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D&D game world economy, wages and modelling the ancent world

Garthanos

Arcadian Knight
I have rarely been satisfied with D&D economies they often seemed driven by things like creating a motivation to adventure and similar things, I never quite bought into the rationales presented for the prices. So I periodically look at historical sources and I am not sure i seen this one before so I thought i would share

There was a fairly long history in the ancient world where 1 silver drachma ( a handful of 6 metal sticks) equalled a standard workers days wage and traditional 15 silver as 1 gold coin also.(that is super simplified such that a historian might give me the stink eye). A horse considered a luxury good was effectively worth a few weeks labor.

An interesting snap shot of ancient prices.
https://www.armstrongeconomics.com/research/monetary-history-of-the-world/roman-empire/chronology_-by_-emperor/tetrachy/diocletian-284-305-ad/diocletians-edict-of-maximum-prices-issued-in-301-ad/

My brain wants to translate the above prices back to the Drachma units 24 of them to equal drachma. And 4 of them an obeloi... and give a soldiers yearly wage at 641 drachma counting expected bonuses and such. A more elite soldier is then 796. The soldiers wage is then twice the typical wage in the above scenario where warcraft was a premium.

Note there are indications in other times the average soldier only received half a drachma (perhaps offset by a death price where families received a compensation for if their member died in service of another I have read of this in the past but cannot find the amount in a modern world we can call it 5 years wages) - it was likely still not a consistent utterly predictable amount even if a Roman leader wanted it that way.

The above might be useful for when you hirelings? I always hated that word and henchmen or just in world building exercises.
 
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Ovinomancer

Flip Nazi
There have been many posts about how to do a better economics engine for D&D, but they all fetch up on the same set of shoals: is this for you or for the players? What do they get out of having to learn and negotiate a complicated set of interactions just to engage in buying and selling? Do you want incentives in game to move away from adventure and toward running a business?

Often we let ourselves get wrapped up in building a world and forget that the original purpose is to play a game.
 

aco175

Explorer
I was a soldier back in the 90s and there was an insurance policy on us if we died. It used to be $100,000 which was more like 6-7 years salary back then. Not sure on today's policy.

Also, to echo what [MENTION=16814]Ovinomancer[/MENTION] said about getting your players on board before making large changes to the game. You can come up with great systems and make things more realistic, but if your players keep calling it a gold instead of an obeloi, or even a Dragon, you may feel let down.

This is similar to other threads about making swords better or armor more realistic. Even threads on making a new set of gods or calendar where it ties great world details together. At my table, we play FR, but keep a standard timescale and the same gods we had for 20 years.
 

Garthanos

Arcadian Knight
There have been many posts about how to do a better economics engine for D&D, but they all fetch up on the same set of shoals: is this for you or for the players? What do they get out of having to learn and negotiate a complicated set of interactions just to engage in buying and selling? Do you want incentives in game to move away from adventure and toward running a business?

Often we let ourselves get wrapped up in building a world and forget that the original purpose is to play a game.
One could use the edict as an in game world story reason why its difficiult to exploit game world variation in price and abundance to make business ventures and why the game has mostly static prices....

I have players who like giving their characters history skills and having whys for something can be fun.

I personally like attaching historicity indirectly to the game as well and less arbitrary to me is better at a purely personal level.

Who said having players learn anything different?
 

Charlaquin

Goblin Queen
There have been many posts about how to do a better economics engine for D&D, but they all fetch up on the same set of shoals: is this for you or for the players? What do they get out of having to learn and negotiate a complicated set of interactions just to engage in buying and selling? Do you want incentives in game to move away from adventure and toward running a business?

Often we let ourselves get wrapped up in building a world and forget that the original purpose is to play a game.
Much like “resurrection is too easy,” it’s something you’d think was a widespread problem by the way DMs talk about it online, but I’ve never heard a player complain about.
 

Garthanos

Arcadian Knight
I was a soldier back in the 90s and there was an insurance policy on us if we died. It used to be $100,000 which was more like 6-7 years salary back then. Not sure on today's policy.
I think that hasnt gone up.... but base pay is slightly higher I wonder about the past because I think there was ancient tradition this came from.
 

Shiroiken

Adventurer
Much like “resurrection is too easy,” it’s something you’d think was a widespread problem by the way DMs talk about it online, but I’ve never heard a player complain about.
I've often found that DMs (like myself) often find stiff resistance against changing the economy. I blame 3E for the shift to decimal coinage, as while it is a much simpler system, it's also extraordinarily unrealistic.
 

Garthanos

Arcadian Knight
The thing I seem to hear is that 3e was the must play raw edition
I've often found that DMs (like myself) often find stiff resistance against changing the economy. I blame 3E for the shift to decimal coinage, as while it is a much simpler system, it's also extraordinarily unrealistic.
 

Garthanos

Arcadian Knight
Problem .... hmmmm nonsense prices for adventuring equipage does get discussed Or rituals being too cheap at high levels or potions or wands of cure light wounds being trivial prices resulting in infinite healing those get discussed but everyday things like I am talking about? While the do periodical come up but it's not exactly as a problem per se.

Much like “resurrection is too easy,” it’s something you’d think was a widespread problem by the way DMs talk about it online, but I’ve never heard a player complain about.
the use of hirelings and henchmen have been out of fashion for the most part too I realize I am now considering things which might bring it back
 
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Charlaquin

Goblin Queen
I've often found that DMs (like myself) often find stiff resistance against changing the economy. I blame 3E for the shift to decimal coinage, as while it is a much simpler system, it's also extraordinarily unrealistic.
Unrealistic? There are plenty of real-world examples of decimalized currencies, so I don’t see anything unrealistic about it. Ahistorical is what it is, but since it’s a fictional world, it doesn’t need to follow our world’s history. And it doesn’t. D&D is chock full of anachronisms that don’t seem to bother anyone.
 

Zardnaar

Adventurer
Its because its mostly simple. I had a DM once who had 3 currencies but he ended up struggling in the conversion rates lol. It was kind of fun.

Its been a while since I did classics papers at uni, but prices also varied. a talent of gold was apparently the running costs of a trireme for a year.

They also found prices on the walls of Pompeii including prostitution which was cheap.
 
I have rarely been satisfied with D&D economies they often seemed driven by things like creating a motivation to adventure and similar things, I never quite bought into the rationales presented for the prices.
The 'Gold Rush Economy' made sense to me as a middle-school kid in CA, who, obviously, had heard about the Gold Rush his whole life.

But it didn't hold together well, even then. I put my world on a 'silver standard,' (that is, all the prices given the D&D as 'gp' were really silver, done), and gave each kingdom, empire, and/or region it's own currencies, with conversions among them. It's all based on metals & weight, so not that hard to deal with, really.

The purpose, though, was color. So it'd be something like: "you find 10,000sp in gold, they're mostly Alban 'Wheels,' so the horde is probably from the height of that empire, centuries ago."
 

Greenfield

Adventurer
Let's start with a clarification: You titled this thread using the terms "economy" and "wages", but what you discussed was actually currency, which is something completely different.

So let's talk currencies for a moment.

Consider the ridiculous presumption in game that, as PCs travel to other lands and even to other planes, all the currencies match. A gold piece (described as about 1/3 of an ounce) is the same size, weight, purity and value no matter who issued it or when. Clearly not the way currencies actually work.

For example, an English Guinea was about a fifth of an ounce of gold, and was worth considerably more than the Scottish coin of the same name. That made for some really confusing economics.

In the real world, as economies grew and the gold supply didn't, "standard" gold coins got smaller, yet were officially the "same", and of the same value. It's the nature of a precious metal based economy. Examples are very clear when looking at Roman era coinage.

Now let's talk economies.

I still play 3.5 a lot, but even when I play other editions and even other systems, the economies are broken.

In just about every D&D edition I've played, the average adventurer, even at levels like third or fourth, would have enough wealth on their person (gold, equipment, magic etc.) to buy many of the small towns they visited. The wealth gap was so insane that the only way to deal with it was not to: You just pretended that it wasn't there, and that towns of any real size had the available cash to buy all the loot adventurers hauled in.

In fact, the crafting and magical creation rules in 4e were so strange that the only way that the economy could function at all was *because* adventurers were around, hauling in loot and selling it for a fraction of the market value. (In 4e the market price for an item was always the base cost of the raw materials, so nobody could possibly make a living crafting or selling anyting.)

I've played editions and systems where they tried to rename the coins as "Suns" (Gold), Moons (Silver) and "Common" (Copper). Never stuck. The players always referred to them as gold, silver and copper.

So my best advice? Use the standard systems of coinage and currency, because the players will still translate and use the simple system anyway.

As for the economy? Best to pay no attention to that man behind the curtain. Just pretend that it all works, somehow.
 

Aebir-Toril

Explorer
I "fixed" this in my campaign setting by spending an inordinate amount of time translating local goods into trade currencies like goats, gold, and gems, and then translating those into local currencies, which are sometimes equivalent to standard currencies.

Oftentimes, I tell the players that they are not really picking up 50 gp, they are picking up the equivalent of 50 gp in the local currency system. So, it's like fantasy Bitcoin that everyone can get.

I've experimented with changing exchange rates, but, generally, the players assume that they've traded their "equivalent of 50 gp" for trade goods like gold, copper, silver, and sheep, and then sold those to earn local currency. It's much simpler that way, and all of my regions can have different currencies.

As for the wealth gap, I've "fixed" this by adjusting the default pay rates of laborers and craftspeople, coupled with giving PCs slightly less loot.

In the Egypt of long ago, laborers were paid in clothing, onions, and animals.

In my worlds, similar pay schemes often occur.

A laborer might make 3sp per day (enough to buy two poor meals, with one sp left over to be saved). The tax collector takes 30% of that 1 sp, leaving the laborer with 7cp per day, not counting meals. Two sp per day is listed as the rate of "poor" living, and the 1sp (-3cp) extra allows for a more reasonable income rate.

I have constructed economic tables, full of Deltas and other economic limits and such, but, really, it's as simple as doubling or tripling default DMG incomes, and factoring in a few taxes.
 

Garthanos

Arcadian Knight
In just about every D&D edition I've played, the average adventurer, even at levels like third or fourth, would have enough wealth on their person (gold, equipment, magic etc.) to buy many of the small towns they visited. The wealth gap was so insane that the only way to deal with it was not to: You just pretended that it wasn't there, and that towns of any real size had the available cash to buy all the loot adventurers hauled in.
For me if during Paragon you can employ armies for me that is a target.
 

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