I’m not a fan of keeping track of money in games. A long time ago I used to dole out silver and gold coins, making sure my PCs kept track of the money they spent for ale and a night’s rest at the inn. I stopped doing that altogether in my games.
However money is still a motivator for some PCs. They want loot, or a means to acquire it through cash, so having some manner of wealth is something I needed. I just didn’t want to get mired down in individual dollars/gold coins/credits. For my 4E D&D game I took up the concept of chests of treasure. I simply awarded some abstract chest of treasure, a pile of coins, or just a share of wealth.
So for my Savage Worlds game, I adopted this as resolving wealth through shares. Shares are an abstract sum of wealth. They can be awarded in ½ increments. When players complete a job, or gain a significant amount of reward, they gain a share. A share is about $250 (or ½ the starting money a player gets during character generation), with ½ shares being roughly half that ($100-125).
Monthly income and expenses – I assume that every month a player goes through ½ a share. This is the gradual expenses of housing, food, upkeep of equipment, entertainment, etc. At the same time, if a player is not actively adventuring, they accumulate ½ a share. So the net income per month is zero. They are spending as much as they are earning.
I see this as a player spending time gathering spell components, income from odd jobs, money for pelts they’ve trapped, or the occasional sale they get from running some business they own. It all depends on the setting and the resources available to the player. Regardless, they get enough to pay the bills, keep a roof over their head, and their belly full.
Purchases – If they want to buy incidentals or some special equipment, I don’t worry if it’s under $100. I consider they have enough money on hand to cover the costs. Restocking arrows, buying flasks of oil, or repairing equipment, I just lump into typical monthly expenses. If they are making a larger purchase for special expensive equipment, that is when I dig into the players’ resources. Then I’ll have players spending shares in at least ½ increments, translating it to dollar amounts. So I don’t sweat the small stuff, it’s the larger purchases and expenses that hit the PCs in their purse strings.
Rewards – Most jobs are going to award each player one share. They might pick up more during the adventure, but one share is going to be the typical reward they’ll each get from a patron. Actively adventuring will cut into the time they would be spending gaining income through other means. At the end of the day, a player will be earning ½ a share in actual profits as they are going through ½ a share every month. So it’s a slow accumulation of wealth but players can earn a bit.
I like this as it leaves open more opportunities to give out rewards. Players might be charged with exploring a set of ruins. For such a task they’ll get one share from a patron. During the exploration they might come across treasure or some artifact that’ll fetch them even more money, allowing them to individually get another share (or a half).
I simply don’t bother with having players record every bit of wealth they get. If they stop a few bandits, in reality they might find a few dollars between them all however it’s not worth writing down. I end up hand-waving a lot of rewards. Players will always find just enough through your typical adventuring to pay for incidentals. It’s the completion of larger tasks that earn them enough reward to be considered a ‘share.’
Being Rich or Poor –These edges and hindrances can be a little tricky. For the wealthy edge I figure that a player is earning 1/2 share a month, regardless if they are actively adventuring or not. I still assume that whatever money they take in, they are spending just as much enjoying a more affluent lifestyle. They just don’t have to work at it as much as others.
This means if typical PCs take a job for 1 share, they’ll net ½ a share in profit at the end of the month. Remember they spend about half a share each month in expenses and adventuring takes away from time spent making a steady income. That PC with a wealthy edge will be walking away with a full share of profit instead. They aren’t penalized for spending time adventuring (it’s nice to live off interest, a trust fund, etc.).
For PCs with a poverty hindrance, they don’t gain ½ a share income every month like other players. So while other players can keep their heads above water and net a little profit leading a life of adventure, that poor PC will always be digging into their pockets a bit more. These guys have to always be on the prowl for work and always be looking for some manner of employment. While others have enough resources to get by, idleness will slowly grind PCs with the poverty hindrance into the ground. They just can’t get the typical monthly income other players get.
I like how this works for my game. PCs slowly accumulate their shares of wealth. Every month of game time I tell players to dock off half a share for expenses. If a lot of time has passed where they haven’t done anything noteworthy, their wealth is unchanged (they spend their time earning as much as they are spending). PCs with a wealthy edge don’t worry about having to spend ½ a share for upkeep, as they get that automatically and spend it every month. PCs with a poverty hindrance might have to worry about being an idle adventurer for too long as their shares of wealth can slowly be whittled away.
It’s pretty simple. I can quickly translate it to actual dollars when they need to spend something. More importantly, the bookkeeping is manageable and I don’t have to have players counting silver coins each time they hit up an inn for a belly of food, a pint of ale, and a place to rest their head.