On my other blog, I wrote about the route to a quick fortune in the Old World of WFRP1e - busking. Not too long ago, I wrote about my preferences for systems that accommodate the PCs employing NPC hirelings. Both of these posts touch on another concern of mine - levels of reward.
I have no need for the extensive price lists found in many games. I couldn't give a flying feather about the price of a chicken. I couldn't give a snort over the cost of salted ham. But that is because those kind of 'realistic' price lists are focused on the wrong kind of thing for my game. I don't need to know the minutia. But I do want to know, at a glance, what it will cost a PC to live. And I do want this broken down, not into a series of line items, but into consequential differences - into a series of bands from 'poverty' to 'princely'. I don't care about the difference in price between a cup of mead and a jug of ale. But I want to know what a carousing session costs, perhaps broken down by quality of neighborhood. Cost of a cloak? Pah! Cost of 'dressing in finery' vs 'dressing in rags', yeah, I can use that. And so on.
As an aside, this is why I also can't be bothered with platinum and electrum coins. Gold, silver, and copper are enough - in fact, in practical play, two types of coins often provides a perfectly workable system, with simplified accountancy.
Thing is, I do like keeping track of the cash available to the PCs. I do like having the PCs grub around for the gold to cover their living expenses. This can lead to trouble, and trouble leads to adventure. But I don't want to play a game in which the players discuss whether they can do without cloaks, or whether they will wear boots or shoes, and so on. I don't find that fun.
What's this got to do with levels of reward? Well, a good, game-able pricelist allows a GM to calibrate rewards based on wealth. And more importantly, it allows players to understand the level of their PCs' wealth with regard to the game world. They are being paid 500GP to recover the Icon of St. Cuthbert? Is that the same as the yearly income for someone of their class? Is is 10 years' income? Is it the revenue a minor baron would collect? How many months of 'upper class' living would this reward grant the low-born PCs? And so on.
Of course, the much maligned (outside the OSR, at least) random treasure tables provide an additional mode of reward calibration, this time by risk. More or less. So is this a deadly adventure, akin to taking on a Dragon? Or it is like knocking over a couple of Goblins? Either way, and anywhere in between, D&D (and its clones) has you covered.