Mortal Mechanics I

Gary here, human avatar of Natalia in TMP. I also run a game where I get to DM Yubi and do all sorts of mean things to their character. I’d like to share some thoughts on house rules and some that you can incorporate into your own games as well as give you an insight into me and Yubi’s approach to adjusting rules.

Gary’s guidelines to what rules should do:

  1. Create cool moments
  2. Be intuitive
  3. Be easy to use

Meaningful game mechanics are real fuckin’ important. One of the most appealing aspects of RPGs to me is that I can temporarily be in another world and get immersed in the story. In my opinion good game mechanics are those which make sense and make things interesting, while poor game mechanics pull you out of the setting.

Example of a good mechanic: ability checks. They make sense because the better your character’s ability in that area, the greater your change of success. They also make things interesting because you can get a wide range of results compared to the size of your modifier. The sneakiest rogues can still crit fail their stealth checks, the worst speakers can still crit succeed in diplomacy, both of which create interesting character/situation/story events. Ability checks are also beautifully simple, DM chooses the check, player rolls, adds modifier, passes/fails; however, they can be adjusted for situations easily: DM’s can decide which check is best, alter the difficulty have opponents contest the roll etc.

Currency is one aspect of 5e that doesn’t really work for me.

Copper, silver, gold, electrum and platinum pieces all seem abstract. I know gold is meant to be a lot, but then we have shovels which cost 2gp and anything worth having is worth more. This results in silver and copper never being used/accounted for while few people use electrum/platinum because you’ve got to convert them to gold for purchases.

My solution:

  • Scrap electrum/platinum
  • Ignore copper (assume characters always have a few coppers on them)
  • Base silver and gold in your currency
  • Give players an idea of the economy

In my case, I have 1cp= £1, 1sp = £10 and 1gp = £100. This will require a bit of tinkering of item costs and drop-rate but what I’ve found with my players is a sense of ‘holy shit that’s a lot of money’ when they find a treasure hoard. Finding 100gp now means you’ve got £10,000 – that’s a hell of a lot of money and makes the stakes and motivations for characters and NPCs alike a bit more understandable. To add in an extra layer: if players know that an average farmer earns 2gp a week, a pint is a couple of coppers, a night at an inn if 3sp and a treasure hoard will get you a life-changing sum, they tend to be more invested than with the nebulous concept of ‘riches’.

Bonus perk to this: lighter coin-pouches. Thieves seem to find it very easy to stealthily sneak past people with hundreds of coins in a pouch and I dread to think about a day’s walk with thousands of gold coins in my backpack.

Come back next week when I’ll talk about wounds during combat and making injuries impactful in a world with magical healing.

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