Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Equipment Notes

I’m not surprised that some of the numbers appearing on the equipment list would be disputed, nor that those numbers might reflect on my system as a whole, indicating that the system is obviously flawed.

I think I need to point out a few things, by way of clarification. The first would be that the equipment costs are not necessarily the results you might get from the system as you create it. Likely, your own design would be simpler and more tailored to your world: therefore, gold would be less expensive, say, along with animals, food or what have you.

In many cases my numbers are high because I am taking into account things which most may not consider. The apparently incredible cost of my horses and other livestock, for instance, is based on the cost required to feed these animals for upwards of three years. A horse MUST be three years old before it can be ridden into war, or else its back will be damaged; during that time it will eat 19 lbs. of food a day. I considered that 90% of the food it would consume would be in the field, and I still got a terrific number for the cost of the food…producing a very expensive horse. This price was further inflated by the fact that horses were not common in Eastern Europe during the period in which my world takes place.

You might find both the cost of the food and the availability of the horse to be different. This brings me to the second point about the equipment table shown:

If I were to show the table for another part of my world, say, central China, there would be very different numbers. That is because THIS equipment list, unlike every other equipment list a D&D player is likely to have seen, is geographical in nature. That means things are going to be markedly different in price depending on where you are on the planet. This is made more pronounced by the fact that my planet—Earth—is VASTLY larger than most D&D campaign maps. Compare the Greyhawk Map, the long axis of which is 170 hexes, with Earth, where the distance from Italy to Kirghizia (a mere 1/8 of the circumference at that latitude) is 180 hexes (20 miles per hex).

So certainly the price of equipment in Kronstadt, Transylvania, is in no way indicative of the price that would occur four thousand miles away.

My final point would be that the prices shown were not invented out of my head. In many cases I found the prices to be rather high, just as some readers have…I have had to consider both the table itself, and my own preconceptions, largely subject to thinking of the economic structure of the world as it is today, not as it was in the 17th century, when transportation was much much more difficult. It was not uncommon for a European merchant to lose two cargos for every one which made it back from the Far East…such things tend to inflate the price in ways we have no experience with today. Nor was it as easy to puddle metal, saw wood, process flour, cut stone or harvest grain as it is now. Animals had a tendency to die rather irrationally of disease.

We live in a remarkably cheap world with cheap services and cheap goods. It would be amiss to think that this in any way reflects against the cost of such things in a much less industrialized world.

I cannot blame people for leaping to conclusions about the prices shown. We have all been propagandized by poor research on the part of companies or individuals who have not considered any of the above, slapping prices and names together and calling it an equipment list. I have been through every list I could find over the last twenty years, and I have found both good and bad information in them.

Before leaping to too many quick conclusions about what you see, check your premises. You might find some of them are wrong.

Mine certainly have been in the past. Please, present rational arguments and I will recheck my premises as necessary. But mere scoffing, by saying, “jeez that sounds like too much!” Well, what good is that to me?


mhensley said...

If you're doing all this work and research on prices, keeping the hyper-inflated value of coins from D&D seems an odd thing to do. Why is it that coins are of such low worth in your fantasy earth?

Alexis said...

Because, my dear mhensley, my coins are based on the actual coins that existed on Earth. Those numismatics statistics I just quoted are commensurate with actual coins you can find in actual museums.

I can't see where there is anything hyper-inflated about it. Conversely, it simply doesn't concur with the hyper-deflated Gygaxian perception of coinage, obviously based on either a total lack of research or a desire to create a fantastical perception of gold.

I don't need my gold to be measurable by the ton in order to create fantasy. I also don't need my party members hauling 60 lb. bags of gold like so many sacks of flour just so they can pay the small army they've raised. Coins were invented for the sake of their convenience, after all.