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Late Viking-Age Currency

   
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Originally Posted by ShadowStalker View Post
My setting uses late 10th century Scandinavia as the foundation of the world. And, although it is a mishmash of real world cultures and fantasy and creations of my own, I'd like to have a currency/money system that fits the theme, but is still simple to understand and implement for the Iron Heroes system.

A few solutions have been given that could definitely work. One was to simply change the gold prices to silver. And copper to silver pennies. And set gold as the new platinum. This could easily be retrofitted into the game without much effort.

I was also trying to encompass a bartering system. This may or may not be as simple, but I am curious what other people think.
Complicating games like this is usually for the appeal of the economic boom/bust that probably occured very rapidly in those times (of course, economists can only assume that those things happened, but they aren't the paleontologists that we seem to trust so much). I'm going to assume that's what you want, otherwise being this specific and exact is silly for a game that already involves enough NUMBERS!!! (imo). Anyway...



Here's some hard fast rules (if they work, let me know, I have a flu, so I could use some cheer; also NOTE: You still have to make your own tables):
- Only certain events will drive the economy in any serious direction. Back in the day, 95% of the populace were peasant folk (I'm assuming vikings were much wealthier than everyone else in Europe back then, hence why I don't say 99.9%). These events are essentially random encounters (use a table and roll for every passage of X time) - divide them into major and minor events. Bump a minor up to a major or a major down to a minor if the rolls say so.

Majors occur less frequently (once a month?) - vikings or no, humans are a conservative lot. And because most are peasants, they're usually content to just produce basic goods like food and sit in their warm (relatively) luxurious homes all day (if they can). Minors might occur as often as once a day (vikings do like to get around, after all; so lots of trade = exposure to more events).

Besides minor and major events, you can introduce a slight flucation. Roll if you like (ie. 1d4, low numbers mean reduction in standing price each week, high numbers mean increase - lower or increase is hardly noticeable, maybe 2 Gp at most), or just input GM discretion for whenever you feel like doing that nagging little punishment.

Majors are usually bad things (vikings raid all the time, so a minor would be an enemy invasion and a major could be the loss of some villages to war). Viking culture is greedy, and thus very risky. Every so often though, something good will happen - and because it's a major event, it's a very good thing.

If too many bad events happen, a given society faces recession or even depression.

Protip
- Recession is a dramatic decrease in flow of goods. Essentially. Probably not the exact definition, but good enough name for something in a game. If you want to be super logical though, go ahead and find a word that matches. Or find a way to model an actual recession. :P
- Depression isn't a sink hole. It's actually a recession that's gone on for an extended period - the rule is typically a year minimum. Depression is a fitting name, because a recession that's gone on that long can break entire societies; especially in a medieval atmosphere - such that all the poor peasants in your cozy village will have to pack up and leave or die in the cold. Cities, on the other hand... might survive (although a siege from an invading army will do them in pretty fast; their population's ability to produce raw goods is their only saving grace really). Things like magic aren't withstanding, of course. Also, magic causing economic spirals is just silly, unless that's the kind of fantasy you're shooting for.
- Great depression - really bad. This always breaks a society. Cities grow abandoned. Currency becomes valueless. The meaning of 'lord' (or jarl or whatever vikings call it) no longer has any meaning, and law and order breaks down. Your city is now part of the great wilderness. This is epic campaign material - you wake up one day to learn that your king and every other king of every nation you know has been assassinated. Yeah, it's that bad. Expect monsters to be hiding around every corner of every town. All your hard earned treasure is also valueless, unless you kind find a wizard with warehouse space. On the bright side, gold is very easy to find and can be used to barter with ignorant barbarians (only ogres are dumb enough to be truly fooled though; and provided you are strange enough to be actually comfortable in an ogre's company). If you're the kind of GM that doesn't miss a beat, it's pretty easy to give gold weight or simply say '10,000gp in raw coins weighs you down so you can't move'.


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Some idea of events for vikings
- Lots of civilians suddenly dying in the cold (not EVERYONE has a nice hearth). This would be typical and expected. Doesn't cause much of a ruckus, but naturally influences the economy. This could be a major event (or minor, depending on vikings reproduce, I suppose).

- A raid gone awry. Raids happen so frequently (depending on conservatism... you could easily input slightly varied viking cultures that only disagree on political matters like raid frequency, blah blah blah). This could seriously effect the economy. Even so, it's a minor event. Vikings are usually good at raids though. If you're a benevolent adventurer (or just a lawful neutral investor), you can do something like hire merc commanders and then donate them to a kingdom's military to co-ordinate better raids and reduce odds of this event showing up. Good, clean and easy way to give players a way to impact the world.

- Enemy invasion. This will happen quite frequently, so probably minor event. Because vikings trade so much, an invasion anywhere is going to effect someone somewhere. All you can really do is pray that the enemy is stupid enough to break themselves on the fortified city walls, rather than use actual viking tactics that they've probably learned from your culture (raiding for common goods and the occassional trinket or treasure). The best way to combat this is probably to simply enlist as a soldier for the kingdom and go on linear missions (not withstanding the GM's ability to make basic usage of game rules exciting, of course).
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I was also trying to encompass a bartering system. This may or may not be as simple, but I am curious what other people think.
Diplomacy and reputation. Refer to the dnd 3.5e srd.
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Another Protip:
- According to history, economic down turn is what pretty much destroyed the vikings. Skyrim kinda hints at this sorta thing as a potential story arc too.

I'd say it was more the economic effects of the cultural shift following the conversion. The Scandinavian peoples had taken what everyone else did in war and turned it into an economic exercise. After the conversion though, they couldn't just arbitrarily attack other Christian lands because they could get in a lot of trouble for that, so their sources of wealth in Western Europe dried up and all they had left were the pagans in the Baltic, who were too poor to bother, and the Middle East and Africa, which were too far away to be economically viable. On the other hand, this was good for everyone else, and the economic historians say there's evidence of a boom in England in the late eleventh century (which might be why it was such a tempting target in 1066...)

I'd also suggest reconsidering the view of the peasants depending on how you want to portray this world. The view of them as being poor and uneducated, barely supporting themselves on what they can grow may be traditional but I'd suggest it's out of date. For example, there's evidence to suggest that, although they might have been officially "illiterate" (by which I mean that they couldn't read or write in Latin) the common people were perfectly able to read and write in their own languages using their runic alphabets- they've found some examples of day to day carvings in Bergen. Also, it's possible that up to 20 or 30% of the populations of Germanic societies were free born, and they were required to provide for the unfree populace who depended on them- slaves may have had no rights at the time, but they also had no responsibilities, and their lord had to provide them with food and shelter. It may not have been the most pleasant of societies but it wasn't entirely grim, and settlements like Jorvik (modern York) don't seem to have been that bad... until someone decided to go Viking...

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I'd say it was more the economic effects of the cultural shift following the conversion. The Scandinavian peoples had taken what everyone else did in war and turned it into an economic exercise.
When it comes to economics, any 'revolution' that creates a blanket of problems is still modeled - after all, it's still the same economy. And it can still be covered with the above methods.

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The view of them as being poor and uneducated, barely supporting themselves on what they can grow may be traditional but I'd suggest it's out of date.
Um... well, I dunno - 11th century wasn't a particularly famous century for celebrating knowledge and progress. I mean... there was a lot of war. In human terms, that's basically antithetical. War always destroys books. War victims forget how to read too.

It's not that peasants are stupid - it just sucks to be them. They don't have a chance. They're too scared. They want to learn a trade but there neighbor bourgeoise won't let them, because it'd drive down his competition. That's a huge difference in terms of who is pathetic (the neighbor is probably more pathetic, and morally corrupt to boot; just luckier). Also, we're talking about vikings - if you want to have respect in viking culture you have to risk your life X amount of times. I'm sure late in viking society, luck was a major part of the religion since vikings tend to depend on risk for good fortune - even more so than honor in combat (and combat is risk too).

Sure vikings are civilized and viking nobles probably lived like kings - but much of the 5% are also middle class (former peasants, now skilled). There was probably a huge middle class that prospered because nobles decided to give to charity a whole bunch and the wealth kinda went everywhere (could be one of hundreds of ways it began).

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The view of them as being poor and uneducated, barely supporting themselves on what they can grow may be traditional but I'd suggest it's out of date.
Well, if they aren't doing that anymore - it wouldn't be proper to call them peasants.

Actually the proper term is 'lower class'. I'm sure not all of them are officially peasants. Some are servants. Apprentices and shop assistants who never get promoted. Etc. They might still live the same as peasants of the times. Maybe they're educated (if they're lucky). But they're unlucky enough to not move anywhere.

Also, vikings don't farm. Even so, expect many lower class to live like slaves. They represent a generation of warriors that want to prove themselves, but can't.

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It may not have been the most pleasant of societies but it wasn't entirely grim, and settlements like Jorvik (modern York) don't seem to have been that bad... until someone decided to go Viking...
Yeah it's basically skyrim. A harsh land, but with very nice villagers. Wealthy people that are easy to steal from are frowned upon (which explains why I didn't find too many of these that weren't taverns or stores). The meanest people are the warriors, and even they will meet you in a tavern before they meet you on the battlefield. Teachers will expel knowledge at the drop of a coin, and not the lowering of pride.

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The price of the chain shirt is greater than the shield and helm, so he could either barter for more items or receive some money back for the difference.
In bartering, people aren't usually willing to pay money for the difference. People that are willing to barter are less willing to give away coins. People that are unwilling to barter are less capable with material posessions, which unacceptable if you're a trader (so you can't think like a digital age businessman who hates clutter). Just imo. It's a psychological thing, and more socially realistic methinks.

Instead of coins, he'd probably accept some extra bread or whatever. Kind gestures can take care of otherwise 'in-even trades'. Or, what if the person you're trading with owns a tavern and he's desperate for customers? ("Just stay at my hearth, and then spread the word!"). Then you're lucky. You can see why people tended to prefer bartering to throwing around coins back then.

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No apologies needed! This information is very useful... now to apply it to the game.
N_P's suggestion seems like the best one. If all you have is a list of items covered by your various books, and you're willing, you can go ahead and apply supply/demand values one at a time, to determine availability. Then from that, make your NPCs think emotionally rather than logically (always; especially if they're weaker targets for marauding adventurers) - meaning they will drive up prices for people they don't like, or do so in fear. Or give away items in desperate attempts to make friends. Viking lands are wealthy after all.

Playing skyrim, it's really hard to be a criminal. So the PCs shouldn't get away with a lot (even though there's a lot of crap to steal out there and influence the entire economy). Viking mercenaries will be hired to hunt them down at the slightest offense - and often times (because vikings are all warriors, as we know), they will be better skilled than your motley crue of adventurers, meaning higher level, absurd toughness, GM tricks, etc.

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Originally Posted by impfireball View Post


Um... well, I dunno - 11th century wasn't a particularly famous century for celebrating knowledge and progress. I mean... there was a lot of war. In human terms, that's basically antithetical. War always destroys books. War victims forget how to read too.

It's not that peasants are stupid - it just sucks to be them. They don't have a chance. They're too scared. They want to learn a trade but there neighbor bourgeoise won't let them, because it'd drive down his competition. That's a huge difference in terms of who is pathetic (the neighbor is probably more pathetic, and morally corrupt to boot; just luckier). Also, we're talking about vikings - if you want to have respect in viking culture you have to risk your life X amount of times. I'm sure late in viking society, luck was a major part of the religion since vikings tend to depend on risk for good fortune - even more so than honor in combat (and combat is risk too).
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Originally Posted by Krikit
Hope that helped. I'm trained as an early medieval historian myself, so I couldn't help myself
I think they're a little more qualified than you to make a statement on what the economy and life of scandinavian peasants was like.

Also, the religion of the Vikings wasn't so austere and war-focused as you think. Only the earliest forms (as in Pre-Thor and Freya) of Viking Heathenism focused on warfare. You'll note the most popular dieties were Thor and Freya---who provided a second "heaven" for home makers and farmers to go to when they died, since they couldn't go to Valhalla.

And their wasn't very much of a "Lower Class" in the Viking communities. You were either a slave, a freeman, or a warrior (which was headed up by Thanes, who were picked from the warrior class). So if you want to talk "Lower Class", you probably weren't a Norseman yourself, or you were from a different tribe and were taken prisoner (one of the Scandinavians chief exports was slaves).

But as for there being a lower class amidst the Freemen? Maybe, but not likely. Their communities weren't exactly large enough for this to be a pronounced as it is now or during the central medieval period in cities like Rome and Vienna.

Amidst the Viking "Middle Class" as you call it, everyone was largely interdependent. Things like coinage weren't really used unless you were a merchant (in which case you were more likely a member of the warrior class selling your wares).

[quote=Impfireball]Also, vikings don't farm. Even so, expect many lower class to live like slaves. They represent a generation of warriors that want to prove themselves, but can't.[/b]

Yes, they do. This is why they travelled. This is also why food like lefse exists. Grains were very difficult to grow, potatoes were not. But most scandinavian communities relied on sheep and goats, as well as fish and very hardy vegetables for the bulk of their food. Viking was not their soul form of sustenance--that would be utterly unfeasible and a ridiculous way to build and entire community, and would not have supported their numbers during peace time (which yes, there was in fact peace time) and would not have made raiding fellow Scandinavians worthwhile.

Spend some time reading this website: http://www.danishnet.com/info.php/vi...rming-152.html

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I think they're a little more qualified than you to make a statement on what the economy and life of scandinavian peasants was like.
I'm only telling what I know. Don't be rude.

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And their wasn't very much of a "Lower Class" in the Viking communities.
Economically, there's always those who get only the sourest piece of pie. There's always a bottom of the barrel. Lower classes exists everywhere. It's not disrespectful to refer to them as such - only scientific.

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Yes, they do.
Okay, fine. But, not enough that it needs to be a theme in a fantasy setting. The vikings weren't big on farming, so a fantasy setting that focuses on that would be dull.

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Grains were very difficult to grow, potatoes were not.
Dull. Dull. Dull.

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that would be utterly unfeasible and a ridiculous way to build and entire community
Sure, but it's an easy adventure hook. Want to rob somebody? Viking! Want to slay a dragon? Bunch of vikings!

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(which yes, there was in fact peace time)
Hard for a civilized english man to distinguish, but... yeah, I'm sure they called everything peacetime unless it threatened their entire genetic existence.

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Spend some time reading this website:
Would rather learn about other stuff. Thanks anyway.

going to make this a bit easier for you. If your player want to be merchants then go for it.

A cloak in one town is 1 sp, in another a different type of cloak might be 1 sp, but both are cloaks. If your going to decide on what constitutes a cloak, then your going to get a head ache. You might have three towns with three items that are classified as cloaks, made of different materials.

If you want to set different prices, then take into account materials, but remember that materials easily available in one town may be very valuable in another. your going to have to set what is available for every town that the players come across.

It's all in the math, which D&D has zero qualms with.

Common Mat: Half price.
Uncommon Mat: x1
Rare Mat: x2
Epic Mat: x5
Legendary Mat: x10, or something.

And then consider the confidence of the merchant who's selling you your stuff. Confidence correlates to how rare they think an item is, usually. Second up, they consider how stupid the adventurer is. Thirdly, they consider their own wiles. Finally, they have to think about their business and how much they really need the adventurer's coin (they do this by thinking about how much they paid to acquire the item and then the profit they can glean from this sale). They consider this last, because to consider it before hand is fallible since it would indicate a pre-occupation with perfection. Most merchants are wise to this (if they're perfect, then they would have conquered the universe some time ago).

Which merchants are less wise? Those that aren't really merchants. Ie. Store owners and tavern keepers. Urchins desperately plying wares.

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A cloak in one town is 1 sp, in another a different type of cloak might be 1 sp, but both are cloaks. If your going to decide on what constitutes a cloak, then your going to get a head ache. You might have three towns with three items that are classified as cloaks, made of different materials.
If you're willing to make a map, you can color regions. although this might be too much trouble.

A better idea is jurisdictions - different jurisdictions of guards might wear slightly different uniforms. Or they might not, and the players might have to constantly ask about what jurisdiction they're in, and then keep track on paper. Jurisdictions affect the economy since they don't all operate under one roof - therefor, you can shift default prices for (uncommon items and upwards) at your own discretion that way.

Jurisdictions aren't unique to regions - multiple jurisdictions can exist in a single region; the more falling into one region, the more economic fluctuation depending on which jurisdiction moves into X town.
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As for materials determining base price, I wouldn't really go there (just use default prices), with the exception of a few (uncommon and upwards) items that need to be crafted regularily. And then there's the common items, which players can craft if they like (but won't really profit from, unless they happen to be entrepreneurial enough).

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Hope that helped. I'm trained as an early medieval historian myself, so I couldn't help myself
Apologies if you thought I was trying to impose my authority, I meant it more as an explanation of where I'm coming from. I love studying Anglo-Saxon and Norse history, and I'd like to make a career out of it, so I can't help myself but jump in to this topic, and I also thought I could help.

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11th century wasn't a particularly famous century for celebrating knowledge and progress.
Actually the centuries before the Norman Conquest were a time of relative enlightenment in England at least with writers such as Bede (pre-Viking admittedly, but its still "Anglo-Saxon"), Asser, Wulfstan the Cantor and the two great 11th Century pieces, the Encomium Emmae Reginae and the Vita Edwardi Regis. Admittedly these were predominantly higher class documents, and the lower class would not have read them, but that was more because they were written in Latin- Alfred was famous for translating things into English so his people could read them. These things started to emerge in Scandinavia in the late-11th and early-12th Centuries, but their absence was more a cultural thing- Christianity brought a written culture whereas before it had been more of an oral culture.

The Icelandic Sagas give a good impression of what life may have been like. I won't go into the debate on their reliability, but suffice to say, I'm inclined to think that their representation of the way things were is probably not that far from reality. Yes, there were some very poor people in the world, but they were relatively few, as most people had somewhere they could turn for aid and there seems to have been somewhat of a community mentality. For example, in Hrafnkel's Saga, all the people of the area work for Hrafnkel and he in turn feeds them and clothes them (and occassionally kills them if they do something wrong although that's not class related.) On the other hand, it's entirely possible for things to change around- Hrafnkel is deprived of his property and becomes a farmer while the cousin of his lowly shepherd victim takes over his position.

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Also, the religion of the Vikings wasn't so austere and war-focused as you think. Only the earliest forms (as in Pre-Thor and Freya) of Viking Heathenism focused on warfare. You'll note the most popular dieties were Thor and Freya---who provided a second "heaven" for home makers and farmers to go to when they died, since they couldn't go to Valhalla.
Actually, I'm afraid I'll have to disagree on that. We know very little about Germanic Pagan beliefs, most of what we do know is based on the two Eddas, which were both written about 300 years after the conversion. We do know the names of the gods, and we can get impressions of their dispositions and they all seem to have been warrior gods to some degree- Odin was the god of War, Thor was the god of Weather and War, Freyr seems to have had the most magnificent of magical swords which allowed him to win every fight, and don't get me started on Tyr... The Germanic peoples, whether Anglo-Saxon or Norse or whatever group, were Proud Warrior Races in every sense and it would be strange if they didn't believe in warrior gods. Also, if you are referring to Folkvangr then I'd say that the implication was more that it was the lesser known equivalent to Valhalla, and the entry policy was no different. Again we can't be certain of their beliefs, but the commonly held view is that half the slain went to one and the other half went to the other and these were the two sides who fought daily...

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Originally Posted by Kritkrit View Post
Actually, I'm afraid I'll have to disagree on that. We know very little about Germanic Pagan beliefs, most of what we do know is based on the two Eddas, which were both written about 300 years after the conversion. We do know the names of the gods, and we can get impressions of their dispositions and they all seem to have been warrior gods to some degree- Odin was the god of War, Thor was the god of Weather and War, Freyr seems to have had the most magnificent of magical swords which allowed him to win every fight, and don't get me started on Tyr... The Germanic peoples, whether Anglo-Saxon or Norse or whatever group, were Proud Warrior Races in every sense and it would be strange if they didn't believe in warrior gods. Also, if you are referring to Folkvangr then I'd say that the implication was more that it was the lesser known equivalent to Valhalla, and the entry policy was no different. Again we can't be certain of their beliefs, but the commonly held view is that half the slain went to one and the other half went to the other and these were the two sides who fought daily...
True they were, but most of them were farmers. But as you say, not much was written down--and it can't be coincidence that most of the idols we find are Thor's. Also, most tribal pagan gods tend to be war or nature gods. Athena, Ares, Zeus, Epona... the list goes on. So it'd be remiss to say Thor wasn't a warrior god.




 

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