Coin of the Realm – Physical Currency for RPGs
Most often money in a role-playing game is nothing more than another number on the character sheet. Going shopping in town? Just deduct the price of your purchases from the number you have written on your sheet. Splitting the treasure of a defeated goblin-king? Just add your share to the number you currently have.
Props can be a great way to increase player immersion in a game session. Maps, letters, sometimes puzzles that the party can physically examine can add a whole new level of intrigue to a plot. Maybe coins could do the same.
That surly barkeep nods his head towards a dimly lit corner of the tavern, where a lone cloaked figure waits at a small table; the light from the single candle glinting off a neglected tankard. The party approaches the mysterious stranger. “I’ve got a job for you.” WHAM! The DM drops a belt pouch full of coins from behind the screen on to the middle of the gaming table. Which character picks it up? Do you count it right in front of this guy? How will he react if you reach for it before hearing his proposal?
There aren’t too many options out there for fake coins. Some of the best I’ve found are Campaign Coins out of Australia. They look absolutely amazing, and fairly reasonably priced given that they are real metal. My only reservation about them is that they have denominations on them. I don’t know about you, but whenever my character spends 5 silver pieces, I imagine him exchanging 5 coins, not a coin with a 5 on it.
A promising contender is a kickstarter going on now called Realm Coins. They offer bags and even small treasure chests to hold the coins for which you pledge. Their designs look stunning and are more in line with how I always imagined fantasy coins would look.
If you’re looking for a less expensive route you could always go plastic. Educational coins, used to teach kids how to count money are certainly an economical way to go. I don’t think the thunk of plastic hitting the table would have the same effect as real steel, but having a character flipping a coin out of his purse at the GM to represent tipping a stable boy could be cool. The only trouble with these is they represent American currency, which as an American, breaks the fantasy aspect a bit for me. If you aren’t familiar with American coins, it may work better for you.
Have you used physical currency in your campaigns? Let us know in the comments below!