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The price of stuff in ye olden times
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OgreBattle
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PostPosted: Fri Nov 24, 2017 7:56 am    Post subject: The price of stuff in ye olden times Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

So we know that D&D prices for stuff in chunks of gold is nuts, are there any good alternatives that somewhat follow historic time periods?

I figure getting down "how much it costs to get yer carbs for a year" with the koku is a good starting point to compare everything else to. Looking at Muromochi era Japan via these links...

https://wiki.samurai-archives.com/index.php?title=Currency
https://markussesko.com/2013/11/01/japanese-sword-trade-with-ming-china/

1 koku (rice to feed a guy for a year, about 330lbs) was worth 1,000 mon
1,000 mon is worth 1 ryo (a gold coin on Meowth's forehead)
A high quality tachi is worth 800 to 1000 mon/1 ryo
1 hiki of silk is worth 1 ryo/1000 mon

I'm not exactly sure how much cloth is in 1 hiki though, some website says 'two kimono lengths' so does that mean making two whole kimonos out of silk or what

Getting down the cost of a horse, various kinds of housing, armor, boats of various sizes, labor and so on is needed
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Orca
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PostPosted: Fri Nov 24, 2017 11:17 am    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

Here's a ~English medieval price list you might find useful. Originally from the Pendragon RPG which was detailed, and possibly well researched - I don't know enough to tell.

Closer to the primary source but less useful for an RPG, Here's a historian on English medieval prices.
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Thaluikhain
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PostPosted: Fri Nov 24, 2017 1:13 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

I thought D&D prices were due to hyper-inflation due to some randoms dumping dragon hoards on the local towns.

(If Sauron was smarter, he'd have encouraged the dwarves to get Smaug's gold, cause he'd wipe out his enemies economies overnight)
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mlangsdorf
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PostPosted: Fri Nov 24, 2017 2:16 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

Price lists for medieval Europe are a pain: you're talking a 500 year time span across a continent. Prices varied a lot from location to location and from decade to decade, depending on local resources and recent events. The Black Plague, for instance, made everything more expensive by killing off a lot of the labor pool.

There's no equivalent of a Sears Roebuck catalog, so people are forced to grab fragmentary data from accounting ledgers and then try to fill in gaps from other from other ledgers, but you can't use information from 13th century Milan to establish prices in 12th century Dublin.

Your best bet is to get the price lists from some of the more historical, researched RPGs like Pendragon and Harn, look them over, and pick values that make sense and appeal to you. You can justify just about any set of values that have a reasonable amount of internal logic: a steel shortsword shouldn't cost less than a steel dagger, but whether a bronze breastplate costs more or less than a steel breastplate depends on whether you've got cheap access to copper and tin.
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GnomeWorks
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PostPosted: Fri Nov 24, 2017 3:41 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

This guy has a bunch of stuff on trying to build a realistic economy. As I recall he gets pretty in-depth.
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FrankTrollman
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PostPosted: Fri Nov 24, 2017 3:45 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

GnomeWorks wrote:
This guy has a bunch of stuff on trying to build a realistic economy. As I recall he gets pretty in-depth.

He lost me in paragraph 2 when he told us that we didn't understand a fucking thing if we thought that there was a right and a wrong person in the Keynes/Hayek debates. True story: Hayek was and is totally wrong and anyone who takes that shit seriously is a fucking moron.

-Frank
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angelfromanotherpin
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PostPosted: Fri Nov 24, 2017 3:47 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

Matt Riggsby has done a whole bunch of articles on low-tech economies for GURPS, which are worth looking at. The short version is that standardization is nowhere, and certain costs (skilled labor, transportation) are through the roof. If you go even a couple of towns over, prices can be shuffled unrecognizably.

I don't recommend going actually-realistic, because it's very inconvenient for players and MC alike, and the payoff is minimal. Players mostly just want standardized prices so they can buy their arrows without any rigamarole. However, it does mean that you can justify almost any seemingly incongruous price points as the weird local situation. Gold is less valuable than silver because you have an Egypt-style glut on the gold market. Tin is ridicu-expensive because the price point is set by merchants who sail a thousand miles from the world's richest city to trade otherwise unobtainable treasures for it. And so on.
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GnomeWorks
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PostPosted: Fri Nov 24, 2017 4:28 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

FrankTrollman wrote:
True story: Hayek was and is totally wrong and anyone who takes that shit seriously is a fucking moron.


...in hindsight, I really should've seen this response coming.
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FrankTrollman
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PostPosted: Fri Nov 24, 2017 4:52 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

The claim that unemployment is caused by previous periods of too easily attained borrowing is just obviously wrong, and you can very easily see that from even a casual look at history. Very obviously, you'd expect periods with extremely limited access to banking to be periods without high unemployment and few economic crashes. Obviously, the opposite is true, where periods that had limited banking are characterized by massive underemployment and frequent economic downturns.

If someone leads with a statement that they absolutely don't understand that, their claims to have any penetrating insight into pre-modern economics are highly suspect. The idea that the economic decline of the 14th century happened because it was too easy to borrow money in the early 1300s is simply too absurd to even bother with.

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Ancient History
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PostPosted: Fri Nov 24, 2017 5:59 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

It's easy to write out equipment lists with fixed prices. It's a lot harder to deal with inflation as it occurs during the game, as when somebody kills an orc tribe and decides to try and sell their entire worldly wealth in town. The idea that merchants will buy anything and have an effectively infinite amount of coin if you can just bring enough crap to sell them is a very video-gamey approach. Kill enough rats, collect enough vendor trash, and you can buy anything.

Which is in large part why prices in RPGs tend to be overinflated - because the PCs aren't supposed to be subsistence farmers, but adventurers with money to burn. That's a difficult market dynamic to capture on paper.
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Mord
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PostPosted: Fri Nov 24, 2017 6:42 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

Plus, how medieval are we talking here? If your world is in the throes of a "fall-of-the-Western-Empire-analog" dark ages, then price lists aren't really useful to begin with, because the entire concept of "paying for things with cash" is out the window in the kinds of marginal regions you're likely to be adventuring in. If your cash economy has ceased to exist outside the Eastern Empire analog (if your world has one) and wealthy Mediterranean port analogs, any price list you can come up with is going to be about as useful to your adventurers as Diocletian's edict on prices.

If you've given your world a few centuries to develop past the Western Empire analog era, you're still going to find, as others have already pointed out, that prices will be intensely variable from region to region once you leave the core trading network of closely-connected port cities. Hinterland regions will probably still not operate on a cash economy; the Economicon applies here.

I guess the real question I have for you is, "why do you want a price list anyway?" Are you going to run a Spice and Wolf campaign? Impose lifestyle costs on player characters? Seed a really weird dragon's hoard with nothing but wooden ladders and buckets?


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Judging__Eagle
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PostPosted: Sat Nov 25, 2017 5:04 am    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

Quote:
1 koku (rice to feed a guy for a year, about 330lbs) was worth 1,000 mon
1,000 mon is worth 1 ryo (a gold coin on Meowth's forehead)
A high quality tachi is worth 800 to 1000 mon/1 ryo
1 hiki of silk is worth 1 ryo/1000 mon


I like the analogous price ranges that are reminiscent of the Hexcrawl ideas Frank has posted in the past.

A years supply of food =~ a set of high quality military arms =~ a measure of luxury-grade product.

It can also determine what and how a koku of rice translates into physical gold currency for a Hexcrawl based game. Apparently a ryō of gold is ~16.5 grams (but varied from period and by issuers).

Interestingly, the yen translates to "round"; and it's origins as currency stem from European coins.

Orca wrote:
Here's a ~English medieval price list you might find useful. Originally from the Pendragon RPG which was detailed, and possibly well researched - I don't know enough to tell.

Closer to the primary source but less useful for an RPG, Here's a historian on English medieval prices.


While the prices of the first list aren't "1 year's food =~ 1 high quality set of arms = ~ 1 measure of luxury materials"; they're not too far off.

The common fare (2 weeks 8d) is about 208d per year. A "high quality" (x2 cost) sword (150d) & "exceptional quality"(x5 cost) dagger (25d) (total 175d) aren't too dissimilar from a year of common food. 'Knightly clothing' costing 1, ends up with a slightly similar price range as the koku/tachi/hiki triad.

The second list is harder to extrapolate. The most interesting part of the second list is the change in Thatcher's wages over two and a half centuries. Likely one can assume that a combination of economic growth, and inflation (?), are the reasons why their daily wages more than doubled (from 2 to 5.25) over a 250 year period. Demonstrating that the myth of "economic stagnation" of the post-Rome apocalypse of the European Dark Ages weren't truly the case.

The economic growth detail would be interesting if "Early/Middle/Late Ages" could be selectable toggles for a Hexcrawl game. Technology, industrial capacity (water-mill factories), and agricultural advances would vary from era to era; but so too would the taxes and expenses.

GnomeWorks wrote:
This guy has a bunch of stuff on trying to build a realistic economy. As I recall he gets pretty in-depth.


It's interesting that the wiki pages for both Keyes & Hayek deflate this begining argument. While Keyes' econimic models are critiqued, his hypotheses are observable in reality. While, on the other hand, Hayek's theory of 'crest-trough-crest' "parts of a business cycle" is illustrated side-by-side with an image titled "actual business cycle (aka not Hayekian)."

[edit]

Alexis Smolensk's map-sheets are pretty impressive and extensive hexmaps of (mostly Indo-European) Earth.

http://tao-of-dnd.wikispaces.com/Sheet+Maps
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Mord
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PostPosted: Sat Nov 25, 2017 5:57 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

Judging__Eagle wrote:
The second list is harder to extrapolate. The most interesting part of the second list is the change in Thatcher's wages over two and a half centuries. Likely one can assume that a combination of economic growth, and inflation (?), are the reasons why their daily wages more than doubled (from 2 to 5.25) over a 250 year period. Demonstrating that the myth of "economic stagnation" of the post-Rome apocalypse of the European Dark Ages weren't truly the case.


These figures are from 1261 onward; by that time Europe had long since gotten back on its feet after the Roman collapse. Urbanization and long-distance trade, which were and are the best indicators of economic health, got back into swing by around 1000 AD. The Dark Ages, which people prefer to call "Late Antiquity" or the "Early Middle Ages" these days, whatever, were roughly between the Plague of Justinian and the Norman Conquest (depending on where in the continent you were).

Modern historiography argues convincingly that the era of collapse ended centuries before the Renaissance, which should not be mistaken for the idea that there was no era of collapse. Placing a greater emphasis on continuity over catastrophe is good, since the old-fashioned way of looking things is far too periodized and fails to acknowledge the genuine achievements of the people of the "Dark Ages" in reinventing society in the absence of Roman advantages. It's not so good to forget the material fact that the fall of the Western Empire really sucked for just about everyone involved.
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Stahlseele
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PostPosted: Sat Nov 25, 2017 6:51 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

The Romans had fucking concrete as a building material way back then.
Imagine what our world could look like if knowledge like that had not been lost <.<

Also, long-distance trade probably helped with the spreading of the plague . .
The Plague itself becoming and issue probably because nobody got roman sanitation anymore after their fall either . . so there is that as well.

The Fall of rome may have just been the biggest impact on our societies evolution as of yet.
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Judging__Eagle
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PostPosted: Sun Nov 26, 2017 1:11 am    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

Mord wrote:
These figures are from 1261 onward; by that time Europe had long since gotten back on its feet after the Roman collapse. Urbanization and long-distance trade, which were and are the best indicators of economic health, got back into swing by around 1000 AD. The Dark Ages, which people prefer to call "Late Antiquity" or the "Early Middle Ages" these days, whatever, were roughly between the Plague of Justinian and the Norman Conquest (depending on where in the continent you were).

Modern historiography argues convincingly that the era of collapse ended centuries before the Renaissance, which should not be mistaken for the idea that there was no era of collapse. Placing a greater emphasis on continuity over catastrophe is good, since the old-fashioned way of looking things is far too periodized and fails to acknowledge the genuine achievements of the people of the "Dark Ages" in reinventing society in the absence of Roman advantages. It's not so good to forget the material fact that the fall of the Western Empire really sucked for just about everyone involved.


That's true. The Dark Ages weren't an era of total stagnation. There are actually a lot of innovations (e.g. finery forges powered by water-mill) that took place during the era that are largely glossed over today.

Stahlseele wrote:
The Romans had fucking concrete as a building material way back then.
Imagine what our world could look like if knowledge like that had not been lost <.<


In some ways it's even worse than that. The Romans had developed waterproof concrete/cement (i.e. Pozzolana cement, using volcanic ash) for use in municipal water cisterns, and were the first to use cement in bridge columns. It took ages before stuff like Portland cement rediscovered the material used to make the cupola of the Parthenon.

Of course, the Romans weren't at the forefront of technology forever. Their iron & steel working techniques lagged behind the Celts that were cropping up at the late Roman era. With the Romans recognizing these metalworking developments, and going so far as to adopt their chainmail method of armour construction (i.e. lorica hamata). Which could (apparently) last centuries if maintained properly. Instead of the more widely recognized lorica segmentata that most people presume was the only armour legionaries ever wore.
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Stahlseele
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PostPosted: Sun Nov 26, 2017 1:51 am    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

Roman Roads.
Roman Cement.
Roman Water Cisterns and aqueducts.
Roman Sanitation.
To not lose that would have meant an era of prosperity like never seen before.
And with the size of the empire at its peak, they could have gone on to bring that to the rest of arabia, africa and probably parts of Asia/Russia and northern europe as well.
The Roman Sanitation would have in all probability meant no black plague at all, meaning hundreds of thousands of people back then not keeling over dead.
A properly maintained road-network would have made long-distance trade across the continents a possibility as well.
Also, it would have in all probability meant a united europe.
No first or second world war.
And imagine the romans going around the world and discovering, settling and subjugating parts of it everywhere. They would have brought all of that with them wherever they went. Africa, Australia, north America, India, parts of Asia. All of those littered with roman settlings, roman roads etc. That would have led to a boom in population again like little else. And still a united empire spanning the globe.
And of course they would have needed to improve on MANY things.
Their ships were mainly for the mediterranean seas after all. Roman Legions on Viking Longboats discovering America, wearing Viking Armor, using Viking steel tools and weapons.
If they had not pushed into Asia completely, they would still be dominating 4 out of 6 continents. Maybe even five, if they decided to go to south america as well.
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deaddmwalking
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PostPosted: Sun Nov 26, 2017 3:41 am    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

Reg: All right, but apart from the sanitation, the medicine, education, wine, public order, irrigation, roads, the fresh-water system, and public health, what have the Romans ever done for us?
PFJ Member: Brought peace?
Reg: Oh, peace? SHUT UP!
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PostPosted: Sun Nov 26, 2017 6:06 am    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

The Parthians & their horse-archers kept the Romans out of Asia. It took about an other ~1500 years (the Polish army @ the battle of Vienna) before horse archers become obsolete.
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PostPosted: Mon Nov 27, 2017 1:00 am    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

Ancient History wrote:
It's a lot harder to deal with inflation as it occurs during the game, as when somebody kills an orc tribe and decides to try and sell their entire worldly wealth in town...That's a difficult market dynamic to capture on paper.


But a feudal setting offers you a way out, because for a great many feudal societies, price-fixing and price controls were fairly common. (In the form of institutions like craft guilds, and royal assizes.) In these societies, the explicit goal was to deal with "inflation" and "market dynamics" by just getting rid of them altogether. This, of course, led to its own problems...but they're usually not problems that PCs would have to deal with directly.

A society with knights galloping around, hacking up dragons and barbarian hordes, and pledging their fealty to the Lady of the Lake or to assorted divine-right monarchs...is almost certainly not going to be a capitalist society, governed by familiar free-market forces. If you want to pretend to be Andrew Carnegie, you should be playing "Monopoly", not "D&D".
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FrankTrollman
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PostPosted: Mon Nov 27, 2017 11:07 am    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

Price fixing has a profoundly limited ability to deal with large changes in the monetary base. That is to say that gold has a certain commodity value and if that value is markedly different from the fixed prices for various goods and services that one party or the other is simply going to be unwilling to make the exchange. The end result of the Diocletian edict on maximum prices was that eventually a number of careers were abandoned entirely.

If the changes in specie quantity are large in the short run, then you'll experience those sorts of problems in the short run. And in the scenario where someone is killing dragons and marching into town with cartloads of gold, the changes in metal quantity are massive

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Mask_De_H
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PostPosted: Mon Nov 27, 2017 6:42 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

Dimmy wrote:
Ancient History wrote:
It's a lot harder to deal with inflation as it occurs during the game, as when somebody kills an orc tribe and decides to try and sell their entire worldly wealth in town...That's a difficult market dynamic to capture on paper.


But a feudal setting offers you a way out, because for a great many feudal societies, price-fixing and price controls were fairly common. (In the form of institutions like craft guilds, and royal assizes.) In these societies, the explicit goal was to deal with "inflation" and "market dynamics" by just getting rid of them altogether. This, of course, led to its own problems...but they're usually not problems that PCs would have to deal with directly.

A society with knights galloping around, hacking up dragons and barbarian hordes, and pledging their fealty to the Lady of the Lake or to assorted divine-right monarchs...is almost certainly not going to be a capitalist society, governed by familiar free-market forces. If you want to pretend to be Andrew Carnegie, you should be playing "Monopoly", not "D&D".


Yo, you do realize the term "Logistics and Dragons" is a thing, right? On this very board, no less? And that some people do want to interact with the economy of the world they're playing in? We even had a campaign based around it, Temple of the Fiscally Irresponsible Elves.

At this point, you're less dim and more dumbfuck.
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PostPosted: Mon Nov 27, 2017 7:31 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

I mean, if accurately modelling real-world medieval economics in your game about exploring dungeons and slaying dragons is actually important to you, then by all means go for it, but remember to make sure that the rest of your players are on the autistic spectrum too.
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PostPosted: Mon Nov 27, 2017 7:49 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

SlyJohnny wrote:
I mean, if accurately modelling real-world medieval economics in your game about exploring dungeons and slaying dragons is actually important to you, then by all means go for it, but remember to make sure that the rest of your players are on the autistic spectrum too.
Insert appropriate expletive here. You don't deserve a more thought out insult.
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deaddmwalking
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PostPosted: Mon Nov 27, 2017 9:02 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

SlyJohnny wrote:
I mean, if accurately modelling real-world medieval economics in your game about exploring dungeons and slaying dragons is actually important to you, then by all means go for it, but remember to make sure that the rest of your players are on the autistic spectrum too.


The more fantastic elements a game contains, the more important it is to ground the less fantastic parts to player expectations. If everything is different, players don't know how to approach their options. If half the time players fall up and half the time they can breathe underwater they're not going to be prepared to deal with either situation. A consistent reality is important. Verisimilitude should be aimed for, and you don't know where each player is going to draw the line.

That said, modeling the effects of metric tons of gold usually isn't a high priority the way that having a reasonable mass-combat resolution is. Having a 'gold economy' (or other commodity) that doesn't directly interact with high-value items (wish economy) is good. There's nothing to stop enterprising players from looting the elemental plane of earth of a small portion of the infinite gems/gold so the game should expect that players will eventually accumulate wealth beyond the dreams of avarice. Letting players dump that into castles and town-building as an option is good for the game for a bunch of reasons. 3.x is pretty lousy with 1st level characters being murder-hobos and 20th level characters being plane-hopping murder-hobos. Having a chance to spend some money between game sessions on advancing your holdings would be helpful. It also could potentially meaningfully interact with mass-combat rules, so it's not entirely orthogonal to the current discussion.

Resolving the mass combat is obviously an important design goal. Further down the list but still useful would be determining how many soldiers and at what quality you can generate from a holding. These may just be background details for most campaigns but when they do matter, they really matter. When the players ask if they can Paul Revere the countryside to raise a peasant militia to repulse the impending invasion, the game shouldn't say 'tell the PCs they can't do that and have them pick one of the three options we thought of in advance' and it shouldn't output 'I don't know - just decide something randomly - maybe roll a die and if it's high it all turns out mostly okay'. There may be times that is sufficient, but it's not crazy to desire more - especially in your own fantasy heartbreaker. This is a useful conversation for considering how matters of scale translate into the game.
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PostPosted: Mon Nov 27, 2017 11:37 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

It's more complicated than just "dropping metric fucktons of gold onto the border village," it's "dropping 10,000 daggers on a border village and expecting to walk away with $bank." This works fine in video games where the local village store serves as a sink for vendor trash, but even video games then face the issue that they're pumping $money into the economy, which if prices are static means that pretty soon the players can afford anything - and if they raise prices so that established characters have to work to buy shit, then new players can't afford anything. (Which is, incidentally, why the Auction House is a feature of World of Warcraft and related games.) In most video games, you also can't attack the vendor and take their money and stock (with the main exception being the Fallout games, where you can have your gun and bottlecaps too.)

Tabletop roleplaying games generally don't cover transactions in quite that level of detail - the GM is not expected to cover the movement of every coin - but it's still an issue where verisimilitude runs smack into player expectations. Players want gold to <buy things>, and those things are priced in part with the expectation that players will <make bank adventuring>. That's part of why wealth-by-level was such a massive fail in D&D3: equipment upgrades didn't track with wealth-by-level, and individual PC experiences as far as wealth are going to vary considerably. You can be level 1 and stumble upon a tomb and get Level 15 equipment. In WoW and other games, they try to limit this by putting a level limit on equipment, but that's a harder limitation for pen-and-paper roleplaying games - anybody can swing a sword. Earthdawn got around this by making you expend LP in addition to cash for the best level-appropriate equipment, but most games didn't take that kind of approach. They expected you to be cashing in 50 +1 swords to afford your +5 upgrade so that your Fighter can remain sort-of relevant at 15th level.

And that was terrible.
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