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Your Currency Preference

Discussion in 'World Building' started by Bruce McKnight, Nov 22, 2013.

  1. Bruce McKnight

    Bruce McKnight Troubadour

    Would you rather read or write about a world that uses:

    A. Standard fantasy coins such as gold, silver, and copper
    B. Historic currency such as florins, shillings, pence, etc
    C. Something more modern like dollars and euros
    D. Completely made-up stuff like red terns, steelies, and gims
  2. GeekDavid

    GeekDavid Auror

    I have read many fantasy books since I was a teen (over 30 years ago) and I can count on one hand those that I can remember the monetary system of.

    Go with whatever you want. I can't see any choice making or breaking your story unless you go to extremes like this:

    In other words, don't sweat the small stuff like coins. Just write a good story.
  3. Saigonnus

    Saigonnus Auror

    For me it really depends on what sort of story you are writing. Alternate history or Historical fantasy; using the real coins would add an element of realism to the story.

    For fantasy/science fiction etc... I personally prefer that the author took the time to create coinage for a made up world/galaxy etc... as opposed to using historical coinage from the real world since technically it isn't the real world the characters are living in.

    The vague "Gold, silver, copper etc..." I find too reminiscent of old role-playing games. In my fantasy world I'd even changed the names of the coins when playing D&D for that reason. Each kingdom had their own coinage and the coinage varied in weight with the neighboring kingdom, making it tricky to figure out the exchange rate.

    If you are only dealing with only one kingdom or region, then you probably won't have to go into THAT much detail.
    Feo Takahari likes this.
  4. Feo Takahari

    Feo Takahari Auror

    I'm not fond of gold coins, because writers tend to make them ludicrously common relative to the in-universe value of unworked gold. Still, they can work if you either make those substances less valuable, or have them just be the covering for a less valuable core. (Though you should also keep in mind how much a sack of gold weighs.)

    I think any of the others could work depending on setting, though d) is probably your best bet.
    Bruce McKnight likes this.
  5. ThinkerX

    ThinkerX Myth Weaver

    My main world is on a quasi roman 'silver standard' (dinar). Gold exists, but the ratio to silver is something like a hundred to one, hence it is used only for major commercial transactions. Most people, in pricing something, think in units of dinar/silver.
  6. adampjr

    adampjr Scribe

    It doesn't matter IMO unless it features in the story somehow. If you're exploring some economic ideas, that could be interesting. Play around with wampum like currency, or have paper currency tied to the value of copper.

    But if you're not trying to speak to economics in some way, my opinion is that you should keep the currency in the background and make it copper and silver coins.
    GeekDavid likes this.
  7. skip.knox

    skip.knox toujours gai, archie Moderator

    I know people are saying don't worry about it and for the most part I agree (unless it's historical fantasy), but this is a good example of one of those small details that can be worrisome. Your character--oh, okay, three characters--walks into a bar, order drinks and plop down ... what?

    Sure, you could just order the drink and not describe the transaction, but sooner or later somebody is gonna have to pay a tab somewhere. It doesn't have to be a economic novel (though it ought to be economical) in order for money to change hands.

    The only observation I have to make is that in historical coinage it's rare to have coins named by their metal. German, English, Spanish, Dutch, Roman, Greek, you name it, they named it. They didn't call them coppers or brasses or irons. There was a name. So, if you are not going with historical names, come up with some.

    You don't need much. And you can use the metal as an adjective. It can be a copper Dingum, and a silver Whatsit. I'm with Feo on the gold. Unless you're portraying a society that is roughly Renaissance level (or Byzantine), forget about gold coinage. Gold was for more serious things than money, like really nice salt cellars. :)
    Bruce McKnight likes this.
  8. Mythopoet

    Mythopoet Auror

    The one story where I remember at all how the story dealt with money is the sci fi TV show Farscape. I remember it because I thought it was beautifully simple how they didn't refer to money as anything other than "currency". They'd say things like "we have the currency". I thought it was great to keep it generic like that and not make a big deal about it. The fact is, most people just don't care about the currency system you create for your world. Unless it's really important to the story for some reason (like you're writing a fantasy economic thriller?) it's just a useless bit of worldbuilding trivia that most people don't care about.
    GeekDavid likes this.
  9. WooHooMan

    WooHooMan Auror

    I'd pick either B or D. I read a fantasy comic where the characters used Crowns and Bits and I thought that worked great. Much better than Gold or Credits or whatever.
  10. Firekeeper

    Firekeeper Troubadour

    My favorite use of currency was in Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss; in that story the protagonist was poor kid who came off the streets to become the youngest person to study in The University in centuries. But, being poor, it was a constant struggle for him to have tuition for each semester. It added to realism when he'd look in his pocket and he only had a couple of shims that didn't add up to a single silver Talent, and he needed 5 Talents to meet tuition.

    The same story could have been told using just copper or silver coins and it would not have made a big impact on the quality, but the original names and values added to the drama of Kvothe's struggle to earn enough money for school.

    What I'm getting at here is....

    If it plays a central role, or is very important to your characters, then maybe you should explore a unique system. But if it's just background, don't worry about it and keep it simple, because it won't make or break your story. In fact, if you make too big a deal out of it it could be jarring and make the story less enjoyable.
    Last edited: Nov 23, 2013
  11. CupofJoe

    CupofJoe Myth Weaver

    I like D&L Eddings approach. They used a standard gold-silver-copper, but each nation had it's own flavour or worth. The Tolnedra Silver Crown was worth [or trusted] a little more than the Drasnian Silver Noble [if I remember correctly]. It adds a bit of colour and depth without getting too specific.

    But if money isn't central to the story, then I'd be tempted to keep it generic and undefined...
  12. skip.knox

    skip.knox toujours gai, archie Moderator

    That's funny because I found that very same thing jarring. A talent is a historical currency. That's fine, I don't mind writers using historical names for stuff. But the other unit was a "shim" which in English means a strip of wood used to fill in or prop up something. That is, it was a word that meant something but meant something utterly unrelated to currency. So we have one word that's associated with currency and one that means something quite different. I brought me up short. I couldn't figure out why the author would make such a choice.

    Just goes to show: the one thing ya never know is, ya never know.
  13. Hyperbolus

    Hyperbolus New Member

    Coins can also serve as tools of propaganda. Taking this path you could use the generic gold and silver, but distinguish your coins by what is on them.
  14. Gurkhal

    Gurkhal Auror

    I like my fantasy to be as historically realistic as possible. So you can go from there to almost any other subject that needs to be covered.
  15. Omnidragon22

    Omnidragon22 Dreamer

    i think id just got with something simple like rubies or something to that effect

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