Atlas   Rules   Resources   Adventures   Stories       FAQ   Search   Links

Currency of the Known World

by Jesper Andersen

I have always loved the different currency of the Known World because IMO it adds colour to the campaign. But, of course, it also presents a number of problems if the characters do not always have "the right money" when they go to a new country.

As a rule of the thumb I have established the following:

Paying with other than local coin (whether it be ancient coins from a treasure hoard or just foreign currency) will result in raised prices. In large towns and cities the people are less sceptical and prices might only be about 7-10% higher. In rural areas prices easily go up to 15-20% higher, particularly if you want to pay with an ancient coin from a time when currencies were less stable than they (presumably) are today.

Thus, most adventurers pay a trip to the local money-changer when they hit town. The money-changer appraises the value of their treasure and adds his fee - usually a percentage but sometimes just a flat fee. Most money-changers charge around 10% but some of the largest Darokin banks charge as little as 5% - especially if you have a "preferred customer" status from being a loyal and steady client.

The money-changers then sell the foreign coins to the local Merchant Guild, who outfits their next trading caravan with it, or they keep some for other customers wanting to buy it. Ancient and out-of-use coins and treasure is usually sold to the local mint and the authorities then melt it and make it into new, local currency.

Changing coins into other coins is relatively easy. The PCs should be able to find enough local currency at the money-changers to be able to change 1 gp per citizen in the population - twice that in major cities. Changing coins into less bulky gems and gemstones is more tricky. Except in Rockhome, gems and gemstones are more often used as ornaments than as payment - particularly because most common people have little or no clue whether a nice blue stone is more valuable than a nice yellow stone. Gold, silver and copper they know - and trust. If a PC can find a reliable money-changer or gem cutter, she will probably be able to exchange 1 gp per 5 local citizens - or 1 gp per 2 citizens in Rockhome.

Common use of the nations' currencies:

The Royal, Crona and Kopec of Karameikos are considered a relatively stable currency, particularly thanks to the high standard of the mining at Highforge. The coins are accepted for local currency on a 1-1- basis in all of Karameikos, the city of Selenica, the eastern part of the five shires and just across the border in the Duchy of Machetos in Thyatis. Some Minrothad and Ierendi merchants coming to Specularum will accept it as well but the islands themselves will not.

The Dinar, Dirham and Fal of the Emirates of Ylaruam are also relatively stable (it has been centuries since the last time a desperate Caliph or Sultan mixed inferior metals into the currency to boost his treasury). The coins are used as local coins on a 1-1 basis in Ylaruam, the city of Selenica, the Tel Akbir peninsula and a few towns on the Isle of Dawn. The Ylari minority living in Ierendi city make a point of using the Dinar, Dirham and Fal when trading amongst themselves instead of the "infidel currency" of Ierendi.

The gold Ducat, the silver Sovereign and the copper Penny are all considered relatively stable currency by most nations but few other than Darokin merchants ever venture to Glantri to trade so outside the Principalities and the city of Corunglain they loose some value. Glantri also has the platinum Crown with a magical aura, which is worth 50 gp but only 5 gp if the aura is ever dispelled. For exactly those reasons, foreign merchants rarely accept Crown payment in Glantri for their goods and the Crown is mainly a coin of the bureaucracy intended for large payments between national institutions and bribes paid to Princes, magistrates etc.

Since the Glantrian platinum Crown is only worth 5 gp (or 50 gp with magic aura) and it is described as being "heavy" in the gazetteer, we can only assume the Glantrian platinum coin is heavily mixed with inferior metals of some sort.

The islands of Ierendi were never very rich in metals but centuries of piracy has contributed to a certain level of wealth in the population. About 200 years ago the Ierendi king ordered the first official Ierendi currency minted and put into circulation. This way of getting raw materials for coin minting through taxes and metal import continues unto this day. It has a downside: foreign governments and merchants do not fully trust the stability of a currency that is not backed by a strong royal treasury and as a result Ierendi coins rarely spread far from the island kingdom. Indeed, a few times the Ierendi government has been forced to make large payments in foreign currency rather than local coins to close a negotiation.
The Ierendi platinum Pali, gold Geleva, silver Sana and copper Cokip can only be used on a 1-1 basis in the kingdom itself as well as the Darokin port of Athenos and the coastal cities of the Five Shires, who traditionally welcome Ierendi traders.

The Kingdom of Alfheim only produces a single local coin: the gold Leaf. Elves traditionally use barter trade rather than coins but interaction with non-elves eventually forced the kingdom to produce their own gold coin for trade and negotiations. Darokin merchants and diplomats have complete faith in the stability of the currency and use it indiscriminately when they have dealings with the elves but outside Alfheim the Leaf is rare except in hoards of plunder.

The dwarves of Rockhome have perhaps some of the finest, most coveted, coins in the Known World. Their standard currency consists of the gold Trader, the silver Star and the copper Stone, which are all made of alloys just as human coins are. But the dwarves also have a large, heavy coin made of the purest gold called a Sun (worth 10 gp) and a similar large, heavy coin of pure silver called the Moon (worth 10 sp). These are the only coins in the Known World that contain absolutely no inferior metals and mixing the metal of a Sun or Moon bears the penalty of death. Dwarves are familiar with human platinum coins but have nothing but contempt for this base use of such a precious metal. Instead, dwarves use platinum to decorate their temples and the halls of their kings and clan leaders and for personal jewellery etc. The dwarven Trader, Star and Stone can be used on a 1-1 basis inside Rockhome, in the emirate of Makistani and the city of Selenica and the Vestland town of Rhoona on the Vestland/Rockhome border. The dwarven Sun and Moon, however, have such a strong reputation of stability and purity that only the most primitive races would hesitate to accept them as proper payment.

Vestland have been issuing their own currency for centuries; traditionally the gold Guldan, the silver Floren and the copper Oren. In recent years, influence from traders from Darokin and the Heldannic Territories have prompted the Vestland kings to also produce the large gold Schilder (5 gp) and the electrum Hellar. Vestland currency can be used on a 1-1 basis in the southern parts of the Heldannic Territories, inside Vestland itself and in the eastern parts of Rockhome. Because of the many border disputes between Vestland jarls and Soderfjord jarls, paying with Vestland currency in northern part of the Jarldoms can easily result in trouble for unweary travellers.

Soderfjord Jarldoms
Given the independent nature of the many jarls of Soderfjord, it is an accomplishment that the Thing actually managed to agree on a national currency. The gold Markka, the silver Gundar and the copper Oren are considered fairly stable and reliable. Because of the abundance of high-quality silver in the Hardanger Mtns. Soderfjord recently introduced the electrum Penne modelled on the Vestland Hellar. Because of the lack of central government control with the minting of Soderfjord currency, no other nations will accept Soderfjord currency on a 1-1 basis, something which Ragnar the Stout desperately tries to change.

The currency of Ostland, the gold Krona, the silver Eyrir and the copper Oren, has remained stable for centuries. Like Ierendi's currency, it is minted from plundered metals. In Ostland, old coins are only rarely melted and minted into new coins. The proud northmen value their old coins with the kings of the line of Cnute depicted on them! Ostland currency can be used on a 1-1 basis in Ostland, in Norrvik in Vestland, in Landfall in the Heldannic Territories and in Helskir and the Ostland territories on the Isle of Dawn.

The Five Shires
The Five Shires mint their own gold piece called "a Yellow", a silver piece referred to as a "Star" and a copper piece called a "Sunset". Since more merchant visitors come to the Five Shires from Ierendi, Darokin and the Minrothad Guilds than hin merchants travel abroad, the buying and selling of cargo most often takes place in foreign coin. The hin don't mind though. Outside the shires, halfling currency can be used at a 1:1 ration in Mar, Hinmeet and Athenos.

Minrothad Guilds
The currency of the Minrothad Guilds is the gold Crona, the electrum Byd, the silver Quert and the copper Plen. All of them are minted from imported metals as the volcanic Minrothad Isles are almost devoid of natural minerals. However, the legendary banking talents of the Minrothad merchants ensure that plenty of foreign currency finds its way to the coffers of the Merchant Princes, which is then minted into national currency.
The Minrothad Guilds pioneered the use of letters of credit in the Known World; parchment with a stated value in gold pieces which any Minrothadan is required by law to cash in if he has the means to. This use of letters of credit for large transactions has since been copied by Darokin, Thyatis and the Heldannic Knights.
The ships of the Minrothad Merchant Princes roam so far up and down the coast of the Known World that there is hardly a port from Slagovitch to Cape Alpha that does not accept their coin on a 1:1 basis. Outside of ports, however, it is a rare sight to see one of their coins being used.

Republic of Darokin
Most of the minerals used for the Republic's currency is mined in the many mountains surrounding the nation: the Silver Sierras, the Cruth Mountains, the Black Peaks and the Altan Tepes. The gold Daro, the electrum half-daro, the silver Tendrid and the copper Passim are well known and respect for their purity and stability and all of them are accepted in southern Glantri, western Ylaruam, Alfheim City, the Five Shires and northern Karameikos on a 1:1 basis. It is by far the most widely used currency in use in the Known World, surpassing even the royal mint of Thyatis.
Darokin has adopted the use of a CLOC - Certified Letter of Credit - from the Minrothad Guilds for large transactions. The largest bank in the Known World - the Vault beneath the Merchants Guild Hall in Darokin City - is rumoured to contain enough coin to cash in all Certified Letters of Credit if need be; millions of gold pieces must be deposited there. Of course, the security measures around such a treasury match or even surpass those of the personal treasury of the king of Rockhome or the emperors of Thyatis and Alphatia.

The Ethengar Khanates
The currency of the Ethengar Khanates is simply known as "Tang" and comes in platinum, gold, electrum, silver and copper coins. Each metal type comes in a 1 piece, a 5 pieces and a 10 pieces size coin. The currency is minted from looted metals and foreign coins and are generally not accepted anywhere outside the Khanates at full value.

The Atruaghin Clans
The people of the Atruaghin Clans generally use barter to trade with one another but few official coins have been produced, namely the 5 silver piece "Cloud" and the 1 copper piece "Land". The are generally only used in the few permanent settlements where Darokin merchants come to trade for hides and other goods that the tribesmen have plenty of. Finding an Atruaghin coin outside the tribe lands would be very rare.