Barter System/Alternate Economies

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Cthulhudrew
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Barter System/Alternate Economies

Post by Cthulhudrew » Fri Sep 03, 2010 8:06 am

(Was looking for this thread, to add some comments to it, only to discover it hadn't made the 'port from Piazza 2.0! :o So I'm reposting the old thread here first...)
Cthulhudrew wrote:One common theme keeps popping up in my various HW related projects, and that is the subject of exchange systems in pre-monetary cultures. It seems to me to be a pretty big element that would need to be taken into consideration when trying to actually establish a campaign set in one of these cultures, or even cross-cultural campaigns, and yet there hasn't been anything done in any of the OD&D products (or elsewhere, that I can find) to cover it.

Near as I can tell, in the Hollow World the cultures we're talking about would include at least the following:

Antalians
Beastmen
Brute-Men (insofar as they have any sort of economy)
Krugel Orcs (probably a blend of barter and coinage)
Malpheggi Lizardmen
Neathar
Nithians
Tanagoro
Traldar

These would have some kind of alternative economy (which is easier to work around):

Azcans (or at least we should come up with a cacao bean type of alternate economy for them; surprised it wasn't done in the Gaz)
Jennites (There is evidence the Scythians had proto-monetary systems, such as arrowhead money)

Some of the others- such as the Oltecs, are questionable, largely due to the vagueness of their RW parallels.

I've been trying to think of some systems that could be used to simulate barter and have come up with a couple of ideas that I'm tossing around.

Barter System: Basically, I just came up with some rough "barter" equivalents and made a system like the coin exchange. These are generically "undefined" labels, and ranked in terms of simplest (domesticated animals) to complex (goods that require greater degrees of manufacture, multiple ingredients, and more specialized skill sets to create)

Li: Livestock - this would be any domesticated form of livestock; specifics not defined. It could be a cow, several chickens, a couple of dogs, etc.
Co: Consumable - Beer, ale, corn, grain. Things that are made with a combination of natural resources and/or skills and livestock.
Cr: Trade goods/crafts - Getting more complex now; rugs, clothing, pottery. Higher degree of skill and specialization involved.
As: Weapons/assembled goods - Objects requiring more skill, greater technology, and multiple parts that are put together. Weapons would fit here, as would lanterns, barrels, etc.
Pr: Precious goods - Assembled goods of high craftsmanship and materials would go here; books, armor, silk, perfumes.
Gems: As standard
Jewelry: As standard

The rough exchange rate I'm considering at the moment is thus:

1 Pr = 2 As = 4 Cr = 8 Co = 16 Li

The benefits to a system like this (however it turns out) is among other things, that the Treasure Tables in the Cyclopedia can be easily modified to reflect a barter system campaign (swapping out the coinage for barter equivalents, though the amounts would need tweaking).

Another idea I had was to maybe just somehow use the Alphabetic Treasure Type ranking system to create a "quick and easy" system of barter equivalents that you could then combine with the Skill System and Haggling rules (from Gaz11) to make bartering easier. You'd move up or down the Alphabetic ranking, depending on the results of your check, and get correspondingly better or worse goods.

In any case, if anyone has some thoughts/suggestions/comments/criticisms, and/or knows of any other barter type systems (either D&D or even from other RPGs) that might be good to take a look at, I'd love to hear.
Cthulhudrew wrote:Thinking about this earlier tonight, it occurs to me that the units of barter can't really be intangibles, but would need to have some kind of baseline established, if only to differentiate between exchanges of like sorts; ie, you'd have to establish something like 1 Livestock unit is equivalent to a chicken (or similar small livestock), 4 Li is equivalent to a larger entity, such as a cow, etc.

So, for purposes of delineating currency, here are my proposed units of exchange equivalents:

1 Li = 1 chicken (or similar small animal)
1 Co = Pint of beverage or pound of grain
1 Cr = 1 woven rug, or pot/bowl
1 As = Dagger/knife, barrel/keg
1 Pr = Scale mail armor, silk rug

Something like that, anyway.
Havard wrote:Pretty interesting!

My initial idea would be to just use the GP value of each item and have people trade items which are roughly worth the same thing. The downside to barter is ofcourse that you won't always have items of the exact value needed so one party will loose a little on each trade just out of lack of things to barter. OTOH, I'm guessing people in these cultures are fairly creative.

Ofcourse, 'Drew you have a background in antropology don't you, so you will know what I am talking about if I mention the advantages of being generous, exchanging gifts etc in such cultures

Havard
Cthulhudrew wrote:
Havard wrote:My initial idea would be to just use the GP value of each item and have people trade items which are roughly worth the same thing. The downside to barter is ofcourse that you won't always have items of the exact value needed so one party will loose a little on each trade just out of lack of things to barter. OTOH, I'm guessing people in these cultures are fairly creative.

That... would probably be the easiest route to take, actually. I'm sure I must have considered it at some point and am not sure why I decided to make it more complex... hm.

Maybe it was because I was trying to figure out how you'd handle treasure from monsters and such as rewards for characters (wouldn't make a lot of sense to have tons of gp, ep, sp, etc. in a chimera's horde in Traldar Lands).
Ofcourse, 'Drew you have a background in antropology don't you, so you will know what I am talking about if I mention the advantages of being generous, exchanging gifts etc in such cultures

Yeah, it's the anthropologist in me that got me going down this route with barter in the first place, I reckon.
Marco Fossati wrote:VEry interesting but I think barter is very difficult to be put under strict rules.

e.g. think about being in Nithian desert: water and food could be more valuable than a jewel
Cthulhudrew wrote:
Marco Fossati wrote:VEry interesting but I think barter is very difficult to be put under strict rules.
That's true, which is why I figure it needs to be at least somewhat abstract. I'd also (ideally) love to have something like the Trade Charts from Gaz11/Gaz9, which would show where/whether certain trade items were worth more or less in barter.

Been looking at Havard's suggestion, and it seems to work on a basic level, but it gets more complicated in certain regards. These are the main points sticking points that I can see with a non-coinage based campaign, that I'd like to ultimately try and find solutions for in order to make for a more sustainable Hollow World campaign(s).

1) Like-for-like Exchange (IE, Havard's suggestion)
This works for relatively inexpensive items, but becomes more difficult to sustain when purchasing larger items. (Ex. A short sword/dagger exchange for a normal sword- gp value of 10- works. What do you do when the PCs need to purchase a boat? They can't hock all their gear just to get to the next port of call; they'd need some kind of non-equipment commodity to exchange, such as several loads of cargo and livestock, or something.)
Possible/Partial Solution: Gems, Jewelry, and the like become a lot more valuable in a barter-based system, as they are worth a lot and easily portable.

2) Treasure for Encounters
In a barter-based campaign, how do you handle rewards for players in creature encounters? The Treasure Tables invariably and predominantly have coinage. While I think some amount of coinage would be possible (stolen from other cultures), mostly it would be non-existent. Instead, monsters and creatures are likely to have other forms of rewards- livestock, consumables, etc., in addition to the standard gems, jewelry, magic.
Possible/Partial Solution: Not sure. Treasure in encounters is a major motivating factor in PC adventuring- no reward, no risk. If a suitable alternative barter system can be worked out, then treasure tables can be reworked so that you can switch back and forth easily (ie, a monster with TT A would have the same TT, just with different rewards). Gaz10 has rules for humanoid raiding, and Gaz11 has rules on Haggling/Money transactions; plumb the depths of those products for suggestions.

3) XP for Treasure
This goes along with #2, and it really only applies to games using OD&D or 1E rules (IIRC, xp for treasure was removed in 2E, and it is nonexistent in 3E and 4E). If you remove the coinage, you have to find some kind of substitute for it to make similar xp awards to the characters or else non-coinage campaigns will have a markedly slower xp progression.
Possible/Partial Solution: Remove XP for treasure entirely for HW campaigns. This keeps all cultures at the same rate of progression. It likely makes HW characters less powerful overall than OW characters (slower progression), but that actually seems to fit the HW model somewhat. Alternatively, you could give rewards for something other than coinage; my suggestion would be to eliminate the XP Penalty for Cultural Bias Violation rule and instead add an XP Bonus for Cultural Bias Adherence model (I prefer positive reinforcement to negative reinforcement).

Those are the big issues, as I see them, regarding rewards and "big" purchases, that I'd like to find some means of addressing.

I suppose it might be possible to just eliminate "levels" of barter altogether and just have a generic Ba (Barter) unit that would replace all coinage, and you'd just create new tables with an item's Ba equivalent. It would be up to the PCs and/or DM to decide if they want to be more specific about what the Ba points represent ("Joe, you get 10 Ba for that encounter, which amounts to two cows and one goat"), or if they just wanted to keep it generic ("Joe, you've accumulated 50 Ba; you've got enough to go to town and buy that canoe now").
Marco Fossati wrote:
Cthulhudrew wrote:That's true, which is why I figure it needs to be at least somewhat abstract. I'd also (ideally) love to have something like the Trade Charts from Gaz11/Gaz9, which would show where/whether certain trade items were worth more or less in barter.

I suppose it might be possible to just eliminate "levels" of barter altogether and just have a generic Ba (Barter) unit that would replace all coinage, and you'd just create new tables with an item's Ba equivalent. It would be up to the PCs and/or DM to decide if they want to be more specific about what the Ba points represent ("Joe, you get 10 Ba for that encounter, which amounts to two cows and one goat"), or if they just wanted to keep it generic ("Joe, you've accumulated 50 Ba; you've got enough to go to town and buy that canoe now").
In Italy, in the late 90s, was published a RPG game about Hokuto no Ken, a japanese manga settled in a post nuclear Wolrd War III. Since it was a world with no mopre currencies, designers developed something very like what you thinking about. They called US (Unita di Sopravvivenza= in englis Survival Unit)..The bosed set is at my parent's house...next time I'll go visit them, if you want, I'll check for the rules...
Marco Fossati wrote:
Cthulhudrew wrote:
3) XP for Treasure
This goes along with #2, and it really only applies to games using OD&D or 1E rules (IIRC, xp for treasure was removed in 2E, and it is nonexistent in 3E and 4E). If you remove the coinage, you have to find some kind of substitute for it to make similar xp awards to the characters or else non-coinage campaigns will have a markedly slower xp progression.
Possible/Partial Solution: Remove XP for treasure entirely for HW campaigns. This keeps all cultures at the same rate of progression. It likely makes HW characters less powerful overall than OW characters (slower progression), but that actually seems to fit the HW model somewhat. Alternatively, you could give rewards for something other than coinage; my suggestion would be to eliminate the XP Penalty for Cultural Bias Violation rule and instead add an XP Bonus for Cultural Bias Adherence model (I prefer positive reinforcement to negative reinforcement).

xp for treasure was removed in AD&D 2e, but when I was still playing BECMI I had already removed as house rules. I use to give xp for treasure only in some particularly circumstaces (a thief stealing something e.g.)
As you idead about HW with no xp for treasure I love it...I find it very suitable to HW and the SoP
Khuzd wrote:In my old campaign in Azcan lands, the native HW PCs were on journey from Malpheggi to northern Titlapoca lake. If usually there is little treasure in HW adventures, they had still less rewards, because they were on a journey.

When they killed a big monster (black dragon) or looted an Azcan temple, they bounty was small gems (many agathas), lots of precious feathers and headbands, body jewellery, cacao beans and some skins.

Perhaps a DM could roll dice on the Treasure Table (killing a green dragon of the jungle, treasure H, and give THAT amount of XPs, but only one tenth that treasure in treasure, and thi treasure are culturally aceptable goods, mainly gems and jewels... the 10gp agatha becomes the new standard coin...)

In old Russia, number 40 (sórak) was the name of a loot of 40 skins of animals... it was an standard in trading...

Perhaps we could establish a new treasure table adaptated to HW economy: a squirrel skin could be 5 gp; an agatha would be 2 squirrels; the skins of dinosaurs would be highly preciated; feathers could be from 4 to 100 squirrels each. Also, body parts of monsters: teeth, claws... this way, PCs have a monetary reward every time they risk attacking a dinosaur, instead of merely fleeing. (When you are a non-armored Azcan, attacking a dinosaur is very, very dangerous).
Marco Fossati wrote:didn't Aztecs in RW develop a monetary system based upon cacao beans?
JohnBiles wrote:
Marco Fossati wrote:didn't Aztecs in RW develop a monetary system based upon cacao beans?
Yes. To quote Wikipedia:
In the commercial sector of the economy several types of money were in regular use. Small purchases were made with cacao beans, which had to be imported from lowland areas. In Aztec marketplaces, a small rabbit was worth 30 beans, a turkey egg cost 3 beans, and a tamal cost a single bean. For larger purchases, standardized lengths of cotton cloth called quachtli were used. There were different grades of quachtli, ranging in value from 65 to 300 cacao beans. One source stated that 20 quachtli could support a commoner for one year in Tenochtitlan. A man could also sell his own daughter as a sexual slave or future religious sacrifice, generally for around 500 to 700 beans. A small gold statue (approximately 0.62 kg / 1.37 lb) cost 250 beans.


8000 Cacao beans were a 'load'; the Aztec empire received 980 loads of tribute a year.

Higher values could also be expressed in units of cotton cloth. (quachtli). 10 quachtli would pay for half a year's stay in Tenochtitlan.
Marco Fossati wrote:I also remember Aztecs used gold dust to make some payments but I'm unsure of it...
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Re: Barter System/Alternate Economies

Post by Cthulhudrew » Fri Sep 03, 2010 8:12 am

In thinking about this whole topic again (never stopped, actually), I recently discovered the d20 Apocalypse rules, which gives a system of "Trade Units" or TUs for each item of equipment. It sounds kind of like what several people here have suggested, so that's the direction I'm currently heading in.

Ideally, I'd like to develop this system for both BECMI rules and d20/Pathfinder, for maximum utility for players. BECMI rules would consist of a new Treasure Table that accomodated TUs (or Barter Units or whatever), and uses the alphabetical system (so if encountering a goblin in a barter economy, you'd use the BU table, cross-referenced with treasure type C, for instance). d20 system would be more in keeping with those rules.
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Re: Barter System/Alternate Economies

Post by Dave L » Fri Sep 03, 2010 9:22 am

I don't remember seeing this before, but just looking at the first couple of posts, I'm not sure having the consumables worth more than livestock would be a fixed standard.

Just for instance, hunting and sheep dogs would be very valuable, along with prize-bulls. Also milk giving animals would be valuable.
These would need much higher values if the "chicken index" was to work.

1 dagger = 8 chickens will work, 1 dagger = 2 cows, not so workable. 1 cow, maybe?

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Re: Barter System/Alternate Economies

Post by Cthulhudrew » Sat Sep 04, 2010 2:47 am

Something else I just thought of while rereading Khuzd's comments- Gazetteers have alternate economies (wherein they designate different names/denominations for a country's currency); I suppose we could extend this to a barter system by simply laying out an individual nation's economy.

Example: Milenian Empire, which is coin based, would have its economy laid out (gp, sp, cp or whatever). Azcan Empire, non-coin based, could have a cacao system (1 ca, for instance) and give its "monetary" equivalents (ie, 1 ca = 1 gp). The tribes of Neathar, which have no coins or system of currency aside from barter, could use something like the "hide" as the base unit (1 animal hide = 1 gp). (Again, just an example; I'd imagine 1 hide would probably be something more like 1 cp.)

It's a bit more work, obviously, to come up with multiple currency standards, but then the current equipment tables could be used more or less as is, as could the treasure tables. There would probably need to be some kind of system to handle transactions between barter nations and non-barter nations, but maybe this standard would be better?

(I'd still kind of like to see one unified Barter system, but I'm still thinking...)
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Re: Barter System/Alternate Economies

Post by Cthulhudrew » Sat Sep 04, 2010 2:49 am

Dave L wrote:I don't remember seeing this before, but just looking at the first couple of posts, I'm not sure having the consumables worth more than livestock would be a fixed standard.
Yeah, you're probably right. I was thinking livestock would be the cheapest, since it's the most "basic" set of trade items that I can think of (predating things like trade goods and manufactured goods), but it might actually be more valuable in the long run because of the returns on them. Plus, they're larger and bulkier (and require upkeep) which would make it hard to justify carrying/transporting 100s of li vs. 100s of co or whatnot.
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Re: Barter System/Alternate Economies

Post by Dave L » Sat Sep 04, 2010 9:18 am

Cthulhudrew wrote:
Dave L wrote:I don't remember seeing this before, but just looking at the first couple of posts, I'm not sure having the consumables worth more than livestock would be a fixed standard.
Yeah, you're probably right. I was thinking livestock would be the cheapest, since it's the most "basic" set of trade items that I can think of (predating things like trade goods and manufactured goods), but it might actually be more valuable in the long run because of the returns on them. Plus, they're larger and bulkier (and require upkeep) which would make it hard to justify carrying/transporting 100s of li vs. 100s of co or whatnot.
Actually, thinking about it, even chickens produce eggs, so could in some circumstances have more value alive.

Which got me thinking again ...

Eggs, milk, butter, cheese - all these would be valuable in their own right. A dairy economy could be very profitable.
Also processed goods of any sort - flour, tanned hides, ingots of metal, wine/beer, charcoal, smoked fish etc. - these could add another layer to the chart.

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Re: Barter System/Alternate Economies

Post by Cthulhudrew » Wed Feb 14, 2018 2:25 am

Years later and still pondering this. I did have the thought recently that perhaps expanding the Treasure Tables to the end of the alphabet (adding W, X, Y, and Z) could be a possible niche on which to hang certain types of economies (Stone Age to Early Bronze Age). I'm going to muddle over this one and get back to you all. :D
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Re: Barter System/Alternate Economies

Post by Big Mac » Wed Feb 14, 2018 12:53 pm

Cthulhudrew wrote:Years later and still pondering this. I did have the thought recently that perhaps expanding the Treasure Tables to the end of the alphabet (adding W, X, Y, and Z) could be a possible niche on which to hang certain types of economies (Stone Age to Early Bronze Age). I'm going to muddle over this one and get back to you all. :D
Have you seen that Vaults of Pandius have turned some of your research into a Barter System/Alternate Economies article?

If you do come up with any improvements, and I hope you do, you might want to give VoP a ping, so that they can update what they have. :)
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Re: Barter System/Alternate Economies

Post by stanles » Sun Feb 18, 2018 6:16 pm

Big Mac wrote:
Cthulhudrew wrote:Years later and still pondering this. I did have the thought recently that perhaps expanding the Treasure Tables to the end of the alphabet (adding W, X, Y, and Z) could be a possible niche on which to hang certain types of economies (Stone Age to Early Bronze Age). I'm going to muddle over this one and get back to you all. :D
Have you seen that Vaults of Pandius have turned some of your research into a Barter System/Alternate Economies article?

If you do come up with any improvements, and I hope you do, you might want to give VoP a ping, so that they can update what they have. :)
Indeed :twisted:
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Re: Barter System/Alternate Economies

Post by The Dark » Wed Feb 28, 2018 1:59 am

One thought that came to mind was that Al-Qadim had a Haggling proficiency, and all items were costed out with a high, average, and low price. When buying or selling in a market, both buyer and seller would make a Haggling roll. If the buyer succeeded and seller failed, the item was low price. If the seller succeeded and buyer failed, it was high price, and if both succeeded or failed, it was average. Something similar might be useful for a barter system where there's not a fixed standard of exchange.

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