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Bearfoot_Adam
12-04-2008, 01:35 PM
Any one out there have this debate with their fantasy games? Is a barter economy just too much hassle or will it add a level of realism and rp interaction that will make my game richer for everyone involved. Right now I'm thinking about splitting the difference. Having a strong barter economy but also valuing trade silver and other jewelry much like voyageur era in the Americas.

GoddessGood
12-04-2008, 01:43 PM
With me it depends on the location. In my current campaign I have two opposing nations on either side of a river. One is highly industrialized and trades in the coin of the realm, the other is a spiritual nation in which metal is taboo. They use a barter system.

Webhead
12-04-2008, 02:40 PM
I honestly like a mixture of both, though getting your players into a "barter system" mindset can sometimes take a little work if they're used to measuring everything in terms of gold coins. How many chickens should you trade for a pig? Barter systems are much less dependant upon rigid concepts of value and much more based upon immediate, tangible supply and demand.

The next fantasy campaign that I run looks like it is going to be set in a very non-traditional world where natural resources are scarce and "value" is measured in terms of need and usability. Substance over style. An iron chest is probably more valuable than the gold coins it contains, both because a chest is so much more useful than discs of shiny metal and because iron is a much more durable material than gold. No one would trade them food for the "gold" because the gold isn't usable in any tangible way outside of ornamentation, which is something the inhabitants of the world in question have very little regard for. "Social status" is given to the guy who owns a healthy herd of cattle, not the guy who has a room full of "shiny things".

Arch Lich Thoth-Amon
12-04-2008, 02:48 PM
Mixture of both. Depends on the circumstances.

Aidan
12-04-2008, 03:00 PM
In the medieval Europe, most commoners lived in small villages, and coin was practically unknown. If anyone did have coins, there was really nothing to spend it on and people were reluctant to accept it (You can't eat silver).

In towns and cities, the silver was used as currency. The typical coin was the denier or penny, a small silver coin about the size of a dime based on the Roman denarius. It was nominally made of 1 pennyweight (1/240th of a troy pound) of sterling silver. Umtil the Black Death reduced the population of Europe by about a third, this was more than a day's wage for a laborer. Copper or bronze coins weren't accepted as currency and the smallest silver coins issued were farthings, one-quarter of a penny. Oftentimes these were just pie-shaped pieces cut from a penny (the reason for the cross on the back of many medieval coins). The thing is that the farthing was worth more than the cost of a night's lodging and a meal at an inn, so barter had to supplement the currency even then.

Gold coins were not issued until somewhat late in the medieval period and were almost exclusively used for international trade or very large transactions. Note that in this period, gold was worth roughly 11-12 times the value of silver (the discovery of a mountain of silver in the New World caused the price of silver to plummet relative to gold in the late renaissance).

Now, Dungeons and Dragons economy is a lot differnt. Gold isn't terribly uncommon, and the coins that are used are huge, 50 per pound instead of 240 per pound (or in 1st edition, 10 per pound). I suppose the creators of the game liked the concept of adventurers finding huge chests stuffed full of gold. I suppose they made platinum the equivalent of medieval gold, which I find to be out of place in a fantasy game -- platinum is an Industrial Age metal, you might as well use aluminum. But I digress.

Adventurers are definitely special people, not mudfoot peasants, so I can see them not participating in the barter economy. However, it might be amusing to get them stuck in a village where their stacks of coinage have no value.

nijineko
12-04-2008, 03:05 PM
An iron chest is probably more valuable than the gold coins it contains, both because a chest is so much more useful than discs of shiny metal and because iron is a much more durable material than gold.

certain native americans had methods of hardening soft metals, notably bronze or copper, to the hardness of steel. they used them for tools mostly, a bit for pieces of armor. while it is reliably reported across many different tribal histories, there are no known artifacts around today. the tools in question have been seen by one scientist, but she was not allowed to touch them, so there is nothing in the way of "modern proof" regarding this report.

other tribes had discovered the secrets of making a quilted padded armor from fabric where the thread count exceeded 1000. the conquistadors reported that this armor turned blades as easily as the metal armor they wore, and was much lighter, more flexible, and not as hot to wear. examples of this fabric still exist, proving the threadcount, if not how they did it.

it has been shown that the native american cultures valued plasticity in metals much more than strength, hence the lack use of the "useless dull metal" as iron was refered to by many tribes.

some trivia. =D

Webhead
12-04-2008, 03:18 PM
...some trivia. =D

Interesting.

nijineko
12-04-2008, 04:00 PM
i should note that the scientist in question is reliable, however in order to see the tools, she was blindfolded very securely, led around the back and beyond, then down into an old indian mine digging and once deep underground, was unblindfolded-being allowed to only look at said tools from a short distance, but not touch. the indians themselves would not touch them, either.

tesral
12-04-2008, 04:21 PM
Anyone have change for a duck?

The difficulties of a barter economy is why we have money. I don't make my players work that hard.

I list a dozen currencies for flavor, but usually don't make them work that hard either.

Bearfoot_Adam
12-04-2008, 04:59 PM
Anyone have change for a duck?

The difficulties of a barter economy is why we have money. I don't make my players work that hard.


Yeah, that's what I'm wondering. Is it even worth it. One thing I'm thinking about though is that there are no set prices. Everything is haggled, that way one can still have some enjoyment in shopping.

raven21
12-04-2008, 06:09 PM
I always offer Barter as an option to my players. The players on the other had have a hard time getting over the I must get gold or silver for what I have syndrome though. They usually never even try the barer rout and when I offer it they assume that I am trying to screw them. he group I am running for now is he exception, they immediately went brought up barter when they discovered they didn't have enough money. Even there, there was some degree of resistance, but they talked each other into it seeing it as all beneficial. I didn't have to persuade hem at all into it, I was relay surprised by this. I usually have to give them a push in that direction.

cplmac
12-04-2008, 06:47 PM
Anyone have change for a duck?..


I can give you five frogs for it.:D


Seriously, I would have to agree that it would make things a lot harder for everyone using a straight barter system. Now I am not going to totally rule the possibility out that there could be instances where instead of using coin, maybe the party is a little low on coinage but has something that they can trade for what they need.

nijineko
12-04-2008, 06:59 PM
side quest!!! that's the classic barter scenario. =D

Bearfoot_Adam
12-04-2008, 07:09 PM
What about the idea of trade silver. The idea of wearing your wealth on your person. Has anyone done this as kind of a in between coin and barter system. I guess one would need to rely on weights to form a price on sword.though this may be difficult in a urban setting since you would be advertising to thieves how much money you had.

Edward
12-04-2008, 08:42 PM
I think barter works well, as long as you don't make the players micromanage it. Sometimes they'll just want to make a roll to see what they ended up paying. And everyone wants to to be able use a common measurement sometimes. "How many tortoiseshells is that worth?"

Coins were invented in Lydia shortly before 600 BC. So if your campaign is set before that time (or is based on a culture from before that time), coins wouldn't have been invented yet. I mention this because I'm working on a Trojan War setting, circa 1200 BC.

The first coins were actually electrum slugs. Coinage spread quickly to the Greek city-states, but the Spartans didn't adopt it until the 3rd century BC. Prior to that, Sparta used iron rods called obols, which were 12 to 18 inches long, because they wanted to discourage trade with other cities. It worked.

Wearable wealth was the rule before coinage. Metal was very valuable, so rings were often used as a medium of exchange, and were sometimes strung together for trade. Before metals, jewelry was made of ivory, bone, animal teeth (especially carnivore teeth), shells, and so forth. Ostrich eggshell beads were being made at least 40,000 years ago, and were often strung together.

For large transactions, clay tokens were invented around the time of the first permanent settlements (when people started accumulating more goods than they could carry). If you agreed to trade one sheep for five chickens, you would exchange one sheep token for five chicken tokens. The tokens were essentially IOU's, so that you didn't have to carry all those chickens around with you. Standardized shapes represented certain goods; for example, a circle represented a sheep. (The beginnings of writing . . . .)

Etarnon
12-04-2008, 09:51 PM
In my fantasy games it varies.

Stone age tribes use barter. Medieval cities do not.

fmitchell
12-05-2008, 05:20 AM
Midnight nominally uses a barter system; in the Dark Lord's reign, coins are useless except as a "payment" the Traitor Princes use to confiscate whatever they want. However, as I recall, units of food became the de-facto currency, which had a three-tiered conversion to d20 gp based on whether you were buying raw materials, finished goods, or forbidden items (like weapons, armor, or books). In that world, magic items, especially "covenant items" without a detectable magical aura, were outside the economy: if by some miracle you found one, you kept it, full stop.

Grimwell
12-05-2008, 01:09 PM
I think barter situations work best in a game where people really want to roleplay. If they don't want to dig into their roles that deep, debating the price of rations with a merchant can feel tedious. If the players are really grooving on their roleplay, that same interaction makes for awesome.

So I do it when it feels right and fits the culture. When it does not feel appropriate, I bend the culture for the benefit of fun play.

Webhead
12-05-2008, 03:05 PM
...For large transactions, clay tokens were invented around the time of the first permanent settlements (when people started accumulating more goods than they could carry). If you agreed to trade one sheep for five chickens, you would exchange one sheep token for five chicken tokens. The tokens were essentially IOU's, so that you didn't have to carry all those chickens around with you. Standardized shapes represented certain goods; for example, a circle represented a sheep. (The beginnings of writing . . . .)

Thank you for the details on the historical significance of currency. Much of this was information that I was not privy to before your post. I am especially intrigued by the "barter tokens" concept and will likely implement such a system into fantasy games where bartering plays a large role in trade.


Midnight nominally uses a barter system; in the Dark Lord's reign, coins are useless except as a "payment" the Traitor Princes use to confiscate whatever they want. However, as I recall, units of food became the de-facto currency, which had a three-tiered conversion to d20 gp based on whether you were buying raw materials, finished goods, or forbidden items (like weapons, armor, or books). In that world, magic items, especially "covenant items" without a detectable magical aura, were outside the economy: if by some miracle you found one, you kept it, full stop.

Also, as best I recall from the Legend of the Five Rings RPG, the predominant currency (koku) was based on the current value (supply/demand) of rice rather than gold, being the staple crop and perhaps the single most important consumable to the populace. As seasonal harvests waxed and waned, so did the value of the coin making the rice farmer one of the most significant influences on the economic well-being. In essence, people were trading "rice shares" for their goods and services. I was always intrigued by the idea.

GoddessGood
12-05-2008, 03:49 PM
(deleted)

double post

GoddessGood
12-05-2008, 03:53 PM
I've been perusing the money section of my Exalted corebook for refreshers. I find the money system they use to be interestingly cryptic :). The core of the system is jade rather than any metal, but jade is too valuable (since it has magical properties) for any peasant to ever need even a single coin, so a sub-system based on jade and backed by the Empress was developed so people could buy things that were worth a fraction of 1 jade coin.

1 jade talent (64 pound slab) = 8 jade bars
1 jar bar = 8 jade mina
1 jade mina = 2 jade shekels = 16 jade obols (coins)
1 jade obol = 4 jade bits (quarters of a coin).

I like it because you essentially start with a slab and slowly break it down into smaller and smaller pieces. In the case of a mina, if you break it in half it's a shekel. Obols are coins about an inch in diameter and get subdivided into quarters. A peasant will never be allowed to own jade currency, instead they use jade scrip (paper or copper money).

1 jade obol = 8 paper koku
1 koku = 8 paper quian
1 quian = 2 copper siu
1 siu = 8 copper yen

They go on to say that buying scrip is done at 1.5 times the value, so 1 obol will actually buys you 1,536 yen instead of 1,024. However, the backwards conversion is done on a 3 to 1 ratio. It'd take you 3,072 yen to buy 1 obol of jade. This makes it in the peasant's best interest to turn in any jade they find (because they'll get more than it's worth in return) and ensures that most of the peasantry will never have enough money to get their hands on even a single jade coin. This way the power stays in the hands of the rich, essentially.

Aidan
12-05-2008, 06:28 PM
1 jade talent (64 pound slab) = 8 jade bars
1 jar bar = 8 jade mina
1 jade mina = 2 jade shekels = 16 jade obols (coins)
1 jade obol = 4 jade bits (quarters of a coin).

1 jade obol = 8 paper koku
1 koku = 8 paper quian
1 quian = 2 copper siu
1 siu = 8 copper yen




What an obscene conglomeration of Classical Greek, Hebrew, Chinese and Japanese units of value.

Etarnon
12-05-2008, 06:55 PM
Yet people pay for it, and they have a fanbase.

Ponder.

GoddessGood
12-05-2008, 08:07 PM
Nobody really uses that system all that much. The money system is heavily abstracted into a 1 to 5 rating in Resources. Item X will cost Resources 1 (things like knives or feed for a horse or a weeks rations) or 3 (a skilled slave, rare drugs, or a fine weapon). Heavily abstracted, as in one thing that costs Resources 2 can be more expensive than another thing that also costs Resources 2 ... it can get pretty messy.

Edit: I really didn't help my case any, did I? Remind me not to post after an Obama-tini

tesral
12-05-2008, 11:34 PM
This is going to get screwed up, but I'll fix it best I can. The full document is at Chapter Six: Money & Equipment
(http://phoenixinn.iwarp.com/fantasy/fantpdf/06_Manual_Money&Equipment.pdf)
The reality of currency is that value from country to country would vary widely. The practicality of the game means that every nation will have a gold piece equivalent coin to base the rest of the standard off of, and the DM simplifies the whole mess to make it flavorful, but not to difficult.


Ancient Coins: The fact is coins last. They are made of hard metal and in the case of gold a metal that doesn't oxidize. Unless you abrade them away, coins last. In the real world cashes of 2000 year old coins are not uncommon. Low value Roman coins are common on the market and an inexpensive antiquity for the collector. Greyhawke is no different, Dragon hoards and dungeons are full of forgotten currencies from fallen nations.

For the DM's sanity I'm not listing the dozen or so different styles and values of ancient coins that could and do exist. Ancient hoards will be listed for GP value or split by coin types. I will not keep track of the origin of each kind of coin.


Anorian Coins: Anorian as a nation is recent on the scene. The borders have fluctuated and the Anorian people are usually from some place else. Many old Coinages floated about.

Tomarkin made the change to a unified decimal system. The coins are round and knurled to preserve their value. The pattern set by the Eyrian Empire.
Coin -- Value -- Material -- Notes
Mil -- 0.5 CP -- Copper
Sen -- 1SP -- Silver
Soel -- 1 GP -- Gold
Crown -- 10 GP -- Platinum


Arabic States: The Hundred Kingdoms are not united save in religion, However, the coins of the city states follow a general pattern. For simplicity and to keep your friendly DM from going nuts all Arabic States use the same coinage.

Arabic coins are seven sided. Makings will vary from State to State. They are rigid about accepting only their own coins.
Coin -- Value -- Material -- Notes
Mite -- 0.1 cp -- Brass
Dram -- 1 cp -- Copper
Tithe -- 1 sp -- Silver -- Typical alms
Sheckel -- 2 sp -- Silver
Blessing -- 1 gp -- Gold
Talent -- 100 gp -- Mithrial


Coranthian Coins: A Kingdom of merchants they have been called and coins are the blood of the country. Coranth remade its coinage after the alliance with Eyrie but the names did not change.

Coranitian coins are solid Octagons of metal marked with the head of the King and the royal seal on the back.
Coin -- Value -- Material -- Notes
1/2 Fenning -- 0.25 CP -- Bronze
Fenning -- 0.5 CP -- Copper
5 Fenning -- 0.5 SP -- Silver
10 Fenning -- 1 SP -- Silver
Mark -- 1 GP -- Gold
5 Mark -- 5 GP -- Platinum
King's Mark -- 100 GP -- Mithrial


Domianian Coins The Domains are on of the few nations to define their money by the least valuable coin. The Cash, a slim square of bronze is hardly worth keeping, but it is the basis for all other coins.

The form of Domianian coins varies the most. They start as square with a hole in it. The number of sides increases as the valuer increases. All have a square hole in the middle.
Coin -- Value -- Material -- Notes
Cash -- 0.01 GP -- Bronze -- Square
10 Cash -- 0.1 GP -- Silver -- Pentagon
100 Cash -- 1 GP -- Gold -- Hexagon
1000 Cash -- 10 GP -- Platinum -- Heptagon
10,000 Cash -- 100 GP -- Mithiral -- Octagon


Egyptian Coins: Egypt is late to the coin game. It was not until the reign of Ramses the Eternal that Egypt had a formal coin system. In the past valuable metals were measured by the Talent, a measure of weight. Form did not matter. As a result the coins of a dozen nations current and forgotten wandered the countryside and the assayer's scale was in the kit of every merchant.

Ramses the Eternal defined a coin system for the nation and banished the scale to the money changer's office., to the relief of everyone.
The standard coin is the sheaf, a rectangle of gold stamped with an image of Ramses on one side and a sheaf of wheat on the other. All Egyptian coins follow this form.
Coin -- Value -- Material -- Notes
Tiddle -- 1/8 CP -- Copper
Grain -- 1/4 CP -- Copper
Mite -- 1/2 CP -- Copper
Tel -- 1 SP -- Silver
Sheaf -- 2 GP -- Gold
Talent -- 100 GP -- Mithrial


Eyrian Coins The oldest and most stable Empire they have literally millions of coins in mint. Periodically older coins are rounded up and melted down to restrike them.

Eyrie has also instituted a banking system to facilitate commerce and to make moving money around easier. A system of bearer instruments exists a cross between checks and currency. These are accepted at any Imperial Bank. Most Eyrian merchants will accept them, but they are difficult to move outside the Empire.

Most coins are solid round disks with a knurled edge and striking on both sides. Eyrian coins are of a quality that other nations have had to match them to keep their currencies from being devalued.
Coin -- Value -- Material -- Notes
1/4 Mark -- 0.25 CP -- Copper -- Called a Quid
1/2 Mark -- 0.5 CP -- Copper
Mark -- 1 CP -- Copper
Knight -- 5 CP -- Silver -- Rare
Noble -- 1 SP -- Silver
Crown -- 1 GP -- Gold
Double crown -- 5 GP -- Platimum Rare
Trade bar -- 100 - 1000 GP -- Mirthril -- Rectangular


Greek Coins: Like the Arabs the greeks not united, but their coins of the city states follow a general pattern.

The general pattern is round coins of various sizes. Each city will use its own symbolism and depending on the political climate said coins could be loved or hated the next town over.
Coin -- Value -- Material -- Notes
Desadrachma -- 0.5 CP -- Silver -- 1000/pound
Drachma -- 1 SP -- Silver
Pentadrachma -- 5 SP -- Gold
Decadrachma -- 1 GP -- Gold


Markian Coins Coins are seldom used in the Nation of Markia. Barter and favor are still the most common forms of trade. However there are a limited number of coins in circulation. There are a number of older copper coins circulating as well. Need has finally be recognized and a copper feather is now minted as well.

Form is that of a small metal feather with a hole in the quill that they can be strung together by.
Coin -- Value -- Material -- Notes
Copper Feather -- 0.5 cp -- Copper
Silver Feather -- 1 SP -- Silver
Gold Feather -- 1 GP -- Gold


Moreland Coins: Moreland is recent on the scene taking the lands of the ancient Assyrian Empire. They have made a clean break with the culture of that land introducing new coinage.

Moreland uses a rounded Hexagon as the standard shape of it coins. They will feature an image of the God-King on one side and the symbol of the issuing Blessed on the other.
Coin -- Value -- Material -- Notes
Demi -- 0.1 CP -- Bronze
Favor -- 1 CP -- Bronze
Blessing -- 1 SP -- Silver
Acre -- 1 GP -- Gold
Deciacre -- 10 GP -- Platinum

Malruhn
12-06-2008, 10:54 PM
Hi! I'm back! Long time no post!

I use a mix, but usually a variant on the barter system, using favors and either markers or checks (cheques).

You gut the dragon and bring back the dragon spleen to the apothecary. He gladly accepts it, and offers 5,000 gp worth of either potions or salves or balms... or whatever... but odds are you just won't see many coins at all.

I do similar things for nearly everybody. You slay the dragon and rescue the princess, here's a reward of 1000 gp, a new heavy war horse with full barding, and the PROMISE to train you for whatever skills and feats you may need (here's a list of what is available).

You find the lost talisman of the uber-bad-lich-king-dude? Turn it over to the Wizards' tower and they will pay you 500 gp and teleport you and do Identify for free for XX amount of time.

This works VERY well for me - and my groups have never complained.

GoddessGood
12-07-2008, 10:18 AM
WB Malruhn :) I like your system. If a character has familial resources or a significant (legitimate) stash, I also allow the "My money is good" interaction to work. Letters of account or letters of marque should also work as appropriate (i.e. "I commandeer this in the name of the king.")

Malruhn
12-07-2008, 03:44 PM
Using the "favor" system was funny the first time new players run into it...

The group get's a little fame and are looking to get a magical blade made. A smith shows up with just what they are looking for... and gives it to them. As they stand there with their mouths agape, looking for the attached strings, he just says, "I've heard that there was a star that fell to earth near the northern fork in the Yellow River. I'd really like to get some of that star-metal."

Trust is rare in gaming, sometimes.

But it works the other way around, when a group carries a 100 pound ingot of mithril into the smithy and asks for a PAIR of matching daggers - and the smith can keep whatever is left over. They just BOUGHT a smith for life... and perhaps his family as well.:o:biggrin:

Edward
12-08-2008, 03:14 AM
Thank you for the details on the historical significance of currency. Much of this was information that I was not privy to before your post. I am especially intrigued by the "barter tokens" concept and will likely implement such a system into fantasy games where bartering plays a large role in trade.

Since you think you might use it, I'll expand on it a little.

The buyer would place the tokens in a clay container, seal it with his seal, and give it to the seller. This served as his pledge to deliver the goods, and provided proof of the buyer's identity. (Five chicken tokens by themselves don't prove that John is supposed to give you five chickens, because they could be from someone else. Five chicken tokens in an urn sealed with John's seal is proof that John owes you five chickens.) By the mid-4th millenium BC, the tokens were impressed on the outside of the clay container before the clay dried. This let you know what was inside the container without having to break the seal to find out. (A merchant might accumulate quite a number of clay containers, and many of them would look alike.)

Webhead
12-08-2008, 09:21 AM
Reading up a little on the fantasy setting which I am of a mind to run in the near future, there is a sort of central trade organization which issues metal coinage to organize and track their operations. The major governmental bodies that do business with the trade organization likewise conduct their business with them through the same system. However, only those kingdoms who are registered with the trade guild may do so. For trade to, from or between smaller provinces or unregistered bodies, barter systems are employed as the coinage is virtually worthless to those entities.

I like how this creates a sort of "Core Worlds/Outer Rim" disparity such as that in Star Wars. "Republic" money works perfectly fine when you're in the "Republic", but loses most of its worth among people who don't regularly trade with (or highly regard) such governments.