Overcomplicating Coins (You’re Welcome!)

Are you one of those guys or gals that likes it … complicated?

If you answered “yes”, then read on. If not … read on anyways, you’re already here.

What follows are some tables showing a variety of historical coinage that might appear in the next treasure horde you generate, if you’re of the mind to permit them. Of course, you might want to attach some imaginary, fantasy kingdom name to them to make them campaign specific (“Ah! You’ve found 300 Cromarkian Groats and a small sack of gold doubloons from the Fraznak Empire!). You can use the table in two ways (and one of them might just piss off the players, so I know which one I’d use.)

1) Calculate the total value of the horde’s coins, roll a random coin type for each metal (or two or three, whatever you like), and translate the value into the number of coins. I included three values, one for OD&D (10 coins per pound), one for d20 (50 coins to the pound) and one for a more realistic 100 coins to the pound.

Example: You generate 1,000 cp and you’re playing OD&D (i.e. 10 coins to the pound). You roll up the Roman Sesertius as your historic copper coinage, which are worth 1/3 a copper piece each, thus the horde consists of 3,000 copper sesterius.

2) You roll up the number of coins, and then roll randomly to determine what kind of coin was found.

Example: You roll up 300 gold coins (gp) and then roll randomly to determine they are Italian ducats. You’re playing d20, so 300 ducats is actually worth 1,200 sp, or 120 gp. See – your players will be pissed. On the other hand, if you’d rolled up Spanish escudos, the horde would be worth 1,500 gp.

Without further ado … the tables.

If you want to annoy the players a bit more, you can roll to see how debased the coinage is … but I wouldn’t suggest it.

Of course, if you’re using the notion that your fantasy world is built on the ruins of a “modern” world, then the ancient coinage would be made up of krugerrands, yen and buffalo nickels.

The Wages of Sin

About a copper a soul, actually.

In putting together a hex crawl of Hell, I decided to work off of a swords & planet model – rings of hell with weird-but-recognizable landscapes inhabited by strongholds, cities, dungeons, monster lairs, etc. Generally, I prefer to let D-n-D (or S-n-W) be what it is – a game about exploration with treasure as one of its primary objectives. Given that notion and the high power level one must find in Hell to make it a challenge for high level parties, it was a given that there was going to be a LOT of treasure in the Underworld.

In some ways, this makes sense. Gold, silver, gems, etc. are dug out of the ground, and the ancients sometimes combined their deities of the underworld and wealth for this reason. But on the other hand, it seems a bit silly. Why does Orcus need gold pieces? Or, more to the point, why does Orcus value gold pieces? Okay, maybe because money is power, but in the case of demon lords, hit dice and spell-like abilities are also power.

So, I wanted to set up an alternate economy for Hell based on souls and the value therein … but I also wanted a Hell that could be navigated and enjoyed by treasure-hungry PCs. What to do? Well, I decided to combine the concepts.

The demon lords want souls, and since Nod’s version of Hell is at least vaguely based on medieval notions of the architecture of Creation, I would assume that they would value different souls the way mortals value different autographs. In other words, the soul of Julius Caesar is worth more in Hell than the soul of Jack the Plowboy.

Inspired by the concept of souls paying a copper to Charon for passage into Hell, I decided that souls that pass into Nod’s Hell also bring a coin of commensurate value to their position in society at death. This coin eventually finds its way into the hands of the various demon lords and their minions and serves as a means of trade within Hell. To some degree, if you own the coin, you own the soul, and collecting golds and coppers would be a major pursuit of demon lords.

Each coin in Hell is impressed with the image its linked soul possessed in life – thus, if a PC comes across a coin in Hell with his mother’s portrait on it, he knows that her soul passed through this dark realm after death. In general, the coinage of Hell is linked to souls as follows:

Copper = Common souls like normal folk and men-at-arms
Silver = The most skilled, handsome or manipulative of common folk, including most chaotic PC’s who fall short of “the end game” of fiefs and strongholds
Electrum = Commoners raised into the lesser nobility or minor clergy
Gold = Nobles and high functionaries of the clergy
Platinum = Royals, Emperors, Patriarchs and High Priests

At one point I had thought about renaming the coins, but finally decided against it just in terms of the annoyance of record keeping. A gold piece is a gold piece, after all, to a merchant in Nomo. On the other hand, these coins did need be a little different from normal coinage to be interesting. Thus …

1. Hellcoins cannot be melted down by anything less than the breath of an ancient red dragon or the churning fires of a volcano. Once melted down, they are fit for forging into magic weapons, but always implant a secret curse in these items.

2. Hellcoins are unlucky to those who hold them. Quantity doesn’t matter – any Hellcoin in one’s pocket gives them a -1 penalty to saving throws and enhances by a small amount “wandering misfortunes” like having a commode emptied on them or having the target of one’s insults and jests turn out to be standing behind them, etc.

3. The holder of a Hellcoin can use it as a focus for speaking with its linked soul per the speak with dead spell.

4. Finally, a Hellcoin can be placed in the body of its’ soul’s previous owner and animate that body as a loyal, though sentient, zombie.

Image from Wikimedia Commons.

Ten Uncommon Coins

1. Compacted Cubits: A compacted cubit is a full ton (2,000 lb) of silver dust stuffed into an extra-dimensional space sealed inside a tiny cylinder (coin shaped) of force. They look like grainy, silvery coins but feel perfectly smooth. God forbid you have a few of these in your backpack when somebody casts dispel magic. Depending on how you value coinage, a compacted cubit is worth 20,000 sp or 200,000 sp. And yeah, I know a cubit isn’t a measure of weight. You can blame Battlestar Galactica.

2. Soultaker: Appears as a blank, gold coin. When pressed on the forehead of a recently dead body, it absorbs the person’s soul and their image appears on the coin.

3. Dragon Tokens: Dragon tokens are wooden coins that are steeped in the blood of a freshly slain dragon and then coated with wax to keep the draconic goodness locked inside. Value depends on how much you value dragon blood, but probably not more than 10 gp.

4. Token of Friendship: A tarnished brass coin. Creates a vague emotional connection between you and the person who presented it to you – i.e., you know when they are frightened, happy, etc. The coin can summon the person bodily to you if you call out their name while holding it.

5. Platinum Cone: A small platinum cone, worth 2 pp. When the tiny end is held to the ear it implants a random magic-user spell (level 1d3) in your head, making you capable of casting it if not wearing armor. There is a 1 in 6 chance that the spell is actually reversed, or just not what you thought it was.

6. Pennywise: A copper coin bearing the image of an owl. It increases one’s Wisdom score by +3 (to a maximum of 18), but makes that person very tight with money.

7. Golden Rad: Radioactive gold coinage, with all that radiation brings (poison, mutation – depends on your campaign). Each coin has a 1 in 20 chance per month of transmuting back to lead.

8. Silver Sylph: A silver coin with a hole in the center. If one blows through the hole, the coin produces bubbles of perfume, with a 1% chance of instead producing a sylph. You have no control over the sylph, and if you dragged her away from something important, she might be quite cross with you.

9. Gold Spiral: Gold coin with a spiral design, it can absorb one lightning bolt (no save needed) and then discharges it one hour later. While holding the charge, the holder is immune to electricity.

10. Corpse Coins: Copper coins. If placed on the eyes of a corpse, they completely stop decay. If held over a single eye of a living creature, it makes them invisible to corporeal undead. Of course, one could hold coins over both eyes, but they’d probably run into things.

On Coins & Coinage


In a previous post I went over the concept of huge coins and how they aren’t completely unrealistic. Nonetheless, I use 100 coins to the pound in my games, primarily because the challenge of logistics isn’t something my players were into.

The other way that coinage in Nod differs from the core rules is in the different types of coins I use. To the standard gold – silver – copper I added the platinum and electrum of my youth. To whit …

Platinum Piece (pp)
Platinum is difficult to work and thus fairly uncommon in coinage or art. Most platinum pieces in circulation were minted to commemorate special events (coronations, conquests, etc), and thus should carry some history with them.

1 pp = 10 gp, 20 ep, 100 sp and 1,000 cp

Gold Piece (gp)
Gold pieces are less common than silver, and often used for large transactions. They are the most common coinage carried by adventurers, whose wealth often rival that of the great merchant houses and minor nobility.

1 gp = 1/10 pp, 2 ep, 10 sp and 100 cp

Electrum Piece (ep)
Electrum is a naturally occurring alloy of gold and silver. For a brief time it was a common material for coinage, but the inability to determine the proportion of gold to silver caused it to fall out of favor. Most electrum coins found in hordes are, therefore, of ancient manufacture.

1 ep = 1/20 pp, 1/2 gp, 5 sp and 50 cp

Silver Piece (sp)
The most common coins in circulation and the basis for all economies. Adventurers prefer gold, of course, to lighten their loads, but the vast majority of non-player characters in Nod carry silver coins.

Orichalcum: Orichalcum is an alloy of bronze and gold, and thus in fantasy terms about as valuable as silver. A Referee might want to have his adventurers find a horde of orichalcum coinage in order to fool them into thinking their toting around gold coins (or maybe fool them into thinking they are just copper coins).

1 sp = 1/100 pp, 1/10 gp, 1/5 ep and 10 cp

Copper Piece (cp)
Coins were rarely minted from copper. Most of the copper pieces in the game would actually have been made of bronze, brass, billon or potin. Bronze is an alloy of copper and tin (80:20). Brass is an alloy of copper and zinc (90:10). Billon is an alloy of copper and silver, with copper making up more than 50% of the of the alloy. Potin was an alloy of copper, lead, tin and zinc. Coppers are carried by the peasantry, who prefer barter to coinage.

1 cp = 1/1000 pp, 1/100 gp, 1/50 ep and 1/10 sp

Other Materials
Coins have also been minted from less valuable materials, including lead, iron, tin, shells and wood. In general, I would count these items as one tenth as valuable as copper, though the folks using them might value them more highly.