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The economics of Continual flame

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Title? I don't need no stinkin' title.
In a pre-industrial society without mass production, how valuable would it be to extend the life of all goods at no cost?

I'm not trying to be mean, but it really doesn't seem like you've thought much about this. Especially when this is a cantrip. Please feel free to go back and look at the need for repair in the middle ages through the renaissance and get back to me- this isn't terribly advanced stuff.

You're assuming mending dramatically extends the life of goods. I'm not. Clothes could be mended instead of sewn, there may be slightly fewer patches. There's no reason to believe they'd last all that much longer.

It seems like you haven't thought about his much. Or ever been borderline poor like I was growing up and had to wear clothing that had been repaired multiple times. Feel free to get back to me when you stop using the argument that mending (which only repairs minor tears or breaks) somehow means you would never have to replace another material good ever again.

Maybe it makes sense to you that the only people that could possibly ever benefit from magic is PCs. I don't think that's a logical conclusion.


Title? I don't need no stinkin' title.
I hate to break it to you, but I prefer my approach ("Yes, it would change a lot, but I'm not going to worry about that because it's a game") to your approach, which appears to be, "The world wouldn't change at all because of magic, and boy, it is amazing just how right this game got it."

The fundamentals of society varied widely between places just on Earth; it would be staggering that a make-believe world with powerful magic, present deities, and intelligent non-human races would be ... kinda like a weird 60s fantasy book. Don't you think?

I've never said the book got it exactly right. I do think that it would be weird if a world where magic existed would be no different than ours unless magic was extremely rare.


No, I'm not. This is what I was discussing before- it is really, really hard for someone, today, to try and understand all the changes that would occur. In fact, it would be impossible.

Heck, just look at the cantrip- mending. Always able to be case (so no real cost). Think about how the (assumedly) widespread use of this cantrip would affect the second-hand market. Go on.

Then what about continual flame? What would the effect of a wide-spread market for that be on the price and availability of rubies? Because, dang, who wouldn't want continual flames everywhere? It has no "cost" other than the material component, so any caster who can cast it likely would equal to their spell slots on every day off, and then profit (50gp cost, .... well, supply and demand would raise that but whatever, and then sell for 70gp).

If you are interested in how light affected us all, there are books and stuff, like I said. Feel free to incorporate those ideas into your campaign ...

Or, just ignore them. Which is what most people do.
The demand on rubies cost would be nil. Because the required amount is a gp value of dust. If price rises, amount needed goes down.


Because it is! Everything is.

I mean, I am sure there are DMs, somewhere out there, that dynamically adjust prices, or try to. Does the party have a home base that they get supplies in? Well, those prices are going to rise after the the first (or third) treasure hoard, right? But ... the vast vast majority of DMs don't bother, because it's not worth the paperwork.
That's why I added the caveat about PCs engaging in a scheme to mass produce continual flame items. At the gaming table, prices are mostly static, for the reasons you state. It's a convenient abstraction for the DM. When we're debating worldbuilding and the history of the setting, though, there's no reason to treat "50 gp for a continual flame item" as an ironclad law for all time.

Rather, we can assume that the price has ebbed and flowed. It spiked when the spell was invented. It dropped when the Anti-Magic Edict of Grimdark the Obnoxious wiped out most of the demand. But at this moment in time, the equilibrium price hovers around 50 in most parts of the world. In some places it's 60, in some places it's 40. In a few places, it might be 10 or it might be 200, but those are unusual. If you plug 50 gp into your math, you get a rough idea how hard it is for a common laborer to buy such an item in most places.


Title? I don't need no stinkin' title.
Mending isn't just about clothes, something I already had to point to you. It's not just "superglue" which you have also called it.

It fixes *any* break or tear in *any* object that is under a foot.

Clothes? Sure.
Sword broken? Mended.
Armor got holes in it? Mended.
Arrows broken? Mended.

So when we discuss extending the lifetime of useable objects, what we are really discussing is that objects that would have to be discarded because they are broken, wouldn't have to be. Or objects that would have to be broken down to component parts and re-used.

And think of the difference in time. Again, if you bothered looking at the amount of time pre-industrial societies, especially the domestics (women, daughters, domestics help) in those societies had to spend on repair, you wouldn't think this was a small thing. But not just them, because it's not just clothes. As I already wrote, but you have continually ignored, this would apply to itinerant tinkerers, or smithies, or a lot of other areas as well. And that's just one cantrip.

Finally, I don't assume anything, other than assuming I am playing a game. I do find your "logical conclusions" about aTTRPG to be ahistorical.

Of course my conclusions are a-historical. We aren't talking about the historical world, we're talking about one where magic exists.

As far as the rest, it's a matter of scale. I've repaired clothes many times. Sewing a tear that mending could fix only takes a few minutes. What gets time consuming is washing clothes by hand, hauling water, tending the fire, making soap, weeding the garden, weaving a new piece of cloth because that shirt is wearing so thin you can see through it.

It would also save time repairing that one broken link of a chain, but it doesn't save any time at all when creating a new set of chain armor and you have to weld (or braze or link) hundreds of links.

Correct me if I'm wrong, but basically what you are pushing is that magic should never affect society at large.

That makes no sense to me. Magic is part of the fabric of the world in most fantasy campaigns. Ignoring it's impact is like ignoring the impact of glass in the real world because it's not convenient to think about.

There can be a world influenced by magic without that world going to the extreme of the magic steam-punk world of Ebberon.

To each his own, but I'm done with this conversation if all you're going to do is tell me that "I haven't thought about it" because I come to a different conclusion.


Tinkle Tinkle the shop bell goes.
Mage Ancalagon, " How may I help you kind sir?"
SkidAce, " I am the union boss of Lighters of Waterdeep. I just here to give you the low down. It appears you are trying to put my boys out of work. How low of you. Nice shop. It would be a pity if something happen to laid you low and sick. You know the type of sickness that makes it hard to speak, and causes broken fingers?"




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.

So one thing missing in this discussion is that for the most part, people tended to go to bed when it got dark, rather than stay up. In addition, the light of a fire would be sufficient and already present during the seasons or places where the night is longer because it’s also colder.

If other light was needed, homemade candles were essentially free. You’re really changing a social matter rather than an economic one.

Your friendly wizard comes by trying to sell a continual flame stick? Why would I need that? What would I do?

Once you do get to the economic side of things, the real question will be cash flow, not long term economics. Not to mention that a fair amount of trade would be barter, not coins. Having that amount of free coins isn’t likely for most.

Pseudo-medieval life is much simpler than our lives. Since most economies are agriculturally-based, survival is tenuous from year to year, and steady income as such doesn’t really exist for most. Nobody would be guaranteed to have that steady income for that long.

Watch Little House on the Prairie, it wasn’t all that different in the 1800s. Only a couple of families have anything that would be considered any amount of wealth. Dr. Baker and The Olesen’s would probably be able to afford them, and he would have a use for it, while Mrs. Olesen would just want it for status. Dr. Baker is often paid in chickens and pies.

Same thing with the Amish in the movie Witness.

Farmers would welcome them in the morning when they get up to tend to animals. But homemade candles or a lantern is sufficient until dawn breaks.


I had a wizard in a 3E game that was able to purchase one of the dull grey "burned out" ioun stones for cheap money after it had absorbed its last spell. The ioun stone itself no longer had any magical abilities, but we said it still would circle around your head when placed there. I then cast Continual Flame on the stone, so that I had what basically amounted to a "light halo" over my PC that produced light and that I didn't have to carry. And if we needed it dark or I went outside, I could just grab and stow the stone for later. It was basically a 3E predecessor to the Driftglobe.

Driftglobes go back at least to 2e.



So your contention is:

a. There is no "set amount" of ruby dust (in terms of, say, weight).
b. Instead, there is a fluctuating amount of ruby dust that is always equal to 50gp.

I mean, sure, I guess. It really raises a lot more questions about the nature of magic* than it seems to answer, but okay.

*Is magic intelligent? Does magic know about exchange rates and inflation? Can you trick magic? Are there arbitrage opportunities ... if I buy rubies near a ruby mine, and grind them up, can I then travel to a place where there are few or no rubies to take advantage of this?
My contention is the material components defined for the spell expresses a GP amount of ruby dust.

The rest is just what you make of that.

If you run it differently in your games that's just fine.


I think we are basically in agreement; to me, asking about the "economics" of continual flame is pointless. It is what it is because the book says that is what it is. It makes sense for the game, even if it doesn't make sense for a "world," because it is easy for the DM.

I don't think it makes too much sense to peer behind the curtain when it comes to economics and worldbuilding for a TTRPG. It's the type of thing that is difficult enough for computers to simulate; I wouldn't try it with pen and paper.

TLDR; it's an agreed fiction. When will the police show up to the gunshots? When the narrative demands that they do.
Yes, agree. I doubt there has ever been a DnD game with rock solid economics provided, attempted or even sought by many.

Heck, far as I can tell by watch our professionals, not so much one irl either.


1000gp seem really too much.

In 3rd edition cost of 2nd level spell to be casted was 60gp, plus any costly material components. I don't see why it would be much different in 5th edition. Unless you are going for low-magic setting.

That is of the shelf price. No bargaining, no contract.

3rd level wizard can cast 3 2nd level spells per day(with arcane recovery). If a town or a city takes wizard under contract for mass casting(i.e. 100 light posts), I'm sure that then price will be in the 10-20gp range, not 60gp.

for a months work(and by work, I mean few minutes per day), 3rd level wizard is up for 1000gp without any risk. One month of easy work gives you 8 months of wealthy living.

Because there is no such thing as an off-the-shelf price in a pseudo-medieval economy. Even our modern economy isn’t as predictable as following the D&D rules for income and economics.

I find this sort of topic quite interesting because it gives me the opportunity to learn something.

So here’s some research on actual medieval prices for real, mundane things:



Check out the fluctuation in wheat prices:

Of course, the records are extremely sparse. But imagine what magic would cost, and how much it would fluctuate in such a world.


Does your PHB list a weight or volume of dust required?
Or does it list a GP amount?

Uh-huh. This goes in the same bucket as the coffeelock, a build based on the idea that PCs can go without sleep forever because the book lists no rules penalty for doing so.

Sometime I'd be interested to play in Rules Lawyer Land. I'd send the fighter to buy one copper piece worth of ruby dust. Then I'd buy one single grain from the fighter for 50 gp, and cast continual flame with it. Then I'd sell the resulting magic torch to the fighter for 50 gp (hey, it's fair market value!) and repeat. Of course, that's just a warm-up act. The main event is when the cleric learns resurrection.

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