Monday, August 26, 2013

Economies in Dungeons and Dragons Part 2

In my last post, Economies in Dungeons and Dragons Part 1, I discussed the Static and Dynamic economies possible in the game. To sum up Dynamic economies are labor intensive on the part of the Dungeon Master and become time consuming to the point of obsessiveness. There are so many factors present in a Dynamic economy that is is incredibly easy to forget some factor and screw up the over all nature of your economy. By contrast the Static economy is the simplest economy a Dungeon Master can create. The Dungeon Master establishes prices and no matter where the players go, what they do, or who they do it to, the price is the same. There are no currency variations or itinerant workers to worry about. So unless you want to adjust the prices or limit down the items available to your players there is no paperwork involved in this economy - just open your book and go.

Modified Dungeons and Dragons Economies

The Modified economy is the bastard child of the Static and Dynamic economies and is the one that I personally use in my games.This version of the game economy requires a Dungeon Master to assess the following information: currency valuation, imported/exported goods, price variation, and world conditions.

Currency Valuation
It's the little cruelties that make the game feel real in my experience.
Unlike in Dynamic economies currency valuation is established as a fixed rate. In my personal campaign, Dyvers, I have five national currencies to work with: Greyhawk, Dyvers, Furyondy, Veluna, and the Duchy of Urnst. There are other currencies out there in the world but these are the ones common enough for them to become a direct concern in my campaign - especially as my players begin to interact with the world in a more engaged manner. The chart below will provide a better understanding of the currency valuations of my campaign.



1 Gold Coin Greyhawk Dyvers Furyondy Veluna The Duchy of Urnst
Greyhawk **** 1 gold, 3 silver, 4 copper 1 gold, 4 silver, 8 copper 1 gold, 4 silver, 1 copper 7 gold, 5 silver, 3 copper
Dyvers 7 silver, 5 copper **** 1 gold, 1 silver, 1 copper 1 gold, 5 copper 5 gold, 6 silver, 3 copper
Furyondy 6 silver, 8 copper 9 silver **** 9 silver, 5 copper 5 gold, 8 copper
Veluna 7 silver, 1 copper 9 silver, 5 copper 1 gold, 5 copper **** 5 gold, 3 silver, 6 copper
The Duchy of Urnst 1 gold, 4 silver, 1 copper 1 gold, 4 silver, 1 copper 1 gold, 4 silver, 1 copper 1 gold, 4 silver, 1 copper ****

Now unlike the Dynamic economy's currency standard method I have simplified my life by using real world currencies and their actual exchange rates. For my purposes I allowed the whole unit to represent gold pieces, the first decimal position to represent silver pieces, and the second decimal position to represent copper pieces.  I used the Euro with Greyhawk, the U.S. dollar with Dyvers, the Australian dollar with Furyondy, the Canadian dollar with Veluna, and the Argentinian peso with the Duchy of Urnst. By using the this method I can quickly exchange prices between the various regions and I can also create a situation where foreign merchants use unfamiliar currency exchange rates to snake coins away from my players. It's the little cruelties that make the game feel real in my experience.
It's when things are going smoothly that they hate me and refuse to speak my name without a curse attached.
Anyway, let's take an example to demonstrate the ease for conversion through this method. Krongar the Barbarian has all his coins in Dyvers' currency and is visiting the Free City of Greyhawk. While there he decides that he wants to purchase a Great Sword valued at 50 gold pieces (gp). How much does he need?

50 gp x 1.41 = 70 gp and 5 sp Velunan coins

Now of course things get more difficult when you have multiple currencies but with my groups they typically choose to convert their coin into the currency with the most buying power. When that option isn't available to them I always make sure to have a Money Changer located within the city.

Imported and Exported Goods

Back in City Works Mike Mearls suggested that we limit our imports and exports to five items each and this is with good reason as you can quickly create a situation where you're working continuously in the red and your players are always coming at things cross ways. Now I'm actually okay with that. My group tends to do better the more that things go awry so if the economy gets messed up because Iuz launches a war or the Horned Society decide to raid boats in the Nyr Dyv they feel right in their element. It's when things are going smoothly that they hate me and refuse to speak my name without a curse attached.
"The fuck you will, I have a god-damned chart and spread sheets!"
With Dyvers I've been patterning the city after some of the larger cities I've actually lived in; so for my campaign any base materials are treated as an import and finished goods are treated as exports. My imports are things such as grains, stones, rough gems, bulk metals, and lumber; while my exports include items such as armor, weapons, tapestries, and jewelry. By doing so I have a quick base line for any questions about prices of items and it also gives me more knowledge about my city. For example, just from my exports I know that I have a city with craftsmen and higher paying jobs.

It's little things like that, that I use to maintain the verisimilitude of my setting without losing flexibility.

Price Variation

As with the Dynamic economy I am going to use Mike Mearls' valuation guide for item price variation in conjunction with my currency standards from above.  This will provide me with a set of values that will prevent my players from simply walking in and saying, "I'll buy the dagger for 4 gold."

"The fuck you will, I have a god-damned chart and spread sheets!"

Rating Valuation
Rare 2 x regular value
Scarce 1.50 x regular value
Average regular value
Abundant 0.75 x regular value
Glut 0.50 x regular value

The above table was not provided by Mike in City Works, but I like to make my life easy so I'm including it here again for anyone who'd like to use this set up to run a modified economy. 
I avoid questions of market manipulation, price gouging (though I do occasionally partake of the practice), foreign investors, market rushes, intentional shortages, weather manipulations, and the such because it makes my head hurt and encourages me to make spread sheets.
World Conditions

The final thing that you have to take into account with a Modified economy is the world conditions. Now this isn't to the extent that a Dynamic economy would have you concern yourself with; instead you're only going to pay attention to the big things. Strikes, wars, floods, wild fires and the like are things that will impact your supplies and will adjust your prices. I avoid questions of market manipulation, price gouging (though I do occasionally partake of the practice), foreign investors, market rushes, intentional shortages, weather manipulations, and the such because it makes my head hurt and encourages me to make spread sheets.

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