A Contemplation of the Trivial Things that Compose a World

I have returned from Vegas and I have monetary factors on my cerebrum.

Last time I mentioned that he characters who defended the valley city received roughly 6 bucks for their troubles. In a typical RPG game of the fantasy persuasion players are usually heaped upon with riches, magic items, and amounts of experience that transform them, eventually, into god-slayers.

I have some trouble with this. Traditionally fantasy money takes the form of “gold” and you get a lot of it. To my thinking lugging around that much gold would be a very heavy enterprise indeed. It has been reasoned that the coins are very small, more akin to a penny, to keep them light. Still, I feel this is not in keeping with the aspect of unreality present in these games. Even the person who suggested the ‘penny theory’ to me admitted to envisioning something larger, more like a quarter or even the coin from “Pirates of the Caribbean”.

With this in mind I decided that if I were to craft a fantasy world I would simply use a coin of some unknown make and material. Going even further I decided to simply call it “Coin”. It is used in a singular fashion, such as “One coin to feed your horse, two coin to stable him.” Probably at a later date I will state that these coin are a base metal for weight and practicality coated with a layer of some rare metal; or possibly a merged process of the two forming an alloy used in trading.

These are the consumer base of the world I am working in. A ‘coin’ is equivalent, diction wise, to a ‘dollar’ or a ‘pound’. However many people of the common persuasion do not go around spending coin all willy nilly. Looking back into our own history the dollar used to stretch a lot further, this is true in other societies as well. In some RPGs you pay ten gold pieces for a room at the inn. In history such a payment might obtain you one month’s rent. This is the route I have gone, with Coin being a fairly worthy piece of currency, one of which will currently pay a month’s rent in a poor shack. More would be required in nicer places, and yes in some of the larger cities some people do pay an entire coin for a stay at an inn, but those people are rich.

It should be noted that I am still fiddling with the bits and prices may fluctuate.

With a coin being worth so much we do need smaller denominations. You can see that some serious thought, and spite, went into my decision to use “coin” but for the smaller denomination I went with a sense of whimsy and self satisfaction. That said one coin is equal to fifty pennies. I like the term “penny” and wished to use it, though in this world a penny has more visually in common with a dime. The decision to make it “fifty” came from my attempt to not draw parallels to the American dollar. Twenty-five pennies would suggest the coin is a quarter. Seventy five or one hundred would make the coin more valuable than even I want it, and one hundred would make the coin a gold dollar.

Higher denominations may exist, most likely in paper script form. These would be used only in particular town, each one having little value outside its place of origin. To obtain these one would visit a place akin to a bank that would take Coin and draft a certified script up for the customer. These would be used mostly for property transactions and large deals of that nature. Nearby cities would probably have an exchange office should a traveler wish to take lightweight scripts with him on a long journey instead of a sack full of Coin and pennies.

So, to my point; a payment of six coin was enough to ensure roughly six months of living in poor conditions or three in acceptable. As the characters who received this payment were in the town as hired soldiers this wage feels perfectly acceptable to me.


One thought on “A Contemplation of the Trivial Things that Compose a World

  1. I am going to call you to discuss this in depth, but I’ll outline some of it here.

    It’s a nice idea that’s technically already in use in many pen-and-paper systems: that gold (or platinum above gold) is a currency that most people won’t see. Laborers work in Copper to save up for Silver, merchants work in Silver to save for Gold and so on. Most game systems gloss over this because most things adventurers use are priced in gold anyway, and determining how they’re carrying around their wealth — in how many CP, SP, GP and PP — can be cumbersome. Let’s not even get into whether the inns they’re staying at can break whole coin anyhow…

    There’s two or three technical ways currency operates: on the basis of the value of the item (quantity of precious metal), on the basis of the perceived value of the item (where the quantity is kept secret but speculated on) and the value agains treasury (what we use today).

    As far as letters of credit, obviously this is the basis of banking and credit systems. Rather than your banks issuing paper currency that is only good in their municipality, they may hold their funds in trust, and grant them notarized letters they might assign funds to, which merchants would then take to those lending houses (fancy way of writing a check). Depending on the trust between the merchant, adventurer and lending house, the merchant may require the purchaser to place down some kind of equity in case it “bounces,” else you could probably get away with alot by writing as many checks as possible in one day.

    Anyway, I’m clogging up your comment box and I’ll give you a call later.

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