RPG Talk‘s November 2016 Design Contest was to design a currency.
Give a description of a currency in your world. What gives the currency its value? In what units is it measured? How is it acquired? How is it verified? Entries are limited to 1,000 words and should be game system agnostic.
My entry is below, or you can download the PDF here. This includes insanity tables for extra fun.
Gold of An Ancient Civilisation
The coins are pure gold, and roughly 2
inches across. They come in various shapes and sizes, though most are circular.
Most noticeably, they have upon them detailed carvings of esoteric design. A
few designs appear to be very common, others appear to be unique.
Unsurprisingly for pure gold, the coins are frequently
battered and worn. Despite this, they all weigh exactly the same amount, down
to the smallest increment of weight available to test (or not, if you prefer).
Sketch of a coin with the common “Eye with lower line pattern” design
As a base, the coins have the intrinsic value of gold, however
this is frequently surpassed by their value to collectors. There are rumours of
curses attached to these coins, however this only serves to drive the price up
among the crowd of collectors who go for the strange and occult.
It has been suggested by academics that the “uniqueness” of the design denotes the value of the coin to the original creators, with the unique symbols denoting favours from powerful members of society. This is, however, just a theory. Certainly, the “rareness” of each design does seem to fall within bands rather than a smooth gradient.
If you’d like this ancient civilisation to still be active within your setting, take the above as confirmed fact. This creates a currency that is a mix of:
- fiat (as, at the lower levels
it is backed by the civilisation as a whole)
- commodity (as it’s made out of gold, but if used like this loses the gradient of value)
- representative (as, at the
higher levels, the coins represent favours issued by
If it helps hold this mess together, I recommend having the
currency backed by religion as well. i.e. the civilisation continuing to honour
the gradients in value even during a financial collapse, as it is sacred. This
essentially removes the commodity section for internal trade.
Diagram showing the design on the unique “Deal” coin
Dungeon/Games/Etc Masters feel free to pick any/all/none for this
section. Tables provided only for ease if random generation (either for the
whole, a set, or individual coin) is your thing.
|“Evil” feeling. The coin “feels evil and wrong”. No other effect|
|2||Owner is Undead until the coin is returned / curse is broken (ala Pirates of the Caribbean)|
|3||Bad Luck. Mechanically represent this how you like. A penalty to tests, rolling two dice and taking the lowest, or just RP.|
|4||Ruin. Everything the bearer uses breaks down or rots perceptibly faster. Food grows mould within hours, tools break in half the normal time, guns frequently jam, etc|
|5||Fleeting, temporary madness. Happens sporadically, but not too frequently.|
|6||Permanent madness. The bearer slowly descends into madness never to return (unless the curses is broken or coin returned etc).|
Sketch of a coin with the common “Gate Star” design
If you feel nicer, you can have the coins confer a boon rather than a curse. Remember to adjust the value accordingly for anyone who is aware. NPC’s may even try to acquire them through less pleasant means.
|Always lands the way up the user wants when flipped|
|2||Bearer cannot be overheard by anyone more than a few steps away when talking in a low voice|
|3||Good Luck. Mechanically represent this how you like. A bonus to tests, rolling two dice and taking the highest, or just RP.|
|4||The coin warms at the mental command of the bearer. Maximum temperature at the GMs discretion.|
|5||Owed a favour by someone minor, but convenient.|
|6||Owed a favour a major player or influence.|
Diagram showing the design on the unique “Duonmales” coin
- Coin sketches by Steff Sorensen, commissioned
for this project.
- Coin diagrams stolen from The Lesser Bot of Solomon. (If whoever made that would like me to take them down please do let me know)