Atlas Rules Resources Adventures Stories FAQ Search Links
Barter System/Alternate Economiesby Andrew Theisen
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:
Brute-Men (insofar as they have any sort of economy)
Krugel Orcs (probably a blend of barter and coinage)
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 specialised 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 specialisation 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, armour, silk, perfumes.
Gems: As standard
Jewellery: 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.