Three Ways To Make Your Coins Special

Roleplaying Tips Newsletter #1060

I created a coinage system for Duskfall last week and did three things to make money special. Today I’ll share what these are for you to consider using in your worlds.

These tips are inspired by NOD #1 (Amazon affiliate link, Lulu link, blog link) where there’s a short article on coins.

Mint The Most Valuable Coins For Special Events

In Duskfall, platinum coins are at the top of the heap. Ten gold pieces equal one platinum.

However, these coins are only minted to commemorate certain occasions. Such as despots gaining power, major military victories, or planetary alignments and holy occasions.

It’s up to the bankers and rulers to decide when to design a new platinum coin and release a limited quantity.

What a great way to show the history of your world!

Next time the PCs loot a lair, give the most valuable coins a special reason for existence.

A good skill check or lore spell about the coins could reveal important clues to your plots and backstories.

Give Coins Weight

I liked how John Stater listed each coin’s weight. An extra detail for immersion and logistics.

His approach makes this easy.

Just decide how many coins make up a pound.

We could worry about ounces and grams for weights, but coins-per-pound makes calculations easy and gives players a tangible benchmark to understand.

In Duskfall, the primary currency in the Badlands come from the Buzanti empire.

1 pound =

  • 100 gold Anclas
  • 500 silver Scygnis
  • 1,000 copper Gaviotas

In Earth’s history, coins were light because metal was precious and manufacturing often had limits.

For example, the British farthing was a quarter penny less than three grams in weight. 960 farthings were worth one pound sterling.

You can make coins light or heavy to suit your game’s design.

The tip here is quantify the weight for coins using a pound of weight benchmark to make encumbrance calculations easy and inject setting flavour.

Coins For The Classes

Consider making one type of coin the standard currency for each major class in your cultures.

In Duskfall, gold Anclas are the main currency of nobles. Commoners will remember their entire lives when they saw and held a gold coin. Peasants will be unable to make change for, or even spend, gold pieces within their communities.

  • Scygnis are money for the masses. Silver pieces abound in cities. Nobles avoid this lesser currency where possible.
  • Copper Gaviotas serve as medium of exchange for commoners, especially in the poorest urban areas and most rural communities. Peasants choose barter most often, but will trade in Gaviotas if necessary.
  • Platinum Velas are not often spent. They get collected by the rich to show loyalty or prestige. Commoners will hear about these coins and see drawings of them perhaps, but most people will never see a Vela in their lifetimes.
  • Aligning currency with social class is an easy way to add flavour to your worlds.

Give Coins Common Names

Bonus tip: assign a second name to each coin that’s slang. Communities might have different names as well, if you want to go that far.

My common names for coins come from their designs:

  • Platinum Velas are called Sails
  • Gold Anclas are called Anchors
  • Silver Scygnis are called Moons
  • Copper Gaviotas are called Gulls

Names come from the symbol on front. (Use Noun Project for cool symbols if you want coin visuals or props.)

There’s a tradition amongst Buzanti coin engravers. One side gets reserved for representation of the current ruler. A symbol or head.

The other side always features the same symbol based on coin type, though stylized in different ways through the decades.

So an Ancla gets called an Anchor because there’s always an anchor on one side.

Also, the Buzanti rose as a seafaring culture. I themed their money after this heritage for another small world detail.

Mint Your Coins in Four Steps

Take five minutes now to add some cool coin lore to your game.

  1. Assign an event for your most valuable currency. Try this table of kingdom events or this one.
  2. Decide how many coins in a pound for each coin type.
  3. Tie one or more coin types to a sub-culture or social class.
  4. Give each coin type a common and slang name.

Bonus points if you put this information into a player handout.

Storytelling via currency offers a great way to show, not tell, your world. You can even use coins for roleplay and plotting.

Happy minting!