Adventure Hooks: Coins

by Ameron (Derek Myers) on April 3, 2014


When civilized societies do away with the bartering system they turn to currency to make transactions easier. In D&D and most fantasy settings the currency of the land is coins. Gold pieces, silver pieces, and copper pieces are the traditional staples from which coins are cast, but each fantasy world will have coins made from whatever materials make sense. For example in Athas, the world of Dark Sun, metals are extremely rare so coins are made of ceramics.

Throughout April Dungeon’s Master is participating in the Blogging from A to Z Challenge. The challenge is to write a new article ever day in April, excluding Sundays. That’s 26 articles over the course of the month. To make things even more interesting the title of each article will begin with a different letter of the alphabet. This year we’ve decided that every article will provide our readers with new adventure hooks. Today “C” is for coins as all the adventure hooks focus on currency.

It’s unusual that players ask for any more detail than the value of the coins their PCs acquire. Knowing it’s 1 gp is usually good enough. However, it’s silly to think that every gp your character every finds or handles is identical. Coins from different countries may both be made of the same metal, but they won’t necessarily look the same. They’ll have different markings and different images stamped onto them; they may even be noticeably different sizes or shapes. By taking advantage of these details the DM can turn a simple gp into an interesting adventuring hook.

Adventure Hooks: Coins

1. I know you

After travelling across international borders the PCs finally arrive in a new town. The locals call one of the PCs “Your Highness” and treat him like royalty. It turns out that this PC looks remarkably like the prince whose profile graces the newly minted currency of the land. The prince is reclusive and secretive so no one’s seen him personally. No matter what the PCs do or say they can’t change anyone’s mind. They believe he’s the prince. Word spreads quickly that the prince is out without suitable royal bodyguards which invites local villains and opportunists to act against him.

2. Getting a good exchange rate

Two explorers from a foreign land arrive in the town where the PCs live. They’re generosity is unparalleled as they happily spend their gold on rounds of drinks and small gifts for anyone who asks.

[In the land where these travelers are from silver is much more valuable than gold. When they arrived here they bought drinks, paid one gold piece, and received eight silver pieces as change. They couldn’t believe their good fortune and have continued to spend their worthless gold in order to accumulate more precious silver.]

3. Location, location, location

A large city has created new coins to improve trade within the city. All transactions are now completed in this new currency. When the PCs are paid for their latest good deeds they are paid in this new currency. It’s fine locally, but when they get to the next town they discover the coins are not recognized and are therefore useless as currency. The metal they are made from is practically worthless.

4. Coins as consumables

While exploring a Wizard’s workshop the PCs find coins with unusual images and writing on them. When a PC holds the coin in their closed fist and recites the words inscribed on the coin it works like a scroll or potion. The image gives a hint of the magic’s function and the inscriptions are the command words. Once a coin’s magic is used it dissolves into dust. A thorough search of the Wizard’s workshop reveals some notes on the process for creating the coins but not enough detail to duplicate it.

5. The numismatists

A coin collector comes to town seeking rare coins. He tells the party exactly what coins he needs to complete his collection. He has leads on where to find some including a shipwreck and a Dragon’s horde. If the PCs want to find the treasures at these locations the coin collector is only concerned about money. Anything else they might acquire is theirs to keep. If the PCs ask around they discover that the coin collector has a very good reputation for providing accurate information. Other adventurers tell the PCs that the money was usually the smallest portion of treasure found.

[The coin collector is an exceptional scholar. He collects the coins in part because he’s figured out how to use them as focal points for rituals. He can spot all forgeries. If adventurers try to cut him out of his rightful share of found loot he hires assassins to kill them.]

6. Undercover coins

The PCs are hired to go undercover in a foreign land. When they try to pay for food, drinks, and lodging they don’t realize that their foreign coins are clearly announcing that they aren’t who they appear to be. Merchants don’t care where their currency originated as long as it’s made of gold and silver. However, the local thieves guild takes great interest and begins keeping close watch on the PCs as they try to discern their true identities and why they’re here undercover.

7. Cursed Coins – Type I

After their last adventure one of the PC’s notice that every time he dips into his coin purse there are coins missing. None of the other PCs claim to know anything about it. No matter what methods are taken to protect his coins, money continues to vanish.

[What the PC doesn’t notice at first is that the number of coins in his possession never changes, just the total value of what he’s got. The PC has acquired a cursed coin (type I). Whenever it comes into contact with another coin of the same value/material it transforms it into a copper coin. The transformation magic only works once per round and in complete darkness. When the cursed coin is thrown into a money pouch full of gp it won’t take long before it jostles around and comes into contact with many other coins. Since the change only happens in darkness it is exceptionally difficult for PCs to realize what’s happening if they try to investigate.]

8. Cursed Coins – Type II

One night in the local tavern a patron is performing all kinds of card tricks and running a few low stake games of chance. If the PCs play and win he reluctantly pays them the gp they’ve earned. However, a few minutes after the PCs win the coin it disappears. Unless they have it in their sight or in their hand when the coin vanishes they may not notice its disappearance right away. If they use it to pay for drinks the barman notices it disappear and accuses the PC of trying to cheat him.

[The disappearing coin is actual half of a paired set of cursed coins (type II). Both coins look like normal gold pieces. One coin serves as an anchor, the other the wanderer. Both appear normal in all respects. However, when the two coins are more than an arm’s length apart a countdown begins. After 5 minutes the rogue coin automatically teleports adjacent the anchor coin – usually back inside the pocket or pouch of the person possessing the anchor.]

9. Cursed Coins – Type III

One of the PCs has acquired a new coin that he believes is a lucky gp. He won’t spend it or part with it under any circumstances. He even goes to great lengths to make sure he doesn’t accidentally spend it or lose it. The party quickly realizes that the PC’s attachment to the coin is very unusual.

[The “lucky coin” is in fact a cursed coin (type III). The PC found it in the pocket of the last monster he looted. The coin cannot be willingly spent or given away. Any time the PC tries to get rid of the coin he suddenly feels compelled to keep it believing it’s a good luck charm. Every day the PC keeps the coin it gets heavier and heavier. When it touches other coins or metal it makes an alarming amount of noise which also gets louder every day.]

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1 Joe April 3, 2014 at 11:59 am

In one or two of the editions of D&D there were also coin monsters. I don’t remember much about them… just the illustration. Creepy to think of your money crawling around in your pocket, biting you when you least expect it.

2 Lowly Minion April 8, 2014 at 12:47 am

I really like the “undercover” plot hook. It could be reversed – the PCs notice somebody using unusual coins, and they need to track down where they’re from.

On a related note, there’s a pretty cool kickstarter, already funded with 12 days to go, to produce some interesting fantasy coins to use as props.

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