Wednesday, July 2, 2008


I last left off where I had a system for the location of produced goods and services, and I had a total production number which—admittedly—was an estimate. However, a fairly reasonable estimate from everything I’ve read: the number for iron ore production, for example—this is iron content, mind, not the total weight of the rock in which the iron is found—came to 5 million tons per year. Which is an unimaginable number for most D&D worlds…but mine has an estimated population of well over 200 million (it should be close to a billion by the time I’m finished adding China and India). Plus, 5 million divided into 600 “references”, or mining zones if you like, is 8,300 tons per zone, or 23 tons per day for each…a quite reasonable number.

If you were working from your world, in reverse, you could designate the areas that would be iron producing and thus have a reasonable production estimate…useful if your players decided to do some mining. You can get ore to metal ratios from the internet, to see how much total rock would need to be extracted.

How does this, however, translate into a price?

One of the products that I have references for and a production total for is, of course, gold. 149 references for 312,000 ounces production yearly. It would be nice to think that one could simply compare the iron to gold, that 78 million tons of iron was equal to 312,000 ounces of gold—but I will tell you right off, that will not work. No matter how much you fuck around with it.

For one thing, all the iron in the world is not actually equal in value to all the gold in the world. The two may seem to have something to do with each other, on the surface, but they don’t. If gold did not exist at all, iron would still somehow be traded for food and for wood at the same basic rate that it’s worth defines…that is, the demand for the substance. While one might think that the availability of gold coin should somehow help define that worth…it just isn’t so.

Part of the economic problem in comparing one commodity to another is that in many parts of the world people just get along without it. While gold may be useful as currency, many cultures only use it for jewelry (not having currency as part of their social structure); yet these cultures continue to have economies, based often on community property but not always.

I experimented at length comparing commodities, attempting to use food as a base rather than gold, on the argument that everyone must eat food—but sadly, you wind up with a rather random collection of figures that just don’t represent a working economy.

Another problem I had was with any system that based the value of things strictly on their availability. If you divided that availability into whatever standard you’re using (capital, population, what have you), then things that are very rare and not immediately found nearby will have prices that are ridiculously inflated. Fine, I thought to myself when I first started…rubies should be very expensive in Germany, where no mined rubies are to be found.

However, the same principle must be applied to, say, sea slugs…which no self-respecting German would pay excessive amounts for. So I thought, put a ceiling on the value of goods; above this ceiling, it is either unavailable, or it doesn’t cost more than blank. But what is blank?

And what about obviously cheap things that I did not find many references for, simply because by and large they are not seen as particularly commercial: like thatch, or straw hats? Should they be inordinately expensive? Of course not.

The system that worked used the following logic: if a commodity is mentioned often by my source, then that commodity must have an inherent value proportionally higher than something that is not mentioned often. Thus, if iron ore is mentioned 600 times, and ostrich feathers are mentioned twice, then all the ostrich feathers in the world are worth—base worth only, please—one three hundredth part of all the iron ore in the world.

This may seem ad hoc. Believe me, it works fabulously. All the more so when you remember I have over 19,000 references (I’ve been adding France lately, which should bring this total to over 22,000). Which means—follow the logic, please—that the total value of EVERYTHING is equal to 19,000/600 * the value of iron.

From this assumption, I’m able to calculate the value of any commodity in the location of its development…that is, before transportation costs are added.

What this means for a world for which someone would want to make an economy from scratch is this: begin with the total population of your world, and compare it with Earth. This will give you a working model for the production figures you need.

Designate then the total number of points you wish to assign to each region in your world (I call the points references, but you can call them whatever you like). Kingdom A has 20 points of iron production, Kingdom B has 40 points, Kingdom C has 10 points. The specific locations of these points can be assigned later; it’s best to think only in terms of the big picture. Wherever you assign a lesser number of points, the value of the particular commodity will be higher.

Choose a base monetary unit that can be used to represent the value of said commodity. I use gold pieces, but food or copper will do just as well. To calculate the value of the commodity in a particular region, begin first with this formula:

The total value of all the world’s production of the commodity is equal to the total of your chosen commodity divided by the number of “points”, multiplied by the number of “points” of the commodity. I'll just go ahead and use gold.

Let’s say you have assigned 35 points to the production of gold, and 70 points to the production of iron ore. And you have decided on 175,000 ounces of gold produced worldwide. 175,000 / 35 = 5,000 oz. per point…multiplied against the 70 points you’ve assigned to iron ore, all the iron in your world is worth 350,000 oz. of gold. Simple.

Formula 2: Base price = Total world value / production.

If the total production of iron in your world is (conveniently), 5 million tons, then 350,000 oz. gold / 5,000,000 tons equals 0.07 oz./ton.

This sounds like very little, particularly using the old AD&D system that a g.p. is one tenth of a pound. In fact, a gold piece typically weighed about a quarter of an ounce (7 grams)…which sets the price of our iron now at approximately 3.5 tons = 1 g.p. (ignoring, for the moment, that a minted coin would be worth more than its gold content). Using the AD&D standard of 200 c.p. per g.p., the price of raw, unprocessed iron would be 1 c.p. = 35 pounds.

Of course, this is your system; you’re free to muck around with the numbers as you see fit. Since I’m using the system to reflect the earth as closely as possible, I wound up with a figure that 1 stone of unprocessed iron ore (16 lbs.) equals 6.1 copper pieces.

This doesn’t reflect the final cost, however…I haven’t spoken yet about the services required to transform that iron ore into worked metal. By my system, a piece of ironmongery totals out at 14.1 c.p. per pound. That is, it does in Transylvania…specifically in the town of Kronstadt, the modern city of Brasov, nearest trading town to my player’s land.

Before I can get into any discussion of services, I must get into the subject of transportation…and how that changes all the numbers.

I hope people can follow the logic thus far.


  1. I tried your formula using fish and gold and assigning some arbitrary production numbers. Leave viablitiy of the world aside for a moment.

    I have assigned 10 points to the production of gold and 100 points to the production of fish (10 tons of fish). I have decided on 10 grams of gold produced world wide. 10g_gold / 10p_gold = 1g_gold per point times 100 p_fish production equals 100g of gold for all the fish in the world (10 tons). Fish = 10g of gold per ton.

    Is this a correct use of your formula?

  2. Yes. Spot on.

    All the fish (100 points) are worth ten times as much as all the gold (10 points). Thus, the fish are worth 10 x 10 g of gold.

    Since you've assigned the total production of fish at 10 tons and the total production of gold at 10 grams, 1 tenth of the fish (1 ton) does in fact equal 10 grams of gold.

  3. "if a commodity is mentioned often by my source, then that commodity must have an inherent value proportionally higher than something that is not mentioned often"

    "Wherever you assign a lesser number of points, the value of the particular commodity will be higher"

    These seem to be contradictory. Which of them is correct? Do points (references) represent amount PRODUCED of the commodity, or its VALUE?


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