|What's in the box?|
So my friend and I were trying to figure out how to run a compelling campaign that focused on the struggle of having enough money for stuff (inspired by Grimgar)
We both thought it would be interesting and thematic to remove experience points from the game and have an associated monetary cost for level ups. We are a little divided on the best way to achieve something balanced and fair. Also... My mathematics skills are not the most robust so something simple would probably work to our favor.
My initial thought was to buy a level as a whole by converting the xp cost into gold at a 1:5 ratio. He suggested doing a piece wise level up where independent costs for skills, hd, saves, etc are present... I agree that definitely has a more "I can afford to be a better acrobat/healer/etc now!" Vibe but... Again my math skills are lacking.
Does anyone have an experience with something similar to this? Or know of 3rd party material that might help?
Pathfinder does not really lend itself to this type of play. The game is based around getting more powerful. This means getting better spells and abilities and getting better Gear. This way you can take on new and more challenging creatures. Making PCs pay to level up will completely through off this balance.
To expand on what remoh said, the Pathfinder challenge rating (CR) system assumes that at any given level players will have a certain amount of wealth, X, in the form of gear and expendables that aid them in surpassing challenges. By putting a monetary cost on leveling up, you now have to give out X+Y wealth to characters so that they have the Y amount of money needed to level up.
However, what if the characters instead decide to spend all of X+Y on gear and expendables instead of leveling up? Or vice versa? Can you ensure that in either of these cases that the CR system continues to work properly to allow you to appropriately challenge your players? Instead of coming up with some arbitrary cost system for skills, levels, and such, you should work backwards from the existing Wealth-by-level chart. I think that the cost of leveling up will gravitate towards costing the same amount as the suggested wealth for that level. If you skew it either way then you're incentivizing either levels or gear over the other.
One way you might be able to make it work is to not allow your players to buy magic gear or consumables. Then, the only thing they have to spend their money on is leveling up options (or other fluffy things that don't actually help them overcome challenges, such as housing, fancy clothes, better lifestyle, etc.). In this case, you need to make sure that you distribute gear and expendables of the appropriate wealth level during their adventures, and make sure that every such item distributed is usable by players in the party, because they won't be able to trade them in for something else they would like more. This puts a lot of extra work on you, but I wouldn't say that it's impossible.
But then the problem becomes one of upgrades. When you give the big fighter a shiny new +3 weapon, what does he do with the previous +1 or +2 weapon? We've said we can buy items, but can your players find buyers for their old items? And if so, then you're giving the players even more money to put toward levels/skills/etc. further throwing off the balance.