Money, a new approach

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HedgeWizard
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Money, a new approach

Post by HedgeWizard » Tue Apr 28, 2020 3:21 pm

I think quite a few people are already using copper pieces as a smaller denomination below silver pieces (I.e. dividing some things like drinks, lodging etc. by 10 so that sp becomes cp). Spurred on by an excellent book which looks at how you can make fantasy rpgs closer to the realities of medieval life I’ve been thinking about how the price list can be further modified to look more realistic.

Ok I’ll admit realistic is perhaps not the right word in a world where some of the top chefs are armless people with an octopus instead of a head. But still there is something about the price list which bothers me.

First change: More realistic looking prices

So I propose the following change the denomination of everything in the price list to one level lower (gp becomes sp, sp becomes cp). Now the key change: 1GP is now 20SP. This means 1gp=20sp=200cp. This is more like all the different medieval systems without the fiddly 12cp to 1sp.

Some examples:

Long Sword (30gp) = 1gp 10sp
Chainmail Haulberk (55gp) = 2gp 10sp
Cloak Silk (15gp) = 15sp

I use the following notation: 1gp 10sp 0cp -> 1g 10/-, 15sp-> 15/-.

This keeps the original price list but changes how the prices look. All other money in adventures, starting money, rent from holdings etc. Are changed in the same way.

Change 2: Pennies everywhere!

A second change is in how people use money. There are no (or very few) gp lying around And for the most part this is just a concept used for accounting. If Adventurers find money it will almost always be in the form of cp. This means that if they find 3Gp of treasure (a lot under these rules!) then that will be 600cp which they need to carry around. Keeping in mind that each 100 coins counts as an item they’ll start to get loaded up fast! :-).

For transporting large amounts of cash they can find a goldsmith/jeweller who can exchange coins for silver bars worth 10sp each. These can be converted into local currency at another city or town. They can also get letters of promise between merchants but only between cities which are regularly trading and where you really trust the merchants (so perhaps not in Blacksand).

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Re: Money, a new approach

Post by SkinnyOrc » Wed Apr 29, 2020 11:17 am

HedgeWizard wrote:
Tue Apr 28, 2020 3:21 pm
If Adventurers find money it will almost always be in the form of cp. This means that if they find 3Gp of treasure (a lot under these rules!) then that will be 600cp which they need to carry around. Keeping in mind that each 100 coins counts as an item they’ll start to get loaded up fast! :-).
Throughout the middle ages and renaissance most coins were silver. Copper coins (including alloys such as brass and bronze where it's mixed with other metals) were used in ancient times but not much after that. Lower value coins were usually still silver only smaller. Often they were just the standard silver coin literally chopped into halves or quarters! Later on it was increasingly common for rulers to debase silver coins by adding copper so they were cheaper to make, but they were still considered to be silver coins.

So if we were wanting to include a bit more history then the new type of coins below silver pieces would be smaller silver coins. Those would have the same value per weight as the bigger silver coins, so if they're a tenth the value they'd be a tenth the size.

I like 10 silver farthings = 1 silver penny, 10 silver pennies = 1 gold shilling. Farthing is Old English for a fourth, and four of them should really be worth a penny. But that's not common knowledge now and 10 to 1 is convenient. But if you wanted you could use the more historically accurate 4 farthings = 1 penny, 12 pennies = 1 shilling.

I do like there being less portable treasure though, to create dilemmas for the players, and included valuable goods in my expanded treasure system.

HedgeWizard wrote:
Tue Apr 28, 2020 3:21 pm
For transporting large amounts of cash they can find a goldsmith/jeweller who can exchange coins for silver bars worth 10sp each. These can be converted into local currency at another city or town. They can also get letters of promise between merchants but only between cities which are regularly trading and where you really trust the merchants (so perhaps not in Blacksand).
It's a good point that how the PCs store and manage their accumulated wealth can be another thing for the players to consider. I'm not sure silver bars would work though because they'd weigh the same per value as silver coins and would be difficult to split up again. Changing it to gold coins would make more sense, or for serious wealth to gems. The letters of promise are an interesting one to include in more civilised cities.

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Re: Money, a new approach

Post by HedgeWizard » Wed Apr 29, 2020 2:49 pm

SkinnyOrc wrote:
Wed Apr 29, 2020 11:17 am
Throughout the middle ages and renaissance most coins were silver. Copper coins (including alloys such as brass and bronze where it's mixed with other metals) were used in ancient times but not much after that. Lower value coins were usually still silver only smaller. Often they were just the standard silver coin literally chopped into halves and quarters! Later on it was increasingly common for rulers to debase silver coins by adding copper so they were cheaper to make, but they were still supposed to be silver coins.
Yes, I don’t question that! I was just keeping the copper piece idea to align with previous discussions and traditions in fantasy RPG worlds. We can call them pennies, farthings, dinars... anything you like! Farthing sounds a bit odd for me because I know what it is but not enough for me to not use it.

For the bars my understanding is that they were for transporting large volumes of cash between locations. I guess because you can stack more of them together than you can put in coinage. So perhaps not something for your average adventurer but perhaps for the merchants who they are protecting (or not). It might be how they would find it in a treasury, which means they need to get it converted to coins and runs the risk of people seeing where you got it from.

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Re: Money, a new approach

Post by SkinnyOrc » Thu Apr 30, 2020 9:07 am

Sure, I wasn't meaning to hold you responsible for copper coins in RPGs :) Each coin denomination being a different metal is a well worn RPG convention. I'll point the finger at D&D, if it didn't invent that it certainly popularised it. But it's convenient and I've used copper coins myself, as I talked about in this old thread.

You seemed to be interested in making it more like real history, and having smaller silver coins rather than copper coins would do that more than anything else. Now it's come up I like that and will switch to it.

But to do that you need to have a name for the coins past just "gold piece" and so on as there's now more than one type of silver coin. I was suggesting the terms shilling, penny and farthing. But after more of a look at it, the shilling was only a gold coin way back in the Anglo-Saxon period and by the middle ages was a silver coin but much larger than the penny. So how about:

1 gold crown = 10 silver shillings
1 silver shilling = 10 silver pennies

Then if you're houseruling that published costs and treasures are all divided by ten, anything that says gp becomes the same amount of silver shillings and anything that says sp becomes the same amount of silver pennies. Ten shillings is a crown, so if something's 12gp you can say it's 1 crown and 2 shillings.

If you don't mind it getting a bit complicated you could add an even smaller silver coin, the farthing equal to a quarter of a penny, and a rarely used gold sovereign worth 2 crowns. Just for fun.

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Re: Money, a new approach

Post by HedgeWizard » Thu Apr 30, 2020 2:10 pm

I like that, and for the names we can go even further. Instead of using a Crown you could call it a Groat (or Groschen if you want German or Grosso for Italian) which comes from denaro grosso or big penny apparently. This does have the nice side affect that you can put g as a short hand which is not far from gp.

I’m a big fan of the smaller coins but then we need something to be able to spend them on. Since a mug of ale costs a penny what would be less and conceivably be something the adventure tea would want to buy?

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Re: Money, a new approach

Post by SkinnyOrc » Fri May 01, 2020 1:03 am

HedgeWizard wrote:
Thu Apr 30, 2020 2:10 pm
I like that, and for the names we can go even further. Instead of using a Crown you could call it a Groat (or Groschen if you want German or Grosso for Italian) which comes from denaro grosso or big penny apparently. This does have the nice side affect that you can put g as a short hand which is not far from gp.
Groat is a great name :) But looking it up it was a large silver coin, so it's more an alternative to shilling. Other gold coins were the guilder, the florin, and the guinea. The florin's named after the city-state of Florence and the guinea after Guinea in Africa where the gold came from, so I wouldn't use those. But guilder would work if you didn't like crown and it's actually an older name (guilder started 14th century and crown 16th century).

HedgeWizard wrote:
Thu Apr 30, 2020 2:10 pm
I’m a big fan of the smaller coins but then we need something to be able to spend them on. Since a mug of ale costs a penny what would be less and conceivably be something the adventure tea would want to buy?
Ah yeah, hadn't thought of that. Nothing in the books costs less than a silver piece, so there's no point having the farthing below the silver penny. Oh well.

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Re: Money, a new approach

Post by SkinnyOrc » Sat May 02, 2020 2:51 am

After most coins being silver, the next best way to add some real world is not all coins being the same size. Coins were worth the precious metal in them, so a silver shilling worth twelve silver pennies was twelve times the size of a penny. Here's some typical historical coin weights:

gold sovereign, 15.5g
gold crown, 3.7g
silver shilling, 16.8g
silver penny, 1.4g

The silver penny that made up most coinage was really small. Gold crowns were also small coins, although more than twice the weight of a penny. By the way, silver farthings (quarter of a penny) are so small they're rare finds today because metal detectors have trouble noticing them!

That's with a real world sovereign being equal to 4 crowns, a crown equal to 5 shillings, and a shilling equal to 12 pennies. If we change the values to a more convenient 10 shillings to a crown, and 10 pennies to a shilling, then the coin weights can be:

gold sovereign, 15g
gold crown, 7.5g
silver shilling, 15g
silver penny, 1.5g

The silver shilling is a little lighter than it was as it's now worth 10 pennies rather than 12. The gold crown doubles in size, because it's now worth 10 shillings rather than 5. But it's still a fairly small coin, half the size of a shilling.

By the way, from all that we can work out that gold was worth about 22.7 times it's weight in silver, call it 20 times for convenience.

Okay so how does varying coin weights affect AFF2 encumbrance? The by the book rule is you can carry ten "items" and small objects like coins are 100 to an item. I'm not wanting to mess up what's a nice simple system, but it could be modified slightly so the coin types add up to an item differently.
If we assume an item is 3kg then this is how many of each coin type we'd get to an item:

gold crowns, 400 coins
silver shillings, 200 coins
silver pennies, 2000 coins

So if coins are sized like real ones you can carry a lot of them, and with AFF2 already having believably low amounts being found the party's unlikely to have trouble there. But that was the point of precious metal coins, easily transportable wealth. A lot of valuables the party find shouldn't be so easily taken with them and that's why I included goods in my expanded treasure system.

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Re: Money, a new approach

Post by HedgeWizard » Tue May 05, 2020 5:48 pm

I don’t know if I would go quite so far in approaching reality but it’s a fascinating route to go down. For the encumbrance I think it’s not just a question of weight but also ease of carrying. I like the approach of 100 coins = 1 point of encumbrance but don’t question your calculations.

Now for the next step wages of servants and henchmen which have always been astronomical. Just apply a similar calculation or revise how their wages are calculated?

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Re: Money, a new approach

Post by SkinnyOrc » Wed May 06, 2020 2:05 am

HedgeWizard wrote:
Tue May 05, 2020 5:48 pm
I like the approach of 100 coins = 1 point of encumbrance but don’t question your calculations.
To keep the simplicity it could just be changed to something like 500 coins/gems to an item. But with real world coin sizes, AFF2 treasure quantities, and everyone in the party carrying a part of what's found, no one's going to be carrying much weight in coins and gems most of the time. Personally I wouldn't bother tracking it at all.
HedgeWizard wrote:
Tue May 05, 2020 5:48 pm
For the encumbrance I think it’s not just a question of weight but also ease of carrying.
For compact objects like coins and gems I'm not sure there'd be a significant difference between encumbrance and weight. Something bulky and awkward to carry like a tapestry would be far more encumbering relative to weight.
HedgeWizard wrote:
Tue May 05, 2020 5:48 pm
Now for the next step wages of servants and henchmen which have always been astronomical. Just apply a similar calculation or revise how their wages are calculated?
If you switch gold pieces for silver shillings and silver pieces for silver pennies then that applies to all costs too, including hireling wages in the Hero's Companion. But I don't think you can use the same pay rates for putting themselves in danger by going on adventures with the PCs and for a relatively safe job working on their estates. The latter should be paid far less, maybe a quarter of the listed wages.

For those that adventure with the heroes the published wages are fine if that's all they get. However, my opinion is if they face the same dangers they'd expect a share of treasure found, and if you do that the wages become too much. They could travel with the heroes and just stay with the horses, but the wages would be high for that too. So I prefer hirelings who go adventuring with them get half the wages in the book but if they go into the ruined tomb or whatever they get a share of any treasure found there.

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Re: Money, a new approach

Post by Lorian » Mon May 11, 2020 11:25 am

I typically like the idea that Copper is only seen in much more rural areas where they need to create new coinage rather than rely on outside transactions. This would mean they are not as commonly seen in populated areas that would likely use smaller silver coins, meaning unless spent rurally the PCs would need to have a moneylender exchange their coppers for silvers at a cost.
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Re: Money, a new approach

Post by SkinnyOrc » Tue May 12, 2020 10:05 am

As far as I know that's not how it was historically, but of course not everything has to be and it's your campaign.

Copper was valuable in the Bronze Age because it was used to make bronze for pretty much anything metal, and into the Iron Age because they were still using a lot of bronze. But by the Middle Ages it just wasn't worth that much. They were still using copper alloys like brass for candlesticks, belt buckles, cooking vessels and that sort of thing, but not enough to outweigh how common the metal was.

What that means is even a low value coin would be big and heavy because it was worth the amount of copper in it. It was only later when coins started to become fiat money (with value by common agreement rather than by the value of the materials) that copper coins became common again.

Also usually only the ruler would be minting coins, and everywhere was at least nominally part of the domain of a ruler. Anywhere so remote there was no one who'd get upset at them doing their own coinage probably couldn't manage it technically. So even if in your world copper is rarer and more valuable, it's unlikely rural areas would have different coinage. Rural people are also probably using less coins and doing more barter.

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Re: Money, a new approach

Post by HedgeWizard » Tue May 12, 2020 3:43 pm

SkinnyOrc wrote:
Tue May 12, 2020 10:05 am

Also usually only the ruler would be minting coins, and everywhere was at least nominally part of the domain of a ruler. Anywhere so remote there was no one who'd get upset at them doing their own coinage probably couldn't manage it technically. So even if in your world copper is rarer and more valuable, it's unlikely rural areas would have different coinage. Rural people are also probably using less coins and doing more barter.
Well you do have the example of France which had many of its lords producing their own local currencies (and weights and measures). With the result that a trip through the country could be a very confusing experience!

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Re: Money, a new approach

Post by HedgeWizard » Tue May 12, 2020 3:44 pm

Even for the standard coins you had two difference sets with separate exchange rates.

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Re: Money, a new approach

Post by SkinnyOrc » Wed May 13, 2020 12:56 am

Yep the real world is more complicated than we'd probably want in the game world, although a little of that messiness can be fun.

A new ruler often issued their own coins and those might not be the same weight or precious metal content as what was already in circulation. Sometimes that was a deliberate effort to reform the coinage, sometimes it was because they were strapped for cash so they pretended the coin had the same amount of silver in it as the old ones when it didn't and hoped no one would notice. Also earlier on there were a lot of smaller kingdoms each issuing their own coins, Anglo-Saxon England had several.

I've said "ruler" because it was mostly but not always the king minting coins. The reasons varied, sometimes it was the king was weak and some of their vassal lords were pretty much doing what they liked. France went through a long period of that. But it was still the effective ruler of the land minting the coins.

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