Back from summer break, and unfortunately, I’ve just got a short one today, guys. The word “currency” gets thrown around an awful lot in RPG texts and on RPG design boards. It usually gets taken for granted what it means, but I somehow get the nagging feeling at times that the other person I’m talking with doesn’t grasp the concept fully. So, I’m doing this post today to help assuage my conscience.
The Provisional Glossary defines currency as “The exchange rate within and among Character Components. Currency may or may not be explicit (e.g. "character points"), but it is a universal feature of System, specifically as it relates to Character.” Defining currency as “the rate of exchange” is partially unhelpful, I feel, because first it focuses people on the numbers involved instead of the game components involved. It’s the components that really matter as far as the fiction goes. And second, because it makes it seem like currency is something that can only be found on characters. This is not necessarily the case.
So, for the purposes of Socratic Design, I’m going to define “Currency” as, “Any character and/or other game component that can be spent, lost, gained, or traded for some in-fiction effect.” So basically, you’re trading something from the real world (that is written on the character sheet, GM sheet, or whatever else) for something in the imaginary world.
What are some examples of currency?
There are some pretty easy ones most are familiar with. Hit points, mana, sanity, rounds of ammunition, attacks per round, gold pieces, experience points, etc. are all examples of currency. But so are bonus die like in The Shadow of Yesterday, fan mail like in Prime Time Adventures, or Humanity in Sorcerer. GMs can also have currency they spend to increase the danger of an encounter or to build dungeons that challenge the players.
Just remember, currency is simply some out-of-fiction resource you can use, spend, trade, or accumulate to get in-fiction effects.
P.S. I will be making an exciting announcement about Socratic Design later this year. Please check back every so often as I prepare for SD’s next phase.