Thursday, April 11, 2013

Currency In Ur-Hadad

Another day, another letter. Today, in looking at the letter "C," I'll be touching on a long-standing point of contention in the Metal Gods of Ur-Hadad campaign as well as what I see as a fairly solid answer to the 2KCP problem. 

Currency. Coin. Cash. 

Some say it makes the world go around. Others call it the lifesblood of human discourse. Master Guang-Yuan Jo swears that, for enough of it, he can impart the secrets of the universe, but only after he's had enough to drink (the only time the offer stands). 

Ur-Hadad has seen innumerable empires before the Rise of Man. Elves, lizardmen, serpent men and older, stranger empires have ruled the world from within her walls. As each empire rose and fell, each brought with them their own forms of currency, whether coins, rare shells, metal-laced scales or even paper money; many of these forms of currency still circulate in the streets and markets of Ur-Hadad, but most have been replaced by the common currency of the modern era. Modern era coinage is largely separated by those who primarily use it: high coinage is issued by and to the ruling class of nobles, while vulgar currency is issued by the municipal authorities to the middle and lower classes. In many ways, the coinage one uses in Ur-Hadad is a statement of social class.

Vulgar & High Currency

Vulgar currency, the currency of the streets and markets of Ur-Hadad, is largely uncontrolled. Minted through relatively lax processes, with remarkably simple markings, these coins make their way into the hands of most residents of the First City. The coins (and their value) of the vulgar currency are as follows:
  • Bits - Usually a silver coin, the bit is the standard unit of value in Ur-Hadad. Equal to a gold piece in most settings and rules, the bit effectively establishes a silver standard in Ur-Hadad, although some issuances of the bit have been gold or electrum, or even a gilt-edged silver. 
  • Chits - Normally a copper coin, 100 chits equal one bit, but it can be difficult for most residents of Ur-Hadad to count that high, making money changers even more important. Most daily commerce is done in bits and chits. One chit is equivalent to 1 copper piece in most other settings. 
  • Bobs - A bronze coin, the bob is a relatively uncommon median currency between the chit and the bit, worth 20 chits or one-fifth of a bit. While this coin has no direct analog in normal FRP currencies, it takes on the role of both the sp and the ep, being a half-measure between both (using traditional 1e values for the ep of 2 ep = 1 gp and not the higher DCC value); 2 sp = 1 bob while 1 bob = 2/5 of (a traditional 1e) ep.
  • Crowns - A golden coin, the name of the "crown" is actually ironic: it is called the "crown" because it is most often used by commoners to pay fines and fees (and bribes) to government officials who, even more ironically, believe that the name is given out of respect. The highest denomination of the vulgar currency issued in the First City, the crown is worth twenty bits and is only suitable for large transactions. For currency conversion purposes, count 2 pp as 1 crown. 
  • 1 crown = 20 bits = 100 bobs = 2000 chits*
  • 1 chit = 1/20 bob = 1/100 bit = 1/2000 crown
The high currency is very similar in denomination, but of a far higher caliber of craftsmanship. Each coin is embossed with the name of the noble house which issued it (there are currently five noble houses minting coins within the city proper), the year issued and often the likeness of a member of the family being honored with the issuance of that particular coin. Not all coins are minted every year by every family, and often families choose to mint new coins to celebrate events important to the nobles. The one exception to this rule is the high currency equivalent to the chit -- the son (or daughter, depending on who's on it) -- which by law must be issued every year. Since this is the lowest value coin in noble circulation, the son isn't always an honor and sometimes a low-quality likeness may be used as a form of mockery. 

High currency may be obtained at certain money changers in higher-class portions of the city at a considerable commission. Use of high currency in such quarters is considered standard, and paying with vulgar currency may impose a penalty of up to -2 to Personality or Charisma-based checks. By the same token, using high currency outside of the upper class areas of Ur-Hadad may impart up to a +2 bonus to similar checks, depending on circumstance (and whether the payee would be suitably impressed). High currency includes:
  • Son (or Daughter) - Equivalent to the chit, the son (or daughter) is the smallest unit of high currency issued and is roughly equal to one standard copper piece. Every noble house issuing coinage is mandated to issue sons every year; the Grand Vizier believes that this policy ensures a connection between the common classes and the nobility, but in effect merely allows the nobility one more venue for in-fighting and political back-biting. Due to the often mocking likenesses found on sons, Hadadi nobles often describe something beneath contempt as being "not worth a copper son."
  • Heir - A silver coin often bound in a gold rim, the heir is the equivalent of a bit and is the standard unit of currency among the upper class Hadadi. Having one's likeness placed upon an heir is always considered a great honor, particularly since the popular connotation is that the person depicted on an heir is in fact the heir to their family. Often, minting families are commissioned by other noble families to issue heirs when a new heir to the family's leadership is announced. Some nobles acquire as many heirs depicting their own likeness as possible, paying for things with these coins being akin to leaving a calling card. Equivalent of a gp in other settings. 
  • Eldest - A bronze coin of equivalent value to the bob, the eldest is equal to 20 sons and 1/5 of an heir. Issued to commemorate the accomplishments of family members, an eldest used to celebrate first-born or eldest children, but now any family member may be honored by the coin. Somewhere between a silver piece and a traditional electrum piece, the eldest is a median currency used primarily for smaller purchases.
  • Reign - The gold reign is the highest-value coin issued in Ur-Hadad, equivalent to 20 heirs. It may depict the head of a noble family (and is only issued upon the assumption of such a role) but just as often depicts a major event in the history of Ur-Hadad. For example, the Akkosti family matriarch, Ghul-Alol Akkosti, appears on one coin issued by her family, while another depicts the Volczik Rout, when Volczik cavalry broke the line of an assembly of elven and serpent man troops that held the First City under siege, leading to a massive rout. Reigns are issued entirely at the discretion of the issuing families, although noble houses and even the Grand Vizier may commission specific runs of coin.
  • 1 reign = 20 heirs = 100 eldest = 2000 sons* 

Other Currency

The merchants and money changers of Ur-Hadad deal with currencies from all over the world and are quick to recognize that every currency has value to someone, somewhere. Within the First City, however, it is uncommon for even the most widely-traveled adventurers to pay for room and board with rare cowry shells or new arms and armor with elven paper notes. Thus, the financial practice of money changing has become commonplace throughout the First City. Whenever adventurers find some lost treasure trove of coinage in a deep dungeon, the chances are that its value is a nice, round number. This value isn't because there are exactly that many coins in the jumble (say, 2,000 copper pieces), but rather because that's how much they're worth if brought back to Ur-Hadad and exchanged at a money changer for an equivalent currency (the value includes any surcharge for the exchange unless exchanging into high currency). You didn't actually find two-thousand copper pieces, but the coinage that you found is worth two-thousand copper pieces. 


2KCP problem solved.

Types of Currency

But what type of currency did you find in the dungeon?  Roll d11. (1-2) - Elven "paper" money. Not always paper, the original currency actually being tattooed skin flayed from slaves; using paper instead of tanned people skin was a natural outgrowth as inflation demanded more available currency. (3 - 4) - Lizardman shell-coins. These coins are fashioned out of shells that are polished to a high sheen with fine-grain sand. (5 - 6) - Serpent man metal-laced scales taken from their honored ancestors. The body of a powerful serpent man was considered a treasure in and of itself and so "coins" were often fashioned from its scales. (5 - 6) - Engraved claws and fangs. Often kept as currency by both beastmen and barbarians, the claws, fangs and sometimes even skulls of enemies and game can make great trophies and measures of value when properly adorned. (7 - 8) - Living, worm-like invertebrates of diverse size and color where the size and color note denomination. Used by many of the more otherworldly visitors to Ur-Hadad and its environs, these apparently immortal, crawling things don't need to eat or breathe, but do need a sturdy pouch to be kept in. (9 - 10) - Liquid soul-extract. Distilled from the hopes and dreams of living beings, this stuff may be used as currency or as material components for spells. (11) - Some other non-standard metal. Lead coins, iron coins, tungsten coins, whatever you've got. Things Get Better: The currency weighs far less than an equal-valued treasure of standard denomination (d8x10% less weight). Things Get Worse: The currency weighs far more than an equal-valued treasure of standard denomination (d8x10% more). 

*Or, 2KCP.