The economics of Continual flame

5ekyu

Adventurer
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:

https://www.economics.utoronto.ca/munro5/SPICES1.htm

http://faculty.goucher.edu/eng240/medieval_prices.html

Check out the fluctuation in wheat prices:
http://www.medievalcoinage.com/prices/medievalprices.htm

Of course, the records are extremely sparse. But imagine what magic would cost, and how much it would fluctuate in such a world.
Yes, a big aspect was how availability played a role. Things easily made in one spot might be quite cheap while even modest metal good might be extremely pricey if no local craftsman.

Few games try and deal with that in detail. Most of they deal with it at all use merchant rolls for profits.

The exceptions I have seen myself were for Traveller type games where world types created trade codes and rates with an attempt at logic or at least consistrncy.
 

5ekyu

Adventurer
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.
Huh?

How you get from paying the book amount for spell components to coffeelock is beyond me. But to each their own... logic, I guess.

How you and your gm decided you get your character set market price for ruby dust thrmselves is between you and them but if that works for your game, that's cool. It's not how I have ever seen it work. But hey, different strokes. Long as it makes your game fun, that's cool.

As for coffeelick, I thought that was laid to rest even for rulsies with sleep penalties in Xanathars but I could be wrong. It wasn't anything I allowed anyway so I didn't give that much attention.
 

Ilbranteloth

Explorer
Yes, a big aspect was how availability played a role. Things easily made in one spot might be quite cheap while even modest metal good might be extremely pricey if no local craftsman.

Few games try and deal with that in detail. Most of they deal with it at all use merchant rolls for profits.

The exceptions I have seen myself were for Traveller type games where world types created trade codes and rates with an attempt at logic or at least consistrncy.
Agreed. But it’s not so much to bring such an economy to the game as it is to show how extrapolating the prices in the rulebooks to a whole economy is futile. They act as a convenient shorthand to what prices are for the PCs now, rather than a reflection of the global economy, and really shouldn’t be used for that purpose.
 

5ekyu

Adventurer
Chuckling just a few moments ago when watching the DND Beyond interview with the author about Ebberon - at the parts about how Ebberon is "magic wide" as magic being integrated into everyday life and the example given was "cities lit with continual flames" and an image of little pyramid-like glass lights set in the sidewalks.

perhaps they consulted with the fantasyeconomic experts on this thread... but perhaps not. No telling how expensive rubies are in Ebberon.

oh wait. i just bought it so... maybe there is...

chuckle
 

Ilbranteloth

Explorer
Chuckling just a few moments ago when watching the DND Beyond interview with the author about Ebberon - at the parts about how Ebberon is "magic wide" as magic being integrated into everyday life and the example given was "cities lit with continual flames" and an image of little pyramid-like glass lights set in the sidewalks.

perhaps they consulted with the fantasyeconomic experts on this thread... but perhaps not. No telling how expensive rubies are in Ebberon.

oh wait. i just bought it so... maybe there is...

chuckle
It also shows the benefit of the setting having its own setting specific rules, like in 2e. But I doubt that’s coming back...

Not that familiar with Eberron so I’m not sure how that really fits in the original edition. It always seemed like a magical steampunk sort of idea, if a D&D world evolved to the industrial revolution using magic instead of science.
 

Horwath

Explorer
Chuckling just a few moments ago when watching the DND Beyond interview with the author about Ebberon - at the parts about how Ebberon is "magic wide" as magic being integrated into everyday life and the example given was "cities lit with continual flames" and an image of little pyramid-like glass lights set in the sidewalks.

perhaps they consulted with the fantasyeconomic experts on this thread... but perhaps not. No telling how expensive rubies are in Ebberon.

oh wait. i just bought it so... maybe there is...

chuckle
Faerun is also high magic.

I would say that Silverymoon is also lit with CF on all major streets, if not all of them.

Same would go for Evereska, center of Waterdeep etc...
 

5ekyu

Adventurer
Faerun is also high magic.

I would say that Silverymoon is also lit with CF on all major streets, if not all of them.

Same would go for Evereska, center of Waterdeep etc...
yup

interting to me was the author drawing a difference between high magic and wide magic.

ebberon wide magic was apparently intended to be magic common in everyday hands - driving "advancement" in place of technology.

vs

high magic which can be covered with a few areas or specials with lots of powerful magic but not necessarily that different in smaller villages etc.
 

Ilbranteloth

Explorer
yup

interting to me was the author drawing a difference between high magic and wide magic.

ebberon wide magic was apparently intended to be magic common in everyday hands - driving "advancement" in place of technology.

vs

high magic which can be covered with a few areas or specials with lots of powerful magic but not necessarily that different in smaller villages etc.
That’s a good distinction, actually. And I agree, in the Realms, the cities will likely have a higher level of magic and things like continual light (and permanent faerie fire). But it’s still limited. Waterdeep has a guild of lamplighters who light the lamps of the city. Despite the Realms being high magic, Greenwood always kept it grounded in the mundane. The nobles of course have coin to melt and would do so freely. And it would be a status symbol.
Silverymoon and really any city heavily associated with elves would be more magically inclined.

Again, at least in the Realms, this is done in part to differentiate between the mundane normal lives and the wondrous things and adventures that lie in wait. Of course, that approach has largely been lost over the years...
 

Oofta

Title? I don't need no stinkin' title.
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:

https://www.economics.utoronto.ca/munro5/SPICES1.htm

http://faculty.goucher.edu/eng240/medieval_prices.html

Check out the fluctuation in wheat prices:
http://www.medievalcoinage.com/prices/medievalprices.htm

Of course, the records are extremely sparse. But imagine what magic would cost, and how much it would fluctuate in such a world.
Which is interesting, but also kind of irrelevant. I see your point. Saying any component requires N GP of any good doesn't make a lot of sense because ruby dust right next to the place where they mine and cut rubies is going to be significantly cheaper than ruby dust half way across the world.

But in the world of D&D I know that as a trade good wheat costs 1 CP per pound of wheat because that's what the book says it's worth in the Trade Good Table. That's not at all realistic, but neither is a lot of D&D. It's just close enough to make the game playable. Much like we also know how much a common laborer makes per day, or how much room and board is going to cost.

So when evaluating how much ruby dust you need, you probably need N ounces of the stuff which at the snapshot time and place of D&D price scale comes out to 50 GP worth. Then again it doesn't make a lot of sense because ruby dust would actually be a byproduct of producing rubies and should be worthless leftover that gets tossed aside. Unless there was demand for the stuff of course. Because people were, oh, I don't know, using it as a component for continual flame all the time.
 

Ilbranteloth

Explorer
Which is interesting, but also kind of irrelevant. I see your point. Saying any component requires N GP of any good doesn't make a lot of sense because ruby dust right next to the place where they mine and cut rubies is going to be significantly cheaper than ruby dust half way across the world.

But in the world of D&D I know that as a trade good wheat costs 1 CP per pound of wheat because that's what the book says it's worth in the Trade Good Table. That's not at all realistic, but neither is a lot of D&D. It's just close enough to make the game playable. Much like we also know how much a common laborer makes per day, or how much room and board is going to cost.

So when evaluating how much ruby dust you need, you probably need N ounces of the stuff which at the snapshot time and place of D&D price scale comes out to 50 GP worth. Then again it doesn't make a lot of sense because ruby dust would actually be a byproduct of producing rubies and should be worthless leftover that gets tossed aside. Unless there was demand for the stuff of course. Because people were, oh, I don't know, using it as a component for continual flame all the time.
As I clarified in another post, I don’t expect folks to play out their economies in that way. Just that the short cut to make it playable doesn’t scale out to measure the economy of the world over time.

I also don’t expect there’s a particularly booming business cutting rubies, since they can’t afford the dust anyway. In which case some of the prove might be because the ones controlling the mining and cutting of rubies are keeping the dust for their own use in continual light spells, as wealthy people and governments might do.
 

Oofta

Title? I don't need no stinkin' title.
As I clarified in another post, I don’t expect folks to play out their economies in that way. Just that the short cut to make it playable doesn’t scale out to measure the economy of the world over time.

I also don’t expect there’s a particularly booming business cutting rubies, since they can’t afford the dust anyway. In which case some of the prove might be because the ones controlling the mining and cutting of rubies are keeping the dust for their own use in continual light spells, as wealthy people and governments might do.
Price is a result of supply and demand. If there were no demand for ruby dust, the price would be 0, it may even cost money to dispose of it. The default assumption is that supply and demand have settled on a price of 50 GP for the amount required for a PC to cast the spell. It may be a pinch of dust, it may be a bucket of the stuff.

As others have pointed out, most skilled workers could afford the 50 GP based on the scale set by the book. It could be a once in a lifetime investment since it lasts forever. Assuming you can find someone to cast it (or any other spell) I think they would be fairly common considering how useful they would be. I could see it being a typical wedding gift, or coming of age gift for middle class families for example.

To me, it's not an issue of the dust. It's a question of finding the person to cast the spell. That is what is going to vary from campaign to campaign and is going to be the limiting factor.
 

5ekyu

Adventurer
That’s a good distinction, actually. And I agree, in the Realms, the cities will likely have a higher level of magic and things like continual light (and permanent faerie fire). But it’s still limited. Waterdeep has a guild of lamplighters who light the lamps of the city. Despite the Realms being high magic, Greenwood always kept it grounded in the mundane. The nobles of course have coin to melt and would do so freely. And it would be a status symbol.
Silverymoon and really any city heavily associated with elves would be more magically inclined.

Again, at least in the Realms, this is done in part to differentiate between the mundane normal lives and the wondrous things and adventures that lie in wait. Of course, that approach has largely been lost over the years...
I am reminded of Liavek in many ways by the Ebberon intent and goal of not the details. Liavek had common man every day magic combined with more cosmopolitan tone and tech for a rather pulp and exotic flavor.

Dont see so many shared world anthologies anymore. They were a huge surge way back for a while but the last I recall of any note was the George RR Martin Wild Cards.
 

darius0

Visitor
I think one thing not considered in this thread is that the 2nd level spell Darkness actually dispells this effect permanently. A street lined with Continual Flame lamps can all be dispelled by a practically free to cast Darkness spell. An expensive effect that could accidentally be easily destroyed might not be as popular.
 

5ekyu

Adventurer
I think one thing not considered in this thread is that the 2nd level spell Darkness actually dispells this effect permanently. A street lined with Continual Flame lamps can all be dispelled by a practically free to cast Darkness spell. An expensive effect that could accidentally be easily destroyed might not be as popular.
Actually a couple of times the idea of opposition forces from darkness has been mentioned. But they could also be beaten by simple theft, right?

$200 Cell phones can be broken with a $1 brick and i do see that has seriously curtailed their popularity too. hardly see them anywhere in spite of their potential lifestyle impact.
 

LordEntrails

Adventurer
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.
I think no one else has responded to this because you are simple uninformed and the impact of safe, reliable light has been mentioned many times in this thread. If you still don't believe us, go Google something like "economic impact of electrical light". You could do a master's or doctoral thesis on it, the impacts of light on society have been that significant.

It also shows the benefit of the setting having its own setting specific rules, like in 2e. But I doubt that’s coming back...
Lord I hope not. Or we will end up with utter stupidity like Dragon Lance, where a suit or armor is composed of more steel than it costs in steel to make. "Hey DM, I go buy as many suits of full plate as I can for 400 steel pieces each. Then the dwarf and I melt them and mint them into 1200 steel coins each..."
 

darius0

Visitor
“Forces of darkness” are not a simple Darkness spell, earlier in the thread they are talking about people who worship darkness and hate light basically. I am talking about a pretty low level spell being cast for any variety of reasons, probably something nefarious, but could be for a bunch of other reasons.

I am talking about destroying everyone’s cell phone in your neighborhood with a device that they might never even see. People might want a refund for their defective cell phones or want a cell phone that doesn’t get broken so easily, or stick with a land line for safety.
 

Oofta

Title? I don't need no stinkin' title.
“Forces of darkness” are not a simple Darkness spell, earlier in the thread they are talking about people who worship darkness and hate light basically. I am talking about a pretty low level spell being cast for any variety of reasons, probably something nefarious, but could be for a bunch of other reasons.

I am talking about destroying everyone’s cell phone in your neighborhood with a device that they might never even see. People might want a refund for their defective cell phones or want a cell phone that doesn’t get broken so easily, or stick with a land line for safety.
Someone could set off an EMP, that doesn't stop people from owning electronic devices.

Or it could be an adventure hook where the PCs are hired to take out the evildoers.
 

5ekyu

Adventurer
I think no one else has responded to this because you are simple uninformed and the impact of safe, reliable light has been mentioned many times in this thread. If you still don't believe us, go Google something like "economic impact of electrical light". You could do a master's or doctoral thesis on it, the impacts of light on society have been that significant.


Lord I hope not. Or we will end up with utter stupidity like Dragon Lance, where a suit or armor is composed of more steel than it costs in steel to make. "Hey DM, I go buy as many suits of full plate as I can for 400 steel pieces each. Then the dwarf and I melt them and mint them into 1200 steel coins each..."
google soccet iirc.

it was a systematic effort to deploy a cheap kinetic powered electric storage soccer ball that would enable kids to play and charge up a battery that could run cheap low watt led lights in certain environments.

see many other examples of finding cheap ways to get a few hours of cheap lighting to same - including "brick on a pully" type solutions which proved quite effective and low tech.
 

5ekyu

Adventurer
“Forces of darkness” are not a simple Darkness spell, earlier in the thread they are talking about people who worship darkness and hate light basically. I am talking about a pretty low level spell being cast for any variety of reasons, probably something nefarious, but could be for a bunch of other reasons.

I am talking about destroying everyone’s cell phone in your neighborhood with a device that they might never even see. People might want a refund for their defective cell phones or want a cell phone that doesn’t get broken so easily, or stick with a land line for safety.
last time i checks crime can break lots of things we use every day.

crimes limited to a subset of casters doesn't make it epic in scope or defeating the norm.

Consider what a few magic mouths or glyphs could do to this crime spree?

vandalism doesn't stop progress - typically.

but hey, if thats how it works in your game world, thats great!!! Hope your players love it.
 

devincutler

Explorer
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.
I've had this issue with the spell since well before 3rd edition. Any spell with a permanent effect needs to be looked at carefully with regard to how it impacts the D&D society.

In my homebrew, I did not want every city to have continual light spells at every street corner, every home lit by them, etc. That's just too magicky for me. So I changed the spell to last for a long time, in dungeon delving terms, but not forever.

in my 5e world, the continual flame spell lasts 1 month, and if it is cast continually for a year (i.e. once per month for a year), it becomes permanent. This allows the spell to act as a longterm light source and even a permanent one for the nobility and wizards, without being trivial or commonplace.
 

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