Friday, January 30, 2009

Alternative Coinage for the Flanaess

Date: Wed, 1 Mar 2000 00:47:07 -0800
From: "J. Sage Schreiner"
Subject: Alternative Coinage for the Flanaess

Hello all --

Some people might find this interesting or useful (or not). Regardless, as I note below, I'd be interested in feedback or general thoughts on playability. It's currently in rough form.



This is my own take on coinage in Greyhawk for my own campaign. If you use it, please remember to credit it to me: J. Sage Schreiner (

This document was written to address difficulties my players and I have with the standard AD&D economic system - one that is suited to high fantasy and massive piles of treasures etc., but not one suited to a low to mid fantasy interpretation of the Flanaess.

I have no background in history, and would welcome historical, philosophical or game-balance related feedback.

Finally, this document could be used in concert with the "Coins of the Flanaess" article published in the Greyhawk Grimoire #1, available at .


Like medieval Europe, and unlike the ancient Mediterranean world, the Flanaess operates on a "silver standard." This means that the standard coin of exchange is silver, not gold, and gold is proportionally more valuable. The majority of "business" is in silver. Copper is used for change on larger purchases, and for day-to-day trade between craftsmen, peasants and town people on some purchases, with the remained being dealt with in barter.

Gold is minted as the currency of choice only in the Baklunish lands far to the North and East, and in some of the demi-human kingdoms, primarly High Elves and Dwarves. Travelers in those lands may find even minimum sustenance to be priced extraordinarily high in realms where gold is the standard of trade. Welcome to the third world.

Platinum is not minted in any quantities anywhere. It is a very difficult metal to work with due to it's high melting point and barely-malleable nature. It is occasionally minted by kings to commemorate special occasions, pay ambassadors and so forth. It is extremely rare and impossible to spend anywhere without comment. It is also very valuable, especially when worked into jewelry.


One "piece" of any metal is considered to weight 75 grains. This is roughly the size and weight of two dimes stacked together, although denser metals such as gold will be significantly smaller in volume than their copper counterparts. Based on this arbitrary weight, the following general exchange rate for coins can be assumed:

1 pp =3D 10 gp
1 gp =3D 20 sp
1 sp =3D 10 cp

At 75 grains, there are approximately 100 coins to the pound.


It is not important to note that the Greyhawk coins come in a "2 piece" size -- change is easily made by cropping a coin. The same method should be done for silver and platinum, but is not necessary for copper. Standard country abbreviations:
GH =3D Greyhawk
NY =3D Nyrond
NP =3D North Province
GK =3D Great Kingdom
MS =3D Miscellaneous, common antique coins, badly worn and unidentifiable coins

Other less common coins in the eastern Flanaess includes coins minted by Keoland, Dyvers, Baklunish lands, Ulek states and Iuz.

Thus "300 Nyrond gold coins worth .75 gp each, 140 Misc. gp, 197 Greyhawk gold coins worth 2 gp each" could be notated as "225 NY gp, 140 MS gp, 394 GH gp". Noting the country of origin is important, as the coins could: be illegal in some places, be worth significantly less outside of their country of origin, or be of poor repute for purity, or be considered undesirable because of the poor economics of a place. (A note on that last comment: as far as I can tell, precious-metal based currencies undergo currency value variations somewhat similar to modern currency, although much less severe in nature. This makes it possible to, like the modern world, gamble on currency values. Unlike the modern world, however, currency speculation will involve physical transport of coins. For example, the northern barbarians mint no coins of their own, and thus consider coins to be particularly valuable; the "penny for your thoughts" of Greyhawk, translated into Frutzii reads, "a silver for your head." One could make a profit by transporting valuable currency to the north -- if only the northern barbarians had something worth buying, other than ones own life.)


Price conversion is as follows:

All weapons and armor cost the listed gp value, x2, in silver. Thus a long bow (75 gp), costs 150 sp, or 7.5 gp in the new system. Poor quality weapons (-1) cost about 1/2 that; exceptional quality (+1) weapons cost about x4 that -- or 30 gp for that same longbow.

All magical specialty items likewise costs their listed gp value, x2, in silver. Thus a good quality mage book would cost 100 sp/page, or about 4000 sp for a book of 40 pages in length.

All non-weapon / non-armor items, such as food, lodging etc... cost their listed value, but in silver. Thus a goat (1 gp) now costs 1 sp; a iron pot (5 sp) now costs 5 cp; a small basket (5cp) now costs .5 cp.


Minimum sustenance of the absolute poorest quality and quantity costs around 1 cp. This might be a few pieces of half-rotted cabbage, some moldy pieces of bread ("Oi, it's okay if y'eat around the bad bits"), and a bit of rancid sheep-fat. CON decreases by about -1 pt/fortnight until it reaches 1/4 of its normal maximum.

Poor, but almost-adequate in quantity, sustenance costs around 3 cp. This might be some heavy bread, a piece of dry cheese, an apple and a bit of weak meat-broth flavored with bits of onion. CON decreases at about -1 pt/month on a diet like this, until it reaches 1/2 of its normal maximum. You won't starve to death like this...

Decent sustenance costs about 5 cp per day and will keep teeth from falling out. A month of eating well will restore all CON lost due to poor diet.

Good sustenance costs about 1 sp per day. This would be plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables, unwatered ale, plenty of fresh meet, fresh bread, good cheese and so forth.

Excellent sustenance could cost anywhere from 2 sp up to 50 sp per day, with a proportionally increasing exotic-ness to the food. Far-away spices, bizarre gourmand recipes and so forth would be part of eat like this.

All food prices can be considered to be halved in productive farm-land (where food is plentiful, even if money is not) and doubled in towns of greater than 5000 citizens.

Kids under the age of 12 require about 1/2 the food of a full-grown person.
Humans with a strength of 15 or greater require twice the food.

Thus, a single gold piece could keep a peasant decently-fed in the country for four months. Flip a street urchin in a big city a silver, and you've bought him bacon and eggs for breakfast, cheese, apples and bread for lunch and a rich stew, hunk of bread and dried pear for dinner, and he can probably drop half into his pockets for later.

A Room of One's Own:
3 sp / month (or, more likely, 7 cp, collected weekly) -- squalid conditions. This would be dank, lightless basement room with an inch of water on the floor whenever it rains; or a room shared by two families (each paying rent). Making a CON check at -2 once per month or come down with something uncomfortable (scurvy, open sores that won't heal, a bad -- potentially fatal -- cold, diarrhea. Any of these maladies will reduce a random ability by d3 points until cured). Additionally, failing N checks (where N =3D CON) in a row will result in death -- very unlikely for a healthy, well-fed person, but much more likely for a half-starved person.

6 sp / month (also collected weekly) -- poor conditions. This might be a single room to oneself in a rotted-old tenement. It leaks when it rains, the walls are thin and the rats and cockroaches hold nightly battles. The door can probably be kicked down with little trouble (although why anyone would take the time is another story). The CON check for poor conditions is made at a +2, but the same rules for failing N checks in a row still hold.

50 sp / month -- middle class. This would be a burghers house. Two floors, with the bottom being used for a shop and perhaps a servant's tiny room, a middle floor of common family living space, and a narrow, low attic to provide a small bit of storage and a sleep-space for an older child or two. The quality of a place like this is not necessarily high, and the total square feet would probably number about 750. Proportionally higher rents would lead to proportionally better quality residences and improved locations, and perhaps even a bit of garden in the back.

250 sp / month -- wealthy. This would be a nice house in a well patrolled location. It would not share a wall on either side, would be airy in the summer and cozy in the winter. It would probably have a walled garden in the back. In size it would probably have about 2000 -- 25000 square feet of floor space, divided between kitchen, servant's quarters, a dining room, master bed room, guest room and study. Construction would be sound and resistant to local natural phenomena (wooden frame in an earth-quake prone region; stone and brick in a place with bitter-cold winter storms). Plenty of variation could exist: for instance, a house built with an eye for security might tend to be less comfortable for easier to defend.


Barter is most often used between cash poor peoples, often farmers. Those that live in cities will usually have a few coppers in pocket with which to purchase goods or services. But as the economy I am describing above tends to be somewhat more cash poor then that which is usually described in AD&D in may be necessary, from time to time, for players to barter.

In general, this would be most likely to happen on particularly large purchases or sales. For instance, a player attempting to sell a valuable gem (perhaps a sapphire worth 1000 sp) might be forced to accept barter for part of the gem's value as the merchant might only be able to raise 300 sp, even with a few hours to do so. Attemping to get cash-only for a sale might reduce the total received value by about 10 - 30% (depending on how cash poor the local economy is - thus the former GK lands and the northern barbarians would be penalized for this).

The players, tending to be cash-rich compared to most people, would find little need to barter for common purchases. On the other hand, "priceless" items, such as magical heirlooms and treasures would be best sold or purchased with barter (i.e. traded for like items - a mage and warrior trading a magical sword and a magical staff would bea good example).

1 comment:

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