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Late Viking-Age Currency

Late Viking-Age Currency

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.

It depends how "realistic" you want your world to be. Historically, in the Viking Age, even the most basic coins were of high value. For example, the English Penny at one point had an estimated spending power roughly equivalent to 30, or so I have been told. Obviously they wouldn't have been particularly useful in daily life, so most payments would have been in kind, or made using small pieces of precious metals (so-called Hack Silver), although coins would have been cut up to make smaller units. Also, there would only be one type of coin in circulation in a country, usually a silver penny of some kind, but foreign coinage would also be accepted at varying values. It might be best to abstract it all for game purposes, otherwise it'll get quite complicated.

Hope that helped. I'm trained as an early medieval historian myself, so I couldn't help myself

If you are trying for any historical setting, platinum as a currency is silly and should be dropped. Copper and Silver coins had respectable purchasing power in many areas, so you could consider bumping up the values of coins and making certain trivially expensive items worth less than any coin, which would require bartering or buying in lots, both of which reflect a different cultural approach to trade.

If you are going for an authentic Viking Feel, they didn't value gold as highly as central and southern Europe - the relative value of silver was much higher, with durability and ease of transport important considerations. It's worth noting that price tags were likely in use in Medieval Nordic areas, which was not the case in central Europe as far as the evidence of seen suggests, if you need to make those sorts of distinctions. A lot of players don't seem to enjoy bartering, though. Not to mention, purchasing items worth vast sums of coin would likely involve bartering animals (Cattle being worth more than gold), herbs, tools, gems, or other valuable items. You'd probably need to do your own grunt work to make a bartering system you'd like to run, but I'd come up with a random roll chart of how much coinage vis a vis goods any given merchant had available.

Thank-you for the input, it's very much appreciated!

The currency system doesn't need to be realistic, but it needs to feel appropriate to the times, while at the same time being somewhat more streamlined than real-world evidence. A barter system may be a bit difficult to come up with, so for now I'll try to focus on the currency. My main concern is the pricing of non-mundane items, swords and armor for example.

In the core rulebook a dagger is 2gp and a longsword is 15gp. Now, with how rare and valuable gold is (I'm going to go on the ruling that gold is valuable, even though it may not have been as prized by the real-world vikings), I'm not sure that's priced right, even though swords and armor were very, very expensive. But, I think that 15 silver coins would be too cheap?

What would you think the price of a longsword should be? And the price of a cow?

Hey SS: I realize it may be on the back-burner for now but I have some thoughts on a barter system. For the record, I've never actually played in a game that used such a system so don't take my word for it; these are just my thoughts. As I considered the potential it made me thingk a couple of things:
A) why have we not collaborated on anything yet?
B) this could get complicated…

In my opinion, a barter system should be simple enough that it doesn’t require numerous rolls to determine the value of a trade item. I think one way to achieve this is to look at both the monetary value (the item/objects list value in silver/copper for the setting) and modify according to regional supply and demand. It is a simple concept but there are four basic rules of supply and demand that everyone probably knows already but I will put here anyway:

1. If demand increases but supply remains unchanged, it leads to higher price & quantity.
2. If demand decreases but supply remains unchanged, it leads to lower price & quantity.
3. If supply increases and demand remains unchanged, it leads to lower price & higher quantity.
4. If supply decreases and demand remains unchanged, it leads to higher price & lower quantity.

Now that you’ve had my dime store economics lesson, read on….

It would take a bit of work up front, as you would have to re-work item lists so they’re regionally-based and have added columns for ‘supply’, ‘demand’. Each of these added columns would provide a modifier to the list value of the item in question.

  • Ordinary
  • Common
  • Average
  • Uncommon
  • Rare
  • Exceptional
  • Non-existent

  • Ordinary
  • None
  • Low
  • Average
  • High
  • Great

Determining the availability of a resource in a given area requires some thought. Consider the component elements of trade goods (wood, steel, iron, stone, textiles, etc) and how easy they might be to acquire in the area. For example, because rocks are plentiful and anyone can go out and find a cartload of them if they wanted to, their supply would be classified as ‘ordinary’ and their demand would be set as ‘none’. Probably not the best example since they have no value to modify out of the PHB, but you get the idea.

In an area where steel is unheard of, and supply is non-existent one might first be inclined to think it would be much more valuable than iron but you have to consider demand as well. If the locals think iron is just fine, and haven’t seen the virtues of steel for themselves then demand will either be ‘none’ or ‘low’ at best. Now, if you can convince a few key people in the region that steel is much stronger and lasts longer and requires less maintenance than iron, well you might see those prices being driven up.

Which leads me to the next part of barter-system development which is the social interaction component. A good barterer should be able to affect change in the value of an item by convincing the person they are bartering with. More on that later…

As far as coins go - any high value material could theoretically be made into coins. I'm fond of the historical Chinese examples, and think they could work well in a late viking-age setting myself. Below is a link to some historical information regarding viking coins.

A.) I don't know.
B.) Yes. Very.

This is some great information and the link you provided was super helpful! I think I'm beginning to see the pieces come together. I think the biggest problem is, most of the counties are self sustaining for almost everything of importance.

I think that I'd like the bartering to be done on a small scale. For example: one of the PCs has an extra chain shirt that he wants to barter for a shield and a helm. 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.

Gotta run for right now!

EDIT: Though, I suppose that is trading. I could just use the prices available for the value? It would be less dynamic and thus less realistic.

OK, let's see... Keatland is the hub of all trade, politics, and economy. Most minted coins come from Keatland, even though they are technically mined by Velmark to the north (and each kingdom mints their own coins). So, perhaps we could establish the base price (or value) of items compared to Keatland.

For instance: A cloak costs 1 silver penny in Keatland. In Velmark it is still 1 silver penny, because of their distance and friendly relationship to Keatland. But in Haerland, that cloak might cost 2 silver pennies because of their lack of open pastures, meaning their lack of sheep for wool. Which means, they can't supplement the cost of cloak production on their own, so it costs them more.

I could have a chart that reads like this:

Keatland (Base)
Haerland etc...
1 sp
1 sp
2 sp

Not sure if it was mentioned, but the hack silver term made me think of actually cutting coins or trade bars into smaller parts. Perhaps you could use silver alone but divide it into half 'marks', and quarter 'marks', etc. Alternately, you could give the smaller partial coins colorful names rather than fractional ones.

Hack silver would be a piece of metal (usually silver) cut from any source on an ad hoc basis (frequently an arm ring, and with the nearest available axe judging from the archaeology ) Coinage would also be cut into sections- a half penny was originally literally half a penny, and the word 'farthing' for a quarter of an old penny is from the Old English "feorthing" meaning a quarter of something- and the prominence of long crosses on the reverse of English coins particularly may have been designed as a guide for the cutting. Incidentally, the Scandinavians didn't tend to mint many of their own coins- most of the coins in the area during the Viking Age were English- the coin was of such a high standard based on the purity of silver, that it was easier just to take the things than to try to duplicate them- by comparison, the Norman coin was of atrocious quality, with a very low silver content and thus of much lower value. [/history lesson]

Apologies for flooding you with information, its probably mostly not relevant, but I find it difficult not to share when I have information which may be of interest hope I could help a little at least.


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