Wednesday, July 26, 2017

The power fo gold, and the infinite time waster it can be

Bean Counting...

I'm not an accountant by trade or desire.  When I was a kid, and I didn't have a job and a lot of responsibilities, I took a degree of pleasure keeping track of all the gold and silver and assorted coin my characters had.  Can I afford that deluxe room at the inn?  Should I bother with the more expensive armor for a single point of additional defense?  These were the sorts of things that, at the time, were part of the fun of RPGs for me. 

That was then, this is now

Now, I have a job and bills to pay and money to track and I really don't want to track the number of coins and bits of jewelry that make up my characters vast, or not so vast, wealth.  I understand that there are many schools of thought on wealth tracking, and many rules for it in many games. 

Some games translate it into a stat, like strength or charisma, and that stat vaguely defines what sorts of things you can afford to purchase.  Some games fret over every coin and have lots of expensive ways for you to spend it so that you don't have it for long. 

For every rule or method in the game books for tracking wealth there is a house rule by the GM.  For some it's important that they control what the players can buy through the economic rules in the game and ensure that the PCs don't become over powered.  For some, it's a wave of the hand and a mumbled "Whatever."  when questions of wealth and if a PC can afford something.

When is it important?

Counting coins and haggling might be essential to the game.  And I mean to the story, not the rules.  Maybe the PCs have a collective goal to start a trading company.  To this end it might be important to keep track of every coin and jewel so they know how close to that goal they are and every set back is felt and perceptible to the PCs.  If this is the situation, then embrace the coin counting. 

What if it's not really important to the story though?  My most recent fantasy game had the players acting as agents of the Queen.  They were given money for expenses and most of them were from families of means.  Money wasn't a thing.  When it was important (they needed a specific amount of money to buy a specific item that was part of the story) then they made arrangements to get it.  But none of the stories really worried about how many shiny coins they had.  Because I didn't care I wanted to let my players be able not to care.

Necessity is the mother of diversion

"We need supplies to make the trip, and we should get a wagon and a team to pull it."  Seems like a simple thing, go out and get the stuff.  Then the questions start coming up.  "Who will drive the wagon?"  Skills get examined.  "Who is going shopping?"  Questions are asked about what skills would apply to ensuring the proper equipment and supplies are acquired.  "Is this coming from the group funds or the mission fund, or are the people doing the shopping paying and then getting reimbursed?  Do you have receipts?

If the game, and this time I mean the game as an abstract not the rules and not the story but the social contracted event where the players sit down to play, gives this interaction meaning then by all means work it out, make sure the person with the best skills does the job, make sure the money is properly allocated, make sure everyone gets to do the thing they are there to do.  Or, wave your hand and say "You get the things you need for the trip."  One way might take an entire session and the other might take five minutes.  Both are valid. 

Final Thoughts

So, what has this all been about?  The point I'm trying to make here is that you should do what is right for your game.  And by 'Right' I mean what helps make your game the collective experience for everyone.  Or at least the most people possible.

We make compromises all the time when we game.  Listen to your players, even if it's just their moans of suffering when they go into a shop to buy a new sword and the shop keeper begins to haggle.  They will tell you all manner of things that can help you guide the game toward the best place for everyone.

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