Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Selling Your Loot: Part 1

Go in a hole.  Kill monster.  Take treasure.
A mantra I think we all can relate to.  It is the foundation of what fantasy RPGs are about.  Sure there are various ways to do this, with degrees of focus on different aspects and those who prefer a kinder, gentler game, but I'm not talking about those people.  

 I'm talking about my kind of people.  The people who like going into a hole, kill monsters and take their stuff.  It is simplistic, barbaric, some would say it suggests psychopathic tendencies in individuals.  Those are silly people, why would you tell a psychopath he or she is psychopath?

But I'm not here to talk about the repressed rage gamers feel.  No.  I am here to talk about the fourth step in this mantra.  Taking treasure is good.  But a lot of it you can't do anything with until you get some cold, hard coin in your bloody fist.  Of course this goes for any genre of any time.  Gangsters want hundred dollar bills and space mercs want a full card of creds.  Medium of exchange is different, but the philosophy is the same.  But since I am focused on the fantasy genre I'll be sticking to coins of gold and silver.  Not electrum through.  Electrum is for people who can't make up their mind. 

The fourth part of the mantra is sell treasure

Yeah, this one is not all that exciting, but it can play a huge part in your game.  Especially if you give experience points based on the amount of gold a character brings in (and/or spends).   Gotta have it to spend it.  But I've made it into a sub-game if you will.  It is the next part of the adventure, the most terrifying.  You've face undead abominations, but now you have to face one of the world's most challenging opponents, the greedy merchant.  

I'll break this down into different categories of treasure and how I handle each and why.  Some of this may sound fiddly, and if it burdens the game I simplify the process.  But in truth, this is very much apart of my game, the adventuring economics is a real thing.  There is a lot of money to be mad and everyone wants their cut.

In cases where a complex version of selling treasure is used, I opt to use a Charisma modifier to determine the percentage the party is offered compared to the full value of the item.  That could mean the party gets 50% of the value of the item instead of 30%.  Or it could mean the party just sold a pot metal charm to a noble, who now believes it is an ancient artifact of a goblin god.  And of course haggling makes the amounts change.  Value is fluid.

The most basic of treasures.  You find a 100gp.  Bam, you already have your money, no middleman needed.  This is the most simple version.  But it can also become one of the most intricate.  Once in a while I throw in the fact the currencies change over the years, different values for different eras, different cultures.  When an adventuring party comes across an ancient burial ground and the creature thay are fighting is a few hundred years old, the coinage will more than likely be different.  Maybe some mix of modern coins from newbs who were TPKed. 

The gold coins they find may be twice as large as the coins used today.  In weight, that single coin may be worth 5gp.  Because it is different, regular merchants may not accept it.  In this case it may need to be taken to a moneylender to exchange for the modern currency.  And of course there is a conversion fee. 

Simple: The coins are valued equal to the number.  So 5gp in the outside world is the same as the 5gp you just found in the dungeon.  No fuss. 

Complex: The coins are of a different age and/or size.  A money lender needs to be involved to receive spendable coins.  I determine the actual value of the coin and then the moneylender takes a percentage.  There is no room for negotiation because the rates are set by powerful guilds.  But if the coins are rare and their is known collector, then the coins could be more valuable than the metal.  In this case the moneylender could introduce the two parties and ask for a finder's fee 'off the books'.

Here's a quick sample of something you may find behind my screen.

  • Northmen Silver, large square coins worth 4sp.  However, there are king coins, a king coins are made from hard silver.  These large coins were used as a king's currency worth 100sp of today's coins.  But the hard silver can also be used to plate weapons.  Weaponsmith will give 25% more for these coins.  
  • Myrian Era coins.  Often found in the southern section of land, where a small, but powerful kingdom, Myria.  They used small silver coins to make transporting larger sums of coins easier.  The minting is intricate.  When the kingdom was razed, its wealth was dispersed throughout the world.  The coins are valued the same, there is a one for one conversion.  Merchants won't take them because of their size.  
  • Gold bars the size of a man's palm, weight around a half stone were popular for centuries.  Each bar was stamped with the crest of the kingdom they originated from.  The allied kingdoms would recognize this currency at a standard value.  These days they were valued at 112gp for the metal alone.  But there are collectors who are looking to find bars from the thirteen kingdoms.  The value rises with the rarity.  To find a gold bar from Prayta could fetch five times its metal value.
This kind of detail is not for everyone.  I just do a light version of it to give a place a sense of history.  An element to show that something was here many years ago and some people hold it valuable.  


  1. Good post. I like that sort of flavor with regard to treasure.

  2. Absolutely I do this in Castle Triskelion. Most gold coins are gold crescents from the nearby city of Sarcoy, but sometimes you find Fribourg gold griffons or Sealean gold harps. Dwarves make gold coins twice as heavy and five times as valuable. Elves coins are twice as valuable but only weigh half as much.

  3. Very impressive image... hope that yo and "the Happy Whisk" are well...
    Hello from Marshville

  4. Out of curiosity, are you just using the random tables to determine the actual/full value of treasure or is there some other logic you use? (hopes he's not getting ahead of you, and is eagerly awaiting future parts of this series)

  5. I really enjoy when there is detail behind the currency - I loved your 'collectibility' of the various gold bars. I have a system wherein merchants won't touch older coins from a former empire because long tradition and fable has created a superstition surrounding relics from that era. Some collectors pay over the odds, but coin is often melted down just for the metal content.