I was listening to the n00b GM episode of the Gamerstable podcast the other day. It was mentioned that introducing money into a campaign can be a tricky proposition for a GM. You don’t want to give too much money to the players, but you also don’t want to deny them money since they will eventually want to purchase items. If they don’t have the money to do so they may lose interest in the game. A GM needs to be able to provide the right amount of money to the party without just handing out money. Unfortunately, the classic trope of looting dead monsters is pretty lazy since it is unrealistic for goblins or orcs to be carrying around bags of gold. Here are three ways a GM can fill the PCs pockets organically in a campaign.
Bounties are a great way to introduce money since they take advantage of something the party will already be doing: killing stuff. The setup is simple. A village that is suffering through an epidemic of kobold attacks or bandit raids is willing to pay brave adventurers to rid them of the scourge. The mayor of the town offers a fixed amount per bandit or kobold or whatever that the party provides evidence of the killing such as scalps or bandit markers. A village is not going to have that much money to give out so make sure that you don’t go too big with the reward. Anything more than 1 GP per kill is probably too much.
Get a Job
During long campaigns the players may be waiting in a village for a certain action to happen such as meeting an NPC. Instead of just eating this time the players can pick up some cash by working on the side. I’m not talking about stocking shelves at the general store or slinging drinks at the tavern, but jobs that are suited to an adventuring party. Wizards and clerics can provide minor spell craft services for a fee. If the party is fighter heavy they could hire on as guards for merchants travelling to neighboring villages. These side jobs can serve as one-shot sessions to fill time between larger sections of campaigns and are extremely useful if some players are not able to play that session. Rather than just leave their character behind the rest of the party can earn some money. If you can’t think of any class specific jobs for the party look toward the skills they have and see if those can be used to earn money.
If the players are visiting a large city the GM can introduce a tournament as an opportunity for them to win some money. A tournament is very easy to run since you only need to worry about the events that the PCs will be participating in. For example, your ranger wants to enter the archery contest. The GM will play the other contestants. Each participant rolls to hit against a set Difficulty Check. The higher the roll, the closer the arrow is to the center. A sparring contest can be run like regular combat except instead of tracking damage the GM scores hits. First one to land a set number of hits is the winner. Since it will be backed by a monarchy or government a tournament has the added advantage of being able to provide a larger amount of money at once.
There are many other ways to introduce money as your imagination can come up with. Use whatever works for your campaign and your group. Feel free to share some other ideas in the comments.