Tuesday, September 2, 2014

The Evil GM - How much gold is too much gold in your games?

A lot of people complain they don't get enough gold from their adventure, but what is not enough gold to one person maybe too much gold for another. From the standpoint of someone running the game, you might not really care, and just throw gold at the party, while another DM might just hold off on gold, giving it out sparingly.

Of those two methods, I tend to lean towards sparingly because I feel that if you flood players with gold here and there, that it will not feel "great" or "special" as a reward when they kill a big bad. Who really wants to find tons of gold everywhere, only to finish a long cave adventure only to find the same amount of gold you've been finding all along?

Characters finding gold should be something big, or major. Sure a few pieces of gold on the leader of say a bandit patrol that attacked the party would be acceptable, but to find gold on every bandit, and their entire coin bag filled with it? No I don't think so.

You want your players eyes opening up as you describe what their character sees when it comes to massive amounts of gold they found. 

I was in a group a while back, where the DM gave gold out like it was candy, everywhere and every monster had gold, nothing but gold. After a while, it became like finding copper for the party. When we finally reached the end of the quest, and returned the item we quested for, we were rewarded with... Gold.

It was like, "Yawn, just throw the gold on the pile and we will worry about what to do with it later" attitude with the party.

One of the players in the group actually decided to bring his laptop and design some type of accounting software to deal with the gold, and who had what.

What do you do in your games, or how do you feel about giving out gold?


  1. I'd say I probably am more of a 'stingy' GM. In general my campaign is a poor one. I use a silver standard so getting gold is a big deal, even if it is a coin or two. Especially in the beginning the players need to manage their resources, including their money. But as they get higher level and accumulate things they have more room monetarily to play with, but they always find more expensive toys they want to play with so it equals out in the end.

  2. I'm quite cruel with my games, so the party will often find nothing but dirt and the bodies of their friends at the bottom of a dungeon. Then one day they will hit paydirt and become insanely wealthy overnight. I mean, have you ever seen medieval coins? They're tiny wafers. A "pile" of them would be thousands upon thousands of those little things.

    So yea, I use money along the lines of an abusive relationship. Slap 'um and tell them you love them, run hot and cold. It itches something in the lizard brain.

  3. Rather than coins, give out gems and jewelry, as well as objects of art. They can be turned into cash in town, of course, but that can be an adventure all it's own.

    First, they have to find someone to buy them. A streetwise roll, or maybe history? Then a check of some sort to get a good deal. In the end, you still have control of how much liquid wealth they have, without having to worry about the treasure getting boring.

    And, maybe the dwarf doesn't want to sell the jeweled tankard. It becomes a signature item for him, at least until it gets stolen.

    But that is another adventure.

  4. If you're running an old-school-style GP=XP game, it doesn't matter how much gold you throw at the PCs, they'll scramble for every last coin, and then start picking through the silver and copper, encumbrance permitting. As long as treasure equals advancement, gems, jewelry, platinum, gold, electrum, objects d'art, silver, trade goods, and copper (in that order) will always make the PCs' hearts beat faster.

    Now, once they've got the money, it's nice to have some gold-sinks like item identification, crafting, fortifications and resurrections to keep their eye on the bottom line, but that's kind of optional.

  5. I'll echo what the last two posters said. Interesting items rather than cash, and gold sinks. Thinking of my last game I played in, raise dead was wickedly expensive, plus you had convalescence costs on top of that. Of course it was only available at the large city where everything is more expensive.

    Giving the players a small hamlet to run that often incurs (hidden) costs is pretty clever too.

    1. I like to hand out items and trinkets as opposed to handing out large sums of gold. In one case, I handed out a sentient item that tried to turn one of the PCs toward an evil alignment. The other PCs didn't know and started questioning this PC's actions. It became a nice side adventure. But, through discovery, they then found that this was actually part of a set of items imbued with the essence of the man who wore them prior.

      But, as a rule for me, I trend toward making sure they are rewarded for their efforts and I usually do this by handing out cool items. They may use them, they may not, but they don't usually get to sell them for the list price. It keeps them poor enough with hungry eyes.

      On your last comment. I did this. As a reward from one of their side quests off of the main story line, they were given a deed to a building that was being used as part of the evildoer's lair. They then have to sink gold into it to repair it, and eventually it became a base of operations with them with revenue and expenses.

    2. My players found a really nice "Staff of Withering", but don't have a cleric. They'd sell it, but they can't find anybody who can afford it, and they're loathe to part with it for cheap. :)

  6. It depends on the system, but a lot of times loot is an integral part of advancement along with XP. If you read the rules for making a character above level 1 in D&D 3.5, Pathfinder, and such, it is assumed that they have a certain amount of wealth in weapons, armor, items, and tools. Its built into the CR system and certain classes like the fighter rely heavily on their weapons and armor to help define the character. One thing I think D&D 3.5 did extremely well is define how to generate treasure randomly. Every creature had a treasure value associated with it (none, standard, gems only, ect) and you could use that to just generate a good balance of coin, gems, art, and items based on the creatures CR. It isn't a flawless system, since if you only ever threw creatures without treasure or creatures with double or triple standard you could easily give too little or too much.

    If you flood the players with wealth it'll devalue the rewards from encounters and also potentially overpower them, but if you starve them too much they won't have the tools and tricks expected of them by the system itself and they may get discouraged or find adventuring pointless.

    There's a lot of material out there that goes into great detail on how to deal with treasure. the D&D 3.5 DMG is a great source for any system to give an idea of how to approach the issue. Treasure should also come in many different shapes and sizes as some people have already commented. Gems, art, trade goods, land, vehicles, services, or even the loyalty of followers can all be interesting rewards for adventuring. You can always reward the players with something other than physical wealth as well. If they do a favor for a remote tribe the shaman may impart on them magical tattoos that give them a special power, ranging from a small bonus on a specific skill check to something more significant like waterbreathing or a natural armor bonus.

    There are of course systems where wealth is more of an abstract concept, but I think that's a conversation for another post entirely.