The John Wick Economy

John Wick is a fantastic revenge movie. The motivation for John’s rampage would be a great hook for a RPG character, but that’s not the most interesting part of the movie.

 Now there's an  immortal  specter of death chasing you? You earned it you monster.

Now there's an immortal specter of death chasing you? You earned it you monster.

What I found most interesting was the world of assassins and criminals operating with their own currency. Instead of paying with stacks of cash, they used special gold coins. They used these coins to pay for rooms at the assassin hotel, pay the people who clean up dead bodies, and trade among each other for services. How do you get these coins? That’s what’s interesting.

As far as we can tell, the only way to get these coins is to perform services in the crime community. But the only place you can use these coins is within the same community. This is an interesting idea we can apply to our tabletop games.

A common complaint in D&D 5e is that currency quickly becomes meaningless without things to use it on. So what if the players are presented with an alternate source of currency that can only be used for specific things? And what if those specific things were incredibly powerful or useful?

This sort of currency would easily work for a criminal or adventuring guild. The guild has the most useful stuff that the players could want, but only accept payment in their unique currency. Let’s call them Marks for now.

In order to earn Marks, the players must complete jobs (this is a great opportunity for side quests!). At first, the jobs only pay a few Marks at a time, but as you complete more and increase your prestige, you can get better jobs.

The important thing to keep in mind, if using this system, is that the items or resources you can purchase with Marks have to be better than what the players can buy elsewhere. The only place the players should be able to acquire marks are as rewards for completing missions, or traded among members.

 Staying at this place definitely counts as something you wouldn't be able to do normally.

Staying at this place definitely counts as something you wouldn't be able to do normally.

One of the benefits of this system is that it requires far less balancing and tracking of money. You don’t need to worry about how much money you are giving out, and finding money becomes less important. Mundane things like equipment are either covered with your membership, or can be purchased in bulk with one Mark. Perhaps the only magic item shops are in the guild, and they only accept Marks! The players should want to spend their Marks, and have to decide how to spend their limited resources best.

Here’s my suggestion for how to implement this system. Have missions reward the equivalent of one Mark per person. Allow low-level magical spells or special items to be bought with one Mark, and change the inventory available every few levels. Make basic services one Mark, but create other services that cost more. For example, teleportation between designated locations can cost 3 marks. Resurrection can cost 10. One week of nice lodgings costs 1 mark. Simple scrying costs 1.

Have extra objectives in missions for earning extra Marks, if the players are willing to go the extra step. Remember, everyone the players interact with in the organization wants these Marks. They will want to be paid a mark to do or give you something.

Finally, remember that there is a firm code of conduct within whatever organization you create. Breaking the rules of the club can incur a fine (Marks of course), or if severe enough, cost you your life.

Sample List of Services

Service

Cost (Marks)

Common Magic Items

1 Mark

Pack of 10 healing potions

1 Mark

Teleportation services

3 Marks

Erase Criminal Record

1-5 Marks, depending on severity

Basic equipment

Free

Spellcasting Services

Varies. Price set by each spellcaster individually

Guild Lodgings

1 Mark per week

Resurrection

10 Marks

Hire a specialist

Varies. Price set by each person individually.

Smuggle an item somewhere

1 Mark

Scrying

1 Mark regardless of results

Obtaining disguises, uniforms, and passes

1 Mark

Protection from Mind Reading, Scrying, alignment detection

1 Mark each

Access to 2nd Tier Missions

5 Marks

Information Gatherer

1 Mark