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Known World Macroeconomicsby Rodger Burns
So there's recently been some big-picture discussion of population levels, economic figures, and other social-science aspects of how Mystara works, looking both at published in-game data, certain real-world results, and common sense. Not all of these figures have fully satisfied everyone - which is to be expected; it's a game, quick answers that make the game fun are more important than some sort of rigorous, doctoral-thesis analysis. Still, establishing some sort of framework for talking about how life works across the Known World may be useful.
Where to begin? First, with a few key assumptions:
1. Prices are more-or-less identical across the Known World. This is drawn from RC data which suggest that basic equipment costs the same everywhere. Such a thing may seem counterintuitive in a larger economic sense (as a nation produces more, prices tend to fall) but is possible if the money supply grows at the same rate as larger productivity. And keeping this as a maxim does eliminate the need for fiddling with foreign exchange rates and differences in prices across nations.
2. Average wages are more-or-less identical across the Known World. This maxim is less set in stone than the first, but follows from basically identical taxation levels across nations and a common level of prosperity throughout the Known World. Adventurers in every nation outfit themselves with around a hundred gp worth of equipment before venturing off into their first dungeons; a 5,000 gp diamond is considered to be a rare and valuable treasure just about everywhere. This is probably the weakest of the three assumptions, but should be kept in mind as an upper limit.
3. Agricultural output and general productivity vary drastically across the Known World. This is absolutely clear from technology level and culture. Places like Atruaghin and Ethengar manage purely through hunting and herding, and have just about every adult citizen directly involved in food production; nations such as Karameikos, Heldann and the Northern Reaches have reached medieval agricultural levels (though the Thyatian presence in Karameikos is pushing that nation into Renaissance status) and likely have three-quarters of their population as farmers; some nations such as Thyatis and Darokin are at Renaissance-level technology; Alphatia notably uses industrialised magic to achieve levels of agricultural efficiency unmatched in the Known World.
All of the above assumptions have been substantiated, more or less, in the existing game rules. But a problem exists. Modelling any two of these three assumptions is feasible, using basic economic principles. Achieving all three is not.
So what's the fix? Wages are probably different - but by how much? Alphatian social classes probably set a good upper limit - to be a freeman in that country, you need to have an income of at least 300 gp/year, and that's by no means a sure thing - but how much lower does this go for less developed nations? And what does it mean for prices, balance of trade and so on? Any suggestions?