I have been thinking about treasure a lot.

I have been thinking about treasure a lot.

I have been thinking about treasure a lot. I’ve been weighing the pros and cons of going with the system as is and just letting treasure cover basic operating costs. But I’m having trouble accepting a world where treasure is not a driving force.

Every experience I’ve had, all of my exposure to the genre, has always been centered on money. Is about the thrill of loot, that trip to town after a hard won adventure where you hock your wares, or saving up your money for some ridiculous purchase.

I find it hard to imagine a game where money is not a tool that is constantly used to justify going on crazy adventures and putting yourself in outrageous danger. Without money it seems like you would have to want to portray character that was driven to be good. He wants to get out into the world and fight the big bad just because it is right. Perhaps you are evil and adventure for opposite goals.

But I think that most people fall into the middle of the two extremes. A demographic that generally adventures for personal gain, more often than not realized or otherwise achieved by spending large sums of money. I just can’t seem to accept the notion that money is no longer important or the primary motivation for your average adventurer.

Also I understand magic items are in many ways the new currency, but too many of them kills their cool factor. Other than curiosity and uncommon magic items, what is left to motivate a life of adventure? I’m really struggling to answer this. Have D&D, JRPGs and MMOs ruined me?

14 thoughts on “I have been thinking about treasure a lot.”

  1. totally agree, and have been trying to find an abstract system that is still rewarding and fun, but doesn’t require much economy (how much should an iron sword cost, vs a silver, vs a gold sword with inlaid rubies? What about a magic iron sword??!?!)

  2. Establishing an economy is definitely a big project. The problem with specializing in materials with weapons is that it doesn’t really affect the game in any way. To add purpose you could create custom tags that were added to materials made of say gold or silver, that had a fictional affect. It would probably be easiest to find an economy that was sound and well thought out (like ACKS did) and then build from there.

    I’ve been thinking a lot on the topic and the big question that keeps coming to mind is; “Beyond a trip to the market and the thrill of hunting/adventuring for gold, what does having a currency system change or make possible in the game world versus no money system at all?”.

  3. Loot barely featured at all in my past 5 or 6 campaigns. The reason is that each of these campaigns were designed around a specific role for the party. A role designed to justify adventuring, exploring, and defeating villains but not about earning money. Here are a few of the concepts I’ve used recently:

    1: The heroes are all members of the Pentarch, representatives of the cities Founding Houses that work as “trouble-shooters” for the Pentad (governing council). 

    2: The heroes are employed by a mysterious inquisitor and serve the church.

    3: The heroes are sons and daughters of the ruling elite, all of which must serve a five year tour on the Assembly of Advisers (kind of an adventurers guild).

    In all these cases the heroes were adventurers because it was their job or duty; for some it was even more that that. They were either well-paid or simply had most of their needs met by their station. When treasure was relevant it was usually in the form of interesting or powerful magic items, things the heroes couldn’t buy regardless of money. 

  4. John Lewis  it sounds like your campaign is perfect for allowing currency to fall by the wayside. I’ll definitely keep these tactics in mind. It sounds like a great chance for political based stories too.

  5. Change your end of session questions, and the campaign will change tones on its own and everyone will be on board. Try replacing “defeat a significant enemy” and “loot a memorable treasure” (or whatever their wording is) with: permanently improve the way of life in a steading and talk your way out of violence and I imagine the game will look different.

  6. My experience has shown me that you can make treasure and loot secondary to a player’s motivation by giving them a lot of ability options for character growth. Abilities can be a treasure in and of themselves. When you have that situation, the best currency for a player ends up being experience points and that is easy to handle. 

    As for the player’s character in the game, their motivations to do a quest are entirely based on character concept. Most of the time an adventurer is by definition someone that goes into the world for fame and fortune. If you want to remove that motivation, your player characters can’t be an adventurer. They need to be a detective, a guardsman, a tinkerer, an archaeologist, or any character concept that isn’t completely based on fame and fortune. The proper character concept will likely motivate a player beyond gold, riches, and magical loot. The proper story will tap into these character concepts and make the story about more than those things as well. 

    Sometimes you just need to embrace the Monty Haul mentality though, and then start making quests where people are trying to get your player’s money. Once they are the richest around, people will start making them a target and you can really change things up.

    The other thing you can do is use NPC favors as currency, an “I owe you one” from a wealthy patron may be worth far more than a 100gp trinket. 

  7. Good advice Alfred Rudzki and Kurt Patz . I’m going to add the NPC favors idea to my growing list of things I can replace money with. I can’t help but wonder if I am a loot whore (jokingly of course, it’s pretty darn clear I am).

  8. Money is often a means to an end. If the characters are driven by money, ask what they will do with it when they become rich.

    Then offer them the chance to hit the big time with an extremely valuable treasure, but put lots of other greedy rivals and plenty of obstacles in their way.

    Wealth is a path to power, social, political, or personal power.

  9. You need to establish a story that is a bit deeper than “kill things and take their stuff”. Very few successful novels have that as the basic premise. And while an RPG is not a novel many of the same principles are valid. Who are the protagonists? Why are they in this situation? Who are their enemies?

    Example: my last campaign the party were all arrested for alledged treason. They escaped but stayed on the run. The underground resistance drew them in. If they wanted to be free again the regime had to fall. Money: almost nothing. Just enough to stay alive.

    Think in terms of your chatacters and who they are then play their life stories out. Money may not feature at all.

  10. A common theme I am seeing here and in another place I’ve asked this question, is that in many cases money was not important specifically because of the type of storyline in play. Given that you don’t plan on settings or storylines for DW, this doesn’t seem like something I can engineer, at least not in a conventional way. I’m also curious what happens when the storyline is not setup in such a way that money is rendered irrelevant. Lets say the storyline is more traditional and there is no reason money shouldn’t matter to the PC’s. What do you do then?

  11. While you don’t plan, you get to set up. So, the first thing you can say is “You stand before the Tower of T’Kriket. Dunwick, who’s ordered you on this mission?”, and then ask the characters what their relationship is to whoever he makes up, and/or why they’re there. You’ll likely have a player-generated organisation/family/clan the player’s defend from the horrors of the world.

    It’s possible they’ll merely all be paid mercenaries, of course, but that means they’ll be willing to do more stuff for mere money.

  12. Marques Jordan

    You are right. The plot is undetermined at the start. But you as GM gave a good amount of say in what happens. As Adrian says, you get to do the setup. You get to make the sherriff kill the Fighters wife. Or whatever. Money alone as main drive for the fiction is weak. It is OK but you and your players can do much better!

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