I am exploring a post-apo sci-fi world TTRPG game where the PCs need to collect some kind of treasure. Unlike fantasy games, gold doesn't seem adequate. I thought collecting energy sources would be good, as it would allow them to expand their base with new facilities that all are energy consuming (e.g. cloning facility, nanofabricator, what have you).

What would feel semi-plausible and not complete BS?

  • fuel/energy cells or batteries - These would be nice, because they would run out, so you can only run the cloning facility for a single clone and you must find more. However, I am not sure why anyone would store them and whether they would survive such a long time.
  • Solar panels - OK, but somewhat boring.
  • Miniature nuclear reactors - I heard we are already having small nuclear reactors, so I thought, maybe going forward they continue to be shrunk to a level where a group of people could transport them.

Are there some other options I could consider?

  • $\begingroup$ How something feels isn't a fact of your world but a function of how an individual subjectively experiences it. $\endgroup$
    – sphennings
    Oct 21 at 19:16
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ this is what we call a brainstorming question, which is off topic. $\endgroup$
    – John
    Oct 21 at 22:25
  • $\begingroup$ Hi @Grusczy, the feeling of being plausible is not dependent on what the real-world tells you, it's what you've already set-up. Is it a diesel-punk, vehicle intensive world? Oil seems a good choice. Or is it a world devastated by radioactive, unstable green and blue crystals? Well, why not use them as money, too! Or you're on a desertic planet with only two things : Sand and that precious Spice.[...] $\endgroup$
    – Tortliena
    Oct 22 at 14:41
  • $\begingroup$ [...] See how each world feels very plausible but not boring (or else they would not be famous ^^). And yet 2 of them are not even remotely approved by science (and the other dismissing alternative options like windsail cars, solar panels and camels). $\endgroup$
    – Tortliena
    Oct 22 at 14:43
  • $\begingroup$ This is a question about game design, not really worldbuilding, but think of your issue this way. You have two kinds of "treasure" in any game. One is treasure with a purpose: e.g., you acquire iron because metal is needed to build specific things. Another is treasure without a purpose: e.g. gold which is used to buy non-trackables (inspecific purposes) including trivial things like (for a video game) a new "skin." Unless you're invoking barter, you need some form of general purpose currency. "Credits" or money or gems or gold. Pick a name, it's just an aesthetic. But don't confuse the two. $\endgroup$
    – JBH
    Oct 22 at 18:16

2 Answers 2


As a D&D player, one reason we get gold is because we can turn the currency into what we really want. Non-gold treasure either falls into things that can be converted to gold (art or gems as two examples), or items that we can use (potions, scrolls). Also, depending on the setting, there are plenty of adventurers just in it for the money and fame.

If you're looking at a post-apocalyptic setting, then you'll have to consider why your group is adventuring in the first place. Much like the fantasy setting, people have motivations for adventuring, and that will affect what they desire more out of treasure. Put in broad strokes:

  • People aiming to help their settlement are likely on the lookout for treasure that will help their home or gear that will help them be better at that goal
  • People on a personal quest will look for treasure that will help them achieve their goals
  • People out for money and fame will seek treasure that is valuable and/or has an epic story behind it

Improving the Homestead

If they are adventuring to help their home settlement, then anything that they could bring back to help their settlement is good treasure. Even damaged or broken items potentially hold value as somebody back in the settlement might be able either reverse engineer them or outright repair them given the time and opportunity to do so. Such things may include:

  • Energy cells to power the machinery in their settlement until they can build something more permanent -- as per what you have in the question
    • Alternatively, empty cells can be recharged and the settlement just needs more cells to run more machines
  • Parts and/or schematics for machines would be valuable -- doubly so if those particular items were lost during the apocalypse
  • Materials to fabricate things are not worthless, and would effectively be Trade Goods in this settings
    • Gold is still an excellent electrical conductor, so even if it is not being used as currency, it may hold value in other ways
    • Salvaged materials from broken machines can be repurposed into new items
  • Depending on the level of apocalypse, food plant seeds might hold some decent value and be useful to bring in new foods to the settlement as a luxury good
  • Gear to better analyze salvage so they know what is better to return home would not go awry

For the Loot

Alternatively, if they are in search for riches, then the value of individual items will be on their mind. As such, the quality of the loot is just as important as what that loot is. Also, as they gain experience, they will know who will buy what for what price and will be on the lookout for those things, preferably in good quality.

  • Scouring old ruins for artifacts and art from Before the End may prove lucrative if they know a buyer that would pay for such a unique (if functionally useless) item.
  • Old machines, or their schematics, may prove valuable depending on their condition.
  • If they have a particular rare schematic, being the only group with a particular machine to sell may also prove valuable.
  • Anything from the first section is still useful, though they'll hold onto it to get a better price if they feel they can

Other Considerations

As another thought, as it's post-apocalypse, it is entirely possible that schematics for machines are not always perfectly legible from one source. It may require finding the same item multiple times and effectively piece together a complete schematic from multiple sources. This idea could be used for a particularly powerful machine so a lucky find doesn't derail the game.



Hydrogen is a new and fancy fuel. It is still in 'development' technologically speaking, but it has many advantages that can make it plausible.

  • If we exclude nuclear, it has the best energy density of all fuels.
  • It can be compressed to cram a staggering amount of it in small containers.
  • It can easily be created with just electricity and water.
  • as it's a gas (or under some circumstances liquid), it's easy to transport.
  • It can be used efficiently for heat or electricity, with the byproduct being small amounts of water.

There are of course challenges to this technology at this time. Like how to create it efficiently in large quantities. Another is that Hydrogen is the smallest element and difficult to store for a long time in a container, as it slowly is able to seep out. But it's a game. We can say they solved both issues pretty plausibly.

These are also very close to batteries, your preferred energy source in the question. You can make them reversible, being able to create more Hydrogen and fill a container again, or claim some reason that prevents you from pressurising them again. Maybe some lost technology to fill them in such a way that the integrity of the container isn't compromised, losing that perfect seal solved in the previous text block.

Then you can have a high energy density, non nuclear, relatively safe with little/no bad byproducts energy source. You can have different containers in their maximum pressure, so even the same size containers can have different amounts of hydrogen. That gives flexibility in the power rewards as well.


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