This document collects various options to help a GM decide how they want to handle
money in their Pathfinder Fate Accelerated campaign.
Pathfinder Fate Accelerated doesn't concern itself about the economy in the game
setting a GM is using, or defining "starting funds", or even tracking money by default.
From a character definition perspective, wealth or a significant lack of it should
be reflected in a character's High Concept and / or Aspects, and that is sufficient.
Unless the GM objects, gear can just be written out narratively as trappings without
worrying about associated monetary considerations.
A thing that occurs in the source material is that high level adventurers often
accumulate absurd levels of wealth, which then gets funnelled into purchasing encroachingly
more powerful magical items to make them even more capable so that they can go out
and accumulate even more loot in an ascending cycle of power creep. It causes the
rules to feel it necessary as a matter of game balance to detail precise
breakdowns on how much wealth is appropriate for characters of each level. It causes
the already lengthy process of stating up a high level NPC to take even longer as
appropriate magic items must be purchased, closely following the wealth per level
Thus as adventurers succeed (i.e. survive to reach higher character levels), accumulation
of wealth and "getting enough" to "stay competitive" with the game's expectations
actually increases in importance rather than decreases. And as characters
accumulate more magical loot, they eventually become more defined by what magic
items they carry than their own intrinsic qualities.
However, Pathfinder Fate Accelerated doesn't care about loot. It only cares about
interesting characters and telling a good collaborative story with them. Thus, the
only value tracking money or managing an economy has by default is the extent to
which such things help tell a more interesting story, and as soon as such things
are no longer helping to drive the story they are just getting in the way.
Therefore, by default, Pathfinder Fate Accelerated doesn't do anything fancy to
track money. How much stuff player characters are currently dragging around is assumed
to be enslaved to the needs of the plot and to be subject to change as the story
So, whether one character starts off wealthy and another starts off poor is not
really that big of a deal in the scheme of things. The rich character can lose it
all to a twist of plot, while the pauper character might stumble into wealth if
that's the way the narrative develops...it's all grist for the story mill. Ultimately,
Pathfinder Fate Accelerated is a narrative game, so "whatever serves the story"
is the primary focus.
But different GM's will vary on how best to serve the story, and some GM's may worry
about "game balance" and the desire to make "better gear" "cost more". Thus, individual
groups are free to handle it however they like and the below options are offered
up with commentary on why a GM might choose one of them.
Note that this isn't intended to be comprehensive; it just hits the most obvious
Option: Old School Loot Tracking
Many GM's might prefer to maintain an in-game economy with price lists for goods
and services, such as is done in D&D and many other games. In such a model 10
gp is just 10 gp and characters simply keep a running tally on their character sheet
or a scrap of paper of their loot, old school style. When more money is acquired
the number is bumped up, when it is spent the number is bumped down.
It should be fairly safe to assume that most gamers know how this works and laborious
details or an explanation of basic addition and subtraction are not required here.
One of the pros of this approach is familiarity, and being able to use existing
price charts from the source material. It is concrete and easy to reason about.
It gives GM's a stick and carrot to motivate characters with; being out of money
is a powerful motivator for going out to get more, and the promise of a big payoff
is often sufficient to "hook" characters lacking any other motivation into a particular
adventure. If the characters are kept poor, the concreteness of this method can
also contribute to an overall "gritty" tone, which can help a GM tell a particular
kind of story.
The main con of this approach is that it can be a giant pain in the rear end, adding
a tedious layer of bookkeeping both during play (tracking the numbers) and in between
sessions for the GM (keeping players honest and character sheets up to date, detailing
the contents of opponents' purses during adventure design).
Another con is that the concreteness of the economy and personal loot and gear will
generally bleed into other areas of a character, and as Fate Accelerated characters
are fairly abstract this is usually an awkward and undesirable development. For
instance if a character has a Stunt defined as a "magic sword" that just grants
a +1 to attack in a game where old school money tracking is being used questions
like how much is the sword worth, can it be bought and sold, etc will naturally
creep up...but really the "magic sword" is just supposed to be part of the character's
concept and not a commodity.
Lastly and perhaps most damningly, it can also bog the game down in accumulation
of loot to the detriment of story.
Option: Situational Aspects
Some groups may not want to deal in the tracking of filthy lucre and prefer to lean
on Fate's excellent Aspect model to deal with it. In this method money is handled
as situational Aspects with some number of invokes on them (Big Score! (2),
Beer Money (5), Bag of small loose gems (3)). Such Aspects can be
attached to characters, a scene or a location, the adventuring party itself, or
whatever makes sense.
The main pro to this method is it is nicely simple and abstract and doesn't get
in the way of the story; indeed Aspects help tell a story and often rise directly
from emergent play. Another pro is that it encourages players to not get bogged
down in numbers and loot accumulation. It also simplifies encounter design for the
GM as they don't have to put on their accountant's visor and pull out the old abacus
to determine how much money is appropriate to be in every lizardman's lair or dragon's
The main con of this method is that due to its abstraction, basic monetary transactions
that would normally be mere addition and subtraction require adjudication; for instance
what is the conversion rate when a player wants to "break" an invoke on their My
Share Of The Dragon's Horde situational Aspect into some number of invokes
on a Basic Living Expenses situational Aspect? Another con is that tracking
of situational Aspects is just another kind of bookkeeping; less concrete than tracking
individual coinage and thus less bothersome, but bookkeeping nonetheless.
Option: Wealth Stress
The excellent Fate System Toolkit describes a means of handling wealth
using a Wealth stress track, detailed on page 69.
This method is similar to using the Situational Aspect option; they have similar
levels of abstraction and the same basic pros and cons. However this method grants
characters with wealth-related Aspects extra stress boxes on their Wealth stress
track. Pathfinder Fate Accelerated doesn't normally attach weight to Aspects in
this way, and doing so incentivizes players to take Aspects for metagame reasons
rather than character concept reasons. Whether this feature of a Wealth stress track
is a pro or a con is left to individual GM's to decide, and the basic mechanism
could still be used with a slight tweak of course.
Option: Narrative-based GM Fiat
A GM willing to adjudicate on the fly if characters have enough money or resources
to do something or not can go "no-system". The GM just makes decisions based upon
the context of what has occurred previously and what is happening currently in the
story. When the GM feels that the characters have sufficient resources to do whatever
they are attempting, they allow success or success at a cost. When the GM feels
that the characters have insufficient resources or need to do something specific
to justify moving the story forward, they simply state that to be the case and the
story proceeds accordingly.
Using this method, the GM should be fair and indicate to the players when their
characters are running low on resources. Of course even lack of resources can be
turned into a positive thing by weaving it into the emerging story, using it as
a hook or a goad, even tying it into consequences or compels on appropriate Aspects
if lack of resources is appropriate and relevant.
A pro of this approach is that it is purely based on character concept and narrative.
For GM's comfortable with this style, it is incredibly empowering, and gives the
GM yet one more tool to help develop the emerging story. There's also no bookkeeping
beyond any notes a forgetful GM might want to jot down to jar their memory.
The main con of this approach is that many people, GM's and players alike, are not
comfortable with this level of "hand wavium" abstraction. Some people want hard
numbers and are frustrated by the lack of them. Some GM's are not willing or able
to make the many snap decisions this sort of method requires, or to be consistent
enough to make it work.
Hybrid Option: Scaled To Power Level
A GM might consider the power scale of their campaign and adjust how they handle
money and economy as the player characters advance. Funds or lack of funds can be
a powerful story element for starting adventurers, and thus using a more gritty
or exacting means of tracking resources can help establish a particular feel for
lower powered characters. But at a certain point, powerful adventurers rise above
all that and resources or lack there of are no longer a compelling story element.
Put into context, do we need to know how many copper pieces Fizzbane The Apexmage,
Archonix of the Fell Mountains, Spell-laird of the Far Reaches, Pact-holder of Ten
Thousand Demons has in his belt pouch? Is that really a matter of interest?
Does it further the story? Is a scene where such a character has to grope through
his belt pouches to come up with a few bits to buy an apple from a street vendor
going to be a thing? Maybe in a farse or satire, but typically not in a high level
A GM might therefore start off using old school loot tracking or situational aspects
or a wealth track or some other structured method, but at some point switch to a
unstructured method such as narrative GM-fiat when it no longer really matters to
the story how much money player characters have.