This money thing won’t be so easily beaten.
In an MMO, there’s a real economy, and the stuff I need has a price that’s adjusted either for gameplay (WoW level model) or by the activity of players (EVE market model). In a single-person or closed-participant CRPG or tactics game (Diablo, Warcraft/ Starcraft), it’s set by gameplay, too.
But in tabletop RPGs, it’s static based on design with the implicit understanding that the GM can monkey with the cost lists. That’s fine and good for a worldbuilding and narrative perspective — “The Guild has prevented metalsmiths from making weapons. Now all weapons are triple the listed price.” — but it still doesn’t create the money sinks that make money a reward, nor does it actively encourage the spending of money on the part of the player.
Recently, I’ve played a fair bit of Swords & Wizardry, which cadges from its parent D&D the idea that found treasure equals experience. I like this mostly, because it literally makes money a reward by tying it into the level progression. No need for a “fix” there. But what it doesn’t do is account for the behavior of that money afterward. There’s no sink, and no causality afterward. 15 GP could just have easily been a pair of sleeping orcs in terms of effect.
So here’s a modification I’ve been considering: Money found does not equal experience, but money spent does. You don’t have to spend it on anything functional in-game, but doing so gets you a double reward of the XP at issue and whatever the money buys. So it makes for cool situations like:
- I spend my money drinking and whoring, like Conan, Fafhrd, and the Grey Mouser.
- I tithe my money to the Church of [Womble or Whomever], like a good cleric or paladin should be doing anyway.
- I invest my money in magical research, and create magic items as a result (particularly in terms of the D&D 3.5 ruleset, even though it doesn’t decree that found money is experience).
- I sock it away in preparation to buy my stronghold (an investment that then provides event opportunities, whether in terms of the stronghold, or in terms of the scoundrels with whom I banked it skimming off my deposits).
- I build a monument in town (maybe even to myself, like in Fable II).
- I conduct research, potentially creating some weird fiction type device or breakthrough that may impact the world. All those odd things in the world come from sone industrious inventor, after all.
- I become a patron to an artist or movement, like a Medici. (This could have great impact in a campaign like my Belluna homebrew, which chronicles the transition of a crime family into legitimacy, like the premise of the Godfather novels. With similar results….)
- I hire retainers and hirelings.
- I invest it in a non-stronghold property (as per Ethan’s comment in the previous entry) and doll it up a bit.
I give it to orphans. I pay taxes. I practice largesse in the base town. Whatever. Spend the money to earn it as XP, don’t just find it under a lizardman’s corpse.
I know a few games have mechanics like this, such as Barbarians of Lemuria and one of the house rules to Iron Heroes, and I think it can add a lot to a sandbox-style RPG campaign, regardless of the setting.