Do you prefer a silver standard for your fantasy economy, such that gold pieces are more valuable and the weight-to-value ratio of a treasure hoard is much reduced? Or do you like the situation in OD&D where gold pieces are huge and encumbering, and hauling a valuable treasure out of the dungeon is a difficult endeavor?
richardjohnguy, aka richardthinks, has a characteristically funny and erudite blog post about historical coins, some of which are almost as big as 1/10ths of a pound, some of which are even larger. But it’s clear that most coinage in the real world is nowhere near as outsized; here we’ll let the equally erudite and analytical Delta’s D&D hotspot give the rundown.
As part of thinking about Adventurer Conqueror King, I’m trying to decide which is more important: historical versimilitude or fidelity to the game’s legacy. Here is a comparison of what each implies:
- Historical: Common people and ordinary commercial transactions use silver pieces similar in size to most modern or ancient coinage
- Legacy: The ahistorical practice of coins being minted in huge discs reflects a fantastic world with premises like “Lawful societies follow the god’s standard for coinage, and coins are huge because the gods made them for their own hands”
- Historical: A single sack might hold enough gold & silver to buy a small galley
- Legacy: Adventurers will have to go to extraordinary lengths to carry out sizable treasure hoards
- Historical: 95% of the adventures written for fantasy roleplaying games will require some degree of conversion – at least changing gold pieces to silver pieces, and also increasing the proportion of low-value coins if it is desired to make the treasure hoard as difficult to carry as would originally have been the case. (Castle Zagyg is an exception written for the silver standard, I know, and I bet Harn is too.)
- Legacy: No conversion is necessary, and the designer’s intent need not be considered – although after playing Jim Ward’s “The Pharoah’s Tomb” adventure whose summary is linked above I am certain that making huge treasures difficult to move is a deliberate design feature, it’s one I’m not usually aware of.
I really like the White Sandbox approach of taking strange things about the game’s legacy and making them part of the fantastic premise; for example dungeons are on a N/S/E/W grid with 10′ granularity because the ley lines make excavating in any other way more difficult, and gelatinous cubes are so inherently formless that they are easily shaped by this essential regularity of the cosmos and fall into line.
On the other hand, part of the mission statement of Adventurer Conqueror King is economic naturalism:
the Adventurer Conqueror King System has been designed with the view that many gamemasters want to be able to simulate an ancient and/or medieval world in such a way that their campaign world makes sense. The income of peasants makes sense in relation to the income of kings. The cost of swords and the income of the swordsmiths who make them has some relation. Treasure exists in more forms than simply gold, gems, and magic. The easiest and best way to achieve a world with versimilitude is to start with historical assumptions.
My own campaign is one in which lots of historical assumptions aren’t challenged, but there are a few places where I ask players to swallow some whoppers. So I’m torn on this one & hope your perspective will help me sort it out!