After writing this post about gold in a D&D game (mostly because of the comments...), reading this post about expeditions over at The Nine and Thirty Kingdoms and, maybe, because I also read this post about fast and slow megadungeon levels at Semper Initiativus Unum, I realized what I needed in my game to avoid an inflation of gold and treasure.
Doesn't matter how much gold they have...
I believe every class needs a goal to reach for name level, like adventurers need some sort of goal in an adventure. So from now on a player has to decide, either during character creation or before he starts burning gold for xp, what kind of career he has in mind for the character (The Settlement, The Expedition, The Business, The War, The Office). So here is the twist: upon deciding that, the gold exchanged for xp might be used for carousing (limited, partying hard has limits) or into the Career (that is making contacts, bribing official, investing for equipment, etc.; limited, doing so costs time).
Five Careers (there could be more)
The Settlement - Or castle or thieving guild (those could arguably be more The Office...) or wizards tower, etc.. Just like the domain game in D&D intended it to happen at Name Level.
The Expedition - Aiming for a funded expedition into uncharted territory.
The Business - Financing some sort of major enterprise (a fleet of trading ships, whatever). Halflings especially go for this career (as per this reasoning).
The War - Working on getting a private army (or being leader of an official one) to wage a war!
The Office - Planning to become some sort of official, like a politician, a sheriff or the leader of a congregation.
There are two ways to trigger the effects of a career (expedition gets funded, land for the castle, etc.). Either it happens at Name Level or as soon as at least half of the xp needed to gain name level are invested in the career (which should be close enough anyway...).
Inheritance is possible, but only two thirds of the investments might be saved for a new character. The rest gets lost in the process. What is inherited, however, does not count for the new character's level, only for the career (which could lead to a very inexperienced character in a leading position... and I think that's a good thing, from a DM's point of view).
Changing a career is only is possible after the current career is either fulfilled (you could be an explorer and then a politician, go to war after that and, later, be a politician again) or if the money invested considered as lost (a character would have to start investing anew). Same goes for inherited investments. The next career will also need at least half the xp needed (in gold) to reach Name Level, before it gets triggered (yes, even for careers after name level is reached...). Bigger investments should trigger bigger careers (need to think more about that aspect*).
If an investment triggers the first career, reaching Name Level won't trigger a second career for "free". Reaching Name Level will only have an effect, if investment into it hasn't triggered it yet.
Just a rough sketch...
It still needs some more thought about some of the specifics, but I think a system like that could put at least some focus on the mid level game. And just with a little bookkeeping, at that. Plus, a career isn't coming cheap. If the characters have no money at all, the career starts at Name Level, if they have to much of it, they might as well burn it for that, too.
Playing a game like Rules Cyclopedia, with a scope of 36 levels (!), I believe it's important to give the players some strong indications how the game will change with the characters getting stronger. Traditionally, Name Level is one of those points in the game (it's a well known fact that it actually changes at levels 5 or 6, but anyway...). Careers give players not only indications, they let them choose what the mid level game (and later) is about. It gives perspective, a goal the characters are aiming for ("I want that island!" "I want to explore the wilderness in the north!" "I want to rule a city one day!" "...!"). For a DM it has all kinds of advantages (no need to regulate treasure, knows where a campaign (in general) might be headed, which should help DMing the game in terms of flavor, treasure, etc.).
I also believe, that a game like D&D should be able to be a war game, a domain game, about economics or power struggles on bigger scale than Player vs. Environment, at least later in the game.
What do you think?
*My thinking, to give an example: In a Domain Game (The Settlement Career), invested money is xp for the settlement, leading to growth (as indicated in my Settlement as Class post over here). It's a bigger picture every day, but sometimes dots get connected, too ;)