Just like you and I use money to pay rent, eat food and have a little fun in the real world, our RPG characters do the same.
In most games, the players loot a dungeon after it’s been cleared and try to amass as much gold, electrum, silver and copper pieces as we can.
Of course you can spend them on magic items, potions, enchantments and spell scrolls, but games such as Dungeons & Dragons and Pathfinder have rules for how much your character should be spending to maintain their lifestyle.
Though it may seem tedious, these kinds of expenses can make for some fun storytelling. What happens if the crew can’t afford to pay its tab at the tavern? How are they going to afford a Raise Dead spell when they’re spending so much on wine? What happens when someone tries to cheat them?
So how do you handle those costs? We have some suggestions.
Make lifestyle expenses a set fee. If you’re running the game, it can be tedious for each character to choose what level of lifestyle their character will live at and then calculate how much they’re working, what they’re doing in their downtime and how much they owe based on how many days they’ve played in the campaign. Rather, it might be better to establish a rule that says every time the party levels, each character has to fork over a set amount of gold pieces to account for their expenses.
Have characters purchase everything. If they’re staying at an inn for the night, have the innkeeper charge them. If they buy a meal, make them pay. If they’re heading out on an expedition, have the shop owner ring up a bill for rations, tents and other items. And make sure the players mark it down on their character sheets.
Find a place to store their cash. Keeping a few hundred gold coins in a small coin purse is no big deal. But once a group of adventurers starts carrying around a good amount of cash, where are they gonna keep it? You can determine whether your game world has banks and, if so, how plentiful and secure they are. They could hide their treasure or entrust it to an NPC. But what happens if someone robs them? That’s a story hook right there.
Pay taxes. The local noble may not just have a few good quests to hand out. He may also be looking for his constituents to pay their taxes. So, what happens when the characters are being tracked down to pay their fair share?
Find a profession. Some tables do downtime activities. For others, the characters are always adventuring. One way to earn some extra dough either to pay expenses or to save up for a new magic item is to give characters a job. Maybe your dwarven fighter is also a smith who crafts magnificent armor when he’s not delving into dungeons. Maybe your wizard sells spell scrolls on the side. Maybe your cleric takes a little coin at the local temple for casting healing spells.
Take out a loan. If characters are having trouble funding their adventures, a noble or bank or shadowy organization may offer loans (perhaps with steep interest rates) to cover costs. But what happens if the characters can’t pay? They may have to do some favors to avoid trouble.
Ignore expenses. Some argue that fantasy RPGs are just that: Fantasy. Why inject real world stuff like worrying about how much rent your character needs to pay in a game that’s about escaping real life for a minute to go slay dragons? If keeping track of your character’s monthly food budget is too much, it’s safe to say you can simply ignore that and still have a good time.