In a previous post, I talked about Legend Awards and how the recommended awards were designed to help pace character advancement. The response was positive–I think people enjoy getting a look at the reasoning behind design decisions.
Along those lines, there have been questions and some discussion about this kind of thing for monetary rewards. How much silver should characters earn per session? Unlike Legend, there isn’t a handy chart.
This is a tougher question to answer. I could be especially simple (and kind of cheeky) by answering, “How much do you want them to earn?”
I mean, the only thing directly tying character advancement to available finances is the payment to advance in Circle. But even that can be worked around: favors, training oaths, and other cash-free options mean that (at least in theory) even the most poverty-stricken adept can advance in Circle.
Of course, that’s not much fun. Part of the traditional structure of fantasy adventure gaming involves silver, gold, and jewels. Even if a character has other motivations for risking life, limb, and sanity as an adventurer, few turn their noses up at financial rewards.
Even beyond the need to pay advancement costs, there are other things adepts want (or need) to further their careers. Improvements to weapons and armor, blood charms and healing aids, new spells (for magicians), library fees to research legendary thread items, never mind more prosaic needs like food and shelter–whether for themselves or any mounts or animal companions.
Another wrinkle in all of this is that monetary needs–unlike Legend Points–don’t really work when based purely on sessions/adventures. Setting aside everything else, food and lodging are steady costs (more or less). An adventure that takes two days to complete is going to cost less than one that takes two weeks–even if the Legend Reward is the same at the end. The latter should, then, provide more financial reward (if only to cover costs).
With all this in mind, I’m going to present some rough (possibly very rough) guidelines for cash rewards. I’ll add the caveat there is wiggle room, depending on how wealthy you want your characters to be. Will they be scraping for every copper, merely comfortable, or rich beyond the dreams of avarice? To start, we need a baseline.
I think a good place to go for that is waaaay back to the first edition Barsaive campaign set, which has a bit in the Gamemaster Book about “Standards of Living”. It’s brief, but gives us a starting point. It defines four different categories with a corresponding silver piece cost per month: Squalid (5 silver), Poor (25 silver), Comfortable (150 silver per Circle), and Wealthy (350 silver per Circle).
Quick sidebar: While some of the material in the Barsaive set is included in the core books, it’s a great overview of the game’s default setting. It’s available in PDF through our web shop, but if you do some digging, you can sometimes find print copies online for a reasonable price.
The last two are the ones most of interest to us. Setting aside the Circle association, 150 silver per month breaks down to 5 silver per day. The costs for room and board given in the Player’s Guide indicate this is probably a reasonable baseline (putting us somewhere between a cheap inn and Merchant inn, with average daily meals).
This figure, combined with the suggested costs for training on page 454 of the Player’s Guide, gives us a reasonable starting point. The financial reward from an adventure (whether payment, recovered treasure, or some combination thereof) should probably–at least–cover living expenses for the time involved, plus whatever fraction of advancement cost the adventure represents in the character’s advancement to the next Circle.
Let’s construct an example. A Third Circle character, who–based on our rough figures–would spend 450 silver per month on their standard of living. They will eventually be looking to advance to Fourth Circle, which would cost at least 500 silver (assuming they find a Fourth Circle trainer).
Working from the figures I gave in the previous post, it would take three sessions of average awards to earn the minimum Legend required to qualify for Fourth Circle. But let’s go with four sessions to include my suggested “fudge factor.” If, for the sake of simplicity, we decide these four sessions will cover a month of game time, the earned rewards should probably be at least 950 silver.
Of course, that doesn’t include any kind of buffer for other spending. Based on our list from earlier, there are bound to be things the character will want to spend money on. I suspect this method–if followed regularly–would probably feel pretty stingy over the long term. It would depend on how much time is spent “roughing it” in the wilderness as opposed to visiting inns, and various other details.
Another factor to look at in these calculations is the examples that are given in a couple places for what it costs to hire adepts to perform tasks. Forge Weapon, for instance, indicates the common cost for hiring a Weaponsmith is 50 silver per rank per attempt (each attempt takes a week). It seems reasonable to use the character’s Circle in this calculation, since the character’s talent ranks are often equivalent (or near enough) to their Circle.
A Third Circle character, therefore, would reasonably charge 150 silver per week (or 600 silver per month). This lines up reasonably well with a comfortable standard of living–they would be left with 150 silver after expenses. It would still take four months or so at this rate to earn enough to pay for their training, which for a non-adventuring adept is probably reasonable, but probably slow for PCs.
I’m inclined, therefore, to add the two figures together. For our example Third Circle character, we’d be looking at roughly 1500 silver during their climb from Circle Three to Circle Four, assuming we allot a month of game time (and if it goes over, we’ve got some buffer built in).
If you want to run with a wealthier feel, you can use the “Wealthy” standard of living, which would raise the “living expenses” portion of our calculations to 1,050 silver–a total of 2,150 silver if we don’t use any kind of multiplier on the other pieces of our formula (which you certainly could).
Keep in mind this financial reward can come for multiple sources, not just payment from the old man at the inn who hires your adventuring group. It can include treasure and goods recovered, other considerations–favors like access to a library, or training with a prestigious master, or anything else you can think of that might have some value.
Going over this piece, the numbers I’ve come up with here seem reasonable. Personally, I tend to err on the side of giving a more money than less, but when running a longer game I do keep an eye on the group’s financial situation and keep things from getting too crazy. You want to keep the characters a little bit hungry after all (at least, figuratively speaking)!
One thing I’d be mildly interested in exploring is seeing what might result if you correlate financial rewards to Legend awards–determining treasure and payment based on Legend Points earned. I didn’t really have the time to look into that for this article, but it might be an interesting avenue of exploration for those so inclined.
I hope you’ve found this helpful. As with so many aspects of campaign management, there’s more art than science. What works for one group might not suit another (and those needs can even change from campaign to campaign). If you want to discuss this further, why not join the discussion on our forums or Discord channel?