When I was a kid I never really thought about D&D currency other than as 'treasure' in the fantastical sort of way.
After years of DMing, however, and having purchased gold and silver IRL, it just seems that the 'gold piece' economy of D&D (in general) is completely unbalanced in terms of the actual value of gold.
Now I get that we are talking about fantasy worlds of swords and sorcery, so modern day and real life rules don't really apply- you can do anything you want. It would suck if Smaug's hoard was 90% copper pieces, right?
Still, there were some really good articles in Dragon in the past about disposing of excess wealth, and switching over to a 'silver standard' for treasure purposes for characters lower than about 10th level or so. I'm curious as to what other peoples' thoughts are on this, particularly in the Greyhawk setting. Gygax in the original Gord novels used Iron, Brass, and Bronze currency in addition to the traditional D&D currencies, and a Gold Orb was a substantial bit of wealth- that always seemed more correct to me.
For example, the 5E DMG guide lists a diamond as a 5000 GP gemstone. 5E rules also states that coins are basically 50 to the pound. This would mean that a single diamond is worth 100 POUNDS of gold! Maybe the dang Hope Diamond is worth that much, but I can tell you my wife's engagement ring definitely ain't!
I've been running a small campaign (GH based, of course) with my son, who is relatively new to the game. My way of handling money so far has been, in general, to divide prices of common goods by 10 and when converting old modules, downgrade every bunch of coins by one denomination or more. For example, a hoard of 1000 GP becomes either 100 GP or 1000 SP, and so on. A 'gem worth 500 GP' becomes a '50 GP' gem,and so on. Magic items are a special case and I'm inclined to leave their values alone, making them proportionately more valuable on the market (as they should be) and that much more expensive to craft.
I like the idea of copper and silver being the prevalent coins for trading among the middle and lower classes, when they just aren't flat out bartering. I've also (based on an old Dragon article) thought about altering the basic size of coins, making them penny or dime sized rather than larger and house-ruling that that they weigh 80 coins per pound versus 50. It only seems fair that if I'm going to debase the currency, I should make it a little easier for the PCs to haul away.
Of course, it's never as simple as 'dividing everything by 10' and with higher level/ value items things do end up getting skewed later on, requiring more arbitrary corrections. Eventually my 'introductory / experimental' campaign will end and I'll want to start a 'real', longer term campaign. I'm still on the fence about how to go with the currency thing. It just seems that the way things are written, a group of 2nd or 3rd level characters can commonly 'buy the entire town,' with their hard-won gains.
Anyway, I wanted to start a discussion on this and see what other players are doing with it. Comments?
Your concern is valid and commonly considered. Someone may point you to other threads in this forum on the topic.
Your system is workable and others I've read about have come up with workable systems based more closely on real life. For my part, however, it just isn't worth the effort. It's a fantasy game and, though I like to add as much realism into my campaigns as possible, going to the effort to change all the item prices and balance the economy in the myriad ways necessary to justify all the changes is more work than I'm interested in doing.
I might give it a go, though, if someone else went to all that effort for me and posted the results.
I always assumed it was inflated for adventurers as a means of collecting taxes from them without risking them fireballing the tax collector. The local lords would get together with the local merchants and say "Look at it this way. The adventurers have so much gold they don't really understand how rich they are! You can easily sell that 10 sp sword to them for 10 gp and they won't care a bit. You can double your money, and I'll make enough taxes on the adventurers I won't need to tax YOU..."
I've gone to a 'silver standard' in my home campaign, for many of the reasons listed in the OP. Plus, I feel a silver standard gives 'weight', for lack of a better term, to copper and silver currency.
In basic terms, any standard (non-magical) item with a price listed in GP is changed to SP, any price in SP is changed to CP, and any price in CP is changed to 'copper bits,' which I'll elaborate on below. Gem values are converted the same. A 10 GP gem in the rulebooks is a 10 SP gem in my campaign.
There are two basic sizes of coin: the 'standard' coin, roughly the size and weight of a U.S. quarter dollar, and they weigh 80 coins per pound. The second is the 'penny' coin, roughly the size and weight of the U.S. dime (10 cents), and weighing 200 coins per pound.
With that in mind, the values break down as follows, with the SP (silver standard coin) forming the 'base coin' the way the GP does in regular DND. As a rule, the 'penny' coins carry 40% of the value of the 'standard' coins. (I may make this a straight 50% conversion later, for ease of math) Electrum has been done away with in this system- as a mix of gold and silver, it never made much sense to me because verifying the gold content would be almost impossible by non-magical means, making the alloy an untrustworthy form of currency.
1 PP = 5 GP = 250 SP= 5000 CP
1 GP = 50 SP = 1000 CP
1 SP = 20 CP
1 CP = 2.5 Copper Bits (Rounded up or down by merchants depending on the product and the haggle)
1 Gold Penny = 20 SP or 50 Silver Pennies, or 400 CP, or 1000 Copper Bits
1 Silver Penny = 8 CP, or 20 Copper Bits
The system has a couple of advantages, in my mind. Even in a fantasy setting, in the standard game's system of 50 coins per pound, something like a two-handed sword (not even masterwork!) would cost something like almost TWO POUNDS of GOLD! That seems disproportionate to me and always has, especially in a medieval economy where barter vs. specie is the rule. Plus, carrying around a fortune is almost impossible without using sacks of gold or a portable hole.
With this system, players could carry one pound of gold pennies (200 coins), which would equate to 4000 SP in value, which in turn equates to 4000 GP in the standard one. That's a LOT of spending power in my silver-standard based economy. Of course, the trick is that gold is the coin of nobles, high level monsters, and the ridiculously rich. My players are getting to be 4th level and they've only just found a smattering of gold pennies as treasure, to say nothing of standard-sized gold pieces.
Anyway, we've been having fun with this system, and it makes copper and silver worth something as money, especially at lower levels.
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