I’ve always had a bit of an issue dealing with money and loot in-game. Depending on the game system and setting that we are playing, money is very important. For some game systems, like D&D and Shadowrun, it enables the PCs to get gear that enhances their abilities. In other game systems, where the mechanical effect isn’t as tangible, it gives the PCs a resource with which to influence the game world. Often, I have a hard time creating scenarios that provide realistic reasons for loot to be provided. I try to compensate, but my group sometimes ends up with too much money and they are able to buy their way out of situations. I’ve been toying around with the idea of having an in-game organization sponsor them. To be completely clear, I am not talking about nascar-style sponsorships, but old-school patronage style sponsorships , like artists in renaissance times or Wolfgang Baur  use. Here are some of the reasons it might be a good idea, for my game and yours.
1. Prevents loot hassles by providing a steady paycheck
This is the big one for me. Sponsoring the group of characters in-game provides them with a steady paycheck. While they may acquire some loot in-game, they can always count on having a steady progression. If they have their eye on a particular magic item, an upgrade to their cyberware, or some other expensive item they know they will eventually have enough for it. I no longer have to try to estimate the amount of money they “should” have, nor do I have to drop a treasure chest or expensive art relic into the middle of a dungeon where it should not be.
2. More options in giving the party high-level items
Can you really just walk into a shop and get the +12 sword, or portable hole that you are looking for. Mechanically speaking, yes. Worldwise, maybe? Sure you might have enough money for it, but the presence of these items in the marketplace isn’t guaranteed. I’ve always hated making such things easily available to anyone with the money to buy them, but I’ve hated denying my players the opportunity to get them more. One of the things I plan to do is to make items available through the group(s) sponsoring them. Now, instead of merely getting to money together to go out and buy it from the Local world-breaking magic and high powered illegal assault rifle store, the characters might ask the group that sponsors them to search for an item. Then, through means available to the more politically and financially connected patron, the item can be acquired. While this is mostly a justification for certain things being available to the group. It has a lot of merit. It need not be limited to items, but favors and other game changing events could be provided by the sponsor.
3. Salaries give a group a reason to go places and do things
I like to let my players have a lot of freedom with their game structure, but that often leads to party paralysis. While many of the players & characters have individual goals, they are often at a loss for what to do next. If I have something specific that I want them to do, getting them to do it with a believable hook can sometimes be tricky if their characters aren’t personally tied into the plot I’ve got. Putting the group on salary and having their employer tell them works pretty well. No justification or awkward introduction phase, just a message from their sponsor asking them to take care of something. The best part of this is that I could set up the sponsorship in such a way that I only pull it out when it seems necessary. Their sponsor might keep them on retainer and only call on them every so often, which enables them to pursue their own path most of the time.
4. Living Expenses
Ever actually charged living expenses in a game? Yeah, me neither, but I’ve always liked the idea of it. The idea of living expenses is pretty interesting, but would bog down a lot of games and not be very fun. However, I like the idea of a street samurai going home to his luxury apartment and getting clean or the paladin returning home to his loving family after a long crusade. These kinds of things give the characters dimension. With a sponsor for the party, I have an easier time getting the players to whip up some details for their life outside of adventuring without worrying about spending their loot on maintaining them.
5. Ok. Not so much a reason, but here are a couple of scenarios for sponsorship:
- Part of a military or para-military group
- Itinerate problem solvers on a duke’s, noble’s, kingdom’s, or corporation’s payroll
- Freelance investigators for an insurance company
- Henchmen to an evil (or misunderstood) genius
- The group has sold rights to the reenactments of their adventures to a magazine or tv-show
- Attached to a corporation as a security or black-ops group
- Sponsored by a merchant group who wants to ride the wave of publicity generated by the group’s good deeds
- The group is sponsored because they cause problems for a sponsor’s rival
- The group is sponsored by a country because of the monsters/troubles they inevitably clear up
The idea of an in-game group or person sponsoring the party is going to work for some types of games and not others. I’ve only thrown out a few reasons that you might want to add the idea of patronage/sponsorship to your current game. What do you think of the idea? Would your in-game group benefit from it?