Thursday, May 16, 2013

"Coin" in the Southern Marches

It all started when the good Gnome, Mr. Martin Rayla, shared his idea to randomly generate a hex map. I got the time to actually make one a few days later (check it out if you haven't yet). Ever since,the resultant microsetting has been bouncing around my skull.

I've been thinking about the economy of the New Hope and God's Tree settlements. The majority of those making the long and perilous journey from Cronnon would be virtually without coin. Bartering seemed like the natural result of such a situation. However, the jealous nature of the Cronnon Guilds means a general lack of craftsmen and the goods they produce. To make matters worse for the settlers, the Guilds only allow trade with settlements and towns paying them taxes.

What then is there to barter? Rough cloth, shoddy rope, and crude crockery are all easy enough to imagine as coming from untrained cottage industry, but precious little else. Whatever properly constructed goods the settlers brought with them would be far too valuable to trade. So a formalised mode of barter came to be.

The Crock

Any man giving a full-week's work to another may expect to be paid with some form of trade good ( perhaps a small coil of rope, seeds, some few tanned hides, a good whetstone, or a small bolt of cloth) and one "Full Crock". These Crocks are smallish, lidded clay vessels filled with around a pound or so of grain (wheat flour, barley, oats, or sometimes dried peas). They are a fully recognized form of currency in both New Hope and God's Tree. Additionally, the employer is expected to feed his hired men at least once a day for the duration of their work and it's considered polite to send them away with a full-stomach. The wealth one accumulates has an intrinsic value as food as well as a defined cultural value.

This informal system of currency has led to the development of a pool of young migrant workers (read as "desperate potential adventurers"). They live at inns known as "workhouses" where the cumbersome Crocks can be stored for them on deposit. A single Full Crock buys a worker a week of food and shelter at the inn while the various trade goods typically buy an extra day or two (depending on the needs of the establishment). Empty Crocks rarely fetch more than a day. Most workhouses are just one large room with a scattering of tables and a cellar. The accommodations include a dry spot on the floor, a warm meal, and little else. When a worker wishes to leave, he/she is free to take any remaining Crocks he/she may have on deposit. Most workers hope to one day gather enough supplies to start a farmstead of their own.

The innkeepers that run these establishments are some of the few in the settlements that can read or write. In many ways, it would seem that the workers are at the innkeeper's mercy; however, the innkeepers are quite outnumbered, and there's no lawmen to call upon. The people police themselves; reputation is everything in the settlements.

Ya know, the Crock is a simple idea that'd be easy to transfer to any poor, isolated setting. Feel free to swipe it and drop a line in the comments to let me know how it goes. 

If you've got an unusual currency you've been thinking about or actually used in a game, I'd love to hear about that too.

I'm really enjoying designing this little setting. More to come. More. To. Come.