Silver Standard

This post was drafted ages ago after replying to a nice post on Delta’s blog, then completely forgotten.

Use of gold standard in D&D irks me a bit. I started my career with Das Schwartz Auge (silver standard) and Kata Kumbas (silver standard as well). If characters need 5 gold pieces to eat for a week, it feels terribly fake. 15 GP/week for iron rations is even worse. It gets even worse if you consider that 10 GP make a pound (that’s 45 grams of gold for you), while gold florins weighted about 7 grams.

D&D, DAS and KK use a 1:10:100 gold:silver:copper conversion ratio. GURPS use a copper standard and a 1:20:80 rate. The same rate was used in medieval England. This is not to be confused with money of account ratios of 1:20:240 (pounds, shillings, pence) you can find on the Medieval Sourcebook price list (which is very interesting: Delta here discusses prices more in depth).

The 1:20:80 rate is what I’d use if it wasn’t for treasure tables are rated for a 1gp=1xp rate. Converting the treasure tables seems something useful to do. From now on I’ll convert everything this way:

  • old SP 4:1 to gold sovereigns/orbs/crowns/florins/marks/luis d’or (as the relative value goes from 5 old GP to 20 new shillings)
  • old GP 1:1 to silver shillings/scudi/talers/dollars
  • old SP 1:1 to copper pennies/soldi/rappels
  • old CP just vanish (nobody ever cared about them) or are converted to tin coins

All prices are now expressed in shillings, obviously, and coins weight 7 grams each, which means 1000 coins to a stone. And 1 XP is awarded for every silver piece or equivalent “brought back to civilization”. This means that the amount of coin-based experience haulable back from dungeons increased about six times.

Also, there are two additional kinds of “money” I use in my campaign (both strangely liked by players over the years):

  • letters of credit: it’s a proto-cheque, featured also in Scott’s Ivanhoe (won’t spoil for what purpose). The theory goes that holding the letter gives you credit (as in, you’re owed money) from the emitting financial institution or merchant and you can use it as money with third parties that recognize the emitter. Obviously it’s as good as the emitter line of credit with said third parties. Obviously it’s really easy to burn a letter. In my campaigns usually jewelers, cities, banks and trading companies pay with letters of credit if the amount goes over 1000gp/shillings.
  • Bullion/hacksilver: chunks of precious metal, to be traded by weight. Some of them might be pretty ingots showing with the holder trading company symbol in relief. Some of them might be shaped like torcs, pendants and the like. Some are just slabs, or pieces hacked off a church altar or something very posh.