D20 Mechanic: Wealth and Economies
While not strictly a d20 mechanic per se, wealth and economies have an impact on play, specifically on the acquisition of more powerful gear. The concepts presented here are roughly taken from the Tomes essay "The Three Economies," and the so-called "Economicon."
This section is a significant overhaul to how wealth works in d20; specifically, we are moving away from tying character wealth and character power together. Doing so is achieved through some setting-specific information, but could be generalized to other settings if needed.
While economies throughout the worlds of Trinity may differ in their particular styles and trappings, every individual operating within them is simultaneously operating on one of three general tiers of wealth. These are the koku economy, the gold economy, and the mox economy.
Each of these economies has different assumptions about how trade works and the wealth of the individuals engaging in the exchange. An exchange of goods or services happens within the context of one of these three economies; while it is possible for a good or service to be exchangeable in multiple economies, a specific exchange is always firmly within one of them, based upon the expected return.
There is one other sort of economy, the favor economy, but that economy is significantly more fluid and much more subject to specific circumstances; there is no way to reasonably measure the value of goods or services in that economy, and so it is discussed separately and not typically included in mentions of the value of goods or services.
The following table lists the common exchange rates of currencies across all the economies.
If an entry is listed in red, then while that equivalent value exists, it is incredibly rare for that exchange to occur: the disparity in wealth is simply too great. The primary currency of each economy is highlighted, and when that economy is discussed, that is the currency used (and thus you may have to refer to this page to convert values if you are using a different currency).
If an entry is listed in brown, then while that equivalent value exists, an individual who is willing to make that trade will easily find an interested party, but the exchange rate is almost always one-way.
|yuan (yp) =||1||1/4||1/20||1/40||1/400||1/4000||1/40000||1/400000||1/4000000|
|koku (kp) =||4||1||1/5||1/10||1/100||1/1000||1/10000||1/100000||1/1000000|
|woolong (wp) =||20||5||1||1/2||1/20||1/200||1/2000||1/20000||1/200000|
|copper piece (cp) =||40||10||2||1||1/10||1/100||1/1000||1/10000||1/100000|
|silver piece (sp) =||400||100||20||10||1||1/10||1/100||1/1000||1/10000|
|gold piece (gp) =||4000||1000||200||100||10||1||1/10||1/100||1/1000|
|platinum piece (pp) =||40000||10000||2000||1000||100||10||1||1/10||1/100|
|orichalcum piece (op) =||400000||100000||20000||10000||1000||100||10||1||1/10|
|mox dust pinch (dp) =||4000000||1000000||200000||100000||10000||1000||100||10||1|
The koku economy is one based on the koku, which is a measurement of the amount of rice an individual needs for a day to survive reasonably; the base unit of the koku economy is the koku itself, and goods and services are measured against the value of that. Individuals in this economy are living day-to-day, ranging from subsistence farmers on the edge of civilization to the street urchins in the metropolises of Trinity. As such, the actual value of a kp is highly variable over time; in times of plenty, 1 kp will not buy much, while in lean times 1 kp has significantly more purchasing power (within the context of the koku economy, that is).
Typically, items and services exchanged in this economy are those directly related to making a living: farm animals, simple tools, and food often have values expressed in kp. Attempting to purchase items whose seller is in the koku economy with currencies from more powerful economies is often exceedingly difficult, as the value of such currencies is simply so much higher that the individual would have a difficult time finding a place to utilize the currency. Fortunately, most goods in the koku economy can be had in other economies, though usually at some degree of markup. That said, less extravagant currencies - such as copper - often find themselves in circulation in koku economies, and are often tied to the relative local value of a kp rather than to the regional value of gp, if there even is one.
An often-overlooked element of the koku economy is that of laziness: a farmer may not be willing to give you a bushel of corn for bits of shiny metal or pieces of dismantled magic items, but he will feed you for the day if you muck out the stables for him or deal with the local manticore that's been eating his livestock. In a way, the koku economy has elements of a favor economy, in that you can trade services with individuals in this economy quite readily for nearly-immediate material gain, provided those services are something the individual would've had to do or isn't capable of doing on their own, but still needs to be done.
The koku economy has three currencies: the koku, already mentioned; the yuan, which is one-quarter of a koku and represents the amount of food typically consumed for a single meal; and the woolong, which represents five days' worth of koku, and is often used to measure a laborer's income when their profession is not directly tied to agriculture. In Trinity, the commonly-accepted denominations of the koku - and even the koku itself - are borrowed from agricultural terms used by clavats.
Koku currencies typically trade only with the lowest denominations of the gold economy; there is no reasonable way to translate koku currencies into mox currencies, nor vice versa, as the disparities in wealth are simply too great.
Koku is produced through livestock, agriculture, and fishing. While some more powerful Force effects can outright produce koku (and indeed, some locations use the Forces to make up for a lack of food production), this is relatively uncommon.
In Trinity, an overwhelming majority of koku comes from fishing and other ocean life. Some areas have strong agricultural components, such as Colianth, and export their goods to other regions; while most temperate regions of the world can support farming, few regions have seen sufficient advancements in farming methodologies to allow for this to be anything more than subsistence. While the Forces can be used to improve farming (such as using Technological devices to speed up the process, using Natural gifts to enhance the water supply or encourage growth, or similar), these techniques can typically only be used in areas already strong in that Force, and may eventually lead to that area being turned into a materia farm instead (see Producing Mox, below).
|mox dust pinch (dp) =||1|
|myrrh (ounce) =||1|
|soul =||HD of creature|
The mox economy is based on the mox dust pinch, which is roughly a pinch of mox ground into dust (hence the name). Materia of sufficient strength can be turned directly into this currency through a process similar to desynthesis, but does not require any particular power of a Force and can be done by any spark or adept.
The primary purview of the mox economy is Force items: while the most basic of Force items can be produced through simple application of a given Force, and thus can typically be done in the gold economy by paying a crafter for their time, any Force item of higher strength specifically requires mox dust as a reagent, or more exotic currencies that can directly convert into dp. As such, dp is rarely used as a currency directly, instead being a measurement of value of a given item; while some larger cities have markets in which mox dust is available (for making change or direct sale to spark craftsmen), the mox economy is much more akin to barter than to a currency-based system.
Mox proper cannot be reliably harvested; its appearance is too unpredictable, and typically appears in relatively tiny amounts that, while worthwhile for an individual to harvest, are simply not economically valid in terms of larger political entities, especially given that the currency is rather difficult to use in lesser economies.
As an area grows in a particular Force alignment, the creatures native to that area gradually change to take on aspects of that Force. Plants are not immune to this phenomenon, though it takes a significantly longer time for the process to occur. When Force saturation reaches a critical point, some plants undergo a transformation, becoming myrrh trees. These are natural conduits for the power of a Force, and condense the local saturation into a liquid, which can be gathered from the tree; this liquid is known as myrrh. The condensation process takes an extremely long period of time, and a typical tree might make as much as an ounce of myrrh over the course of a year. Myrrh can be worked and turned into materia, or can be traded as though it were mox dust.
Such trees are rare, and thus considered great commodities; however, their presence also draws vilekin to them, and keeping a myrrh tree safe from creatures that desire to nest within its shade is a daunting task. They are also incredibly sensitive to their environs, and if the saturation of the Force that gave rise to the tree drops below a certain point, the tree will immediately wither and die. Unlike normal trees, myrrh trees are not sustained by water, air, or light, but instead by the Force that gave rise to it: as such, myrrh trees can be found in incredibly unusual places, where one would not expect to find plant life whatsoever.
Myrrh trees produce no seeds, and though they seem to grow like normal plants, they do so at an incredibly slow rate. As such, attempts at "myrrh farming" (or farming of any sort of the materials that form the basis of the mox economy) generally end in failure. Some governments have attempted to find and take over locations known to hold a myrrh tree, and some have managed to hold these locations for extended periods of time, but the more myrrh is gathered from a given tree, the more dangerous the vilekin that are drawn to it become, meaning that any such "myrrh farm" will reach a point at which its defenders can no longer hold it.