Home Forums Gaming in Glorantha RuneQuest The worth of money in Glorantha (Sartar for starters)

This topic contains 20 replies, has 9 voices, and was last updated by Profile photo of Bruce Turner Bruce Turner 2 years, 5 months ago.

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  • #14672
    Profile photo of Rudy
    Rudy
    Spectator

    Hiya,
    In my never ending quest to define all of Glorantha before AiG comes out and I have to throw it all away, I have been working on a rather detailed craft and trade system. I have defined the ins and outs of all crafts, I am using recipes that one gets better at by trying and messing up, and I and my players are rather happy with what we have. However, there is something we keep struggling with: across the RQ editions and various adventures, the value of the Lunar has never been stable. Now I am preparing to completely forget all that is in the past, and, for the last time (snigger), define the monetary system. I am aware that the Heortlings will directly trade goods between clans, but still, there’s more than the tribes, and if there is trade, and caravans, than there must be money.
    I will only look at the latest incarnation of Glorantha, in casu the Sartar and Pavis books. In Sartar Companion it says, on page 102, that “10,000 Lunars is an immense amount of money to a Sartarite tribesman. With this, one could buy a herd of 500 cattle…”
    This means, my friends, that a cow costs 20 Lunars. Now without going all farmer tech on you all, research shows a typical mangy cow from Sartar (say 400 Kg) will yield about 200 Kg of meat. Therefore 1 Kilo of meat will cost 200 Lunars / 200 = 0.1 Lunar = 1 Clack. Now what I struggle with: the Clack is the smallest coin used. And it will – on average – buy 1 Kg of meat. It seems to me that there should be an even smaller coin? I mean, what will a cheap horn of ale cost in a tavern? A cob of corn on the market?
    Any ideas on how that should work? Is the 20 Lunar price for a cow realistic? So far, I used 1 cow = 100 Lunar as exchange rate.

    #14673
    Profile photo of Bruce Turner
    Bruce Turner
    Spectator

    You can probably multiply the retail cost of 1kg of meat by several times – someone buying a herd of cows all at once is going to get the best volume discount possible (not that the Sararites would think of it like that), while someone trying to buy a 1kg steak will need to factor in the cost of labor to butcher the carcass, the transaction and efficiency costs of bringing meat to market in a pre-industrial society, and the fact that a butcher shop the way we think of it is unlikely to even exist in most of Sartar. Hand-waving past all that and a price of 1 Lunar for an uncooked steak seems reasonable – that’s enough food to support someone for at least a day (in style!), and is in line with the 4 silver penny/day income ascribed to a yeoman farmer (& family) back in the RuneQuest 3 rules.

    If you want to add additional complexity to the situation, agricultural goods will fluctuate wildly in price through the year. Meat will probably be cheap just before Storm & Dark seasons, expensive in Earth season, and close to “normal” in Fire and Sea seasons, with all these prices dependent upon how good the harvest has been. And there is every chance that Issaries (Harst) worshippers will have done what they can to organize trade in all of this stuff.

    Just thinking about this is enough to make a man want to strap on his blade, gather his relatives, pick up an axe, and carve his own steading out of the wilderness. 🙂

    #14674
    Profile photo of Rudy
    Rudy
    Spectator

    Some good points indeed, One could say the price of a cow varies between 50-100 Lunars a piece for a single animal, depending on time of year, buyer-seller relationship, and locale. Buying a herd of 500 animals is likely going to warrant a better price, a herd is something that requires attention and labor to guard and maintain, and it’s not a normal purchase.
    And yes, thinking about it makes your head spin 🙂

    #14675
    Profile photo of Bruce Turner
    Bruce Turner
    Spectator

    Given the data we have to work with, 50-100 Lunars for a cow sounds like a good range. Buying a whole herd of cattle would be more of a political event than anything else – 500 head might represent a significant fraction of a clan’s herd. The next question is just how much of a factor coined money is in Sartarite society. Normal clansmen probably don’t need or touch money most days of the year. One of the traditional uses for coins was to pay taxes – do the Lunars demand that theirs be paid in silver, I wonder.

    #14676
    Profile photo of Rudy
    Rudy
    Spectator

    You’re probably right about regular clansmen, but of course my player do not qualify as such 🙂 They have made it their purpose to touch lots of coin all of the time.

    #14677
    Profile photo of Bruce Turner
    Bruce Turner
    Spectator

    Their insistence upon handling con should pretty much guarantee that they end up dealing with the upper echelons of Lunar and Sartarite society, for better or worse. ☺

    Going back to the value of things, the fact that using coin to buy things is fairly uncommon should free you from the need to assemble long price lists of individual goods. Nobody will be paying piecewise for lunch, they’ll be arranging a price for food and lodging all in a package. A housecarl will mostly be paid in that kind of terms, with maybe a bit of coin on the side. We only have dollar bills and one-euro coins because we expect to commonly make transactions on that scale on a regular basis.

    Come to think of it, clacks originally came from Esrolia, a place with a much more urban society than Sartar, and thus a place where comparatively small-value coins would be much more in need. In contrast, the so-called sophisticated Dara Happans bring the gold Wheel to the table, a coin so large that only kings have a use for it. They live in cities, but they certainly wouldn’t suffer an egalitarian idea like a mass economy for a moment. ☺

    #14684
    Profile photo of David Weihe
    David Weihe
    Spectator

    > do the Lunars demand that theirs be paid in silver, I wonder.

    Well, the English demanded it from the Scottish, back in the bad old days. If the Lunars buy their provisions when the cash prices are low and demand taxes from non-Lunarized tribes and clans when the cash prices are low but wait until they are better for the Lunarized ones, they can make it really easy to gain converts, much like the Muslims did with dhimmi (sp?) taxes.

    > In contrast, the so-called sophisticated Dara Happans bring the gold Wheel to the table, a coin
    > so large that only kings have a use for it. They live in cities, but they certainly wouldn’t
    > suffer an egalitarian idea like a mass economy for a moment.

    The Dara Happans also issue silver coins, as well as the wheels — that’s why they call them “lunars” after all — just like the Romans had silver and gold sesterces. I cannot imagine that they do not have coppers in circulation, as well, but adventurers seldom notice them after a few good hauls 🙂 and more seriously there are no banks converting denominations for non-customers like in the RW, or electronically linked currency conversion kiosks like in Europe or in USA airports. Fortunately for the non-economist players, characters do not have to worry about debased currencies or different denominations of coins like in the Middle Ages, except maybe for a campaign at the Federal Reserve or ECB 🙂 .

    #14686
    Profile photo of Bruce Turner
    Bruce Turner
    Spectator

    I like the idea that the Lunars might adjust their tax-collection schedules to favor certain tribes.

    The Lunar Empire certainly mints silver coins, but I wonder if the old Dara Happan Empire did. In those days (and probably even now) it was the Lokarnos cult that was responsible for minting wheels, and their primary job involved transporting tribute from the hinterlands into the urban centers. Unlike Issaries, they’re not really a trade cult. Does anyone know who is responsible for minting Lunar coins now that the Lunar Empire runs the show? We’ve seen illustrations of coins minted in different Lunar cities with designs commemorating local rulers, but that doesn’t necessarily indicate who runs the mint.

    #14697
    Profile photo of Jon Hunter
    Jon Hunter
    Spectator

    Hi Bruce,

    The assumption is that one person is responsible, why ?

    A silver coin is a silver coin, what matters is its weight and quality not who minted it. The concept of coin having more value that its precious metal content is relatively recent to my knowledge.

    This means coins can travel across borders and can be minted by any body or official as it suits them, cults, central authorities, provincial kings, anyone with enough silver or Gold could really have a go.

    The lunar government may want to control this process but right now do they have bigger fish to fry ?

    On a lighter note I am ruuniog griffin mountain at the moment and where does a Balazaring baboon get 30 wheels from and more importantly where does it keep them ?

    #14700
    Profile photo of Bruce Turner
    Bruce Turner
    Spectator

    Control of coinage is traditionally one of the most important powers a ruler can have, both because it shows sovereignty (something that the Lunars absolutely want to have) and second because seigniorage represents a significant source of income. There’s no way the Lunar governor of Sartar wants to see new-minted coins showing up with storm runes and Startar’s image on them. The question is not whether he would want to control the source of new coins, it’s more who would be assigned the task of running the mint. Lokarnos doesn’t have much presence south of Alkoth. Etyries is a good candidate, though I’m not aware of any of her mythology having to do with coinage. Are there any other Lunar cults who have a close association with coin?

    #14703
    Profile photo of Roko Joko
    Roko Joko
    Spectator

    Rudy,

    20L/cow is more than an accident of that bit from S:KoH p. 102; it’s also in Thunder Rebels p. 43 and Pavis:GtA p. 197. Definitely YLWV but I’d call it canon such as there is any.

    To your ale question, The Pavis:GtA tables also give prices for tavern food at 1C for various items. As to a single cob, it’s not too hard to imagine that people just don’t buy food like that. I agree it doesn’t leave much room for subtlety.

    Another comment: remember that 1C per kg of meat doesn’t include the markup for droving or butchery, much less cooking or preservation.

    See https://groups.yahoo.com/neo/groups/WorldofGlorantha/conversations/topics/19365
    for a comparison of TR and P:GtA to the RQ3 price lists. Click the arrows to expand the full thread. RQ3 also has simple but good descriptions of income levels and of prices varying by distance to a city.

    #14725
    Profile photo of Rudy
    Rudy
    Spectator

    Roko, Thanks for the link. It seems there’s more food for thought still. I think the 20 L/cow when buying herds, 50-100 L/cow for single animals is something I can work with. It does mean there’s no coinage for when you walk across a market and want to buy a grilled lizard or a bag of snails 🙂 Unless you accept that everything costs 1 Clack minimum. Anyhow, I think I managed to work with the data and advice given, I have been trying to extrapolate metal and leather values to support the craft system I am working on. That kinda worked, with bronze coming in at 50L/lb as an arbitrary value (as it’s mined from dragon bones, rather than being an alliance, and silver, tin, iron and copper prices roughly based on coinage weight. For the leather I’ve been extrapolating from the cattle price and skill cost of a decent leatherworker, coming at 1L/sq.ft.

    #14821
    Profile photo of Ben Baccaert
    Ben Baccaert
    Spectator

    Hi Rudy, I believe I read somewhere that some smart Issaries traders stamped 1/3rd clacks to be used as slightly cheaper offerings (trade fees) on market days.
    Also, didn’t in the old days lead bolgs get used as a denomination smaller than clacks? I know the Guide really cut into the available denominations, there used to be Trees and Stars and such.
    As for the minting; There is a magical minting machine in Pavis that is capable of turning out various denominations. Rumor has it the Yelornans use that to mint their Stars (according to the Big Rubble expansion).
    Also I thought minting coins with the exact value (Trees) used to be part of Issaries magic (possibly also related to the (pay the ferryman) psychopomp capacity of Issaries mules). And it also detected alteratoons of the coins. I would guess, as Etyries is a breakoff from Issaries, Etyries would now be in charge of stamping lunars. Someone has to make up for all those coins mashed together by the haughty Yelmalians

    #14827
    Profile photo of David Cake
    David Cake
    Spectator

    A cow is worth more alive than as meat. A cow is an investment in capital, it produces milk and more cows. Turning it into meat is done reluctantly (turning young male cows into meat is much more common), and is a poor use of the investment. So the meat prices are probably too high.

    #14837
    Profile photo of Scott Martin
    Scott Martin
    Spectator

    the (pay the ferryman) psychopomp capacity of Issaries mules

    This is really a pregnant phrase, please say more.
    ……….

    I never thought Issaries paid the Ferryman in coin but rather that the coins themselves are a symbolic token of what we pay the Ferryman. That is, not every dead Lightbringer needs two clacks (or whatever) for a proper funeral — because as we know, specie is rare — but if you have two clacks (or whatever), you can trade them for passage. In the meantime, we trade these little reminders of death back and forth.
    This makes coins a little bit awesome within the Issaries economy beyond their rarity and buying power. The humble clacks are probably the holiest in this context because there’s a good chance they derive from the pre-Dawn Esrolian necropolitan rites . . . and the life of a beggar boils down to 2 c.p. in the end, a couple pounds of flesh.
    As for making change, tally probably does a lot of that. If multiple merchants support a marketplace they can settle “store credit” across each other in sub-clack increments when the dealing’s done. Otherwise you go on the ledger being owed the equivalent of two carrots or whatever. Give me a clack or a cow and I’ll tell you when you run out of cult credit.

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