Crumbling UpKeep, Samsarras

CrumblingUpKeep Presents: Gold Pieces are Boring

Dungeons and Dragons has this wonderful abstraction of currency that helps to simplify the game and move things along. There are ten copper pieces in a silver piece, ten silver pieces in a gold piece, and 10 gold in a platinum. There is electrum as well, but lets not talk about that. No one speaks about electrum.

Gold pieces are kind of the base. Everything else is measured off of that. Think of it like the dollar. Coins are percentages of the dollar, while other bills are multiples of it. A ten dollar bill is ten single dollars. It is also 1,000 cents, but no one thinks of it that way. While most townsfolk are likely dealing in silver as a standard of living, adventurers with their treasure hunting ways will almost certainly be measuring their wealth in GP.

This system of currency in D&D serves to take the hassle out of wealth. If you are buying a dagger, it costs the same currency wherever you may be. It is also likely going to cost the same amount. If you have 2 GP, you can have a dagger. Nice, fast, and simple.

My own campaign world, The Isles of Samsarras, is based largely on exploration and the interplay between different cultures and regions. If the players go to another kingdom, there are new customs and new gods. The language is different as well as the values. Not every place has a shared sense of history, as the Dwarves from the frozen north have had different struggles than the independent city states of Qua’Lorn in the hot south.

In short, I want places to feel different. I want the players to feel like travelers, exploring a land far from home. Currency is just another way to achieve that feeling.

In The Isles of Samsarras, I’ve made currency a geographical/cultural thing. Elves use different money than gnomes, who use different money than the tribal humans of The Glimmering Isles. Each currency has a different base. Not everyone is going to want this in their game, as it does add a bit of work, but I find it makes things more interesting when the PCs open a chest. What currency they find in that forgotten tomb tells a bit of its history.

First, lets begin with the Dwarves, as their currency is the most translatable. The idea came from Viking Hacksilver, The short version of Hacksilver is that of a currency done by weight. After pillaging a bunch of silver from other lands, the Vikings would just chop it up and bend it instead of minting coin. They would then use scales to determine its value. Seemed pretty cool and rustic.

As the Dwarves of my world do fall into the stereotypical trope of being the miners, they have access to these precious stones quite often. Instead of minting them into coin, they prefer to keep them closer to their natural form, as these stones are also raw material. They take their gold, silver, and copper and just forge it into simple jewelry, like long curing bracelets. When they need to pay for something, they just hand over a ring or chop a section off the bracelet.

Need that dagger? Hack off two gold pieces worth of gold from that necklace. This makes their currency harder to steal while giving it some really fun flavor. The players are excited when they open a chest full of gold and copper bracelets. They just found a horde of Dwarven treasure.

Elves, on the other hand, have minted coins. Their base is the Elnar, which is equal to one gold. There are 4 Dinar in an Elnar and 4 Pharinar in a Dinar. Below is a handy chart for conversions.

Gold Elnar Dinar Pharinar Isnar Silosts
Gold 1 1 4 8 20 100
Elnar 1 1 4 8 20 100
Dinar 1/4 1/4 1 2 5 25
Pharinar 1/8 1/8 1/2 1 2.5 12.5
Isnar 1/20 1/20 1/5 2/5 1 5
Silosts 1/100 1/100 1/25 2/25 1/5 1

To read the chart, look at the currency on the left. Find a coin at the top you wish to exchange.  The number at the intersection represents how many of the top coin make up the left hand coin.  For instance, 2.5 Isnar make up a Pharinar. If you want to buy that dagger, 16 Pharinar will do it.

The elves, being an old civilization, have one of the more complicated currencies. There are a lot of delineations. The Glimmering Isles are much more tribal in nature. If you listen to “Crumbling Keep Presents: The Isles of Samsarras” podcast, you’ve likely met Heskin. He hails from that area of the world. Instead of giving him coins, we decided to give him the equivalent in trade goods. His “currency” looks like this:

Item Worth
Driftwood carving of a Dragon 15 GP
Irus (A super savory spice. You can trade it in increments.) 5 GP
Lothal (Coffee) Beans 5 lbs 50 GP (only in outside world)
3 Turquoise Stones (worth 10 gp each) 30 GP
Ornate Carved Stone Necklace, 19 Stones long (can sell single Stone) 30 GP
Elaborately Carved Ivory Snuff Box (traded to you from a sailor once) 15 GP
2 Ounces Cured Burk (smoking weed like tobacco) 8 GP
Ornate Silver Ring 20 GP
Painted Tribal mask, in the style of a demon 10 GP

Where ever Heskin goes, he has some trade goods. Need that dagger? Cough up a quarter of an ounce of Cured Burk. It takes a little bit of mental math, but it adds to the role play for us. He has some actual coinage now that he has been out in the larger world, but those trade goods will forever be an essential part of his character.

Again, not everyone is going to want to go through the hassle. If you have a group that really likes to be immersed in your world, however, think about taking a day and making up some fun currencies. What would tieflings trade? What about aaracockra? Have fun with it. Let your imagination grasp onto the possibilities.

If you are running an Isles of Samsarras game, want more inspiration for your own currency, or just feel like stealing mine, you can see all of them at our Patreon.


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Drexalt’s Song

Found carved into a stone in a long forgotten cave in the swamps of Dezeldenia


When we die

The great mother will take us back into her bosom

We will sit in endless halls

Where the torch light flickers grey.

We will sit there for all eternity

unmoving and silent

we will drink dusty water

and eat only ash

Drexalt will take us back into her bosom

She will feed on our papyrus grey flesh

She will take us as lovers

soothing our still hearts with an eternity

of cold damp caresses.


We will stay there

Until the last of us dies

and the hall is full

and then we will all be granted blessed nothing

body and soul gone forever

Even the demon king will return to the void


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Alazard the Wicked

There are many thieves guilds and gangs in Varrek, but it is said they all pay homage to one man: Alazard the Wicked. Publically, Alazard in a merchant, though all know where is true fortune comes from: He is the king of the Varrekian underworld. No large transactions or deals escape his notice. The thieves of Varrek have a saying: steal what you will, but give Alazard his due.


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Cult of the Twins

Long before Varekussius came to be known, the twins Druhaus and Mugan were worshiped as the gods of magic and knowledge. Legend says that Qua Jon, an Elf, was the first mage of the Samsarras. He was gifted his great magic by the twins so that he may teach others the ways of the arcane. Despite the Elves of current day worshiping the dragon gods of their lands, all know this legend well.

Varekussius has outlawed their worship as heretical, but that hasn’t stopped their veneration. Rituals are carried out in secret rooms and forgotten halls, far from prying eyes. Druhaus and Mugan are tied to the world’s two moons, Gwizdon and Dernosh respectively. The city guards presence is much more robust when either celestial body hangs full in the sky. It is said the heretics take it as a call to action. While this may or may not be true, it does seem that crime and vandalism rise on those well lit eves. There are many wizards who claim to feel a greater connection to their art when the moons are full, though doubters are quick to claim the effect is psychosomatic.

If one looks, one will see the image of a snake with two heads emblazoned on walls and in alley ways around the city. This is the cults mark. None really know much of their aim or leadership, if they truly have either. Their presence in the city is often felt but rarely seen

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Tur Drexlinth

Located on the far southern outreach of the city, Tur Drexlinth is home to Sharar Mon Karra. Sharar is a powerful and reclusive necromancer said to travel the city in many differnt guises. The Del Harun, a tribe of warrior merchants who travel the eastern part of Qua’lorn, have a saying: “Every man, woman, and child meets Sharar Mon Karra once.”

Tur Drexlinth also houses his many disciples. They safely practice their necromantic magic behind its thick walls, as the practice is frowned upon in public. It is said there are sights within its halls that would chill the soul of even the most stalwart warriors, though not many know for certain, as only the fool hardy dare approach its gates. The estate is also home to Varrek’s Charnel house and crematorium. All dead are brought here, provided they have not made arrangements to have their corpse stolen away to some other end. It is unknown what relationship Varekussius has with Sharar Mon Karra, but it is the Dragons will that this should be so.

The disciples of Sharar have semi domesticated wyverns. The winged beasts can always be seen flying around its towers, perching on its ramparts and heeding the demands of their gaunt caretakers. It is unknown what type of meat they feed the beasts, though none wish to discuss the matter for long.


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