Value of a copper piece

prosfilaes

Adventurer
I acknowledge upfront the difference between a medieval economy and a modern one, but I was surprised by how much a copper piece was in practical terms. A low-level laborer makes 10 cp per day, as per 3.5 DMG 105 or PF 159 or 2ed DMG xx. So relatively stable over the editions. That's 3650 cp a year. A US full-time minimum wage laborer makes 15,000 USD a year, so a cp is about 4 USDs. That doesn't tells us buying power, but it should equate roughly to how they feel in the hands of the poor. Imagine how it should feel to your character raised from the slums looking at a pile of copper... that is, like looking at a pile of dollar bills. Tossing out gp to beggars should be like handing out hundred dollar bills. A longsword is worth 15 gp, or $6,000; you leave it in a saddle bag, you should expect it to be gone when you get back. A "mere" +1 weapon is 2000 gp, or $800,000; you leave that lying around in a temple of a LG god, I'm not sure you should expect to find it there when you get back. PF character wealth by level says that each 3rd level character is carrying 3000 gp, or over a million USD. In some ways, our comparison has long broken down by that point, but any way you cut it, that's 55 years of an average man's salary. If a bunch of thugs manage to jump a party of four 3rd level characters and kill them, they can live the rest of their lives with all the alcohol, food and whores they want even after whatever the fence takes.

The reason I thought about this is that in my Ptolus campaign, there's going to be a curse during pregnancy that horribly mutates the child (i.e., makes them tiefling, aasimar, or any one of a number of planetouched races I have or will make). There's a magical charm, such that if it's worn during pregnancy, the child will be fine. But I wondered how much to make that charm to put it out of the reach of the lower classes but easily feasible for upper classes. Depending on how low and high, I'm thinking 5-50 gp.

This has larger ramifications. One argument is that D&D's economy is creaky, and don't shine a spotlight on it. On the other hand, maybe pressing it would be fun. As narrator or NPC, why, yes, you can buy a periapt of wisdom + 4, or you feed and clothe most of the poor in the city. In Ptolus, I suspect there's a lot of bodies that may or may not be returned to the surface of people who decided their life was worth any shot at a million dollars. Maybe they had to hock everything they owned to buy a long sword, but they were going to try it.
 
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S'mon

Legend
Minimum wages were brought in as a 'fair wage' because in a market economy with a labour surplus and no welfare state, wages for unskilled labour will be much lower, at around subsistence level. So you cannot use any country's minimum wage as an equivalent to subsistence-level wage.

I use 1 cp = 50p, 1 sp = £5, 1 gp = £50, or about $75. Anywhere in the $50-$100 range gives reasonable results. The unskilled labourer requires a minimum 1 sp/day, or about £5. This is enough for food (mostly grains & vegetables), (untaxed) beer, and a very small surplus for clothing repair etc.

Edit: Wages in practice will often be higher, especially if there is no labour surplus. In the city a labourer might expect 5sp/day, and this may be enforced by a Guild or similar organisation. City costs may be higher too, though.

I remember reading an economic study of the Roman Empire, using bread costs as a way to equate Roman and modern wages. It looked like Roman paid labourers earned around $23/day using bread purchasing parity, about £15, or about 3 sp on my 1 sp = £5. Or you can keep the 1 sp = 1 day's wage, in which case 1 sp = $23. AFAIR medieval wages were generally a lot lower, though, except possibly in the cities.
 
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On Puget Sound

First Post
Through much of Europe's history, most people rarely saw a coin of any type. If you worked, you got to eat. If you owned anything, it was probably either something you made or something you directly traded for something you made.
 

prosfilaes

Adventurer
Minimum wages were brought in as a 'fair wage' because in a market economy with a labour surplus and no welfare state, wages for unskilled labour will be much lower, at around subsistence level. So you cannot use any country's minimum wage as an equivalent to subsistence-level wage.

Still, I think the effect of someone carrying around a portable object equal to 55 times your annual wage is similar, no matter how you cut it.

I use 1 cp = 50p, 1 sp = £5, 1 gp = £50, or about $75. Anywhere in the $50-$100 range gives reasonable results.

Still, that makes a +1 sword a $150,000 item, a 3rd level character carries around $200,000 in items and money, and a periapt of wisdom + 4 is 1.2 million. Those are still numbers that are going to get a response out of people, especially the poor. Saying "I got 1.2 million on my last run..." is going to get people talking about how you should donate to the church or help out their charity or invest in their business.
 

S'mon

Legend
Still, that makes a +1 sword a $150,000 item, a 3rd level character carries around $200,000 in items and money, and a periapt of wisdom + 4 is 1.2 million. Those are still numbers that are going to get a response out of people, especially the poor. Saying "I got 1.2 million on my last run..." is going to get people talking about how you should donate to the church or help out their charity or invest in their business.

I agree, and the GM should be careful about having NPCs offer the PCs enormous sums of money for relatively trivial tasks. Pathfinder adventures are particularly bad about this I've noticed - "Go pick some herbs, I'll give you 100gp" or "Kill the beast for 1000gp" - at first level. 1000gp can get you a small army.
 

SLupo

First Post
True. That's why I reduced gold awards for the PCs drastically - which isn't much of a problem for my campaign, since it doesn't contain magic item shops and magic items are rare in general.

It's just a bit silly when a mayor offers 4 level 1 or 2 PCs 500 gp for killing an ogre and a few orcs, when he could pay 100 mercenaries to do the job.
 

One of the problems with cross-temporal purchasing parity comparisons (or international purchasing parity comparisons) is that the relative costs of goods and services changes over time. Today, in the United States, any sort of labor is fairly expensive. Hiring an unskilled laborer at the federal minimum wage is roughly $15,000, as the original poster noted. Conversely, food and especially finished goods like clothes are extraordinarily cheap in a historical context. It would be possible to get subsistence food (including meat!) in the U.S. for under $5/day, and you can get a set of clothes for $20 or less (if you're willing to buy as cheap as you can). Housing is fairly expensive, though.

If you compare that to most of history, it was very common for food to be expensive relative to unskilled labor--unskilled laborers would be earning at or around a subsistence living, and often starving when a harvest was bad, a drought hit, etc. The same was true for clothes. But that meant that as soon as you got out of abject poverty, you could afford to hire a personal servant. My favorite example of this is a statement from Agatha Christie's autobiography that Brad DeLong paraphrased as "she mentioned how she never thought she would ever be wealthy enough to own a car – nor so poor that she wouldn’t have servants"--a statement that would be inconceivable by the end of her own lifetime, when cars became (relatively) cheap and servants became relatively expensive.

So the problem is that picking a basket of goods for purchasing price parity greatly skews the cost. Do you include a cook, maid, and private tutor for the children? Then people in the past look rich. Do you include only physical goods? Then people in the past look like paupers.
 

A

amerigoV

Guest
True. That's why I reduced gold awards for the PCs drastically - which isn't much of a problem for my campaign, since it doesn't contain magic item shops and magic items are rare in general.

It's just a bit silly when a mayor offers 4 level 1 or 2 PCs 500 gp for killing an ogre and a few orcs, when he could pay 100 mercenaries to do the job.


Or the peasant farmer gives the PCs a +1 sword that is just laying around gathering dust from when their old uncle Harry used to adventure. But then again, there is no EBAY to check the value before giving your "junk" away :)
 

Loonook

First Post
This is why Profession checks exist :).

The lowest wage one earns for unskilled labor is 1 SP/day. For those who have a bit of skill at something this can increase dramatically. Half a profession check in GP for an average NPC (lvl 1 commoner, no special Int qualifications, ability to take 10) would come to 5-6 GP/week. 260-310GP/year is not a horrible wage... But then we look at costs.

A Soldier (a base Warrior 1) makes 6 GP/month just for standing about in the employ of a castle's guard. That same soldier may take cross ranks in Profession (Cobbler), gain a rank, and make an additional 5 GP/week. A soldier in the employ of someone probably has a billet and Meagre fare, and has the ability to sell his arms and armor when he changes sides as long as outfitting and the keeping of his outfit is in his contract (not horribly uncommon in the day). Most of his arms and armor are supplied by his master/mistress, and probably become swapped every couple of years so that can be factored in.

Perhaps he also gets the right to keep what he finds on raids to a certain percentage (also not uncommon). Figure 3 level appropriate encounters per year (bandits at the gates, a boar attacks the family dogs, reward posted etc.) and you have an extra 225 GP in pocket.

225 + 72 + 260 - 557

We have 46.41 GP/month coming in for our 1st level Warrior. Not a horrible wage, but by the rules of Upkeep (3x DMG p. 130) he's looking at 12 GP/mo for Poor upkeep of his own, reduced by his Meager supplied fare (7GP/mo overall). If he has a spouse with a skill they would clear around 60 GP/year, covering their own Meager upkeep, and cost an additional 84 GP/year for Poor upkeep. Factor in a kid or two at half upkeep and you're looking at an additional 144 GP/year for upkeep costs as Poor.

557 - 144 - 84 - 84 = 245 GP/year.

This figures a poor accommodation (possibly paying the liegelord for a couple of tick mattresses or a hovel near the household). They will need to purchase clothing (2 GP covers 5 outfits for each member of the family, his guard's uniform would be provided) and other sundries not covered by Upkeep. If he plays his cards right he could do pretty well for himself. If he invests in durable goods for his household he could have a couple of Lanterns, a dog for company on guard duty (and perhaps a whelp for the hovel), and other finery. This is of course not figuring in any taxation; if he and the missus were taxed a quarter of his income he would be looking at disposable income around 78.75GP while keeping his duties.

In four or so years of encounters our Sample Soldier gains a level, becoming more competent as a guard (doubling his current monthly rate)... he may even gain a bit more power among the rank and file. At this rate (72 GP/year) he may be able to afford some nicer things for the home. That brings the overall income to 317 GP/year. If he is taxed he would be bringing home 132.75 GP. He still couldn't move to a Common standing (1152 GP increase in overall cost! yikes!). He will be facing the same types of encounters with his same crew. He will continue his steady progression of leveling for 12 years. Over that time it is possible that his children have taken up skills and may supply additional income, additional children are present and non-contributing, or even that a mouth has been lost.

Overall you're looking at people who just move up slightly in station. Most adventurers, who sleep outdoors, can handle a monster, etc. don't think of the consequences. An unskilled laborer is going to be scrounging silver and in Self-Sufficient levels of upkeep their entire lives. A Smith, for example, could hire on 'apprentices' to do unskilled labor, provide food and board, and reap the profits... Just like in the real world ;).

In the math of D&D there are vague concepts of an economy. It actually hangs pretty well together. Adventurers sit in an echelon somewhere between high-powered merchant houses and sovereign stateholders. They draw their wealth based on their circumstances, and carry around large amounts of it in hard assets. Most PCs don't seem to believe in a lot of liquidity, reinvestment, or generally anything beyond 'getting a new shiny sword'. A lot of DMs I talk to follow that route, and provide large amounts of filthy, filthy lucre for the purpose.

Copper is worthwhile... When you're counting every penny.

Slainte,

-Loonook.
 

Loonook

First Post
Since we're discussing costs for living, let us go into what is required to live a Common Lifestyle Upkeep. A Common Lifestyle costs 540 GP/year to maintain per the same Upkeep chart. Common Lifestyle is one that has you living in a nice common inn, with 2 common and 1 Good meal (stews and fresh bread, for dinner what we would now consider a 'meal' of multiple small courses, meat, carbs (rice, potatoes, other starch), possible veggies, and wine/beer with any of the meals) , common accommodation (sharing a common room with multiple individuals, common wash and latrine), and around 5 GP/mo left for candles, oil, and basic comforts. This is of course if you are living out on your own; the Common Upkeep could also fit for those who own a small cottage in a nice location, about the rate of a standard one-family 'city living' accommodation.

With the additional bump between Poor and Common (392 GP/year :O) you're looking at some high expenses. Who can afford a 'common' lifestyle?

Our sample family would have to have an income of around 4.4GP/day to afford such a lavish lifestyle if you have 365 days in your calendar. That amounts to 44 TIMES the value of an unskilled laborer.

Our Soldier in the previous example has spent the last 8 years on the Watch, and become quite knowledgeable. Wanting to leave the role of an enforcer he has begun working on various civic projects, learning about politics, and spent some of his additional money on investing in himself. He spent the last year off the Watch apprenticing himself out as a hand to a Smith and being an auxiliary member called in on 'bigger issues'. He now has Profession (Cobbler) trained to 1 rank (2 SP) and has trained in Craft. At his next level he takes Expert, to show his focus on his new skills. He takes 2 ranks in Profession, 3 ranks in Craft (Metalworking), and 1 in Knowledge (Local) from his time away from the Guards.

Now our Soldier has a useful Craft. He isn't the best man of his age at the work, but for a soldier he is quite good at his work. He invests in a set of Masterwork Artisan Tools, knowing that having the fine tools of a master craftsman will assist his endeavors.

The Commander, knowing a soldier at the forge may assist his men, employs our Soldier to the forge. Paying full value he sets up the Soldier under the grizzly veteran Smith and his apprentice at the city's armory.

A fancy Smithy (2000GP) provides +2 to craft checks. With Aid Another checks the Smith and his Apprentice can assist our Soldier. He can produce 2 Longswords/week for the Watch under these conditions (13 + 2 (masterwork) +4 (AO) +2=21, 21*15 = 315 SP, 31.5 GP, 15 GP/longsword). 8 longswords/month (80 GP/month after cost of materials), then payment to our apprentice and smith (Smiths run 12GP/mo per Stronghold Builder's Guide, 3 GP/apprentice) you have improved your overall monthly rate to 65 GP.

780 GP/year... Now if you are still in the Auxiliary you're going to have a very nice chunk of change to spend.

Now you can see the way individuals in D&D can raise themselves up while still being broke. Craft and Profession checks are fantastic things. If our Soldier had started out as a Smith's Apprentice (Exp 1) he would be producing an even larger amount of money. Of course some of this cash would be spent on various tools and services, over time investing in your own Smithy, paying apprentices, purchasing and resale of equipment, etc...

If you can have a large team of Apprentices assisting you in the process (Aid Another is a wonderful tool) and your specific DM believes in the Quick Craft rules you can make your tools even more quickly, and provide even more income. Of course a Smith would gain experience slower than our Soldier would see combat. A Smith could be called to arms every year during his able-bodied period, gaining 1d2 encounters/year from age 16 to 40. If this were the case the Smith would be around 3rd-4th level by his 40th year (if he survived combat...). At 4th level your Smith (with Skill Focus: Craft (Weaponsmithing), with five apprentices [10+10+2+2+9] can Quick Craft (if allowed) craft (DC: 25, take ten skill: 33) [33*25] 825 sp worth of martial weapons/week. That is 22 longswords per month. 190 GP/month for our Smith at ~ age 40.

The Smith would be able to own/nearly own his own Fancy Smithy (if he needs to be independent), and probably be making additional money on Journeymen smiths who hawk their wares through him (5-10% gross of anything sold in his shop). He's making a fine lower class lifestyle, and with grown children out of the home (or working as Smiths themselves on cheaper equipment) he can establish a pretty decent lifestyle for himself.

Now back to 'Money offered for creatures is too high!'. An Ogre tramping about a town is a major drain on the town's economy. A small town has a max Expert who ranges in level from 3rd to 12th, a commoner of 4-16th level, and a 1-4 lvl aristocrat. These individuals produce a LOT of trade goods, have fields, collect taxes... And that same small town may have some PC characters available. However, it isn't a guarantee... And killing your own people can be expensive in goodwill costs. If the Smith above saves only 10% of his overall income for possible issues, and his fellows do the same... There's plenty of cash available for such sponsorship. The local adventurers would charge at least 30 GP/level/month, not including spellcasting costs, outfitting, etc.

To retain a 3rd level Fighter and a retinue of 4 3rd level guardsmen with leather armor, longswords, bows and arrows for a minimum month-long engagement we're talking (306 GP wages, 50 for leather, 75 for longswords, 375 gp for longbows, 10 GP for two quivers of arrows/ea, 10 gp for daggers, 15 gp for light wooden shields) comes out to 841 GP. Of course your small town doesn't HAVE 4 3rd level guardsmen (tops at 1 8th level, 2 4th, 4 2nd level)... Carriage of those warriors from another city, plus additional pay... But that is still below the average value of a CR 3 encounter (900 GP). It's gonna be much cheaper to get adventurers to do it for fool's wages and the pillage. Of course if your guys come with most of their equipment you're still paying 306 GP plus arrows, and probably be charged by the warriors for use of arms in other ways (shelter, food, etc.) that, over the month, will lead to more issues.

Again these numbers are rough for wages, based on charts found in the Stronghold Builder's Guide p. 42, DMG and PHB as listed.

So yes, it does seem like a large amount of money at first blush... but the costs of living, costs of equipping, etc. and MUCH higher when you start looking at it from a community level. As I said adventurers are upper-middle class citizens with no liquid assets.

Slainte,

-Loonook.
 

AngryMojo

First Post
I prefer to compare a D&D commoner to the median worldwide income rather than US minimum wage. This puts that 3650 cp per year equivalent to $7000 US. The math puts one copper at $1.91 US, which I find to be a little more palatable. Magic items are still an absurdly unrealistic economy, but I generally don't allow them to be traded.
 

prosfilaes

Adventurer
I prefer to compare a D&D commoner to the median worldwide income rather than US minimum wage.

Why? How is that a better comparison?

I have a problem with a "median worldwide income" in that it's averaging dissimilar things. The price of a Big-Mac varies by a factor of three between the Ukraine and Switzerland. Your $7000 wage is not sufficient to put a roof over your head in some places I've lived; I don't think it's enough to scrape by without government or other help anywhere in the US. Obviously that $7000 means something different to those earning it then it would to me. Since part of my goal was to ponder what it would feel like if I were in a D&D world and someone tossed me a copper or a gold, or someone walked by throwing gold around, it needs to be in terms of money as it means to me and my players. Certainly when I'm thinking about stressing about how much my groceries cost, the fact that food is cheaper now then then makes the copper worth more, not less.

There's certainly an argument that rather then pegging minimum wage to minimum wage, we should see what happens if we peg middle class to middle class. I still think it should be concrete numbers that matter to the people making the connection, not abstract median world income.
 

Loonook

First Post
I prefer to compare a D&D commoner to the median worldwide income rather than US minimum wage. This puts that 3650 cp per year equivalent to $7000 US. The math puts one copper at $1.91 US, which I find to be a little more palatable. Magic items are still an absurdly unrealistic economy, but I generally don't allow them to be traded.

The average D&D setting, where magic items are everywhere, makes the economy slightly absurd. The amount of items produced per capita per annum, item loss, and item destruction need to be taken into account by the DM to determine their availability.

Let's look at a maxed out metropolis of 50,000, assuming Experts as our crafters and the 20th level 'cap' on levels for npc classes, and assume all of our crafters have max ranks in Craft (Weaponsmith).

4 20th level Experts (EL: 26 for our purposes of determining additional crafters)
8 13th level Experts
16 6th level Experts
32 3rd level Experts
64 2nd (to balance out our 'lost' 6th level Expert and other fractions)
1628 1st level Experts (128 + 3% overall pop in Experts 1 (1500))*

Now Craft is a trained skill, so let us give up 5 expert 1s to each Expert above level 1. So 1008 Expert 1 not currently Aiding other experts.

Our Max Craft Bonuses per each type:

20th level: 41
13th level: 33
6th: 26
3rd: 23
2nd: 22
1st: 9 (no additional assistants, no masterwork tools).

The cost of a Masterwork Longsword (to keep with our previous examples) is going to be 315 GP, or 3150 sp.

Taking into account maximum Fast Crafts for each level (+10 DC) while still passing the required Craft DC of 15, each Expert could craft the following amount of Masterwork Longswords in a year:

20th level: 37.8 (151.2)
13th level: 24.8 (198.4)
6th: 20.8 (332.8)
3rd: 13.6 (435.2)
2nd: 13.2 (844.8)
1st: 4.7. (4742.4)
___
Overall: 6704.8 Masterwork Longswords processed by the dwarven metropolis of Smith Heaven.
704004 raw materials, 2.112 million GP retail.
______________________________________________________
* - 3% delineated from total population would be lower acting factoring in all denizens; however, the amount dropped would range so much that I didn't wish to do an equation to balance it. This represents MAX experts anyways :D.


Now that is one year's output strictly in masterwork longswords if everyone was a weaponsmith.

Now the cost of enchanting all of those blades in XP is over half a million XP. In the same city our maximum 5th level casters would be quite low (72 total spellcasters per basic DMG guidelines for a Metropolis p. 139, max spellcaster levels for all 4 rolls). Not a lot of Enchanters for it ;).

That is absolute max. Now if we reduce these numbers by 1/10th for our Experts we may see a pretty nice output here, but we need to factor in loss and destruction.

How many creatures can destroy a magic weapon? Well, that number depends on your population... But between rust monsters, disjunction, sundering by magic weapons, etc. I would put destruction at at LEAST 5-9 destruction chance over a lifetime of the item. Loss? Well, again, depends on the needs of the group. From magic carvans being lost in the desert wastes, dragon raids, demonic pillaging, etc. the numbers are in much flux. I'd cap it at around 15% over the lifetime of the item.

Then we have Consolidation percentage. This is the percentage of items sent to various kingdoms, churches, arcane academies, etc. Tithing runs at 10% of gross products, and most kingdoms will tax you on top of that. If you belong to a guild you may also have requests. There is a great 'mage tax' section in Medieval Society that lists the normal taxes sent in magic items to liege lords... This can serve as a guideline.

A Magic Item also serves as a hard portable asset. In a world where the +1 sword is worth ten times its weight in gold and gems/platinum are scarce guilds, banks, etc. may accept magic items as collateral on loans and payment for services rendered. These caches are going to effectively remove the items from the market, and can be used by various firms for their own purposes.

A bank which has dealing with a militant customer may very well offer such instruments they have gained as a hard asset loan, charging the conqueror three times their actual value for use of the weapons for his elite troops. Auctions of magical items to nation-states would be relatively common as the bank liquidates the assets of a bankrupt sorcerer. A Guild offers equipment rentals on a smaller scale to adventurers for an eighth-share of the overall party profits, giving a marker that can allow the guild to come in and repo the property if the whole thing goes pearshaped.

Again you have to understand that the value of the item can be controlled through macroeconomics of the region or even the world/planes. Being cognizant of these possibilities will help you understand how the economy overall works rather than making an at-first-blush assessment. Personally? There are very very very few magic items and very rarely do you see just a +1 sword. But that's my game running off these theories :p.

Slainte,

-Loonook.
 

AngryMojo

First Post
Why? How is that a better comparison?

I'm mostly inclined to use it due to the statement in most editions that the 10 copper per day is enough to live assuming the commoner grows a good portion of his own food and maintains a standard of living according to a pseudo-medieval commoner. While that $7000 USD has different meanings in various locations, so by turn would that 3650 copper. In an exceptionally wealthy country where everybody deals in silver instead of copper I can see a comparison. I don't think I've ever run or played in a D&D game that spends a tremendous amount of time in opulent kingdoms, my characters always seem to be dealing with the drudgery, much and relative poverty of borderlands and tyrannical states.

I generally compare standards of living, and I have a hard time drawing an equivalency between the modern lifestyle of a citizen in the US or Western Europe and a D&D commoner. I generally imagine D&D fantasy worlds to be more like feudal Eruope where there simply was no middle class to compare with modern standards. Even skilled artisans were serfs, and couldn't expect much in the wealth department.

WFRP actually has a rather extensive explanation of what the common folk live like, and breaks the economy into three different teirs where peasants deal in brass, artisans, merchants and adventurers deal in silver and only the nobility deals with gold. Commoners will in all likelihood never see a gold piece in their lives.

In a D&D setting, giving a 10cp/day worker a gold piece worth 100 copper it's the equivalent of giving him ten days wage at once. You can adjust based on your perspective. Expensive magic items are a byproduct of an exponential weath by level growth, which is a big reason why I just say there's no market for them. You can say a +1 Longsword is worth the equivalent of $150,000, but if there's nobody to buy it then it's worth whatever it's sold for.
 

Loonook

First Post
EDIT: PLEASE READ ENTIRE POST. I spent around an hour doing the math here... Least you can do before arguing it is look at all links and analysis :D.



I generally compare standards of living, and I have a hard time drawing an equivalency between the modern lifestyle of a citizen in the US or Western Europe and a D&D commoner. I generally imagine D&D fantasy worlds to be more like feudal Eruope where there simply was no middle class to compare with modern standards. Even skilled artisans were serfs, and couldn't expect much in the wealth department.

WFRP actually has a rather extensive explanation of what the common folk live like, and breaks the economy into three different teirs where peasants deal in brass, artisans, merchants and adventurers deal in silver and only the nobility deals with gold. Commoners will in all likelihood never see a gold piece in their lives.

In a D&D setting, giving a 10cp/day worker a gold piece worth 100 copper it's the equivalent of giving him ten days wage at once. You can adjust based on your perspective. Expensive magic items are a byproduct of an exponential weath by level growth, which is a big reason why I just say there's no market for them. You can say a +1 Longsword is worth the equivalent of $150,000, but if there's nobody to buy it then it's worth whatever it's sold for.

Alright... Looking over what you have here, let's try to figure out the basics of what we need to know to figure out, in D&D terms, a peasant family.

Personally I go with a peasant family having 4 children, 2 adults as my rural 'mean' for living in a small cottage (20*20). This is the absolute serf 'max', assuming individuals are going to go occasionally hungry, produce most of their own food, and that the household is meeting 'subsistence' wages if the children are 'working' half wages by gathering fruits and berries, tending the fields along with their family from a young age, and scraping by. This family unit can produce 172 GP worth of materials pre-taxes. If we factor in tithes and taxes of around 25% of gross processed grain on that amount farming will yield 81.77 GP on an unskilled farmer's wages for a year's harvest, but you get to eat, sleep, and otherwise be alright with it.

So figuring the 2 GP of Self-sufficiency for 4 Adult's Worth of individuals you can figure 129.77 GP as the overall wages for a family of 6 working a wheat farm in a standard location without any Plant Growth or other addenda.

That's about 324sp worth of wages per adult unit, which means your kids are worth about 14.1 GP/year.

Federal Poverty Level guidelines. Poverty Level for Repayment of Student Loans.

We can all consider these individuals to be poor, correct? The family of 6 is considered to be at the full mark of the poverty line at around 30k. If we take that as our number our copper piece is worth $2.31, with a gold piece being worth $231. That means that a gold piece (if translating to our own current gold prices and 50 GP/lb) is below 12k (50%) gold as a .999 gold coin (most minted coin purity) of 1/50 lb. would go for $478 on the open market today.

If these coins were made of pure gold we're looking at $62153 for the amount of gold, making the copper piece worth $4.78.

None of these numbers feel close to right for me for someone who is at this level of poverty. Personally I would put such subsistence farming at about half of our current poverty line... 6 individuals 15485 or 14995 (average to 15240).

At $15240 - 129.77GP means that a GP = $117.43.

A copper piece is worth $1.17. I am not figuring in the taxes as part of the approximation because, in our world, those taxes are going right back to you. Not so much for our peasants here.

That means that, for our examples...

A Longsword runs $1761. Not too bad, as a sword will run 3 days worth of work, and 24 hours of labor plus materials and costs? Going to be expensive.

A guard dog runs $2348.60. Low, most can run for between 5k for a low-training dogs, to 80k for an elite guard dog (which I would put as your larger 'riding dogs' anyways :) ).

A heavy horse is $35486. Now that sounds ridiculous! Of course you can purchase a slaughterhouse special for 200 bucks... But horses of any note can run you up quite high quite quick. Dressage mounts, who have been trained in haute ecole (a martial horse style) can go upwards of $100,000. For the purposes of our reading a peasant may invest in a Colt and maintain that animal (look at my rules for maintenance of horses and other stock for easy bookkeeping in the thread referenced previously).

A Poor Meal at a tavern is $11.70. About right if you aren't getting appetizers and drinking water in the US ;).

Fine Wine runs at $1170. Pretty high, but then again 23.40 is also a little high for large amounts of table wine but of course this was during a period when viticulture was not going to spread rare vintages lightly.

D&D Loaf of bread is $2.34. Whole grain loaf of bread in the US? $2.29.

Riding Sadle runs $1170. On the low end of handmade saddlery from personal experience and seeing actual saddlers hocking their wares at horse shows.

Stabling: $58.50/day. Quite high for today's pricing... However you also aren't paying stablehands to remain 24/7 in the stables to prevent horse thieving. Up in the air.

Cab fare (20 miles): 70.20. Not bad figuring current NYC rates for a good rate of ~ 20 miles (JFK to Central Park) will run you around 45-68$. The actual rate would probably be around 65 most times of day so not bad.

All of these numbers seem to point towards some things being worth a lot more, some a lot less, and possible reasons for them. I picked these items at random, and haven't tested all of the available items. Any prices are based on personal experiences along with basic google searching... Didn't include links because I checked about 40 of them for this section and didn't feel like writing up a whole Cited page :p.

Again... 1.10-1.20 is a good estimate, 1.17 is my personal estimate per figuring in 'current costs'.

Slainte,

-Loonook.

EDIT: So I also did the math for overall food costs on average in the US. I placed 6 individuals with a family of 4 (9-11 yo children here) and two young men 12-13. $825.40/month for 'thrifty', 7.05 GP/month, 84.6 GP/year, around 2/3 of overall income for a year, which is actually cheaper than a family living on Subsistence according to the DMG by around 12 GP/year. So I figure the numbers show a little bit of a sway, but hit right around the mark.
 
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haakon1

Adventurer
I figure 1 sp = poor man's daily wage = 19th century $1 /day wage

A $1/day was a fairly standard (poor) wage for the 19th century. I used to run "Boot Hill", so that matters to me, and may be some value. If you don't think in 19th century terms, it probably doesn't help.

But you do have some 19th century ideas about money, in idioms like:
-- "my two cents" = "not really worth anything" = 0.02 of a silver piece, or 0.2 of a cp -- there should probably be a "farthing", or 1/4 of a cp, for small purchases

-- "two bit" = 25 cents, or 0.25 sp, or 2.5 cp = not too valuable, or a shoddy peasant standard

-- "nickle and dime" = 10 cents, or 0.10 sp, or 1 cp, or two farthings. The equivalent of a Dollar Store in modern times.
 

S'mon

Legend
So the problem is that picking a basket of goods for purchasing price parity greatly skews the cost. Do you include a cook, maid, and private tutor for the children? Then people in the past look rich. Do you include only physical goods? Then people in the past look like paupers.

I agree, the costs of human labour and consumer durables (such as clothes) are not really comparable over time. I think costs of a society's staple foodstuffs tend to give the best over-time comparisons. Mechanised agriculture lowered costs, and supermarkets are good at extracting the consumer surplus (paying £2 for a box of porridge oats, say), but it seems to me that staple-food prices are much more stable than are eg clothing prices; pre-industrial clothing was far more labour intensive and expensive.
 

Yora

Legend
I acknowledge upfront the difference between a medieval economy and a modern one, but I was surprised by how much a copper piece was in practical terms. A low-level laborer makes 10 cp per day, as per 3.5 DMG 105 or PF 159 or 2ed DMG xx. So relatively stable over the editions. That's 3650 cp a year. A US full-time minimum wage laborer makes 15,000 USD a year, so a cp is about 4 USDs. That doesn't tells us buying power, but it should equate roughly to how they feel in the hands of the poor.
However, a low-level laborer does not live by the same living standards of a minimum wage laborer in the US. Even the very poor in the western world often have a tv and a refridgerator, and indoor plumbing, and those are all things that are really quite hard to make and require lots of resources. A simple laborer family in D&D would not have carpets, glass windows, cushioned chairs, and other such fancy things.
In Mozambique, the average annual income of the entire population is more like 1,000 USD. Which would be more like 1 cp = 30 cent. Okay, then again a very well doing merchant family wouldn't have the same living standard as modern millionaires either, so I would agree to bump the echange rate up to 1 USD.

Okay, a sword would still be 1,500 USD and a horse 20,000 USD, which is really quite a lot, given that you can get an AK-47 for 50-100 USD in many parts of Africa today. But those prices are grossly deflated because of the massive numbers that were shipped in during the cold war and those things just don't break, and they were not produced to compete on the arms market but were paid for by the soviet government, who basically gave them away for free. And the soviets used industrial manufacture which results in massive savings because of economy of scale, so it would be much cheaper than having a single craftsman making weapons one piece at the time.
And a longsword would not be the AK-47 of medieval worlds, that would be the spear at about 200 USD. That does not look like a bad aproximation.
(Coincidentaly, the price of an M-16 is about 1,500 USD. The price of a longsword. ^^)
I figure 1 sp = poor man's daily wage = 19th century $1 /day wage
Did you adjust for inflation? An 1870s dollar is about 20 dollars today.
 
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S'mon

Legend
With a longsword as a luxury weapon, 15gp = $1500 looks pretty reasonable to me. 3e D&D has a bit of a problem with inflated armour costs, 1500gp = $150,000 for a suit of full plate is possibly rather excessive; some 16th-17th century plate armour worn by the high nobility may have approached that sort of figure, but in a D&D world those guys would be wearing magic armour.

4e D&D lowered the cost of plate armour massively, to 50gp - similar to Basic D&D's 60gp. This was done for purposes of playability rather than simulation, but if that is for a very basic breastplate & helm (3e 'breastplate') with the +n/magic versions equating to more complete and ornate suits, then it actually looks fairly plausible. At 50gp = $5000 that's still a fair whack of change. In 4e 1500gp/$150,000 gets you +2 magic plate armour.

Edit: It tends to be the mundane, everyday costs that D&D inflates relative to the baseline 1 sp/day subsistence wage. In 1e AD&D it's specifically stated to be an 'Alaska gold rush' inflationary environment, with PHB listed costs inflated around x5 - but this only applies to some things (5cp small beer, 15gp lanterns, arguably 400gp platemail) not to 15gp longswords. And for some strange reason the inflation applies to high-end NPC wages (100gp blacksmiths) but not to low-end wages (1gp light infantry).

My preference has generally been to deflate costs rather than inflate wages, so where the 1 sp/day subsistence level is in play, a flagon of small beer (roughly a liter or 1.5 pints) is typically 1 cp, not 5 cp. I'll also deflate the excessive high-end NPC wages, so a typical blacksmith might earn 20gp/month, not 100gp - still well above the soldier's 6gp.

In wealthy areas wages will inflate faster than costs, so eg in my Yggsburgh setting a day labourer in the city can command around 5 sp/day (or 5x20=100 sp/10gp per month), and will pay typically 2-3 cp for a pint of beer in the city. The Yggsburgh City Guard pays fully trained soldiers 10gp/month plus accommodation & rations, or around 15gp total.
 
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Yora

Legend
My approach to such things is to not look at details of no narrative significance too closely. Does it really matter how much a chicken, a bucket, or a latern costs? At 2nd level PCs can just walk into a store, buy them, and there won't be any meaningful change to their cash.
With 20% of your wealth in cash, that's still 2000 sp. And after your purchase, you have 1994 sp left. Who cares that it doesn't make any sense that a bucket is worth 25 chickens? It doesn't matter. The PCs say they buy these things, then you say they pay for it, and nobody looks up prices or touches the purse at all. Will it be important later on that the PCs have 62 copper pieces less? No, it never will.
Even hiring 10 laborers for 10 days to excavate a burried trapdoor: 10 gold pieces. That's nothing to a party of adventurers. If it's not weapons, armor, or magic gear, or any highly expensive equipment for special tasks, just don't bother with the math. It won't affect what options the PCs will have in later situations, so it does not need to be calculated.
 

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