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

Oofta

Title? I don't need no stinkin' title.
Of all the idiosyncrasies of D&D, why care about this one? Everybody speaks common, prices (whatever coinage you use) are the same everywhere, Hit Points, the list goes on. It's a game and things are simplified because they don't matter or just aren't worth the overhead.

But the gold standard has never been one that bothered me. Yes, there's more gold than in the real world. So? Maybe the market has been flooded by alchemists who can turn lead to gold at a reasonable cost. If it really bothers you just replace GP with SP and be done with it. I don't see why it matters all that much personally, D&D only has a passing resemblance to the real world.

As far as the disparity between wages and adventurers I also assume that a lot of the wages for a laborer are a bit more historical. Yes, that servant doesn't get much pay in terms of money but they are also compensated with food, subsidized or free rent and other benefits. Which is more accurate from a historical perspective, the majority of people simply did not deal with large amounts of cash. Banks were for nobles and wealthy businessman, not ordinary folks. It was mostly barter and exchange of services and goods.

Which leads back to the basic question. What are you trying to accomplish? What are you trying to model? Most importantly, what does it add to the game? I don't play "bookkeeping and accounting" for a reason.
 

MGibster

Explorer
I can't say I've ever been concerned about the verisimilitude of banknotes and coins but I don't want to pile on and tell people who are keen on that kind of world building that they're wasting their time. But I can tell you something: As a D&D player I'm never going to deal with any denomination less than a gold.

My character is Lorenzo el puto Martillo and he lives like a goddamn rock star. We're talking about a young man in the prime of his life who risks his life adventuring. When rolls into the city he's a veritable whirlwind of conspicuous consumption! He's staying in the most expensive inn, drinking the best wine, eating the best food, wearing the dopest threads that Liberace would consider ostentatious, and decked out in enough jewelry to make Mr. T jealous. Lorenzo is a thundercloud of wealth raining his golden showers upon everyone. (I may need to rethink that last sentence.) He doesn't have time to worry about change. Either he'll get more gold during his next adventure or he'll be dead.
 

Garthanos

Arcadian Knight
Why why why?... because money is POWER and it has been in every game since the beginning and pretending it wasn't has resulted in some very discordant wonky things.
An example I mentioned WAGE in the title of this thread and when my level 3 character can trivially bribe a group of soldiers with a years income there are probably campaigns that kind of thing will cause a problem in (and I might not want that to happen so easily so I may want wages to be higher relative to player income). Using real world numbers as a baseline seems a solid starting point.... instead of numbers pulled out of the blue by game designers. No I do not care what metal you picture the money as nor actually what you call it though flavor from real world seems fun... Nor have I suggested "accounting rules" so quit saying I am doing so. People are sounding bloody rude to be honest.
 

jasper

Rotten DM
D&D economy has always been sending stupid people into danger and not paying when they get back, or fleecing stupid tourists out their hard earned dough (aka Vegas Casino), or charging stupid people high prices for common ideas (aka gold rush).
 

jasper

Rotten DM
Why why why?... because money is POWER and it has been in every game since the beginning and pretending it wasn't has resulted in some very discordant wonky things.
An example I mentioned WAGE in the title of this thread and when my level 3 character can trivially bribe a group of soldiers with a years income there are probably campaigns that kind of thing will cause a problem in (and I might not want that to happen so easily so I may want wages to be higher relative to player income). Using real world numbers as a baseline seems a solid starting point.... instead of numbers pulled out of the blue by game designers. No I do not care what metal you picture the money as nor actually what you call it though flavor from real world seems fun... Nor have I suggested "accounting rules" so quit saying I am doing so. People are sounding bloody rude to be honest.
Not being rude to be bloody honest. We have seen these posts about REAL WORLD numbers being a baseline. In the real world you didn't have dragons, you didn't have a local member of the clergy curing the plague. The real world had multiple currency systems, and multiple prices depending on the time and place. In the real world an English Pound in London was worth more than a Birmingham English pound due clipping and other means.
NOW, stand your premise on its head. If you want to reflect WAGE of Guard vs Wage of Adventure and not get too silly; reduce the treasure found. Reduce the reward amount. 10 GP for killing the Evil Mage Jasper and his army of goblins. That will be split between the survivors.
 

Garthanos

Arcadian Knight
he real world had multiple currency systems, and multiple prices depending on the time and place. In the real world an English Pound in London was worth more than a Birmingham English pound due clipping and other means.
Yes the real world didnt have teleporters between major cities ... easy communication and transportation is conducive to the game world having consistent money systems (This works better for modern D&D). So yeh it's insert a bit of hand waving; The imperial edict earlier was something I suggested also... a combination might have us covered.

NOW, stand your premise on its head. If you want to reflect WAGE of Guard vs Wage of Adventure and not get too silly; reduce the treasure found. Reduce the reward amount. 10 GP for killing the Evil Mage Jasper and his army of goblins. That will be split between the survivors.
Relative amounts are the only significant thing regardless (whether you reduce reward or make general wages proportionately higher). While I was specifically thinking one might reduce the adventurer "wage" however the players might baulk at such was brought up in thread. I am kind of trying to figure out how much to shift things.
 
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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.
I think part of the deal with the 'gold rush economy' and the high price of magic items and so forth - and xp for gp & requiring /thousand/ of xp to level - has always been that it lets dragons sit on huge piles of gold without breaking the game.

I mean, at some point (in the 70s), we want the game to include a big ol' red dragon on a big ol' pile o' gold, like a Brothers Hildebrandt painting of Smaug. It's just, it's Dungeons & DRAGONS, it's gotta come up eventually. So the 'economy' such as it is, is calibrated to that. It also works for plenty of other familiar legends & stories, too. Fabulous treasures aren't exactly alien to the genre.

Completely alien to that? Rules that inadvertently let adventurers make a lot of money without going out and finding treasure hordes. Like, what was it in 3e? Cutting the rungs out of a ladder to sell two 10' poles for a profit? Systematically casting Wall of Iron & Fabricate?

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.)
Other-way, 'round, really. Economies with craftsman &c functioned because they /weren't/ adventurers, and could actually make & sell their crafts at a profit. Adventurers didn't just pay the market price of an item they wanted to make just to get the materials to make it, they also received only 1/5th that price if they sold it! That's why they're adventurers: they're tremendously bad at business! ;P

I mean, if you want to make sense of it, there you go.

If not, just enjoy the image of the big dragon atop his pile of gold. And...
... to pay no attention to that man behind the curtain. Just pretend that it all works, somehow.
 
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jasper

Rotten DM
Hello My name is Conan the Barbarian. I need Finance help. I Just raided Thus a doom treasury last week but I broke now.
"Here at Gnome Fargo we offer an excellence package of financial services and we only charge you 1 in 5 gold pieces you earn. Press 1 for dragon hoard estimates. Press 2 for ....."
 

Greenfield

Adventurer
Does anyone remeber Smaug's bed in the Hobbit movie? Or how much gold the Dwarves had, molten and ready to pour over him?

All of the gold there is in the real world (and I'm including the gold fillings your great-great grandfather got buried with) could fill an Olympic sized swimming pool.

So how could Middle Earth have more gold available when they didn't even have modern extraction techniques?

IT'S A FANTASY!!!

<Tangent>
Once, when playing AD&D, our group found themselves in an odd place which we determined to be the land of the Archmage Disney. Every inch of the place was paved, except for one pitifully small "farm" called Big Thunder Ranch. (Yes, there used to be such a place in Disneyland.) And there were more people per square foot than anyone in the party had ever seen, outside of a city under siege. (The whole countryside would head for the fortified castle for safety when an invader came, after all.) But nobody seemed even a little anxious, and there weren't any guards to be seen.

Because there used to be an actual government certified assay office in Frontierland, and because the bank on Main Street USA did currency exchange, and because of the Krugerand, the Canadian Mapleleaf and the Chinese Panda, they were ready to trade paper money for gold and silver coins. (D&D 3e gold and the current exchange rate would place each GP at about $400 American.)

We had the option between the gray-and-green stuff with the faces of somber men, or the colorful stuff with fantasy creatures on them. We chose the "good" stuff, of course. :)

We figured out why there were only seven Dwarves in the entire kingdom: There wasn't a drop of beer in the place.

But yeah, we shopped like crazy. It worked out that a gold piece was about 100 dollars at the time, so it didn't take a lot of our coin to be able to spend like madmen.

I mean, we saw rows and rows of near perfect glassware, every piece exactly like the others, obviously the work of master craftsmen. And the shops? The wrapped most of our purchases in pieces of paper that were worth more than the goods themselves. (AD&D listed paper at a GP per sheet.)

One of the PCs decided to get stinking rich by buying up every blank journal and sketch pad he could find, knowing what they'd sell for back home. (DM didn't let that work out, but it was a lot of fun.)

The clothing available was poor quality for the most part, of course, but they served meat AND cheese everywhere, available in even the most common meals. Surely the sign of a truly rich kingdom.

The party Dwarf (my PC) had a real problem with the Big Thunder Mine Car ride: First, it didn't seem to go anywhere. It looked odd that it went *up* into a "mine", and the inside was huge compared to a real mine. But even my Dwarf, an idiot, knew that you didn't ride *in* the mine cars. Yet people were lined up to go essentially nowhere in such carts at insane speeds with no working brakes.

The party ranger nearly plunked a dozen arrows into the "evil queen" of the Captain Eo show (the character looked so much like the Spider Queen it was insane.)

And when the party Cleric ( a perpetually tipsy Cleric of Bacccus) ended up in the Pirates of the Carribean ride he came up terrified. I mean there were talking skeletons that he wasn't able to turn, there was apparently a slave trade down below, and much of the undercity seemed to be on fire! We had to evade security after that. He really made a scene.
</tangent>

The point of that little interlude is to emphasize that it's almost impossible to compare real world prices to game world prices because we hardly trade in the same goods, and mass production skews the quality and sheer volume for many things. You're comparing apples to goldfish.

If a game character were in the real world, say a Cleric, his ability to heal traumatic injuries would make him the most in-demand person on earth. Remove Disease? Priceless.

A wizard type would be the same. Nobody cares about Magic Missile, but Teleport or even D-Door? Richest smuggler in the world. Scrying? Sir, the CIA is here and they have an offer you wouldn't believe.

You see? Relatively common things in the game world are priceless here, and relatively common items IRL are incredibly expensive there, if they're available at all.

So let's keep these two separate things separate.
 

Garthanos

Arcadian Knight
Completely alien to that? Rules that inadvertently let adventurers make a lot of money without going out and finding treasure hordes. Like, what was it in 3e? Cutting the rungs out of a ladder to sell two 10' poles for a profit?
Since only adventurers buy 10 foot poles you may have to reattach those rungs to sell it to real people who actually want a ladder ;)
 

Garthanos

Arcadian Knight
I mean, at some point (in the 70s), we want the game to include a big ol' red dragon on a big ol' pile o' gold, like a Brothers Hildebrandt painting of Smaug. It's just, it's Dungeons & DRAGONS, it's gotta come up eventually. So the 'economy' such as it is, is calibrated to that. It also works for plenty of other familiar legends & stories, too. Fabulous treasures aren't exactly alien to the genre.
Beowulf gave the treasure he got from Hrothgar to his king and received a named weapon as a reward for his service it wasn't a purchase exactly AND I suspect it did not leave him destitute.

or more humorously

Yes but did Beowulf kill the dragon because he needed to buy a sandwich :) and everything was inflated to hell
 

Garthanos

Arcadian Knight
The point of that little interlude is to emphasize that it's almost impossible to compare real world prices to game world prices because we hardly trade in the same goods, and mass production skews the quality and sheer volume for many things. You're comparing apples to goldfish.
I think you were because you were comparing ancient world with modern ...
 

Sacrosanct

Slayer of Keraptis
The best and most robust version of wages and economy I've seen was way back in the 1e DMG. It was pretty extensive. A couple times, PCs actually entertained "maybe I should retire and become X, because the wages are pretty decent" lol.
 

LordEntrails

Explorer
I still haven't seen a response to why bother? And as for money is power. Sure, but it's not the only type of power. Magic is also power, and since magic can do things that money (other than to buy magic) can not (i.e. teleport, divination, resurrection, WISH!), magic just might be the more sought after source of power than money.

As for the guard bribe thing. Perhaps morals/integrity/etc are the one things that is more powerful than both money or magic. Perhaps it is only morals et al that prevent that guard from being bribed. Maybe a years worth of wages just isn't enough to lose one's own integrity. Perhaps there are people in the world that no amount of power is worth their own honor. Imagine a world like that...
 

Greenfield

Adventurer
Having seen the construction costs in the D&D 3.5 rules, a friend suggested a scene: A castle, solid and secure, with a treasure room holding a single gold coin. The rest of the royal treasury sent to build the defenses. :)

Money can be used to buy magic. Or loyalty. Or military might. Or land. Or politicians. Or...

Money is power because, like any other kind of power, it can be converted into whatever type of power or resources needed for a situation.
 

Garthanos

Arcadian Knight
That is the why of it and why form doesn't matter and unless you set your story in some distorted Alice in Wunderlund having such wealth divergence creates issues which can take many forms too.

Money can be used to buy magic. Or loyalty. Or military might. Or land. Or politicians. Or...

Money is power because, like any other kind of power, it can be converted into whatever type of power or resources needed for a situation.
Exactly
 

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