There’s been a fair bit of discussion recently over at Dragon’s Foot about silver based economies. Delta also posted about his own thoughts on the topic. I guess it’s no surprise that I started pondering the issue myself.
Now, there’s two things I don’t like about the standard D&D money system. First, the huge numbers. Even at lower levels (I’m talking levels 1-3 here), the treasure is coming in by the hundreds of coins. Anything less than 100 gp really isn’t all that much money. Second, the useless copper pieces. Almost nothing costs less than a silver piece, and in general most adventurers agree that copper pieces aren’t worth the weight to carry them.
I solved both problems in our game by simply eliminating the platinum piece, and elevating the worth of everything else ten-fold. What was once a platinum piece is now a gold piece, what was once a gold piece is now a silver piece, and what was once a silver piece is now a copper pieces. The silver piece is now the standard coin, and the one that nets XP for the players (1 sp = 1 xp). All the costs in the book are cut by one tenth. The old copper pieces just fall off the end, and in a very few cases some very cheap items that cost less than 1 sp in the old system have increased in cost to 1 cp in the new system.
With silver as the base unit, copper pieces at 1/10th of that are actually still kind of worth while. Gold pieces are suddenly very valuable, and I find it amusing to quote things in gp prices, where I would have never quoted prices in pp. For example, in my new system a suit of chainmail now costs 4 gp. (It’s 40 gp in B/X). I could have just translated it to silver (40 sp), but I find it much more satisfying to have most costs in amounts of less than 10. Also, the electrum piece, which I left at half a gold piece (or 5 sp), actually seems like a useful coin now. What used to cost 25 gp could now cost 25 sp, or 5 ep.
Anyway, obviously nothing has really changed as all money and costs have changed by the same amount. Just the scale changed, and the new scale is one I find much friendlier to deal with.