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Prices of Items in Fantasy?

Discussion in 'World Building' started by Shreddies, Sep 10, 2015.

  1. Shreddies

    Shreddies Troubadour

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    Here's a question for all the Worldbuilding fans out there:

    How do work out the prices of various items in your fantasy worlds?

    (Or do you just gloss over it?)
     
  2. Mectojic

    Mectojic Minstrel

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    Tricky question. To answer that one must consider that prices means that there is some kind of currency.

    In my series, any magical item has cultural significance, and is considered priceless. Then there are more secretive totems and wards which are stolen by people looking for collector's items.

    I think when you look at prices of objects, consider their purpose and what they are made of. I dont know if you are talking about magical dragon bones or something along those lines - but certainly tend towards expensive. Rarity creates fascination for the reader, and rarity can easily be conveyed by price.

    Good luck to you, hope this helps.
     
  3. skip.knox

    skip.knox toujours gai, archie Moderator

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    I rarely find a need to have actual prices.

    In pre-modern societies, there was really no such thing as fixed prices anyway. Prices varied by season, condition, negotiation, circumstance, supply, and so on. Prices, where we can track such things, were far more flexible than in modern times. So, if I need an actual number (we moderns are utterly obsessed by numbers), I just make up something that feels right for the situation.
     
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  4. Gurkhal

    Gurkhal Auror

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    I try to find some examples of historical prices in the relevant culture to use as a basis and work from there with various modifications. But to me its useful to have something to start from rather than have to go from scratch.
     
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  5. Androxine Vortex

    Androxine Vortex Archmage

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    I think this is where RPG elements bleed into development.

    In my understanding, people back then would use bartering more than currency. Currency would definitely be used to pay state taxes and such but in some places that were not wealthy it would be more profitable to trade goods.

    Perhaps there is a multicultural influence and some merchants and vendors won't accept certain currency. Makes me think of Star Wars. Republican Credits will do you no good out here...
     
  6. CupofJoe

    CupofJoe Myth Weaver

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    In the past I have spent a long time working out coinage and costs and exchange rates [etc.] and then never used any part of it in the story.
    Now I take a more flexible approach. I tend to have "usual" items like food and clothing be obtainable through barter, exchange or small monies and try not to put an exact cost on any of it. If it isn't pivotal to the plot then I don't worry.
    In one [stalled - I will get back to it, someday] story, I had Adventures [okay - petty crooks] getting ready for an Expedition and trying to do it without any funds, that was fun to write as they had to haggle, swap and work for what they needed [and steal - if truth be told] rather than just go in to a store and buy everything.
    I like D&LEddings approach where they did go into the relevant currencies of the Kingdoms but used that to explain the relationship between the countries; [the highly organised and centralised] Tolnedran coins were purer than [the more wheeler-dealer] Drasnian coins of the same value and no one really trusted [the nasty evil] Murgo gold because it was blood red]
     
    Last edited: Sep 11, 2015
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  7. ThinkerX

    ThinkerX Myth Weaver

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    My principle nation is based very roughly on Rome with a mix of other cultures thrown in. I have drawn quite a bit from old AD&D 'historical sourcebooks,' but at best that's a rough guide. World is pretty much on the 'dinar' or 'silver standard.' But real rough like:

    Bit (Copper, Brass, or Iron): small change, get you a cup of ale, a bowl of stew, or a slab of bread. Two or three might get you a spot on a common room floor.

    Dinar (silver) : Area depending, a laborer will clear one or two dinar a day. A skilled artisan will make several times that. A couple dozen dinar will pay the rent on a rude hut or cheap apartment, a hundred or so will get you a decent cottage or much nicer apartment.

    Au (Gold) : Worth something on the order of twenty dinar, seldom seen, used mostly for large commercial transactions.

    But in actual writing, I seldom give exact sums.
     
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  8. Shreddies

    Shreddies Troubadour

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    The reason I was trying to work out specific prices was because the MC is working on a tight budget at first. He has money on him, but it's from a foreign currency no one's heard of, so he has to sell some of his things to get enough money for food, etc.

    Haggling is normal in the country he's currently in (and if you don't haggle, it's rude), but they don't barter unless the currency is unavailable. Meaning prices don't have to be exact, but I at least wanted to work out an estimate.

    And even if I don't tell the reader exactly how much money he has left after buying a few things, I'd like to keep track of it for consistency's sake.
     
  9. FifthView

    FifthView Istar

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    Here's a long price list for items in medieval England that might help you out for comparisons' sake: Medieval Price List
     
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  10. Russ

    Russ Istar

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    it really depends on how much you are "into" such things. I have never read a fantasy book where I was annoyed by the level of currency detail or prices, or economic stuff, nor have a read a book where I felt cheated because I never knew how much a beer or bottle of wine cost (although how they finance some of those wars is a different story...).

    Do as much detail in this area as makes you happy. I may be dating myself but I find the original Chivalry and Sorcery RPG lists useful from time to time.
     
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  11. Shreddies

    Shreddies Troubadour

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    Thank you. The references look like they'll be a very good place to start.
     
  12. valiant12

    valiant12 Sage

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    I mostly use basic supply and demand in my worldbuilding.
    It can be very tricky to give exact prices.
    For example, to calculate the price of a fruit in a random city market, first you must determine how many people live in that city and how many of them would be interested in buying that fruit. And you must determine how much of these fruits are being grown in the vicinity of the city.
     
  13. Russ

    Russ Istar

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    Or you could just say "fruit is cheap or fruit is expensive" for the purpose of the scene and then put a low or high "exact" price on it.
     
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  14. Shreddies

    Shreddies Troubadour

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    I guess I should have also asked this earlier, but: How do you work out how much your currency is worth?
     
  15. Heliotrope

    Heliotrope Staff Article Team

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    I found Patrick rothfuss was obsessed with this in the name of the wind. It worked for the character who was poor and a bit obsessed with the value of everything. Worth a read if you are looking at how other authors deal with money.
     
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  16. skip.knox

    skip.knox toujours gai, archie Moderator

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    When you are working out your context, you might consider starting with ratios. Bread (or, if you prefer, wheat), wine, salt, these are the basics. A day's labor might be enough to get two loaves of bread (for the family). A horse might be worth a week's wages or a month's wages.

    If you get a sense of the ratios, then your bartering will feel convincing. Those lists of medieval prices can help you with that, but don't feel you need to adhere closely. Medieval prices were extremely variable, both over time and across regions.
     
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  17. ArenRax

    ArenRax Sage

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    Well lets see.....The currency is worth whatever it is worth by the purity of the metal used in making it as well as the economic situation of the country/kingdom.
    then there is the rarity of the metal, how old the coinage is, and if it is widely used by more than one country.

    I believe what I have said to be correct or well what I think is correct.

    Good old fashion trading and basic currency is good for me, I like to have one currency system be used for multiple kingdoms as it makes it easier for the trade portions of the book.
     
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  18. Svrtnsse

    Svrtnsse Staff Article Team

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    My setting is roughly contemporary. Individual nations tend to use their own local currencies. On top of that there's the International Rail Company, which issues traveler's cheques of various kind that are usable at all shops and restaurants catering to travellers along the lines. In some regions where economic stability is an issue the IRC cheques are used as the de facto currency for most transactions.

    I haven't spent too much time pondering what things would actually cost but in one short story I wrote I had the MC pay for two cups of coffee with an Inch cheque (the lowest denomination of traveller's cheques). As such, I figure an Inch is worth roughly five euro in real world currency.
    Then it's just a matter of figuring out what the other denominations are worth (and what they're called: Foot, Yard, League, etc...), or what you could get for them. Maybe a Foot will buy you a good meal and a Yard will get you a room for the night?
     
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  19. Scribe Lord

    Scribe Lord Minstrel

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    Also, different currencies have always been fluctuating and traveling around often meant that you would have to deal with money-changes who weren't always the most fair of people.

    While I know it's not what you meant, this gave me an image in my head of people carrying around satchels filled with different lengths of checks. Then you have that one guy who's dragging a league long check behind him. Interesting concept though.
     
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  20. Bruce McKnight

    Bruce McKnight Troubadour

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    I put a lot (i.e., way more than necessary) of effort into this for my world. I started with defining coins (made of metals that are actually found on my continent) and assigning them values that I convert behind the scenes. My lowest denomination is 25 cents, my highest is 10k USD (and used only for kings to make large scale transactions with other kings). Then I just convert rough prices to what they are in the current day real world. I make adjustments for various factors, like supplies costing more in less-populated areas and one kingdom holding the secret to a particular spice which they price-gouge.

    It will probably never be noticed unless I some day get serious die-hard fans who want to look at the very rare mention of these things across multiple books, but it gives me comfort to know that it all adds up and is consistent so I dont accidentally price something really stupid.
     
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