Jordan's Page of Useless Babble

Step 22: Currency
By now, you've gone through all the basics, but now it's time to start working on those little touches that can make a campaign truly stand out from others. One way to do that is through currency. Most campaigns use a simple combination of copper, silver, gold and platinum pieces as their base monetary system.

10 copper is equivalent to 1 silver, 10 silver makes up 1 gold and 10 gold equals 1 platinum. It's a very simple system of currency that is based on the standard American dollar (equivalent to a penny, a dime, a dollar and a 10 dollar bill).

Players familiar with Advanced Dungeons and Dragons will remember the electrum piece, which is equivalent to 5 gold pieces, later removed in 3rd Edition.

Other settings make use of unusual currencies. For example:

The Dragonlance campaign setting makes use of a steel piece which replaces the standard gold.

Because metal is rare in the Dark Sun setting, the basic coin is the ceramic piece, equivalent to a normal silver piece. The ceramic can be separated into 10 bits, each equivalent to a copper piece. Silver and gold coins also exist in this setting, but are valued at ten times what they would be in other settings.

In the Legend of the Five Rings setting, they make use of a the koku, bu and zeni. 1 koku is worth 5 bu, and 1 bu is equal to 20 zeni. The entire system of currency is based on rice, with a single bu being equivalent to the price of one bushel of the grain.

While the Forgotten Realms largely uses the standard currency system, some countries make use of other systems. For example, in Sembia, they use the iron steelpence (equivalent to a copper), while in Waterdeep, they use a brass coin called a toal (equivalent to 2 gold pieces) which is considered worthless elsewhere.

No matter the system of currency you use, even small changes can make big differences in your setting's flavor. If you're interested in using a variant currency system, consider one or more of the following options:

Renaming the Coins: Renaming the coins used in your setting is a very simple way to change the entire currency system without really having to do a lot of work. Coins can be named after deities, kings, agriculture, animals, symbols or pretty much anything else. For example, in a city-state, the gold coin might be named a Crown, the silver a Rook and a copper a Shield after the symbols minted on the coins' faces.

Changing the Material: The coins in your setting don't have to be gold, silver and copper. Pretty much any metal can be used for coins, but the general guideline should be that more common materials be used to create lower denominations, while more expensive metals can be used to make higher denominations. Brass, iron, steel, electrum, bone, adamantine and mithril can al be used to make coins. You may also consider forgoing coins altogether and use specially stamped semi-precious stones, paper money, small sticks of metal or anything else that would be appropriate for your setting. You should avoid natural materials like shells that could obtained easily without cost, as that would upset the economy of your setting quite easily.

Revalue the Currency: There's no rule that one coin must equal 10 of another. If appropriate for your setting, you can have a coin that is worth 2, 5 or even 20 of another. Try to stick with denominations that will be easier for your players to mentally grasp. A bone coin worth 2 copper pieces is easier to conceptialize than a jade coin worth 7 gold pieces.

When making your own currency system, you also have the option of using a 'universal' system that is usable anywhere, or you can become quite detailed and have separate systems for different regions, countries or city-states. Just remember: if your players are spending more time trying to figure out what their money is worth than actually using it, you may want to simplify things.

Step 23: Establishing Trade
Beyond coins, and standard currency, you may also wish to give your players the option of using bartering. You can find examples of these kinds of trade in the Equipment section of the Player's Handbook.

If you choose to augment or change the trade goods list from the Player's Handbook, try to consider only listing things that the lower or middle classes of your world (farmers, tradespeople, etc.) would be likely to trade in. Staple foods and farm animals are good choices.

You may also want to consider jewels or trade bars (bars of precious metals) if such materials are expensive and rare in your setting.

Step 24: Calendars
Chances are, your campaign setting does not use the Gregorian calendar, although, for simplicity's sake, most use 24-hour time. In most settings, you'll want to, at the very least, create new names for the days of the week, for the names of the month and maybe even the names of the years.

For example, the Forgotten Realms setting uses a standard 12 month calendar using the following names:

Month Real Equivalent
Hammer January
Alturiak February
Ches March
Tarsakh April
Mirtul May
Kythorn June
Flamerule July
Eleasis August
Eleint September
Marpenoth October
Uktar November
Nightal December

Each month is divided into 3 sections of 10-days, known as rides, which take the place of our 7-day week. So, the 15th of January would be the 5th day of the 2nd ride of the month of Hammer.

Now that's not to say that you need to be as detailed as all that. The names we use for the days of the week and months in the real world are taken from our shared history and mythology, and are not generally appropriate for your campaign setting. Even just replacing the name with something else can make a huge difference in your setting.

Step 25: Creating Holidays
This is another optional step that can make a huge difference to your campaign, not only by fleshing out your world, but also by giving you a great way to introduce NPCs or even adventures is by adding holidays.

Think about the following ideas to base a holiday around:

Astronomy: Many holidays are based around astronomical events. The winter and summer solstice and the spring and fall equinoxes are good examples of events that holidays might be based around. If you're using a setting where there are multiple moons, suns or planets in close orbit, you may want to consider making holidays around events concerning these bodies, like eclipses or alignments.

History: It could be a celebration of a legendary battle, the anniversary of the destruction of a dragon in ages past, or maybe the acknowledgement of a peace treaty in ancient days that unified a kingdom. They're always based on an event or significant importance in the history of the area.

Religion: Every deity has at least one day that is sacred to them, usually the anniversary of a significant event in the life of the god. It could be the anniversary of their acsention into deification, or signifying the destruction of an enemy god or even just a day devoted to reflection on the deity themselves.

Political: It could be a day when guild members in a city do not work, the anniversary of a ruler's corronation or even a wedding between two members of the aristocracy. Political holidays tend not to be annual in nature, but have extremely varied sources. Large annual athletic competitions tend to be political holidays.

Whatever the basis, a holiday can be used as a way for heroes to blow off some steam and spend some money or it could be used either as a way for them to contact a new NPC, get information on a quest, or even as a deadline to a monumental goal (such as routing assassins before they disrupt the marriage of a princess).


  1. Work out a currency system for your campaign setting (Step 22). If you have suitable material in your setting, then also work out bartering systems for them (Step 23).
  2. Work out a calendar for your setting (Step 24). It can be as detailed or simple as you wish.
  3. Try to come up with some ideas for holidays (Step 25).


  1. Money and supplies are abundant in Penumbra due to a general lack of population. The smallest coin in use is the silver piece. 10 silvers are worth 1 gold piece, and 10 gold pieces are worth 1 platinum piece. There is another coin, the mithril piece, created using supplies of the metal harvested from the Crash Sites, which is worth 10 platinum pieces.

    An excess of currency and dwindling inventories of some items has driven inflation. The platinum piece in Penumbra is the equivalent of a gold piece in the standard currency system.

  2. Penumbra has 24-hour days, but uses a 12-hour system for determining day and night. 12-bells is used to signify noon and midnight, just as 12:00 is used in the real world.

    There are 12 months in a year: Aubreth, Shaado, Nethwin, Ur'uk, Liaque, Luneth, Mantek, Ruril, Trita, Seebok, Vuulgir and Finnegan.

    In addition, there is a cycle of five different 'emotions' which are used to signify the full name of the month. They are: Sorrow, Joy, Rage, Fear and Suffering.

    Each emotion is cycled through in order as the months change. For instance, if one month is Mantek's Joy, the next month would be Ruril's Rage, the next would be Trita's Fear, then Seebok's Suffering, then Vuulgir's Sorrow and so forth.

    Each month is 30 days long and separated into 5, 6-day weeks. This means a year is 360 days long.

  3. In Penumbra, there is little cause for celebrations, but there are a few holidays still followed.

    Every 3rd week of Nethwin is a celebration known as the Bloodletting. It is a week-long devotion that gladiators pay to Nethwin, the God of the Blood. In gladiatorial pits battles are devoted to the god's name, and in larger cities, a battle competition may be held, where the winner has the honor of being sacrificed to Nethwin.

    The anniversary of the Cataclysm is traditionally observed on the 17th day of Seebok. There is generally no celebration, but work crews at the crash sites typically take the day off, and recreations of the disaster may be told by bards. Legend has it that due to a planar anomally, it is possible to escape Penumbra through the use of powerful magic on this day, but nobody knows for sure.

    The Conflageration is a rare holiday, celebrated on the 6th day of Ruril's Rage. On this day, dwarves and other worshippers of Ruril offer creatures of evil and shadow as burning sacrifices to their deity. This of course means that in the days and weeks before, hunting parties set out to capture these beings until they can be burned alive.

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