Making Banknote Props For D&D

I recently began a D&D game where the setting had a Victorian-esque feel to it. In discussions with friends, we had the idea of creating paper currency, specifically the oversized banknotes that were used in those times and in colonial america. They worked like the bills of today but were much larger and chunkier. I felt such a paper prop would fit well in this new game's setting and set about to making some.

I designed the banknotes in an image editing app (Photoshop). I used fonts for the whole thing, specifically twirly written-looking fonts, some mythical-animal-like dingbat fonts, and a few fat, bold fonts for the big text. Using fonts meant everything would be vector elements, so I could scale and rotate to my hearts content without worrying about anything becoming pixelized or blurry. I also did it all in black text on a white background, the intention to be able to print it out at a copy-store cheaply (colour printing costing more).

Each bill ended up looking like so...

Banknote (design)

The scribbly text doesn't really mean anything, it just sounds properly official. I used the larger bolder font for the denomination and currency (D&D uses copper, silver, and gold coins as money) so someone flipping through a stack of the papers could count them quickly and easily. And the big twirly dragon thing gave it a coat-of-arms feel, proper to the area the two protagonists would be starting in.

I originally thought about creating subtle differences for each type of currency, maybe changing the dragon design or moving the fat number to the top-right instead of the bottom-right. But I felt that would be a lot of work for a minor payoff, and the changing positions of some key text (the number and the metal type) would make managing a mixed set of bills cumbersome.

I saved nine image files all together...

I then created two pages for each type of currency. I laid out two singles on one page, and then laid out a two and a five on a second page. I worked under the assumption that singles would be used much more often than the twos or fives. Kind of like this...

banknote Page Layout

I imported the images into a document editor (Pages specifically), and saved all six resulting pages (a set of two page for copper, silver, and gold each) onto a flash drive. Working from a Mac, I didn't want to worry about file format and app compatibility, so I saved them all as PDFs.

I got the files printed at the UPS Store in Winnipeg Square. Although Staples Copy Centre was closer, it had a line-up and the process seemed annoyingly impersonal due to the introduction of a new online website they were promoting. The UPS Store had no one in line and a nice lady behind the counter who was happy help me with me project. She even went so far as to make suggestions as to what coloured paper to use to match the metals :)

I printed five of each page, for a total of 30 pages. It cost me just a smidge over five bucks (real CDN money) to print it all. Because they were all spaced exactly the same, I was able to use the UPS Store's big slicer-board thing to chop all the pages in half. I had a perfect stack of bills, with the following totals...

Working on the basis that 10 copper equals 1 silver, and 10 silver equals 1 gold, that gave me a total of 4995 copper worth of currency. Should be a good start for my money-strapped, 1st-level protagonists!

I spent an evening watching TV and absentmindedly hand-crumpling each bill to give it a final used texture. Here is the end result...


So far it has been a big success. Having physical props has always been a great way to immerse everyone in the game. Its a funner experience to be flipping through the few bills you have to discover how poor you are then to just compare a number on your character sheet.

I hope to introduce more props as the game progresses.

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