Monday, January 30, 2012

A new take of the gold economy

As all of you probably know, the economy in most fantasy worlds i a bit wonky. No, really! What I mean is that even though there are more precious metals than just gold, all the prices are in gold and it is what everything is compared to.

Those who like to get away from the gold inflation usually turn to a silver standard instead. But, I think this just postpones the problem. After a bit longer you will once again find that rich enough adventurers just ignore those piles of silver and copper and whatnot. Weight compared to value is not good enough.

I remember when I played D&D 4, that I felt that when we got the spoils in gold, it was always a bit of a let down. Somehow the sword and sorcery trained mind of me wanted heaps of gold and fistfuls of jewels, to be squandered on wine and women until the next adventure, of course.

Could you maybe have both?

How about you bring back the rule that gaining a level takes training? I mean the kind you have to pay for. In gold.

So what? Well, bear with me. Imagine a silver standard. Now, imagine the idea that nobody do silver for gold exchange.

Why? Well. I haven't figured that out yet. But, imagine you finding a chest filled with thousands of silvers. Back in town you repair your armour (you do use the rules for ablative armour, don't you?) and throw a feast for everyone in the tavern. Fun is had by everyone. Next time you go on adventuring you are broke, but manage to find a few ancient coins in gold. Now you can actually train and use those XP you have gotten on your last three hauls bringing up thousands of silvers, spent on carousing (you do use Jeff Rients carousing table, don't you?).

If you figure out a in world rationale for the set up above, let me know. I like the idea, though.


  1. Reasons for not exchanging silver for gold? I can think of two reasons, first is one that is sort of hinted at in your text. You find thousands of silver coins, but a few goldcoins. So, gold is so rare that it's so expensive that exchanging it is possible in theory, but the exchangerate would be so high it makes it impossible. Or at least, improbable.

    Reason number two is that there is some kind of law (the king's law, religious law or something) that either makes exchanging gold for silver illegal, or makes using gold itself illegal (for everybody but the "chosen"). Again, exchange would be possible, but associated with a high risk and severe punishment if caught.

    1. Krister,

      Yes, religious reasons are always good. Any weirdness can b explained that way...

  2. WotC is doing that with 5E, it seems.

  3. Laws against exchange or gold being too valuable for anybody in the town to be able to make change for would prevent people from carousing with gold... Also, I think making gold a special-purpose currency that can only be used to translate XP to levels would annoy most players: Yay! I can finally level! Boo! I don't have enough gold. Training fees were pretty widely hated back in the day.
    What I have found, though, is people like extra sources of XP; making training available as a way to turn cash into XP turns it into something the players look forward to and keeps them cash-poor. So if you're not using cash=XP already, maybe you can make gold and gems worth XP, while more mundane cash nets you nothing. In either case you can make training/carousing a source of cash to xp. Yes, this lets them double-count certain sources...but you can always adjust how much treasure they come across to keep the net the same if it worries you.

    1. Joshua,

      Yeah, I guess it could be a source of player frustration. I have never played with training fees myself. When that edition was in vogue I didn't play D&D.

      I am a big fan of cash=xp so maybe I will have to think on it from that perspective instead. Hmm. Thanks for the feedback! Obviously there are multiple dimensions too this idea.

  4. Playing first edition D & D currently & still have to pay for training... believe me, nobody in my party ignores a chest full of silver coins ;) We take everything... copper is being melted down to create a dome on our keep as we speak.

  5. Interesting concept. Use silver and copper to buy stuff and gold = AP. Definitely puts gold in a category by itself!!

    I get the feeling gold then becomes a parallel economy. The upper class like gold for the ability to train troups and experts while the lower class likes silver and copper from a practical "get stuff" point of view.

    I think I'll give it a try...

  6. I liked the Dragonlance world's take on specie: steel pieces. Gold wasn't so uncommon. But steel was. I wonder if Weis/Hickman borrowed that from some other author or if they invented the steel piece as money.

  7. Steel is more precious than gold, in some cases...


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