Being the nosey DM I am, I recently looked over the cash my characters were hauling around. So far they have not had a chance to spend a lot of the booty they recently earned, but I was surprised to see most had over 500 coins each (silver and gold combined). Even with the weight being pretty low, that is a lot of coins to lug around. As a US comparison in volume, imagine hauling around approx. 13 rolls of quarters on your person (not to mention a quarter weighs less than a standard D&D coin. Hold a dime and a quarter in your hand and you have about the right weight).
For portable wealth there are limited options for characters. Usually they are hauling around what they have. After a while, you get characters with an ungodly amount of coins. A DM could just forget about it and wave off worrying about encumbrance, or maybe seep a little realism into the monty haul players are lugging around. For me I usually don’t bother with encumbrance much. But once I get players carrying around 1,000+ coins, I begin to suggest looking into changing out some coins for more portable wealth. Here are some of the options I have in my game:
Spend it – I’m not a big fan of buying magic items, but I am warming up to the enchant item/transfer enchantment ritual. Visiting a local wizard to infuse an item with some enchantment is solid fantasy for me. I’m thinking of having a magic bazaar in one of the large cities my players will be visiting soon, and likely there will be more of an open market for some odd magical items.
I always push players to buy potions and other alchemical items though. And scoring a ritual scroll is always an option too. These are pretty useful items players can spend coin on. Given that they are one-shot deals, you don’t have to worry about having a player wield a potential unbalancing magic item.
Vaults – I don’t encourage this, but I keep the option open for players. I typically charge a 5% fee for depositing coins. Players get a note, and the satisfaction their money is in a secure location. But the problem is their cash is stuck in one place. They can’t get access to those funds in another city. I don’t consider vaults as a network of institutions where people easily transfer wealth (I’d tag on another 5% withdrawal fee if I did). They are vaults. Just a place where players can store items for long term in a relatively safe location.
Money Changers – This is something I use a lot. Simply an establishment that exchanges coins for other currency (or items of value) for a fee. I charge a 2% fee or 1 silver (whichever is higher) to exchange coins. I bump it up to a 5% fee for coins to gems (as precious stones are a bit less circulated). This is a quick easy fix to for the party that manages to get stuck with a lot of coin.
Magic – Consider having a wondrous magic item in your next parcel to tackle this. A bag of holding is a standard, but there are a few items that can do the trick. The Pouch of Platinum (AVault) is a handy item that not only converts gems to coins, but can also convert gold to platinum.
Rework Treasure Parcels – Consider giving out more gems. Expand on providing ornate artwork as treasure rather than coin. Sometimes it can be a chore, but having a few descriptive valuables in a pile of coins adds a simple touch to an otherwise boring haul. Also the players have a few less coins to lug back to the next town.
I figure most DMs don’t bother with the number of coins their players drag around. I usually don’t myself. But when it gets to a certain point, I like players to lighten the load with something more portable. What else have folks used in their games?