I want to write more for this page, to perhaps write a FAQ or something similar, but I’m stuck on the notion that I’ve answered all my own questions. I feel as though it’s succinct and direct, and that it accomplishes the goal, that being to have a definition to work from. Barring feedback or any future growth on my part, I’m where I’m at and can go no further. C’est la vie. In the meantime, let’s follow up on the topic of experience.
What do adventurers do to earn experience? In D&D, the answer is clear: they kill stuff and take their treasure. At least, they used to. Newer versions of the game have kept with the “killing things earns experience” metric but they dropped the “treasure earns experience” component with 3e. Shame, really. I never understood why it was removed but, honestly, I’ve never given the rule much thought until I read Ancient History from Coins.
In it, the author talks about the value of coins. What do they mean? What do they represent? After all, a coin or a piece of paper has no inherent value. You can’t eat them; they don’t keep you warm.
Their value is in what they represent to the people who use them.
In ancient history, the ability to mine precious metals and mint coins (especially in large quantities) meant the ability to organize a large labor force, and the military might to protect the investment. Anyone who minted coins was saying to the world: “Here we are and we are important. Do not ignore us. Do not mess with us.”
Coins also represent history. The iconography on a coin says things about the person or people in charge when it was minted. In the ancient or medieval world, this information may be the only connection people had with their past. Coins may have been used as storytelling aids, a way to remind the teller of the story’s details, and to illustrate a point or lesson.
When an adventurer sits down to count his haul at the end of a week or more of trudging through wild caverns and ruined strongholds, what does he learn from the coins before him? What reflections or stories pass through his mind, and how does he relate these to his recent experiences?
In other words, coins in the ancient and medieval world were as much a window into history and the human experience as any work of art. For an adventurer, the acquisition of coins (and other treasure) carries deeply personal, as well as a wider, world-expanding, meaning.