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Coins, Treasure & Daily Life


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Hello all!   I am hoping to pick your collective brains for something I am working on.  I am sure much of what I need is out there or one of you amazing folks have already pondered.   So I am hoping for tips or directions to where to look further.

 

Finding treasure or at the very least "doing the job and getting paid" is pretty standard for most Fantasy Hero (and other) Campaigns, but I am looking for some help with trying to do something a little more Low Fantasy than D&D when it comes to pricing and payments.

I am trying to step away from the D&D gold piece standard and go more with Silver and Copper as the primary coin of the realm and people.   I figure Gold should be reserved for Guilds, Nobles and the like and not so much a barkeep or blacksmith.  But I also don't want to try and create everything from scratch.   I believe Fantasy Hero has a price sheet for weapons and some gear but I am hoping someone knows other places I can look for pre-made lists I can use as a baseline and adjust with minimal work.  To this end I was also thinking some thing a little different from the normal 10 coins = next step up and go with something like 10 Copper to 1 Silver but 100 Silver to 1 Gold or the like.

Goals:
1 - Most daily life purchase would be handled with copper or some silver.

2 - Trying for Low Fantasy so I don't plan for players to become insanely wealthy  ( no dragon hoards or the like)  But I do want them to earn payment that would be enough to live the high life for a week or so but then be getting low enough they need to find work again or risk going hungry.

3 - To this end I plan to track costs of food/lodging and the like as well.   I am not worrying about rules lawyering the system exactly, I trust my players enough to use their coins as per character needs/wants.

4 - Still thinking through what else I will need to think about.  I am open to suggestions

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  My only advice to you is in the realm of “keep it simple stupid”.  Tracking costs and coin values to any great extent is going to bog down game play.

  It’s much easier to GM-play it like “OK, after a week or two of living it up you realize that your coin pursed is getting light again, so it’s time to start looking for work.”  If a player tells you in advance that the next time he’s got money he wants a new sword (or horse or a new lute, etc. Anything basic)  just tell him he picked one up during the good times unless he wants to roleplay the transaction for himself.

  Things are always flexible. If you have an idea for something that happens during the party days (Tavern brawl, having to do apprentice work for the Dwarven smith forging the new blade or making a new NPC contact) do it.  But counting out how much gets spent for each day’s partying at the inn is like recounting each time they make camp on the road to the next town.  Accurate but dull.

    Good luck on the new campaign.

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Thank you for your input!   While I agree with you on the KISS philosophy, players have expressed as desire for a slightly more "simulation-ist" style game this time around.  So for that sake I am trying to get some type of pricing for shopping and life expenses so things can be zoomed in or out on the timeline.   If they have specific things they wish to do for a day then I need to have things covered for general life if they want to RP the night at the tavern or visiting the farmer market and the life.   Or enough to extrapolate multiple days costs on the fly if we are doing a time jump before the next 'event'

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As long as it is not being used for commercial purposes just use the price sheet from another game system like Pathfinder and change the base from gold to silver.  So if you want to find out how much a long sword is look it up in the other game system and change the gold piece that most games use to silver.  Silver becomes copper and copper becomes some other base metal like iron. 

 

The Hero system was never really big on monetary value.  

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There is an article by Lewis Pulsipher in Dragon Magazine #74 entitled "A player character and his money..." that touches on this in one section of the article called "The silver standard." The article was mainly about ways to keep money flowing out of a character's hands, but it also had some ideas on managing currencies.

 

He suggests you leave the prices of goods and services as-is, but replace descriptions in treasure hoards with the word "silver" wherever it has "gold." When it comes to coin weight, he also suggests changing coins to the size and weight of a modern dime (35 grains/about 219 coins per pound). British half-pennies (new pence) were apparently pretty small. This makes silver the wealthy man's mode of exchange and gold a truly rare and wondrous thing. You also won't break your back carrying a personal fortune around or need magic bags or mules to carry a decent sum away from an adventure (or theft).

 

Your average longsword costing 15gp in D&D would now require 150sp to buy, which becomes a more proper value when characters are earning silver instead of gold on adventures. A sword was a treasure in and of itself in days past.

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My current campaign (well, the notes for one, since I'm not playing right now) uses octal instead of decimal currency. There's also a, "great silver" coin (worth 8 smaller silver coins). The final wrinkle is that only the Imperial government can coin money using precious metals, so some nobles have created local currencies using base metals (iron, brass/bronze, or maybe lead).

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This one takes a bit of front-loading on your part, but if you really want it to work, then it should be worth it, as the research isnt too involved.

 

Look up the value of the various metals- copper, silver, gold, iron, steel- and figure the ratios between them.

 

Fudge them a bit until you have a working x ounces of A equals Y ounces of B kind of thing going.

 

You can then determine a coin size and figuure out the weight of coins in various metals, or (and this is just simpler, but its about how simulationist you want to go, really) just determine how many ounces are in a coin, keeping that weight consistent from coin to coin, and assuke the size of the coins varies with regard to the metal used.

 

Once You have the values of the metal, you need a set of multipliers.  Assume your base values are for ingots, or ore that has been refined to a useable purity.  Knock off fifteen percent to determine the value of raw ore (steel, obviously, has no raw ore, but consider the "ore" to be raw or cold_rolled low-grade, semi-pliable steel: the stff that needs a good forging to be useful for things that need to harder than wrought iron or rebar).

 

If you want to get deep into simulation, add ten or twelve percent to the value of any coin being spent in the territory where it was minted _or_ devalue "foreign" coins to that of ore value, since they will have to be collected by the authorites and restruck as proper coins of the realm.

 

Determine your multipliers for different types of metal goods:

 

Simple jewelry?  Metal value x 2, paying for the skill and labor that went into it,

 

Nice jewelry?  Metal used x 4.

 

Exquisite jewelry?  Metal x 10.

 

These are just numbers pulled from the air, mind you, and to get the feel of different economies or particularly desireable or common pieces will rate higher or lower than the listed multiplier.

 

It gets a bit more detailed with steel, but gain, your cost _starts_ with the amount of raw materials: the coin weight of the item, essentially, plus the weight of any material lost during crafting, etc.

 

From their your multipliers are determined by the amount of time spent crafting (total time: if it took ten men ten days, then it took 100 days), the amount of skill, the detail and ornateness, and any uniwue features such as "unearthly sharpness of edge" or "lighter than a schoolboy's thoughts" or even "super-easy to bless."

 

Which brings up the next point, more common with weapons than anything else in RPGs:

 

_everyone_ gets paid, and everyone has a orive requirment.  So you have figured out what the metal costs and the blacksmith charges; that's great.  But then there were the two monks who blessed the ore and started the ceremony to enchant the blade and the alchemists who provided the mysterious powders to fold into the white-hot steel, etc.

 

All of that costs, and those costs are not only added in to the cost of the item, but they are determined the same way: the church wants to be paid for their services, as does the local alchemical college.

 

And this is pretty much how an unregulated market works, really.  If your local municipality has special laws governing any of these things or even controlling the sale or manufacture or even just the final price, factor that in as well.

 

There is so much more than can be thrown into this, but the first part: metal value, ore value, cost multipliers, exchange rates- these should be enough to create the experience your playera arw looking for.

 

Just remind them when they start to realize that metal items are very much worth more than their weight in coins that this is the reason so many grouos kind of gloss over day-to-day finances..... ;)

 

Hope something there helps!

 

:D

 

 

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I am trying to step away from the D&D gold piece standard and go more with Silver and Copper as the primary coin of the realm and people.   I figure Gold should be reserved for Guilds, Nobles and the like and not so much a barkeep or blacksmith.  But I also don't want to try and create everything from scratch.   I believe Fantasy Hero has a price sheet for weapons and some gear but I am hoping someone knows other places I can look for pre-made lists I can use as a baseline and adjust with minimal work.  To this end I was also thinking some thing a little different from the normal 10 coins = next step up and go with something like 10 Copper to 1 Silver but 100 Silver to 1 Gold or the like.

 

That's what I did for my campaign, copper is the base currency (with iron coins for pennies), and the breakdown of value the same way.  Most premodern cultures (and some modern ones) had a very wide dichotomy between the rich and the rest of the people, almost two economies.  Rich people dealt in the big coins, the rest (merchants, peasants etc) dealt in the smallest.  Rich people spent silver and gold, poor spent copper and sometimes might see a silver piece, using that system.

 

A straight conversion of Gold to Copper works fairly well for most fantasy material lists, but economies are fluid and reactive.

 

Places where there is a lot of war and adventure going on would have weapons somewhat cheaper and more plentiful.  Places where the king kills anyone who has a weapon or its calm and peaceful weapons will be rare and expensive.  Some cultures trade heavily with others and will have exotic, interesting wares (usually seaports) and others will only have what is locally available, which is going to be very limited.  There's an awful lot that can be said about economies and how trade should work in a game but usually player characters will be only in high adventure areas.

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3 hours ago, IndianaJoe3 said:

My current campaign (well, the notes for one, since I'm not playing right now) uses octal instead of decimal currency. There's also a, "great silver" coin (worth 8 smaller silver coins). The final wrinkle is that only the Imperial government can coin money using precious metals, so some nobles have created local currencies using base metals (iron, brass/bronze, or maybe lead).

 

That is not something I had considered as an option but I like it!   Definitily going to come up with some multi-value coins for use.  Seems like it would help with lower and mid-level business transactions as well.

 

 

8 hours ago, Steve said:

There is an article by Lewis Pulsipher in Dragon Magazine #74 entitled "A player character and his money..." that touches on this in one section of the article called "The silver standard." The article was mainly about ways to keep money flowing out of a character's hands, but it also had some ideas on managing currencies.

 

He suggests you leave the prices of goods and services as-is, but replace descriptions in treasure hoards with the word "silver" wherever it has "gold." When it comes to coin weight, he also suggests changing coins to the size and weight of a modern dime (35 grains/about 219 coins per pound). British half-pennies (new pence) were apparently pretty small. This makes silver the wealthy man's mode of exchange and gold a truly rare and wondrous thing. You also won't break your back carrying a personal fortune around or need magic bags or mules to carry a decent sum away from an adventure (or theft).

 

Your average longsword costing 15gp in D&D would now require 150sp to buy, which becomes a more proper value when characters are earning silver instead of gold on adventures. A sword was a treasure in and of itself in days past.

 

I'll have to dig through my old Dragons, but I don't think I have that one.  It would be a very simple system but still too coin intense for me.  Part of what I am looking to do is try and cut down on the idea of people carrying huge bags of coins all over.   But thank you!

 

 

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2 hours ago, Duke Bushido said:

This one takes a bit of front-loading on your part, but if you really want it to work, then it should be worth it, as the research isnt too involved.

 

Look up the value of the various metals- copper, silver, gold, iron, steel- and figure the ratios between them.

 

Fudge them a bit until you have a working x ounces of A equals Y ounces of B kind of thing going.

 

You can then determine a coin size and figuure out the weight of coins in various metals, or (and this is just simpler, but its about how simulationist you want to go, really) just determine how many ounces are in a coin, keeping that weight consistent from coin to coin, and assuke the size of the coins varies with regard to the metal used.

 

Once You have the values of the metal, you need a set of multipliers.  Assume your base values are for ingots, or ore that has been refined to a useable purity.  Knock off fifteen percent to determine the value of raw ore (steel, obviously, has no raw ore, but consider the "ore" to be raw or cold_rolled low-grade, semi-pliable steel: the stff that needs a good forging to be useful for things that need to harder than wrought iron or rebar).

 

If you want to get deep into simulation, add ten or twelve percent to the value of any coin being spent in the territory where it was minted _or_ devalue "foreign" coins to that of ore value, since they will have to be collected by the authorites and restruck as proper coins of the realm.

 

Determine your multipliers for different types of metal goods:

 

Simple jewelry?  Metal value x 2, paying for the skill and labor that went into it,

 

Nice jewelry?  Metal used x 4.

 

Exquisite jewelry?  Metal x 10.

 

These are just numbers pulled from the air, mind you, and to get the feel of different economies or particularly desireable or common pieces will rate higher or lower than the listed multiplier.

 

It gets a bit more detailed with steel, but gain, your cost _starts_ with the amount of raw materials: the coin weight of the item, essentially, plus the weight of any material lost during crafting, etc.

 

From their your multipliers are determined by the amount of time spent crafting (total time: if it took ten men ten days, then it took 100 days), the amount of skill, the detail and ornateness, and any uniwue features such as "unearthly sharpness of edge" or "lighter than a schoolboy's thoughts" or even "super-easy to bless."

 

Which brings up the next point, more common with weapons than anything else in RPGs:

 

_everyone_ gets paid, and everyone has a orive requirment.  So you have figured out what the metal costs and the blacksmith charges; that's great.  But then there were the two monks who blessed the ore and started the ceremony to enchant the blade and the alchemists who provided the mysterious powders to fold into the white-hot steel, etc.

 

All of that costs, and those costs are not only added in to the cost of the item, but they are determined the same way: the church wants to be paid for their services, as does the local alchemical college.

 

And this is pretty much how an unregulated market works, really.  If your local municipality has special laws governing any of these things or even controlling the sale or manufacture or even just the final price, factor that in as well.

 

There is so much more than can be thrown into this, but the first part: metal value, ore value, cost multipliers, exchange rates- these should be enough to create the experience your playera arw looking for.

 

Just remind them when they start to realize that metal items are very much worth more than their weight in coins that this is the reason so many grouos kind of gloss over day-to-day finances..... ;)

 

Hope something there helps!

 

:D

 

 

Wow...  you are right that is ALOT of front loading.   Maybe a little more than I am able to do at this time, but I have a new pet project for that mythical 'free time' people talk about now :D 

 

There is a lot to unpack here but certainly some good nuggets to think about!  But yes, as someone that works in a production industry... there is a definite value to finished materials that is more than just the cost of raw components.   Really wish more customers could get that through their heads.

 

 

1 hour ago, Christopher R Taylor said:

 

That's what I did for my campaign, copper is the base currency (with iron coins for pennies), and the breakdown of value the same way.  Most premodern cultures (and some modern ones) had a very wide dichotomy between the rich and the rest of the people, almost two economies.  Rich people dealt in the big coins, the rest (merchants, peasants etc) dealt in the smallest.  Rich people spent silver and gold, poor spent copper and sometimes might see a silver piece, using that system.

 

A straight conversion of Gold to Copper works fairly well for most fantasy material lists, but economies are fluid and reactive.

 

I had not considered doing sub-copper coinage, not sure if I want to do that or not but you seem to be very much on the wavelength I am thinking about and going for.   They players are going to be based in a Trade Hub town so I do want to have some price flux depending on if a caravan or ship has come through recently but focused on the base rates for now.

 

Allowing you a shameless plug, I see you have done a lot of Fantasy Hero supplements but I admit to not have purchased any so far.  Do any of the ones you have cover the pricing at all?   

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3 minutes ago, greypaladin_01 said:

Part of what I am looking to do is try and cut down on the idea of people carrying huge bags of coins all over.   But thank you!

 

 

 

In that case maybe there is a cultural/societal shift that you can add to your game. 

 

In bigger cities and towns, maybe there is a "money exchange" at every entrance. When people enter and leave they can first stop by these exchanges and have their coins either changed in to smaller value coins for spending in town, but when leaving to travel, they can exchange their various small coins for fewer larger value coins that are easier to carry (and conceal).

 

For example, the team is leaving a city to go explore an old ruin, they have about 200 SP and 150 CP on them, which is a lot of coins and not only heavy, but also loud to walk around with. So they hit the exchange on their way out of town and get 2 GP and 3 SP. That is a lot easier to transport and hide, while they adventure. When they get back to town, they can trade the GP back in for silver coins to spend in the city.

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Allowing you a shameless plug, I see you have done a lot of Fantasy Hero supplements but I admit to not have purchased any so far.  Do any of the ones you have cover the pricing at all? 


 

The Field Guide covers some economics and pricing, but the upcoming Player and Master guides will cover that in more specific detail. 

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You may want to look at 3rd Edition Fantasy Hero.  It may be more of what you are looking for.  It was at 4th Ed and higher that Fantasy Hero seemed to go all D&D/Pathfinder'ish with prices. 

The price list in the 6th Ed Fantasy Hero book is very comprehensive and it should be too difficult to drop it into a spread sheet and then recompute the costs to the 3rd edition. 

 

3rd Edition sets coin value at 100 Copper = 1 Silver, 10 Silver = 1 Gold.   With most transactions being Barter/Trade or Coppers for the well heeled. 

A person employed with a Professional Skill makes an average of 1 Silver a week, with the actual pay being heavily influenced by the actual skill and local need.

 

6th Edition sets coin value at the "gaming standard" of 10 Coppers = 1 Silver, 10 Silvers = 1 Gold.  With the Silver being the main method of transaction.

An unskilled laborers average wage is 1 Silver per day,  far higher than one would expect.  Or at least that I would expect :think:.  And this would push professional pay way up there.

 

To sum up.  I have always felt that the 3rd Ed had a better take on the actual coin and income, but 6th Ed has a far more comprehensive listing of stuff. 

 

 

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38 minutes ago, Christopher R Taylor said:

The Field Guide covers some economics and pricing, but the upcoming Player and Master guides will cover that in more specific detail. 

 

I should have remembered that. 

 

The Jolrhos system may also be a good fit.   It has the Copper as the main coin used with 10 Iron = 1 Copper, 10 Copper = 1 Silver, and finally 100 Silver = 1 Gold.

And while the Guide may not have players equipment lists, it has a a very in-depth and detailed pricing and material guide for the hows and costs that are used to make the stuff adventurers buy. 

That plus solid GM info on everything from sleep to travel to weather, it is a solid Fantasy GM's book.  And while it is written to be about the Jolrhos setting, the vast majority of the book is simply good reference material for any fantasy setting.  I personally recommend getting a copy just as a general reference.

 

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3 hours ago, mallet said:

 

In that case maybe there is a cultural/societal shift that you can add to your game. 

 

In bigger cities and towns, maybe there is a "money exchange" at every entrance. When people enter and leave they can first stop by these exchanges and have their coins either changed in to smaller value coins for spending in town, but when leaving to travel, they can exchange their various small coins for fewer larger value coins that are easier to carry (and conceal).

This is something I was already thinking on, but more in the perview of nobles, banks and merchant caravans,  having it available for general travelers would not seem far fetched.  Plus there could be tax or conversion fees as well for outsiders.

2 hours ago, Christopher R Taylor said:

The Field Guide covers some economics and pricing, but the upcoming Player and Master guides will cover that in more specific detail. 

 

Thank you!   Based on what Spence is saying then I will have to pick up a copy of the Field guide,  at the very least it should make for interesting reading.   I appreciate the help from everyone.   I know I can always count on this group for insight and direction!

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15 hours ago, Steve said:

There is an article by Lewis Pulsipher in Dragon Magazine #74 entitled "A player character and his money..." that touches on this in one section of the article called "The silver standard." The article was mainly about ways to keep money flowing out of a character's hands, but it also had some ideas on managing currencies.

 

He suggests you leave the prices of goods and services as-is, but replace descriptions in treasure hoards with the word "silver" wherever it has "gold." When it comes to coin weight, he also suggests changing coins to the size and weight of a modern dime (35 grains/about 219 coins per pound). British half-pennies (new pence) were apparently pretty small. This makes silver the wealthy man's mode of exchange and gold a truly rare and wondrous thing. You also won't break your back carrying a personal fortune around or need magic bags or mules to carry a decent sum away from an adventure (or theft).

 

Your average longsword costing 15gp in D&D would now require 150sp to buy, which becomes a more proper value when characters are earning silver instead of gold on adventures. A sword was a treasure in and of itself in days past.

 

I was going to suggest this. Gold coins the size of a dime are much more manageable for both PC's and GM's.

 

Keep in mind that gold weighs roughly twice what silver does. So if you have 200 dime-sized silver coins in a pound, you'd have roughly 100 dime-sized gold coins in the same weight.

 

You can set conversion rates at whatever you want. 2000 silver per gold piece is just as valid as 10 silver per gold piece: it all depends on how rare gold is compared to other metals.

 

For that matter, there's no telling what ancient civilizations valued. They could have carved coins out of bone or printed pictures of their revered leaders on small pieces of paper or have had "money" made out of mediums which the PC's wouldn't even recognize as money if they saw it.

 

 

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Sorry, I would have put this up hours ago, 

 

but wife and kids love to travel long miles and do things that give me a massive headache.  Things like go to the beach and watch the fireworks.  On the plus side, swimming for a couple of hours instead of sitting in traffic leaving the beach.  That was nice.

 

Anyway, this is some excerpts and comments from a sheet I have been using for quite some time.  It's likely not idea for you, but it gives you an idea of just how easy the front loading part can actually be, if you want it to be.

 

https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1YHsFWaLkAPyH2qKPRRIXeEuRy9CK4rm_IcXpNi3CPJ0/edit?usp=sharing

 

 

5 hours ago, archer said:

 

 

For that matter, there's no telling what ancient civilizations valued. They could have carved coins out of bone or printed pictures of their revered leaders on small pieces of paper or have had "money" made out of mediums which the PC's wouldn't even recognize as money if they saw it.

 

 

 

If lumber goes any higher, I'm going to start shaving them from oak dowels.

 

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If you are looking for something other than the popular gold standard, turn towards real history.  The gold standard was big in Europe,  but other parts of the globe used things that ignored metals altogether.  For example China invented a system of paper currency more than one thousand years ago that is similar to what is used today. Just make a quick search online and hopefully many alternatives will appear that would be a better option than the gold standard. 

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Subjects like this come up in the FH Forum every few years, so past discussions may include something useful. I recommend the thread below for the posts by Markdoc, who knew a lot about Medieval history and economics. I thought his analysis of pricing was astute:

 

http://www.herogames.com/forums/topic/90705-how-do-you-handle-prices/

 

The thread includes a link to an even older thread in which he offered further observations on just how *variable* prices could be.

 

I'm not sure if this is useful, but if you want to get away from the "bags-o'-gold" paradigm, I've heard that at the low end, people in some times and places used iron nails and other small commodities as informal money. At the high end, by, oh, the 14th century or so, European merchants used letters of credit for large transactions.

 

For stranger possibilities, Ptolemaic Egypt had grain as money. This didn't mean people were handing over jars of wheat for everyday goods, or even for commercial transactions: It was all handled by direct deposit banking, just recording the exchanges in ownership in account-books while the wheat stayed safe and sound in granaries. The source I read said Egypt had coin as well, for various purposes, but the conservative Egyptian people preferred grain banking.

 

Or, Medieval monasteries gave out meal tickets in return for various favors. You how up at the monastery, present your token, and get a bowl of porridge or whatever. At a guess, it took about five seconds for recipients to think of exchanging their meal tickets for other goods. One guaranteed meal a day? That's a "treasure" for the common man.

 

For now, let's not even get into cowrie shells and trade beads. But yeah, in real history there was a lot more going on than "gold pieces!"

 

Dean Shomshak

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I think the main reason people stick to coins and gold is because its more fun and exciting, more evocative to find a treasure chest full of gold coins than a wallet with a sheaf of papers indicating something held in a bank somewhere.  Plus precious metals are more fungible: no matter what culture or race or being, pretty much everyone likes and can use gold.  It transfers better, and can be traded universally.  Goblins, Dragons, Elves, and Veldasians all can use coin, but only the Veldasians use wooden discs representing mana stored in giant crystal towers.

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I'm running a Fantasy Hero campaign set in the Hyborian Kingdoms, so I created a Hero Designer prefab with many different coins from several kingdoms with their relative values. It is easily adaptable to any fantasy setting, and can be downloaded here:

I based everything off the generic "silver piece" where 1SP = $1.00. Feel free to adjust values accordingly.

 

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