I’ve had the notes on this sitting on my hard drive for a few weeks now, and Sean and Brett tackling the topic of wealth and abstracting it finally kicked my butt to finish this.
Thanks for this. I have to say that Against the Darkmaster uses a Wealth system a lot like the first one you described. It had my players (during the playtest before the Kickstarter) utterly befuddled. We kept trying to figure out what a person could do with a Wealth score that seemed exponential, tier by tier.
We’re playing D&D now, according to the parameters of Swords & Wizardry, and there’s something about that approach that feels so much more intuitive and elegant. I’m enjoying thinking of rewards in terms of gold pieces—and that’s all that matters. E.g., “You guys are level 1? He offers you 100 gp.” If the PCs kill an Orc and search the body, they find 15 gp (I don’t give xp for kills, just gp, and this puts the “burden”—which they gleefully shoulder—on the players to keep track of for ease of xp advancement). Also, gold is obvious incentive for adventuring. Going back to our Against the Darkmaster playtest, though the PCs all were heroes and should, you know, oppose the evil Darkmaster, it still felt like I was dragging them into a railroad. Now, you dangle a sack of gold pieces in front of them, everyone knowing each one of those coins is an experience point, you have an unequivocal response.