View Full Version : Economics of Magic: 1st Level

02-04-2011, 02:25 PM
It's time to maximize our utility, folks. And assume that the Rational Man serves only his personal interests, utilizing all information available, and, well, 1st level magic. According to the DMG, the average highest-level wizard in a large city is 11th level. Using the system presented in the book, the city has 2 5th level wizards, 4 2nd level wizards, and 8 1st level wizards. Which means there are at least 15 people capable of casting 1st level arcane spells.

So if these casters, and their lords, are out to maximize their utility, how do they use their daily spells? Or, since wizards can scribe scrolls at first level (costing 1 xp and 25 gp), how many scrolls do they sit around creating?

To further simplify things, let's also use the assumption that 0 level spells are worthless, since the PHB hands them out like candy. (Although there's a lot of potential in that level too).

I'll start with Alarm (http://www.d20srd.org/srd/spells/alarm.htm). It lasts 2 hours for the cheapest (lowest wage) casters, and the scrolls. With a time limit, it's only valuable during events when intrusion is reasonably expected, or if there will be back-to-back castings. The caster can fire and forget this spell, allowing him to maximize utility doing other stuff while the alarm is in place - but he must stay within 1 mile of the casting. Also, since the spell only affects a 20 foot radius emanation, it's most valuable in a cramped space or on a small location.

The effect of this is comparable to closed-circuit cameras, complete with a monitoring guard. (Anything else?)

So medieval/fantasy employers can now monitor low-risk areas without hiring guards. The DMG prices a 1st level spell, 1st level caster at 10 gold. A single mercenary costs 2 silver per day. At approximately 1 copper per hour, an employer could hire 500 mercenaries to secure the area for two hours, for 10 gold.

So under what conditions is an Alarm spell worth more than 500 mercenaries? And for what purpose does the lord of the realm decide to use more than one caster to create a closed-circuit network? Hmmm...

02-04-2011, 08:43 PM
Well, with 500 merc's there are 500 opportunities for those mouths to take their silver to the local tavern and talk like Teseral on ecstasy. They will tell you everything that happened in their little life and everything in every intersecting life for the price of a pint. "Oh, these new thieves just don't think like they did in my day! All you have to do is skip over every other stone to get to the treasure! So much of it... Crom would drool!" :eek:

The whole emergence of magic completely destroys and normal/mundane economic principle. When the simplest hedge wizard or local priest can do the work of hundreds with one spell, the world is set on it's ear. Just glimpse at high fantasy/magic worlds. Flying ships to transport you across the realms for the price it would cost for a donkey. If you could imagine it, magic could do it cheaper and twice as fast.

02-07-2011, 05:56 AM
Not necessarily. As pointed out, manpower is cheap. Magic is not. Guy with a club 2 bucks a night. Alarm spell 1000 bucks for two hours. If anything the use of magic will spread the gap between the haves and the have nots. The Lord has the money for cure disease spells, the peasant does not.

Yes, magic will change the economy, to the degree you make it available. Are clerics charatible? Do they cast cure and heals as required to whoever walks (or crawls) thought the door? Or are they open only to those with the coin? Regular worshipers might get the free treatment, odd passerbys the show me the money. It would encourage church membership.

How expensive do local magicians make the spells? Some are nearly free or are free to cast for the caster. Personally I never liked the fixed spell casting rates. To my thinking they are designed with emptying PC money bags, not the actual economy of the world. They also do not take into account supply and demand. The more magicians you get trying to make a living on magic, the cheaper magic becomes.

02-11-2011, 02:05 PM
One way to price magic services: 1st level casters have to pay off their Magic School loans! :lol:

How many casters are there? Is there an abundance of low level magic (re: supply and demand)? Well, I prefer a low-magic game, and the DMG guideline of 15 wizards in a large city is pretty close to how I'd run a similar settlement. The low-end population of a DMG "large city" is 12,001 people. That makes 15 wizards a pretty rare commodity. And as Tesral points out, a resource likely to be harnessed by the rich, not the poor.

Grease (http://www.d20srd.org/srd/spells/grease.htm): (to pick a new school of magic) make an object or area slippery for six or more seconds. The short duration makes it pretty useless for industry. Unless, of course, several newbie wizards cast the spell consecutively, or one caster uses up his daily spell allotment on the one spell. What would be the common usage, or economic usage, for this spell be? How would it change a large city's economy?

Slippery object: a decent usage for personal protection. A cutthroat will have trouble hurting a noble if the noble's mage has a grease spell ready to cast on the cutthroat's blade. Or maybe this would have short-duration mechanical uses, like closing stone doors by making them SLIDE out of their compartments.

Slippery surface: launching boats? BIG boats? A couple castings of grease on the bottom of a boat could help it slide out to sea/harbor real quick. Would that be worth 10-20 gold?

02-14-2011, 12:01 AM
another factor that should affect economy, not to mention creature and plant population, is the supply and demand of material components.

regarding grease.... i could see it being used as part of a component of a deliberately designed to be hard to open portal. the requirement to cast grease in a specific area could make that portal much more secure, as so few have access to it. it can also be used defensively in war. makes occupying the high ground oh so much more effective.

i think most of the costs and services are holdovers from previous editions with some small thought given to player characters abusing stuff. also, the amount of treasure they are likely to find adventuring, along with the subsequent need to relieve them of it.

02-25-2011, 12:57 PM
Ruh roh, I just realized that medieval economics were probably significantly different from Chicago School economics. One example: there was no free market to dictate a market price - odds are that rulers (specifically, their staff) set much or most of the important prices. Another: I understand that the lower class was a significantly larger portion of the populace back then - meaning that if money was going to be spent, only a small portion of the populace was doing it.

Any history buffs want to help out?

It doesn't really matter what the price of a spell is, if the lord of the realm can order its casting without having to pay for it.

02-25-2011, 05:09 PM
The medieval period was mostly cash poor. Those that had money had lots, or at least pretended they did. Kings tended to be up to their crowns in debt. The common man had a few pence in his pocket, did a lot of trade by trade. A Yoeman paid his rent in working a portion of his lord's fields, not cash. One third for the lord two thirds for him was the usual division. No Chicago School ecnomics wasn't the deal. Supply and demand existed and did effect pricing, but the money was biased more to the top.

The Feudal system was never purely practiced any more than the free market has ever existed. However the dynamic of patron and client did heavily influence economics as well as politics.

I recommend this book. Life in a Medieval Village. (http://www.amazon.com/Life-Medieval-Village-Frances-Gies/dp/0060920467) Well researched and useful resource.

03-03-2011, 08:21 AM
I've got Life in a Medieval Village, Town, Castle - and all three should be MANDATORY reading for DM's who want some basis of logic, reality and LIFE in their campaign world.

The big problem I originally found with D&D economics was after a microeconomics class in college - and the old version of Identify with a 100gp pearl. Is that 100gp in the mountain keep where most have never seen one, or 100gp in the seaport where EVERYONE has a pearl necklace? What's to keep me from going to the seaport and buying 10,000 5gp pearls and moving to the mountain keep and charging 100gp for every one of them?

In most of my campaign world, barter and "service trade" is the way of life. You walk into town with the dragon's head, and "WOO HOO!" you are declared a hero, and the ruler gives you the reward... a promissory note for 1,000gp worth of goods or services. He'll arrange to have some armor made... he'll arrange to have some potions brewed... he'll even give you a warhorse from his stable... up to the value of 1000gp. He may even give you a couple hundred gold pieces - but not much more - and everything else will be done via barter and "service trade" - we'll DO something for you, just not PAY you.

There are LOTS of favors owed.

Another thing to consider with the example you listed in your original post - 500 mercs may cost only 10gp - but you have to consider the broken economics of the price list. Try FEEDING a mercenary on the money they get paid!! Most contracts (in reality) also included food and drink in the contract - which suddenly makes your 10gp outlay for 500 mercs MUCH more pricey! At standard wages, a mercenary can't afford to eat AND sleep on the same day - he can do one or the other - and never for be satisfied with the amounts.

What I did was consider arcane casters like present day scientists. How many PURE scientists are actually out there doing something to make a quick buck? Most are trying to research the next great breakthrough - so they can get recognition and then never work again (or have freedom to research anything they want/need for the rest of their lives). That 1st level mage will be researching 2nd level spells - or finding out how to tweak their existing spells (can I cast web with pine sap as a material component rather than spider webs?). They, like us, are narcissistic jerks that want recognition - they want to be a Melf or Bigby or Tasha and get a spell named after them. To cast spells for cash is like becoming a chemist at a water treatment plant - the person is a sell-out, a lackey, and is just "working for the man", man.

For clerical casters, you have to do some research into the mythos itself!! I found out early in my gaming history that the Norse deities saw healing as a sign of weakness - and the deities would VERY rarely grant healing spells - and NEVER a Raise Dead or Resurrection. Come on! There is one god without an eye and another lost his hand! Would they EVER grant Regeneration to a cleric if they won't do it for themselves?? There are several others that feel similarly.

03-03-2011, 11:08 PM
The price list is a pile of used cattle feed. I completely reconstructed it back to a silver economy. Wages will let you live. There is no way you are keeping 500 skilled tradesmen, which is what mercenaries are, on 10 gp a day. I cut food prices down to something reasonable, instead of everything costing like a four star establishment for a flop. Most livestock is fairly cheap, except horses, and cattle trained to pull. Those are heavy vehicles, and cost like it. I raised clothing prices to something that should resemble what preindustrial cloth should cost. Cloth is expensive, difficult to make, and every piece was worn until it could wear no more, then it was made into lamp wicks and paper (once paper was invented, my world has it)

AISI magicians will be of several kinds. You have the market magician. A person of perhaps limited skill, and with a low advancement drive. They will make potions, small items of simple magic of general sale.

You have you academic as you mention. They might make the occasional item or potion to fund their research, but not for other reasons except self use. This however is hardly every dealer in spells. Form ever dedicated researcher you have ten guy willing to take their magic to market and make bank.

I divide magicians into three types:
The "Book magician" -- These know what works. they got their skills from a book and while they can learn new things they don't progress the art. As the example above, web takes spider web, get spider web. These are the common hedge wizards and dispensers of small magic. they sell potions of first and second level spells, they make simples. They sell small spells. While a book magician can indeed be quite high level most are not. Most adventuring magicians fall into this category. There are roughly 100 of these for each of the....

The Adept: They know how it works. They can alter spells, create new spells and tend more toward the academic life. They are the people that make the majority of magic, usually to fund what they want to do. If you are buying a fourth level spell or higher chances are it is one of these guys. There are 100 adepts for every.....

The Magnus: The Magnus knows why magic works. They can create new schools of magic, whole fields and categories of spells. Near artifacts are the works of these types. It isn't just they do high level magic, they understand magic at the quantum level, and often don't even need spells to perform a task. It is unlikely that a dozen of these magicians exist at any one time. All of the vaunted Century Mages are of this grade. You don't develop near immortality without it.

03-06-2011, 05:18 PM
is your reworked economy available in any of your stuff that you've put online, by chance? if so, may i have a link please?

03-07-2011, 01:58 AM
In the sig the Greyhawke Campaign, look for the chapter on Equipment.