Posts Tagged With: Economics

More Numismatics

So, to continue with some of the world building and explain some of the implied setting in my post on Currencies and my post on Banking, here is a short bit on at least where the various and sundry coins are coming from and who does actual minting.

Basically, in addition to each kingdom minting it’s own coin, the coins of the “Old Aquitaine” are in continued and common circulation as they are still being minted by the High King in Navarre. This was one of the compromises made by the Black Dukes, and it has worked out for them rather well. The common folk have a great of faith in the quality of the “old coin” and a fair number of economic issues were avoided by keeping the old currency in use common currency. The High King makes certain that his coin is of the utmost quality, and it remains “the gold standard” throughout much of the Realm – so much so that some of the kingdoms still use the “new old coinage” as their currency.

The Church of the Lords of Light has a very well-established system of Temple Banks that mints it’s own coins. These are generally regarding as being of good quality and are accepted in most lands without much issue. Similarly, the Dwimmervolk Banking Houses self-mint coins and have an exceedingly well-regarding currency that is accepted pretty everywhere without question. The various Merchant Houses have often experimented with minting their own coin as part of their banking systems, but a lack of acceptance by common folk, other merchant houses, and local lords mean that this is rarely successful. What is common for the Merchant Houses is to mint their own trade bars, and this are much more successful for them.

Wood Elves and High Elves “mint” coins as noted, Grey Elves are far more worldly and use whatever the local currency is. Gnomes tend to use local currency for low denominations, and trade in gems and jewelry if they need to spend large amounts of cash. Mountain Dwarves mint their own coins in Silver, Gold, and Platinum, but also have a system of “engraved and etched art” that is similar to the Elves in some ways for smaller currencies – they also tend to have a system of chits and vouchers used to track smaller exchanges. Dragonborn traditionally either barter, or use local currency.

Both the Iron Court and the D’lanni Magistracy mint their own coinage, but the old currencies of Albion and Tierna are still regular found and used, and foreign currencies from the Kistath and Thule are seen occasionally as well (along with the vastness of other historical coinage dating back to the White Empire). Ith actually mints a whole series of coins for use with foreign merchants and mercenaries, the “Serpent coins” bring a certain unwholesome reputation if someone is spending them newly minted and in large numbers. The Grand Duchy of Soahc has a strong currency, and it’s octagonal coins are distinct. The faintly magical  pearls of the Dwarrow of the Shadowlands are also found in circulation, though they are often treated more as jewels than cash.

Goblins and Trolls deal in plundered currency, though those in the service to particularly well-organized leaders may have some sort of primitive minting system in place. These coins are rarely used elsewhere though. Goblinkin traditionally deal in barter, with slaves and teeth being the standard currency, with severed ears and scalps (sometimes whole heads or skulls) also being used.

Lastly, while paper currency is essentially unknown outside of Khitain, there are a couple of “cashless” systems in place. First, while working with various banks and moneylenders, it is quite easy to get a promissory note that can be redeemed at another bank or moneylender for the full stated value. These are non-transferable, usually specify the currency that will be redeemed in some way, and usually only take a day or two to clear. The main reason for delay is a lack of on-hand cash to redeem the note with.

Then there are what is known as “Travellers Cheques”  which is essentially a transferable promissory note. Again , it is for a specified value, but these are accepted by most merchants, sometimes with varying actual cash value as opposed to the face value due to the fees that may result from cashing them in. Most institutions charge a fee for cashing them in if they are not the underwriter.

For the wealthy (or trusted), they may have an account which allows them Personal or Account Cheques. These work essentially the same as checks do now, except the penalties for overdrafts and defaulting are much more punitive.

Lastly, for the truly wealthy, the Mages Guild and Dwimmervolk Banks each offer  “Account Crystals” (in the form of seals or chops) which function as modern debit card. These require a complementary crystal to transfer and receive funds from, so they can generally only be used at the most exclusive establishments or in areas with highly established magical/financial system (e.g. Great Cities). The  Dwimmervolk version can also be used to notarize or underwrite a Personal Cheque, greatly increasing the number of people willing to accept it as it essentially becomes the equivalent of a Travellers  Cheque.

TTFN!

D.

 

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Banking and Moneylending

At a certain point of success, merchants and adventurers alike discover that they have more money than can be conveniently (or safely) carried on their person, or that can reasonably be spent on goods and equipment. Individuals and organizations can collect and guard their own money in vaults, but many also choose to place at least some (or most) of their money in a bank, or choose to use some form of promissory note or cheque to move large sums of cash more easily and with less risk. Travellers are also often forced to change the coins of one realm for the coins of another, due to disagreements between rulers as well as a form of quality assurance. Only Dwimmervolk specie and the “Temple Coin” of the Church of the Lords of Light regularly escapes this – and then only if clean and whole for the large part.

Moneychangers: Not banks in any real sense, though they often have close ties to a Merchant House Bank, moneylenders are found in towns and cities if they do not have bank of some sort. For those that are strongly associated with a Merchant House, individuals with an account at a related Merchant House Bank may get “Merchant House rates” on fees and the like. They are businesses that generally deal only in changing coins, buying and selling gems and jewelry, and cashing Cheques. Regular moneychangers will generally charge a 20% fee to change money (though often only 10% to cash Cheques), and will only offer roughly 30% of the value for Gems, and rarely more than 10-20% of the value of Jewelry. They will write promissory notes for around 10-15% fee, and offer loans that usually start at around a 50% interest rate and can go as high as 500%. Cheque clearing is usually short, commonly at least a day or two, for large amounts perhaps a week or two, these can double or triple at the least with little difficulty depending upon circumstances. They are usually limited to transactions of no more than 500 Silver Pieces, and they rarely have reserves past around the 5000 Silver mark on-hand. Many moneylenders also have some capacity for the storage of goods in vaults – though the availability and cost is highly dependent on the moneylender in question.

Temple Bank: Run by Church of the Lords of Light. These have no minimum initial amount or minimum balance amount. They are not individual, but group-based. Usually around a family, or Chapterhouse, or organization. Will issue Traveller Cheques and some trusted individuals will also be allowed to utilize Account Cheques that draw upon the entire account (for a 5% Fee). It also has a system for “allowances” that allows individuals to draw on the account rather than having access to the full amount of the deposits. Works strictly with cash and is only available to members of the Society of Light. No Fees, will change money for a fee of 5% (including Traveller Cheques from other Merchant or Dwimmervolk Banks), though the fees for changing gems and jewelry are often higher than other sources (only 20% of value given for Gems and 10% for Jewelry). The Temple Bank does not offer loans, though it will act as a broker between families and organizations for those seeking one (interest rates are usually between 10-25%). Cheque clearing can take variable amount of times, usually at least a day or two, for large amounts perhaps a week or two, and for incredibly large amounts it could take a month or two. Factors are provided to handle the taxes and keep the appropriate papers straight (10% of the taxes or fees). Coin issued is in local or Temple coinage. The accounts are tracked by Ledger kept by the Temple Bank, with verification by voucher (personal or passport) and magic (Zone of Truth).

Merchant <HOUSE> Bank: Usually an initial 500 Silver in an initial deposit, with a minimum balance of 100sp . Commonly used by merchant families, but also used by minor nobility and other wealthy individuals. Will issue Traveller Cheques (for a 10% Fee). Works in cash, and will also accept other goods and valuables – usually giving 25-50% of the value, though large bulk of common goods can lower this to as low as 5-10%. Will change money for a fee of ~5% for account holders (this is quadrupled for Traveller Cheques for most other House Banks, and certainly for Temple Banks, and Dwimmervolk Banks). Will offer loans to account holders, with interest rates generally anywhere between 50-100%, though rarely for any amount larger than a quarter of the amount on deposit without some significant collateral. Cheque clearing is usually short, commonly at least a day or two, for large amounts perhaps a week or two, these can double or triple at the least for other House Banks. Factors can be hired locally to handle the taxes and keep the appropriate papers straight (usually for around 10% of the tax costs). Coin issued is in local coinage unless alternate arrangements are made (usually for a 10% fee). The account is tracked in a dual system by a Pass Book carried by the Account Holder and a Ledger Book kept by the Merchant House. Verification is by passport, quite possibly with some form of magical confirmation depending upon the sums involved.

Mages Guild Bank: Usually an initial 100 Silver in deposits, with a minimum balance of 50 silver (x10 for non-Guild members). Only deals with individual accounts. Will issue Travellers Cheques (10% Fee, doubled for non-Guild members) and provides a Debit Seal that works as a “Debit Card” in those establishments that accepts them. Works in cash, will also accept gems and jewelry and most forms of magic (usually grant 50-75of the value, half that for non-Guild Members). Does not change money per se, and loans are offered with interest rates between 10-60% (doubled for non-Guild members). Cheque clearing from other institutions is generally quick, often the same day, rarely more than a week, if drawn from a Dwimmervolk or Mages Guild account then is always same-day. Also offers “safes” or even “vaults” where valuables can be stored safely – cost depends upon size and availability. Cash issued is in Dwimmervolk coinage. The account is tracked by a personal Account Crystal, and verification is performed in a variety of ways, all of which involve magic.

Dwimmervolk Bank: Usually an initial 5000 Silver in deposits with a minimum balance of 500sp. Used by the wealthy, can handle individual or group accounts. Will issue Letters of Credit, Traveller’s Cheques, and allows the use of Personal Cheques (for a 5% Fee) – individuals may also purchase a Debit Seal for 1000sp that works as a “Debit Card” in those establishments that accept them. Works in cash, and will also accept gems and jewelry (usually granting ~50-75% of the value). Will change money for a fee of 10% (doubled for non-account holders), as well as Cheques from other institutions. Will offer loans for interest rates of generally 25-75%, for virtually any amount given the right collateral. Cheque clearing from other institutions is generally quick, often the same day, rarely more than a week, if drawn from a Dwimmervolk account then is always same-day. Also offers “safes” or even “vaults” where valuables can be stored safely – cost depends upon size and availability. Factors can be hired as well to keep track of paperwork for taxes, etc. (for a 10% of the tax and fee). Coinage is issued in essentially any current coinage (coinage from far off lands may take time to accumulate) – though Dwimmervolk coinage is always available. Much like a Mage’s Guild Bank, the account is tracked by a personal Account Crystal, verification is performed in a variety of ways, all of which involve magic.

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Coins and Currencies

Though barter is common in many lands, for many transactions an actual currency must be exchanged. The Standard Monetary Unit of the Heartlands (and much of the Mortal Realms) is the Silver Piece, with Copper, Bronze, and Gold also playing a significant place in common use. There are other coins available, notably denominations in Electrum and Platinum, and moneychangers are more concerned with the purity and weight of the coin rather than the exact details of the coins origin –while the various coins are all of different sizes, there are always 50 coins to the pound.

10 Bronze to 1 Copper / 10 Copper to 1 Silver / 20 Silver to 1 Gold

2000 Bronze / 200 Copper / 20 Silver / 1 Gold

Beyond these basic currencies of Bronze, Copper, Silver, and Gold, the Elves also commonly craft coins of Electrum and Mithril (worth 5 and 100 Silver respectively), while the Dwimmervolk (and other Dwarves) use Platinum (worth 100 Silver apiece) for large transactions that require hard coinage rather than letters and lines of credit. Dwarves and Humans also commonly use Trade Bars, which are weighted and stamped bars of the various metals in 25 Coin, 50 Coin, 100 Coin, 250, and 500 Coin denominations.

Bronze Pieces (BP): Commonly known as a “Bit” or a “Bob” occasionally a “Farthing” for a 1 Copper coin, Bronze Pieces come in a variety of denominations – the single Bronze Farthing, the Two-Bit, the Three-Bob, and the Five-Bit or “Beggar” coins are readily available from countries both ancient and modern.

Copper Pieces (CP): Often simply called a “Copper” or a “Common” sometimes a “Penny” or “Pence”, Copper Pieces are the workhorses of coinage. They come in a five denominations, the Quarter-Pence Coin (worth 2½ Bronze Pieces), the Half-Pence Coin (worth 5 Bronze Pieces), and the 1, 2 (the Tuppence), 3 (the Thruppence), 5, and 6 (Six Pence) Copper Piece coins.

Silver Pieces (SP): The Silver Piece is the standard monetary unit used by merchants and kings. Commonly known as a “Mark” or a “Shilling” it comes in a wide variety of denominations – the Quarter-Mark (worth 2½ Copper Pieces), the Groat (worth 4 Copper Pieces), the Half-Mark Coin (worth 5 Copper Pieces), and 1, 2, 3, 5 and 10 Silver Piece coins.

Electrum Pieces (EP): The Electrum Piece is commonly known as either a “Sun” or a “Moon” because of the common art used by the Elves who strike these coins. They are known to be found in denominations as tiny as a hundredth of an Electrum Piece (or Five Copper pieces in value) and as large as 20 Electrum Pieces (or 200 Silver Pieces in value). The Elvish fascination with artistic design and aesthetic s trumping any limit to the number of denominations – some of these designs end up being worth far more than the weight of the Electrum, many actually being considered small works of art instead.

Gold Pieces (GP): The Gold Piece is rare outside of the purses of nobles, rich merchants, and flush adventurers. Generally known as “Crowns” or “Dragons” (and by some as “Dwarfs” because of the greed that Dwarves have for gold) it comes in a number of denominations. There is the tiny Florin and Double-Florin coins (worth 2 and 4 Silver respectively), the Crown, Half-Crown, and Double Crown coins (worth 20 Silver, 10 Silver, and 40 Silver respectively), as well as the Sovereign (worth 5 Gold or 100 Silver), Half-Sovereign (worth 2½ Gold or 50 Silver), and Quarter-Sovereign (worth ¼ Gold or 25 Silver).

Platinum Pieces (PP): Almost exclusively minted by Dwarves (and a few Elves), the common man can go his entire life and never see (or perhaps even hear of) a Platinum Piece. For those that use them, they are often called an “Imperial” because of their ties and uses in large exchanges on the national and international stage. They are found in Quarter-Imperial (25 Silver), Half-Imperial (50 Silver), Single Imperial (100 Silver), Double-Imperial (200 Silver), and the “Imperial Fist” (sometimes known as an “Imperial Gauntlet”) worth 500 Silver. When used in large transactions or as a “unit of account” the Imperial Lux (shortened to £ in accounting), valued at 250 Silver, is commonly used.

Mithril Pieces (MP): The only race that “mints” Mithril Pieces are the Elves, and it is more accurate to say that they are engraved instead. The Dwimmervolk generally snap them up as soon as they can and convert the majority to more utilitarian objects, but some remain in circulation for a variety of reasons and they are always welcome by those merchant wealthy enough to deal in them. They are most commonly referred to as a “Star” and come in varieties as varied as their Electrum Pieces.

Other Known Currencies:

The elves are also know to carve “coins” out of materials usually reserved for jewelry – Bangles, Precious and Semi-Precious Stones, even Magestones and Gemstones – creating tradable objects d’art.

Goblinkin and various Barbarian Tribes use plundered coinage rather than minting their own, but also use Hacksilver and Chaingold. Hacksilver is silver jewelry and bars that is made so as to be easily cut apart in 1 Silver Piece increments. Chaingold is heavy gold chain of high purity that is made so as to be easily disassembled, each link being worth 1 Gold Piece (or 20 Silver).

In Ith, Bronze and Gold Pieces are common, as well as a variety of beads of Ornamental, Semi-Precious, and Precious Stones. Rings (Finger and Body) and Slaves are also used as a common currency, along with livestock. Among the common folk barter is quite common.

In Khitain, Bronze, Copper, and Silver coins are common, while plaques of Jade and Imperial Jade (Valued at Copper and Electrum) are also used. As perhaps the most interesting innovation currency printed on paper or imprinted into porcelain is not only used but well accepted among the common populace also.

The Shadowlands is perhaps most noteworthy in having essentially no established currency system of its own, using plundered and traded coin from elsewhere, along with barter. The Ebion Council does issue tokens of Black Iron or Steel (rarely Hematite or Black Adamant) as reimbursable trade units for specific trade goods (usually mounts, weapons, or provisions) or services (healing, shelter, sex work, etc). The Dwarrow trade in pearls that they create, and this is also used across the Shadowlands as a common form of currency.

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Economics of Magic in 5e

Ok, this was going to start out as a short rant about another crazy bit of unthinking largess on the part of the writers of Lost Mines of Phandelver – who have obviously never played an edition of D&D where money equated to experience or played with folks who wanted to squeeze every last cent of loot and treasure from the adventure.

Let’s just say that my players lit up upon being told that there was an entire wizard’s workshop or alchemists laboratory “there for the taking” – and the idea that the “most valuable things in it” were three rare components worth 25 coin each is laughable in any logical sense. You are going to tell me all that glassware isn’t worth money? Even if we only roughly analogize this to a 1e workshop this room should have at least a couple of thousand coin worth of stuff in it. Even giving up on the idea that treasure = experience points, my players are used to conquistador-levels of pillaging. The arms and armor that the bandits or the goblins are wearing and carrying is almost always worth more than the coin in their pockets…

Ok, that little rant out of the way, now to a larger rant about how the magical economy makes no sense in 5e.

In 1e, magic was limited because you had to be a certain level of magic user or cleric to make magical items. Basically 7th level-ish for consumables like scrolls and potions, and 12th level for charged magical items (for the 6th level Enchant an Item), and then 16th level to make anything permanent (because you needed a Permanency spell).  It was relatively easy to see why magical items were rare-ish, so rare that many DM’s I knew came up with ways to explain some types of ostensibly permanent magical items were so darn common (surely not every +1 weapon needed a 16th-level Wizard involved did they?). In fact, in 1e magical items were actually pretty common depending upon the setting – in places like the Forgotten Realms they are positively commonplace! This was an inherent inconsistency of the rules as written (inherent setting assumptions) vs. the modules presented (actual setting presented). This inconsistency was also seen in the tables for generating magical items for PC and NPC groups given at the end of the 1e DMG – definitely “high magic” not the supposed “low magic” that was said to be the case.

Now, in 5e we have the exact opposite problem. Supposedly it is a “low magic” setting, and that is certainly the case if we look at the first modules presented. But when we look at the 5e DMG we find an utterly confusing and contradictory set of rules governing the economy of magical items. First they are supposed to be so rare that they are difficult to sell and basically impossible to buy – but making a +1 sword or a Wand of Magic Missiles only takes a 3rd level character who can cast the base spell, four days and 100 coin to make!

And the rules for selling it, if used as written, essentially guarantee at least a small loss (because you had living expenses during the Downtime spent looking for buyers) and probably a larger loss upon selling it (again, assuming a buyer can be found).

WTF!?!?!

Even in a crazy-to-modern-sensibilities ancient/medieval economy this makes no sense.

I think that 5e tries to “fix” by introducing some “Attunement” rules that limit the number of powerful-ish magic items a character can use at one time – though that seems somewhat spotty in application in the DMG. Unfortunately, to these tired old 1e eyes this seems exceedingly awkward, much like the old rules that limited the number of magic rings you could wear at one time. Sort of. I like the idea for certain magic items – like only being able to have a certain number of intelligent magical items – but it seems otherwise arbitrary for no good reason other than “game balance” and that is rarely a good reason to set in a new limit of this sort.

TTFN!

D.

 

 

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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.

TTFN!

D.

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