D&D 5E World Building: Commerce and gold

Sounds like it is ripe for mercantilism. Make sure to remember, however, that there is a very important distinction that often gets erased with the colloquial term "feudalism." Properly speaking, "feudalism" refers to two distinct elements which usually, but not always, came hand-in-hand for medieval Europe. One is "manorialism," which is the whole "one person owns this land, and tenant farmers live/work on it as effectively indentured servants" thing. The other is "vassalage," which is the specific thing you just talked about--where one person technically has legal authority over the entirety of a vast country, but delegates that authority to regional sub-rulers, who may themselves delegate sub-regional authority to their own subordinates, down until you get to the smallest units which are directly administered (usually via manorialism, but not always--churches and some cities bucked this trend, e.g. London is so old it actually has a special arrangement "from time immemorial" rather than the traditional manorial arrangement.)
now this sounds like what I should put my last few brain cells into.
The avatar of Bacobb owns the whole kingdom and everyone under it. However other then the area he directly controls (direct being a bit of a stretch since he too has high priests under him and priest/lords under them) he gives the avatars of the other gods of his pantheon control of regions. Now each region is ruled slightly diffrently I only need to work on the 2 right near the PCs right away but having an idea or two for the others would not hurt.
Hextor is my main, and the one who controls the area that we start, so I will need to look up more on Manorialism and how it works and what way it works... I have the city I am building ruled by 3 clerics that make a small counsel, so they answer to a single high priest (who has other towns on him) who answers to the avatar of Hextor who answers directly to the god...
Bottom line, the vast majority of commerce works because of three things:
  • Transportation (which, historically, has meant specifically water transportation because of speed and ease)
  • Resource scarcity in one place but not another
  • Actors (whether state or individual) investing in something
This is why most cities either sit on a river, on the coast, or at a MAJOR crossroads with supplementary fresh water sources (like good aquifers or really well-made aqueducts.)
I had not thought about locations of rivers yet. My map is pretty bare bones right now. However being that I am useing so much divine magic I have a bit of leeway.

THANK YOU SO MUCH, this was very eye opening.
 

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EzekielRaiden

Follower of the Way
now this sounds like what I should put my last few brain cells into.
The avatar of Bacobb owns the whole kingdom and everyone under it. However other then the area he directly controls (direct being a bit of a stretch since he too has high priests under him and priest/lords under them) he gives the avatars of the other gods of his pantheon control of regions. Now each region is ruled slightly diffrently I only need to work on the 2 right near the PCs right away but having an idea or two for the others would not hurt.
Hextor is my main, and the one who controls the area that we start, so I will need to look up more on Manorialism and how it works and what way it works... I have the city I am building ruled by 3 clerics that make a small counsel, so they answer to a single high priest (who has other towns on him) who answers to the avatar of Hextor who answers directly to the god...

I had not thought about locations of rivers yet. My map is pretty bare bones right now. However being that I am useing so much divine magic I have a bit of leeway.

THANK YOU SO MUCH, this was very eye opening.
If you'd like a (relatively) self-contained look at the two components of "feudalism," A Collection of Unmitigated Pedantry is a solid blog source from an actual history professor. My specific exposure comes from being an enthusiast of the Crusader Kings series, which will be mentioned in these two posts, but you don't really need to know much about CK3 in order to get stuff out of these posts.
Collections: Teaching Paradox, Crusader Kings III, Part IIa: Rascally Vassals
Collections: Teaching Paradox, Crusader Kings III, Part IV: Emperors, Soldiers and Peasants

The whole series is really good, because it gives a lot of insight into the ways medieval societies--European and Arabian, at the very least, with some occasional glances to other places--differed from modern ones in how they organized themselves. ACoUP is just a generally a pretty fun blog for that reason; I quite liked their analysis of the arms, armor, and general military kit for the Lord of the Rings films, for example.
 



Li Shenron

Legend
World Building question 1

TLDR: How does Commerce work in your games and how do you prep it? Do evil empire have commerce at all?
Everything that the PC don't interact with regularly is irrelevant in my games.

So commerce works perfectly fine behind the scenes, and I need no explanations given to the players.
Should a player ever decide their PC wants to start a commerce business, it'll be greatly simplified into something along the lines of "roll a check sometimes to see if you've made or lost a certain amount of money".
Should such player being seriously interested in a more realistic model of commerce, which is way off-topic for a game of D&D, I'll direct them to play another kind of game at another table, as I am not going to spend my time researching such model.

I nowadays follow the same principle on a lot of world-building stuff, such as engineering, biology, geography, cosmology, religion... I bring them up only when they become relevant, otherwise I absolutely do not prep beyond what I need, and if caught unprepared mid-session, I make things up in a way that they don't look such.

But there's a huge difference between technical and fantasy knowledge. It's easy to come up with endless ideas on cosmology and religion, without ever needing to resolve what seemingly doesn't make sense, because they are just speculative knowledge, and you can always say that it is information coming from in-game NPCs. Commerce is rather technical knowledge, as is engineering and biology; I stay away from detailing things also because it's a rabbit hole: if you start trying to explain why a certain kingdom is successful in the commerce of livestock, or why a certain biome is next to another, a player educated in that field might start raising objections.
 

Depends on level of granularity. If you want something simple-ish, look at Vault of Heroes. It has a 3-4 page set of rules for running a trade company and similar page count for estates. It uses general categories (i.e. foodstuffs, commodities/materials, luxury goods, finished goods, gems) where each can have independent profit/losses to provide a bit of verisimilitude of complex markets. Player involvement is also a factor.

For a fully detailed system, there is "Magical Medieval Society:Silk Road" from Expeditious Retreat Press. It's many pages of materials, road conditions, markets, etc. Arbitrage simulator.

There is a companion book, MMS:Western Europe, which has a complete manor system, which is useful imo on its own right for improving towns and fleshing out NPCs.

I would recommend the simplified VoH mechanics supplemented with MMSWE for extensive lists of raw goods, craftsmen, etc. MMSWE also includes information on how magic could impact costs/profits in a manor that can carry over elsewhere, which is useful sanity checks for when players want to try something unexpected.

Only go for MMSSR if you reallllly like play-by-xls. (And using MMSWE for manors is likewise a manor simulator)

A suggestion for whatever system you use, roll the results well in advance and then incorporate that into the campaign. Foodstuff profits are unusually high because....storms? Rat infestation? Price of iron is down because....a treaty was signed with the gnolls to the south? Jewel prices up because.....there will be a noble wedding and they need jewelry? A wizard is crafting an exotic magic item? A temple is being upgraded? The gnolls get a chest of gems each year?
 
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gamerprinter

Mapper/Publisher
Well as part of The Planet Builder, a set up tables and rules I published last year, I included something akin to macroeconomics between starfaring nations, but it's in no way commerce at the player character level. It's more a world building tool. The first part of the book is about creating scientifically viable entire star systems. If a given star system is inhabited by sentient, starfaring people I include resource stations - mine processing station, hydroponic farm station, gas harvesting station (mining gas giants), starship shipyards - each year each type of resource station generates Planet Points. At the end of the year, you add up all your planet points. You can spend planet points to create new resource stations in your system, or you can spend it on other technology that doesn't provide planet points (like system defenses), just somehow updating the tech facilities in your system. However, you can also spend Planet Points to trade some of your created resources, and trade them with other star nations exchanging some of their Planet Points of goods - this works as a macro level economics to establish trade relationships between starfaring nations. Profit is implied, but not calculated.

This probably isn't what you're looking for, but I mentioned it, since it was the first time I developed rules for macroecomomics trade with a game supplement.
 

gamerprinter

Mapper/Publisher
When I developed the Kaidan setting of Japanese Horror (PFRPG), which is set in a feudal Japan analog, I tried to cleave to historical Japan as much as possible (even though Kaidan is not Japan), and I made Kaidan a rice based economy, as feudal Japan was. At macro-level it's rice in million koku measurements. But at PC level, you can devise rice's relationship with gold. 1 bowl of rice with pickles and a meat product is 1 copper piece in value, and each level of metal coinage (gold, silver, etc.) was assigned a different amount of rice in it's equivalent. Gold, silver, copper is traded at the PC level, but each is some measurement of rice.
 
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gamerprinter

Mapper/Publisher
I had not thought about locations of rivers yet. My map is pretty bare bones right now. However being that I am useing so much divine magic I have a bit of leeway.

Probably because I started in the industry as a pro game cartographer... I wouldn't make that choice, but then I do create in a different order than others, I suppose. Once I get a general framework of the kind of nation(s) I want to establish in a given region for a specific story, I immediately go to geography, so map development comes early, but never bare bones, I see extreme detail and use the geology/geography, especially rivers, coastal areas and protected bays - which become elements that establish the power and politics (who controls which geographic advantages). Are there natural borders between nations (often rivers) or borders defined by war - an artificial line across one type of terrain established, because the war ended right on that line...

Not criticizing, just saying, I would have poured into the map almost as the first thing I'd do in setting development - but that's just me, not you... ;)
 
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Probably because I started in the industry as a pro game cartographer... I wouldn't make that choice, but then I do create in a different order than others, I suppose. Once I get a general framework of the kind of nation(s) I want to establish in a given region for a specific story, I immediately go to geography, so map development comes early, but never bare bones, I see extreme detail and use the geology/geography, especially rivers, coastal areas and protected bays - which become elements that establish the power and politics (who controls which geographic advantages). Are there natural borders between nations (often rivers) or borders defined by war - an artificial line across one type of terrain established, because the war ended right on that line...

Not criticizing, just saying, I would have poured into the map almost as the first thing I'd do in setting development - but that's just me, not you... ;)
I think the lesson is, use what you know. If you have a particular area of expertise, focus on using that.

And if you don't know about something, there will be someone else who does.

I started out as a cartographer too, but I was making street plans for estate agents (realtors).
 

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