The gold standard

Jason Sinclair

Baba Yaga's grandchild
Validated User
Every game needs some form of money. This isn't a problem in a modern day game, where you can use dollars or euros or yen, or in a modern game where you can use "credits". In a fantasy game, however, it usually comes down to gold. Granted, most things that are used as money are either rare or difficult to get (or both), a promissary note that has some sort of backing to it, or a mutually agreed upon representation, such as shells in the South Pacific. But it always seems to come back to gold.

Has anybody else tried using a different "standard" than gold in a fantasy setting? I know steel pieces were used in TSR's Dark Sun setting, but I can't think of any others of the top of my head. If you were to use something different in your game, what would it be? Why? How do you handle money in your game? One inscrutible GM I knew a while ago had a system that involved favors owed from one person to another--but as the party thief, I kept not finding things to steal. :(

Tell me about your finances...

-Makes the world go 'round J
 

Misguided

Head Miscreant
I actually wanted to use coins made of a special kind of wood for Children of the Sun, at least in one particular region. We ended up scrapping the idea as being too easy to counterfeit.
 

The Incredible Hatboy

Superhero at large
Steel makes a *really* stupid standard. Why? Think about it this way:

Gold has NO practical application in pre-electronic eras. The same goes for gemstone. Nor does silver or, for the most part, copper. Therefore, the entire available quantity of gold/silver/copper/gems/etc (hereafter just "gold") is used either as money or as jewelery. If steel were the standard, coins would simply be melted down in times of war for armor and weapons. Once that happened, there'd be no money left! By using something without practical value as a currency base, you ensure that the currency will always be used only as such and therefore always be around.

The other nice standard basis works when there's a single, universal organization of some kind in your world. The example I come up with immedietly is Battletech's Credits. They're issued by ComStar, which holds a monopoly on FTL communication, and they're redeemable for comm time. Even if they're all cashed in for time, ComStar continually pays various other groups for things, putting the money back into circulation (sp, and I've no idea why I can't spell it).
 

Mark Mohrfield

Registered User
Validated User
Jason Sinclair said:
Every game needs some form of money. This isn't a problem in a modern day game, where you can use dollars or euros or yen, or in a modern game where you can use "credits". In a fantasy game, however, it usually comes down to gold. Granted, most things that are used as money are either rare or difficult to get (or both), a promissary note that has some sort of backing to it, or a mutually agreed upon representation, such as shells in the South Pacific. But it always seems to come back to gold.

Has anybody else tried using a different "standard" than gold in a fantasy setting? I know steel pieces were used in TSR's Dark Sun setting, but I can't think of any others of the top of my head. If you were to use something different in your game, what would it be? Why? How do you handle money in your game? One inscrutible GM I knew a while ago had a system that involved favors owed from one person to another--but as the party thief, I kept not finding things to steal. :(

Tell me about your finances...

-Makes the world go 'round J
The Heortling cultue of Glorantha (Hero Wars) actually uses cows as the preferred medium of exchange.

Mark Mohrfield
 
N

NPC NPC123

Guest
The Incredible Hatboy said:
Steel makes a *really* stupid standard. Why? Think about it this way:
There is one other thing here -- in Dragonlance, famous for using steel as currency, it was used becuase of its innate value. It wasn't a government backed coinage, it was used to trade because it could be used to make weapons and armor.

So how much steel would a sword cost? Well, it's weight in steel plus enough to cover the smith's time and craft and overhead. So to buy a sword you'd need like 20 pounds of steel. If you wanna buy a horse you'd better bring a cart to market, cause you won't be able to carry that much steel.

Barter would be easier. So, so much easier....
 

The Incredible Hatboy

Superhero at large
Yeah, I know that Dragonlance had its steel coins, but those are just absurd. Setting aside the huge-fucking-weight issue, like I said, being of innate use is a *negative* in a currency medium. It means that currency is used - in the case of something as outrageously useful as steel, used often - for things other than trade. *Everything* becomes instantly expensive, since prices *start* at weight-in-steel. Setting aside transportation, just imagine trying to buy, say, a steel plow, or even just a good helmet. That lowers the amount of steel in circulation by a goodly chunk, which makes it even rarer, which raises its value, which makes further purchases even more expensive... and so forth. You get to a point where any steel items that aren't absolutely neccessary are more valuable melted and sold than they are in and of themselves.
 

Kevin Mowery

WAUGH!
Validated User
Toonquest

In the Toonquest setting (in the Tooniversal Tour Guide), they use lead pieces as the basic unit. There's a lot of lead available, and it's not good for anything else.
 

Forum Administrator

Administrator
RPGnet Member
Jason Sinclair said:
Has anybody else tried using a different "standard" than gold in a fantasy setting? I know steel pieces were used in TSR's Dark Sun setting, but I can't think of any others of the top of my head. If you were to use something different in your game, what would it be? Why? How do you handle money in your game?
The standard in my campaign world of Danae (full of humanoid lagomorphs, no less) was ironclay. Ironclay was found along river bottoms, and it was a pain in the ass to get the river diverted and/or pumped for sufficent amounts of time to mine it; never mind that if ironclay got dessicated, it was worthless - it had to be kiln-fired to be of use.

Once mined, the clay was formed into half-dollar sized coins and pressed with the king's seal. Then it was immediately kiln-fired. The result? A high-quality ceramic piece. Light, easily recognized, and it could be broken into pieces of four (legally) by a 'ava-pai', literally a 'money-breaker'. Counterfeiting? Impossible. When placed over a lodestone, true ironclay floats. A merchant who was hopeless in business was known to have 'lost his lodestone'. The king made a bundle by being the monopoly on lodestones, kilns (it was illegal to have a kiln within 1 mile of a river) and of course, the minting process.

When magically processed, ironclay acts as though the entire world is a lodestone. The clay is slathered onto the hull of galleons and then magically fired. The result? Airships that float about 10' off the ground.

One of my better inventions, I thought.
 
Last edited:

Judas

Most Dangerous Thoughts!
Validated User
Maybe spices. I have read of things like salt used as currency in ancient China, and far-east spices in some parts of Europe during the Age of Discovery.

Many spices in early times were literally worth more than their weight in gold.

Hey, melange would be good currency in the Dune universe.
 
Top Bottom