Eclipsing Currency – Characters and Wealth

This time it’s the answer to a question:

How much starting money do starting characters get in Eclipse?

-Jasper Merendino

Starting wealth isn’t addressed in detail in Eclipse (mostly being limited to the options of taking the “broke” disadvantage, accepting whatever the default for the game is, and taking “privilege; wealthy”) because the notion of “Wealth” in any given game is so closely tied to the setting and the starting level.

Thus…

  • In the Players Handbook, the default base for a new character comes out to be about 100 gold pieces – fairly closely matching what you get calculating from wealth-by-level and the “expected wealth by level” tables from the Dungeon Masters Guide that are used to equip higher-level starting characters. For a basic game that’s fair enough. Personally, I tend to go a lot more by background; a newly-adult “barbarian” who’s been exiled form his tribe might start off with the “broke” disadvantage (and almost nothing) – while there’s nothing stopping a rich merchant’s son from getting interested in the martial arts, becoming a “monk”, and taking privilege/wealthy to start off with the finest of normal gear and several servants rather than a miserable 12.5 gold pieces. Of course, if your game happens to be on the silver standard, or is using a more classical medieval price list, adjustments will have to be made.

Sadly, the real trouble with classical d20 wealth systems is that money in the system doesn’t just buy you political influence, servants, pleasures, and amusements (simply background notes on the character sheet, since the PLAYER doesn’t get much out of that sort of thing). It – whether it gets spent on buying stuff or making it – buys character’s tangible, immediate, personal power in the form of magical items. To fix that, simply make sure that major magical items are not normally available for purchase – and that making them calls for personal quests and sacrifices instead of money.

  • In d20 Modern you have a wealth rating, mostly based on your profession and skills. Given that the rating tends to change a lot, it can simply be assigned by the game master to suit a characters skills and backgrounds; it won’t matter much in the long run; in d20 Modern there isn’t that much in the way of personal power that you can buy.
  • In many settings you’re simply presumed to have a small amount of pocket money – not enough to really worry about – and the equipment to go with your skills and abilities. Thus, if you’re proficient with heavy armor, several weapons, and fighting from horseback you’ll be starting off with heavy armor, several weapons, and a combat-trained horse unless there’s some good reason to presume otherwise (such as some disadvantage that implies a cash shortage). You’re in a cyberpunk world and you’re skilled with computer hacking? You have a good computer. You’re a skilled alchemist? You have a box full of alchemical gear. You’re a smuggler specializing in ships? You probably own a small craft with some hidden compartments – but, since this is pretty expensive, you probably have some big debts and it doubtless desperately needs repairs.

This is another excellent system actually; it says that starting characters are, by default, equipped to fulfill their role in the party and do whatever they’ve been set up to do. Expensive items can be counterbalanced by debts and disadvantages without going into bothersome (and rather boring) detail. Characters with few skills may either (reasonably enough) start off without much in the way of gear (and likely be presumed to pick some up as their talents improve) or may (if “balance” is deemed vital) start off with a little extra cash.

  • In The Practical Enchanter characters simply have wealth levels – and the first few levels have enough advantages and disadvantages to make allowing a free choice reasonable enough. The Twilight Isles Setting has assigned starting at the various levels character point costs however, since it allows characters to start with rather high levels of wealth. In either case this works because the system pretty much does away with “ordinary” magical items in favor of minor charms and talismans (common magic) and occasional powerful relics (extraordinary items out of legend).
  • In the Federation-Apocalypse Setting wealth is a skill – which is arguably as accurate a way to represent it as most others. Otherwise “how to manage your money” wouldn’t be important. This works in that setting because – when you’re routinely hopping from role to role across a myriad dimensions with different natural laws, and trading most of your equipment in with each role, that nifty item you bought at your last stop is likely to be useless junk as soon as you move on.
  • In a “tribal primitives” game “wealth” may break down into; “you have plenty of food, skins, stone tools, a good spear and a spot nearer the fire” versus “Enough of those things” and “You’re usually a bit hungry and cold” – and the levels get even closer together if the tribe happens to be nomadic and “wealth” defaults to “what you can carry”.
  • In a “secret agents” game (or one of planetary exploration, or a world war two game, or any other setting where you’re commonly being sent on missions by an employer), “wealth” may be pretty much irrelevant. While the characters may have a few personal items in their packs, for the most part they’re going to to be issued whatever gear their patron thinks is appropriate to the mission. Sure, the labs may throw in a few special toys for ace agents like Mr James Bond – but that will depend on you’re the characters personal connections and rank in the patron agency (go ahead, buy “Privilege” to represent that and get some more neat toys).
  • In a “Conan” style game, wealth may be a handful of precious stones and other items to barter – and simply serves as a crude measure of how long you can keep drinking, chasing sexual partners, and partying before you have to go and find another treasure horde.

In game terms, that may mean that your downtime may go something like “OK, last time you escaped with the fabulous jewels of the Temple of the Naga! Two months later, you’ve spent the last few coins paying off he witch doctor who treated that embarrassing STD you picked up in the first months partying, you think you’ve got at least six kids on the way with various partners, you own a fine new warhorse, you’ve had your sword sharpened, you’ve got two weeks of rations, and you won this new treasure map in last evenings gambling… Now what?”

  • In other settings, “Wealth” may be nothing more than a background note. You may possess great wealth – wide fields of yams, many cattle, slaves born in your household to tend the fields and the cattle, a dozen wives, and twenty children – but the fact that your sword-hilt is set with gems and your shield is beautifully painted while your poor neighbor had to borrow a sword and an unpainted hide shield to go adventuring with may mean little or nothing in terms of the game.
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One Response

  1. […] Items: How to buy extra gear, stipends, and wealth in various settings. Also Wealth in Eclipse Part I and Part […]

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