There was something else I wanted to say about currency, that I didn’t have time for this morning. It is somewhat in consideration of the trade system for my world.
One of the calculations that makes possible the determination of price in my system designates the amount of foreign goods coming into a given trade region, along with the origin of those goods. Thus I can give a number for the total of foreigners travelling through a given city in the course of a year or the course of a single day. I can also, if I choose, determine the quantity – and origin – of minted coins in a given place.
It is referenced in the GM’s guide that there are multiple types of currencies in the world; we’re very familiar with this, and the complications involved, whenever we travel. What we’re not quite so familiar with is that in the medieval world, many political divisions did not have an exclusive monetary unit ... rather, they depended upon the availability of monetary units minted in other regions. Like the present American dollar, or the British pound of the 19th century, the Italian ducat reigned supreme in many parts of Europe ... as did the guilder, the florin, the taler and the dubloon.
About 18 months ago I experimented in a small fashion with the following scenario: the party raids a hobgoblin fortress, devastates the inhabitants and plunders heartily an extensive treasure of coins, amassed over two decades of successful raiding. Rather than divide the coins into merely gold, silver and copper, I instead also grouped the coins according to the geographic prevalence of four different varieties of coinage. When I say ‘experimented,’ I mean I limited the varieties to only four types. I could have easily included twenty types of coins, with everything from Portuguese, Persian and even a certain smattering of Chinese coinage ... since the party’s location upon plundering this horde was at the edge of the extensive Ottoman empire (it can be assumed the hobgoblins were raiding foreign merchants of all types).
The result? One huge, massive headache. My poor players were not prepared for gold coins that were worth differing amounts of silver, or huge silver coins worth more than a gold coin, or even ‘pieces of eight,’ one of the four types I included. Very quickly they sought out a means of getting rid of the alternative coinage, even at a very poor exchange rate – they’d rather be poorer than have to handle the bookkeeping.
And so I abandoned the experiment ... though I think about it from time to time. At some stage I may feel it’s worth it to ME to do the various calculations (it was a headache for me also, after all), but not quite yet. I am conjecturing a treasure table based on universal availability of valuables, but I’m not at the point where I can instigate said table (still thinking of how the table would be designed!). So the idea is shelved.
But I thought I might mention here that mixed coinage is a worthy prospect for a DM interested in upgrading their economics tables ... not merely in terms of having people make exchanges at the border, but also in terms of certain coins being of greater value because of the more reliable political force backing their value (devaluation of coins is on my horizon), because smugglers and other entities might prefer a foreign coin, and because losing that 10% is just wrong.
I’d like a party that considers keeping a store of differing coins when they travel, paying talers here and ducats there, as they move back and forth across a border. Unlike the DMG, kingdoms in the medieval setting did not outlaw foreign coinage regularly (exceptions always exist), since local minted coins were rarely enough. In regions like the pirate coasts of Africa, or the crossroads of Turkestan, it simply wouldn’t be practical to have a limited acceptance policy where it comes to money.
Something to consider.