In talking about the system of upkeep I discussed in the last post, Kainenchen, this one guy, and I worked out another sort of monetary drain, to be used in place of or in conjunction with the upkeep mentioned previously. This started as a discussion of how players should be spending money if the DM eliminated outright purchase of magic items as an option. I'll be honest: this is blatant idea theft. As I've said before, Arkham Horror is one of the richest idea mines ever discovered.
Within really any setting, there are temples to each of the widely worshiped gods of the setting. The priests in these temples are willing and able to grant long-duration blessings in exchange for donations. Supplicants can reasonably expect these blessings to last for one full cycle of the moon, or until a curse falls upon the supplicant - much like in Arkham Horror, getting cursed (well, a certain kind of cursed) while you are still blessed returns you to normal, and getting blessed when you are cursed restores you to normal. If you're planning more than four weeks of travel, you could pay the priests in advance to begin their intercessory prayers on your behalf after a certain point, or to continue them for another month.
This particular idea fits into 4e seamlessly, using the divine boons outlined in the Dungeon Master's Guide 2. In essence, you're renting the boons, and certain curses cause them to go away. I'd price these as a portion, probably about 10%, of the list price of the boon.
For 3.x, I'd need new mechanics for these boons, but there are a lot of different options. I'll post a few here; I might or might not stick with these names and concepts of the deities, if I ever ran such a game. I'm trying to make sure these are all about equally useful to all classes. Characters pay 50 gold per character level, as the gods expect something like a tithe and demand more from the wealthy.
Blessing of Tura Keshik
Tura Keshik (TOO ra KEH shik), the goddess of purity, health, the sun, and the harvest, grants 8 temporary hit points at sunrise each day, and last until the next sunrise. These stack with temporary hit points from other sources.
Blessing of Sioctana
Sioctana (shok TA na), the goddess ofpeace, defense, fortitude, and love, grants a +3 sacred bonus to Fortitude saves.
Blessing of Talend
Talend (ta LEND), the god of war, skill in crafts, honor, oaths, and kingship, grants a +3 sacred bonus to Will saves.
Blessing of Ychirra Ychirra (ih CHEE ra), the goddess of secrecy, treachery, song, exploration, and fate, grants a reroll of one attack roll, saving throw, skill check, or ability check per day. Take the better of the two rolls. Alternately, a spellcaster may force one target to reroll one saving throw and take the worse of the two rolls.
Blessing of Vashtal
Vashtal (vash TAL), the god of the moon and stars, arcane magic, prophecy, time, and beauty, grants three extra move actions each day, though no more than one of these may be spent in a given round.
Over the course of the game, characters are all but certain to go places and do things that lead to getting cursed. This might be naming the true name of the Putrifier or passing through the Gate of Sechir into the Vale of Endless Night. Upon doing so, the gods intercede and guard the person from the curse (if they are blessed - and this ends the blessing), or a dreadful and lingering curse falls upon the person (if they are not blessed). These curses take different forms, some ideas of which follow. (In 4e terms, I would treat these as incurable diseases, and use several diseases from the existing list.)
The Putrifier, an ancient and lurking evil who may in fact be a Horseman of the Apocalypse, exacts a terrible revenge on those who utter his true name. An oozing, gangrenous wound opens in the middle of the character's chest, and he suffers 3 points of damage any time he casts a spell or makes an attack.
The Curse of Sechir
All who pass through the Gate of Sechir come under the curse of darkness: all enemies have concealment from the character as the curse dims his vision.
The widely-known way to purge a curse (there could be others) is to go to a temple and seek the intercession of the gods to lift the curse. In 4e, this would cost 300 gold at Heroic tier, 1,500 gold at Paragon tier, and 10,000 gold at Epic tier. (These numbers are pulled out of thin air and need further study.) In 3.x, this costs 30 gold pieces per character level. It is cheaper to lift a curse than to get a blessing beforehand because it is worse to have nothing on the way out to the adventure location and a major drawback on the way home than it is to have improved abilities on the way out to the adventure location and no drawback on the way home. Also, there's nothing stopping you from being twice cursed in the same adventure from two different sources.
And now for a digression:
For another way players can spend money other than buying lots of magic items, I envision players needing to spend money on information relatively often. Especially in the West Marches style of game, players need information both to save them from having to explore every single thing on their own, and so they can prepare for whatever's ahead. I'd include other explorers and scholars in the home city, and make the trade in information a way for players to both earn and spend money.
In a 3.x game, I'd expand the list of things Alchemy can make, drawing heavily on the Alchemy of 4e and Dust to Dust. Consumables meant to be used as attacks are a major money sink of LARPs, and I'm not too clear on why 3.x sets up something like that for spellcasters (scrolls, wands, staves), but not non-spellcasters such as alchemists.