In a recent blog post at Tenkar’s Tavern, I was reminded of an old Dragon article about How many coins in a coffer. When I first read the article back in the 80’s, it sort of blew my young little mind. Funny thing is that re-reading it today, it still sort of blows my mind. It was however Tenkar’s calculation of 20x20 room filled one foot deep with copper pieces that really got me to think about this article. By his calculations the weight would have been something like 138 tons.
That of course got me thinking,on the podcast we have talked about encumberance. If memory serves most of us didn’t really use any of the encumberance rules in question. Of course one side effect of this is that we don’t keep track of how much money we are carrying. It could be 1 gold piece to 30,000 gold pieces and we sort of forget about it. One has to wonder, if even if we generally ignore encumberence, should we ignore the issues of coins as well?
I think most people sort of just view the coins that they have on their character sheet sort of like a bank account balance. It’s the mathematical amount but not how it’s physically allocated. So if a character had say 5000 gold pieces, that could be gold pieces, gems, platinum pieces, or anything else. Even if they do consider it, they typically will convert the monetary amounts as needed without thinking about how difficult it might be to actually do. It’s like we expect people to always be able to make change or something. The item costs a silver piece, you give the poor broke farmer one platinum piece and he gives you change back, now back to the adventure.
Do we lose out by not considering the weight of coins? At the very least, should we consider the amount? Is that the answer, just allow the characters to carry only so many coins? Funny thing is that early encumbrance systems would have things listed in coins as weight. Of course back then 10 coins equaled a pound. Which is why Tenkar’s room weights 138 tons. In most modern versions of D&D, it is now 50 coins to a pound, which would still put Tenkar’s room a little over 27 tons. So, should we either force ourselves to use the encumbrance system or just have a simple coin amount that people can carry? If we used used an amount and allowed 500 coins, that would be 10 pounds. If we allowed 2000 coins that would be 40 pounds.
Honestly, I don’t know which would be best. I know people are just trying to avoid the logistical stuff while playing a game for fun. I guess in the end, I wonder if we are robbing ourselves of story if we don’t deal with the weight of coins in some fashion (I am as guilty as the next person when it comes to the coin issue). What are your thoughts?