The root of all evil: This is part of series of five posts concerning how we handle rewards, wealth, money and equipment in the game. The other posts are on Wealth and Economics, Making Magic Items, Treasure and Experience. You can read them in any order, but you might want to read them all before commenting.
Once again, this post has nothing to do with House Rules. It’s an enquiry into the best way to handle petty transactions and the day-to-day accounting. Because we are using the rules for treasure as they are written, I am obliged to make a bigger deal of financial transactions in the game. I can’t just wave my hand and say say: “Sure you have enough money to buy a wagon”.
The problem with this is that bean-counting is pretty boring. It’s boring in real life, and it doesn’t get any better in a roleplaying game. While I can imagine some campaigns where not have two copper pieces to rub together is a defining element, for most games it’s just a bit irritating. Should adventures really have to worry if they have enough coin for a bowl of watery soup and some black bread from Honest Azalin’s Cut-Price Eaterie?
Pathfinder has rules to get around this. They are called the Cost of Living rules and you can find them on p405 of the Core Rules (2009) or on the Pathfinder PRD. Go over and have a look at them now. It’s fine: I’ll wait.
In my opinion we are faced with a very simple choice. We either account for every coin that your character spends in the game, or we use The Cost of Living rules. It seems a fairly simple decision.
The Cost of Living rules basically state that the PC ‘pays’ an amount in gold at the beginning of each month equal to the standard of living he wants to maintain. An average lifestyle costs about 10gp month. For that much money a PC can maintain a small house or apartment, he can have his own private room (although not an opulent room) at an inns, and he doesn’t need to worry about purchases of food or taxes that cost less than 1gp.
The system is not without its flaws; each one of which stems from a lack of verisimilitude. The fact is that adventurers move around all the time. They may not have permanent residences, they may not have a home they can simply pop to in order to retrieve “any nonmagical item that costs 1gp or less”. And if they arebpaying this cost of living, who are the paying it to? and when? If they can retrieve any item worth 1gp or less from their home, what’s to stop them gathering those items and selling them on?
The rules are an abstraction. Is it an abstraction that we can live with? Or would we prefer a world that works in the same logical manner as the real world? Should we simply say that if you don’t have the gold, you can’t have a room at the inn? After all, I am actually going to be giving you the requisite amount of money this time.
If there are players who like the book-keeping and accounting side of the game, would it be best to pass the task of recording the minutiae onto them? Could one player be responsible for maintaining a pot of “party funds” that everyone pays into? That way only one person has to do the maths?
The world-builder in me would rather see us track every minor expenditure. The player is telling me it’s more hassle than it’s worth. Is there a compromise here, or do we have to pick one approach over the other?