Money in RPGs

I played AstraTerra at RopeCon. Its a game intended for children from five and up. There’s money within the game, but I don’t think its needed.

The game goes for the feel of Miyazaki, or at least certain Miyazaki-movies. And why not? Miyazaki might very well be the greatest director working today.

However, how often do the characters in those movies do something for money? How often do they go to get supplies in a store? Probably every once in a while, but its not routine. Its not a central part of the movies. So, why is it needed in the game?

I would have just cut it. Its not often established characters pick up any new equipment. The characters should only have what they start with, and be able to use what they find, but those things should be single-use only, and discarded immediately afterwards for whatever reason. Sure, you could argue that its good to give some math practice for kids. I’m not saying it isn’t. I’m just saying you shouldn’t go out of your way to do so.

What you probably should do, is to disperse some equipment in the beginning among the characters and that’s that. (Another area, where the game seems to fail, is that the equipment is meant to be quirky and emphasize the characters qualities in some way, but since its easy to get pretty much any equipment, this will easily get lost in the shuffle.)

Since I still haven’t actually read the book, I can’t really say whether all this is an actual design decision based on something I haven’t figured out, or is it just accepting a paradigm, and there wasn’t actual thought behind the decision.

I prefer to have money handled on a very abstract level. That’s how people work in real life. We have a general feeling on what we can afford and we buy things based on that. We don’t continuously check our funds, and we definitely don’t have them on display on sheet somewhere.

I actually find it pretty funny when people take their in-game finances much more seriously than their real life ones. I don’t need that extra stress. I’d much rather just use the World of Darkness-style approach, where you have some vague amount of money. If you have resources of 1, you won’t be able to go out and buy a new car, but you’ll probably be able to buy some old piece of trash car, which might work out, or not. You’ll just be broke for a while (which isn’t necessarily a big thing if you’re a vampire and don’t really need to buy food). On the other hand, if you’re fairly rich and have a resources of five, you’ll be able to go out and buy a 60k car, and it doesn’t really affect you in anyway. You can’t do it every week, but you can do it often enough.

I don’t need anything more specific than that. I’ve never seen any player try to abuse this fogginess of the system. In fact, in games, where I don’t have this system, I have a tendency to just throw my characters money away on whatever. I actually like the system of Barbarians of Lemuria, where you just manage to squander all your loot between adventures.

I do get that in some survival style games you do need to keep very good handle on your resources, and in these cases, it might be right to have your players keep rigorous accounts of their money (as well as other stuff). However, in most games, in which money is in fact used, I think its the wrong approach, and its added to the game without much thought put into reasons.

Lets suppose our adventurers have just won an epic battle against a very dangerous foe. Everyone’s wounded and tired, but the deed has been done. Now its time to celebrate saving the town and ridding the world of such abomination. So, let us loot. That’s comedic. That’s more of a satire of what these people would do than anything else. You don’t want to emphasize things like that, unless you are really going for comedy with it (or survival, as said previously). It takes away from the epic win. That would be the time when characters get to show how cool they are, not wallow in their own greed.

… but hey, its tradition, right?

2 thoughts on “Money in RPGs

  1. Having read Astraterra I’d guess that the idea is to use money as another kind of resource to hone the character. Players gather experience points so that their characters become more efficient. They also gather money so that their characters are able to gain new abilities and skills.

  2. Based on my single game experience, it just feels a bit tacked on, and not really part of the genre the game is trying to convey. Cool adventurers shouldn’t have such petty concerns as money.

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