Thursday, March 15, 2012

Game Economy

Some things that I've never liked in most RPGs, both Pen and Paper and online is the lack of a sense of real economy in the game.  In most games, starter items have a trivial cost compared to enchanted items, and even these grow at an exponential rate.  The cost these items are such that typically games at hire level deal in a form of currency that is not even known at early stages in the game, where at the same time typical currencies cease to have any value.

Toward the beginnings of a character's career, items are tracked down to the copper piece, soon, copper and silver are not worth bending over to pick.  Items in town some become more money that the whole town used to have, and characters buying items with enough gold (if divided equally) would allow them all to take a year off, and not do anything.

It doesn't stop there, potions begin to cost more than a Warship and weapons and armor are ten times that.  Where is all this money coming from and where does it go?  In online games you can seem that players simply amass enormous amounts of gold and loots, in pen-&-paper games the truck loads of gold that the characters just spend has no impact on local live-stock or ale prices.

I just want a economy system that makes a little sense, where supply and demand mean something as do a silver and a copper.  The system I'm aiming for essentially factors into the value of the raw material, workmanship and time to determine an items value, an items don't just get a factor of 10 or 100 applied to them because they are magical.

I know ancient coins had a lot of odd conversion between one another, and I don't think I need that amount of realism.  After all I don't think the players are coming to the session for a math lesson or to balance their characters finances.

So for coin value, I think metric currency makes a lot of sense...10cp = 1sp, 10sp = 1gp, 10gp = 1pp.  Someone can argue the actual alloy make-up of the coins to get such a system to make sense as far as the raw value of such items are not metric.

In addition to this I think if players think in terms of actual currency for value of these...say a copper is worth 50 cents...then a Silver is about $5 and a gold is worth $50.  Doing so make coming up with a drink costing 1sp or 2sp for something some nice easy to imagine, or when the barkeep says Elven wine is 10gp a glass that is some expensive some, at about $2500 per bottle.

In doing so, you can easily imaging what a laborer might make, say 1sp per hour, or 1gp per day might be reasonable for non-skilled work.  A foreman type may be 2 to 4 gp per day...which equates to about $200 a day.

A shop owner likely makes a decent living, especially if they are skilled labor with apprentices (who typically work for only room and board, and possibly menial spending money), with the owner doing about $500 to $2500 a day in income, so from 10gp to 50gp per day.  Granted they still have raw material cost and shop fees, possibly licencing and taxes to deal with.

But with this thinking you can begin to put things into perspective, a typical riding horse may cost $1,000 to $5,000 dollar or 20gp to 100gp...War trained animals would be much higher, based on the rarity of the creature...but comparing these to vehicle prices now-a-days would likely be comparable...I trained rare mount my go for $60,000 to $100,000 or 1,200gp to 2,000gp.

Dwellings can bought for current housing prices as well...a place to "hang the armor", using a trailer park as an example may cost $25,000 to $50,000 or 500gp to 1,000gp...where as a small keep and a good plot may be in the $5,000,000 or higher range, that's 100,000gp or more.

Sticking would converted or roughly equivalent modern prices allow for players to immediately equate a quality items or rip offs, rather in most fantasy systems the exponential cost growth as level increase, really gives them little appreciate for actual item value.

Allow creature loot and treasure hoards has to take this into account as well.  Bandits may only carry $50 to a few hundred in spending cash...or less if they are hard up enough to attempt to rob an adventuring party.  Where are a good sized hoard might contain $50,000 various loot.

That said the going price for getting a mercenary (a.k.a. a Hero) to risk their life might be $1,000/day (20gp) or more if the risk is known to them...The employer may try to sell the party on "keeping the loot they find"...but that offer only goes so far, if there's a Ancient Dragon known to have the item it its hoard.  Though the party could be tasked with negotiating with the Dragon for the item, if the price is right.


  1. Ye gods, yes. A sensible game economy is something that fantasy RPGs (*cough*D&D*cough*) have needed desperately for years now. Keeping it in terms that we can understand is also critically important... what is a 15gp longsword's value, really?

    My only slight critique: if one of your main currencies had a 1:1 equivalency to a modern currency (the dollar is probably good if this game is primarily for U.S. audiences), that would make things simplest on players. It isn't an absolute necessity, but 1:1 is a ton easier than 5:1. Even 10:1 is reasonably simple. Since you're the one creating the economy from scratch, all you really have to do is pick values that you like and build from there: you're not targeting any particular value for a longsword, for instance.

    1. Thanks for the feedback, my only reason for doing a 5:1 was I was thinking about a typical base unit, and in the US $5 seems to be it. I'm speaking in "rough terms", but a coffee is $5 a beer is $5 (at a restraint) or $10. An what I end up with in my wallet normally is a bunch of $5's.

      Then is I metric from here copper is about $0.50, which is really the granularity I think I care about...less than that I could round up, and call it a "tip".

      I'm explaining in terms of $5 as the "base unit" , but what I'm basically saying is take minimum wage per hour and call that a silver piece. Then you sort of get drinks costing 1sp or 2sp, and meals in that same range...a middle class dinner might be 5sp. An if you have a local menu handy, you could be a bit more accurate, by listing items in copper values...chances are the party will pay in silver or gold anyway.

    2. Hehe...Looks like I shouldn't reply to posts so early in the many mistakes in that last post I can hardly read it myself.