Interesting way to make money work in a PbtA setting?

I’ve spent a little time jamming together my fantasy PbtA concept lately and I’m generally content with the shape of it, but I can’t quite figure out how I want money to work.

We could just work with a straight up coin system, either partially abstracted like Dungeon World or fully abstracted in more of a Blades type way, but I like the idea of making Wealth an attribute or turning it into a stress track, which I’ve seen done in a few Fate games. The trouble is that I can’t quite figure out how to make it fun, and that may be slightly because I don’t have a clear picture of what I want it to mean in the game.

The game is heavily narrative-lead and the genre leans towards epic fantasy. I want player characters to be able to start out in peasantry, privilege, or anywhere in between. and for the game to play out in a way that reflects and emphasises that difference. I’m definitely more interested in the order-of-magnitude price of things than deciding the optimal way of spending 11 coins, but I feel like characters being able to win and lose money, fall into debt and find their way to wealth is interesting and contributes to the kind of stories we want to tell. At the same time being able to buy new equipment and replace broken gear is part of the story. I don’t know that these goals can all be lined up, and it may be that honestly the idea of just having coin is a natural answer, but I’d appreciate any insights you all have on this.


After talking around it I’m leaning towards something based on the Wealth system in Reign, which looks like it offers some interesting opportunities in a reasonably simple way.

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Could you describe how Reign does it?

Sorry, I thought I’d replied to this ages ago!

The mechanic as I’m using it treats Wealth as an abstract stress track, where each step represents an approximate doubling of wealth from level 1, effectively pocket change, to a kingly fortune around 7 (so clearly not exactly a doubling of wealth, it’s all abstraction) and when you want to purchase something if it costs less than your Wealth score you can just afford it, if it costs equal to your wealth score, you can afford it but your wealth score is reduced by one. If it’s greater than your wealth you can’t afford it yet and you will have to work hard to increase your Wealth so you can afford it.

You can also give half your fortune to someone by reducing your Wealth by one to equalise your Wealth scores. So if I have 5 wealth and I give you half my fortune, we now both have 4 wealth.

The main weakness of this kind of approach is that if something is below your Wealth score, you can theoretically buy loads of them, but if we assume that scarcity drives the market then things are likely to get expensive and supplies are likely to be limited.

In terms of what you can buy, I’ve got food and drink and basics at 1 wealth, basic equipment at 2 wealth, serviceable equipment at 3 and masterful at 5.

Wealth has been something that I’ve thought about, too, wanting it to be abstract instead of accounting while also being meaningful in play. Here’s what I’ve settled on, without being able to describe numerous inspirations. Likely a lot of @Jeremy_Strandberg in this…

  • Wealth is a pseudo attribute with levels/steps following fantasy coin values (eg. Copper, Silver, etc)
  • Each Wealth step indicates lifestyle and spending power, using typical fantasy equipment lists.
  • Characters can make a single purchase “At Wealth” per session or other significant block of time.
  • More than one At Wealth purchase at a time will reduce Wealth step.
  • A reasonable number of purchases maybe be made at any time “Below Wealth”
  • Purchases “Above Wealth” are not possible
  • Gaining loot “Above Wealth” can increase individual Wealth to that step or can be spread around the party to increase all characters to the next lower Wealth step.
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