d20 Modern RPG Week Day Five

Money money money money money money money money. Perhaps the most contentious and discussed rule in the d20 Modern system was the implementation of the Wealth system. This took everything to do with purchasing and effectively turned it into a simple skill-like check which answered the question “Can I afford it?”.

To our D&D-addled minds this was nothing less than blasphemy as we like to be able to count our shiny gold pieces, but personally I like it. Adventuring in the modern age shouldn’t be about collecting the gold; our world is too full of banks, credit cards, loans and banking to be able to keep track of it all without turning the game into Accountants & Agony. The Wealth check represents your overall purchasing power as a single abstract number which can change over time. Promotions, large purchases and the occasional Windfall (perhaps a reward for Saving the World) can make your Wealth go up or down without worrying too much about exactly how many dollars are in the pot.

In our campaigns we used the Wealth system almost exclusively. Those rare times when a character rifled a villain’s wallet and took the money (For shame! Have you no honour?) they received cold hard cash. Wealth is a simple method of noting down how high the character sits up the money tree, and all the lifestyle options that entails. Your Wealth 22 superstar might live his life out of hotels and exclusive apartments while his brother at Wealth 3 eats hotdogs alone in a bedsit. We don’t need to work out how much the hotdog or hotel room cost – because the adventure isn’t about that. Wealth is just detail boiled down to a single number.

Additional supplements (which we’ll look at another day this week) took the d20 Modern system into the past and far future, and in some of those settings the Wealth system works less well. In post-apocalyptic New York, your wealth isn’t measured by the number of credit cards you own. When scavenging and barter is the order of the day Wealth is redundant. Similarly, as a Pirate of the Spanish Main wealth is everything, and any Pirate King worth his sea salt will know to the last doubloon the contents of his hoard.

But for the modern day whether you’re a spy, soldier of fortune, FBI man, psi-hacker or shadow hunter, the Wealth rules work.

If you want to take a look at d20 Modern yourself the majority of the system is freely available under the OGL. Here’s a HTML version of the rules (mirror of the zipfile). Enjoy.

3 Comments on “d20 Modern RPG Week Day Five”

  1. I personally don’t see what’s wrong with the Wealth system that many people seem to have a grudge against it. I like the abstract simplicity of it that basically covers every aspect of financial management in the modern era.

    My only worry was that it was easy to increase your Wealth bonus if you looted your enemies. The table for Wealth rewards equal to Encounter Level and the $ to Wealth Bonus conversion felt a little too high.

    But what I truly loved about the Wealth system is that you gain new Wealth Bonus every time you leveled up and Profession as a skill had never been so important.

    Questing GMs last blog post..Questing’s Readings – Appendix N Edition

  2. You make some fair points regarding the simplicity of the Wealth System, and to a certain extent, I would agree that it would be preferable in some types of games. Military heroes, for example, typically have their weapons and combat vehicles issued to them (the DoD takes issue with it if you bring your own AK-47 to a deployment), but as far as clothing and various mundane supplies, we often have too buy those out of a stipend in own pay (I ought to know, I’m an Air Force veteran).

    One problem I see with the Wealth System is that it’s too open to abuse as soon as you examine it closely. It is extremely easy for a starting character with average Wealth to load up on a lot of cheap weapons (and even have enough leeway to order some of them as masterwork or otheerwise modified out the wazoo) and other goodies, to the point where their equipment list looks like a Xerox of the Gear chapter. Add to that group dynamics (such as the ol’ Money Mule exploit), and characters selling everything in sight (including the house and car of the villain they just trounced), and it gets to the point where simply keeping track of the dollar bills they have in their pockets becomes much less of a hassle for everyone involved.

    Another issue is that some players may *not* like the abstract nature of a nebulous “Wealth Bonus”. Mercenaries, professional thieves (sorry, “Acquisition Specialists”), fugitive agents, hit squads, freelance operatives, hackers-for-hire, and other ne’ev-do-‘ells you meet in a “Burn Notice” episode tend to often be quite concerned about the money available to them, but at the same time not be the type of person who uses a credit card or visits a financial manager much (at least not under their real name). Player teams of such characters tend to like the spy-thriller feel of getting paid with a briefcase full of non-sequential, well-used Jeffersons, because they know they’re not likely to live long enough to see that +2 Wealth Bonus show up on their 401K.

    Similarly, in d20 Past games set before the age of modern high-speed electronic banking and retirement packages, a team of heroes is likely to be carrying all their worldly possessions with them as they travel from place to place (not unlike their D&D cousins). BTW, real-life historical pirates had more in common with post-apoc scavengers in that they would be more concerned with plundering food and medicine rather than gold – you can’t eat a doubloon, mate, no matter how shiny it is). The myth actually originates from *Spanish* treasure galleons hauling plundered New World gold back to Spain.

    On the other end of the time spectrum, a space-faring smuggler (Han Solo, Malcolm Reynolds) is also in the market for off-the-grid methods of payment as much as the guys mentioned above.

    In closing, Wealth or Currency – either can be valid options depending on the type of game you and your players want.

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