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Discussing the D&D economy


D&D economics can be summed up in three words: It doesn't work.

That aside, however, mostly I don't bother to differetiate between foriegn coins. Tried it a couple of times and it just wasn't worth the bother. (And this with players who knew about midevil realities.) Gold plated lead coins, OTOH, are always fun! :D

Letters of credit have also been used in the gaming groups I've been a part of with little to no hassle. (But they are always backed by the proper amount of metal.)

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Umbran said:
For that very reason, I use the "upkeep" method, rather than track most individual purposes.
Mearls once mentioned in his blog that, in an Eberron game, he completely ignored money. He'd look at the wealth-by-level table each time the PCs leveled up and just say, "You should have that much gear." Made sense to me.


I do not think the D&D economy has to really work, but I think it would be nice if the very basic arithmetic underlying it made some sense. Non-magical items of all kinds should be priced by the cost in time, materials and skill involved in making them, special materials included. Maybe have suggestions for how a DM could make prices dynamic if they really wanted to, but otherwise the core system would be static.


First Post
Probably being repetitive to what others have said, but...

Trying for any level of verisimilitude on this topic would be making the game less fun for most (if not all) of my players, and probably add to the amount of paperwork I have to do.

If it adds to the fun for you (and your players), more power to you. Not interested here.


I run Compose Dream Games RPG Marketplace
I think a certain amount of logic in the 'economy'/ monetary system can add a bit of realism to the world. Which is one of the reasons I've made the simple ajustement from gp being the base coin to sp being the base coin. I never really felt that carrying around thousands of gold pieces was at all practical, or realistic to the real world. Most peasants would never have seen a gold piece and may never have had a silver piece. Considering the prices of livestock etc listed in the PHB, this doesn't fit.

I would like to comment on your discourse, Jürgen Hubert, in a couple ways.

First mining large amouts of gold and silver (even copper) and minting them, causes inflation. Gold and silver being 'scarce' in a country doesn't mean the county is poor simply means that gold and silver has more buying power. You can look at the Spanish who shipped in vast amounts of bullion (gold and silver) from the new world to fund the war effort, it, like printing money caused inflation.

2nd, paper money just doesn't have the feel I want. But your discussion is good. You do have to consider how a banking system ifluences the economy -- eg the mode of production, social organization etc. The idea that's tied to the 0th level spell may be one that I yoink. Having transnational banking companies is very unusual I can't think of any historical prescedent.

The Grumpy Celt

Jürgen Hubert said:
Just a few thoughts about the underlying economy about the D&D monetary system which you might think interesting.

Here’s me blowing my own trumpet…

I wrote about a lot of this and covered a lot of this material three years or so ago with ENWorld’s Banking Guild Book. It covered different kinds of current, central banks, loans, inflation, insurance and even rudimentary stock exchanges in addition to rules for paper money (including promissory notes, which are easier to haul around than large amounts of gold) and a monster that transformed precious metals to lead.

I came around to this while reading about the rules for building castles and thinking about all those vast and terrible dungeons and wondering how the antisocial lichs and what not covered the construction costs.

It finally came to me they must have taken a loan and that the place is mortgaged to the hilt. This in turn lead to me think up a Terry Pratchett like scenario where a lich has defaulted on his mortgage payments for his evil lair and the bank hires the PCs to go roust him out or at least to collect the payment owed for the last three months.

My approach was to not to fix problems in the economic model postulated by the PH and the DMG, just to provide some additional tools the DM and PCs could use as they saw fit.


First Post
Jürgen Hubert said:
JWhy does seemingly every nation in D&D settings have interchangeable gold, silver, and copper coins?

IMC, its because the money was standardized as a weight system by the dwarves who have been making that money for thousands of years before humans even cared about it. Certainly for platinum which would require magic to mint. When it came time to make their own money, humans merely imitated the dwarves and kept the same standard.

Sure there are minor differences in coinage in size, quality, and even weight. Purchasign anything is considered to take a certain amount of haggling in which case vendors who care about such things might reject any coins they think are not worth as much as they are supposed to be. Quick purchases take less time but cost a random amount more.


First Post
The problem with the D&D economy is that there is none.

When a pc gives a weapon smith money for a sword, the shop keeper doesn't have money to pay his rent, it just dissapears. It is more of a reward system then economy.

In a GURPS campiagn I ran, I figured the simple way to over come that was to pick one nation to be the richest, and thus compare how much each other's nations coins to the richest nation and a even number ratio. Example:

FR: 1:1
Eb: 2:1
LG: 4:1
RL: 6:1

So, if you have 6 RL gold coins, then you have 3 EB coins. Simple enough. The problem with that is the extra book keeping. Dont even bother trying if the players are not willing to do the extra book keeping of what nations gold they have.


The Grumpy Celt

Thondor said:
First mining large amouts of gold and silver (even copper) and minting them, causes inflation... Having transnational banking companies is very unusual I can't think of any historical prescedent.

Another cause of inflation, even for nations that used precious metals in coinages to determine values, was changing or faking the precious metal content of the coin. Namely, there is less platinum, gold or silver in the metal than is believed.

An issue possibly in an decentralized economy like the one postulated by D&D is causing a local bubble of inflation when the PCs dump a load of currency into a smallish economy.

In my book, there were multiple banking guilds, at least one run by the national government and possibly others independent of government control. There weren’t any multinational banks, though.


Kaodi said:
I do not think the D&D economy has to really work, but I think it would be nice if the very basic arithmetic underlying it made some sense.
It makes sense from the point-buy perspective.

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