The economics of Continual flame

Ancalagon

Dusty Dragon
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..."
That kind of sloppiness drives me bonkers.
 

Ancalagon

Dusty Dragon
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.
That is a perfectly reasonable solution
 
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.
Yep. Back in 1e, Continual Light was just a 2nd level spell, any 3rd level magic-user who learned it could, given enough time, light up a whole city. I was fine with that: those cities that were more accepting of magic were lit up.
There were myriad continual lights shenanigans back in the day, the scroll case flashlight, the continual light copper piece (or just rock), continual light on your grey ioun stone, put the continual light coin in a clay jar, and you have a 'light grenade,' continual light on a sword to make it seem 'magical,' etc...


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.
Reasonable solution. Some 4e rituals worked that way, they cost a surge, and if you kept them going (did without a surge) for a year, became permanent. That'd keep a lid on things...
 

LordEntrails

Adventurer
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.
I'm not sure if you are agreeing with me or arguing against me... so about all I can say is something like;
Yes, if light wasn't important, people wouldn't work so hard to make it available to even the poorest and most remote of peoples.
 

5ekyu

Adventurer
I'm not sure if you are agreeing with me or arguing against me... so about all I can say is something like;
Yes, if light wasn't important, people wouldn't work so hard to make it available to even the poorest and most remote of peoples.
Was agreeing that value of light after dark is tremendous and pointing out more modern day projects that emphasize.
 

Ancalagon

Dusty Dragon
First, the numbers are all made up for gamist reasons. . How do we know that a skilled worked makes that much? Because the game says so. Because it is divorced from a real-world economy, we can't really say much about it,
I somehow missed this. This is the most wrong you've ever been on this forum. This is "squaredancing with gnomish paladins wrong".

The cost of living is *the central economic value* of D&D. Everything else is centered around it.

If you don't know the cost of living, and you're being offered 50 gp for a dangerous quest. Is that a lot of money? Who knows!?! The cost of living informs you how much that 50 gp is worth.

It's also the foundation on which other prices are built, or at least hopefully. Cost of living is 10 gp/day, swords are 2 silvers.... doesn't make sense.

Plus it's based on research Gygax did about the salary of a laborer in ancient Greece I believe, so it's not entirely without foundation.

(further reading https://slugsandsilver.blogspot.com/2018/08/your-economic-yardstick-laborer.html )
 

S'mon

Legend
1 or 2 silver pieces a day was a living wage for thousands of years (in areas with a monetary economy), and yes Gygax did base his 1e DMG hireling wages off that. However he did not base his PHB gear costs off historical values; he says himself that they are wildly inflated.

5e says a skilled worker makes 2gp/day, which is ahistorical but tallies better with the 5e PHB prices.

If you wanted something that looks historical you'd need to divide most 5e PHB prices by 10 (ie gold > silver), pay skilled workers 2 sp/day (1 sp if unskilled), and have a silver piece be worth around $20* purchasing power parity.

*I did some research on Roman bread prices etc and it works out as a typical low-end working class income in the Roman empire was around $20/day. The $2/day you see as subsistence living in modern 'Developing' countries is not historical, at least not in anything resembling a D&D world. A Chinese peasant might get by on $10, but with a notably lower standard of living and a greater likelihood of famine.

Edit: Personally I tend to do a Gygaxian-style bodge where I base the economy off 1 sp/day subsistence and use the PHB prices as the inflated amounts paid by adventurers. They are really all over the place though - eg a wagon is only 35 gp, which looks like it's based off the sp economy, but a pony is 30gp which looks like it's based off the x10 standard. In my Sunday game the PCs bought a wagon & 2 draft oxen, I charged them 30gp per ox but felt a bit guilty about that - should probably have been more like 8gp*. :blush: Still the PCs weren't spending their own money so they didn't mind being ripped off. :D

*Just found ox on very badly laid out PHB pg 157 - it's under "Trade Goods" and is 15gp!
 
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lowkey13

I'm sorry, Dave. I'm afraid I can't do that.
I somehow missed this. This is the most wrong you've ever been on this forum. This is "squaredancing with gnomish paladins wrong".

The cost of living is *the central economic value* of D&D. Everything else is centered around it.

If you don't know the cost of living, and you're being offered 50 gp for a dangerous quest. Is that a lot of money? Who knows!?! The cost of living informs you how much that 50 gp is worth.

It's also the foundation on which other prices are built, or at least hopefully. Cost of living is 10 gp/day, swords are 2 silvers.... doesn't make sense.

Plus it's based on research Gygax did about the salary of a laborer in ancient Greece I believe, so it's not entirely without foundation.

(further reading https://slugsandsilver.blogspot.com/2018/08/your-economic-yardstick-laborer.html )
So, a few things.

First, I resent the comment that this is the most wrong I have ever been on this forum. I pride myself not just on my wrongness, but on the magnitude of my wrongosity. You, sir, take that back. Even assuming, arguendo, that this is wrong, this is not even in the top half of wrong comments I have made. I aspire to, and achieve, a higher level of complete and total incorrectness than this particular comment!

Second, that wasn't my point at, all. I mean, the entire point of my post is that the economy in D&D is completely made up- which is true by definition, since it is static, and it presumes that it is worldwide, and it ignore supply and demand (but that's what the rest of the post you excerpted from said), but let's dig deeper on just the point you quoted, using your post and your linked-to blog that you wrote in.

Now, the most interesting thing is that you state that it's based on research Gygax did on being a laborer in ancient Greece, and that it's plausible because the going rate in ancient greece was half a drachma to "provide" for a poor citizen (4.3 grams). Now, let's see what Gygax actually did in OD&D and 1e. :)

1 coin = 1/10th pound = 45.36 grams
Unskilled Labor comes from, inter alia, the standard hireling table, p. 28 DMG, bearer/porter, 1 s.p. per day.

So the unskilled laborers in Gygax's world were making approximately 10x the amount that research would show.*


Of course, how do we know that Gygax most likely didn't do full research and, instead, was pulling numbers out of his posterior gor gamist reasons? Well, let's see. PHB . 35- "Your character will most probably be adventuring in an area where money is plentiful. Think of the situation as similar to Alaskan boom towns during the gold rush days, where eggs sold for one dollar each and mining tools sold for $20, $50, and $100 or more. Costs in the adventuring area are distorted because of the law of supply and demand - the supply of coin is high, while supplies of equipment for adventurers are in great demand."

Anyway, the gist of all of this is that AFAIK, it really was without foundation. I don't happen to agree with S'mon that 1 to 2 SP per day was the "living wage" for thousands of years in places with a monetary economy (again, source). Wages (including in-kind contributions such as food and lodging) varied in different areas and over time; notably, issues such as war and disease (the black death, for example, was a major driver of wages in Europe, and similar population issues had similar effects throughout history) would drive wages, while relative wealth between areas also mattered a great deal. Finally, the idea of static pricing would, of course, preclude any kind of trade, as there would be no opportunity for profit from carrying the rubies from the countries that have them to the countries that don't (Spice Road, etc.).

In the end, my argument in this thread has been, and always will be, simple and two-fold.

1. TTRPGs won't model economics very well- use whatever works for your immersion.

2. This is even moreseo the case once you introduce magic into the economy; you know the old standby of "Any sufficiently high technology is indistinguishable from magic?" Well, magic (assuming there aren't countervailing forces, like hunting down all people and items that use it) would end up having similar effects to technology, and while we could try and model some effects (total difference in tactics for armies due to area effect spells, massive increases in spying and espionage and countermeasures between nation-states, and so on) it would be impossible to understand the effects on the economic system, so most people either don't bother, or just make it a cool feature (Eberron).

But yeah, like bathroom breaks and sanitation in cities, the underlying economy is something that is not really worth the time in the TTRPG to model. IMO.


*Assuming that this is where he got the figures. Could you cite a source for this? It's sounds like something he would totally do, "Eh, Ancient Greece, close enough, who cares about the weight ...." but I don't remember seeing this contemporaneously sourced out before. Would love to see it!
 

jayoungr

Explorer
I could see the reverse - ruby miners promoting Continual Light as status symbol - to create market for their scraps.
It would be interesting to have the availability dependent on how close to a ruby mine you are. If there's only one place in the world where you can mine rubies, then maybe continual flames get less common the farther from that part of the world you are. Whereas in the country where the mine is located, virtually every household has one.
 

Ancalagon

Dusty Dragon
So, a few things.

First, I resent the comment that this is the most wrong I have ever been on this forum. I pride myself not just on my wrongness, but on the magnitude of my wrongosity. You, sir, take that back. Even assuming, arguendo, that this is wrong, this is not even in the top half of wrong comments I have made. I aspire to, and achieve, a higher level of complete and total incorrectness than this particular comment!
Well, I must confess that I wrote that in part to get your attention (success!), and that since I have not read all you posts, I cannot be absolutely certain that this was your wrongest post. Perhaps you claimed that Tiny Servant was a bad spell, for example.

Second, that wasn't my point at, all. I mean, the entire point of my post is that the economy in D&D is completely made up- which is true by definition, since it is static, and it presumes that it is worldwide, and it ignore supply and demand (but that's what the rest of the post you excerpted from said), but let's dig deeper on just the point you quoted, using your post and your linked-to blog that you wrote in.
We don't know if it's static. It's what the prices are *at the start of the campaign*. If you feel that prices must go up or down, then it is up to you the GM to do changes.

Now, the most interesting thing is that you state that it's based on research Gygax did on being a laborer in ancient Greece, and that it's plausible because the going rate in ancient greece was half a drachma to "provide" for a poor citizen (4.3 grams). Now, let's see what Gygax actually did in OD&D and 1e. :)

1 coin = 1/10th pound = 45.36 grams
Unskilled Labor comes from, inter alia, the standard hireling table, p. 28 DMG, bearer/porter, 1 s.p. per day.

So the unskilled laborers in Gygax's world were making approximately 10x the amount that research would show.*

Of course, how do we know that Gygax most likely didn't do full research and, instead, was pulling numbers out of his posterior gor gamist reasons?
Well, Gygax certainly didn't research the weight of the drachma (from the top of my head, aprox 4.5 gram, which is conveniently close to 1/100 pounds). 10 coins to the pound is ridiculous.

Well, let's see. PHB . 35- "Your character will most probably be adventuring in an area where money is plentiful. Think of the situation as similar to Alaskan boom towns during the gold rush days, where eggs sold for one dollar each and mining tools sold for $20, $50, and $100 or more. Costs in the adventuring area are distorted because of the law of supply and demand - the supply of coin is high, while supplies of equipment for adventurers are in great demand."
How interesting. Why is the demand high? Are there so many adventurers all of a sudden?

Anyway, the gist of all of this is that AFAIK, it really was without foundation. I don't happen to agree with S'mon that 1 to 2 SP per day was the "living wage" for thousands of years in places with a monetary economy (again, source). Wages (including in-kind contributions such as food and lodging) varied in different areas and over time; notably, issues such as war and disease (the black death, for example, was a major driver of wages in Europe, and similar population issues had similar effects throughout history) would drive wages, while relative wealth between areas also mattered a great deal.
Yet it's a value that seems roughly correct over a period of time. It's a usable value.

Finally, the idea of static pricing would, of course, preclude any kind of trade, as there would be no opportunity for profit from carrying the rubies from the countries that have them to the countries that don't (Spice Road, etc.).
See above re static

In the end, my argument in this thread has been, and always will be, simple and two-fold.

1. TTRPGs won't model economics very well- use whatever works for your immersion.

2. This is even moreseo the case once you introduce magic into the economy; you know the old standby of "Any sufficiently high technology is indistinguishable from magic?" Well, magic (assuming there aren't countervailing forces, like hunting down all people and items that use it) would end up having similar effects to technology, and while we could try and model some effects (total difference in tactics for armies due to area effect spells, massive increases in spying and espionage and countermeasures between nation-states, and so on) it would be impossible to understand the effects on the economic system, so most people either don't bother, or just make it a cool feature (Eberron).

But yeah, like bathroom breaks and sanitation in cities, the underlying economy is something that is not really worth the time in the TTRPG to model. IMO.
It is usually *not* worth it. BUT sometimes it is worth doing a specific economic calculation to get an approximate value of things. And at that point, having a firm yardstick is rather useful.


*Assuming that this is where he got the figures. Could you cite a source for this? It's sounds like something he would totally do, "Eh, Ancient Greece, close enough, who cares about the weight ...." but I don't remember seeing this contemporaneously sourced out before. Would love to see it!
I can't remember... and I'm not even 100% sure if it's something I discovered or "guessed" now that I think about it :/
 
If there's only one place in the world where you can mine rubies,
You don't need rubies for the spell. In a world where fabricate exists, any gemstone will do (as long as it is of reasonable quality).

The jadeite mine provides a caster with a barrel of chips of crystal. One casting of fabricate later, there is a ruby 5ft across sitting on the bench.

You know, the more I think about it, the more I wonder why there is even such a thing as diamond dust or ruby dust when a spell can combine them back into a single stone.
 

S'mon

Legend
You don't need rubies for the spell. In a world where fabricate exists, any gemstone will do (as long as it is of reasonable quality).

The jadeite mine provides a caster with a barrel of chips of crystal. One casting of fabricate later, there is a ruby 5ft across sitting on the bench.

You know, the more I think about it, the more I wonder why there is even such a thing as diamond dust or ruby dust when a spell can combine them back into a single stone.
A ruby or diamond is not a manufactured item. They're not things you can fabricate. The spell seems pretty clear what it's capable of.
 

S'mon

Legend
Anyway, the gist of all of this is that AFAIK, it really was without foundation. I don't happen to agree with S'mon that 1 to 2 SP per day was the "living wage" for thousands of years in places with a monetary economy (again, source). Wages (including in-kind contributions such as food and lodging) varied in different areas and over time; notably, issues such as war and disease (the black death, for example, was a major driver of wages in Europe, and similar population issues had similar effects throughout history) would drive wages, while relative wealth between areas also mattered a great deal.
Yes, I was thinking of areas like the classical Mediterranean world where silver moved around fairly freely and there was a monetary economy. Not economically depressed and resource poor regions like Europe in the Dark Ages through High Medieval, when the Arab conquests and piracy had cut off Mediterranean trade. Generally this increased the value of silver but the main impact was silver (or any metal) just wasn't used much. The English economy ca 1200 AD for instance was largely not a monetary economy. Most castle staff for instance were generally not paid wages, they received food shelter clothes etc for their labour.

BTW here's a reference to a skilled Athenian labourer making 11.5 grams of silver a day, or about 3 sp at an historical 100 coins/lb. Athens had silver mines so wages tended to the high end. I've seen lots of references to Athenian rowers, Roman legionaries etc being paid 1 sp/day and wanting 2 sp/day.

Edit: Here's good stuff on ancient Rome. Like Stuart says "A Farm Laborer earned 1 Argenteus (silver) a day. A Roman Solider earned about double that (including grain). An Arithmetic Teacher earned 3 silver a day."

The 1 sp/day for unskilled labour seems remarkably consistent over time to me. I suspect this was for utility reasons. Eg in medieval Europe, when people did get paid (which was rare) it would still tend to be at 1 silver coin a day, but the coins were a lot smaller, more like 1/240 lb rather than a Classical 1/100 lb.
 
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Dannyalcatraz

Moderator
Staff member
You don't need rubies for the spell. In a world where fabricate exists, any gemstone will do (as long as it is of reasonable quality).

The jadeite mine provides a caster with a barrel of chips of crystal. One casting of fabricate later, there is a ruby 5ft across sitting on the bench.
A ruby or diamond is not a manufactured item. They're not things you can fabricate. The spell seems pretty clear what it's capable of.
Hmmm...The 3.5Ed version:

You convert material of one sort into a product that is of the same material. Creatures or magic items cannot be created or transmuted by the fabricate spell. The quality of items made by this spell is commensurate with the quality of material used as the basis for the new fabrication. If you work with a mineral, the target is reduced to 1 cubic foot per level instead of 10 cubic feet.

You must make an appropriate Craft check to fabricate articles requiring a high degree of craftsmanship.
The 5Ed version:
You convert raw materials into products of the same material. For example, you can fabricate a wooden bridge from a clump of trees, a rope from a patch of hemp, and clothes from flax or wool.
Choose raw materials that you can see within range. You can fabricate a Large or smaller object (contained within a 10-foot cube, or eight connected 5-foot cubes), given a sufficient quantity of raw material. If you are working with metal, stone, or another mineral substance, however, the fabricated object can be no larger than Medium (contained within a single 5-foot cube). The quality of objects made by the spell is commensurate with the quality of the raw materials.
Creatures or magic items can’t be created or transmuted by this spell. You also can’t use it to create items that ordinarily require a high degree of craftsmanship, such as jewelry, weapons, glass, or armor, unless you have proficiency with the type of artisan’s tools used to craft such objects.
I would say if you could use Fabricate to make a ball of wood from sawdust, you could make a marble of ruby from ruby dust. Maybe from corundum dust (rubies being red-colored corundum). Not from any other material, though, not even another mineral.

Thing is...the 3.5Ed and 5Ed versions of CF just require 50gp of ruby dust, so, Fabricate isn’t really needed.
 
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Celebrim

Legend
As far as Gygaxian economics goes, the problem that has plagued D&D since the beginning is Gygax created two separate incompatible economic systems.

Gygax the simulationist created a system based on historical research that was based on the living wage of roughly 1 silver coin per day. This is the NPC economy and food and other necessities, wages of unskilled labor, and taxes are valued in the NPC economy in 1e AD&D.

Gygax the gamist created a system based on what worked in his games based on a unified gold piece standard. This is the PC economy and adventuring equipment treasure, experience points, magic items, highly skilled labor, and buildings are largely valued according to the PC economy.

The two systems however are obviously not compatible. They are based on the assumption that by and large the PC's will interact only in minor ways with the NPC economy and that the game will continue to be primarily about adventuring and delving into dark places. PC income from taxes for example are priced in the NPC economy to keep the game focused on its intended gameplay and not have ruling over a territory replace adventuring as a major source of income.

Similarly, spells and magic items in D&D were balanced according to the PC economy and their utility in adventuring. They were not balanced and tend to be wildly unbalanced with respect to the NPC economy.

Whenever you try to do a holistic economy, the two things run into problems. As of at least 3.5, the legacy of this was still impacting game economics at least to some extent. I don't know if things have fully been regularized in 5e, but I would be surprised if they were and I'd guess that if 5e has removed the XP cost of spell casting or magic items that in some ways magic may even be worse balanced than 3.X from an economic perspective.
 

Dannyalcatraz

Moderator
Staff member
Sorry I was going by the 5e version, like most people I keep forgetting about the merged
boards. (edit) Both versions say "Product" though the 5e examples make it clearer..
Yeah, I figured I should include the 5Ed version, just in case.

I would suspect- from the examples given- that Fabricate works on more than one material at a time. Clothes are made with more than wool or cotton, for example, because of the dyes and threads. Though it’s possible to build bridges with just wood, usually there is use of metal nails and/or rope.
 

S'mon

Legend
Yeah, I figured I should include the 5Ed version, just in case.

I would suspect- from the examples given- that Fabricate works on more than one material at a time. Clothes are made with more than wool or cotton, for example, because of the dyes and threads. Though it’s possible to build bridges with just wood, usually there is use of metal nails and/or rope.
Oh definitely. If you have the materials you can make the product (if you have the skill).
 

Oofta

Title? I don't need no stinkin' title.
Yeah, I figured I should include the 5Ed version, just in case.

I would suspect- from the examples given- that Fabricate works on more than one material at a time. Clothes are made with more than wool or cotton, for example, because of the dyes and threads. Though it’s possible to build bridges with just wood, usually there is use of metal nails and/or rope.
Nails in construction is actually a fairly recent development, a lot of construction was timber framing, basically building with joints and pegs. As far as clothing, who says you can't have pre-died items or simply undied? If you're making cloth, why do you need thread. Even if you need thread, what's wrong with making thread out of the same material as the cloth?

Like a lot of things in D&D there's a lot of leeway and interpretations of how things work, so do what makes sense to you of course.
 

cbwjm

I can add a custom title.
Not sure if people are interested, but just in case, this is the spell description for fabricate from D&D Basic's Player's Guide to Alphatia.

This is a catch-all spell which creates materials useful to adventurers and others. Food, drink, and clothing, and other soft goods may be so created. The spell may create food and drink, or cloth and leather, or softwoods and porcelain; hardwoods, stones, metals, etc. may not be created.

As a rule of thumb, each casting of the spell will create one person's worth of the material in question. When it is used to make food and drink, it creates one day's rations.

Therefore, one application of the spell could create:
  • One day’s rations, including water and food (iron rations), but not the containers for them; or
  • A good meal for up to three people (this equals three meals for one person), including main course, side dishes, wines, etc.; or
  • Table settings (wood and porcelain) for up to three people; or
  • A complete outfit, including belt and boots (with leather ties or wooden buckles), waterskins and sheathes, for one person; or
  • A saddle and bridle for one horse; or
  • One softwood staff (other types of wooden weapons cannot be created), which always breaks on a 1 in 6; and so on.
Like the clothwall spell, this spell produces materials that may not be dispelled.

It helps if this spell is used with some sort of general skill. If the caster does not know how to cook, for instance, he can still fabricate food-but it is going to be plain. If he cannot sew or tailor, the clothes he creates will be shapeless and baggy. If he knows nothing of the cobbler's arts, the shoes he creates will probably be uncomfortable. Since the caster can stretch out the casting time to one full turn (he can make it take as little as one round), if he has an expert or craftsman on hand, he can get that person's advice and do a good job with his fabrication.

This spell is not so powerful as the clerical create water or create food, but it is more versatile.
What's interesting about it is that it is limited to soft materials. You can magic up yourself a fancy suit if you have the skill or a decent suit if you have a craftsman helping you but if you want to create a bridge or suit of armour then other magic or actual manpower is going to be needed.
 

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