These are the Rules of Fantasy Economics:
Rule 1: Everyone has roughly the exact same amount of money and/or property as everyone else of his or her respective experience-point total. Except at character creation, obviously, where some people totally get the shaft, which sucks … but “being poor” and “staying poor” are two very different things.
Only about 99.9% of all people — specifically those who lack the initiative to spend every dollar they own on studded leather and a knife and to abandon their families for the open road on a mad, bloodthirsty whim — ever really STAY poor.
Subrule A: If you find that you have too much cash or too much stuff or god-help-you a game-unbalancingly tough Artifact of Nigh-Unlimitless Powerfulish-ness, then something quite unexpected will very soon happen to take it away.
If you hold on tight to it, something VERY BAD will happen, you will still lose your cool shit, possibly some limbs, and you will learn an invaluable lesson about tempting fate. [More…]
Subrule B: If you have too little cash, you are going to find some very soon. If things get a bit rough and you are looking at an long and unpleasant future of abject poverty, then rest assured that one of your close friends will soon gladly loan you several years’ salary at literally no interest for the foreseeable future, and possibly ad infinitum.
Rule 2: Money cannot make more money. Investing in businesses is a fool’s bargain: stores burn down, castles crumble, merchants and/or bandits will constantly steal your shit, and you will never, ever make a dime. Ever.
It is far wiser to invest in non-depreciable items like swords, hats and magic boots. Likewise, the things that you need to do your job (boats, armor, weapons, rope and horses, for example) do not depreciate at all and may be used forever unless somehow completely destroyed.
Rule 3: All currencies of all countries are worth almost exactly the same amount – and all currencies of all countries are evenly divisible into platinum, gold, silver and copper pieces by factors of exactly ten. No other non-magical objects have any real value, including land.
The exceptions to this rule are gems, which are randomly & subjectively priced (and therefore effectively useless as trade goods) and ‘art objects’, presumably meaning paintings and such, the value of which are objectively determined, fixed and unchangeable, making them a lot like personal checks.
Rule 4: All rich people are extremely, horrifyingly competent in some way: if they are unable to personally kick your ass at the moment, then they most assuredly have any number of servants more than capable of kicking your ass now and at their convenience.
If you ever become rich, you will more than likely discover that in the intervening time you have become (a) just INCREDIBLY callous, and (b) incomprehensibly deadly.
Rule 5: Giving to charity is similar to throwing your money down an infinite well: you will never, ever make a noticeable difference of any kind simply by giving money to the poor, and all charities (see: churches, bums, kids, your family) will still expect you to pay list price for any service no matter your prior contributions.
Rule 6: Spending your money on ale and whores is the best way to keep anyone from taking either your cash or the cool stuff you would otherwise buy with your cash.
Rule 7: Killing people and taking their stuff is wrong. It is also the single most profitable exercise in the entire world. In fact, all rich people ever do is kill other people and take their stuff – with the exception of the super-rich, who have their servants do it for them.
Rule 8: On that note, no job in the entire world pays anywhere NEARLY as much as killing people and taking their stuff (or, even better, being PAID to kill people and take their stuff).
This means that farming is FAR less economically tenable than sitting in front of a bar frequented by paid killers, asking for spare change.
Rule 9: Anyone and everyone you will ever sell any valuable items to will underpay you for them. Everyone you will ever buy any valuable items from will overcharge you for them.
That’s just how it is. It is annoying, but nothing in the world (short of murder) will ever, ever change that. As in all other cases, murder fixes everything.
Rule 10: Money is just lying around somewhere. Vast amounts of it – more than you could ever, ever make in a lifetime of hard work making shoes or selling butter. It is sitting somewhere close to you – more than likely, in a cave near your house. It is probably guarded.
You will need a torch, something sharp, and some friends…
Want more rules for maximizing your treasure potential? Here’s Part 2 of D&D Economics.