Wednesday, May 13, 2009


One of the most amusing absurdities of D&D is the shopping list.

Other people have pointed out how gold in the D&D world is hardly a precious metal. Coins are huge, fifty to the pound, which is an improvement over the old days when they were ten to a pound. (In real life gold coins are 250 or so to the pound).

And of course there's the fact that a 10 ft pole sells for more than a 10 ft ladder...

But what bugs me the most is the price of a cow. Apparently there's only 16 lbs of edible meat on a cow, because a 1/2 lb chunk of meat sells for 3 sp, and a cow sells for 10 gp. What this shows is that when they sat down to make up the prices for trade goods, they didn't even try. No doubt someone will exclaim "This isn't Dungeons and Cowherds!" but that's no excuse. Why even list a price for a cow unless it's going to fit into the game somewhere? Notice I'm not complaining about the cost of pane of glass. Not because I don't have panes of glass in my game, but because they didn't list a stupid value for it.

So now I'm working on a price list that a) stays as close to D&D canon as possible, and b) makes some kind of coherent sense. I couldn't save cows (they have to cost at least 125 gp), but I only doubled the price of a goat, and I managed to keep wheat at 1 cp a lb.

Which, by the way, explains how laborers make 1 sp a day. Because a subsistence diet is two lbs. of grain a day; assuming an average family of 5 people, that laborer can feed his wife and kids just enough to stay alive. (The kids will probably eat a little less, leaving a few pennies left over for clothes.)

Adventurers, of course, make and spend lots of gold. This is reflected in the price of things they buy that no one else does - like spells. What cleric charges his own faithful 150 gp for a Remove Disease spell? Most of his flock can't afford to pay for that, not even once in a lifetime. Would a Lawful Good cleric really sit there and not cast his free 3rd level spell that renews every day just because nobody had a 150 gps to give him? The price for spell-casting services is for adventurers; random armed weirdos who wander into town and want stuff. The people who live there get it for free, if the cleric likes them. This is the sort of thing the DMG should be making clear. And what if your character is from that town, and worships that religion? Is it really game-breaking that he gets a healing spell for free once in a while?

Since 1st Ed, D&D has been avoiding any sense of community action. The players were always supposed to be laws unto themselves, free agents who were responsible to no one and could look to no one for aid. Which begs another question: when the monsters threaten the town, why is it the 1st level players are apparently the only swords around? But that's a topic for another post...

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