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The economics of Continual flame

SkidAce

Legend
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.
They did that with magic items and you see the kerfluffle it caused. :LOL:
 

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NotAYakk

Legend
How secure is that person's stuff?

A 100 gp glowing asset sure looks like a good thing to steal. Storing up years of productivity on that kind of asset only works if the cost of stealing it is inflated by security.

That is the kind of way the rich get richer.

They don't spend money on oil, they can invest in a continual light torch and similar ability to invest in other stuff. This is offset by the cost of security.

It is status, because the low status people don't have the security to have that valuable an asset.
 
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Stalker0

Legend
How secure is that person's stuff?

A 100 gp glowing asset sure looks like a good thing to steal. Storing up years of productivity on that kind of asset only works if the cost of stealing it is inflated by security.

That is the kind of way the rich get richer.

They don't spend money on oil, they can invest in a continual light torch and similar ability to invest in other stuff. This is offset by the cost of security.

It is status, because the low status people don't have the security to have that valuable an asset.
Or the classic "the rich push a short term tax that forces a punch of peasants to use their CF as a tax", allowing the rich to gobble up these items. Classic the rich get richer.
 

Ancalagon

Dusty Dragon
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).
This analysis is beyond the scope of merely continual flame, but it is a good one. The fact that ruby value is not fungible (it's not gold) is a concern. Value of gems (and everything else) changes over time. Amethysts used to be as valuable as diamonds, for example; but when massive deposit were found in south America, their value plummeted.

Another big problem is "how does the spell know the value of your ruby dust?"

What to do?

Well, first of all this is D&D, not "build an economy". We have to - we must - accept certain things the way they are. You could redo the entire pricelist, sure, but what is the value to it? Will it make the game better? Probably not. So what I would advise is to "accept" that the current price of ruby dust is that 50 gp's worth is enough for this spell. Is this price stable - was it 50 a 100 years ago, or 100 years from now? I don't know. But this year, it's 50 gp. That's what the rules tell us.

But what the rules don't tell us is how common are these spells? Well, analysis shows us that they would be common indeed :)
 


ad_hoc

(he/they)
Two basic way to see the situation.
Phb describe the whole world functioning.
Phb describe the way PCs interact with the world.

Yeah, it is a lot of wasted space and added complexity to try to spell everything out.

They could have put a weight of ruby dust and then have a table which determines the fluctuating market of ruby dust.

But why? That sort of thing will turn a lot of people off from the game and provide little value.

All the players need to know is how much it costs and the DM can decide whether it is available.
 

Yeah, it is a lot of wasted space and added complexity to try to spell everything out.

They could have put a weight of ruby dust and then have a table which determines the fluctuating market of ruby dust.

But why? That sort of thing will turn a lot of people off from the game and provide little value.

All the players need to know is how much it costs and the DM can decide whether it is available.
Indeed spell are written in the phb for a common player usage.
In a magic world we can imagine different version of this spell, with different component, or simply arcane specialist who made continual flame without spell.
a DM may create a magic economics system or not for a part of his world.
 

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.
Yep. Honestly it seems fine to me, and fits an awful lot of fantasy lit.

In 2E I believe there was some suggestion (not in the actual spell I think) that CL gradually consumed the object it was cast on, over decades, which would stop them being something that just got more and more common over time.

But honestly I like the idea that CF isn't uncommon.
 

Ancalagon

Dusty Dragon
Yeah, it is a lot of wasted space and added complexity to try to spell everything out.

They could have put a weight of ruby dust and then have a table which determines the fluctuating market of ruby dust.

But why? That sort of thing will turn a lot of people off from the game and provide little value.

All the players need to know is how much it costs and the DM can decide whether it is available.
Yeah, my analysis was complicated, why bother with all the work?

The joy of the internet is that sometimes, other people do the work for you.

D&D doesn't tell us how common continual flame is. As a GM you can make an arbitrary decision, try to figure it out yourself, which can be hard, or you can see if someone else came up with a decent answer.

This is true of so many things. What if you want to know the price of something not in the books, like say, quicksilver ? Healing potions are plentiful, how would they be used by the common populace?
 

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