a DM I would never make players bother with the hum-drum details of tracking all their insignificant purchases, meals, inn-stays etc., it just serves no purpose and I dont care if you replace it with a skill challenge or whatever, its just totally unnecessary : that kind of system is just a ploy for distracting oc/d rules lawyers with no imaginations and no sense of narrative.
I agree with the problem as posed but I disagree 180 degrees with the solution.

I lament that gold is not used in game for all the normal things. I'm not talking buying rope or spikes. I'm talking buying land, castles, ships, big favors, even businesses. The second you let gold buy magic items all that fun roleplaying flavor goes out the window.

My solution would be that magic items can't be bought period. Most of the time they can not be sold. Now I could stop right there. The game works perfectly fine if the DM just gives out the magic items as treasure and thats it. Pretty much worked for 1e and 2e.

For those inclined to allow some item creation for flavor if nothing else (and that'd be the only reason in my opinion)....

Here are some options...
1. Require a quest to find costly and rare ingredients. Make them spend time researching arcane sources. etc...
2. Give a player with the right feat so much magic energy every level. They can use this magic energy to create magic items. If an item is hard then make them spend several levels worth of energy. Personally I don't feel the need for this but it would be ok as far as keeping the flavor above.
3. Make magic items a little more flexible. Allow magical bonuses to be transfered to other items etc.. This will allow a player to get the item he wants even if the DM is too obtuse to place it as treasure.
4. Make up a different reason for how magic items come into existance... maybe using a weapon to slay a formidable beast somehow enchants the item. All those magic swords over the years haven't been hammered out by wizards. They are just the lost weapons of great heroes.

Anyway nuff said.

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I am a big fan of how money is handled in 4E.

In my game I stress to the players that the gold they find and/or paid for thier jobs (they are milatary contractors), reprsents thier profits after living expenses. I don't keep track of food or water unless they are in a hostile enviorment for a prolonged period of time. I do not charge them for trival expenses. I do charge them if the money is being used in a way that is signficant to the story and will have in game effects (throwing a expansive party to lure an enemy out into the open, bribes, building a fortress etc.).

Not liking the new forums.

 

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Just figure out what level items they're supposed to have and let them spend XP on it. They keep track of XP separately as total XP and spent XP. The Spent XP can never be greater than their gained XP.

Losing XP never results in a level loss or slower gain, as level gains are tallied by total XP, not current.

There is no other way to lose XP currently so there's no reason to track it other than levelling purposes. This would give you a way to use the XP earned in magic item creation rituals and keep a flavorful alternative.

Make it impossible to buy magic items above a certain level and give out much less gold.

Or just tell them to stop wasting their gold on crap.
Sadly, tofu never screams.
Sorry, minor correction: A standard van and a standard Condo in the book had the same wealth check DC. Maybe my real estate market is bad, but last time I checked you couldn't get a condo locally for under 100k. Driving by dealerships in my area most 12-passenger vans are going for 12k new.

The amount given in the book for big ticket items was supposed to represent a down payment. You actual monthly payments were considered to be part of your upkeep which was handled differently if at all. So essentially you'd reduce your wealth score to pay the initial cost of buying a house or a vehicle and then be assumed to be making payments.

Shadow Network DM

I lament that gold is not used in game for all the normal things. I'm not talking buying rope or spikes. I'm talking buying land, castles, ships, big favors, even businesses.

Agreed. People who think that spending gold on non-magical items = a lack of RP are missing the big picture. Gold = magic items is the problem. It prevents non-magic item rewards from having any meaning when you can mix them in together ... but you actually can't, because if you do you punish your players mechanically.

It's identical to the old complaints about the 3e crafting system being a trap. In more ways than one. The solution isn't to fail the way 4e fails to handle crafting (ie just dump it completely and ignore it), but instead to seperate the systems so they both have meaning.

Dumping non-magic item expenses completely is just a ploy for people with no imaginations and no sense of narrative. Unfortunately, that's the route the 4e decided to go in many ways.
Dumping non-magic item expenses completely is just a ploy for people with no imaginations and no sense of narrative.

Or for people who's narrative doesn't involve massive expenditures and petty accounting. I can understand enjoying a certain style of gaming but please don't claim it's the one true true roleplaying. My current group doesn't have a problem because we don't want land titles and other messy investments.That hardly makes our goals less realistic, or less in character. In fact my character desiring such things would be actively against her character.

And it's really odd to complain when the solution is so easy. Remove magic items from the market place, via fiat or replacing the bonuses. Then toss in whatever economic system you want. This is one of the nice modular areas of 4th, as opposed to futzing with the class system....
Well... At least we got custom avatars....
DaidojiTaidoru, try reading the entire thread and you might understand why I said that. I wasn't the one claiming "it's the one true true roleplaying".
Hand out residium instead of gold, and make it worthless to everyone except magic item dealers, who will only trade it for magic items. Done.

Do you want to buy some Itchy and Scratchy money? It's like normal money.. but fun.
Sorry, minor correction: A standard van and a standard Condo in the book had the same wealth check DC. Maybe my real estate market is bad, but last time I checked you couldn't get a condo locally for under 100k. Driving by dealerships in my area most 12-passenger vans are going for 12k new.

I'm gonna nitpick a little bit here, and point out that the book specifically states that the DCs for things like houses represent a down payment. The system, much like gold in 4e, is meant to be an abstraction that allows the players and DM to track their purchasing power.

It has its flaws, but it always seemed to work pretty well for us.

Also, I think the reason for the "<15" rule was to make sure players could readily purchase things like ammo that they need to have.

I do agree that it makes a grittier, more realistic game harder to do, but, again like 4e, that's not what d20 modern seems to be about.
The problem, though, is that players and GMs don't seem to understand this fact. I've seen GMs and players spend gold on such things as food, lodging, mundane equipment, and bribes. In essence, the players are treating gold like it's actually money, not just a progress track for earning magic items. This behavior inevitably puts players behind the curve in magic item acquisition.

To me, the fact that currency isn't meant to represent a realistic economy does not mean that currency should ONLY be spent on magic items and absolutely nothing else: just look at the costs of casting rituals. The provided a discreet, usually one-time benefit at a pretty high currency cost; just like a paying for a bribery, transportation, etc. So as per the rules, there's already this mean of spending currency that does not result in a magic items.

Anyhow... if i wanted to keep magic items acquisition and other spending entirely separate, what I'd do is this:
First, Only give away small-ish amount of currency as treasure, that can only be used for "mundane" purchases... no magic item shops in the world, and no enchant item ritual.
Then, just put more magic items as treasures to make up for the currency parcels.
Simple and efficient.
The proper answer there is that the PCs and the rest of the world spend most of their time dealing with silver as the common currency, so gathing enough currency poses a logistical (and security) problem, even if posessing adequate wealth is not (for the PCs at least).

William Jennings Bryan FTW!
The solution isn't to fail the way 4e fails to handle crafting (ie just dump it completely and ignore it), but instead to seperate the systems so they both have meaning.

Just pointing out that 4e hasn't dumped and ignored crafting.

The free Characters of War article has a crafter background and the PHB II goes into detail about various backgrounds, bonuses, and how they work with the game, including some crafting professions. When dramatically appropriate, it's also been suggested that skill challenges can be used for crafting. There's also the crafting rituals.

Crafting is there, it's just handled differently.
A few years ago, when I was developing my setting, I realized that my players, and in some cases the books, were treating a single gold piece as if it were a dollar, so I decided to run with it. So far it's worked for me. Of course, the players aren't carting around bags of gold since I use paper money and the economy is more like that of the modern day. It's not realistic, but whatever, it works for my setting.

I've generally found that money is distracting, so I've decided to use what I call the "Guitar Hero" method. That means the money they make during the game, whether its found in the dragon's horde or earned from a benefactor, is actually the net earnings. They actually get a lot more, but that's actually tied up in things like rent, taxes due state, food, etc. That 2,000 gp they found in the dungeon? That's their disposable income. They actually found closer to 4 or 5 grand, but they had to pay for food and utilities when they got home, so they didn't get to keep all of it. It's mostly a handwave.

Of course, to put things in perspecitve, I have a bizarre setting. I'm currently running a game where the players have founded a company of mercenary archeologists who subcontract for a very corrupt, publicly traded multinational magi-tech corporation. Also, one of my players common characters is the grandson of a dragon who keeps most of his horde in the stock exchange. Mostly so he can leave his damn house without some dumbass with a revolver or a sword or some magic popping in and stealing his stuff.

After all, traps are expensive. And they take time and you have to do them yourself. It's much easier to read up on stocks in the newspaper and invest smartly than to spend an afternoon reading instructions for how to enchant and install a custom ordered trap from Denask Industries. Why do that when you can spend that afternoon prowling for hot elf chicks?
The other option for fixing this little issue is to give them miniscule extra amounts of money. In our group, this works due to the fact that my players still loot bodies and hock all of the crap they find. I give them small amounts of cash from town from doing that (I figure a few dozen kobold spears have to be worth something to the local militia), and that handles all of their smaller expenses (food and board and all that).
I'd just make it so you have to bring in the hard-to-find components in addition to the cost of labor for any magical items. This keeps the good stuff out of the hands of anybody but an adventurer or someone rich enough to hire adventurers.
I have switched to a credit based system as a means to "realistically" portray the economy.

First, when players find treasure, they find it in the form of very general amounts: a pile of gold coins, a handful of carved gemstones, a trove of stolen art pieces. If they want to loot bodies, they find trivial amounts of coinage or paper notes. The exact amount is irrelevant. Post-adventure, they deposit their findings in their bank. The bank itself is one of many, most of which date back to "imperial times" and have outlasted the governments or kingdoms that founded them. Behind-the-scenes, I keep track of how much treasure they have earned as recommended by the treasure parcels in the DMG.

Each character has a letter or mark of credit issued from their bank that they can present to any vendor they find in civilized society when attempting to buy something. The marks have varying levels of prestige (similar to our modern day credit cards, like regular, gold and platinum cards). Whenever a character buys something, the vendor keeps a log of what is purchased, and sends a copy of the receipt to the bank. The bank in turn delivers cold hard cash back to the vendor in a timely manner, or in cases of larger vendors in busy cities (especially those with their own marks of credit), they find their own lines of credit in their own banks are increased an appropriate amount. Of course, all this happens behind the scenes, but its useful to note if only because it does explain how the economy works. I have also used it for an adventure hook, when the adventurers were investigating fraud on behalf of a bank. Very fun side-story, that was...

When buying mundane goods, any mark of credit will suffice, since the money required to open an account with any of these banks is enough to buy most mundane goods in hard cash. Since the game handwaves these expenses, I assume that the adventurers find just enough extra treasure to pay for them. In the case of magic items and other non-mundane expenses, a character needs either significant amounts of cash or coin on hand (they saved up, or have just cleared a dungeon and haven't deposited their findings), or a particularly prestigious mark of credit. These higher marks of credit are issued when the character has deposited enough treasure to justify having one from the bank. In this way, only those with huge incomes (high-profile vendors, nobility, and adventurers) have the financial backing to purchase magic items, and thus magic items don't interfere with the daily economy.

If a player somehow exceeds their limit (most often by withdrawing a large amount of cash to purchase something from someone who doesn't accept credit, then purchasing something with their mark that would exceed the amount remaining in their account), the bank pays the vendor and then pursues the account holder to settle the debt. Most banks hire mercenaries or have elite warriors on their payroll for just such a purpose. Think "the Black Riders/Ringwraiths" from LotR for example.

Again, much of the explanation for how things happen is behind the scenes, as the players don't need to know, or even care, how money is moved around to the appropriate parties. It just does.

In the end, everything works out. Unwanted magic items, jewels, and art pieces are converted to gold by the appropriate dealers/vendors, and gold is deposited in banks. The characters have their mark of credit, and keep a small amount of hard cash on them (a couple of GPs and SPs, plus a handful of coppers) in case a vendor doesn't recognize or honor their mark (which is rare, and only happens in deep uncivilized areas where banks have little to no presence).

EDIT - I should note my personal campaign setting is very magi-tech, not directly inspired by but extremely similar to Final Fantasy (especially 6 and 12). While this system of credit works, it works only when the setting can explain the infrastructure necessary for constant, near instantaneous communication, and the relatively safe transport of funds over massive distances.
The problem, though, is that players and GMs don't seem to understand this fact. I've seen GMs and players spend gold on such things as food, lodging, mundane equipment, and bribes. In essence, the players are treating gold like it's actually money, not just a progress track for earning magic items. This behavior inevitably puts players behind the curve in magic item acquisition.

Being behind the curve in magic item acquisition is not a big deal (this is especially true if you're talking about trivial amounts like a couple gp for lodging, but even if you're talking about rituals that get to be pretty expensive it's still the case).

For enhancement bonuses of 2-5, you hand out 5n-5 items in that "tier" if you have n players (5 for 2 players, 10 for 3, 15 for 4). As long as you have at least 3 PCs in the party and you are giving them all neck, armor, and weapons at every tier (that's 3n loot parcels; 6 for 2 players, 9 for 3, 12 for 4), it really isn't going to affect the game balance very much if they choose to gain minor conveniences from using rituals (or staying in nice inns if that's what they're about) rather than minor conveniences from getting their ideal magic item properties.

If you're playing with only two PCs then you have to be more parsimonious with items with enhancement bonuses just due to the nature of the parcel system; however, one person missing out on either a +1 AC or +1 NACDs for each item tier of the game still isn't going to impact their game statistics very much.
I've never really understood this whole "issue". At low levels, up to say level 5 or so at most, it is possible characters may spend enough money on ancillaries like room and board to actually make SOME dent, maybe even a measurable dent if you're level 1-3 say. Beyond that normal expenses are far too trivial to bother to account for. The only time I would even consider it is if the players were say paying for 100 people or decided to hang around in the local inn for a year. Those are unlikely occurances for low level characters.

Rituals basically fall into two categories, the almost trivially cheap, and the quite expensive. The former will again hardly dent a character's finances enough to make much difference beyond 4th or 5th level unless they simply spam large amounts of ritual casting. The more expensive rituals provide (or should provide) significant advantages to the party if they choose to use them. There is no less reason for this to cost them money than would buying a magic item that gave similar advantages. Thus there is really no reason to give the character's a "rebate" on ritual casting expenses. The exception would be if the story CANNOT progress without the casting of a ritual. In that case the DM should arrange for the rewards of the adventure to make up for it.

Other expenses like bribes etc COULD be significant, but again either they are mandated by the story and the character should get a sufficient reward to make up for them, or they aren't mandated and the character is gaining some advantage by spending money. Basically identical to rituals.

One use items work the same way. They are either trivially cheap or else the character is gaining something from using them and it is their choice, so there is no reason they shouldn't pay.

The end result is you will have some parties that burn through cash on rituals and whatnot, while others will pinch their pennies and get by without them, eventually saving up enough for an extra permanent item. Both approaches are valid, but they should yield roughly the same cost/benefit.

So I basically don't see a problem with the system as it is. For specific rituals you could argue about whether or not they are worth casting in a given situation, but that is so dependent on the situation that no particular cost structure is going to get it right all the time.

Notice though how a potion costs a particular fraction of a permanent item. A level five potion costs only 50 gp, yet a level 5 item costs 1000 gp. It takes a pretty good number of healing potions to make a real dent in a character's cash supply, and it is hard to argue that 20 healing potions are worth less than a level 2 item. Overall costs are pretty well thought out.
That is not dead which may eternal lie
The designers have said at some point (I'm pretty sure; I don't have a citation to back this up) that the gold system in 4th edition makes no effort to simulate a real economy. The gold system only exists to track player characters' progress on earning new equipment. Treasure parcels are specifically created to allow characters to obtain the proper number of magic items to adequately combat threats.

This is great, in my opinion. The D&D economy never made sense in previous editions of the game. In order for things to be priced appropriately for player characters, they needed to be outrageously expensive for normal people. It just didn't work.

The problem, though, is that players and GMs don't seem to understand this fact. I've seen GMs and players spend gold on such things as food, lodging, mundane equipment, and bribes. In essence, the players are treating gold like it's actually money, not just a progress track for earning magic items. This behavior inevitably puts players behind the curve in magic item acquisition.

When I first DMed 4e, I noticed this problem, so, since then, I've noted how much players spent on these "incorrect" expenses and added that value back into future treasure parcels. While this is effective, it is really annoying to maintain. I hate having to track how much players spend just so that they stay on the curve.

There's no such thing as a real economy in D&D or any other RPG. Real economies require scarcity and limited supply. If something is difficult to get, it's scarce. What makes an "economy" in D&D is the treasure, not the gold. If you limit the availability of magic items, thus creating a shortage, you will simulate economic forces.

The main problem with the basis of your argument is you have a problem with the way other people treat their gold - like actual money. The problem isn't with the players or other people. D&D has no economy and no skill system will change that. I've played D20 Modern and the charts show the absurdity of price fixing. The skill DC system is price fixing - hence not a viable economy. It's no different from a gold piece value and that's because prices have nothing to do with money.


Since that time, I ran a game of a roleplaying game similar in premise to D&D called The Burning Wheel. This game, rather than caring about counting pennies and determining exact costs of items, has what is essentially called Resources. This skill represents not only cash on hand, but also favors that the character can call in, spending savvy, and other traits relating to spending money. When a character wants to purchase something, the DM determines how difficult a purchase it is and assigns a DC for the purchase. The player makes the check; if he succeeds, he can find and purchase the item. If he fails, he either can't find such an item or can't afford it.



This system is useful because it represents in an easier manner than the core system how characters can use wealth for influence and purchases. Additionally, it preserves the balance of magic items while still requiring players to risk something (the risk of failure) in order to acquire items or use money was a tool. Finally, it actually models relatively accurately a real economy. When you have to use finite resources for player wealth and NPC wealth, it never makes sense; with this system, the balanced player wealth is independent of NPC wealth, but the player must still follow the rules of NPC wealth.

Your example is no different from the parcel system except the prices are given in different units. Furthermore, the premise of your argument is completely wrong. Finite (scarce) resources and their alternative uses is the very definition of a real economy.

Player wealth is already "independent" of NPC wealth because, quite simply, NPCs don't have wealth. When the players spend 50gp or make a skill check there isn't a family of NPCs that the DM tracks which now has enough money to get that Ritual Spell to heal grandma of the vapors. When PCs wish to purchase something it appears or fails to not because the resources were gathered from a magical cave in the Fallen Lands at great expense but because the DM made a judgement call based on fluff. There is no scarcity. None. And the skill system isn't simulating scarcity any more than gold pieces. They're doing the exact same thing - fixing prices. The parcel system is looser than GP system because it doesn't fix prices by level, which means it will more accurately display the fluctuations of a market. Thinking you can fix the prices of every item, every situation, for every PC and NPC in every city is absurd. The two Soviet economists Nikolai Shmelev and Vladimir Popov couldn't do it.
You could assign a flat 'value' score to items (hint, +100 per gold, 10 per silver, and 1 per copper) and allow the PCs to use items to straight up trade in terms of 'value'. It's like bartering with a numbers system. You can also abstractly increase or decrease 'value' based on how whoever they're trading with percieves the item. Peasants would place a higher value on tools and food, merchants on cash and commodities, soldiers on arms and armor, nobles on titles and luxuries.
Resident Shakespeare
I actually really like this idea!

I liked the wealth system from d20 modern, it made more sense to me than a literal currency tracking system...

It makes more sense than walking into a random shop and declaring "I want that +5 sword, here's 5 million gp". (I prefer to hand out equipment rather than have PCs buy them).
and furthermore, it gives Int a much needed boost in usefulness. I would probably let it use the higher of cha or int.

I'm sold. Thanks.
The only real issue I have is essentially twofold.

What is the point of gold at all if it has no utility in the game? I suppose players maybe will still want some "just for the heck of it", but it isn't going to do anything for them.

And how exactly does gold not have value? I mean what if a PC hands a whole bunch of gold to someone and says "hey, will you give me that magic sword for this?".

OK, the accounting of wealth can be pretty abstract, but then I guess I am not sure why a SYSTEM is required for that. It seems like pretty much just using Diplomacy etc to get "level appropriate things" instead of tracking wealth.
That is not dead which may eternal lie
The only real issue I have is essentially twofold.

What is the point of gold at all if it has no utility in the game? I suppose players maybe will still want some "just for the heck of it", but it isn't going to do anything for them.

And how exactly does gold not have value? I mean what if a PC hands a whole bunch of gold to someone and says "hey, will you give me that magic sword for this?".

OK, the accounting of wealth can be pretty abstract, but then I guess I am not sure why a SYSTEM is required for that. It seems like pretty much just using Diplomacy etc to get "level appropriate things" instead of tracking wealth.

Gold and disposable wealth has utility; it provides a temporary bonus to Resources checks.

If desired, you could ask players to make Resources checks to buy magic items, just requiring them to provide the necessary amount of residiumm or other "magical" currency as well.
Yes, Gold in 4e is "primarily" a tracking system on a PCs progress in acquisition of Magic Items and other benefits.However, I do say primary. Gold is also used for incidentals, although that's usually rather negligible and doesn't cut into the Magic Item fund's bottom line, and it's also used for plot devices. Needing a certain amount of residuum or some other rare ingredient in order to have a needed ritual performed is one use of Gold, as is spending money to bribe officials, pay hush money, impress the natives with fine garb, throw big parties and banquets, set up breeding programs for riding beasts, and paying for the research into possible new powers/exploits/prayers.

The thing is, if your characters decide to go the bribery route too often, they will be behind in Magic Items. That is, however, their choice to do, you don't have to compensate for that, they will learn or they won't.

How do I handle money and magic items? Well, first, most magic cannot just be bought anywhere and everywhere. Like most merchants in real life, there is a 500% markup on anything you want to buy, and a 20% buyback price. Now, these numbers can be adjusted by actual bargaining, using your various skills and roleplaying ability to convince the locals to lower their prices. When it comes to magic items, most of them arewn't even available openly, there isn't a Magic Emporium around every corner. Expendable/Consumable magic items are much more available than others.

Now, doing this does a couple of things. First it makes them realize the items they find have serious value and that they do lose something if they just sell or give those items away for something new and shiny, but untested. If a +1 Magic Daggar you found will only be bought off you for 100 gps, and you look around the marketplace, and find the same daggar for sale at 2500, you are much less likely to sell that daggar aren't you? Second, it gives more real value to the Create Magic Item rituals. Remember, the rituals cost to create the item is the cost in the book, not some special formula of ingredients and incense in an as yet to be published item creation journal. If making Magic Items costs the same as buying Magic Items, who would go through the trouble of making them? Makes for the ability to transfer enchangments between items of a similar sort a much more useful sub-ability of the rituals as well.

No Wealth system is needed, just remember, if your players throw a resource away as you see it, it's not your job to compensate. Also remember, give out your magic items on your schedule, and that way you should be mostly sure that the PCs have the appropriate available resources for what you have planned to come, and if they manage to save up enough money to make or buy a lil extra, that may give them a small advantage, it also may not.

Seuss
Want continued support for 4e, check this out, 4e Lives and Breaths

Check out MY eZine, Random Encounters Seuss (lordseussmd on YM)
Personally I don't see a real issue here. As many have already said the amount spent on those mundane things like food, lodging, and etc. don't really make a dent in the player's finances.

And even if you were to assume they did it can easily be reversed by changing the sell back rules. 4e scale on how much magic items you should have is based off the assumption you sell back your used items at only 20% their value. If you let the players sell them back at full price they will have plenty of extra cash to buy those mundane items without effecting where they should be on the magic item scale.

After all by level 10 the estimated loss in value from sold magic items for a party of 5 is around 20K. I arrived at the value through a bunch of number crunching and assuming players sold off lower enchantments as soon as they got newer ones. So it may vary from group to group.

I also don't agree with the assumption gold is simple a "progress bar" making how close you are to the next magic item. Gold is money in D&D and should be treated as such. The treasure you get determines what you can then allocate those resources towards. If it's potions, rituals, bribes, items, or whatever. The point is it's up to the player to decide.

It's like saying Healing Surges represent your chars ability to heal so their for any powers that use a healing surge but don't heal the character don't make sense and thus the cost of the healing surge to use that power should be removed.
Not to mention, consumable Magic Items are still considered Magic items, such as Potions of Healing and Revitization, and yet, once used they are gone, if players want to fritter their magic item budget away on healing potions and use 3 or 4 of them per encounter, are you, as a DM going to compensate them for that wasted revenue so they can still fill up their arsenal at a later time?

Give them the treasure you think the adventure merits. Some in Gold, some in Art/jewelry/craft items, and some in Magic Items and Residuum. Let the players themselves divy up the treasure, and when they get to town, decide if they want to pay to upgrade their treasure, or pay to have the enchantment off one item transferred to another item, more appropriate for the character, or, possibly have the item disinchanted, gathering the residuum to use in creating a new magic item you need even more.

If the players want to bribe every official around, obviously they don't get higher magic items as their bribary budget is taking over the petty cash coffers. If the players want to keep dozens of healing potions around, obviously not so many magic swords and armor can be afforded overall.

Gold is Gold, and is meant to be used as currency. Don't mean you have to immulate true medieval standards on Gold, where hardly anyone could break a goldpiece for change in your average village, but definately remember Gold is the currency standard in the game. It's also a measure of progress towards certain equipment goals, but shoot, money has always been that, the measure you use to see when you get to a specific new piece of equipment. Think of the 12 yr old saving his pennies for a shiny new bike.

Seuss
Want continued support for 4e, check this out, 4e Lives and Breaths

Check out MY eZine, Random Encounters Seuss (lordseussmd on YM)
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