Thread: The value of gold, and a possible rational for why it is so plentiful in D&D

1. The value of gold, and a possible rational for why it is so plentiful in D&D

Apparently there is an asteroid chuck-full of precious metals that if we use today’s prices would be valued at seven quintillion dollars . . . \$7,000,000,000,000,000,000!

In a setting where asteroid mining was a thing, then likely the value of precious metals, such as gold, would be greatly deflated.

In a sci-fi setting, such as The Expanse, gold would be worth considerably less than it is currently valued at. I can see people walking around with inch-thick gold necklaces without a care in the world of theft.

In a fantasy setting I can see void dragons traversing the stars, and mining gold for their slumber chambers. I can see them quite puzzled
that these humans keep stealing their bedding. I think that it would be humorous if the gold coins dragons used for bedding had sheep on them (or the equivalent).

In a superhero setting it would take one spaceship, or one Superman to bring the world a nigh-endless supply of precious metals (fixed).

2. Re: The value of gold, and a possible rational for why it is so plentiful in D&D

Originally Posted by darkrose50
In a superhero setting it would take one spaceship, or one Superman to bring the world a nigh-endless supply of precious mettles.
M-E-T-A-L-S. Superman would be a good source of nigh-endless mettle, but then it wouldn't be pluralized.

3. Re: The value of gold, and a possible rational for why it is so plentiful in D&D

You can pull a gigaton of gold out of the planet's mantle and not even make a dent in the supply. The issue with D&D isn't the plentiful supply, it's that the stuff has any value at all. It's probably easier to assume that the coins are just a fiat currency like the dollar. It has worth because the government says so.

4. Re: The value of gold, and a possible rational for why it is so plentiful in D&D

Originally Posted by Rogar Demonblud
You can pull a gigaton of gold out of the planet's mantle and not even make a dent in the supply. The issue with D&D isn't the plentiful supply, it's that the stuff has any value at all. It's probably easier to assume that the coins are just a fiat currency like the dollar. It has worth because the government says so.
"As a result, the silicate mantle over the core trapped enormous amounts of gold and other minerals well out of reach. There is enough gold at the core of the earth to cover the surface of the planet in 13 inches but it's 1,800 miles below our feet and at many thousands of degrees."

https://www.worldatlas.com/articles/...igh-layer.html

Interesting, and a different type of "impossible" for us to get at.

5. Re: The value of gold, and a possible rational for why it is so plentiful in D&D

Heck, technically in D&D (if using Great Wheel or similar styled cosmology), scarcity is not an absolute issue, merely a localised one. There is literally an infinite plane of any material/resources imaginable.

At least that is the implication of 4 element theory and the idea of infinite elemental planes with borders.

6. Re: The value of gold, and a possible rational for why it is so plentiful in D&D

Planescape has the Elemental Plane of Minerals, which is basically a planet made of treasure. The only problem is it lacerates you constantly, so mining it is nearly impossible.

7. Re: The value of gold, and a possible rational for why it is so plentiful in D&D

Originally Posted by Mith
Heck, technically in D&D (if using Great Wheel or similar styled cosmology), scarcity is not an absolute issue, merely a localised one. There is literally an infinite plane of any material/resources imaginable.

At least that is the implication of 4 element theory and the idea of infinite elemental planes with borders.
I mean, with certain rulesets you could literally just create infinite material wealth yourself.

Scarcity has less to do with availability of resources and more that everyone is too busy fighting off giant monsters day in day out to actually take advantage.

8. Re: The value of gold, and a possible rational for why it is so plentiful in D&D

Originally Posted by darkrose50
"As a result, the silicate mantle over the core trapped enormous amounts of gold and other minerals well out of reach. There is enough gold at the core of the earth to cover the surface of the planet in 13 inches but it's 1,800 miles below our feet and at many thousands of degrees."

https://www.worldatlas.com/articles/...igh-layer.html

Interesting, and a different type of "impossible" for us to get at.
Eh. In D&D, you summon an earth elemental and tell them to get to it. Assuming, of course, the GM built a world like ours instead of a hunk of rock where all you have to do is dig deep enough.

Or you just head over to the Plane of Elemental Earth and fill a few portable holes (and a bag of holding for the gems).

Like I said, in D&D the issue is not scarcity.

9. Re: The value of gold, and a possible rational for why it is so plentiful in D&D

Originally Posted by druid91
I mean, with certain rulesets you could literally just create infinite material wealth yourself.

Scarcity has less to do with availability of resources and more that everyone is too busy fighting off giant monsters day in day out to actually take advantage.
Precisely. You need an external force (fight for survival), rather than mortal limitations.

Thoughts: material from any plane trys to transmute anything it touches into itself. Therefore the last person to try and exploit "infinite gold" became the world's equivalent to King Midas.

Have a low level party discover a "gold" dragon sleeping on a pile of treasure. Turns out to be a literal gold statue.

Also a Gold Elemental.

The Material plane is neutral grounds in that everything is in delicate balance that you have no source of unchecked growth.

Outer Planes are similar, but with ideas and concepts, not materials.

10. Re: The value of gold, and a possible rational for why it is so plentiful in D&D

Speaking of asteroid mining, I can't wait for the planned space probe to visit 16 Psyche, which is a large metallic asteroid. But it won't launch until 2022, and won't arrive until 2026. No plans for a sample return for this visit, but the asteroid is believed to be mostly iron and nickel, rather than gold or platinum.

11. Re: The value of gold, and a possible rational for why it is so plentiful in D&D

Just because lots of gold exists in various places doesn't make it cheap or easy to get at. The asteroid mentioned would be easy to reach with Expanse-style tech, but that doesn't exist and there's no sign it'll be turning up anytime soon; with our *actual* technology even reaching the asteroid belt takes a lot of effort, much less returning from it with significant quantities of material.

12. Re: The value of gold, and a possible rational for why it is so plentiful in D&D

Originally Posted by druid91
Scarcity has less to do with availability of resources and more that everyone is too busy fighting off giant monsters day in day out to actually take advantage.
D&D has always taken a bunch of genre conventions from frontier fiction like westerns and colonial era novels. The base state is not an equilibrium, so much as a wild open, resource-filled frontier with more opportunities to profit (or die trying) than there is manpower to capitalize upon all the opportunities. Even when your localized civilization has fought off all the giant monsters, you still have most of your adventurers clearing out ancient crypts, such that your party might be the first to think of expeditions to the demiplane of gold.

13. Re: The value of gold, and a possible rational for why it is so plentiful in D&D

Originally Posted by factotum
Just because lots of gold exists in various places doesn't make it cheap or easy to get at. The asteroid mentioned would be easy to reach with Expanse-style tech, but that doesn't exist and there's no sign it'll be turning up anytime soon; with our *actual* technology even reaching the asteroid belt takes a lot of effort, much less returning from it with significant quantities of material.
It is expensive to launch something into space. The theory is that if they gather materials and manufacture goods in space that it would bring prices down.

One thing that could help keep prices down (on earth, and in general) would be a space elevator.

14. Re: The value of gold, and a possible rational for why it is so plentiful in D&D

Wasn;t this the plot of Goldmember

15. Re: The value of gold, and a possible rational for why it is so plentiful in D&D

Originally Posted by darkrose50
In a sci-fi setting, such as The Expanse, gold would be worth considerably less than it is currently valued at. I can see people walking around with inch-thick gold necklaces without a care in the world of theft.
To be fair, in the intro text right at the start of The Expanse it does specifically say that "in the Belt, air and water are more valuable than gold".

Having said that, the gold still has to be mined and processed. It's not just about abundance.

Gold doesn't really have any intrinsic value as it is. Its chemical properties make it useful for some purposes but there are many more abundant metals that are more useful. It has value because we think it does. Its becoming more abundant probably won't change that; people would still find a way to overvalue it.

I mean, look at diamonds. Like gold, they're not useless, but they are massively overvalued relative to their utility. There's also no issue with scarcity: not only is supply kept artificially low by diamond companies, but they can be artificially created from dirt cheap raw materials. And people still pay thousands for a tiny diamond to wear as jewellery, because that's just what we do.

16. Re: The value of gold, and a possible rational for why it is so plentiful in D&D

Actually, that seems to be changing slowly. It probably started once the Blood Diamond concept was popularized and made people more aware of the subject, but the slowly worsening economic position of Millennials and younger also means they don't have the scratch to buy diamond jewelry at the old prices, so DeBeers and others are lowering the price some to try and keep the market. They can afford it, given the markup.

One of my wife's cousins has an engagement pendant made of a low quality but large diamond they picked up off the ground in Arkansas during Spring Break. These things are everywhere.

17. Re: The value of gold, and a possible rational for why it is so plentiful in D&D

In D&D, you need to remember, gold is one of the few things that can't be created with conjuration spells. Presumably that's why its rare and valuable there

18. Re: The value of gold, and a possible rational for why it is so plentiful in D&D

Originally Posted by Aedilred
Gold doesn't really have any intrinsic value as it is. Its chemical properties make it useful for some purposes but there are many more abundant metals that are more useful. It has value because we think it does. Its becoming more abundant probably won't change that; people would still find a way to overvalue it.
Not really. Apart from the fact it's attractive when polished, gold has the value it does because of its rarity. I saw a stat once that said you could fit all the gold that's ever been mined in human history into an Olympic sized swimming pool. The other metals which are more useful are *also* more abundant and thus cheaper, despite their usefulness. If gold were as common as iron? It might still have more value than iron because it's useful in ways iron isn't, and also has the attractiveness factor, but it certainly wouldn't be anywhere near as valuable as it is today.

It's also worth noting that gold is not the most expensive precious metal out there--platinum and rhodium both beat it, and both are actually more useful than gold in many ways.

19. Re: The value of gold, and a possible rational for why it is so plentiful in D&D

Originally Posted by factotum
It's also worth noting that gold is not the most expensive precious metal out there--platinum and rhodium both beat it, and both are actually more useful than gold in many ways.
Also Iridium IIRC. And presumably also weapons-grade plutonium and uranium as well

20. Re: The value of gold, and a possible rational for why it is so plentiful in D&D

Originally Posted by factotum
It's also worth noting that gold is not the most expensive precious metal out there--platinum and rhodium both beat it, and both are actually more useful than gold in many ways.
Originally Posted by Bohandas
Also Iridium IIRC. And presumably also weapons-grade plutonium and uranium as well
Isn't the term "precious metal" only used for metals used in ornamentation of some kind, including jewellery?

Plutonium is a valuable metal, not a precious metal.

21. Re: The value of gold, and a possible rational for why it is so plentiful in D&D

Originally Posted by hamishspence
Isn't the term "precious metal" only used for metals used in ornamentation of some kind, including jewellery?

Plutonium is a valuable metal, not a precious metal.
That's a valid point

(although it does raise the question of whether in a fantasy RPG setting it might be used for jewelry by the various ttpes of bug people who might be able to wear it safely; ie. Thri-Kreen, Dromites, Abeils, Formians, Ekolids, etc)

22. Re: The value of gold, and a possible rational for why it is so plentiful in D&D

Originally Posted by factotum
Not really. Apart from the fact it's attractive when polished, gold has the value it does because of its rarity. I saw a stat once that said you could fit all the gold that's ever been mined in human history into an Olympic sized swimming pool. The other metals which are more useful are *also* more abundant and thus cheaper, despite their usefulness. If gold were as common as iron? It might still have more value than iron because it's useful in ways iron isn't, and also has the attractiveness factor, but it certainly wouldn't be anywhere near as valuable as it is today.

It's also worth noting that gold is not the most expensive precious metal out there--platinum and rhodium both beat it, and both are actually more useful than gold in many ways.
Scarcity is a factor, but gold still seems to occupy a particular niche.

Go back a couple of thousand years and we have the tin problem. Tin is a near-essential component in bronze, which was the principal utility metal of the era. It is more abundant than gold in the Earth's crust as a whole, but not in the regions where western civilisation of the era was clustered: Egypt, the eastern Mediterranean and the Near East, with the most accessible tin deposits in Spain, Britain and Germany. It was one of the most valuable minerals of the day and the difficulty of procuring it appears to have been a key factor in the transition to iron as metal of choice for tools and weaponry in the first millennium BC.

But tin never caught on either as a medium of exchange or as a material for jewellery, despite its intrinsic value and scarcity, while gold - rather easier to get to, at the time, did, not to mention silver and (to a lesser extent) electrum.

Nor, for that matter, did lead, which is less abundant than gold, and the Romans dug it up and used it to line water pipes and process silver ore. And while, granted, lead is not the most attractive metal in the world, tin is shiny and pretty corrosion-resistant, rather moreso than silver.

So while scarcity is a factor, it doesn't seem to have been a decisive one. It seems that gold just had good PR from a very early stage.

23. Re: The value of gold, and a possible rational for why it is so plentiful in D&D

Originally Posted by Aedilred
Nor, for that matter, did lead, which is less abundant than gold, and the Romans dug it up and used it to line water pipes and process silver ore. And while, granted, lead is not the most attractive metal in the world, tin is shiny and pretty corrosion-resistant, rather moreso than silver.
Lead as an element is several orders of magnitude more abundant in the Earth's crust than gold. Unlike gold, it mostly appears as a sulfide "galena", from which the Romans (for example) extracted it by smelting.

24. Re: The value of gold, and a possible rational for why it is so plentiful in D&D

Originally Posted by DavidSh
Lead as an element is several orders of magnitude more abundant in the Earth's crust than gold. Unlike gold, it mostly appears as a sulfide "galena", from which the Romans (for example) extracted it by smelting.
Yeah, agreed. If lead were as rare as Aedilred is saying then we wouldn't have used it all over the place for water pipes, before realising lead poisoning is a thing. I honestly don't know why he has this strange idea that rarity doesn't affect the price of gold--sure, tin was rare in the late Bronze Age, but it still wasn't as scarce as gold was and is.

25. Re: The value of gold, and a possible rational for why it is so plentiful in D&D

Originally Posted by factotum
Not really. Apart from the fact it's attractive when polished, gold has the value it does because of its rarity. I saw a stat once that said you could fit all the gold that's ever been mined in human history into an Olympic sized swimming pool. The other metals which are more useful are *also* more abundant and thus cheaper, despite their usefulness. If gold were as common as iron? It might still have more value than iron because it's useful in ways iron isn't, and also has the attractiveness factor, but it certainly wouldn't be anywhere near as valuable as it is today.

It's also worth noting that gold is not the most expensive precious metal out there--platinum and rhodium both beat it, and both are actually more useful than gold in many ways.
Gold and silver fit a sweet spot in both rarity and utility that make them ideal candidates for 'currency-like' levels of being precious (particularly in the premodern times D&D vaguely emulates). Something that is too rare-- say platinum or iridium -- doesn't work because you can't have the king collect taxes from his dukes in it, because no one below king is likely to have any. Dukes and counts (and even knights) can have gold or silver, so they can trade it between each other, or pay it up the pay-scale to the kings, and nations can make deals with each other in it. Likewise, although there are technical uses for gold and silver, for the most part you can stick it in a vault or trade it amongst your peers or the like because, other than for use in jewelry and the like (which, by its' nature exists to prove that you have both the money to use money-like objects as accessories, but the power to keep others from taking it from you), you don't use gold and silver for other things. Aedilred has the absolute rarities wrong, but the base concept is there. Lead and tin (and grain and cloth and cattle and...) are all valuable, but we don't treat them as money-like objects specifically because we actually use the stuff. We even have different terms for the different conceptual frameworks -- currency vs. commodities.

26. Re: The value of gold, and a possible rational for why it is so plentiful in D&D

Originally Posted by DavidSh
Lead as an element is several orders of magnitude more abundant in the Earth's crust than gold. Unlike gold, it mostly appears as a sulfide "galena", from which the Romans (for example) extracted it by smelting.
Lead is also something that people have really been trying to phase out due to its toxicity in a lot of contexts.

I also thought it'd be interesting if people created a currency in a D&D type setting where you had to invest magic into a material in order to make it more valuable, kind of like thaumaturgic bitcoin mining. If there was a finite number of magicians with clearly finite amounts of time to do this then that's a different basis for scarcity as compared to mineral wealth. Has anyone tried this in an already written setting or a personal game and if so, how did it work out?

27. Re: The value of gold, and a possible rational for why it is so plentiful in D&D

Originally Posted by Arcane_Secrets
Has anyone tried this in an already written setting or a personal game and if so, how did it work out?
I've not heard of such a thing. I do recall the "Runequest" setting having a severe shortage of common metals, so wearing a suit of iron armour marked you out as someone who had a *lot* of money--even there they still used gold and silver for coinage, though.

28. Re: The value of gold, and a possible rational for why it is so plentiful in D&D

Originally Posted by factotum
Not really. Apart from the fact it's attractive when polished, gold has the value it does because of its rarity. I saw a stat once that said you could fit all the gold that's ever been mined in human history into an Olympic sized swimming pool.
Pish tosh. That's patently ridiculous.

Its like four swimming pools.

Spoiler: Math!
we have 190,040 metric tons of gold mined. Density of gold is 19.32g/c3. That works out to 9,836,000 liters. An Olympic swimming pool holds 2,500,000 liters. So the gold will fill 3.9 Olympic-sized swimming pools.

All numbers sourced from Google, and assuming gold is liquid at 20°C.

29. Re: The value of gold, and a possible rational for why it is so plentiful in D&D

Gold's value was not universal, which ended up being an issue for Europe. Europeans valued gold higher and silver less then India and China. This led to nearly all of the silver from the Americas making their way to India and China, and large amounts of gold making their way to Europe. Most European empires were on the silver standard originally and switched to gold in the Eighteenth and Nineteenth Century as silver coins circulated out.

These countries also had a trade imbalance with the region, which meant that not only did they buy gold with silver, but they bought things with silver. This led to a noticeably decreasing amount of coinage in Europe by 1700, Issac Newton as the head of the mint actually wrote about the issue.

Personally I think the prevalence of gold coins in D&D isn't based on Europe, it is based on The Old West. Relatively large amounts of gold and silver flowed through the mid-Nineteenth Century America (including Mexico and the US) due to new mines being discovered. That is also why the towns are full of marts selling expensive items to poor people, D&D is Deadwood and Dragons.

30. Re: The value of gold, and a possible rational for why it is so plentiful in D&D

Originally Posted by factotum
Yeah, agreed. If lead were as rare as Aedilred is saying then we wouldn't have used it all over the place for water pipes, before realising lead poisoning is a thing. I honestly don't know why he has this strange idea that rarity doesn't affect the price of gold--sure, tin was rare in the late Bronze Age, but it still wasn't as scarce as gold was and is.
I mean, I have explicitly said that scarcity is a factor, right there in the first line of my reply, but sure, go ahead and strawman all you like.

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