PDA

View Full Version : Best ways to do barter



JusticeZero
2013-04-04, 11:05 PM
Coins are actually pretty silly for a lot of people and i'm trying to find the best ways to deal with barter for poor villages where "your metal isn't any good here - none of us want to walk two days through monster infested waste to a town that'll take it, and we can't eat it."

Matticussama
2013-04-05, 12:46 AM
Well, anyone with ranks in Survival can hunt animals and gather food in the wilderness; they could trade this to the villagers based upon the value of food given in the Equipment section. You could also let players skin animal pelts and trade them, since high quality pelts were highly sought after. Rangers, Druids, etc could probably also use Knowledge: Nature to find rare medicinal herbs in the forest and pick them for the villagers; why go out into monster-infested woods to pick those herbs, when you can let a few adventurers do the work for you in return for some trail mix and a cart.

Rabidmuskrat
2013-04-05, 02:13 AM
For the sake of simplicity, you can make the party generate a seperate "gold" pool by doing these kinds of things (basically the same way profession skills earn you gold) which can only be used to buy things in this town, or others similarly poor. Only this pool's value would be measured in gold pieces, however, it would actually consist of herbs/wood/pelts/meat/etc it would weigh a lot more than gold if they want to move long distances with it.

Rhynn
2013-04-05, 07:58 AM
What do you mean by "deal with" ? Mechanics? That's pretty easy - establish relative values of items (by scarcity, distance from source of production, and usefulness/desirability; the last, especially, can easily make the value of an item "0"). Then roll some dice to see how much of what you have they want for what they have.

Barter is probably most applicable to adventurers, incidentally; IRL, there probably were no "barter economies" even in the absence of money. (David Graeber's Debt - the First 5,000 Years explores this, the favor economies that did exist, and the history of money in general, from a historical rather than strictly economistic point of view.) In a typical village, people would do each other favors, and every household more or less produced what they needed. (Also, in a feudal system, the reeve would collect most of the things serfs produced, on behalf of the lord, and then dole out what they need to survive.)

It's also worth looking into "tally sticks," which were used as debt markers in the Medieval period - even though coinage was around, most people didn't actually use it, even in market towns. This even applied to merchants, often. Think about it: would you rather have a pile of easily transported, anonymous, valuable metal discs to transport long distances, or would you rather trade your product for tally stick of value X, then trade the tally stick (transferring the debt to another holder) for some other commodity worth X?

Trying to model a favor economy is a whole 'nother bag of hammers, and one that only really applies when the PCs are "at home." I've wanted to do it for a RuneQuest campaign (decidedly pre-medieval society), and so far I've figured I'd need at least two values: a Reputation value (increased by generosity, decreased by stinginess or being the receiver of unreciprocated generosity), used to gain favor from others, and a Wealth value (indicating your actual ability to give or reciprocate generosity; decreased by generosity, increased by bringing in loot/treasure/doing a good job at managing your affairs), used to obtain items that aren't gained as favors. These would be rolled against as skills (with roll difficulties depending on ). For a d20 game, you could obviously take a page from d20 Modern's Wealth modifier and model it on that.

Slipperychicken
2013-04-05, 08:42 AM
Coins are actually pretty silly for a lot of people and i'm trying to find the best ways to deal with barter for poor villages where "your metal isn't any good here - none of us want to walk two days through monster infested waste to a town that'll take it, and we can't eat it."

No they're not. Slap your DM and tell him to stop jerking you around.

Jay R
2013-04-05, 11:47 AM
Coins are actually pretty silly for a lot of people and i'm trying to find the best ways to deal with barter for poor villages where "your metal isn't any good here - none of us want to walk two days through monster infested waste to a town that'll take it, and we can't eat it."

Whatever economic good is the smallest, easiest to carry, and most universally desired. Wampum (strings of white beads) served that purpose (and many others) for the native Americans who had no direct concept of money, and was monetized by the early colonists, who did have the concept of money.

Scarce small objects like semi-precious stones and spices work well.

But throughout the history of mankind, in virtually all cultures that had developed smelting, the classic answer is metals - usually gold, silver, and copper. In poor villages it's mostly copper; in castles it's mostly gold. The joy of several versions is that it scales to fit the economy.

The biggest drawback is that you need a scale to tell how much it's worth, and even then you have to worry if it had been alloyed with a cheaper metal. So governments would measure them out carefully, and stamp them with a symbol that showed that the coin content and size had been verified.

Voila - coins. The most common answer to that question on all continents and all cultures that had developed metal-working.

[When visiting cultures without metal-working, the usual answer is manufactured goods they cannot duplicate. There were some places in the twentieth centuries where pens, blue jeans, and good cigarettes fulfilled that purpose.]

JusticeZero
2013-04-05, 01:31 PM
Wampum (strings of white beads) served that purpose (and many others) for the native Americans who had no direct concept of money, and was monetized by the early colonists, who did have the concept of money.:smallmad: Money that is being money doesn't stop being money until it's in the hands of a white guy who uses the word "money" for it.
Whatever economic good is the smallest, easiest to carry, and most universally desired. Yeah, which means that gold has a value of close to zero in a lot of places. It's like.. if someone were to pay me for something with a BigDiscountStore gift card. Yay, this is theoretically very valuable and portable. However, for me to get any value out of it, I must first take time off of work to plan a two or three day cross country trip, renting a bus or space on an airplane at significant expense, to a different state hundreds of miles away. Then I charter transport to the store, buy stuff - most of which is probably bulky - and try to find how to get home. At some point here I probably have to rent a hotel room. All of those costs - hotel, transportation, local transportation, and taking a couple of days of vacation - have to be taken off the top of the value of that gift card before we even touch the value of the service. Six hours of work for a gift card? Okay, but that gift card needs to be at least $500 before I stop thinking you're an idiot. $500 is very steep for a lot of things I might do, but I feel like i'm doing you a huge favor IF I take it.
Scarce small objects like semi-precious stones and spices work well.*if* I know someone who can do something with those, sure. Otherwise it's like the gift certificate. "Sure, it's valuable. But not to me."
the classic answer is metals - usually gold, silver, and copper. In poor villages it's mostly copper; in castles it's mostly gold.Metal is just a commodity. It's a particularly portable and malleable commodity, but it's just a commodity.
The biggest drawback is that you need a scale to tell how much it's worth, and even then you have to worry if it had been alloyed with a cheaper metal. So governments would measure them out carefully, and stamp them with a symbol that showed that the coin content and size had been verified.At which point absolutely everyone would make a mold of the coin, then start shaving bits off of their coins to put in a jar to melt and mint new coins out of. Archaeologists have, to the best of my knowledge, never yet found an unshaved coin.

There is also a serious issue in DnD - in the more stable economies, they would use one metal. DnD uses several. This can absolutely wreck economies as raw metal prices fluctuate with large finds and large metalworking projects. For instance, the U.S. tried to avoid having its currency traded like this by using $0.08 worth of silver in a $0.10 cent coin. Then someone discovered a way to turn silver into photographs and caused a run on silver; suddenly, the metal in a $0.10 coin was worth $0.12. Those coins are virtually unheard of now, because everyone bought them up and melted them into ingots. The government had to quickly come up with a way to forge that coin out of metals that couldn't be melted down easily to deal with the 0.10 and 0.05 cent coin (how else are you to make change?) shortages.

This is part of why we use currency that is backed by nothing more than confidence that the state printing it won't flub things up now, and also why I won't let any of my relatives invest in precious metals. Gold isn't actually useful for very many things, and is only valuable because people imagine that it is synonymous with value, even though it never was.

Ravens_cry
2013-04-05, 01:45 PM
I was thinking of a modified d20 modern wealth system for a stone age campaign, only with different modifiers that are situational. The idea was it was based on influence. Say you are the son or daughter of the chief. Well, that gives you some plus, BUT only when trying to 'buy' from people who give a hoot about that fact. You add half/all your level to wealth checks because as you grow more powerful and do greater deeds, your fame spreads. For particularly awesome deeds, you might get a further bonus.
Barter is for when the system breaks down and is opposed charisma based skill checks, using Intimidate, Diplomacy or Bluff, and goods are exchanged.
I'm still trying to get the numbers figured out, but I like how its going.

Rhynn
2013-04-06, 12:10 AM
No they're not. Slap your DM and tell him to stop jerking you around.

They're eminently practical, but historically, they just weren't very common. They were usually minted by large empires - China, Rome, etc. - originally to pay their soldiers. There was usually a set exchange rate, early on, of coin for basic food. (A bit like the Japanese koban gold coin, which was equal to three koku or ~450 kg of rice. Government officials were paid in rice, but the Spanish traders wanted gold.)

The other thing coins were used for was paying taxes. This is generally what made it eminently useful for common folk - if you had to pay taxes (usually to an empire), you needed coins, because while the value of your goods might vary, the value of the coins was more stable. In most of medieval Europe, serfs paid no taxes, as such, and even freemen paid theirs in "kind" (product). In towns and cities, money was much more useful.

Incidentally, the value of silver (and gems, originally lapis lazuli) sort of came from religion - temples in the old palace(/temple) culture wanted silver and lapis to make religious icons. This made them valuable. These central administration cultures also invented "currency" before they invented coinage - they used a currency of record for bookkeeping. Things had a numerical value assigned to them irrespective of any physical representation. Funny thing: post-Roman Empire, this is how value worked in Europe, again, for a time: people recorded value in the 1-20-240 system based on the libra (, pound of silver), but didn't necessarily use coins.

TheCountAlucard
2013-04-06, 12:44 PM
Little Red Paperclip - the answer is always Little Red Paperclip.

Surfnerd
2013-04-06, 03:51 PM
I like rabidmuskrats abstraction of a gold pool. Best part is you could adjust the buying power of the gold pool thru negotiations etc. Where as gold equals gold, players could barter the gold pool to have a greater sum depending on supply and demand. Just make the GP value equal to a heavier weight than normal like 1gp equals 5 lbs or something. Have the players contribute skill rolls etc to generate commodity to add to the pool; survival, artisan, craft, etc....

Have them keep a list o the various trappings that equal the gp pool and then when they want something roll appropriate skill rolls and adjust the value of the item and cross it off or part of it if its something like skins, furs etc..

DC could be set by the demand. Just jot a note on the town or settlement of what they traded for so you can remember the baseline for future trade. If they find a deficit of goods somewhere and try to exploit it just have the value of the item drop by increasing the DC thus unless the players roll high for their "salesmanship" roll it decreases the value.

I've always wanted to have a trade mechanic set up on the side of a campaign I was the player in. So anyway I could help....

Kane0
2013-04-07, 07:32 PM
Our group does barter relatively simply:

PC: "How much for this?"
NPC: "How much you got?"
DM: "Commence haggling."

PC: "X gold?"
NPC: "Try again mate"
DM: "He's looking at your nice new hunting knife"

Talakeal
2013-04-09, 02:42 PM
You guys have much more accepting players than I do. If I had NPCs who regularly refused to accept currency the end result would be a lot of villages burned to the ground and pillaged.

Slipperychicken
2013-04-09, 04:01 PM
You guys have much more accepting players than I do. If I had NPCs who regularly refused to accept currency the end result would be a lot of villages burned to the ground and pillaged.

I actually almost did this once in a game, and the rest of the party would have backed me in an eyeblink. These jerkoffs used silver hoops instead of gold, and made the party go to an exchange office for 30 minutes (real time) while we figured out how the exchange rate worked.

If we hadn't just fought a battle to claim it for our kingdom, that city would have been toast.

Rhynn
2013-04-09, 04:02 PM
You guys have much more accepting players than I do. If I had NPCs who regularly refused to accept currency the end result would be a lot of villages burned to the ground and pillaged.

What's wrong with that? I think that's perfectly acceptable behavior for certain kinds of PCs. :smallbiggrin: Of course, they're then going to have to deal with ever-escalating retribution and attempts to bring them to justice, but that's just called "players creating their own story."

Matticussama
2013-04-09, 07:53 PM
It all depends upon the type of game you enjoy playing. I think bartering can be fun, so long as (1) it doesn't come to dominate every session and (2) the players and DM handle it in an enjoyable manner.

If every single merchant refuses to take your gold coins, then that gets to bog down the game. If, however, you use it sparingly to emphasize a certain narrative point - most villages have taken gold coins, but this village is on a small island hundreds of miles from any other major civilization and has therefore become cut off from "civilized" trade routes - then it can add a lot of depth to the game. It adds to the sense of remoteness and isolation that a community can come to develop. Of course, if the players knowingly travel to such an isolated location, a good DM also gives them some kind of warning before-hand so they can stock up on other trade goods besides coins.