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The economics of Continual flame

Umbran

Mod Squad
Staff member
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.

Note: "the quality of objects made by the spell is commensurate with the quality of the raw materials." Is sawdust high quality wood? No. That says to me that if you use sawdust, you're goign to end up... with the equivalent of modern compressed fiberboard, like used in lots of IKEA furniture.

Do that with ruby dust.. you get this cloudy ball of compressed bits, not a single flawless crystal.
 

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Dannyalcatraz

Schmoderator
Staff member
Note: "the quality of objects made by the spell is commensurate with the quality of the raw materials." Is sawdust high quality wood? No. That says to me that if you use sawdust, you're goign to end up... with the equivalent of modern compressed fiberboard, like used in lots of IKEA furniture.

Do that with ruby dust.. you get this cloudy ball of compressed bits, not a single flawless crystal.

Immaterial (no pun intended)- the CF spell just needs ruby dust, not ruby gems.

And ruby itself comes in many grades. Here’s a 35mm polished sphere made from low grade ruby:
54722.jpg


Not that visually impressive, and possibly less expensive than spheres of similar size made from other minerals.
 
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Dannyalcatraz

Schmoderator
Staff member
Why even create a ruby from ruby dust in the first place when you need the dust for the spell?

I actually noted that at the end of my first post here. The making the sphere thing was just me examining the limits of Fabricate. So I was saying you could make a product with just ruby dust, just like you could with wood. But what you could make from it would be limited, and you couldn’t change the dust from one mineral to another.
 


Umbran

Mod Squad
Staff member
Immaterial (no pun intended)- the CF spell just needs ruby dust, not ruby gems.

Yep. I'm just talking about the Fabricate spell, and what it could accomplish. Making perfect crystals from dust does not seem to be its purview.

And ruby itself comes in many grades.

Yes. Spell components, in general, speak to gold piece value, rather than weight or size. Effectively, the spell component needs *value attributed by people* to be used, which is interesting and appropriate for magic.
 

Aenorgreen

First Post
I think you are confusing quality with physical form. Sawdust is just very small pieces of wood. Fabricate changes the shape and size of the materials. So if that sawdust was all of teak or mahogany it would make fine quality furniture with a fabricate spell (assuming skill proficiency). If it is all knotty yellow pine it would not be as good.

I see no reason you couldn't take smaller gemstones and make a larger gemstone with it. There is nothing in the spell that suggests it would suddenly include a bunch of foreign material that was not there before.
 

Stalker0

Legend
I think you are confusing quality with physical form. Sawdust is just very small pieces of wood. Fabricate changes the shape and size of the materials. So if that sawdust was all of teak or mahogany it would make fine quality furniture with a fabricate spell (assuming skill proficiency). If it is all knotty yellow pine it would not be as good.

I see no reason you couldn't take smaller gemstones and make a larger gemstone with it. There is nothing in the spell that suggests it would suddenly include a bunch of foreign material that was not there before.

I agree, there’s nothing in fabricate that limits its ability to merge materials, in fact many of the examples would be just that. Turning ruby dust into a ruby seems completely within its purview. Now it won’t be a pretty ruby unless you had gem cutting but a ruby nonetheless.
 

Yes. Spell components, in general, speak to gold piece value, rather than weight or size. Effectively, the spell component needs *value attributed by people* to be used, which is interesting and appropriate for magic.

I always figured that that was just a matter of convenience. That is, casting chromatic orb requires that you have a diamond of so-and-so many carats on-hand, and a diamond of so-and-so many carats happens to cost 50 gp. That's a lot more convenient than having the spell specify the quality/size of the stone and then having to look up how much that would cost in a different section of the rules.
 



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.
Such a job would probably include free lodging & possibly even free/subsidized food.as part of the lodging. A town that is well off enough to justify the expense is almost certainly either a military outpost that already feeds everyone or is going to have some well off merchant/spokesperson with a kid that could be tutored as part of the 6 month job to light the town & educate the kid s bit
 

jasper

Rotten DM
RANDOMIZED thouhhts…

…t 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….

One day in the far past but add 3 years and one day ago. “RUN ARTy ARTISAN. RUN. AND ADVENTUREING GROUP has came to town. “

Arty, “Why would an adventuring group come to Pompeii.?”

Far off voice, “OOPS!”

***

Order in the court. Order in the court the case of Grand Father’s Offta’s Continual Flame is now in session. You Offta the thin claim your grandfather left the Continual Flame lamp in his will which he gave you on Tuesday FR 1492 just before he sailed the ocean blue and was eaten by a sea elf. And you Offta the Shopper Keeper say you have a will given by your grandfather who met his death after boarding the good air ship lolly pop an was eaten by cloud elves.

But I still alive said Grandfather Offta.



***

Large cities might have lamplighters …. smaller cities probably just have torchbearers for hire….

Jasper looks at the races with Darkvision. Hmm torchbearers and Lamplighters would be a noble I blowing money I don’t have too category.

***

…he 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 …… DEFCON is inventing DISCO. Grab the torches and Pitchfolk bearers… Harrumph.

**DOH> DOH DOH. I already did random thoughts in this thread.
 

Charlaquin

Goblin Queen
This is an old thread, but a fun subject, so I’ll toss in my two coppers.

Not sure if this has been brought up yet, but adventurer’s league seems to price spellcasting services with the formula: [spell level]^2*10+2*[cost of any material components the spell consumes]+0.1*[cost of any material components the spell doesn’t consume]. That would mean the “standard AL price” for a casting of Continual Flame is not 50gp but 140gp (!), and would take about 7 and a half years to pay for itself rather than 3. Obviously nobody is obligated to follow this pricing model, but I think it can help give us a sense of what might be a reasonable baseline.

Furthermore, while Continual Flame may still “pay for itself” in the long-term, the short-term investment may well be too much for most common folk. A laborer makes about 2sp a day and has to spend all of it to maintain a poor lifestyle. They would have to subsist at a squalid lifestyle for about 4 years to save up for a single purchase that’s not going to actually pay off for another 7.

The prospect looks slightly better for a skilled artisan. They make 1 gp a day and have to spend all of it to maintain a modest lifestyle, but they don’t have to settle for a poor lifestyle nearly as long if they want to save up for a big purchase thanks to the big gap between those expense levels - only about 6 months. Even still, it’s tough to justify living so far below your means for half a year to buy an appliance that serves a function that is already fulfilled living at your usual means. Maybe it’s a wise investment long-term, but long-term investments aren’t usually a high priority when you live paycheck to paycheck.

Now, exceptional artisans, nobles, and of course adventurers, I can see making such investments. But common folk? Nah.
 

This is an old thread, but a fun subject, so I’ll toss in my two coppers.

Not sure if this has been brought up yet, but adventurer’s league seems to price spellcasting services with the formula: [spell level]^2*10+2*[cost of any material components the spell consumes]+0.1*[cost of any material components the spell doesn’t consume]. That would mean the “standard AL price” for a casting of Continual Flame is not 50gp but 140gp (!), and would take about 7 and a half years to pay for itself rather than 3. Obviously nobody is obligated to follow this pricing model, but I think it can help give us a sense of what might be a reasonable baseline.

Furthermore, while Continual Flame may still “pay for itself” in the long-term, the short-term investment may well be too much for most common folk. A laborer makes about 2sp a day and has to spend all of it to maintain a poor lifestyle. They would have to subsist at a squalid lifestyle for about 4 years to save up for a single purchase that’s not going to actually pay off for another 7.

The prospect looks slightly better for a skilled artisan. They make 1 gp a day and have to spend all of it to maintain a modest lifestyle, but they don’t have to settle for a poor lifestyle nearly as long if they want to save up for a big purchase thanks to the big gap between those expense levels - only about 6 months. Even still, it’s tough to justify living so far below your means for half a year to buy an appliance that serves a function that is already fulfilled living at your usual means. Maybe it’s a wise investment long-term, but long-term investments aren’t usually a high priority when you live paycheck to paycheck.

Now, exceptional artisans, nobles, and of course adventurers, I can see making such investments. But common folk? Nah.
it's not just the "common folk" who have a vested interest in such a thing. A landlord who pays to have one of the boards in a building's common area type room is a landlord who is far less likely too own a pile of charred rubble. Even if the occupants are serfs the lord practically owns there is good sense in having a wizard come through occasionally to give the "common people" a reason to remember why they give such a large percentage of their crops to the lord.
 
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Charlaquin

Goblin Queen
it's not just the "common folk" who have a vested interest in such a thing. A landlord who pays to have one of the boards in a building's common area type room is a landlord who is far less likely too own a pile of charred rubble. Even if the occupants are serfs the lord practically owns there is good sense in having a wizard come through occasionally to give the "common people" a reason to remember why they give such a lare percentage of their crops to the lord.
Oh, for sure! A landlord paying a wizard to install continual flames in his serfs’ homes makes all the sense in the world.
 

Oofta

Title? I don't need no stinkin' title.
When it comes to the economics of continual flame, remember that it lasts virtually forever. A continual flame would last generations, potentially being a family heirloom. Add in the fact that it's probably much higher quality light than what you would get from candles, you don't have to worry about fire or soot and I think they would be reasonably commonplace.

I think people underestimate the value of safe light that never causes the house to burn down, that works in any inclement weather such as rain or even underwater that just works for lifetimes.

That and in my own campaign world, there is magic that is not appropriate for PC classes. There could be people that learn to do just the continual flame spells, specialized artisans who grasp just enough to do one or two spells even if it takes them an hour to cast a spell that a PC could cast with the snap of their fingers.
 

Stalker0

Legend
Ah yes, always a fun subject! I think one of the economic issues here is we need a REAL DEEP look at what the "costs" of CF actually are.

50 GP of ruby dust. Now 50 GP is an economic term not a "quantity", which is not how we in the real world would define the formula for making something. For example you would never see a cookbook say "add $5 of flour". So in terms of what this means for the spell there are a few possibilities:

  • The setting is an absolute planned economy for all time. Gold is set at a certain value because some entity said so (governmental body, the gods themselves, etc). Therefore, ruby dust has a set economy standard, and the price of CF has a set standard, absolute and unchangeable. This is technically how it is if you take the mechanics literally and ignore any setting considerations. If this is true, than all discussions of market economics and supply and demand go out the window..... as a market driven economy does not exist.

  • Prices are a current snapshot of a market driven economy. Prices can change over time with market forces, so a CF spell could cost 50, 60, 100, 10 gp worth of ruby dust.... its just it costs 50 gp because of the market forces on price at this moment in history. In this model, we can explain CF's high or low availability with any explanation of historic market forces. "Yes under current prices CF is becoming more available, but 50 years ago it costs 150 GP of ruby dust so very few had it until the ruby mining expansion lowered prices". This explanation holds unless your setting goes over a long history of time in which case you need to get a bit more creative to explain it.

  • The amount of ruby dust required by CF is decreasing over time. In this model, CF does not actually require a SET amount of dust, but some set X% of the world's total ruby amount (or heck maybe even the multiverse!). Therefore, the more ruby dust that is consumed, the less actual quantity of ruby dust is needed by the spell. This is a very weird concept that has no place in our reality.... chemistry does not change if one of the chemicals suddenly became rarer in the world. However, this is magic, the rules of standard reality need not apply.... perhaps the "magic" within the dust is concentrated to the remaining ruby in the world as its consumed in the spell.... and so the remaining world's ruby becomes more "concentrated with magic" over time.

    Now this may sound similar to a modern economy, our prices are driven by scarcity after all, and a good that becomes scarce goes up in price. However, its not exactly the same, modern economies are driven by "scarcity of production" and not "scarcity of total amount". Oil prices do not reflect how much total oil there is in the world's crust, but how fast we can pump it out of the ground. Only at the very tail end of a good's lifespan when the supply completely runs out, do you see prices start to reflect total amount. But with this strange magical effect, instead the ruby has intrinsic ever increasing value....the more CF is cast, the more powerful the remaining wizards that didn't cast CF become, and no amount of ruby mining in the world can change that. In fact perhaps the price of ruby itself is set by this very process....50 GP of ruby dust is the amount of dust it takes to cast a CF, which sets the price of ruby at any time (which in itself is a sort of planned economic price rather than a market driven one).

    Here's a quick example in case that is confusing. Say it takes 100 grams of ruby dust to cast CF. 100 grams of ruby = 50 GP = .5 GP per gram. 10 years from now, it takes 50 grams to cast CF. 50 gram of ruby = 100 GB = 2 GP per gram.....ruby has quadrupled in value over 10 years (its unlikely to be that fast but it highlights the point).

    So under this model, the more CF is cast, the more expensive it becomes for that caster to cast it again. Further, the more wizards that exist that cast CF, the more expensive it becomes.

    In this model, a wizard is heavily incentivized to hold on to their ruby dust. Therefore the same long term investment desires that an artisan has to buy a CF spell is also convincing the wizard its best not to cast that spell, and let their ruby dust simply grow in value. And so the availability of CF naturally balances itself, the more there is, the more expensive it becomes to make a new one, the price will continue to increase over time, eventually economies will balance to create a set amount of CF in the world.


In summary, we have to respect that CF either does not follow standard economic theory, or that market forces have been historically something that explains their relative scarcity (assuming they are in fact scarce in your setting).
 
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Oofta

Title? I don't need no stinkin' title.
Ah yes, always a fun subject! I think one of the economic issues here is we need a REAL DEEP look at what the "costs" of CF actually are.

50 GP of ruby dust. Now 50 GP is an economic term not a "quantity", which is not how we in the real world would define the formula for making something. For example you would never see a cookbook say "add $5 of flour". So in terms of what this means for the spell there are a few possibilities:

  • The setting is an absolute planned economy for all time. Gold is set at a certain value because some entity said so (governmental body, the gods themselves, etc). Therefore, ruby dust has a set economy standard, and the price of CF has a set standard, absolute and unchangeable. This is technically how it is if you take the mechanics literally and ignore any setting considerations. If this is true, than all discussions of market economics and supply and demand go out the window..... as a market driven economy does not exist.

  • Prices are a current snapshot of a market driven economy. Prices can change over time with market forces, so a CF spell could cost 50, 60, 100, 10 gp worth of ruby dust.... its just it costs 50 gp because of the market forces on price at this moment in history. In this model, we can explain CF's high or low availability with any explanation of historic market forces. "Yes under current prices CF is becoming more available, but 50 years ago it costs 150 GP of ruby dust so very few had it until the ruby mining expansion lowered prices". This explanation holds unless your setting goes over a long history of time in which case you need to get a bit more creative to explain it.

  • The amount of ruby dust required by CF is decreasing over time. In this model, CF does not actually require a SET amount of dust, but some set X% of the world's total ruby amount (or heck maybe even the multiverse!). Therefore, the more ruby dust that is consumed, the less actual quantity of ruby dust is needed by the spell. This is a very weird concept that has no place in our reality.... chemistry does not change if one of the chemicals suddenly became rarer in the world. However, this is magic, the rules of standard reality need not apply.... perhaps the "magic" within the dust is concentrated to the remaining ruby in the world as its consumed in the spell.... and so the remaining world's ruby becomes more "concentrated with magic" over time.

    Now this may sound similar to a modern economy, our prices are driven by scarcity after all, and a good that becomes scarce goes up in price. However, its not exactly the same, modern economies are driven by "scarcity of production" and not "scarcity of total amount". Oil prices do not reflect how much total oil there is in the world's crust, but how fast we can pump it out of the ground. Only at the very tail end of a good's lifespan when the supply completely runs out, do you see prices start to reflect total amount. But with this strange magical effect, instead the ruby has intrinsic ever increasing value....the more CF is cast, the more powerful the remaining wizards that didn't cast CF become, and no amount of ruby mining in the world can change that. In fact perhaps the price of ruby itself is set by this very process....50 GP of ruby dust is the amount of dust it takes to cast a CF, which sets the price of ruby at any time (which in itself is a sort of planned economic price rather than a market driven one).

    Here's a quick example in case that is confusing. Say it takes 100 grams of ruby dust to cast CF. 100 grams of ruby = 50 GP = .5 GP per gram. 10 years from now, it takes 50 grams to cast CF. 50 gram of ruby = 100 GB = 2 GP per gram.....ruby has quadrupled in value over 10 years (its unlikely to be that fast but it highlights the point).

    So under this model, the more CF is cast, the more expensive it becomes for that caster to cast it again. Further, the more wizards that exist that cast CF, the more expensive it becomes.

    In this model, a wizard is heavily incentivized to hold on to their ruby dust. Therefore the same long term investment desires that an artisan has to buy a CF spell is also convincing the wizard its best not to cast that spell, and let their ruby dust simply grow in value. And so the availability of CF naturally balances itself, the more there is, the more expensive it becomes to make a new one, the price will continue to increase over time, eventually economies will balance to create a set amount of CF in the world.


In summary, we have to respect that CF either does not follow standard economic theory, or that market forces have been historically something that explains their relative scarcity (assuming they are in fact scarce in your setting).
What? You mean that D&D is a vast oversimplification of reality and it's meaningless to try to analyze specific details? Sacrilege!

Maybe with the next edition, they' just specify that you need 2 ounces* of ruby dust (specifically made from AAA grade rubies, not that industrial quality crap) and then let the DM decide how much that would cost in their campaign world. Much more realistic! :p

*None of this metric stuff in D&D, obviously the metric system hadn't been invented yet in the timeframe of the game.
 

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