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In Dungeons and Dragons, money comes in the form of metal coins. The four most common are copper pieces (cp), silver pieces (sp), electrum pieces (ep), gold pieces (gp), and platinum pieces (pp). Other denominations exist, but they’re used less commonly.
The first step to tracking your coins is to figure out how much you have. If you’re starting a new character, you will usually begin with around 100 GP. If you’ve been playing for some time but haven’t been keeping track of your wealth so far, that’s something you’ll need to discuss with your DM.
Before we discuss how best to track your money in D&D, we should talk about what exactly is being tracked. Different D&D groups have different approaches to the accuracy of tracking their currency.
Some groups may opt to avoid the hassle and bookkeeping of tracking every CP and SP the group spend and nominating to only track large purchases. If an inn costs only a few silver pieces or a meal only a few copper pieces, the group would not bother to track it and would only adjust their records when they spend several gold pieces. The benefit of this method is its simplicity, but the downside is that it means a significant loss of realism and role-play for common D&D interactions.
Others may choose to track the exact value of wealth but not the quantity of each denomination in the possession of the player or group. For example, they may track that they have 1057.51 GP rather than listing the exact quantities of copper pieces, silver pieces, gold pieces and platinum pieces which make up that value. This method maintains more realism than the previously mentioned method, but normally means tracking currency as numbers on a page which is still an abstraction potentially breaking the role-play experience.
Finally, the real stickler might track the exact quantities of each denomination in their possession. The upside of this is realism. Every trade, purchase and financial exchange feels like you’re using real money and adds to the role-play and realism of the session.
The obvious downside is that it’s a lot of bookkeeping. Having to accurately track even the smallest denomination across every financial interaction can be tedious and detract from the reason we play D&D: fun
But, we believe that the realism added is worth the extra effort and later in this article we will share some great ways to keep track of your vast riches while keeping it fun and engaging to do so.
There are other methods which do not track the value of currency in the possession of the group at all but rather use a die roll and a wealth modifier to determine if a player can afford a purchase. Those methods are uncommon though and out of the scope of this post.
When it comes to tracking your coins, there are several options available. You can use paper and pencil, a set of dice, a mobile app, or even prop coins.
Paper and pencil is the simplest and cheapest option, and it’s easy to use. You just write down the number of each denomination of coin you have and keep a running total. If you’re using some of the simplified currency keeping methods, this could be all you need.
Mobile apps, google sheets or any text doc are also easy ways to keep track of your coins on the go. That said, at our table we try to minimise the use of electronic devices as we find that it breaks the flow of the game and can often be more of a distraction than it’s worth for the convenience.
In our books, having physical props in a D&D campaign is always a great way to go. Here are some reasons we’d highly recommend using prop coins to track your D&D currency.
Firstly, it’s by far the easiest. We are all familiar with how physical currency works in the real world and it takes no effort to carry that knowledge over into your game. Not only that but it adds to the realism. When you spend a good chunk of change, you really feel it. A large purchase lightens your coin pouch and makes purchases and trades feel real and meaningful. Physically exchanging coins in a trade also adds opportunity for some role-play. Want to try to pay less than the agreed price? Just slip them a few less coins and hope they don’t notice. That said, be sure to check the change they give you too.
Obviously for this method you’ll need some actual coins to use. But, if you’re short on funds, there is no reason you can’t get creative.
There are many printable coin sheets so with a little time and effort you can cut out some paper coins and they’ll be a great, cheap option for tracking currency.
Another option is using real money. Simply pick up some low denomination coins in your local currency and attribute to them some D&D values
Or, if you want to maximise the realism and role-play, pick up some prop coins made specially for D&D. If you have the extra cash to do so, this is a great way of bumping up the verisimilitude of a game instantly. Make the rich players feel rich and the irresponsible barbarians feel as poor as they are. Using D&D coins can bump up the fun and role-play of almost any NPC encounter.
In addition to tracking your coins, it’s also important to consider how you’re going to store them. Carrying the full extent of your earthly wealth on your person at any time is a sure way to become a pauper over night.
The most secure way is to use a bank, but this isn’t always an option. Another option is to store your coins in hidden stockpiles, such as in a secret room in your home, or buried in a secret location. This is a good way to keep your coins safe, but it’s also important to remember that you won’t have access to them if you’re not in the same location.
Finally, it’s important to consider the weight of all the coins you’re carrying. The average adventurer carries a lot of equipment, and adding a large quantity of coins can make it difficult to move around. It’s a good idea to limit the number of coins you carry with you, and to store the rest in a safe place.