Insane RPG Economies

In discussing Lamentations of the Flame Princess, I touched on the subject of money, stating that LotFP has a much more sensible approach to gold and silver and prices for trading goods than my DnD favourite, B/X.

This issue — borderline idiotic prices and insane amounts of gold and silver flooding dungeons — plagues all editions of Dungeons & Dragons to varying amounts.

See, for example, these two articles from 2015 debating the topic and shedding some light on how it happened:

A special sword worth hundreds of ships or thousands of riders is even more insane than my own example of a simple longbow; comparatively easy to construct with some time and access to wood; that cannot be paid with a months wages, or, counting food, clothing, and lodging, cannot ever be paid. In reality, some societies required their populace to own a bow and train with it. Were those societies Dungeons & Dragons societies, with 50 longbows in every village they would be filthy rich!

To escape the ever-increasing cycle of gathering inconceivable amounts of money and losing it through various crazy schemes of the Game Master, game designers found other ways to reward players, for example through Milestone XP (drawback: railroading-adjacent plots), XP for overcoming foes (drawback: murderhoboism), or reward for roleplaying (drawback: unfair punishment for shy players & subjective judgement by taste).

Not to forget: A real-world Spanish gold dubloon can be bought and sold for something between 2.500 and 3.500 US-Dollars. So even assuming smaller and less pure gold coins, one nice hand-crafted yew-longbow worth 40 gold pieces of only 1.500 USD worth still costs 60.000 dollars.

So, in conclusion: I find the economy of Lamentations of the Flame Princess rather okay, and I point to radically different XP-schemes, as in GURPS and Maze Rats (1 to 3 XP per session depending on active participation), Wushu (No advancement at all, in-game rewards through contacts and usable items instead) and Best Left Buried (Experience value of treasure calculated through descriptive words).

Uncoupling XP from gold allows for more sensible pricing, but the issue remains a challenge.

Picture source:

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