Monday, October 26, 2015

Notes on OD&D - Part 7

Onward the journey through OD&D, with commentary ...

To return to another topic related to pricing in OD&D, I raised some questions regarding the Equipment and Prices list on page 14.  It seems to me that these prices were made up whole cloth out of thin air by Gygax and Arenson, and were not meant to reflect anything like real-world prices in a medieval setting.  For one thing, six torches should not cost 1 Gold piece.  That's just crazy talk.

I asked +Kasimir Urbanski  the author of Dark Albion, about it, and his conclusion was much the same as mine.  Here is what he had to say...
"the price list in the equipment chapter in Dark Albion is based on actual records of cost in the medieval period (15th century, wherever possible). If you compared the two, you'd see they look nothing at all like the price lists in d&d, which clearly began from someone (Gygax, I guess) just trying to figure out in his head what things 'ought' to cost. "
I further asked him if he would mind if I published here the price list(s) from Dark Albion, and he was kind enough to agree to it as well.  So here we go.  A far more accurate picture of prices from the medieval era...
"The three standard coins of the realm at this time are the copper penny (which is actually approximately one-third silver), the silver shilling (which is in fact about one-tenth copper) and the gold pound."   - Dark Albion, p. 135

p = penny
sh = shilling
L = pound

10 p = 1 sh
20 sh = 1 L

Here's the costs / salaries / prices lists from Dark Albion...


Armor and Weapons

Missile Weapons




Wages 2
Of course, none of this is all that pertinent in so far as OD&D was not really trying to be realistic in terms of prices of items.  However, had they tried, they might have made some adjustments to the original pricing lists, and had that happened I would imagine that quite a few squabbles might have been avoided around the gaming table over time, ...perhaps. On the other hand, I'm not sure how particular people have been about exact prices for items in OD&D.  It could well be that no one (or hardly anyone) ever noticed that 6 torches really shouldn't cost a Gold piece.

Rationalizing the money system in OD&D has always been a kind of quixotic pet peeve of mine.   I always thought that the lower end items such as torches, rope and so on were far too expensive at 1 Gold.

Just out of curiosity I want to do a quick spot check.  Not that this is all that important, but I'm curious.  Lets take rope as it is listed in both Dark Albion and OD&D.

OD&D 50' rope = 1 Gold Piece
Dark Albion 50' rope = 10 pennies = 1 Shilling = 1/20th Pound ("L")

So rope in OD&D was 20 times more expensive than actual medieval rope.  Does it matter?  Of course not!  But if you want to be a little more accurate, you can charge a Silver Piece for 50' of rope. Just saying.  Ok, I think that's enough on this topic.  Tomorrow I plan to continue on to Men & Magic page 15.  Sorry for the two days of interlude, but at least one of those topics (not this one) is germane to the playing of OD&D.  This topic, well, might just help in case you want to consider adjusting the price lists for your OD&D game.  On the other hand, I'm not at all sure how much doing so might actually unbalance the game.  It's possible that the OD&D Price Lists are calibrated in such a way as to have an important impact on the game's flow of monies and capabilities.  It's just that, to be honest, I doubt it.  I think they just had one currency at the time, which was Gold Pieces, and anything that cost less than one gold was summarily given the price of 1 Gold, no matter how ruthless and unfair the merchants were who got away with it for so long.  Maybe a class action lawsuit for 30 years of OD&D on behalf of all of our Characters is in order.  We been cheeeeted!  ... or not.  :)

Lets take a quick look at Long Bow to compare another item.

OD&D Long Bow = 40 Gold Pieces
Dark Albion Long Bow = 1 L

Eh?  WTF?  Long Bows have been marked up by 40 times!?  Those greedy bastard Merchants!? Who knew?!

How about leather armor?

OD&D Leather Armor = 15 Gold Pieces
Dark Albion Leather Armor = 5 Shillings

WTF?!??  Wow!   5 Shillings is 1/4 a Pound.  So 15 Gold Pieces is 60 times the actual cost! (Please feel free to check my math here ... I'm a bit brain fatigued at the moment, but I think that's right)... Ok, people, those Merchants have been raking us over the coals for 30 years now!  My Character Abdominopolis is going to see about leveling a class action lawsuit against OD&D Merchants for 30 years worth of price gouging! Whose with me?!

Ah, well... ok ok... I got myself a little excited there.  Never mind the lawsuit.  But it does seem, by my little spot check, that the OD&D prices are about 40 times higher than what actual prices were in the real medieval world.  Maybe the costs are due to the effect of actual magic and clericy on the economy somehow?  Hmmm... hmmm.... hmmm... .could be.   Anyway, do stay tuned for page 15, coming soon.

Edit:  Ok, after further research and investigation I found out a couple of things of interest.  1) Dark Albion fudged the coin denominations in order to make it work more favorably as a game, as opposed to keeping it close to historical accuracy.  So while the price list in Dark Albion is likely accurate in terms of how many Pennies, Shillings and Pounds things cost, what's not accurate is the actual coinage.  As it turns out, in the medieval era, there were no Shilling or Pound coins (until Henry II c. 1489 AD).  A Shilling was actually a pile of 20 pennies.  And a pound was a pile of 240 pennies.  There were no coins that represented a shilling or a pound.  And there was no Gold Piece.  Later on there were, after Henry II, but not before.  Also, the Gold Piece was called a Sovereign, and it was the largest and most valuable coin in England up to that time.  The Sovereign has a nominal value of 1 pound of sterling silver, and the weight was 7.98 grams (0.2814862 ounces) of 22 carat gold. Thus, if we want to include Gold Pieces in our Worlds and expect it to have a relatively accurate medieval value, we would say that .28 ounces of gold is equal in value to 20 Shillings, or 240 silver pennies.  I have yet to work out how this would reflect on actual prices, but I'm willing to go with Dark Albion's price list, and simply take into account that the only coins that were actually available were pennies.  At least until 1489 AD.  I think.  Still researching. Complicated stuff.  Moreso than I guessed.  Which is why, maybe, Gygax and Arneson cut to the chase and just made stuff up.  Whether it made cents or not.

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