Economics, Equipment, and Availability

I’ll be posting some rules for weapons and armor made from a selection of metals, most (but not all) of them also considered “enchanted” when and if such a thing would matter. The list includes not just a description of effects, but also refers to my “availability codes” for equipment.

Years ago now I took a page from the Pendragon RPG which has separate equipment lists for “Standard” areas and another for  “Great Cities” (essentially London and Camelot), essentially forcing the characters to certain areas if and when they wanted certain items because that is the only place they were available. I experimented with a variety of systems over the years, but when I really sat down and hammered out an economy I drew deeply from the Pendragon well, along with looking at systems such as Harn for other inspiration.

The first thing I did was do research living expenses and wages across a number of eras, and eventually decided to peg the daily wage of a standard mercenary (aka “an adventurer”) at 1 Silver per day, the cost of a standard (long)sword at 30 Silver (a full month’s wages), a Laborer’s wage a 2 Copper per day, a bottle of table wine at 5 Copper, and a days worth of Bread at 1 Copper (a day’s worth of Dried Meat is also a Copper, Dried Vegetables is 1 Bronze). All other prices were essentially figured out using pegging things to these prices either using real world analogies, or simply eyeballing it, keeping in mind the difference between ancient and modern economies.

Using this system, a laborer can eke out a very poor existence assuming that they keep working and are supplied someplace to sleep by their employer – if not then space in a field or a stable is usually 1 Copper, the Common Room of an Inn or Tavern is 2 Copper a night, and a Private Room is 5 Copper ( a Private Suite is 1 Silver, sans any other amenities). Interestingly it took very little work to adapt the 5E “Living Expenses” to this system.

Given the “Wild West Mining Town” trope that Lost Mine of Phandelver has been running with, I decided that it is also working under semi-typical inflated prices. In this case merely doubling prices, with some slightly tweaked availability of mining related  equipment from the normal “Town” gear.

In any case, a large part of what I wanted was to have a relatively exhaustive list of equipment, but also make it clear that some things were rarer than others. As a result, on my equipment list (and associated documents) items are noted as being available in Villages (generally less than a hundred people), Towns (anywhere from couple of hundred people to upwards of 1500 people, usually 600-800 inhabitants), Cities (smaller cities ranging from 1500 to 2500 people, larger cities from 2500 to 5000 inhabitants), Great Cities (10,000 or more inhabitants), or as Exotic. You can always find things from a smaller population available in a larger population center, but the reverse is not true (and such items are invariably inflated in price considerably when they can be found).

Exotic items are exactly that, treasures from the Shadowlands or Faerie, especially hard to craft items, especially rare herbs or spices, etc. These are technically available anywhere that you can find a seller – but that is much more likely in a City or Great City.

It sounds like this was a great deal of work to set up, and in some ways it was, but is was also just the sort of world-building detail-work that I enjoy researching and chewing on. It also starts to build up a certain Gygaxian Naturalism into the campaign world.



Categories: Campaign Development, Game Design, House Rules | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

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5 thoughts on “Economics, Equipment, and Availability

  1. This is funny to me. I was working on standard of living and equipment availability just the other day. I stalled out quite quickly. Got anything you can share with a fellow GM? Thanks for posting.

  2. Sure, what are looking for? Advice? The document? Its in MS Publisher, but I could PDF it without too much trouble I expect. Overall it is a relatively high grit document because I’ve discovered that my players range from “could care less about the details” to “I want to detail every damn thing I spend money on” – so I ran with the high detail to let those players have their fun.

    I think that my biggest innovation in the document is that while I included various items of clothing. I merely list the number of coins it costs – the *type* of coin depends on social class (aka beggars spend bronze and royals spend gold and platinum). I have a similar system in place for Gems and Jewelry.

    I took another page from Pendragon and have things roughly organized by “shop” rather than alphabetically – I found it easier to think of what I would list by thinking about what I would find there. I also took a page from 5e and finally took the time to list out trade goods and give some basic prices for bulk goods (which I’d always been meaning to do).

    I also try to think of what an ostensibly ancient economy with an odd set of modern conveniences would create or want. I also spend some time remembering that prices are not based on supply and demand but are often the result of price-setting and gouging by guilds and governments – and that there isn’t any equivalent of the industrial production line…

    Whatcha need?


    • I’d love to see your document and I wonder about your addition of bronze pieces to your economy. I, too, have players that range from couldn’t care to “can we get any money for the chairs?” Thanks for the offer of the document. I’d need it in PDFl I don’t have MSpulisher.

      • PDF sent to the email listed on your.. Gravatar? Let me know if you get it.


      • Got it. Looking forward to examining it in detail in the days to come. Peace be with you this Christmas Eve. Thank you.

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