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D&D 5E High Magic Economy Idea

Chaosmancer

Legend
So, a few days ago I was watching a video about Dragon Hoards, and I had a thought. Gold is consistently a problem in DnD economies, particularly in terms of beings who have a lot of it. Gold is also fairly worthless. To an extent, all money is. This is why the Nine Hells and Mammon have always struck me as a bit odd. Here is this being that has existed for thousands of years, hoarding gold. He has to have literally more gold than could ever be spent. And part of why I think Yugoloths are silly is this idea that they are working for gold. What does immortal evil want with gold? After so many years, it becomes pointless. Ten Million gold is the same as one gold when you have hundreds of trillions of gold.

So, what if the precious metals, heck what if all metals, had a different purpose.

Part of the inspiration from this came from another little factoid I'd been told about Dragon Hoards. I think the lore came from 3.5 but there was this idea that when a Dragon died of old age, their hoard acted as a magical focus. It allowed them to create a "safe space" for their eggs, and otherwise affect the world. A dragon's hoard was magical. The other part of this came from a few games where they've stated that the coins in the game are made from a specific metal alloy, because that balance of alloys in that amount are perfect for alchemy. Essentially, the coins are standard because only that standard is useful in and of itself.


So, what if we combined these ideas? What if Copper, Silver, Gold and Platinum are solidified magic? We already have the concept that gemstones are used as magical foci, so this has precedence. Why does a Dragon want to hoard precious metals? They are building a collection of magic, either to fuel some aspect of their life or prepare some aspect of their death. Why would an immortal devil care about getting paid in gold? That is literal power you are handing them. Not in terms of "wealth is power" but they can use that gold to perform magical rituals, to fuel infernal engines. Heck, it could literally be that you use the gold to power spells, giving them a "cost" without having the weirdness of "why does this item have to have an objective value for the universe to give me a heroes feast"


But.... here comes the tricky part.

Where does it come from?

Another aspect of DnD gold in general is that there is simply too much of it. There is vast reservoirs of gold that are actually bordering on unrealistic. And if the gold and silver are being consumed to fuel magic, then they have to be replaced, otherwise the world would run out. Especially as dragons are hoarding and using it too.

I definitely think that copper, silver, gold, platinum exchange still makes sense. I was wondering, since Dragons are intensely magical beings, who warp the world around them already, what if they "sweat" gold, or otherwise produce it? Dragon's Blood could be literally gold. And then as they get older, and produce more gold, their hoard increases. I sort of like this.

But then what about copper and silver? Where would it make sense for those to come from. Silver has many "anti-evil" properties. So maybe from celestials? Silver could be a divine metal, coming straight from the heavens.

A second issue, is mining. Mining should still be a thing, but would it work to have gold, silver, and copper, or maybe just one of those, to be "naturally growing" for people to mine? I can see it for gems, but I'm not sure about all metals. And it would be weird to have Dragon's Blood and a Divine Metal also just... randomly appear in the ground.



I know this is a high magic concept, and a lot of people won't like it, but any thoughts on how to make this work? Where would copper come from? How would you try and explain precious metals being literal magic. Do you have any thoughts on uses for it or how it may effect things in the game?
 

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GMMichael

Guide of Modos
This is why the Nine Hells and Mammon have always struck me as a bit odd. Here is this being that has existed for thousands of years, hoarding gold. He has to have literally more gold than could ever be spent. And part of why I think Yugoloths are silly is this idea that they are working for gold. What does immortal evil want with gold?

So, what if we combined these ideas? What if Copper, Silver, Gold and Platinum are solidified magic?
Hoarding gold in non-mortal dimensions has a very clear, useful purpose: reducing the overflowing amounts that dragon-hoards seem to produce/contain.

Each of the metals you mention seem to be decent conductors. Flowing electrons create magnetic fields. Magnetic fields have properties that the common folk don't understand... there's your magic.
Where does it come from?

Another aspect of DnD gold in general is that there is simply too much of it. There is vast reservoirs of gold that are actually bordering on unrealistic. And if the gold and silver are being consumed to fuel magic, then they have to be replaced, otherwise the world would run out. Especially as dragons are hoarding and using it too. . .

I know this is a high magic concept, and a lot of people won't like it, but any thoughts on how to make this work? Where would copper come from? How would you try and explain precious metals being literal magic. Do you have any thoughts on uses for it or how it may effect things in the game?
I wouldn't ask where it comes from, because you're already starting with some pretty outlandish assumptions. But you might as well go back to the Yugoloths and Mammon. They have an unlimited supply? Somehow it's finding its way back to the real world.

Now if you'll excuse me, I'll go back to my campaign where dragons don't have treasure hoards, but there are definitely some choice weapons lying around their lairs (from earlier attempts at dragon-slaying). And where gold spends most of its time locked in the chests of kings, or around the necks of the lesser lords.
 


Tonguez

A suffusion of yellow
And it would be weird to have Dragon's Blood and a Divine Metal also just... randomly appear in the ground.

I know this is a high magic concept, and a lot of people won't like it, but any thoughts on how to make this work? Where would copper come from? How would you try and explain precious metals being literal magic. Do you have any thoughts on uses for it or how it may effect things in the game?
I like it,
You could have the entire world be the egg of a cosmic dragon that has existed from the beginning of time. Unknown to the humanoids now living on the World-Egg the gold and silver they mine is in fact the yoke and albumen of the egg that solidifies when it reaches the surface. Copper comes from the cosmic dragons blood.

Also metals are conductors of magic and as soft metals make for good bedding for a firebreathing dragon
 

Oh, and if money is worthless... have you been charging your PCs living cost? They add up, fast, especially at low levels.

"After 5 weeks of fairly uneventful travel, you arrive at the city of Such and Such. Everyone pay 35 gold"
Some game systems had rules like this (eg Shadowrun) but in the main this would annoy PCs in many settings.
 


I didn't make those numbers up. This is part of the rules in D&D 5e.
I didn't accuse you of that.

Shadowrun has a purchasable lifestyle cost, which meant you simply deducted that money per month, then looked at your supply of cash and realized you had better get out there and do a job soon.

Games that don't have these easily calculated expenses (like d20 Modern) can get very tedious if you try to track expenses (each meal, gasoline, etc). In D&D PCs tend to buy food but otherwise sleep in a ditch in the woods, probably without even a tent to keep themselves warm. They don't pay for horse feed because they don't have horses. This isn't necessarily because PCs are desperate to avoid paying a few coppers, but keeping track of the tents, meal expenses, etc, would simply take too much time, compared to the time spent buying magic items. (Pathfinder 1e did a good job with "equipment kits" so at least in those games PCs tend to have cooking pots and tents. However if there's an easily calculated monthly expense, per social class, I didn't see it.)
 

Stormonu

Legend
In the old Council of Wyrms campaigns, dragons couldn’t advance in power without a sufficient hoard. Dragons HAD to collect precious objects and ritualistically add them to their hoard to gain power. Simply being 200 years old didn’t make you, say, an Adult red. You had to have an appropriately powerful hoard to go with it.

Conversely, if said hoard was taken, it could also cost the dragon power! And, at the very least, the dragon couldn’t advance until it recovered or replaced its hoard. There was a whole level of dragon politics centered around stealing/manipulating/ adding to one’s hoard. Council member giving you problems? Target their hoard to reduce their power or isolate them from being able to advance. Need a favor? Gift another dragon a small treasure (not a part of your hoard) so they’ll owe you, or give them a little power push so they become a target, not you.
 

Ancalagon

Dusty Dragon
I didn't accuse you of that.

Shadowrun has a purchasable lifestyle cost, which meant you simply deducted that money per month, then looked at your supply of cash and realized you had better get out there and do a job soon.

Games that don't have these easily calculated expenses (like d20 Modern) can get very tedious if you try to track expenses (each meal, gasoline, etc). In D&D PCs tend to buy food but otherwise sleep in a ditch in the woods, probably without even a tent to keep themselves warm. They don't pay for horse feed because they don't have horses. This isn't necessarily because PCs are desperate to avoid paying a few coppers, but keeping track of the tents, meal expenses, etc, would simply take too much time, compared to the time spent buying magic items. (Pathfinder 1e did a good job with "equipment kits" so at least in those games PCs tend to have cooking pots and tents. However if there's an easily calculated monthly expense, per social class, I didn't see it.)

5e has that. It's a daily value instead of monthly, but that's trivial. It's based on your lifestyle:

1 sp = destitute
2 sp = poor
1 gp = modest
2 gp = comfortable
4 gp = wealthy
10+ gp = aristocratic

Many PCs will go for modest, so one GP/day.
 

Tonguez

A suffusion of yellow
In the old Council of Wyrms campaigns, dragons couldn’t advance in power without a sufficient hoard. Dragons HAD to collect precious objects and ritualistically add them to their hoard to gain power. Simply being 200 years old didn’t make you, say, an Adult red. You had to have an appropriately powerful hoard to go with it.

Conversely, if said hoard was taken, it could also cost the dragon power! And, at the very least, the dragon couldn’t advance until it recovered or replaced its hoard. There was a whole level of dragon politics centered around stealing/manipulating/ adding to one’s hoard. Council member giving you problems? Target their hoard to reduce their power or isolate them from being able to advance. Need a favor? Gift another dragon a small treasure (not a part of your hoard) so they’ll owe you, or give them a little power push so they become a target, not you.
Hmmm that goes well with the idea of the metal coins being conducters of magic - Dragons absorb the magic/cosmic power while they sleep which makes them grow to the next age category. I like that, it explains why they’re so obsessive about even a single coin be taken from their hoard, the thief is literally stealing the dragons life and future away.
 

Chaosmancer

Legend
Hoarding gold in non-mortal dimensions has a very clear, useful purpose: reducing the overflowing amounts that dragon-hoards seem to produce/contain.

Each of the metals you mention seem to be decent conductors. Flowing electrons create magnetic fields. Magnetic fields have properties that the common folk don't understand... there's your magic.

Not sure what you are trying to say here. That dragon hoards are magnetic and devils take gold from dragon hoards? You've completely lost me with this line of logic.

I wouldn't ask where it comes from, because you're already starting with some pretty outlandish assumptions. But you might as well go back to the Yugoloths and Mammon. They have an unlimited supply? Somehow it's finding its way back to the real world.

Which outlandish assumptions?

But okay, it finds its way back, somehow, and then they want it again because... why? Again, if a being like Mammon is immortal and has existed for, say, a thousand years gathering gold, that is a stupendous amount of gold.

The Spanish Empire in 150 years took in 181 tons of gold. Translating that into DnD gold coins that is 18,100,000 gold coins. Giving that as a rough estimate of Mammon collecting gold from the multiverse, he's probably gathered over a single millenia 18.1 trillion gold coins. If a schmuck sells his soul for 1K gold, then that is 18 million schmucks. And, this is probably not how it gets back in the world, because his agents probably make sure to scoop that money back up when the schmuck dies. Maybe I could believe that Mammon is somehow spending enough of this gold to make that possible, but then he is using it to buy Yugoloths... and why do they care about gold? They can't use it to buy anything.

Now if you'll excuse me, I'll go back to my campaign where dragons don't have treasure hoards, but there are definitely some choice weapons lying around their lairs (from earlier attempts at dragon-slaying). And where gold spends most of its time locked in the chests of kings, or around the necks of the lesser lords.

Oh. You just have no interest in engaging in the premise at all. Well, that was a waste of time.
 

Chaosmancer

Legend
Oh, and if money is worthless... have you been charging your PCs living cost? They add up, fast, especially at low levels.

"After 5 weeks of fairly uneventful travel, you arrive at the city of Such and Such. Everyone pay 35 gold"

Of course money is worth something to the PCs.

But why does an immortal god being care about gold? You think Mammon pays for living in the castle he owns, run by slaves and devils that he controls with an iron fist? Do you think the Yugoloths pay the to live in Gehenna?

This isn't a question about player characters (though this solution does encompass helping with that) this is a question of why God-like beings want something as worthless as gold. Money is used to buy things, but no one is hell is using gold to buy anything. And, even if they were, with millenia to accrue wealth, they'd have plenty unless they started running out. Which, given the Elemental plane of Earth, is likely not happening in your standard DnD setting.
 

Chaosmancer

Legend
I like it,
You could have the entire world be the egg of a cosmic dragon that has existed from the beginning of time. Unknown to the humanoids now living on the World-Egg the gold and silver they mine is in fact the yoke and albumen of the egg that solidifies when it reaches the surface. Copper comes from the cosmic dragons blood.

Also metals are conductors of magic and as soft metals make for good bedding for a firebreathing dragon

That's not a bad idea.
 

Chaosmancer

Legend
I didn't accuse you of that.

Shadowrun has a purchasable lifestyle cost, which meant you simply deducted that money per month, then looked at your supply of cash and realized you had better get out there and do a job soon.

Games that don't have these easily calculated expenses (like d20 Modern) can get very tedious if you try to track expenses (each meal, gasoline, etc). In D&D PCs tend to buy food but otherwise sleep in a ditch in the woods, probably without even a tent to keep themselves warm. They don't pay for horse feed because they don't have horses. This isn't necessarily because PCs are desperate to avoid paying a few coppers, but keeping track of the tents, meal expenses, etc, would simply take too much time, compared to the time spent buying magic items. (Pathfinder 1e did a good job with "equipment kits" so at least in those games PCs tend to have cooking pots and tents. However if there's an easily calculated monthly expense, per social class, I didn't see it.)

While potentially a good point, I don't want this thread to devolve into a discussion of lifestyle costs. That isn't the issue I'm talking about. PCs using money is something that can be handled a dozen different ways. I'm looking into why immortal beings with entire planes of existence that the rule are gathering gold. They don't need it. It doesn't really serve a purpose for them.
 

Chaosmancer

Legend
In the old Council of Wyrms campaigns, dragons couldn’t advance in power without a sufficient hoard. Dragons HAD to collect precious objects and ritualistically add them to their hoard to gain power. Simply being 200 years old didn’t make you, say, an Adult red. You had to have an appropriately powerful hoard to go with it.

Conversely, if said hoard was taken, it could also cost the dragon power! And, at the very least, the dragon couldn’t advance until it recovered or replaced its hoard. There was a whole level of dragon politics centered around stealing/manipulating/ adding to one’s hoard. Council member giving you problems? Target their hoard to reduce their power or isolate them from being able to advance. Need a favor? Gift another dragon a small treasure (not a part of your hoard) so they’ll owe you, or give them a little power push so they become a target, not you.

This plays right into the ideas I'm having, so that is great.

Did the module give any explanation for why? Like, why did a precious object in the hoard give power, or was it left vague?

Also, do you have any thoughts on, if I do go the route of precious metals being somehow innately magical, where it would make the most sense for those metals to come from?
 

Blue

Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal
In one of the two campaigns I am running right now, the world is literally the body of a decapitated deity, with the moon as her skull. Both mostly unrecognizable - though some Druid circles know.

Mining "the bones of the earth" is literal, and it's hording a limited and non-refilling source of "magical material" that's effectively solidified magic. And it's running out. Spells of 7th level and higher can no longer be cast in the lands (except with the aid of some of this). On the other hand are Diamonds, used as components in all of the Raise and related spells, which actually grow - they are outgrowths of souls when the body dies. Diamonds can be substituted in for any other expensive material component in that world.

Oh, as a side note the dwarves were genocided to get access to the Bones of the Earth, and the Drow are a magically created species to occupy their abandoned tunnels and mine it for the Imperium.
 

Tonguez

A suffusion of yellow
That's not a bad idea.
I kept thinking and imagined what if all planets are in fact cosmic dragon eggs, The eggs incubate for 10 billion years until the dragon is born in a fiery explosion of new magic.

Earth quakes are caused each time the Baby dragon moves, and perhaps there are cults dedicated to keeping the dragon asleep and never hatching
 

Stormonu

Legend
This plays right into the ideas I'm having, so that is great.

Did the module give any explanation for why? Like, why did a precious object in the hoard give power, or was it left vague?

Also, do you have any thoughts on, if I do go the route of precious metals being somehow innately magical, where it would make the most sense for those metals to come from?
Campaign setting, but no, it did not give a reason. I simply expect it was greed = power, as a method of explaining why dragons collected treasure hoards. It did mention that the hoard needed to contain a minimum number of magical objects though.

<Edit:> Went back and reread the hoard section, and I was wrong there are some details - the dragon has to sleep on the hoard to grow in size, and when it shifts from one age category to another, it sheds its old scales, which transform into precious metals or gems (ex., gold dragon scales become gold, red dragon scales become rubies, etc.), with a value of 1,000 gp x old Age category. A mystical bond also forms between the dragon and hoard, so that if anything is taken from the hoard, the dragon knows exactly where it is.
 
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Ancalagon

Dusty Dragon
Of course money is worth something to the PCs.

But why does an immortal god being care about gold? You think Mammon pays for living in the castle he owns, run by slaves and devils that he controls with an iron fist? Do you think the Yugoloths pay the to live in Gehenna?

This isn't a question about player characters (though this solution does encompass helping with that) this is a question of why God-like beings want something as worthless as gold. Money is used to buy things, but no one is hell is using gold to buy anything. And, even if they were, with millenia to accrue wealth, they'd have plenty unless they started running out. Which, given the Elemental plane of Earth, is likely not happening in your standard DnD setting.
You forget something.

Faith.

Money is imbued with faith. Mortals value it, they crave it. (well, some of them do, at least). Greed is a powerful motivator, is it not?

Why does an immortal god care about... anything? Mining? Fire? Death? War? The harvest? Yet, they do. Mammon cares a lot about money. Of course he wants MORE.

 

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