Many game systems spend a lot of effort on money. If you look back to the original D&D, there was a surprising amount of content dedicated to talking about money.
Seriously…did we really need electrum?
Ahem… At any rate, money has always been one of those things that just about every setting deals with. Sci-fi settings often try to do away with money (aka Star Trek) or have a generic “credit” based economy. The fantasy version of this tactic being “gold is our sole unit of finance.” But none of these options is terribly realistic. Civilizations have relied on some form of currency since at least 3000 BCE (the Mesopotamian shekel if you’re curious).
But what happens when you want something different from the bland “generic currency” of most settings? Here are a few ideas for alternative currencies in your next setting:
Precious Gems – Commodities have formed the basis for currency for centuries. Gems might make for an interesting currency in a setting. They have easy denominations (by type) and could be set to some standard cut or weight for consistency. This type of currency gives way to some interesting plots – what happens when the neighboring kingdom discovers a new vein that threatens to devalue the currency?
Unusual Stones – Perhaps the planet was bombarded by meteorites that now form the basis for a fixed currency? Meteorites are just one example. The soulstones in the Malifaux setting are another approach to an unusual stone that can be used as a currency.
Favors – In the Godfather movies, favors are clearly used as a form of currency between the mobs and civilians. While favors probably don’t work as the sole form of currency in a setting, they could be an ingrained – maybe even ritualized – component of commerce.
Blood – Blood makes for an interesting form of currency, though like favors, it probably can’t be the sole form. Perhaps blood prices are reserved for higher end items or certain types of goods. The rationale for why blood is an accepted form of currency would definitely inform other aspects of the setting (vampire rulers? blood mages?) and should make for some interesting decisions by the PCs.
This is just a brief sample – there are lots of alternative currencies you can play with to add some flavor and uniqueness to your campaign.