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Currency in Fantasy Worlds

» My Father's Bike: 0.714 (28,567 / 40,000 words)
» Wind, Bear, and Moon Query: 0.000 (0 / 26 weeks)
» Summer Biking: 0.228 (91.2 / 400 km)

Currency, it is a strange and terrifying thing. I mean, it is pretty simple since we are all used to dollars, euros, and yen. There are a ton others, but you get the idea at least. In Dangerous Journeys, they use the BUC to represent something costing about a dollar, so if you know that a fast meal costs $10, then it costs 10 BUC in that fantasy world. It basically uses price lists from today's world to set the fantasy world. I will admit, this is my preferred system of handling prices. Or at least one aspect of my preferred system.

Now, Exalted on the other hand. At gaming this weekend, we got into a discussion about prices. Exalted, like most Storyteller systems, uses a 1-5 dot range for things. Cost of items is one of them, with the cost ranging from • to •••••. While I'm fond of abstract monetary systems, I am not fond of abstract exponential monetary systems, there is too much between the higher levels to be really that useful.

Now, in our game, we pretty much had a unanimous decision to use the alternative rules from the Panoply section that lets you use hard currency instead of a random range. So, we have jade talents (T), silver talents (S), dinars (d), koku (k), and yen (¥). Okay, not the abbreviation for yen, but it works. :) Well, it got overly complicated because of the translation rates, so we are leaning toward using one set of currency and basically saying "X koku worth of silver" instead of "3 silver talents". It's a minor thing, but it was getting confusing, both for me and for everyone. So, we decided to use a common currency (koku in this case).

In Exalted, the largest form of currency is a jade talent. 7 T will get you a estate while 1 T will buy you a boat. Fairly simple, there are 8,192 koku in a jade talent. Still, fairly simple. If we say a koku is about a dollar, that means a boat will cost you about $8k and a house will cost you about $56k. Hrm, a bit on the small size. But, there is a smaller unit, the yen. There are 128 ¥ in 1 k. That means there are 1,048,576 ¥ for one 1 T. A million for a boat? A tad high, so it must be for a really good boat. $8M for a house, again, rather high but doable. In the book, a single yen is wages for a day, a koku for a month. A poor meal costs about 1/8 ¥. Again, not too bad but it seems like a huge difference in prices between a talent and a yen.

Now, the other thing I found strange is prices. A peasant gets about 15 k a year for salary. On the other hand, an unskilled slave costs 5 shekels or 8,192 ¥ or 64 k. So, the price of an unskilled slave is basically the same as paying a peasant for 4.2 years. I'm not really sure what the slave rates are, but that seems a bit high for basically hard labor. Plus, the peasant has to pay for their own food and lodging, which means your slave runs more than free labor.

It is strange seeing a game system that has so many units of currency in a single set of currency. The Jade system has quite a few while the Jade Scrip extends from the bottom. How many worlds actually have currency for 1M anything? It also gives me ideas since in my worlds, I have always had rather base monetary systems. In Fedora, there is the silver marks, which is my dollar, for the country that Wind, Bear, and Moon is located in. Well, there are gold marks too. Actually, the mark is basically my base-10 currency system since I use it in more than a few places. Tarsai is probably going to use a base-16 monetary system and I'll probably use Exalted's idea for the various monetary units.

It also points out, having a common base makes things easier, at least in gaming. Having a common price list is also very useful, since you know about how much a bribe should be or the cost of a boat. And the large impact of me sinking a boat... again. Or someone blowing through all their money in bribes. Obviously, I need to bring things more in line with everything else, but I have always worked better with guidelines. It also reminds me that I should have a price guide for my worlds, to keep yet one more thing consistent.