Athas Economy Building Preliminary Findings

Redking here: I need to preface this by saying that I have no idea where this came from; it is a lost work by someone on the internet, and I found it on my cloud drive. Hopefully this work can be preserved here.

Athas Economy Building

Preliminary Findings

Introductory Comments

Creating a logical economy that is centered around trade and daily living rather than players has been something I have always aspired to. It makes the world feel more ‘real’ and less like a loot piñata with money sinks that don’t ‘fit’ with the rest of society. Why is it that peasants make only a few copper a year, but to buy a cart is 20 gold?

This document is to present my preliminary delve into the economy of Athas that I am developing for my game. It is a work in progress, but I want to present it here in case others find it useful. I will re-post a ‘finished’ version eventually.

Starting Assumptions:

In my game the base currency is a bit rather than a ceramic. This is done to keep beads relevant and keep the economy from bloating. A full ceramic should feel like a lot of money and a bead should still be a viable marketplace currency.

Athasian coinage is counted in lead beads, bits, and ceramic pieces. 10 beads = 1 bit and 10 bits = 1 ceramic. Generally in this file prices are listed in bits. If something is listed as a decimal place of a bit, then it is in beads. For example: 1.5 bits would be 1 bit and 5 beads or 15 beads. 30.8 would be 3 ceramic and 8 beads OR 30 bits and 8 beads. As a sidebar, my form of speaking this in game is “thirty bit eight.”

The easiest place to start for me was in daily living. I set out the cost of food, and base needs and worked backwards to determine wages. Then tweaked the numbers so that our wages feel ‘right’. These wages act as a ‘check’ going forward when determining if my math and theory-crafting created a fair price. If I create a finished good that a commoner should be able to afford, but they cannot, then I need to reevaluate the factors that went into making that item such as base material cost. (I will dive into an example of that later)


Wages in Bits:

Tier Day Week Month Detail
Commoner - Impoverished 0.5 2.5 12.5 Unskilled laborer, peddlers. An impoverished commoner likely lives in a cramped dwelling with many others. Food is basic, farro bread, beans, and occasional meat. They live better than the worst-off slaves, but not as well as talented or well cared for slaves.
Commoner - Modest 1.5 7.5 37.5 Common Laborer, soldiers (commoner-modest): This commoner can afford daily needs, have modest housing, and drink out on a regular basis. They do not have a frivolous life, but are not having to rub bits together to feed their families. They can afford small luxuries on special occasions.
Comfortable Citizen 2.5 12.5 62.5 Skilled laborers, merchants, tradespeople, military officers (comfortable)
Successful Citizen 3 15 75 Expert craftsman, business owners, successful merchants. (Templars?)
Even more successful citizen 5 25 125 High End Special labor (specialist master craftsmen), Highly successful merchants, a favored servant of the royalty, or the owner of a few small businesses, (Higher ranking templars?)
Sidebar: Caravan Mercenary, Mid range wages for reputable mercs 2 10 40 Mercs are given food and water on caravan travel days. This is considered part of their fair wages, though the quality of food will vary from caravan to caravan. Mercs are also free to loot and keep from whatever attacks the caravan, though animals killed may be butchered for the caravan. - Bonus can be given for exceptional work, scouting, and loyalty. – This is listed as the standard wage for players joining as caravan mercs.

Of note:

  • If you want your world and wages to feel more desperate, just lower the wages accordingly.
  • These wages obviously do not account for villagers, pirates, and other desert dwelling folk who live outside the cities and forts.
  • Citizens of a city are granted a ration of water per household per day. Attempts to take advantage of this or cheat the system result in severe punishment. (death or being enslaved)
  • Bonuses come in various forms. A citizen who works at a mill may be given a weekly bonus as a ration of flour in addition to their pay. This makes nailing down actual wages somewhat less exact.

Cost of Living for Commoners:

If the most impoverished commoner is able to earn only 5 beads a day, he still must survive. So how?

In the city states we assume that a water ration is free to citizens. Good way to keep the populace in control. The cheapest food is farro needles (ground into four) and broy beans.

So let’s make some assumptions:

  • 1lb of farro flour → 1bead (1cp (2e))
  • 1lb of flour = 1 loaf of bread.
  • Assumption: 1lb loaf has ~ 1300 calories.
  • Meaning that each citizen needs at minimum 1 loaf per day (plus other sources of calories)
  • If 1 loaf made from scratch is ~1 bead. The commoner also needs to afford a loaf for his child or meat and broy bean to supplement this meager diet. There is also rent, taxes, clothes, ect.
  • Weekly food cost for 2 (assuming a commoner is supporting at least one other, child, elder, spouse, ect)
  • 6 days x 3 beads per day (1.5 loaves per person) → 1.8 bits. In food.
  • Wages are 2.5 per week which leaves this commoner 7 beads to use for additional food, rent, clothes, and supporting any habits.
  • This impoverished commoner feels the pressure of poverty at every turn.

With these same assumptions a modest commoner would have 5.5 bits left at the end of the week… but probably not… they would likely buy better food, some meat, and live in a better dwelling. They might also go out for a drink once or twice a week.

That math worked out nicely. Huzzah! (but that was not magic, I designed wages backwards from the cost of farro flour… this is just showing how it works in practice)

Cost of Living for Players:

Players usually don’t have an apartment, pay rent, bake their own bread, etc. They likely stay in taverns, eat out, and drink up.

Here is how the prices work out for them.

Let’s assume water to foreigners and visitors to a city is 2 bits per gallon. Food at an inn is going to be better than bread from farro and broy bean, plus there is a markup for food for the food prep, cost of keeping the tavern space, staff, bribes, cleanup, cups, overhead, etc.

Without going into all the breakdown I figured the cheapest meal (slop made from broy bean and farro needles would cost 0.1b per meal (1bead). Chances are this is ‘slave food’ and no tavern keeper in their right mind would serve it. So let’s assume they add meat and some other ‘real’ food to the mix. I end up with meal prices like this:

Meal Cost per meal Description
Cheap Slop (not readily available everywhere) 0.1 This food does not go beyond function. Most places will not serve slop this cheap as it is seen as food only fit for slaves. Though villages that are in a bad way may subsist on farro and broy bean if necessary. - Farro Needle and Broy Bean Stew (no meat)
Quick Street Food 0.3 You never know what you are going to get. Street food tends to be flavorful and of the same quality as ‘tavern food’ though the portions will be smaller and no one is giving you table service. - Snake on a stick // most anything on a stick.
Common Tavern Food 0.5 Simple foods, minimal spices used. - A simple yet flavorful stew with meat // Roasted meat with a chunk of bread, oil, and cheap pickled veggies.
Very Fine Fare (not always available) Listed price reflects a low end meal in this range. Prices can quickly go up to 10 or more bits. 1 Food items used will be more exotic or cooked with better spices. Breads will be made with wheat rather than farro. Cheeses are more likely to be seen.

A tavern needs to cover the cost of rooms and staff whether the rooms are full or not. Chances are that the workers are family and pool resources, but the same basic wage/cost of living assumptions apply.

Once again, without diving into my background maths, these are the basics of inns that I came up with.

Room Average Cost Per Night Stay (range) YMMV Description
Poor (only found in cities). At forts folks who might stay in ‘poor’ rooms typically camp out rather than stay at an inn. Prevents vagrancy. 0.2 Hostel style or unlocked rooms. Little bedding, rooms are likely to be unclean and poorly ventilated.
Common 0.8 – 1.2 Decent but small private quarters with simple locks.
Good 1.2 - 2 Clean rooms with much more space and more effective locks. Rooms will be well ventilated.

Obviously, costs can have some swing, if a group is staying for a while or is spending a lot of drinks then they can probably get a deal on a room depending on if the inn is busy or other economical pressures.

Cost to the intrepid mercenary:

  • 1 bit per day of water, assuming ½ gallon of water need.
    (sucks to not be a citizen don’t it?)
  • 1.5 bits in meals eating out. (Assuming the tavern doesn’t give you a deal on food when you rent a room)
  • 1 bit per day in drinks. (Because you know they will be drinking, I have drink costs laid out, but they still need to be normalized)
  • 0.8 bit per day for a room. (let’s assume he gets a decent rate for staying at the same place for a while)

This runs the player roughly 4.3 bits total per day.

That seems like a lot. So let’s look at the life of a caravan mercenary.

A stent with a caravan from Gulg to Balic: This is a 20 day trip. The merc gets paid 2 bits a day and has food and water provided. He arrives in Balic with at least 40 bits, plus any bonuses or random loot he got off of bandits that attacked the caravan. Let’s assume he did well and earned at least 5 bits in bonuses. He has 45 bits, plus any oddities to sell. This is more than the yearly wage of a common laborer, but the non-citizen mercenary has more expenses. He can now lounge around and drink for 10 days before he has to do anything with his time. (Assuming he does not need to buy new gear) He deserves this. After all he was risking his life for the past several weeks.

So the intrepid mercenary spends 2/3 of his time risking his life for a caravan and 1/3 his time dicking around in bars. Feels about right to me.

Crops and Starting Points of Items Pricing

Let’s go back to the cost of farro flour for a bit. In breaking down those prices we can see what other crops should cost. From that we can derive the cost of other base items that come from hemp, cotton, and linen.

Athas is a slave-based economy, so one of the base factors to price crops is slave upkeep.

At a bare minimum, slaves will cost 3 beads a day in food/water/sheltering to keep alive. But you also need to account for guards. Let’s assume a single taskmaster can keep 10 to 20 slaves in line and makes a modest wage. So that’s 3 bits a day in slave cost (10 slaves) plus 1.5 for your junior taskmaster. Costing you 4.5 bits a day to manage and work 10 slaves. Not too bad…

Side note: Historically speaking a taskmaster or ‘driver’ would often be a slave and would be in charge of 20 slaves. I am basing my assumption that on Athas slaves need a bit more supervision.

Regardless, if you are a noble and own land. 4 of the slaves are going to need to turn the water screw to bring up water to your crops. The other 6 will water and tend crops (and rotate out with the screw turners as needed).

For simplicity sake, let’s assume farro yields the same as wheat.

“In the grain-growing area of north Africa (centered on the ancient city of Carthage, a family of six people needed to cultivate 12 iugera/ 3 hectares of land to meet minimum food requirements (without animals).[19] If a family owned animals to help cultivate land, then 20 iugera was needed. More land would be required to meet subsistence levels if the family farmed as sharecroppers. In Africa Proconsularis in the 2nd century AD, one-third of the total crop went to the landowner as rent[19] (See Lex Manciana).” (Wikipedia)

“Average wheat yields per year in the 3rd decade of the century, sowing 135 kg/ha of seed, were around 1,200 kg/ha in Italy and Sicily, 1,710 kg/ha in Egypt, 269 kg/ha in Cyrenaica, Tunisia at 400 kg/ha, and Algeria at 540 kg/ha, Greece at 620 kg/ha.[22] This makes the Mediterranean very difficult to average over all.” (Wikipedia)

Note: 65 hectares = 160 acres = 0.25 square miles

Family farming: There are various notes on the amount of persons needed to cultivate land. A family of 6 with animals could cultivate ~6 hectares of land. Keep in mind in this family there would be children and elderly and that these crops would require planting, tilling, ect. Other sources indicate a peasant family could maintain 20-40 acres depending on the crop. (two adults plus children/elderly).

But this is Athas and these are slaves. In this historical sense, slaves are cited as being at a ratio of 1 slave to 30 acres. This acreage included acreage left fallow and other non-farmable parts of an estate. It also does not include the massive amount of time slaves on Athas would spend watering crops by hand. So let’s adjust that to 1 slave per 10 acres. This is a large amount of land. Think of an acre as a football field minus the endzones and sidelines. You are a slave and you have a bucket and you need to water, tend, and harvest 10 football fields worth of crops. Good luck.

But back to our crops, lucky for us farro is a tree. It needs less active tending and does not rely on reseeding. Irrigation would occupy a great deal more time though. So for my model I simplify this and just call it an even labor ratio of 1:10. I can always tease out those details later. Chances are the numbers will wash out in the end.

Let’s also assume we have 160 acres of farro trees.

  • 160 acres of wheat (by mid end historical Mediterranean standards) yields 1,000 lbs per acre.
  • 160,000 lbs of Farro produced a year.
  • The consumer price of farro flour is 0.1b per lb, but trade and processing will take a great deal of this cost. In a modern sense there is generally a 30% markup anytime a good changes hands. So let’s assume we sell the farro to a merchant at 0.06b per lb.
  • The total crop value is now 9,600.
  • To tend 160 acres we need 16 slaves. These slaves would need 1 to 2 taskmasters. Let’s call it two to be safe. This means your labor cost per 375 day Athasian year is 4,500b.

This means your annual profit on farro needles is 5,100. (13b a day)

Of course, this does not account for having to buy tools, pax taxes on the land, purchase new slaves, and other aspects of farm maintenance… but the basic idea is sound.

Besides, you don’t grow farro to feel the populous on bland flour. You do it for the farro fruit!

So let’s talk fruit…

Pear and apple trees produce 90 lbs of fruit per year. 81 trees can be planted in an acre. So 7,290lbs of fruit per acre. This is less than orange trees mind you that produce ~300 oranges per tree). For my example, I am going with a lower yield amount since this is Athas. Let’s say you get only 5,000lbs of fruit per acre once every three years.

So let’s look at the same field:

  • Let’s assume a moderate yield (this is Athas after all) 5,000lbs per acre
  • Our plantation is 160 acres
  • 420,000 lbs of farro fruit once every 3years
  • Fruit sells at the market for 0.2bits/lb, so we can sell it to merchants for 0.12b/lb.
  • 96,000 b profit on a fruit year (32,000 over 3 years, 85b/d over three years)
  • Cost of labor maintenance is already covered by our farro wheat.

In short with the final two models of a 160 acre farro field maintained by 16 slaves we get a profit of 99 bits per day. (needles plus fruit averaged over three years; two non-fruit and one fruit year)

Let’s be honest, these seems incredibly high. What the heck in that noble going to spend that money on?

First. Crop taxes.

Let’s be honest, taxes on city citizens are a drop in the bucket and will not pay the salaries of all the guards, salaries of the templars, maintenance of the city, and the king’s works. So, you tax the merchants and nobility. So, let us assume that 50% of the crops are considered ‘the kings’ and the sale of these crops is taxed as such. Why 50%? It seems reasonable and it is a nice round number. (This means your ~103b earnings before labor costs are taxed at 50%)


The population of Tyr is ~ 15,000. This means we can estimate that the city of Tyr consumes 5,625,000 lbs of farro per year. This means at least 35 farms (9 square miles) of our example estate must exist and be dedicated to farro for human consumption. (and must never had a ‘bad season’.) For simplicity I will do some rounding. Each farm gains 100b per day. If 50b of that is taxed then the City of Tyr gains 1,750b per day from the 35 farms. That is enough to pay the salaries of 876 two bit per day guards. Of course, you also need to pay officers, templars, the army, and pay for the civic labor that keeps the city running and keeps filth off the streets. Not to mention keep the king and his household living at the standards they expect.

See how quickly that 50% crop tax feels ‘normal’.

So now we have a noble with 40b per day in ‘profit’. (this is down from 50 as the king’s cut comes before labor costs) Well, he still needs to have slaves to run other parts of his estate, tools for the farm, purchase of new slaves, upkeep on his property, fine food and wine, maintaining a fish pond, silk sheets, money for gladiators, money to pay for their sister’s party, a new ‘in style’ silk dress for the wife, presents for the wedding of the daughter of the merchant they do the most business with, psionic tutors for the kids, other business ventures to dodge the crop tax, bribes, ect.

I mean, being a noble is not cheap.

So now let’s look a free Tyr.

In free Tyr there are no more slaves so you have to pay out for staff. Chances are free workers will not work the constant hours of a slave so you need more staff to do the same amount of work. So rather than 16 slaves, you need 25 (or more). But let’s assume 25. Let’s also assume they want an honest day’s pay. Farming is hard labor after all. So, you now have 25 laborers who get paid 1.5b per day rather than 16 who cost you 0.3. Now your estate profits only 2.5 b per day; 40 (crops) -37.5 (labor). This has to cover tools and any other overhead costs, plus the ‘manager’s’ salary to the noble (Assuming the noble is still running things).

But here is the other issue. The farm doesn’t really make 40b per day profit. That’s an abstraction that includes the profit of ‘fruit’ years. The actual gain per day (minus fruit) is only 12.8 bits after taxes. Not nearly enough to pay any workers on a routine basis. This means the money must be managed in a meaningful way over the span of three years to ensure workers can get paid (at a loss) during non-fruit years. This is a major gamble. Most folks in their right mind would not run a business at a loss for two years on Athas.

To put another perspective on this, let’s look at another base staple, broy beans. I have the math on my spreadsheet so I won’t break it down here. But the same 160 acre farm dedicated to broy beans runs at a profit of roughly 30b per day after taxes. Labor costs alone are now 37.5b per day on a farm that only makes 30b.

You can now see why Athas relies on a slave economy and why the situation in Tyr leaves many skeptical. Of course things could change, the price of food could increase to compensate the wages, but then all wages would need to increase to cover the cost of food. The king’s taxes could go down, but in our example above you see that there would need to be no crop tax at all for the broy bean farm to break even. This means the core source of military and templar salaries would be dissolved, or taken from somewhere else. If you tax the merchants too much then they will take their trade elsewhere. Chances are they are already being taxed heavily anyway as we saw that our Tyrian estate example did not produce near enough ‘crop taxes’ to support running the city.

This is meant to illustrate the complexities of Tyr becoming a free city, and why other city states are skeptical of it or afraid of it.

Well, that was fun. But what about actual items and equipment that the party may want to buy?

Determining the Cost of Items:

Pricing Silk:

AKA: Letting Go of prices, and determining where to pick your battles.

Before I go into the price of practical goods I think that silk should be discussed. It is an excellent example of the need to revise the prices of finished goods.

In the Dune Trader in page 73 the cost of raw silk is listed as 4sp/oz. Only 3 lines above this price is silk rope. Silk rope is listed at 1sp per 50 feet. 50 feet of silk rope is 5lbs or 80oz.

Let that sink in. Re-read it a few times if you need to.

So, we need to let the price of silk rope meet the raw goods, meaning silk rope really costs 320sp (rather than 1) OR we need to adjust the price of raw silk. (or both)

I chose to adjust both (and use the bit standard). Silk rope is now 5bit/ft or 50bits for a standard 50 ft rope. Using my crafting cost tables and assuming the time needed to craft silk rope and other ropes are equal, then raw silk should be closer to 40b per/5lb or (8b/lb) or 0.5 per oz. This still keeps silk a high value material but also makes silk products reasonably affordable for high end tiers of society or the intrepid and ceramic burdened adventurers.

In silk weaving a fast weaver can make 10 yards in a day on a very simple weave, but complex weaves may only be a few inches a day (100 days) . We could split the difference, or list both prices. If both are assumed, we are looking at a price between 13 and 300 bits. But this assumes your most skilled crafters are making the most basic weave. Likely an apprentice weaver would be doing simple weaves so that the master crafters could do finer work. This means simple weaves would take longer to make, say 3 days instead of 1.

With that math, 10 yards of simple silk fabric would cost around 19 bits and the more exclusive fabrics would remain elitely expensive.

Now to make that into clothes.

Historically speaking the width of fabric was set by loom width, which was typically how far the weaver could reach and manipulate the shuttle. Extant warp weighted looms vary in width but 60” to 90” was common. This of course complicates determining ‘yardage’. In modern terms when we say we need x yards of fabric, we mean we need a length of fabric that is x yards long. Modern fabric is typically sold in 45” and 60” widths.

So what does this mean for our silk weavers.

If a garment is thought to need 3 yards of fabric, this is not the same as 3 sq yards per our convenient trade prices. 3 yards of fabric is actually 3x1.6 or roughly 5 sq yards of fabric. This is good news because the math stays easy. You can get a nice long tunic out of three yards (length)/ 5 yards sq, so let’s roll with that.

Assuming with this simple silk, we are making a simple garment that takes 3 days to craft then we end up with a price of roughly 20bits per garment.

That feels nice and tidy. Expensive, but not bloated.

Oh wait… we forgot to dye the darn fabric. Or embellish the garment…

Back to the drawing board…

In cases like these I can approach it two ways. Ignore it and move on or do some post adjustments. A silk garment is a fine thing, of course it is going to be embellished. Easy fix, tack on more work hours, a couple more days will do. Oh, and add some beads. Easy add, just a few bead priced beads (not confusing). As for dye, chances are the more inexpensive dyes that would be used on this garment would add a fairly nominal price increase to the cost of the fabric. Also, easy fix.

After some fussing and the application of logic, the price comes out to around 30 bits. Oooh, fancy.

Now let’s check our perspective. If a common laborer earns around 37 bits per year… holy cow there is no way he could afford that. No worries though, commoners don’t need silk garments embellished with beads. A skilled laborer makes 67b per year… so, not going to afford that either.

So now you ask yourself. In your economy do you want this garment to be only affordable by nobles? Right now, it is definitely something only for nobles and wealthy merchants. Then again, I think about my take home pay and the price of a car. I guess it all gets relative.

We could lower the price of raw silk again, thus making silk rope more affordable and simple silk garments affordable to upper class merchants (and not just nobility). But since we have a ‘decentish’ base, I’ll hold off on tweaking further for now. This is not my final draft but merely the starter theory-crafting.

Bonus Commentary: Pricing a Dagger

Crops and silk tunics may make good examples, but for a more practical perspective let’s craft a simple dagger.

A bone dagger would probably as simple and low in cost as you could get. So we’ll start with that.

The piece of bone needed for a dagger would not need to be very large. A human femur would do. And such a bone could probably be acquired cheaply, say from the gladiatorial pits. Let’s say it only costs 0.2b (2 beads) The time to craft said dagger I’m estimating at a day, ~8 hours. Though it is unlikely that anyone on Athas respects the 8 hour workday I have to tie wages to hours of crafting time in some way. It’s a loose abstraction. Regardless, you cannot craft an item and then instantly sell it the moment of its creation. There is always downtime in the market, time to obtain your materials, and overhead. So I count that as an additional 0.75 of the crafting time. (once again, an abstraction) This means the dagger would cost the base materials 0.2b and the cost of ‘wages’ for 1.75 days. This means in the end the cheap bone dagger should run around 3 bits.

A nicer dagger, such as an obsidian dagger with a wooden or bone handle would be more. The amount of wood or bone needed for the handle and sinew to bind it would likely be nominal. We’ll call it at a bead. (0.1). The price of obsidian is listed at 5cp/lb in Dune Trader. I have not evaluated and normalized that price like I have the silk. For now, I will only drop it to bits and take it at face value otherwise. A dagger is listed at 1lb. Obsidian weighs less, but you would still need a larger chunk to carve the dagger from. So let’s still assume the 1lb cost for obsidian. This means the base materials are now 5.1 (5 bits 1 bead). Assuming it still only takes 1 day to craft the final dagger cost would be around 8 bits. That feels about right to me. Something affordable, but nice.

Now you just have to do this for each base material and item in the game.

Or you can just wait til I do it and post the files online in a few months. :wink:

Final Comments: Tribal Cultures

I think I said it before in a post that tribes throw an odd wrench into the economy. As an oversimplification, they are hunter/gatherer collectives that produce goods and live off the land to a degree. Sure, they rely on the dune trader and/or raids, but they don’t fit into the wage-based models.

In some ways this is nice, they add some freedoms to pricing. Leather, beads, rare ritual components, relics, and other goods enter the economy without a ‘wage’ model. I have not yet delved into this in detail in my files, but this does allow for some flexibility in price normalization.

Here is a copy of the file.


What a nice piece of work. My head is still spinning… I hope whoever it was can be found so they can be congratulated…


Wow, this is very interesting. And while it is an interesting process, not sure if it’s very useful unless someone wants to go through and calculate every line item in the Athasian food/goods/services charts to normalize them.


Why do you think everything is priced in bits?

To me seems ceramics would make more sense, and fractions would effectively be bits.

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He said, “In my game the base currency is a bit rather than a ceramic. This is done to keep beads relevant and keep the economy from bloating. A full ceramic should feel like a lot of money and a bead should still be a viable marketplace currency.”


I’m tired of the various overheads created by the metal shortage. I wrote in another thread “ceramic pieces are still used, but have the face value of a metal coin (and are hypothetically redeemable - but only for a money changing fee)”.

Making the basic framework the same as the other settings, but having ceramic pieces with the face value of a metal coin such as gold or silver is pretty cool in my opinion. It puts the Sorcerer Monarchs of Athas centuries ahead of the counterpart governments of other worlds.


This is very cool. One reason to think this through is that if you don’t figure out these relations properly you can essentially create infinite money glitches where players can figure out errors in the pricing tables that can be widely exploited.

Many of the prices in the players handbook had reasonable relations to each other which makes me think they were probably based on something historical.

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Indeed. When you think about it, the Ceramic Piece is nothing more than fiat currency - like most modern day Earth currencies. I mean in theory the Sorceror Monarchs will have a stockpile of precious metals backing the ceramic up, but you can’t go to the Templar Finance Bureau and exchange your ceramic piece for a copper piece (or silver, or gold).


I’d suggest that you could, but there would be a money changing fee, which would be incredibly profitable for the Sorcerer Monarch. There is historical precedent.

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I agree with this. The key for a monetary system like the one described in the official materials is that you have someone credibly converting the money. In many fantasy worlds this makes very little sense, but Dark Sun is actually a world where it makes exceptionally strong sense because you have authoritarian states.

If the Sorcerer Kings understood it to enable commerce (which it obviously would), then it even makes sense that they’d all support a common standard of converting ceramics to silver at 10:1 and gold to silver at 10:1 + a money changing fee.

I know some people think this is an unrealistic simplification that is made for gaming purposes. I think this insight is almost totally 180 degrees wrong. It misses the key point that the reason it’s a simplification for gaming purposes is exactly the reason that it’s also a preferred simplification for real world commerce whenever you’re able to use a currency that has credible convertibility/stability.

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On Athas there is always demand for the ceramic coins produced by the Sorcerer Monarch. If you are a tax paying freeman, nobleman or merchant, then you must have the official ceramic coin currency to pay your taxes. If you don’t have the ceramic coins, then you must go to a money changer and change your gold or silver into the ceramic coins of the city-state, which means paying a fee. This means that for every transaction, ceramic coins are the preferred means of payment, because there is always built-in demand for ceramic coins to pay taxes.