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

LordEntrails

Explorer
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.
No you can't. Not always. Their are always people that can not be "bought", their is always someone who is not willing to sell their land at any price, some soldier will not fight for an unjust cause, some wizard who will not sell their services.

And if you disagree with me, then using your own example, you might as well say "Sheep are power" because with sheep I can make food, and clothes, and with food and clothes you can trade for...x.

EDIT: Give me sheep and I shall rule the world!

Sure, money can be used to exert power, sometimes. But it is not the same thing as power itself.
 

Garthanos

Arcadian Knight
Oh no.because there can be conversion exceptions there MUST BE zero problems with too much power/money discrepancy what a joke ....keep on being useless.
 
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Grakarg

Explorer
First a recommendation, when thinking about my game world economy I found 'Grain into Gold' to be helpful.
https://www.drivethrurpg.com/product/13113/Grain-Into-Gold?term=grain+int

While not perfect, it has some good ideas and a long list of standard items priced out using the author's method of pricing. Basically, he starts with what it might cost to make a loaf of bread, how much a peasant could farm to feed themselves and their familiy, and extrapolates from there. It includes some advice on wages, different foodstuffs, and so forth.

There is always a big push<--> pull in RPGs between being 'gameist' vs 'simulationist'.
Some people say, "Hey its just a game! Don't bother trying to make it more realistic or complex, your players won't care!" They're right and that's good advice. But that's the gameist side of the spectrum.
Other people (DM's mostly) see value in trying to reflect aspects of the reality into their homebrewed worlds, and find value and fun in that same complexity. There is fun to be had in looking at the simulationist side of the hobby.

Either way, if you're having fun, you're doing it right.

I've toyed with economics for my homebrew world off and on, I find it fun to think about how many peasant farms it takes to support the local lord. It can even serve as a springboard for adventure ideas. In my current campaign, the players are the driving force behind the survival of a fledgling village on the frontier. But instead of just slaying monsters in the area and wandering the countryside, they're to the point of worrying about if they have enough food for the winter, housing for everyone, setting up trade routes, and other more complex problems than what they can just poke with a sword to solve it.

Have fun and happy gaming!
 

Greenfield

Adventurer
You're right, some people can't be bought. That has noting to do with my point though, unless the person who can't be bought is unique in the entire world. Otherwise you can buy somebody, and that's all I actually said.

Need military might? That's what mercenaries/adventurers are for.

Need Magic? See the table in the PHB for spellcasting services. It has a price chart.

Need magic items? Finding specific one might be problematic, depending on the game world, but again, they do have listed prices.

Need a political ally? There's always somebody with gold-powered ambitions. Not everyone, of course, but the old Golden Rule still applies: Who has the gold makes the rules.

As for sheep: In the old Chaosium game Runequest (I believe it was anyway), the currency was based on chickens, as in the coin of the realm was always worth one chicken. So if you wanted fame and fortune, don't be an adventurer, be a chicken farmer.

In feudal Japan the currency was the Koku, which represented enough rice to keep a peasant farmer alive and working for one year.

So with this in mind your "Sheep is Power" mantra isn't inconceivable. :)
 

lowkey13

Exterminate all rational thought
No you can't. Not always. Their are always people that can not be "bought", their is always someone who is not willing to sell their land at any price, some soldier will not fight for an unjust cause, some wizard who will not sell their services.
A. Would you sleep with me for ten million dollars?

B. Yes.

A. Would you sleep with me for ten dollars?

B. Of course not. What do you think I am?

A. That's been established; now we're just haggling over the price.

(this is attributed to various people, but is likely a fictional tale that has been re-purposed numerous times)

The easy fungibility of money is the reason that we can value things. While there are the occasional example of individuals who will not sell something (for example, "I will not sell X because it's a family heirloom"), it is usually the case that this is a statement; the revealed preference is that they simply attach a higher an irrational value to it (would you sell it for $10 million? For $100 million?).

Saying that there is a person that cannot be bought is easy to say; some individual soldier might not fight for an unjust cause, but another soldier would.

If I can't buy happiness, I guess I'll just have to rent it.
 

Grakarg

Explorer
For those of you interested in why the number of sheep one has = power, just know that all large flocks sheep are owned by powerful wizards!

Read the blog by Multiplexer for the (humorously logical) reason why

 
Well, as a practical matter most groups will not be interested in a detailed economics simulation.

And if you are going to create a detailed economics simulation, I should tell you that most economists and many historians believe Diocletian's edict on maximum prices was the single largest contributor to the collapse of the Roman empire. I feel you were going to point to the one thing that caused the fall of Rome, that would be it, because his edict was so far removed from the economic reality of the empire that it basically destroyed the small farms and independent merchants that had made up the backbone of not only the empire's economy, but critically the social class from which the Legions were primarily drawn. Between the two, this created almost all of Rome's latter difficulties, from the fact that it had to depend on foreign mercenaries to defend it's borders to the fact that it could never balance it's budgets. So if you are looking for realistic prices, don't look to the edict.

For my part, I find that mostly I just need decent approximations. And a decent approximation can be found by getting a price of any handmade good and dividing that price by the local expected daily wage. The resulting price is roughly it's price in daily wages in D&D, so then all you have to decide is what a daily wage in your setting is - in mine it is the silver piece. You can do some interesting things with purchasing power parity to try to simulate a pre-industrial economy but mostly you just need something that is quick and close enough to work that it keeps the game moving forward.

Word of warning. Even this quick and dirty method can be a lot of work if you are going to adjust the daily wage from anything but 1 g.p. per day, because you'll need to redo the standard price lists and costs of magic items and spell components extensively, and you'll need to adjust values of just about everything you find in published texts (treasure allocation for example). And even if you stick with the gold piece standard, you're going to find that there are typically still artifacts of the old 1e AD&D two pricing standards hidden in various places in the price lists where those assumptions have been copied forward into succeeding editions. Particularly take care on prices of buildings, taxation, commodity goods and food, which are often uncorrected.
 

jgsugden

Explorer
In general, there are so many things going on 'off screen' that would impact the economy, any attempt to model a complete economy is going to be incomplete at best, and a waste of effort at most. Further, figuring out things in advance that do not need to be specified limits your options in the future by providing additionl constraints in which your world must fit.

You're much better off, generally, just letting the economy be static and follow the guidelines in the books. I've rarely worried about the fine details of economics in my games, I've been playing D&D since the 70s, and I was an Economics major at Cal. I've never felt that going into this type of detailed world building would do anything beneficial for any of my campaign worlds.
 

Umbran

Mod Squad
Staff member
In general, there are so many things going on 'off screen' that would impact the economy, any attempt to model a complete economy is going to be incomplete at best, and a waste of effort at most.
I'd go farther to say that we don't even have particualrly accurate, predictive models of our own real economy. Why do we think we're going to have any luck modelling a different, fictional economy with different constraints and influences?
 

Greenfield

Adventurer
Magic will break any "realistic" economic model, if only because it isn't "realistic".

Over the different editions we've joked about the simple exploits of the published prices: In one edition iron pots sold for less, per pound, than iron as a trade commodity. In theory you could buy pots and sell iron at a profit indefinitely. In another a 10 foot pole cost more than 1/2 the price of a 10 foot ladder, so people speculated that you could buy ladders, split them into 10 foot poles and make infinite profit there.

But there are other, far different abuses available when magic comes into play. While Teleport can span the globe much faster and more safely than any sailing ship, the cargo capacity is significantly less. Still, there have been spells in different editions that could bypass that problem: Itemize in 2E, Shrink Item in 3e etc. Big cargoes get small and light, and a caster can fit a hold's worth of stuff in his Bag of Holding.

Then we look at what it takes to actually build that ship or cargo wagon, or the quality goods that require a master craftsman to make. And we look at spells like Fabricate, in 3.* and Pathfinder. Same skill levels required, but the days, weeks, months or years needed to craft the item (with all the skill checks that could fail along the way) are reduced to a single skill check and a few minutes time.

Food? Pity the farmer who can't/won't/didn't pay the local Druid to bless his field. Plant Growth (again3.* and Pathfinder) increases crop yield sharply. And, large scale, that makes a huge difference in the economy as a whole.

Through much of the Middle Ages in Europe, something like 95% of the population had to work on farms to grow enough food for everyone. That means that the economy can only afford to have 5% of the people work as craftsmen, merchants, scholars, clergy, and yes nobility. Improvements in farming and crop yield mean that there can be more skilled people other than those on the farm. And that's the foundation of societal wealth. (IRL it's been speculated that the Renaissance can be tied to the introduction of new food crops from the New World, particularly the potato.)

Much of the English wealth that fueled their Renaissance came from a shift to wool production under King Henry VIII, and a policy of religious tolerance under Queen Elizabeth that allowed Jewish scholars, teachers and skilled craftsmen who were fleeing the Spanish Inquisition to come to England and practice their trade there.

So in many ways the "Sheep is Power" quip holds some real world meaning.

Any society that has access to magical transport, such as Gates and Portals (which can take substantial cargo loads) is going to get rich pretty quickly. The Spice trade had a 40,000 percent profit margin, even counting product damaged in shipping and the loss of entire ships to pirates and foul weather. If my country can magically access the far markets for exotic goods my neighbors want, then my neighbors will be better off trading with me than risking their venture capital on a ship that takes months to build and years to sail there and back (if it makes it at all).

It's been said that economists are learned folk who have studied the intricacies of commerce and the human elements of trade, and who (when challenged) will stand together, shoulder to shoulder, and disagree with one another.

Add in such transient and unpredictable elements that Magic can supply and it's even more of a guessing game.

So set your economies up as you will. And yes, leave a few exploitable holes for players to seize upon and abuse. I mean, there are bound to be some anyway, but if you design in a few fairly obvious ones you'll at least know where they're going, and you can decide exactly how big that wormhole can be. (After all, ladder staves are kind of heavy, and there's only so much market for 10 foot poles.)

Besides, if your players think they're getting away with something it makes them feel better, feel clever and special, and it keeps them from digging up exploits that you hadn't considered.

For me, I just use the prices listed in the books, plus or minus a bit based on the location and what I have listed as local product and what's "imported".
 

Garthanos

Arcadian Knight
Well, as a practical matter most groups will not be interested in a detailed economics simulation.

And if you are going to create a detailed economics simulation, I should tell you that most economists and many historians believe Diocletian's edict on maximum prices was the single largest contributor to the collapse of the Roman empire. I feel you were going to point to the one thing that caused the fall of Rome,
Interesting detail ... I was aware it was prior but not that it was considered an inducement.

For my part, I find that mostly I just need decent approximations. And a decent approximation can be found by getting a price of any handmade good and dividing that price by the local expected daily wage. The resulting price is roughly it's price in daily wages in D&D, so then all you have to decide is what a daily wage in your setting is - in mine it is the silver piece.
I have also been thinking a silver but I am debating if I need to adjust that. And what numbers to include
You can do some interesting things with purchasing power parity to try to simulate a pre-industrial economy but mostly you just need something that is quick and close enough to work that it keeps the game moving forward.
This is pretty close to the conclusions I have been making
 

GreyLord

Adventurer
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.
Over a decade ago went up to at least 400K. I believe you had the option to have it lower (and could go with 100K if you wanted) but it could go up to around 400K as well today.

Just posting this on late...sorry.
 

MGibster

Explorer
Garthanos, I have to admit that I grow weary of standard D&D adventures that revolve around saving the village, kingdom, world, or plane. It might be interesting to have campaigns that are a little more grounded. Economic prosperity has certainly been a good reason to go adventuring in real life so why not in D&D? Perhaps a campaign that revolves around establishing a trade company? I've toyed around with the ideas of having the PCs belong to the Baker's Guild and adventuring in order to protect their trade. "If the dragon eats enough of the population we won't sell as much bread!"
 

ad_hoc

Explorer
Why is it a problem for a party to be able to bribe a guard?

If a guard is supposed to be a significant encounter for level 3+ characters then you have a highly atypical game.

3rd level characters are assumed to be tackling more wondrous and ferocious things.
 
I've toyed around with the ideas of having the PCs belong to the Baker's Guild and adventuring in order to protect their trade. "If the dragon eats enough of the population we won't sell as much bread!"
Which would make sense if the PC's were Ferengi, but probably doesn't simulate most of humanity very well. I could be interesting to have a species like Ferengi that came at the problem of ethics in a backwards manner like that and whose compassion was predicated on understanding people as potential customers, but I don't feel most players are going to conceive of their characters in those terms.

Economics to me work less well as primary motivations than they do as simulating the struggle of achieving your primary motivation that we are all familiar with from life. Why do you keep track of ammunition and how many days of rations you have? Why is it interesting if things start falling a part if you've been trekking through a steaming jungle for two months? Because in real life, that's the struggle we all relate to much more than we relate to killing the dragon.

Things feel more satisfying when they feel earned. "Here is all the wealth you'll ever need, and you didn't have to work for it", isn't very satisfying. You can do whatever you want, and there isn't a stuggle to keep it working, isn't that satisfying. "We're turning a profit!" can be a really cool point in an RPG, where you start to slowly build your way up. How many computer games are there where "the struggle is real" is actually the core loop of gameplay that keeps you coming back so that you can afford that next widget or upgrade in your universe of quality of life enhancements? I think you can do that in an RPG, and certainly D&D has traditionally done that with dungeoneering supplies in the form of magical items - the old random treasure tables almost had a 'loot box' quality to them where you were hunting for the rare drops. But I also find that if you make the non-combat aspects of the game somewhat tangible, that you can do that with with all sorts of areas - I need just a slightly better army, I need just a bit better castle, I need just a bit more income to afford that castle, I need to upgrade the cities cathedral, I need to enduce more immigration, I need that NPC to like me, I need a library upgrade, etc. etc. etc. The more subsystems and minigames you have to play if you want to play them, the more you can have going on. You don't have to play all of them, and many groups won't want to, but they can be fun and in particular they can be an awesome change of pace from just playing dungeon minigames and combat minigames over and over.
 

MGibster

Explorer
Which would make sense if the PC's were Ferengi, but probably doesn't simulate most of humanity very well.
I don't believe Dungeons & Dragons was designed with accurate simulation of the human experience in mind. It could be that you and I simply want different things out of the game but at times I have run campaigns with absurd premises. In my very first 5th edition campaign the PCs discovered they were being controlled by outside forces. So they went to Seattle to meet the Wizards of the Coast and along the way ran into some Raiders who were there to do battle with the Hawks from the Sea. In the campaign I had everyone in the kingdom fall asleep for a century as the world switch editions. Turns out the world was a homebrew campaign created by a WotC employee back in the day. Good times.
 

Garthanos

Arcadian Knight
3rd level characters are assumed to be tackling more wondrous and ferocious things.
Really? Level three? you have a different paradigm about levels than i dude. A handful of human guards or mercenaries is a standard level 3 encounter where I come from (sure one you can probably beat but pretty normal encounter wise. - I would probably step it up a notch and give them a captain of some sort or similar) and quite analogous in potency to Hobgoblin Soldiers or Jackylwere or Ragedrakes or Shadow Wolves.... That some campaigns can dally in conflicts where human interactions and wealth are important shouldn't surprise you.
 

Garthanos

Arcadian Knight
I don't believe Dungeons & Dragons was designed with accurate simulation of the human experience in mind.
LOL yes I do think that has always been the case. I think the best we can do is keep the worst of the insanity behind curtains ... or as you seem inclined embrace it ;)
 

ad_hoc

Explorer
Really? Level three? you have a different paradigm about levels than i dude. A handful of human guards or mercenaries is a standard level 3 encounter where I come from (sure one you can probably beat but pretty normal encounter wise. - I would probably step it up a notch and give them a captain of some sort or similar) and quite analogous in potency to Hobgoblin Soldiers or Jackylwere or Ragedrakes or Shadow Wolves.... That some campaigns can dally in conflicts where human interactions and wealth are important shouldn't surprise you.
If we're in a situation where a guard could be bribed I would much rather just do that and move on to a more exciting bit of the story than fight them. Bribing, sneaking, or clobbering all sound like an easy encounter.

Now, at level 1, guard(s) blocking an entrance would be a bit of a problem that needs a clever solution esp. if they need to avoid an alarm being raised.

A guard is CR 1/8 which includes city watch, sentries, and bodyguards.

8 guards is an easy encounter for 4 3rd level characters. An easy encounter doesn't tax the characters' resources or put them in serious peril. They might lose a few hit points.

You could of course add a tougher guard in there as a captain to bump it up to a medium encounter.

At some point though we're no longing talking about 'a guard' and it's going to be harder and harder to bribe them. It's not just money we're talking about, there are social pressures. The guards probably have families which they would fear would be attacked if their treachery is exposed, not to mention their own lives, etc.
 

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