Alternate Coinage/Commerce System
A Supplemental Article for "City of Archendurn"
Copyright Aaron Smalley ©2003
Edited by Nicholas HM Caldwell for The Guild Companion
One reviewer of the "City of Archendurn" module commented that no prices were given for items despite the details on the coinage of the Archendurn realm. As was explained within the module, this was done intentionally. But for those who are curious, or for those who may have wondered about the references to both "coins" and "pieces" in the Channel Cities of Aernth articles published in the early issues of The Guild Companion, this article is intended to fill that gap...
The described coinage system is fairly standard within the Aernth setting. (There are some areas that use other systems or rely completely on barter, in which case these prices can be used as a means of comparing values.) One of the reasons for developing this system is that in many game systems the coins are made from rare and valuable metals, yet are not worth what they should be compared to the value of goods and services purchased with them. Of these other systems the one that uses the most realistic coinage system is Rolemaster, while the widely used d20 System is quite lacking in realism of coinage values. But either way, the following system was designed with the hopes of providing a more realistic (though still imperfect) and economically feasible system that makes sense.
This system only uses coins of three different types of metals: Copper, Silver, and Gold. These metals (as most people know) are fairly resistant to corrosion. Copper is much less resistant than the other two, tending to oxidize which results in a green corrosion. Silver is more resistant, but will still tarnish over time, giving it a dull grey look. However compared to many of the other metals that were useable under ancient or medieval technology, they are fairly durable.
If you look at references for the values of these metals over the years, the differences in value are greater than a simple factor of 10 – the common multiple used in most RPGs. For example, at the time of writing, Gold is approximately 70 times more expensive than Silver for the same mass, while Silver is approximately 100 times more valuable than Copper for the same mass of material. Granted these are the value ratios of the industrialized nations of the world who trade these commodities on a worldwide basis; historical values will vary greatly from the above values. However, if you look at historical data, the relative worths of the three metals are generally closer to the above ratios than the value differences commonly seen within RPGs.
Using a difference of value of the 1:100 magnitude as I am presenting here however presents other problems. For instance, how does a buyer pay for something using this coinage system that is half way between the value of any of the two coin types? My solution is to not only have traditional Gold, Silver, and Copper coins, but also "pieces" which equate to taking a coin of a given type and then cutting it into smaller pieces. There have been several cultures around the world throughout history that have used this very technique.
The next question involves how to cut them. Gold, Silver, and Copper are all fairly soft metals and are thus easier to "cut" into smaller pieces than metals like Iron. The easiest sizes to cut round coins into are halves, quarters, or eighths. Cutting them into pieces smaller than eighths becomes difficult without access to precision tools, whereas a dagger and a little bit of brute force suffices for the simpler cuts.
Using this technique, each of these 1/8th pieces have a value of 1/8 of the coin they were cut from, or if you cut a coin into a one-quarter portion, then it has a ¼ value of the base coin. The only conversion within the entire system that is not extremely simple is the conversion from a smaller full coin type to pieces of a larger denomination coin. This conversion works out to 12.5 coins of the smaller type to a piece of the next largest coin denomination. Thus it would take 12 and a half Copper Coins (or 12 Copper Coins and 4 Copper Pieces) to equal a single Silver Piece (1/8 of a Silver Coin).
This solution both solves the problems of intermediate prices and adds a further measure of historical "feel" to the system.
Within the World of Aernth setting, each of the full coins is ½ ounce in weight, thus making each coin piece equal to 1/16 of an ounce. For other settings, GMs should decide for themselves the base weight of each coin within their world. These weights can also be adjusted to alter the base values of the metals from which they are made if desired. For example if you feel that a ratio of 1:100 between equal weights of Silver and Copper is too high then consider using 1 ounce Copper Coins and ½ ounce Silver Coins. In this example, the value of the metals is altered and the value of the coins remains the same since each Copper coin has twice as much mass as a Silver coin.
The following chart provides rough conversions between the Aernth coinage system and the various Rolemaster systems and the d20 System.
Typical Weight of Coins
1/8 of a Copper Coin (sometimes cut into eighths from the coin type from which it comes, thus a 1/4 Cc is the equivalent of 2 Cp
1 Cc=8 Cp
1Sp=100Cp , 1Sp=12.5Cc
1Sc=8Sp , 1Sc=100Cc
1Gp=100Sp , 1Gp=12.5Sc
1Gc=8Gp , 1Gc=100Sc
One other concept to keep in mind is that from one political entity to the next, there will be differences between coins.
For example, the Channel Cities region of the setting has five distinct political entities. One of them, the city-state of Argentum, does not mint their own coins, despite the fact that it is one of the most powerful entities economically in Aernth. The city of Martelain used to use a coinage system which had round coins very similar to what one would typically expect. As a consequence of Martelain being swallowed up by the Northern Empire several decades ago, the old coins are no longer in wide circulation (although they can sometimes be found if one watches for them). Instead the inhabitants of Martelain have been forced to adopt the coinage of the Northern Empire, which utilizes square coins which are minted in 2/5 of an ounce weight. Thus these coins contain less actual metal than most. However within the Northern Empire, they are considered to be of the same value as the standard ½ ounce coins of other nations. These square coins are also cut into smaller portions (half, quarters, and eighths). South Shore, one of the other large cities in the Channel Cities area, uses round coins of the same ½ ounce weight as most nations. South Shore coins have a small hole in the center, which allows people to carry the coins on a thin leather cord or string. The smaller (1/8 coin) South Shore pieces can't be carried this way due to being cut across the hole at their center.
The Fung Padishanate uses rectangular coins of ¼ ounce weight with a hole stamped into one corner. Of course, when they are cut into smaller pieces, the piece from one corner has less mass of metal due to the hole. Fung Padishanate coins are also not widely accepted in most other nations as they only have half the mass of other currencies. Within the Fung Padishanate, they are considered to have the same standardized value.
The Secháemodh mint square coins of 2/5 ounce weight with a hole stamped into the center, thus allowing these coins to be worn around the neck on a thin leather cord (the standard among the Secháemodh). While they mint relatively small numbers of their coins, they are widely accepted throughout the world as the Secháemodh are a much traveled people, supplying very well organized and trained mercenary services to any nation willing to pay for them. This military might, despite their small numbers, has led to their coinage not being discriminated against in most parts of the world, despite its lesser mass. Some claim that the quality of the metal contained in Secháemodh coins is also higher. This is not true as their smiths are no more advanced than the average metalworker of Aernth.
On the other hand, the Grenzal and the Ra peoples are highly regarded as the masters of metal smithing. Their coins, though weighing less than those of their neighbours, have a higher metal purity, and consequently are accepted as being of the same value as the more standard ½ ounce coins of other nations. The Grenzal produce a 2/5ths ounce rectangular coin while the Ra produce a ¼ ounce round coin with a hole stamped in the middle and eight smaller holes stamped equally-spaced just inside the outer rim of the coins. Ra coins are fairly large, despite their lower mass, due to the nine voids within its surface. These holes around the outer edge permit the small coin "pieces" to be carried on a cord.
The last part of this article will give sample prices using this coinage system. Prices depend greatly on several factors; including the environment (both physical and economic), item rarity, item quality, politics, and various social factors, so GMs should feel free to adjust prices up or down as the circumstances of the campaign setting demand.
Apothecary/Healing: will vary from 3sc for treatment of a minor infection to 10gc or more for saving of a life
Bath: 2cc Notes: price may vary considerably
Craftsman, Apprentice: 2-4sp/day
Craftsman, Journeyman: 5-8sp/day
Craftsman, Master: 1-2sc/day (or more, for widely renowned craftsmen)
River Ferry Passage: 1cc/person 2cc/mount Notes: price can increase depending on remoteness or width & flow of river
Soldier: 2sp/day + equipment
Inn / Tavern Prices
Prices can easily run from 50% to 200% of the listed prices based on the quality of the establishment.
Apple Jack: 4cp/pint Notes: freeze-concentrated hard cider
Beer/Ale: 1cp/pint Notes: high quality in a remote location as high as 1cc
Beer, Stout: 2cp/pint Notes: high quality in a remote location as high as 1cc
Brandy: 2cc/half pint (low quality) to 5 cc/half pint (high quality)
Cider: 1cp/pint(rural) to 2cp/pint(urban)
Cider, Hard: 2cp/pint(rural) to 3cp/pint(urban)
Communal sleeping quarters: 4cp
Meal, Heavy (roast pheasant, roast pork, etc.): 4cp(rural) 1cc(urban)
Meal, Light (bread & cheese, etc.): 2cp(rural) 4cp(urban)
Meal, Normal (bowl of stew & bread, etc.): 3cp(rural) 6cp(urban)
Mead: 3cc/pint (low quality) to 1sp/pint (high quality)
Tea: 1cp/half pint (eastern lands) Notes: due to limited availability, can range as high as 3cc/pint in remote western lands
Private room: 2cc
Private suit: 4cc
Semi-private room: 1cc
Whiskey: 3cc/pint(rural) to 4cc/pint(urban)
Wine: 3cp/pint (low quality) to 2cc/pint (high quality) Notes: some special vintages can have much higher prices
Arrows/Quarrels: 4sp/score 3sp/dozen
Ball & Chain: 6sc
Battle Axe: 12sc
Bow, Composite: 10sc
Bow, Long: 12sc
Bow, Short: 6sc
Broad Sword: 10sc
Bastard Sword (hand & a half): 16sc
Crossbow, Hand: 12sc
Crossbow, Heavy: 18sc
Crossbow, Light: 15sc
Hand Axe: 5sc
Jo Staff: 1sp
Long Sword: 12sc
Mace Footmans: 7sc
Morning Star: 7sc
Pilum (short heavy spear): 5sc
Quarter Staff: 3sp
Short Sword: 6sc
Sling Staff: 2sc
Two Handed Sword: 18sc
Woodman's Axe: 8sc
Leather Weapons Harness: 4sc
Leather Buckler: 2sc
Metal Buckler: 3sc
Leather Target Shield: 3sc
Metal Target Shield: 4sc
Leather Shield: 4sc & 4sp
Wood Shield: 4sc
Metal Shield: 6sc
Leather Full Shield: 7sc
Wood Full Shield: 6sc
Metal Full shield: 9sc
Leather Wall Shield: 9sc
Wood Wall Shield: 7sc
Leather Bracers: 1sc
Metal Bracers: 11sp
Leather Arm Greaves: 10sp
Leather Leg Greaves: 12sp
Leather Skull Cap: 3sc
Leather Pot Helm: 3sc & 4sp
Metal Pot Helm: 5sc
Visored Helm (metal): 9sc
Full Helm: 11sc
Leather Jerkin: 4sc
Leather Breastplate: 8sc
Leather Leggings: 2sc
Leather Coat: 5sc
Reinforced Leather Coat: 7sc
Chain Vest: 15sc
Chain Shirt: 20sc
Chain Hauberk: 5gp
Scale Breastplate: 1gc
Scale Hauberk: 2gc
Mounts, Tack, & Harness
light Riding Horse: 5gp
heavy Riding Horse: 1gc
light War Horse: 3gc
heavy War Horse: 8gc
Draft Horse: 6gp
Draft Oxen: 4gp
Plow Harness: 2sc
Wagon Harness: 2sc
Riding Harness: 1sc
Saddle Bags: 1sp
Saddle Blanket: 1sp
Hand Cart: 9sc
Horse Cart: 3gp Notes: 2-wheeled
Wagon (open): 6gp
Wagon (covered): 8gp
Carriage: 1gc Note: fancy covered carriage
Leather Barding: 4gp
Chain Barding: 12gp
Plate Barding: 3gc
Leather Chanfron: 10sc
Plate Chanfron: 2sp
Leather Crinet: 6sc
Chain Crinet: 3gp
Plate Crinet: 6gp
Rope (50'): 4sp
Backpack (light): 2sp Capacity: 1 cu. ft. (27 lt.) or 18 lbs. (8kg)
Backpack (medium): 3sp Capacity: 1.5 cu. ft. (40 lt.) or 27 lbs. (12kg)
Backpack (heavy): 5sp Capacity: 3 cu. ft. (80 lt.) or 45 lbs. (20kg)
Shoulder Slung Pouch: 7cc Capacity: 1/4 cu. ft. (6 lt.) or 6 lbs. (3kg)
Small Belt Pouch: 2cp Capacity: ~1 lbs. (1/2 kg)
Large Belt Pouch: 3cp Capacity: ~2 lbs. (1 kg)
Small Sack: 5cc Capacity: 2 cu. ft. (56 lt.) or 35 lbs. (15kg)
Medium Sack: 8cc Capacity: 3 cu. ft. (85 lt.) or 50 lbs. (23kg)
Large Sack: 8cc Capacity: 5 cu. ft. (140 lt.) or 80 lbs. (36kg)
Flint & Steel: 1sp
Fire Starting Bow: 6cp
Spike: 1cc each Notes: iron, large
light Bedroll: 2sp
heavy Bedroll: 5sp
Whetstone: (for sharpening weapons) 1cc
Oil: 3sp 1 pint flask
Boots: 1sc Notes: low, soft leather
Traveling Boots: 2sc Notes: high, hard leather
Shoes (soft leather): 2sc
Wool Pants: 23cc
Flaxen Pants: 28cc
Cotton Pants: 21cc
Hemp Pants: 25cc
Wool Shirt: 27cc
Flaxen Shirt: 33cc
Cotton Shirt: 25cc
Hemp Shirt: 29cc
Dress (simple): 14sp
Dress (fine): 4sc
Wool Cloak: 1sc
Hooded Cloak: 10sp long, hooded
Gloves (leather): 2sp
Gloves (fur): 3sp
Gloves (silk): 2sc
Robe (simple): 7sp
Robe (fine): 2sc
Weapons Belt: 4sp wide, leather
Smithy Tongs: 2sc
Smithy Hammer: 2sc
Smithy Punch: 2sc
Branding Iron: 6sp
Lock Pick Kit: 1sc
Wedge (iron): 3cc
Butter Churn: 2sc
Spinning Wheel: 8sc
Potter's Wheel: 6sc
Weaver's Loom: 10sc
Pot (cooking, iron): 6sp
Pan (frying, iron): 5sp
Pitcher (pottery): 3cc
Pitcher (wood): 4cp
Bowl (pottery): 2cc
Bowl (wood): 3cc
Mug (pottery): 3cc
Mug (wood): 5cc
Mug (metal): 2sp
Plate (pottery): 2cc
Plate (wood): 3cc
Fork/Spoon (metal): 1sp
Fork/Spoon (wood): 1cc
Knife (eating): 1cc
Mortar & Pestle: 6sp
Candle Holder: 2cc
Lantern (simple): 1sc
Lantern (shrouded): 12sp
Small Tent: 12sp (one person, canvas)
Large Tent: 4sc (3-4 person, canvas)
Tarp: 1sp /5sq. yds. (5 sq. m)
Fishing Net: 7sc (10' x 10' / 3m x 3m)
Property / Construction
Boarding house room rent: 1sp (/week)
Apartment rent: 3sp (/week)
Small wood house (approx. 600sq.ft.) (buy): 4gc
Small stone/brick house (approx. 600sq.ft.) (buy): 6gc
Small wood house (approx. 600sq.ft.) (rent): 4sc/month
Small stone/brick house (approx. 600sq.ft.) (rent): 6sc/month
Glass (window): 1sc/sq. ft. (Note: glass windows are not included in the below building prices)
Glass (stained): 1gp/sq. ft. (Note: glass windows are not included in the below building prices)
Farmland (rent): 1sc /acre (year)
Farmland (buy): 12sc /acre
Woodland (buy): 2gp /acre
small Barn (buy): 2gc
large Barn (buy): 4gp
Construction Worker: See Apprentice Craftsman, Journeyman Craftsman, and Master Craftsman under the Services heading above, then see the below listings for various types of work performed in terms of "Man-Months" (calculate costs of one man-month based on the quality of the worker hired (the per day wage rate) multiplied by the 25 days per month of work performed.
Build Stone building-one storey (per 100 sq. ft. of building): 2 man-months labor and an additional 1.5 times for cut stone or Brick materials, or add one man-month of labor for fieldstone (if readily available).
Build Stone building-each additional storey (2nd through 3rd) (per 100 sq. ft. of building): 3 man-months labor and 1.5 times the 2 man-months cut stone or Brick materials rate above, or add one man-month of labor for fieldstone (if readily available).
Build Stone building-each additional storey (4th through 5th) (per 100 sq. ft. of building): 4 man-months labor and 1.5 times the 2 man-months cut stone or Brick materials rate above, or add one man-month of labor for fieldstone (if readily available).
Build Timber building-one storey (per 100 sq. ft. of building): 1 man-months labor and an additional 1.25 times forthe lumber materials, or add one man-month for fieldstone (if readily available).
Build Timber building-each additional storey (maximum of 2 levels above first) (per 100 sq. ft. of building): 1.5 man-months labor and an additional 1.25 times the labor costs for the lumber materials, or add one man-month for fieldstone (if readily available).
Build Timber barn (per 100 sq. ft. of building): 1 man-months labor and an additional 0.75 times base labor cost for materials.
Build Sod building-one storey only (per 100 sq. ft. of building): 1.5 man-months labor only.
Build Thatch building (w/ timber structure)-one storey (per 100 sq. ft. of building): 1.5 man-months labor and an additional 0.75 times base labor cost for materials.
Build Thatch building (w/ timber structure)-one additional level max (per 100 sq. ft. of building): 2 man-months labor and an additional 0.75 times base labor cost for materials.
Tile Roof for above buildings (prices as given above are for wood or thatched roofing)(per 100 sq. ft. of building footprint): +0.25 man-months labor and 4 times additional labor cost for materials.
Slate Roof for above buildings (prices as given above are for wood or thatched roofing)(per 100 sq. ft. of building footprint): +0.20 man-months labor and 5 times additional labor cost for materials.
Notes: Fortifications built with heavier walls and structures will typically have at least 2x the labor and 1.5 times the materials at a minimum, but can easily be 5 times the standard labor cost and 4 times the standard material costs for large stone castles and the likes.
Shored-up Tunnels/Cellars/Mines (in soil, per 1000 cubic ft.): 3 man months labor and 0.35 in materials
Shored-up Tunnels/Cellars/Mines (in stone, per 1000 cubic ft.): 5 man months labor and 0.2 in materials
Shored-up Tunnels/Cellars/Mines (deep): Increase labor costs and material costs by 25% if 20 to 49 feet deep (counting each 10 feet of shaft depth as 25 sq. ft. of area for cost calculations), 50% for 50 to 99 feet deep, 100% for 100 to 150 feet deep, and an additional 50% for each additional 50 feet of depth.
Bed (straw): 1sc
Bed (feather): 3sc
Bench (wood): 5cc
Book Case: 1sp (small, simple)
Rug (simple): 5sc/sq. yd. (sq. m.)
Rug (fancy): 4gp/sq. yd. (sq. m.)
Chair (simple wood): 2sp
Chair (fancy, wood): 2sc
Stool (wood): 1sp
Table (small simple): 5cc 3'x3' (1 sq. m)
Table (small nice): 4sp 3'x3' (1 sq. m)
Table (large simple): 1sc 4'x12' (4.5sq. m)
Table (large nice): 1sc 4'x12' (4.5sq. m)
Wardrobe (simple): 10sp
Wardrobe (fine): 10sc
Large Chest: 6sc (2.5'x2.5'x4')
Small chest: 3sc (1.5'x1.5'x3')
Barrel: 3sc (50 gallon)
Cask: 9sp (4 gallon)
Dice (wood, pair): 3cc
Dice (ivory, pair): 2sp
Comb (bone/ivory): 3cc
Livestock / Foodstuff
Plow Horse: 6gp
Bread: 3cp/loaf (1/2 lb.)
Vegetables: 1cc/lb. (turnips, cabbage, carrots, lettuce, broccoli, potatoes, etc.)
Exotic / Rare
Balance/Scale: 15sc (includes weights)
Book (travel log): 1gp (blank)
Book (general): 2gp (entertainment, educational, reference, etc.)
Book (blank): 5sc
Scroll (blank): 2sc
Scroll (general): 10sc (entertainment, educational, reference, etc.)