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View Full Version : Dual Economies - Spirit Sand - Alternative to massive wealth!



Omegas
2014-02-08, 10:55 AM
The red writing is the setting, the green is my notes.
I wanted to restart this thread from 2012 because the last time it went off on such a massive tangent and this is a useful idea I have used for years.

I am a DM

I had a players that just did not like the economics of D&D. After 10th level a character could sell their magical crap and live handsomely for the rest of your life. The DM can make reasons to continue adventuring but honestly a character's wealth can do more by hiring armies and other capable units to protect the land. It's not hard for a PC to amass wealth equal to or surpassing the surrounding kingdoms. This can push the limitations of believability even by D&D standards.

I have to admit after level 5, I have never bothered tracking inn fees, stabling, or food cost. Common items are a joke to higher level characters.


Solution to make the D&D Economy more practical and relateable.
The Last Sands of Left in Death's Hourglass.

Everyday of your life Death turns your hour glass over so that your sand does not run out. Should your sand run out, then you die. Aging, surviving crippling accidents, or natural ailments increase the flow of the sand though the glass. Sand is never lost from any natural or expected end, as Death has time to collect the hourglass and release your spirit.

Abrupt or unforeseen deaths cause the hourglass to shatter and some of the sand from the glass spill out into the plane where the creature died. Death is aware of all untimely end but he does not always know which way a conflict will end, so he positions himself at the creature more likely to die. Based on the (CR) he is prepared to prevent most or all of the sand from escaping. He also will not allow mortals to collect sand from sacrifices like using wish to summon a minor challenge to be destroyed. Generally he punished mortals who attempt such thing by neglecting the hourglasses of someone they care about. When there is a great lose of lives, such as massive battles, Death collects the glasses in a special room that prevents the loss of sand. Sand still finds it way to the battle field but not in the amounts that one would expect for such loss of life.

All loot drops 10% standard gold and the other 90% in "Spirit Sand".
All items (including magical) drop at the normal rate.

This spirit sand forms into crystals called soul gems. Its magnetic (only to Spirit Sand) meaning you can wave a crystal over the ground and all of the sand will cling to it. If you fill a pouch with sand after a few hours it will all co-less into an easily breakable crystal. A gem composed of 5000 grains of sand weights 1 lbs. These gems are the primary component in the creation, repair, and cost of all magical items.

Merchants will trade up to 90% of a magical items cost in spirit sand / gems but the rest has to be paid in gold. Gold is wealth and can be traded for anything, while spirit sand is only used for magical items, thus it is not as valuable as gold. If you sold a magical item no one would give you straight gold when spirit sand is so much easier to find. Sand is treated like a currency exchange so appraise does not work to increase its value.

As a result of this simple house rule.Players will still making a good living, adventuring, but it is not that much more then a player could have earned using a ranked profession skill. Their income does not dramatically surpass the NPC world and magical items are no longer worth a kings ransom.

My players have made 10 levels in 15 sessions, and they have a grater appreciation for gold. Game play seems to be unaffected other then players are not as inclined to burn cash and they are not wasting time on determining how to transport gold in the tons.

If they face a beast or monster they normally only get sand, but I make up the difference in a future finds or encounters, and Undead normally have many soul gems just lying around or it is clinging to their bones where their heart should be. This has made allocating treasure so much easier.

I appreciate anyone who has any though or more importantly if others would try this and provide me with feedback. I am simply looking for unforeseen issues that might effect the rules.

Note I know some of you will say that you prefer not tracking mundane things like gold weight, NPC ecology, and economy but in the same breath many of you will admit the value of some magical items are unrealistic. Can you really see the King debating the choice to end poverty in their kingdom or keeping their fancy magical shoes?

Erberor
2014-02-09, 12:46 PM
really like the idea, and it definitely accomplishes exactly what you wanted to. Also, the bit about death is just cool.

Although there is the problem that Ashtagon brought up. There isn't much to prevent the use of soul sand as a form of currency. Of course, as a commoner I would much rather have gold than soul sand.

NichG
2014-02-09, 01:23 PM
I was writing out a detailed reply, but I think the overall function of this is basically just lowering the currency value of magic items.

Essentially, you could probably trade 1gp for about 10 ss, or vice versa, given the relative rates at which they flow into the world. That basically means that the equivalent gp costs of magic items are divided by 5, while the equivalent gp costs of non-magic items remain the same.

Which, honestly, does do a lot to resolve some of the silliness of D&D economics, without having to consider some sort of 'dual economy' picture (which I think does effectively break down here because of the possibility of trade).

One amusing thing to do might be to say 'the spirit sand can also be consumed to add days to your natural lifespan' - that creates an asymmetry between adventurers, who are more likely to die young from violence anyhow, and the rich old rulers who want to extend their lives as much as possible but don't really need a shiny sword.

Also, in some sense once a rich man's income of the stuff exceeds 1 day per day, his demand changes sharply, which means that it might be difficult to unload huge amounts of the stuff - you need to sell it to the middle class, who only have so much gold to trade for it, rather than the rich who are basically at saturation anyhow. Or a very paranoid/future-minded rich person...

Omegas
2014-02-09, 03:31 PM
really like the idea, and it definitely accomplishes exactly what you wanted to. Also, the bit about death is just cool.

Although there is the problem that Ashtagon brought up. There isn't much to prevent the use of soul sand as a form of currency. Of course, as a commoner I would much rather have gold than soul sand.

Although you could exchange the value of sand and coin the value of sand is significantly less due to abundance and it is unstable. Effectively no one would give you a shank of mutten for sand unless they really needed the sand. On the other hand everyone exchanges gold. There is always the possibility of trade but if I walk into a Burger King I am going to have a hard time trading a gallon of gas for a burger.

This effectively works if you consider the exchange from sand to gold will be far less then the exchange from gold to sand.

TuggyNE
2014-02-10, 12:55 AM
On the other hand everyone exchanges gold. There is always the possibility of trade but if I walk into a Burger King I am going to have a hard time trading a gallon of gas for a burger.

This is why currency was invented, to add a layer of abstraction to transactions. It works extremely well for the purpose, as we can see whenever someone who works at Burger King uses dollars from their paycheck to buy gas at Shell for exactly the same price as anyone else, or vice versa.

There is no particular reason to suppose that Spirit Sand would be any different here: it has supply, and it has demand, and it is not especially tied to any one person's use, so it's certainly something that can be traded; it even has a fairly stable value. This makes for an excellent trade good, or in other words, something that can always be exchanged for very nearly the same amount of gold or other valuable.

MoleMage
2014-02-10, 01:50 AM
TuggyNE: If the amount it could be sold for is less than the gain potential for just trading it for magic items, it still avoids the problems. Spirit Sand only has value in a very tight subset of all people (essentially adventurers and people who cater to adventurers), whereas gold is a currency standard.

The economy in DnD doesn't have a process by which it is set up mechanically. The DM is expected to arbitrate some rough approximation of an economy. So come up with some reason in universe (legality, magic, recent discovery, what have you) why people wouldn't look at it as a currency but rather as a trade good.


Extracting sand from a thing requires the use of magic/magic items, making it impractical to gather except for adventurer-adjacent people.
Spirit Sand can only be found from highly dangerous creatures, leading most cultures to favor the safer gold as a standard of currency (due to availability). Essentially, it is ill-suited to be a currency because of its rarity and the fact that it is so usable in a trade-good sense (why would you use iron as a currency when you can make tools out of it?).
This is implicit already, but: Spirit Sand has an extermely low weight relative to its value. This makes it ideally suited to high-value items like magic equipment, but when you need more reasonable equipment like rope you're discussing the use of an object the size of a grain of sand that weighs 1/5000th of a pound. Not exactly the sort of thing you keep as pocket change.

TuggyNE
2014-02-10, 03:29 AM
TuggyNE: If the amount it could be sold for is less than the gain potential for just trading it for magic items, it still avoids the problems. Spirit Sand only has value in a very tight subset of all people (essentially adventurers and people who cater to adventurers), whereas gold is a currency standard.

10% of your normal WBL is still a lot of gold to sling around, and there are a fair number of magic items that are useful not only to adventurers, but to guards, soldiers, hunters, court mages, nobles, merchants, priests, and criminals. For example, wondrous architecture to provide high-quality food or to block certain types of harmful magic, or wands of lesser vigor to patch up parishioners when your spell slots run low. The combination of these factors means that those with gold who want spirit sand and those with spirit sand who want gold can pretty nearly balance out.


So come up with some reason in universe (legality, magic, recent discovery, what have you) why people wouldn't look at it as a currency but rather as a trade good.


Extracting sand from a thing requires the use of magic/magic items, making it impractical to gather except for adventurer-adjacent people.
Spirit Sand can only be found from highly dangerous creatures, leading most cultures to favor the safer gold as a standard of currency (due to availability). Essentially, it is ill-suited to be a currency because of its rarity and the fact that it is so usable in a trade-good sense (why would you use iron as a currency when you can make tools out of it?).
This is implicit already, but: Spirit Sand has an extermely low weight relative to its value. This makes it ideally suited to high-value items like magic equipment, but when you need more reasonable equipment like rope you're discussing the use of an object the size of a grain of sand that weighs 1/5000th of a pound. Not exactly the sort of thing you keep as pocket change.


I did say it was a trade good, didn't I? But the thing about trade goods is that, while you don't generally want to use them as your primary currency for most things, they are pretty efficiently and predictably convertible to and from that currency.

In order: Uranium requires expensive and highly-restricted equipment to extract, and the roster of those capable of handling this is rather small. So does petroleum. Both are traded rather readily, assuming the entity you are trading with is authorized.
Materials that are difficult to obtain are generally more useful for predictable trade, not less; see also gold, gems, etc. Those that have some demand for consumable purposes are often more fluid, but not necessarily enough to completely destabilize them; gold, for example, is used for electronics, dentistry, medicine, and other purposes that are often difficult to recover it from.
Obviously, an extremely-high-value-density good is not suitable to replace pennies. That doesn't mean it's not suitable to replace e.g. hundred-platinum-piece denominations.

Because of all this, spirit sand would not, I think, actually create a separate economy in any sense; it would simply be an adjunct to the existing economy, and not much would change.

Omegas
2014-02-13, 09:56 PM
Extracting sand from a thing requires the use of magic/magic items, making it impractical to gather except for adventurer-adjacent people.
Spirit Sand can only be found from highly dangerous creatures, leading most cultures to favor the safer gold as a standard of currency (due to availability). Essentially, it is ill-suited to be a currency because of its rarity and the fact that it is so usable in a trade-good sense (why would you use iron as a currency when you can make tools out of it?).
This is implicit already, but: Spirit Sand has an extermely low weight relative to its value. This makes it ideally suited to high-value items like magic equipment, but when you need more reasonable equipment like rope you're discussing the use of an object the size of a grain of sand that weighs 1/5000th of a pound. Not exactly the sort of thing you keep as pocket change.

I believe you miss understood. Sand could be found naturally. When two bears fight over a mate and one kills the other then sand would enter the material plane, because they were relatively equal in their ability to fight. A bear eats a rabbit then no sand is lost. The rabbit did not stand a chance against the bear. No different then the farmer leading their live stock to slaughter. Death anticipated their end and collected the glass before it broke.

I am not sure about you, but if I found a valuable item I did not need, then I would attempt to salvage it. Although I might not get the full value for the item, it would still be worth my time if it were profitable. Also Gems and items of Art are already alternatives to coins, and pound for pound jewelry is always less weight for value of gold.

I doubt characters would walk around with their sand in their pocket but they would keep it somewhere safe. Perhaps in the binding of their spell book or a hidden compartment attacked to the end of their scabbard or the bottom of their personal mug. The big difference is that they are not be walking around using the regulation 10ft pole as a yoke with 3 sacks of holding filled with coin hang of each side. Which I would imagine would be a far greater target for a thief then a guy with a lump in his pocket.

More importantly they would not out income the local governments. Kings would not have to worry about a young upstart luckily killing a dragon and radically changing the power or stability of their economy. Would you as a ruler expect your people to remain unpaid surfs, if they could be paid peasants under someone else?


Because of all this, spirit sand would not, I think, actually create a separate economy in any sense; it would simply be an adjunct to the existing economy, and not much would change.
But even as a trade good players do not always receive full value for trade goods. It depends of demand. And although Spirit sand could be considered a trade good rather then a second economy it can also be described to have the same effect as stated above.

Most lands have an abundant supply reducing the value of the good but it is traded grain for coin for magical items.

TuggyNE
2014-02-13, 11:32 PM
But even as a trade good players do not always receive full value for trade goods. It depends of demand. And although Spirit sand could be considered a trade good rather then a second economy it can also be described to have the same effect as stated above.


Trade goods are the exception to the half-price rule. A trade good, in this sense, is a valuable good that can be easily exchanged almost as if it were cash itself.


Most lands have an abundant supply reducing the value of the good but it is traded grain for coin for magical items.

If supply is enough greater than demand to drop the price, it would do so for all uses. Otherwise magic item creators could simply charge the full value in gold, and buy spirit sand in the usual way at a reduced price, pocketing the difference. This would of course increase demand until things equalized.

That's just how economies work, even if you get past the ridiculous globally fixed prices D&D tends to assume that would also prevent the described effect.

MoleMage
2014-02-14, 12:49 AM
I believe you miss understood. Sand could be found naturally. When two bears fight over a mate and one kills the other then sand would enter the material plane, because they were relatively equal in their ability to fight. A bear eats a rabbit then no sand is lost. The rabbit did not stand a chance against the bear. No different then the farmer leading their live stock to slaughter. Death anticipated their end and collected the glass before it broke.

I am not sure about you, but if I found a valuable item I did not need, then I would attempt to salvage it. Although I might not get the full value for the item, it would still be worth my time if it were profitable. Also Gems and items of Art are already alternatives to coins, and pound for pound jewelry is always less weight for value of gold.

I doubt characters would walk around with their sand in their pocket but they would keep it somewhere safe. Perhaps in the binding of their spell book or a hidden compartment attacked to the end of their scabbard or the bottom of their personal mug. The big difference is that they are not be walking around using the regulation 10ft pole as a yoke with 3 sacks of holding filled with coin hang of each side. Which I would imagine would be a far greater target for a thief then a guy with a lump in his pocket.

More importantly they would not out income the local governments. Kings would not have to worry about a young upstart luckily killing a dragon and radically changing the power or stability of their economy. Would you as a ruler expect your people to remain unpaid surfs, if they could be paid peasants under someone else?


But even as a trade good players do not always receive full value for trade goods. It depends of demand. And although Spirit sand could be considered a trade good rather then a second economy it can also be described to have the same effect as stated above.

Most lands have an abundant supply reducing the value of the good but it is traded grain for coin for magical items.

Sorry if I stepped on your toes. I was proposing possible additions to your system to adapt them for individual settings, not a change to the core system.

Lord Vukodlak
2014-02-14, 01:00 AM
Years ago I more or less had the same idea but I called it Chrysm instead of spirit sand but at the end of the day there was no getting around the fact there is no logical reason you couldn't exchange magic McGuffin for gold or vice a versa. At most you can discourage it by having the money changers charge a commission. So 1000 units of Spirit Sand gets you 800gp and 1000gp gets you 800 units of spirit sand. The merchant making the exchange took 20%.

Now if your willing to suspend your disbelief that you can't trade spirit sand for gold. Then it does neatly some other economy problems which we have no problem suspending are disbelief over.

LordErebus12
2014-02-15, 10:26 AM
how does this effect magical item creation? Do clerics of good alignments dislike the use of someone's essence to create items? Is this technically necromancy, since its utilizing life energies?

I truly like the concept, I just feel it needs to be expanded upon.

TuggyNE
2014-02-15, 08:52 PM
how does this effect magical item creation? Do clerics of good alignments dislike the use of someone's essence to create items? Is this technically necromancy, since its utilizing life energies?

I assume you mean "someone else's", since that's what XP costs represent: you're putting your own life force into the item.

Omegas
2014-02-16, 07:23 PM
how does this effect magical item creation? Do clerics of good alignments dislike the use of someone's essence to create items? Is this technically necromancy, since its utilizing life energies?

I truly like the concept, I just feel it needs to be expanded upon.

Although it would add a spin on things to incorporate alignment, more over I would say it would add a level of complication to the idea that would make it undesirable. Could you image a paladin needing white soul gems to create a holy weapon. (Aka spirit sand from good aligned creature?) Also it is not really a creature's essence. I would say it is more of a residue of unused


Sorry if I stepped on your toes. I was proposing possible additions to your system to adapt them for individual settings, not a change to the core system.

You did not step on my toes but it did not seem as if you understood the abundance or generation of sand. Sorry if I came off offensively.


That's just how economies work, even if you get past the ridiculous globally fixed prices D&D tends to assume that would also prevent the described effect.

It may be a ridiculous fixed price but no more then the economies pre-assumed by the core rules. The question is "Is it more believable to have a nearly fixed priced commodity or teenaged upstarts that can all of the sudden have more capital then their king?" The ladder suggest that no king would remain in power for long. As you pointed out 10% of wealth by level is still a lot of scratch, so it does not brake the system. I do however agree with you: as a resource based economy it would only have value based on it's abundance and demand, but that is true of any currency. The difference is that faith based economies (like the US Dollar) are based on abundance and trust in the kingdom. However D&D does not take these factors into account. It assumes that the economy is fairly stable wherever you go. At most it suggest a fee for exchanging currency and the effects on an area that is abruptly saturated with currency.

Furthermore; if a D&D economy tanked, then it's coins could be melted down into the resource gold (also a trade good), and sold at an equal if not better value depending on demand. That right there brakes traditional economy. And if D&D can place restrictions on the commodity of gold, then why not other trade goods?

I am failing to see how far fetched this system is to the core system. But I appreciate your input.

TuggyNE
2014-02-16, 08:41 PM
It may be a ridiculous fixed price but no more then the economies pre-assumed by the core rules. The question is "Is it more believable to have a nearly fixed priced commodity or teenaged upstarts that can all of the sudden have more capital then their king?" The ladder suggest that no king would remain in power for long. As you pointed out 10% of wealth by level is still a lot of scratch, so it does not brake the system. I do however agree with you: as a resource based economy it would only have value based on it's abundance and demand, but that is true of any currency. The difference is that faith based economies (like the US Dollar) are based on abundance and trust in the kingdom. However D&D does not take these factors into account. It assumes that the economy is fairly stable wherever you go. At most it suggest a fee for exchanging currency and the effects on an area that is abruptly saturated with currency.

Furthermore; if a D&D economy tanked, then it's coins could be melted down into the resource gold (also a trade good), and sold at an equal if not better value depending on demand. That right there brakes traditional economy. And if D&D can place restrictions on the commodity of gold, then why not other trade goods?

I am failing to see how far fetched this system is to the core system. But I appreciate your input.

My point is not that the baseline is farfetched, but only that (whether or not you abide by the oversimplification of fixed prices everywhere) it will not do what you want it to do: spirit sand and gold will be interchangeable for all practical purposes.

Omegas
2014-02-17, 12:15 AM
My point is not that the baseline is farfetched, but only that (whether or not you abide by the oversimplification of fixed prices everywhere) it will not do what you want it to do: spirit sand and gold will be interchangeable for all practical purposes.Ok I am not following.

I expect that prices would very from places to place but ultimately you would rarely if ever find an interested party to give you an equal value for sand. Much like the commodity of gold you would never get more then the coin weight value, because ultimately if someone need the resource that badly, they would just melt the coins. Still selling the commodity of gold often offers you less then the coin weight value. So no they would never get better value for sand then they would coin. This is true of all of the base materials of currency.

Due to abundance and limited groups who create the demand, I would estimate that the party would be lucky to get 10% the value in gold. Meaning overall 20% wealth by level. The numbers I indicated before, I considered better then average rates. Reversely the only people that would have sand in bulk would be those who have a use for it. Small merchants (aka less then 5 low level magical items) may give players a fair value (less then 100%) for sand but it would be uncommon for them to have a significant quantity. However; established shops and trade affiliations would not be so generous, as they would have to maintain a stock of sand in the event of someone selling them a valuable magical item.

You could say a law mandated that anyone could pay up to 90% the value for a magical item in sand or perhaps gold is taxed and sand is not thus merchants favor it in regards to magic. There are many ways to believably spin it, but much like gold you would never sell it for more then 100% value.

And again this systems works. 30 plus players over several years without a single issues. Insight is welcome but this is more of a "Hey this works well! Feel free to use it."

TuggyNE
2014-02-17, 01:56 AM
Due to abundance and limited groups who create the demand, I would estimate that the party would be lucky to get 10% the value in gold. Meaning overall 20% wealth by level. The numbers I indicated before, I considered better then average rates. Reversely the only people that would have sand in bulk would be those who have a use for it.

I already explained why I don't think this is a valid analysis.

Of course, if you don't care about an economy that makes sense, as most players probably don't, this may not matter. Don't pretend, though, that this is actually the logical outcome of the existence of this substance. (Handwaves like "gold is taxed but sand is not" or "there's a law about this" don't actually solve the problem, they just push it back: why would the rulers decide to do such a silly thing as not taxing a potential revenue source or forcing people to pay in ways they don't want to? What good would that even do?)

And, for clarity's sake, I don't think that the usual system of enormous WBL is particularly sensible either. It's merely the devil I know; it's stupid, and I have ideas for replacing it, but attempted fixes that don't actually address the fundamental issue that power in D&D usually comes from looted or bought equipment and not from yourself just don't appeal to me.

This? Does not address that at all. If there is some way to sell gear, it will be sold. If it is possible to find or steal or buy gear, it will be found and stolen and bought. The currency used for these transactions is immaterial; what's important is the identifiable value, supply and demand.

Yakk
2014-02-17, 08:27 AM
Have tue sand decay when it passesmfrom person to person, and suddenly trade in sand gets much less.

You can do the same for magic items: maybe you need sand to 'bind' them to a new user.

So now both economies have a very high friction, and selling either is far less efficient than using them.


Ah: on death, magic items soak up some sand and immediately use it to bind to the victors.

Omegas
2014-02-17, 07:48 PM
Have tue sand decay when it passesmfrom person to person, and suddenly trade in sand gets much less.

You can do the same for magic items: maybe you need sand to 'bind' them to a new user.

So now both economies have a very high friction, and selling either is far less efficient than using them.


Ah: on death, magic items soak up some sand and immediately use it to bind to the victors. Although I dont want to discourage your input, this sounds like an off shoot of warcraft's soul bound. It was a short term solution to their initial broken MMORPG player generated economy. Thousands of players generating more coin then they expended. Much like WoW in D&D characters generate unrealistic wealth. Significantly more then the suggested wealth of even kingdoms.

Unlike merchants or trades men who work for their money, all a character has to do is kill something and wealth rains from the skys. This can effectively makes NPCs economically invilits in that they have no chance against an ever increasing unstable environment.

I (of course) am NOT suggesting that characters should not be paid for their services, but we do not offer our elite soldiers a salary that would surpass the income of Donald J. Trump.

I do have to agree with TuggyNE that this system is favor text. It is intended to rationalizes power by wealth compared to power but ability. But I do NOT see how his explanation points out that the trade of a single commodity could not be viewed unilaterally.

In a sense the United already has several currencies. One such example is Dollars vs Social Service Aid. Take food stamps for example. The abundance of food stamps is dependent on the number of impoverished citizens. People are not suppose to trade them for cash but many do. Regardless you will not find anyone who was able to trade them for more then 100% value. More over they would be lucky to get 75%. But aside from being illegal there is logistics to consider. Some commodities will never be exchanged for full value as normal currency is more practical.

Say people are charging you one gold per sand then why not use normal currency? If they are paying less then one gold per grain then why not keep your sand and use it as a discount. Honestly I can see Magic shops finding it a convenience to not have to find providers of sand. Small insignificant quantities would be available over the course of months if not years. Where as a character arrives with full sized shards allowing them grater flexibility to make custom order while retaining a stock pile large enough to make exchanges. In essence it is an economy just for magical items. Just like food stamps are just for food.

Furthermore the conceptual value of magical items would be significantly less. Sand would not be viewed as gold. This is another conceptual point but, NPCs would not view a +3 sword as having the value of a tavern. It would be more expensive then a normal sword but still only a sword. To them the sand value would be novel bartering tool for magical item dealers.

Grod_The_Giant
2014-02-17, 08:01 PM
I don't understand how you're separating "sand" and "gold." Sand appears to be an extremely lightweight item with a high value. That's it. I don't see any reason beyond some nebulous convention that it can't be used as currency. It clearly has a real (quantifiable) value, since it can be used in place of gold when crafting a magic item. Logistics might make it more difficult to use, but I can't see any reason why you couldn't convert sand into gold, and vice versa.

Omegas
2014-02-17, 09:05 PM
I can't see any reason why you couldn't convert sand into gold, and vice versa. No one is say you couldn't, you would simply suffer a loss like any currency exchange thus making it less desirable. Also it's value is not one gold to a grain. Conceptually it is 9 grains to each gold if not less based on exchange. This makes magical items significantly less valuable from a commoner's perspective.

Considering most NPCs only have gold, A magical weapon is the equivalent of a "Nascar performance race car," in standard D&D completely out of the reach of most NPCs. Using Sand it is the equivalent of a luxury sports car, obtainable but really not worth it.

An easier solution would be to figure all wealth and magical item at 10% their value. Because the most common use for wealth is magical items. The things is, in doing so, you significantly increase the cost of common items. By introducing sand you have the full effect of the game reward system while achieving a more practical overall character wealth.

Grod_The_Giant
2014-02-17, 09:25 PM
No one is say you couldn't, you would simply suffer a loss like any currency exchange thus making it less desirable. Also it's value is not one gold to a grain. Conceptually it is 9 grains to each gold if not less based on exchange. This makes magical items significantly less valuable from a commoner's perspective.

Considering most NPCs only have gold, A magical weapon is the equivalent of a "Nascar performance race car," in standard D&D completely out of the reach of most NPCs. Using Sand it is the equivalent of a luxury sports car, obtainable but really not worth it.

An easier solution would be to figure all wealth and magical item at 10% their value. Because the most common use for wealth is magical items. The things is, in doing so, you significantly increase the cost of common items. By introducing sand you have the full effect of the game reward system while achieving a more practical overall character wealth.
X amount of sand is equivalent to Y amount of gold for the purposes of crafting magic items. (You should probably provide the rules for that, incidentally). If 9 grains are equal to one gold for the purposes of crafting, then 9 grains can be considered equal to one gold for other reasons. Need to get out of town in a hurry? On your way to pay for a castle but don't want to haul around a chest of gold? Fill your pockets with sand.

Sure, you average commoner won't have magic items, or have to deal with unfeasibly large amounts of gold, but major merchants, nobles and governments most likely will. (The cost of a ship is in the tens of thousands of gold according to the PHB, for example).


I also don't understand how having a second currency makes magic items any cheaper. Instead of 2000 gold, now you're spending 200 gold and 18 platinum. Players still wind up with ungodly fortunes in "luxury cars." If the goal is to make magic items 90% cheaper, just cut item creation costs and gold "drops" by 90%. Introducing a second currency and saying "it's not a currency because only magic people use it" doesn't really seem to do anything.

Omegas
2014-02-17, 09:44 PM
If the goal is to make magic items 90% cheaper, just cut item creation costs and gold "drops" by 90%. Introducing a second currency and saying "it's not a currency because only magic people use it" doesn't really seem to do anything.
So as a player - based on standard drops, with this [Goal], you would be ok with paying 10x normal inn fees and food costs? Granted not the most expensive to start with, but if you dont cut everything then your raising the cost of whatever you dont cut. Also cutting everything accomplish nothing as nothing has changed. Gold still deprecates at the same rate.

Part of the goal was to increase the value of gold. Meaning common things cost more but did not effect your overall player reward package. This was done by reducing your gold earnings and substituting an alternative to gold. Thus Inn fees are not more expensive. They simply represent a greater percentage of your wealth by gold, while wealth by magic remains unchanged.

Grod_The_Giant
2014-02-17, 09:54 PM
So as a player - based on standard drops, with this [Goal], you would be ok with paying 10x normal inn fees and food costs? Granted not the most expensive to start with, but if you dont cut everything then your raising the cost of whatever you dont cut. Also cutting everything accomplish nothing as nothing has changed. Gold still deprecates at the same rate.
No, that's preposterous. There is nothing that says a change to one set of prices has to be repeated in a different set. Not by the extremely loose rules of D&D economics, at least.

Your complaint is that the game grants players too much wealth. The reason the treasure tables grant so much gold is for magic items. If magic items are 10x cheaper, you can rewrite the treasure tables to drop 1/10 the gold. Everything else remains the same.

NichG
2014-02-17, 10:20 PM
There's two aspects here that are related, but should be kept distinct when discussing fixes. One is the conceptual issue of 'what is the value of a gold piece?'. The other is the issue of the gold value of magic items versus the gold value of mundane things meaning that a single magic item is worth enough to e.g. feed and clothe a small village for an entire generation.

There's a third 'issue' that sometimes comes up too, but the other way around - even with the gold-piece values of magic items as they are, you can't actually have vast dragon caves filled with piles of gold or things like that, because you'd be talking about tens or hundreds of millions of gold pieces - which will break the power level of the game if nothing else.

Grod_The_Giant
2014-02-17, 10:44 PM
There's a third 'issue' that sometimes comes up too, but the other way around - even with the gold-piece values of magic items as they are, you can't actually have vast dragon caves filled with piles of gold or things like that, because you'd be talking about tens or hundreds of millions of gold pieces - which will break the power level of the game if nothing else.
Honestly, some sort of "virtual WBL" system would probably work way better than anything that tries to tie mechanical power to in-game wealth.

Omegas
2014-02-20, 07:37 PM
There's two aspects here that are related, but should be kept distinct when discussing fixes. One is the conceptual issue of 'what is the value of a gold piece?'. The other is the issue of the gold value of magic items versus the gold value of mundane things meaning that a single magic item is worth enough to e.g. feed and clothe a small village for an entire generation.

There's a third 'issue' that sometimes comes up too, but the other way around - even with the gold-piece values of magic items as they are, you can't actually have vast dragon caves filled with piles of gold or things like that, because you'd be talking about tens or hundreds of millions of gold pieces - which will break the power level of the game if nothing else.Exactly! The goal is to make player wealth and the cost of magical item more reasonable without effecting the reward system. Also to lower the perceived value of magical items without raising the value of the alternative currency. (IE it is only valuable in certain Circles.)

Without Sand a commoner would view a (normally $2000gp) magical item as 400gp to 500gp. Depending on their profession, they might be able to justify that expense but it would still be a substantial cost. Where as they could pay 200gp and frail crystal that is far easier to find, then it is to purchase.

Also 10% is not etched in stone, but it is still a good bases. Often I will roll a D4 to raise or lower the exchange by one or two percent. But I also roll the merchant's wealth, so they can only sell up to what the merchant has in coin / sand. Also merchants only buy what they sell, meaning, a weapon dealer is not interested in buying potions. I do offer general stores but they offer the least appealing rates.

NichG
2014-02-20, 07:49 PM
You don't actually need something like Spirit Sand to make that happen though. Just take all magic items in the game and divide their gold-piece values by 10 (or 100 or whatever), and reduce the numerical values of non-magic-item loot similarly. Now you've got a system where magic items do not cost significantly more than castles/manor homes/galleons anymore, wealth-by-level still works the same way it always did, etc. Basically, if its just pricing, there's no reason you can't change it without an explicit in-game reason to change it since it was arbitrary from the beginning anyhow.

The trickier thing to do is when you play with 'friction' effects - e.g. the difference in value between new and used, taxation, etc, because those have strong impacts on play (whereas just changing all the prices of magic stuff by a factor of 10 doesn't actually impact play that much).

Omegas
2014-02-20, 08:21 PM
The trickier thing to do is when you play with 'friction' effects - e.g. the difference in value between new and used, taxation, etc, because those have strong impacts on play (whereas just changing all the prices of magic stuff by a factor of 10 doesn't actually impact play that much).Agreed but with a second currency it does not break the bank so to speak, when it comes to a few game features such as affiliations which require somewhat realistic amounts of gold to advance, which means without the alternative currency a character would never make any effect within their affiliation. Seems kind of unpractical for an affiliation to sustain itself, when the cost of a single character's bender at a tavern could raise the affiliations scope. Especially when, for the most part, affiliations would be among the circle of groups interested in a magic currency.

NichG
2014-02-21, 04:57 AM
The second currency just doesn't do very much. As argued, there'll be some exchange rate, so basically things equillibriate to the same point anyhow.

The main danger of messing with 'friction' (like having it be hard to convert between currencies or whatever) is that if the campaign moves very fast, the players can end up getting disconnected from the economy entirely. I mean this in the sense of, if there is too much friction then by the time the characters can afford an item then that item might be useless to them. If on the other hand you reduce the amount of friction (e.g. sell rates for loot are higher than 50%) then you reduce the importance of found-items. So that has a much stronger effect on play.

In the sense of economics though, the (steady state) economy doesn't actually care that much if it takes a long time to sell an item when it comes to the existence of exchange rates. If actual transactions are expensive, then you see the emergence of a mediating layer. So for example, people wouldn't buy and sell actual Spirit Sand - they'd buy and sell shares of Spirit Sand. A share of Spirit Sand means that in principle you could take the share to an exchange and when a team of adventurers happens to return with some sand, you make the trade at the agreed upon rate. If you wanted to convert a lot of shares at once, then the bank might actually have to hire a team of adventurers to honor the debt, and that could create some value fluctuations, but you'd have to be trading in a significant fraction of the total amount of sand changing hands at that location to do it.

Since the actual things being traded aren't quantities of the material, the price is basically not strongly affected by the fragility of it - and much of the trade would be shares for shares, and so would not go through the expensive and lossy conversion process into actual sand.

E.g. if only 1% of the shares were ever redeemed, then the value of sand is going to be much more stable against the fragility of the actual goods than if everyone was handing out handfuls of short-lived powder.

The Mormegil
2014-02-22, 03:22 AM
Wouldn't this just equate to having two roughly equivalent ways of payment? People would pay in spirit sand or gold or a combination of both, and the WBL issue would be the same.

Unless you are suggesting making Spirit Sand almost worthless in terms of gold, which would have a huge impact on the world thanks to item creation. Right now, a first level scroll costs 25 gp, which is a lot for a commoner. If you have to use 90% spirit sand to buy it, and spirit sand is readily available and common, then a first level scroll is 2.5 gp. A farmer probably won't have 2.5 gp to spare ever, if you look at the DMG (which is insane IMO), but any craftsman will have it reasonably often. A first level wand costs 75 gp, for a total of 1.5 gp per first level spell. This means 1.5 gp goodberries, for starters, which would go a long way to solve world hunger and replace farmers entirely. 1.5 gps is pricey but it's not entirely unreasonable either, and you can craft for half.
Now, what about teleport? 112.5 gps. That's...not much. This means all nobles may teleport basically on a whim. The social implications of this are... enormous. This makes Tippyverse much more likely to happen.
Level 0 spells are 1.25 gp. Mending is a level 0 spell. Repairing anything can't cost more than 1.25 gp, half of that with crafting. Heck, let's make a repair wand for 0.75 gp per mending, why not. Eight silver pieces and you can repair anything, nice.
Fabricate scrolls replace forges, of course. They're way too cheap at 112.5 gp now. It also means full-plate price falls down to about 225-250 gp, double the production cost plus something for the material.
Casting charm person is 1.5 gp. Dominating someone for 7 days is 42 gp. That's not much for a power-hungry vizier, but what sacres me is... Consider how that would impact criminality.
For 9 gp you can cast zone of truth. Remove disease, neutralize poison and company are 22.5 gp.
Let's not go into custom item creation, because things get ugly quickly. But I will point out that a universal solvent is 5 gp now, an elixir of love is 15 gp (easily affordable for many moderately rich people), a keoghtoms's ointment (or whatchamacallit) is 400 gp, an endless water source is 900 gp. The last one in particular is nice, and likely to be present in all cities with at least 2'000 people, as per DMG, powering a central aqueduct and probably irrigating nearby fields too (romans had something like that even without the endless water...).


That's just a few random facts out of PHB and DMG. I think it's safe to say it would be a VERY different world.

NichG
2014-02-22, 03:51 AM
The crafting time would become a significant portion of the actual cost to acquire something. E.g. when you're buying a Lv1 scroll, you're not paying mostly for materials, but for the time of the wizard who is scribing it (with higher level things being more expensive per time since there are fewer wizards who can supply the service, so they can charge higher rates). If you look at e.g. price for spellcasting services, that cost can be significant for higher level spells.

The Mormegil
2014-02-22, 07:38 AM
The crafting time would become a significant portion of the actual cost to acquire something. E.g. when you're buying a Lv1 scroll, you're not paying mostly for materials, but for the time of the wizard who is scribing it (with higher level things being more expensive per time since there are fewer wizards who can supply the service, so they can charge higher rates). If you look at e.g. price for spellcasting services, that cost can be significant for higher level spells.

That's true. I believe the spirit sand would just be sold for gold and quickly stabilize on an opportune price, I was just arguing that freely giving access to magic items that cost 1/10th of the normal price to the whole world would alter its shape significantly. And I stand by my claim, even just for the fact that teleport is much more likely to be accessible early, and criminal organizations would have low-cost ways to gain access to magic. (I mention criminal organizations because they'd have no qualms in actually using that power)