Resource Points for Pathfinder
As a GM, one of the problems I have with Pathfinder is the way wealth and equipment are handled by the game. The game is designed with the assumption that the characters will plunder a certain amount of wealth in monster’s lairs and dungeons during the course of their adventures, and that they will spend that wealth on magical equipment that will enhance their performance.
This isn’t necessarily a bad thing. I have a lot of fond memories from my younger days of playing as a 2nd edition fighter on weekends and finding hoards of glorious loot at the end of a good fight. Unfortunately, even then I noticed a tendency for the game to spiral out of balance if the players found too much or too little wealth. Later versions of the game, such as Pathfinder, doubled down on this problem by assuming a healthy wealth curve was just another part of your character’s progression.
4th Edition felt like the worst of the lot because they hung a lantern on the problem with their parcel system and the way it subsumes the equipment bonuses into everything, not just weapons and armor. Now that I think about it, however, it occurs to me that maybe I’m being to hard on the edition. 4th Edition’s solution rubbed me the wrong way at the time, but at least they took a frank approach to the matter rather than hide it in the background.
My friends and I currently play Pathfinder, which gives the Game Master guidelines about how much wealth the player characters should have at any given level. That’s helpful, but my own personal experience with the matter is that in practice it takes a lot of bookkeeping to keep the system on track; worse, that bookkeeping takes up time that I’d rather spend on other aspects of the game—assuming I have that much time available to start with.
I recently came up with a solution to this problem, Resource Points. Rather than fuss over how much loot there is to find over the course of an adventure, I’ve assigned each character a pool of resource points equal to the gold piece value listed for that character’s level on the Character Wealth by Level table. This pool of points then becomes a pool of renewable resources that the character spends just like they would spend gold and expands appropriately when they gain a level.
In the case of expendables like potions or scrolls, the RP spent on the item stays spent after the item is used, but is replenished when the character gains a level.
For example, a second level character would have a resource pool of 1,000 RP. If that character were to spend 800 of it on reusable gear such as armor and weapons and the remaining 200 on potions of cure light wounds, then that character would still have a total of 1,000 RP, but they would all be tied up in the character’s gear. If the character were to drink 3 of those potions during the course of adventuring, then the 150 RP the character spent on them would remain tied up in them until the character reached level three. At level 3, the character’s pool of RP would increase to 3,000 and the 150 RP spent on the consumed potions would become available to the character, while the 850 invested in the weapons, armor, and remaining potion would still be invested in those items.
If the characters finds loot that they want to keep, they may keep the item for free until the character gains a level and gains a larger pool of RP, at which point the character needs to invest RP in the item to keep it. This Resource Point system assumes that the sale of unwanted items is part of what replenishes the character’s pool of RP at each level.
If a character wants to change out some or all of his or her equipment, then the Game Master should allow the character to sell old gear at the full value of RP that he or she invested in it.
Personally, I would use this Resource Point system in conjunction with conventional gold pieces, but keep gp awards fairly small. In this way, you can still use gold as a carrot for leading the player’s where you want them to go, without having to devote a lot of play time to looting the dungeon and selling unwanted gear. In this case, gold pieces should have a relationship with resource points that is is similar to the relationship that temporary hit points have with standard hit points.
Furthermore, I’ve found that this option pairs well with the Automatic Bonus Progression rules from Pathfinder Unchained which alleviates the need for PCs and NPCs alike to carry around a lot of basic gear. If this is the case, requiring the players to invest in items the’ve found and want to keep can probably be waived, since they’ll encounter much less magic lying and the magic they do encounter will be more limited, they won’t be encountering a +3 scimitar of speed with a value of 72,000 gp, but rather a scimitar of speed valued at 18,000.
By way of disclaimer, I prefer to run games that emphasize story but don’t feature much conventional dungeon crawling. If your game does feature lots of dungeon crawling, then you’ll probably be better off using the conventional Pathfinder wealth model. This approach deemphasizes the loot found during the course of an adventurer’s career, whereas loot is one of the great rewards of a dungeon crawl.