Tuesday, May 5, 2009

ECONOMY: More Costs for Gear

First, here's a chart that explains some medieval prices from some legit-looking sources:

I appreciate realism IF it can be made to square with rules. In a game, gameplay needs to be king. But, when things square up (as they do so nicely with the STONE enc system), I like to give a strong nod to historical flavor (dare I say accuracy?) when possible.

So, here are the makings of a fundamental game economy, grounded in real world history, but tempered by game realities.


1 TROY POUND (12 ounces of mass) OF STERLING SILVER (L) =
1 SILVER SHILLING (s) = 1/20 pound sterling value = 4/5 troy ounce weight
1 SILVER PENNY or PENCE (d) = 1/240 pound sterling value

1 GOLD NOBLE COIN = 1/3 pound sterling in value = ~1/4 troy ounce weight

1 GOLD SOVEREIGN COIN = 1 pound sterling in value = 1/2 troy ounce weight

1 GOLD BAR = 800 pounds sterling in value = 400 troy ounce weight

1 QUID = 1 pound sterling in value = negligible weight (paper money)

N.B. the variation in weights for gold coins is due to differing purities. 1 pound sterling worth of nobles weighed 3/4 oz; in Sovereigns it weighed 1/2 oz.

Thus, 1 troy pound worth of silver was worth 1 pound sterling; 1 troy pound of gold sovereign coins was worth 24 pounds sterling! And actually, gold was worth more than silver, so the sovereigns often became worth 25 pounds in actual purchasing power. Gold was thus worth about 25 times more than silver.


Coins larger than a pound sterling in value were rare. There was some commemorative bullion struck but generally was not intended for popular circulation. By the 1600s, there existed coins worth 5 pounds, but they seem to have been rare. Gold bars weigh about 2 stone (a "quarter"), so that would be one way of transporting large wealth (a 400 oz gold bar weighing two stone is worth 800 pounds sterling!). As we will see shortly, 800 pounds sterling is more than the annual budget of a well-to-do baron -- it is a fantastic sum of money. Also, gems and jewelry are compact and valuable. Magic might be valuable and portable. Also, superior equipment (fine war horses, full plate mail, etc) is very expensive.

But, in general, I do not want obscene wealth to be easily portable. Players should be encouraged to sink money into what people historically did: landed holdings, retainers, donations to worthy institutions, and so on. This is because it enhances the player's investment in the game world.


Here are some English Medieval incomes to put things in perspective (annual/daily):
Laborer - L2 / 1d
Chantry Priest - L4.5 / 3d
Skilled Laborer (weaver, carpenter, thatcher, etc) - L8 / 4d
Skilled Armorer - L16 / ~1s
Man-At-Arms - L18 / 1s
Knight - L36 / 2s
Knight Banneret - L73 / 4s
Barons - L200-500 / ~L1 (N.B.: Traditional AD&D name level characters are roughly Barons)
Earls - L400-11,000 / L1-30
The Crown - L30,000 / L82

This isn't the full story, as many laborers received some food or board (payment in-kind). However, we start to get the sense of proportions. The vast majority of people would use pence for their day-to-day transactions; a commoner might make 1-4 pence every day, and one pence has the same purchasing power of about $2.50 USD today. You might spend a pence to get a cheap meal (two chickens were the Happy Meal of 1400!) or a pint of ale. A shilling was a sizable sum of money, perhaps equivalent to $30 today. And a pound would be a large sum of cash, $600 in purchasing power. So, for an adventurer to go and drop a few shillings as a tip at the pub is like slapping down a wad of twenty dollar bills at a bar today!

Note that most people had less purchasing power in 1400 then they do today; a pound is worth about $5000 using average earnings (rather than consumer price indexes for purchasing power), so that laborer making 2 pounds/year is banking about $10K. Today we would say that someone making $10K a year in England or the US is quite poor; but life sucked back then. Here's a cool calculator for getting a sense of prices: http://measuringworth.com/calculators/ppoweruk/


In England in 1181, freemen having goods worth over L6.5 were required to have a mail shirt, helm, and spear (other free men substituted quilted armor for the mail shirt). By the 13th century, anyone with income over L2-5 were required to have bows. Going with the cost of mail given below, that means that either the figures below are inflated a bit, or that enforcement of the arms & armor rule was less than 100% (very likely).


A dowry was supposed to be starting out money for a new family (among other things). It might be inherited by a son of the marriage, as well. Thus, it seems reasonable that a starting adventurer might have about as much money as a laborer's dowry. That ranges from 10-60 shillings (0.5 - 3 pounds).

What can one purchase for that sum? Likely, a shield, some poor armor (or rented high quality armor), a helm, some simple weapons, and other essentials.

What's the bottom line:
- To come close to modeling a medieval economy, Tier 0 (zero level types) folks need to make a few pennies each day. Tier 1 (level 1-4) types make 1-4 shillings/day. Tier 2 would likely be ~10 shillings/day. Tier 3 (name level) types make L1-4/day. Tier 4 (above name level; Earls) make up to L30/day. And Tier 5 (Kings of the mightiest known nations) make L100/day. A pile of 500 gold pounds is a sum equal to a Baron's annual budget! And a Dragon's hoard with thousands or tens of thousands of coins is the Crown's annual budget!
- Prices varied widely. However, if you could afford a few cows or a horse, you could likely afford a sword, too. So, high quality swords were likely a few pounds. Chain Mail was very expensive, being equal in price to a year's labor for a skilled laborer, so most soldiers just starting out had lower quality armor and would not be above either renting higher quality protection, looting the dead, or accepting service of a more powerful lord who would equip them.
- This suggests that the base unit should be a shilling. Its likely not worth tracking things in Pence, as that will just be obnoxious as all get out. For items that cost <1 style="font-weight: bold;">Here's some quotes from an above index:
Craftsman's Tabard & Tunic: 3 shilling
Leather or Quilted Armor: 5 shillings
Helm: 3-5 shillings
Shield: 20-30 shillings
Chain Mail: 5 pounds
Squire's Armor: 5-7 pounds
Full Plate Milanese Armor: 8 pounds/6 shillings
Renting armor for a campaign was possible; costs were high though, one could expect to pay 25% of the value of the armor for a single campaign.

Peasant's Sword: 6 pence (1/2 shilling)
Wood Axe: 6 pence (1/2 shilling)

Cottage (1 bay/2 stories): 2 pounds (or 5 shilling/year rent)
Craftsman's House (shop, work area, room for workers, 2-3 bays, tile roof): 10-15 pounds (20 shilling/year rent)
Stone Gatehouse 40' x 18': 30 pounds
Merchant's House: 33-66 pounds
House with Courtyard: 90+ pounds
Guild Hall: 136 pounds
Stone Church: 113 pounds
Tower for Castle: 333 pounds
Castle & College: 450 pounds/year for 13 years

University or Monastary Education: 2L/year tuition (minimum) + 5L/year board + books
1 Book: ~1L
Month of Fencing Lessons: 10s/month

Work Horse: 10-20s
High quality riding horse: 10L
Knight's 2 Horses: 10L
War Horse: 50s - 80L


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