The economics of Continual flame

Ancalagon

Dusty Dragon
Hello

So I'm prepping this adventure in a castle where the servants have been prevented by mayhem (why the PCs are called in) to light or replace candles, torches etc, so I was thinking it would be dark. Then I realized - silly me, this castle is owned by a powerful wizard, there should be continual flame spells everywhere.

But then I started thinking about it... Continual flame spells are expensive... or *are they*?

Let us consider not a mage or a rich noble, but a modest artisan. He's doing ok for himself, living a lifestyle of 1.5 gp a day (halfway between modest and comfortable). He needs light every evening in a single room, for 3 hours on average. Nothing extravagant. This, however, has a cost. If he uses a lantern or lamp, this is about 5 cp/night. Candles would cost him 3 sp/night (and shed less light). Torches are as cheap and shed more light, but the smoke... so let's stick with an oil lamp - he's has a little bit of money, after all.

at 5 cp a night, this adds up to about 18.25 gp a year. So in other words, a continual flame spell would pay for itself in less than 3 years! People in the middle ages were capable of long term planning - they did long term projects for great gains - building a fence, planting an orchard, or building a cathedral. Our artisan could, for example, limit himself to candles and in less than a decade, take the spare 2cp/night to buy the continual light, and save that 5 cp a night for other things.

Given that continual light spells can be cast by low-level casters, I can see this as a common, harmless way to raise funds. Temples could sell them too to the faithful - they might be hesitant to give magic to the masses, but same as a potion of healing, what harm could *light* do? Even very humble peasants may have one - the "family continual flame", passed down from generation to generation - it was given as a reward to great grandfather Jeb by the bishop as a reward for his help in fighting off the goblins - or some other colorful story.

Having continual flames everywhere may be too "magical" for the setting you want to create. But the economics tell us that they should be all over the place.
 

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5ekyu

Hero
Hello

So I'm prepping this adventure in a castle where the servants have been prevented by mayhem (why the PCs are called in) to light or replace candles, torches etc, so I was thinking it would be dark. Then I realized - silly me, this castle is owned by a powerful wizard, there should be continual flame spells everywhere.

But then I started thinking about it... Continual flame spells are expensive... or *are they*?

Let us consider not a mage or a rich noble, but a modest artisan. He's doing ok for himself, living a lifestyle of 1.5 gp a day (halfway between modest and comfortable). He needs light every evening in a single room, for 3 hours on average. Nothing extravagant. This, however, has a cost. If he uses a lantern or lamp, this is about 5 cp/night. Candles would cost him 3 sp/night (and shed less light). Torches are as cheap and shed more light, but the smoke... so let's stick with an oil lamp - he's has a little bit of money, after all.

at 5 cp a night, this adds up to about 18.25 gp a year. So in other words, a continual flame spell would pay for itself in less than 3 years! People in the middle ages were capable of long term planning - they did long term projects for great gains - building a fence, planting an orchard, or building a cathedral. Our artisan could, for example, limit himself to candles and in less than a decade, take the spare 2cp/night to buy the continual light, and save that 5 cp a night for other things.

Given that continual light spells can be cast by low-level casters, I can see this as a common, harmless way to raise funds. Temples could sell them too to the faithful - they might be hesitant to give magic to the masses, but same as a potion of healing, what harm could *light* do? Even very humble peasants may have one - the "family continual flame", passed down from generation to generation - it was given as a reward to great grandfather Jeb by the bishop as a reward for his help in fighting off the goblins - or some other colorful story.

Having continual flames everywhere may be too "magical" for the setting you want to create. But the economics tell us that they should be all over the place.
It would depend on how many casters of that level are expected to be available.
Cost would shift to account for profits except maybe from cleric devoted to light deities.
Continual would open up longer night periods as well.

So, premise is sound depending on some setting considerations.

I myself would use it asa status thing, where having Continual would be a sign of wealth or staus.

Of course, at a re-sale or fence value of at least 25gp, the mobile ones might be a prime target for theft if not very distinctive.

Interesting spawn of a variety of flavors for a setting - esp if color and hue are customizable.
 

ad_hoc

(they/them)
3e was written from the NPC/world perspective to build a simulation. 5e was written from the PC perspective to serve the needs of an adventuring party exploring dungeons. So what makes sense in the world is the genre and themes that are represented in the campaign.

Also, it doesn't cost 50gp, it costs ruby dust. The amount of Continual Flames are limited by the amount of rubies.
 

5ekyu

Hero
3e was written from the NPC/world perspective to build a simulation. 5e was written from the PC perspective to serve the needs of an adventuring party exploring dungeons. So what makes sense in the world is the genre and themes that are represented in the campaign.

Also, it doesn't cost 50gp, it costs ruby dust. The amount of Continual Flames are limited by the amount of rubies.
Yes but the price of rubies is also tied to their availability (and purity and cut for specific items but not for the crap stuff and dust) so if rubies are very rare their base price is higher and the amount of ruby dust needed goes down which makes it easier to find that smaller quantity - unless a GM adds in a setting specific twist to select components.

Some GMs have diamonds of certain sizes held ransom by some cults for instance.

But is it worth it for a faction to obsesson on making Continual Light harder on a large scale?

I could see the reverse - ruby miners promoting Continual Light as status symbol - to create market for their scraps.
 

Horwath

Legend
In my setting any well off town or city could have Continual Flames all around the streets.

It maybe costly at first but it is cheaper in the long run and more healthy for the population.

Also it cuts down on man power of turning on light at evenings and refiling oil tanks.


Think of it as we are turning in last 10-20 years to LED lights from old incandescent light bulbs.
My 3 room apartment has around 70W of lights in total. 10 years ago it was probably more than 500W.
 

rgoodbb

Adventurer
I did read of someone placing a continual flame spell inside a scroll case. When his PC took the cap/lid off, he had a Flashlight/torch beam and when he put the cap/lid back on the torchlight went away. I thought it was quite clever. Expensive but a good gimmick if you like that sort of thing.
 

Oofta

Legend
I think a lot of people underestimate how life changing having a simple light source can be. Add in the fact that continual flame lasts basically forever and requires no maintenance. Unless your spell casters are so rare as to be only rumors I think they would be fairly common. A light could easily be an important family heirloom passed down from generation to generation in even families of modest income. Besides, retired spell casters have to do something in their retirement.

It would be limited by the availability of rubies, but nobody said they had to be ruby dust from gem quality stones.

Then again my world is fairly high magic, at least magic that is useful to non-casters. Not quite Eberron level but close. NPC craftsmen casters can do much of what PCs casters do, just not at the snap of the fingers. Because spell-casting classes are so ubiquitous in D&D it doesn't make sense that they would be the only ones able to manipulate magic. Your campaign may be different of course.
 

fjw70

Adventurer
A couple other things to consider are (1j how much would a caster charge to cast the spell and (2) can the artisan afford to front 3+ years of lighting costs?
 

jrowland

First Post
Interesting.

Continual Flame:
Lasts forever
Has inherent value
Has utility
Is rare/hard to make/obtain new sources
is portable

Gold:
Lasts forever
Has inherent value
Has utility
Is rare/hard to make/obtain new sources
is portable

I could see Continual Flame objects used a currency among the lower classes (I'll give you three cows for that Continual Flame)
 


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