Fantasy Game Economics

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Getting side tracked on Economics =) Moving Economy Topics in Session thread to this one.


So a side question which is self evident on other boards... how much interest does world economics play in your game? For most people it seems like it doesn't matter much -- but the question almost always raises questions once you start thinking about it.
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Pointer-left Scales_of_war_thumb
Ali
Good call.

I would have to say it depends on the group itself. My current D&D group is all for the suspension of disbelief. Last session they found a ring valued at 21,000gp, which, according to D&D4e rules, you can sell for full value. They promptly divided the amount by five and told everyone they got that amount, without even ask me how much they could get for it, if there was a buyer, or if maybe just maybe it was a plot device to encourage them to get to a bigger freakin' city.

That being said, I have run games in the past where I have basically prevented the party from having access to stores (wilderness exploration, etc.) which seemed to work okay. The group basically ended up taking the enchant and disenchant magic items rituals. As long as they were allowed to obtain the base materials they needed and enough down time for crafting, there wasn't an issue.

Also consider Dark Sun, wherein all magic is super-rare, but new mechanisms have been invented (i.e. divine boons) to allow for magic items without the economics side of things.

I think that the 4e inventors thought about these things. Really I do. So treasure is balanced, and more or less logical, and there are other methods for the DM who enjoys a bit of reality in their gaming to remain sane.
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When you start to question/analyze/rationalize things like this, you're opening a can of worms. Just repeat to yourself: "It's just a game"...
IMO, I feel that the price of, for example, a full wand of fireball listed in the DMG is mostly a number that lets you compare it's value/usefulness against other magic items and such. This doesn't mean that any merchant in a town or city would be willing to pay that much for it (even if he could afford it). Merchants will only buy something off an adventurer if they think they can sell it to someone else for a profit.
If you have a large city in a world with many adventurers (and presumably nearby monster-filled dungeons to draw them), there would certainly be some merchants willing to buy and sell such high-priced, specialized goods.
In a low-magic world, no merchant would pay more than a few silver pieces for a wand of fireballs. To most of them, it's nothing more than a fancy stick.
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Agreed, just a game. For a while I just didn't even care, I mean, there is no way compare our ideas of economics/trade against a world with the Gatespell....

But a few years ago my player, NG-Cleric, started handing out gold to every starving commoner she came across -- all of them... and that had to do something to the city she was staying in. Assuming 4000 or so commoners she may have averaged 5-6 gold a piece. She was paying the kind of character that would keep doing this wherever she went. Crazy people like that make you ask crazy questions...
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There are several ways to deal with that... Depending on if you want to encourage or discourage that behavior. If someone started handing out gold to any commoner that asked, a few things would start to happen:
  • They would be constantly followed by crowds of beggars
  • The people they give gold to would be mugged almost right away
  • The character would be mugged every time they turn a corner
  • They would attract beggars who were obviously not needy
  • The town's economy could get out of whack
  • If their patron deity encourages charity, they might get some boosts to their divine magic
  • The common folk might help out with the adventures (carrying things, absorbing attacks, delivering messages back to town, etc.)
That's just off the top of my head. Also keep in mind that in agrarian societies like those in most fantasy games, people didn't necessarily starve because they lacked money. It was often caused by drought, bad crops, war, etc.. Having gold won't feed you if there's no food to buy. If player characters are pulling massive amounts of gold out of a dungeon and injecting it into the local economy, that's going to cause inflation. If food is already scarce and everyone has gold, then you can imagine how that affects the price tags everything in the shop.
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Pointer-left Scales_of_war_thumb
Ali
yup. i was going to say mega-inflation was going to be an awesome result. consider how much say, the price of food goes up when the price of oil is high (say, last year for example).

imagine this scenario: the PC gives out 5 gold to every beggar. Now these beggars are richer than your average farmer (except, as admin has mentioned, that they don't have food). So they go take their gold down to the bar or in. Since apparently EVERYONE has the money now, the price of ale doubles or triples. the PCs will totally not notice the difference between a few copper or a few silver, but the locals sure will.

so the bartender has a bunch of money now, and he goes to buy stuff from the farmers, and can afford to pay more, so perhaps the price of food rises, and maybe some people start starving. the price of food becomes higher which means that anyone that needs to buy the food (everyone except farmers, that is), now needs to earn more money. perhaps even the local lord will only be able to pay out 50gp for the next save-the-village reward, since he spent the rest on his food. and since things like magic items are a luxury good, their price is going to get even higher, since i'm betting a local magic item storekeeper doesn't get a whole lot of turnover in his products, he's going to want to squeeze out every last penny from the sales he does get.

so giving out 5gp to beggars is going to turn around and kick the PCs in the NADS - the price of magic items. and capitalism wins once again
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Oh, all the above happened! The only thing you left out was being brought in on charges (of sowing Dissent and Rebellion) by the King's men...

What I meant, I guess, it that was what put me on the subject in the first place. Realized that, if they have sufficient character motivation a PC (usually a very evil or a very good) can have drastic effects on the economy that you wouldn't normally expect. As with most things in a fictitious game world you can kind of let them slide or decide how much those things are going to take up in game time.

In that case it was trying to balance out how much reward verse how much destruction should be wrought by those actions. And in game, the cleric realized that artificial wealth did, in deed, just mean artificial inflation.

In the years since (and I mentioned this before) I realized that by having a world "more advanced" with more trade opportunities and organization, a sudden load of gold in a city would diffuse far more readily then in a typical medieval society.

Gotta find the Order of the Stick strip on the subject...
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This one but not the one I'm looking for...
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Ali, what do you think about the chance of gold just being useless to some degree?

Not in my scenario, per se, I had come up with my own solutions, but in a typical medieval world, agrarian, Peasants need protection, Lords need taxes, etc. There is a chance that in a village, nothing is done with money. Taxes are paid in % of food, what's left (combined with Cottage industry) is either used to pay for any other necessities or they are roughly made themselves. Possibly some few coppers go around as a way of "holding payment" but not much else...

I was thinking that, for many campaigns, trade in Gold/Silver wouldn't even be a blip on the radar for many commoners, even experts. You might not even be able to "give" it to some, I mean, what use would they ever have had for it? For most it would be like putting a noose around their own necks and waiting to see if someone pulls it.
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I can just see you telling a player that the potion of healing he or she wants costs a goat and two chickens!
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