Craft, Professions and "making a living"

My question is sort of general- while heroic characters usually get their wages via looting, pillaging and the like, what about the wages earned by regular members of society?

I mean, if the weekly wage is half the check in silver pieces and untrained laborers get 1/2 or 1 sp per day, then how do regular people afford rent, ale and food? A mug of ale is 1/4 sp, which means an assistant to a craftsman can buy 2 mugs for his entire day's wages. And forget about buying a house, or even just a hovel until you've saved everything for 50 days of work. Wealth can be stolen, but it has to be created first.

So here's the my real question- are the wages the real wages or what the character/profession can earn after paying standards like rent, food and other debts? Or do people regularly become slaves because they can't make a living wage? Oh, and taxes are another thing...

sorry for the "real world" question, but i think this is kind of important, especially with how much money professions get. Oh yeah, and if an untrained laborer gets 1/2 or 1 (this rate is found on the Profession skill as 1 sp and under Craft for 1/2 sp). Generally craft and manufacturing jobs pay more then service jobs, especially in the medieval periods.
 
I agree with you that the economics haven't been thought out or are even consistent with the rest of the book. I'd rather the text had been reduced in the skills area in general to just state - earn a poor wage, average wage, good wage, and leave the details of exactly how much out. This also applies to perform. After all Who gives a toss how much. This is Conan RPG not Britney RPG....! I'd rather the saved space have been used for mass combat rules. A core part of the Conan stories. Not table jigging for a few coins.

In defence of the current listings (as we seem to be stuck with them) I suppose common labourers cannot afford to drink nightly in an alehouse plain and simple. The husband, wife and children probably all work and live a miserable existance especially in the Hyborian kingdoms - as noted by conan in the Black stanger and other tales. Selling yourself into slavery would not be an option in most Hyborian kingdoms. Food bought at the market would be much cheaper than a prepared meal in a tavern.
 
A

Anonymous

Guest
What bothers me about the economic system is that copper pieces are cut from the book (instead expressed as fractions of silver), yet are in the stories. Seems strange to me, especially when coppers are on the character sheet!
 
The perform table does list "1d10 cp/day" so they must have changed it from cp to fractions of sp at some point (and forgot to change this table).

The problem I have is with the whole economics thing of RPGs in general. i believe it is far too easy to fall into seeing the Hyborian age as a sword weilding version of our age (with our money dominated economic society). In many of the stories wealth is seen in terms of obligation and duty as well as just coin. People often work for no money but receive shelter, safety, food, and protection, and in turn are part of an extended family system. Medieval retainers and servants fall under this type system, as do serf and peasants. To be "lordless" held social stigma.

In 'civilised' lands the local lord is "father" to 'his' people cf black stranger - Count Valenso and how his people respond to him.

Barbarism is certainly more communistic than capitalistic cf how Conan referes to the feeding of the poor in Cimmeria vs Hyborian lands.

"Now in my country sometimes there are families; but people are hungry only when there's no food in the land at all. But in civilised countries I've seen people sick of gluttony while others were starving. Aye I've seen men fall and die of hunger against the walls of shops and storehouses crammed with food. "

However, I have a feeling that Mongoose are using an Aquilonian money system, ie the sp and its fractions thereof, cf p131. In other nations the minting of cp may be common practice. That's left up to the GM to decide. Personally I don't care as money is not the driving force behind my games. I think it's enough to say, "you earn enough to get by daily while spending your days in Shadizar working as a carpenter while your wounds heal". Rather than attempting to calculate shopping lists and micro manage fatasy budgets.

If this is the case and Mongoose intended the economics to be loose in these areas then they should have made that clear in the text at the appropriate point. [/quote]
 

lalato

Mongoose
Here's a post I made a few months ago to my gaming group's livejournal. I think it's relevant to this discussion. It was spurred by a discussion on the Gather Information skill. It didn't make sense that it would cost so much just to ask a few questions.

Anyway... here's the post...

I've noticed a bit of free-spending in both campaigns set in the Diamond Throne. I think we all need to step back a bit to get a little perspective.

Someone with the craft skill can make half his craft check per week in gold as income. This means that at a bare minimum someone with a single rank in Craft can make about 10gp per week of steady work (Note: this assumes taking 20 on the craft check). Let's take this a little further and assume that most craftsmen have somewhere between 2 and 6 ranks in Craft. That means that they can earn between 11 and 13 gold per week... or 12gp on average. This, of course, assumes that there is steady work available... and that the person is a craftsman of some sort. According to the rules noted in the Craft skill... an unskilled laborer makes about 2sp per day or a little more than 1gp per week.

OK... so we've established that a skilled worker can make about 12gp per week... whereas an unskilled worker can make about 1gp per week.

Now let's look at what it costs to live. According to the pricelists...

One night in poor conditions in an inn costs about 2sp per day. Poor meals cost about 1sp per day. Now let's take a look at the unskilled worker. He probably isn't staying at an inn so his living costs are probably less than the 3sp per day the pricelist would suggest. Let's assume then that unskilled laborers probably spend about 8 sp per week on living expenses. That leaves them with 2 to 6 sp per week depending on if they work 5 or 7 days per week. Let's assume (for the sake of argument again) that the unskilled laborer spends an extra 2 sp per week on other stuff... whether that be Ale or Remedies for a toothache. That means that an unskilled laborer is barely subsisting at about 1gp per week. A hard worker might actually have about 4 sp left over each week for savings. If this hard working laborer saved that money every week he would end up with about 200sp at the end of a year. That comes out to 20gp for a year's worth of hard work 7 days per week without any rest. The reality is probably closer to only being able to save half that so a determined laborer can probably save 10gp in a year.

Imagine this laborers joy when a hapless adventure asks him to deliver a message for him to a friend that lives a mile outside of town. The adventurer offers 1gp. That's an entire week's pay for one afternoon of work. An ENTIRE WEEK for one afternoon. This laborer jumps for joy and takes the job, of course. Who wouldn't? He would be a fool not to.

Now... let's revisit the craftsman. He makes 12gp per week. That's many times more than the laborer. Let's assume for the sake of argument that the craftsmen spends about half his pay on living expenses. That's 6gp per week. Again let's assume that he spends a bit of extra money per week on extras... another 2gp per week. That means that this person can save about 4gp per week. At the end of a year this person could save about 200gp. Again, let's assume that the craftsman can't work every week and that he can only save half that amount... 100gp.

Imagine the craftsman's joy when a hapless adventurer comes in and fails a diplomacy check, and the craftsman can charge triple what he normally charges for his services. Let's say that he's selling silk rope. He charges the hapless adventure 30gp. That means he just cleared an extra 20gp over and above what he normally makes. That's 20% of what he can normally save in an entire year. Wow! This guy should be rich in no time.

I illustrate these points so that we can understand that when someone gives a poor person or even a middle-class person a bit of gold it's a huge thing.

Now... on to the gripe about Gather Information. According to the description it says that gather information requires that the PC spend a few gold "buying drinks, making friends and such"... Remember the value of a gold piece as noted above. How on earth would someone spend that kind of money in an afternoon.

1 gp will buy 25 individual mugs of Ale. 1gp can buy 5 full gallons of Ale. You could open your own bar with just a few gp. How on earth would you be spending that much money to ask a few questions. Sure... everyone is poor, but not everyone answers "How can I find Joe's Tailor shop?" with "How much is it worth to you?"

After that discussion... we decided to base Gather Info on silver instead of gold. Here's another quote that came out of that conversation...

I also think part of the problem is that when we create our characters at an advanced level, like 4th, we end up with so much money to spend that we often find ourselves with an excess of gold at the start of the campaign. It doesn't usually make sense that a character would have that much money. The idea is that the character has that much worth in items... and to a lesser extent gold.

Therefore, I suggest that PCs start with a maximum of 50gp per level in actual money. This amount can be substracted from their equipment wealth. Thus, a 4th level character would have about 200gp in actual money and about 5200gp in item wealth. Those items can be armor, weapons, magic items, commodities and mundane items. If a player finds that he can't spend all of his item money, he gets half of what remains in gold. This means that each player will be forced to really try and spend that money or they'll lose a significant portion of it. A player can choose to start with less actual money than is alloted for his level. That money can go back into the item wealth pool.

The numbers noted above could be changed a bit. For instance if 50gp per level seems too low at high levels... you can use an exponential increase like 15gp x level squared. That would yield a progession like this..

2nd = 15gp x 4 = 60gp
10th = 15gp x 100 = 1500gp
20th = 15gp x 400 = 6000gp

Remember this number is removed from the characters item wealth. The character still needs to spend his item wealth. No matter what you do, at truly high levels the numbers won't really jibe. I mean at 20th level a character is supposed to have 760,000gp in wealth. That's a whole lot of money. 6,000gp doesn't make much of a dent in that, but it addresses at least some of the issues we're having now at low levels.

--sam
 
Very interesting breakdown lalato. You've thought about these issues alot I think. I like your points about the accumulation of wealth. This should be less of a problem in conan rpg though with the rule of high living. An interesting topic though. Wealth can mean power, information, status, slaves, land, property, artifacts, positions of power, marriage agreements, and so much more than hard cash. To gain notice and favours from powerful nobles can also be reward enough.

An adventurer lives his life to better his position in the world. He would rather die than live a life as a craftmans assistant. Even if he aquires the skill to make a bow it is more likely to be to repair and maintain his own weapons than to set up a shop.
 
i knew i'd get the "heroes don't work" answer, but i'm still waiting for something from paul or oldbear.

thanks Ialato for the examples of a gold and silver piece system. i'm thinking a lot of Profession skills is about networking in a community, people bartering labor and services more often then actual coin. people doing favors and a type of honor system. it's the travelers and heroes who get jinked by this type of economy.

i'm somewhat of a pocket economist and philosopher at large, so I'd like to make sure the Profession and Craft skills are believable. it isn't a simple "capitalistic view of fantasy" but rather, i'm interested in the buying power of the merchant class, the labor class, etc. i mean, how likely is a farmer to actually own a horse? how likely is a blacksmith going to be able to afford assistants? how likely is a community to have a random amount of treasure just lying around? these are questions a good barbarian or raider should ask themselves, since the wealth of a land is much more than its verdancy or ability to support crops- it's about the people inhabiting it.

i'm fine with the perform and craft skills in general if such things as "housing and food" is already taken into account of the wages. normallly the boss would provide housing and meals as part of the worker's wages. assuming a job could be found and you weren't just pressed into the local lord's militia because you look "shady."

I agree that heroes are meant to adventure, but i don't think commoners should suffer just to get our heroes into the freebooting life.

oh, another thing. the "Rule of High Living" can be ignored if a character simply says "i'm saving for a house" and keeps upping the house. it's a noble rule, but my players like to micromanage where they spend their wealth. they hate being told how to spend money... which is why i make it hard to acquire wealth in the first place. might be another vicious cycle... :)
 
oh, another thing. the "Rule of High Living" can be ignored if a character simply says "i'm saving for a house" and keeps upping the house. it's a noble rule, but my players like to micromanage where they spend their wealth. they hate being told how to spend money... which is why i make it hard to acquire wealth in the first place.

Goodluck with the house buying and horse trading. I hear the Zamoran house market is on the up at the moment.

I think its a question of we all approach the game somewhat differently and its a fair point that you want accurate details on these issues of microeconomics. After all the book includes them so they should be accurate. Personally i don't give a monkey's. :wink:
 

lalato

Mongoose
Ravager_of_Worlds said:
I'd like to make sure the Profession and Craft skills are believable. it isn't a simple "capitalistic view of fantasy" but rather, i'm interested in the buying power of the merchant class, the labor class, etc. i mean, how likely is a farmer to actually own a horse? how likely is a blacksmith going to be able to afford assistants? how likely is a community to have a random amount of treasure just lying around? these are questions a good barbarian or raider should ask themselves, since the wealth of a land is much more than its verdancy or ability to support crops- it's about the people inhabiting it.

The buying power of laborers has been traditionally low, unless the laborers banded together. In my previous post, I noted that laborers would be barely subsisting in a d20 economy. I didn't take into account what might happen if the laborers were sharing resources. There are political ramifications to that, of course. An economically viable laboring class can be a threat to monarchies and empires. That's why nobles tend to beat down peasant revolts. If the peasants win, the privileged class loses.

The merchant class can have immense buying power. Guilds are often formed to leverage this power. Eventually, Free Cities might form around this too. Particularly powerful merchants can become de facto nobility. The Medicis come to mind. It all depends on how strong the nobility is in the region. If the nobility is strong, then they probably control much of the trade in the region, too. If not, trade might be controlled by other groups... some of them "underground."

Merchants differ from craftspeople, however. One had to pay a craftsman to apprentice their child to him/her. That meant that a craftsman probably had no shortage of "laborers"... many of these laborers were aprrentices learning the craft under the tutelage of a craftsman. You might also infer that some craftsman basically ran sweatshops. It's nice when someone actually pays you to hire on an apprentice... erhm... indentured servant.... erhm... slave.

Farmers are a bit different. One way to look at it is that farmers might "inherit" a lot of their wealth in the form of livestock. They also gain some wealth in the form of sweat. A father might give his son a water buffalo when the son strikes out on his own to clear a patch of forest for farming. Neighbors might give a little sweat equity by helping a farmer build a barn or house. The farmer will return the favor when another neighbor needs a barn raised.

I'm not sure if there is a way to quantify any of the above with actual rules. One thing you could try is adding Reputation (as in d20 Modern) to your PCs and NPCs. This might be a way for craftspeople and laborers to get "favors". Favors can be things ranging from pricing discounts... to access to the local nobility.

I'm just throwing something up to see if it sticks.... so treat me kindly if my comments seem obtuse.

--sam
 
not obtuse to me Ialato. i think these are all historically valid explanations and i encourage discussions of the sort. You're going on my "thoughtful opinion list" for these forums.

and i agree with several of your points, which leads me back to the original question. I don't want to change something in the book if I don't have to, not if I can get the reasoning behind such normal wages.

Gordon the Pict- how did you know i'm a Zamoran real estate agent? the view certainly is nice here.


In general- i was surprised that Paul and Ian were nice enough to give a decent house cost and price- to set a standard in the game. I'm just trying to figure out if the Craft and Profession skills are worth their weight. In general, most commoners wouldn't live past 3rd or 4th level as NPCs, so if they get a +5 profession check, then that should be able to support themselves/family in some way.

Essentially, i'm wondering if these skills are just straight profit/disposable with services such as room and board part of it. I know it isn't heroic or very Conan-ish to wonder about these things, but I try to provide as believable a game to my players. And I lament the loss of copper pieces, which shows so often in the books.

-Thanks to the people who responded to this thread, your opinion is valued and informational. I'm still at a loss as to whether I should just accept the printed text "as-is" without any other assumptions about wages and treat it as Gross Pay.
 

lalato

Mongoose
I'm still at a loss as to whether I should just accept the printed text "as-is" without any other assumptions about wages and treat it as Gross Pay.

I would treat it as gross pay for the reasons I noted. Beyond that, most NPC wealth is going to be in the form of items, baubles, tools, not monetary wealth.

For example... a village blacksmith might have a little bit of money, but the true prize will be his anvil. That thing weighs a ton, and is worth quite a bit. The amount of metal required to create an anvil isn't easy to come by in a remote village. It would be the smith's prize possession. Without he couldn't make anything.

Another example... the merchant that runs one of the caravans through the desert may not have a lot of actual money either. His wealth will likely be tied up in possessions. It could be inventory, it could be things he picked up in far off lands... it could be slaves. That's not to say that if you visit the merchant in his home he won't have some form of monetary stash, but there are things worth more than their weight in gold.

--sam
 
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