Friday, October 14, 2016

DragonQuest Economics

The economic rules for a fantasy RPG need to be reasonably sound and I believe should follow historical examples if for no other reason than to make it easy for a GM to research costs for things that the rules do not cover.  It is also important for making the game world feel more real.  If a GM has to make up a price for something on the spur of the moment it is better if the GM has a good framework to work from with prices for a broad range of items.  As DragonQuest includes Merchant skill as well as other income-producing skills it is even more important that the economic rules of the game make sense. This post hits on the topics of currency, income and the costs of goods compared to the middle ages and then looks at the economics of the professional skills in DragonQuest.

Game vs. Real World Currency

The DragonQuest monetary system does line up pretty well with that of England in the middle ages which is convenient for pricing items based on historical values.

English Currency
1 pound (£) = 20 shillings (S)
1 shilling = 12 pence (d)
1 penny = 4 farthings

DragonQuest Currency
1 Truesilver Guinea (tg) = 21 Gold Shillings (gs)
1 Gold Shilling = 12 Silver Pennies (sp)
1 Silver Penny = 4 Copper Farthings (cf)

As it does line up so well with the English currency I have to assume that this was intentional by the DragonQuest designers. The only change needed is to substitute Truesilver Guinea (tg) for Pound (£) and the rest of the DragonQuest currencies map straight across. One could account for the shilling conversion rate difference of 21 gs/tg versus 20 s/£ if desired.

Where prices or incomes are given for the middle ages these numbers come from "Standards of living in the later Middle Ages" by Christopher Dyer.

Costs of Goods in DQ

Sometimes stated in other rule systems is that the prices for items and upkeep given in those rules aren't what the non-adventuring public would pay for the equivalent goods and services. Adventurers presumably end up paying a little more (or maybe a lot more) as they might not be locals or are willing to pay the higher "convenience store" pricing rather than run all over town looking for the best deals. If this is the case for DragonQuest then it really should be made clear for the GM if not for the players or their characters.

The prices given in [81.4] Basic Goods Cost List are somewhat all over the place when compared to the same or similar items from the middle ages. This is not a particular problem as the cost of less expensive basic goods doesn't have a large impact on a characters purse.  Some of the more expensive items that might factor into a player character's schemes do tend to be quite a bit higher than expected.  This might be explained as the tendency to charge adventurers higher prices or as a convenience surcharge for locating  and buying something in very short time.  For comparison, in 14th c. a bishop's coach was purchased for £8 and in Basic Goods List the cost of a carriage is almost 18 tg.  A 15th c. barge for river trade might cost £10 but in DragonQuest it is 90 tg.

Income Levels

From [81.] Monetary Matters we get the general income levels of the populace in the DragonQuest world. It is a shame that the designers didn't go ahead and extend this down a few more levels.

DragonQuest NPC Yearly Gross Incomes
Upper Middle-Class 6000 to 8000 sp 24 to 32 tg
Wealthy 20,000 sp 80 tg
Very Rich 100,000 sp 397 tg
Royalty 250,000 sp 992 tg

The table below shows the net incomes for different occupations in the middle ages.  Their gross incomes could be two to ten times these amounts.  The incomes shown don't account for non-monetary gifts and such that tended to flow from the upper ranks down to their supporters.  The numbers in this table might be used as a guide to the discretionary incomes that might be available to those occupations.  The DQ income levels, by comparison, indicate a poorer but perhaps more egalitarian society.

Net Income (£)
Merchant, lower rank
Lawyer, part-time, local
Knight, lower
Merchant, middle rank
Merchant, top
Lawyer, top
Knight, upper
Earl, lower
Earl, upper
Crown (peace-time)

The DragonQuest rules place suggested [81.] player character income into three categories: Beginning, Successful and Very Successful. These can probably be lined up with their Proficiency Levels of Mercenary, Adventurer and Hero as defined in [86.2].

Player Character Incomes
Beginning (Mercenary) 6000 to 8000 sp 24 to 32 tg
Successful (Adventurer) 50,000 sp 198 tg
Very Successful (Hero) 75,000 sp 298 tg

From [85.3] we get the general upkeep cost for player characters Though not explicitly stated I believe that these numbers are intended to apply only to adventurers. The average citizen of the world gets by on far less.

Life-Style Expenses/Week Expenses/Year Expenses/Year in TG
Subsistence 20 sp 1040 sp 4 tg, 2 gs, 8 sp
Moderate 45 sp 2340 sp 9 tg, 6 gs, 0 sp
Comfortable 65 sp 3380 sp 13 tg, 8 gs, 8 sp
Expensive 100 sp 5200 sp 20 tg, 13 gs, 4 sp
Extravagant 150 sp+ 7800 sp 30 tg, 20 gs, 0 sp

At even an extravagant life-style all but the beginning character will have plenty of income to pay for his other obligations.

Money and Player Characters

It is clear to see from the DragonQuest rules that the creators were concerned about player characters amassing too much wealth. This is apparent from the many costs that characters are expected to pay for their professional skills, training costs, upkeep (food & lodging) and guild membership. As well, section 81. Monetary Matters specifically warns against inflationary spiral and provides guidelines for how much money adventuring characters should amass during their careers.

Skills in DragonQuest

The DragonQuest rules include 14 skills that might be classified as professions or at least skill sets. Some are more focused on adventuring while others are more likely to be used in between adventures.  Most have associated costs for practicing the skill and some describe possible incomes from employing the skills.

Costs of Practicing Skills

The majority of the skills assess a yearly cost for practicing the given profession. This cost is based on Rank for all but four of the skills and can range from 500 sp per year for a Rank 10 Navigator to 5230 sp per year for a Rank 10 Merchant. Beast Masters pay only 150 sp per year for equipment while Alchemists must pay 1000 sp per year to maintain their lab plus 500 sp per year for basic equipment. The yearly costs for Beast Masters and Alchemists are not affected by Rank. Rangers and Healers pay no yearly costs.

As noted previously all but two of the skills have yearly expenses and some explanation is provided as to what these expenses pay for. The explanation for some of them is rather vague and this leads me to believe that the yearly expenses serve two purposes. The first is that of a money-sink for PCs. The second purpose however is more subtle and I wish the game designers had been more direct. I believe the second purpose is a way to say that the characters have the items and equipment they need to perform the various abilities of those skills. Doing this has several benefits. First the designers didn't need to list and price every odd thing that an Alchemist, Astrologer, Mechanician, etc. might require or use. Second it avoids spending valuable game session time dealing with minutiae such as shopping for makeup for disguises or thumbscrews. Third it lessons the load on both the GMs and Players. GMs don't have to make up prices and players don't have to keep track of these items. In theory this allows the GM and players to focus on the story.

Earning Income from Skills

Only four of the professional skills provide guidance for how much income might be produced by practicing those skills. These four skills are Alchemist, Courtesan, Healer and Mechanician. While some skills like Ranger don't readily fall into a work-for-hire classification certainly Beast Master and Troubadour do.
An Astrologer could certainly setup as fortune teller or just do star charts for a small sum.
A Thief makes money by taking the possessions of others and this can't be done without some risk and so shouldn't be reduced to simple formula where Rank X earns X * Y Silver Pennies. A Thief character attempting to make a little money on the side should do so through a regular, or perhaps solo, game session.
A Spy normally performs their services in the pay of a government or perhaps as an agent for some guild or other organization but could also be a private agent for a powerful noble or merchant. Like Thief this is best done during actual game play.

Assassins are similar to Thieves and Spies though if the rules can set a standard fee for Courtesans why not some guidelines for Assassin?

A Navigator on a merchant ship is part of a larger commercial operation whose success is partly tied to his abilities but typical wages could have been provided based perhaps on ship size and/or duration of voyage.

A Military Scientist might lead a mercenary troop but that would involve risk for the character and should be played out in session. They might however be hired as a tutor for a noble's son or daughter and teach them strategy, tactics and military history.

Under [87.5] characters may hire instructors to help them improve their Skills and it follows that a sufficiently ranked character could do the same thing. The fee for an instructor is given as (150 x Rank) Silver Pennies and is the same for all Skills. It isn't clearly stated if this is a fee paid over Rank weeks of the training or as a lump sum for a single week as with weapons under [87.3]. In any case 150 sp in a single week exceeds the incomes the rules provide for all but the Courtesan and would place the fully employed tutor in the ranks of the upper middle-class. Weapon instructors once they are training at Rank 4 and above will earn even more if they can get a sufficient number of students.

Individual Skill Breakdowns

Short breakdown of expenses and income potentials for each skill along with some commentary.

Yearly Expense: 1500 SP
Income: 50 to 75 SP/week

At Rank 3 the Alchemist can earn 50 to 75 sp per week producing Standard Chemicals for the general populace. Not explicitly stated but presumably this is profit after component expenses. Enough to cover the basic equipment and lab maintenance costs but there won't be enough left over to pay for room & board. At least not at the rates charged adventurers. Once at Rank 5 or above they could make some of the more desirable items like medicines, poisons or potions and bump up their income.

The cost to construct a lab is listed at 2500 sp under [50.3]. It isn't explicitly stated that this is for constructing a building from ground up but there is historical precedent from the 14th c. where a craftsman's house cost 2400 pence to build.

Yearly Expense: 500 - 1500 SP
Income: ?

No guidelines are given for the fees that an Assassin might charge for her services.

Assassins pay (500 + [100 x Rank]) Silver Pennies per year for "hush money, accouterments, and implements of destruction." What these accouterments and implements of destruction actually are isn't stated. This is one of the more vague yet all-encompassing descriptions as that would seem to include their weapons and any poisons.

Yearly Expense: 250 - 2250 SP
Income: ?

No guidelines are given for the fees that an Astrologer might charge for his services.

Astrologers have the 3rd highest yearly expenses at (250 + [200 x Rank]) Silver Pennies per year "for astrolabes, oculars, reference works, and the like."

Beast Master
Yearly Expense: 150 SP plus per animal costs
Income: ?

No guidelines are giving for the fees that an Beast Master might charge for his services.

Beast Masters pay a nominal 150 sp/year for equipment. An additional fee is paid per animal when training or domesticating. Building a stable incurs a one time cost to build plus an ongoing yearly maintenance fee but this is offset by reduced upkeep costs for training/domesticating creatures. Building a stable isn't required.

Yearly Expense: 250 - 3750 SP
Income: 26 - 146 SP/night

Courtesans have the second highest yearly expenses behind only Merchants. Their expenses are for "finery and the props of the trade." Buying the latest fashions costs some serious coin.

The fees a Courtesan may charge for their services is outlined in [54.4] and amounts to 146 sp/night at Rank 10. A Rank 10 Courtesan will have expenses of 3750 sp in the course of a year. Assuming that a Courtesan needs to keep up appearances and will have at least an Expensive [85.3] lifestyle the Courtesan will also spend 5200 sp/year for food and lodging. To cover the 8950 sp total expenses she will need provide her services approximately 62 times. A little over once a week. At Rank 4, the living and professional expenses drop to 6850 while earning only 50 sp/night. The Rank 4 Courtesan will need 2.6 engagements per week to cover expenses.
Male Courtesans, Courtiers, will earn slightly less.

Yearly Expense: 0 at all Ranks
Income: no fixed amounts

Healers incur no yearly costs for practicing their art.

A Healer is expected to only charge what their customers can afford for lower Ranked abilities. For Rank 8 and above abilities a Healer may charge 2000 sp or more.

Yearly Expense: 150 - 1650 SP
Income: 25 - 125 SP/day

Curiously one of the lower cost skills. His expenses go to purchase "a tool kit, raw materials, and an area in which to work." Though a relatively low expense this probably includes the rental of a small work space at the lower ranks to a full shop and quarters at the higher end.

A Mechanician may earn between 25 and 125 sp/day producing or supervising the production of mundane domestic items.

The cost to build traps, locks and safes is provided in the rules but no other prices for items that might be produced by Mechanicians are provided.

Yearly Expense: 880 - 5230 SP
Income: ?

Merchants incur the highest expenses for practicing their skill by a significant margin. Merchants have two sets of expenses [57.7](combined above): One to keep up appearances (weekly) and one to purchase assayal reference works (yearly). Keeping up appearances alone is more than all of the other skills but Courtesan.

They are also quite limited in the amount of commerce to which they can apply their skill. Per [57.5] they may affect transactions up to (250 + [50 x Rank Squared]) Silver Pennies per month, or a single transaction of any amount. At Rank 10 this is 5250 SP per month or 63,000 SP per year. In Truesilver Guineas that is 250 TG which is equivalent to £250 in the middle-ages. In 1390 Gilbert Maghfeld, a London merchant of the second rank (so presumably not someone at Rank 10), handled goods worth £1,150. An famous merchant of the period, Richard Whittington, sold £3,475 worth of luxury items to the royal household over two years time. Merchants at the lower end of the scale in the same period probably saw only £100 of commerce. These would fall into the Rank 6 to Rank 7 level. Using Gold Shillings, instead of Silver Pennies, in the formula would bring the maximum transaction levels for Merchants in line with that seen in the middle-ages.

Military Scientist
Yearly Expense: 50 - 550 SP
Income: ?

The second least expensive skill in terms of yearly costs. The Military Scientist expenses are for "texts on strategy and tactics."

There are no income producing abilities described for the Military Scientist.

Yearly Expense: 250 - 500 SP
Income: ?

At Rank 10 the least expensive of those with a Rank based yearly cost. The Navigator spends his money on "the best directional equipment and nautical charts he can use. For campaigns set in the technological equivalent of the late middle-ages the cost probably makes sense. For campaigns using later technology the costs would be significantly higher.

There are no income producing abilities described for Navigators.

Yearly Expense: 0 at all Ranks
Income: ?

Rangers incur no costs in practicing their skills.

Though no value is assigned a Ranger can provide basic Healer functions by collecting curative plants per [60.5].

Yearly Expense: 250 - 1750 SP
Income: ?

The yearly expense for Thieves and Spies [61.9] is stated as maintaining "a proper set of thieving equipment." What equipment isn't explained nor is there any justification for why that equipment would cost more as the Rank increases. Presumably lockpicks as they aren't priced anywhere else in the rules but for that much silver it should also cover a variety of other items as this is a yearly expense.

Any income that might be produced though the thieving arts are left to the GM.

Yearly Expense: 50 - 1050 SP
Income: ?

One of the least expensive skills. A Troubadour spends his money to "supply himself with the props necessary for his trade." Presumably this would cover the costs of any instruments, costumes and makeup used though this isn't made clear.

No guidance is provided as to how much a Troubadour might be expected to earn while performing.


  1. The only quibble, and that is only a quibble, is that England in the middle-ages also had a guinea, different from a pound, but only differing with a penny in value.

    I added a detailed table of the coins used throughout England during the middle-ages in the files (along with weight and dimensions of the coins).

    1. Quite true. For that matter DQ also has another coin. :) I definitely simplified the English monetary system down to just those values commonly used when described the costs of things during that period. Of course the costs and incomes for a medieval culture are way more complex than any RPG would want to model.

  2. I added a spreadsheet to the Downloads page that shows various breakdowns per rank for expenses, training costs and income for the various skills.

  3. What is the other coin used by DQ? I don't recall reading it before.

    1. The Platinum Shilling worth 1.5x that of the Gold Shilling. It's noted under 81.1 along with three other odd coins which I have never used.

  4. I had shared this on the GM's list. I have found C&S to provide helpful aids. The 4th ED rules may be downloaded for free:

    C&S v4 pdfs may be downloaded for free:
    Chivalry & Sorcery 4th Edition - Brittannia Game Designs Ltd | Chivalry & Sorcery |
    Chivalry & Sorcery 4th Edition - Brittannia Game Designs...
    Chivalry & Sorcery 4th Edition - C&S Rebirth Deluxe Set Three years in the making, twenty three years in the developing, this is the complete se
    View on
    Preview by Yahoo

  5. Just found a pertinant link over on ENWORLD that some may find helpful:

    1. That is a good reference and I have a couple of the source books that were used.

      This is the actual source that is referenced in the Enworld post: