Currency in FRPGs – Favors

There are many types of currency in FRPGs and other genres of RPGs.

We are all familiar with gold and silver in coins, bars, and items, gems and jewelry, magic, trade/barter, force -such as a quest or geas, other types of items found in treasure hordes, like the awesome ewer! One powerful form of currency is the favor. I briefly mentioned this in yesterday’s post on Magic Shops.

Often a character or party will be in need of something, like a potion or scroll, to help them overcome an obstacle to one of their goals. For example, a scroll with several sleep spells to quickly and quietly make their way to a well guarded tower. Or a potion of control of the creatures guarding the tower.

When seeking such things from a local wizard, or cleric, the matter of payment comes up. Gold and jewels are nice, but what if there are other needs of the temple or wizard? Thus the favor. A form or barter, its value agreed upon by both parties.

What kind of favor is required? Small, medium, large, enormous?

The favor is often more valuable than gold and can be as valuable as magic. One agrees to a favor with a wizard in hopes of it not being too severe, or difficult to fulfill. There are small favors, like information: Where is the lair of the marauding orcs? Mid-sized favors, like: Rescue the villagers from the band of ogres and slay the ogres. And large favors, like: go slay this creature, or retrieve this item from far away.

One avoids honoring a favor at the risk of the wrath of a wizard and his associates, or the patron diety of the temple. Not honoring a favor will make it difficult to gain another favor from anyone else in the general area. Among wizards and temples, perhaps no wizard or temple of that diety will ever help that party or character again. Perhaps other temples and merchants and other NPCs with useful skills will not enter into a favor agreement.

Backing out on fulfilling a favor would be perfect fodder for a quest or geas to compel fulfillment.

One might argue that a chaotically aligned person would avoid agreeing to a favor as payment. That may be for the personality of the character in question, but if one views a favor as one of the forms of currency, a greedy character would seek to acquire favors owed them, in addition to coin, gems, magic, and other goods and services. While it might not be in the nature of a given character to enter into a favor agreement, how is that different than any other character agreeing to a sum of gold delivered by a certain date as payment?

Favors are currency in our world, but tend to be limited in scope to family and close friends. How many of us have done a requested favor for our parents or spouse? They will come out and ask for a favor. In this context, it is usually a one-sided transaction, but a home cooked meal from Mom is often worth it, and one’s spouse might have a more personal reward in mind. When one asks for a favor, how often is the reply, “OK, but you’ll owe me?”

In farming communities, one farmer will make an arrangement for another to plow or harvest a field that is closer to the neighbor, in exchange for the same in return. Of if one farmer is called away for a family emergency, such things occur.

Why not extrapolate that into the game world of whatever genre? How common is the movie or TV plot that someone owes the mob a lot of money, but they’ll forgive it for a special favor?

I play this in my campaign and have experienced it in other campaigns that the specifics of the favor is not discussed until it is time to fulfill it. Some favors took years of game time to be resolved.

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3 thoughts on “Currency in FRPGs – Favors”

  1. That reminds me of the description of what it takes to get an NPC to cast a spell for you from the 1e DMG. I’m also reminded of how Chivalry & Sorcery had a stat call Basic Influence Factor that was used to determine, based on your charisma and social status, how likely you were to receive the favor. And of course, you often ended up owing a chain of favors to gain access to the person whose favor you wanted.

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