Thursday, 1 December 2011

De-Based Units of Currency

I love ConstantCon and FLAILSNAILS. However moving between silver standard and gold standard worlds is seriously handicapping poor Zaunn, as all his G.P. become S.P. but don't convert back again. This is particularly on my mind as I work on my Fort Flaime 'megadungeon' that I hope to run as a FLAILSNAILS game and I find that I can't decide between the two standards.

The problem appears to me to be, as with the conversion of currency in the real world, the perceived value. In OSR games value is short-handed into the metal each coin is made from. But this seems faintly ludicrous for the purpose of FLAILSNAILS. I feel that the inherent value of the coins should remain roughly the same when moving between FLAILSNAILS worlds. Inherent value is measured in buying power, that is how much you can buy with them. In Jeff Rient's Wessex, a Gold Standard setting, a single gold coin buys exactly the same as a single silver coin does in Evan Elkins's Dark Country, a Silver Standard setting.

Where I am going with this is to suggest that perhaps what we should to do is separate the coins from the pre-defined value, what they're made from, and instead define the coins by what they're worth. The easiest way I can see to do this is to remove the metals from the names of the coins and instead name the coins as something other than "pieces".

Here's the coinage I intend to use in Fort Flaime:

  • Sovereign: Bars of precious or semi-precious metals that are used to store wealth or trade between nations. Could literally be a pound of silver. They are mostly found in the hands of monarchs and the super-rich. Hence their name.
    = Platinum Pieces under a Silver Standard
    = Multiple Platinum Pieces under a Gold Standard
  • Crown: Large denomination coins typically only used by nobles and merchants amongst themselves. This association with the aristocracy gives the coins their name.
    = Gold Pieces under a Silver Standard
    = Platinum Pieces under a Gold Standard
  • Standard: These are amongst the most common coins used.At least by Adventurers. Weapons and armour typically cost multiple Standards but not quite a Crown and the association with military equipment gives rise to the name "standard".
    = Silver Pieces under a Silver Standard
    = Gold Pieces under a Gold Standard
  • Groat: The groat is the most common coin in circulation. It is said that "a man can eat but for the want of a groat"; a day's worth of food for a person typically costs them about a groat. Indeed the groat is also a generic term for hulled grain that is used as the foundation of many meals. Perhaps this is the source of the name.
    = Copper Pieces under a Silver Standard
    = Silver Pieces under a Gold Standard
  • Bit: These are the coins used for smallest of purchases. They're called bits because they are literally fragments of other coins. If something is "not worth a groat" then it is probably worth a bit, at least to someone.
    = Fragments of Copper Pieces under a Silver Standard
    = Copper Pieces under a Gold Standard
The thing that struck me as I wrote this, even though I'm pretty sure flies in the face of economic wisdom, is that Silver Standard settings are fundamentally better off. It seems to me that Gold Standard settings must be fairly resource-poor for common items to cost ten to twenty times more (going by the common OSR conversions between gold and silver pieces) than in a Silver Standard setting.
Feel free to comment, hurl criticisms or rotten fruit.


  1. Nice thoughts. It makes sense to apply if the only real difference is the Silver vs Gold standard because the end result is X Sp = X Gp with no net gain or loss.

    Does it bear out if the game has a different exchange rate? Say, like Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay with 240 Pennies to the Gold Crown (I can't remember what the Schillings were).

    Also, could the Gold Standard not imply that gold is very common? I've never really thought about implications of either, but my assumption would be that lots of GP = lots of base metal to use to make coins.

  2. Hi,

    Apologies for the off-topic comment, but I couldn't find a contact email for you.

    I've recently put out an ebook of my writing, called The New Death and others. It's mostly short stories, with some obvious gamer-interest material. For example I have a story inspired by OD&D elves, as well as poems which retell Robert E Howard's King Kull story The Mirrors of Tuzun Thune and HP Lovecraft's Under the Pyramids.

    I was wondering if you'd be interested in doing a review on your blog (either a normal book review, or a review of its suitability as gaming inspiration).

    If so, please let me know your email, and what file format is easiest for you, and I'll send you a free copy. You can email me ( or reply to this thread.

    You can download a sample from Smashwords:

    I'll also link to your review from my blog.


  3. Have you not been converting your silver back into gold after you move out of the Dark Country? You should be. Sorry if I was unclear on that point.

  4. Money, like politics in a game can be a pain in the butt. I like to keep things as simple and basic as possible. No headaches then.