Saturday, June 13, 2009

Gold and Glory, but mostly Gold

I like creating campaign details such as various coinage systems used by different "powers" past and present. They provide a little touch of verisimilitude. And also, open up a great many plot hooks and questions for the players to pursue. "Why do the bandits have sacks of Gilder (the King's rival) Florens?" "Nobody will touch coins embossed with Frog Gods except maybe that sorcerer who lives off in the wilderness to the North." "Even the sage doesn't recognize these coins we pulled from the lower levels. Maybe there is more lost treasure and forgotten knowledge to be had. Or maybe it was buried for a reason."

It all started with the Dwarven system of coins is hinted at in the description of this character. Lately I've been working up details on a few coinage systems I plan to use in my next campaign.

Keeping it Real
I don't remember were I picked up this hint but it's a good one. The basic idea is to peg one gold coin (or silver if you prefer the silver standard as I do) to one dollar (or euro, rupee, whatever your local modern currency is).

1sp = $1

This makes it easy to price goods and services and in general reason about wealth. Cheap peasant meal = price of a big mac & fries $5 or 5sp. Skilled labor $25 25sp / day Cheap lodging No-Name motel $14.99 or 15sp / night. Luxury inn $100 or 10gp / night. Buy a townhome $150,000+ or 15,000gp. Some things don't translate well cause industrial economy not so much like agrarian one*. I'm not after perfect historical simulation, just want handy & useful rule of thumb.

* In truth most D&D settings esp. newer ones are far closer to modern society / economy than they are to any historical one.

Coins of the Kingdom
name         value  metal   size     notes
---- ----- ---- ---- -----
bit ~$.12 tin dime
ha'penny $.50 copper literal penny cut in half
penny $1 copper dime
tenpence $10 silver nickle
farthing $25 silver literal crown cut in quaters
half crown $50 silver literal crown cut in half
crown $100 silver lg dollar
royal $500 gold quarter aka half sovereign
sovereign $1000 gold sm dollar
baby dragon $1250 plat sm cube small cubish 1/4 size of dragon
dragon $5000 plat sm bar bar w/ dragon imprint

Increments & Equivalents
1 bit = cp $.10
8 bits = 1 penny sp $1
10 penneys = 1 tenpence gp $10
10 tenpence = 1 crown pp $100
10 crowns = 1 sovereign $1000

Heads and tails:
Many designs for coins have been minted since the Kingdom was founded. Below are the currently favored ones.

Bit's are minted by various Dukes and Free Cities and have portraits and heraldry on their faces.

Royal pennies have portrait of the reigning king and on the obverse is the kingdom's heraldry. A couple Free Cities have also been granted the right to mint pennies and they have the cities emblem on front and the kingdom's heraldry on the obverse.

Tenpences "head's" depict the great gate house of the King's Castle and the obverse portrays various events (victory, wedding, birth of heir) the King wanted to celebrate.

Crowns depict the gods crowning a king (in spirit the current one but it's too abstract to tell) and the crossed swords and shield of the Kingdom.

Royals have portraits of queens, princes, princesses, other favored family members and the kingdom's heraldry.

Sovereign has been in the past a portrait of the current king but it became burdensome to collect and remint them with each new monarch. So, now they have scepter, staff, sword (sacred symbols of rulership) and a stylized map of the kingdom on the back.

Cutting of coins is not official practice but happens with frequency to "make change". Esp in rural, gray and black markets where access to legal exchange is problematic. It is illegal to cut gold coins. The minting of silver, gold and platinum is strictly the purvey of the King. Others caught melting, minting, or altering coins any of these metals suffer the gruesome punishment of halving hot lead poured down their throats. Various guilds have received royal dispensation to melt and smith these metals but are very closely watched.

Daily commoner coins are bits, pennies, and tenpences. Ha'penny is uncommon and tends to be found only amongst the really poor. Regular folks would rarely every see a crown and when they do they tend to cut them up into reasonable sizes, half crowns and farthings. A commoner with gold (royals or sovereigns) will attract the attention of the local authorities for how other than stealing it from their betters could such wealth enter their hands.

Tenpence, crowns, and royals are the regular coins of the wealthy. They use pennies as needed but bits and the various cut coins are viewed as too "low" to bother with. Dragons aren't normally carried. Along with sovereigns they are for wealth storage and large transactions between the very rich.

The Many Coins of the Elven City States
name         value  metal    size     notes 
---- ----- ---- ---- -----

chalkoi $.50 bronze sm dime
obolus $4 bronze quarter
drachma $25 silver quarter
tetradrachm $100 electrum quarter 4 drachm
pentadrachm $500 electrum quarter 5 drachm
octadrachm $800 electrum dollar 8 drachm
decadrachm $1000 gold dollar 10 drachm (issued to celebrate victory)
several other "denominations" of drachm have been minted in the past

Increments & Equivalents
1 chalkoi = 5cp $.50
8 chalkoi = 1 obolus 4sp $4
6 obolus = 1 drachma 2.5gp $25
100 drachma = 1 mina 250gp $2500
60 minae = 1 Talent 15000gp $150,000 (a unit of weight not an actual coin)
Heads and tails:
Elves organize themselves in to city states, much like Ancient Greeks did. Each city state mints it's own coins. Although, they all follow the same system and use standard weights and metals. Each city state embosses its coins with their own symbols, gods, leaders, and designs.


I thought the following from the Wikipedia page was interesting...

Wage is 1 drachm per day skilled laborer

Talent mass equal to 25.992kg, as well as a unit of value equal to this amount of pure silver. A talent was originally intended to be the mass of water required to fill an amphora (39 liters). 200 rowers was paid a talent for a month's worth of work, about 4.4 grams of silver per rower per day. According to wage rates from 377BC, a talent was the value of nine man-years of skilled work. This corresponds to 2340 work days or 11.1 grams of silver per worker per workday.

The Forgotten Curious Coinage of the Dreaded Frog God Empire
Long ago cults of the Frog Demons spread from their foul swamps and created a vast empire. Although the empire has since fallen and faded from memory it's treasure remains stashed, hidden and buried deep within the bowels of the earth. But beware wealth is not all that remains of the Dreaded Frog God Empire.
name         value  metal   size     notes
---- ----- ---- ---- -----
???? $.10 tin quarter triangle shaped
???? $3 bronze quarter triangle shaped
???? $4 copper quarter triangle shaped
???? $500 gold quarter triangle shaped
Heads and tails:
All coins depict Frog Demons doing Frog Demon type things; eating sacrifices, slobbering, and the like. The "tail" of each coin is embossed with the Elder Sign.

Value listed is the worth if melted down as normal folk won't accept triangular bits of metal embossed with froggish horrors as legal tender. Collectors and current followers of our amphibious masters would probably pay much more. Of course the latter are as likely to rend your body into fats and juices with which to lubricate their vulgar frog demon statues.

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