TLDR: I've been having a lot of fun watching r/Wallstreetbets recently, and have workshopped a few fun, simple ways to implement a stock market into Dungeons and Dragons.
If you’re like me, Gamestop has been getting you to pay attention to the stock market for maybe the first time. I’ve started tentatively dipping my toes into those wild rapids – but it’s pretty scary to be investing in times like these where losing any substantial amount of money could be really bad. But that doesn’t mean you can’t have fun with the systems themselves. You can of course just invest a few dollars or play with fake money on an app – or you could try building a stock market into Dungeons and Dragons where you can actually have diamond hands.
If you’ve watched my videos in the past, you know that I am a nasty boy who loves diving into the details. I’ve been developing my own method for creating an in-universe economy for about a year now. Rather than breaking my brain with perfect simulations, I create simple systems that are easy to understand and fun to manipulate.
The stock market is a complicated beast, but in your game you can also decide what technology level of market you want to stop at. In this video, we’ll trace a line through the history of the stock exchange and at each stop we will create tier of market you can use in game. Economics can fuel storytelling in incredible, sometimes unexpected, ways. I’ll show you how that can work as we go through each tier of the market.
Let’s get into it.
In the late 1400’s a city in modern day Belgium called Antwerp became the center of international trade. Merchants in the city bought goods hoping the prices would rise in order to net them a profit.
This was called the Bourse of Antwerp and was a dedicated commodity exchange.
If you want to keep your economy grounded on goods, this basic concept of buying low, selling may be right for your game.
To implement it in a game, what you need are something I’m going to call:
You will assign each important trade hub one or two commodities it has in abundance and one that it is lacking. This alone allows your players the ability to create trade routes.
The Trade Flavor of one region could be diamonds and fish, but they lack access to fine clothing. This provides both an economic and story opportunity. Who has fine clothes in town and is eager to maintain their crushing grip on the clothing market? Who owns the diamond mines and who is forced to work there? Those questions and more immediately open up the moment you establish Trade Flavors.
Next we will create a centralized trade hub, the city where all trade in your world flows. This is where we will place our Bourse, or trade exchange. I view this as the center spoke of your trade wheel. This is the area where the many factions of your world will be pulling strings. So as a DM, you can see if your players are attempting to corner the lumber market and respond with a group of nature-loving elves or druids who will attempt to stop them.
In 1611 the first modern stock exchange is created in Amsterdam. The Dutch East India Company becomes the first publicly traded company in the world and for a while it’s the only one.
If you have a single, large trading company in your world, the players could choose to invest gold in its success.
In game, threats to this company may mean it financially benefits the party to defeat whatever is threatening their investment. For instance, maybe a group of low-paid kobolds resurrect a dragon to free them from poverty. It will be up to the party to deal with the rebellious kobolds and their dragon to keep their pockets filled with gold.
You may be noticing that the party is often being called to do bad things in order to keep in the money – good eye. What you are noticing is Capitalism in action. Where opening trade and keeping people comfortable and prosperous is a way to implement economics in a more uplifting way, we aren’t just after gold here. We are after ALL THE GOLD.
The implementation of this will really come down to your adventure’s theme as well as the kind of characters your players are playing. It might be fun to play ruthless capitalists, but you also might find that your players want to seize the means of production. Either way, we’re not done yet.
STOCK EXCHANGE TIER
In the 1700s we see the birth of what we understand as the stock market with the Buttonwood Tree Agreement. A small group of merchants meet daily to buy and sell stocks and bonds, a practice that eventually comes to form the New York Stock Exchange.
I think this might be one of the hardest forms of the stock market to emulate, so I don’t blame you if you give it a miss. That said, let’s boil it down to it’s most interesting elements so we can make it easy to implement in game.
You want to create the idea that their are several different major trading companies holding sway over the majority of goods. These companies are publicly traded and often in direct competition with each other. As a DM, this is the element you want to seize upon.
Think about how two companies might come into conflict over control of a specific resource and place your party in the center of it.
Let’s look at the silver devaluation scheme from the anime “Spice and Wolf” as an example of how to use economics to fuel your storytelling.
In the show, the Kingdom of Trenni is releasing a new silver coin into circulation. This coin reportedly has less silver content in it, making it essentially less valuable than the old Trenni silver coin. Should word of this get out, confidence in the new coin will drop and so will its value.
The Medio trading company catches wind of this and begins spreading rumors that the opposite is true: that the new Trenni silver coin will have a higher silver value, causing the old coin’s value to drop. Traders come to the Medio trading company to sell off their old coins at lower prices before their value truly drops when the new coin arrives.
Our merchant heroes Kraft Lawrence and Holo the wolf goddess hear the rumor that the silver will increase, but are clever enough to realize the truth. With this information, they can capitalize on the situation by working with the rival Milone Trading Company. By giving Milone this information, they have made an enemy of the Medio trading company. The company works with the church to get revenge on the pair.
This is why economics is pure adventure fuel and why you should use it in your games. Your players will engage with your world in a way that is entirely self-motivated – and that is a great feeling.
Finally we have:
MODERN MARKET TIER
In 1971, the NASDAQ was formed, allowing traders to buy and sell securities instantly online. You might think that is where the we hit the limit of what a fantasy game can successfully emulate. Not quite.
This is a great example of how magic can replace technology – let’s say that there is a network of wizards who can instantly transmit data between themselves, essentially creating the Magical Association of Stock Dealings Automated Quickly – or MAGDAQ.
If I were to implement this in game, it could simply be a world building detail – more window dressing then a fully fleshed out mechanic. But if I wanted it to have story impact, I would have a powerful lich or magical terrorist disrupt the whole system, throwing the world’s economy out of wack.
This works really well for getting the party involved, because if they had any investments in the MAGDAQ, this disruption could be the reason they want to fight your Big Bad Evil Guy. It also functions as a great twist, as the supposed villain may even have noble reasons for their actions, perhaps to stop the corrupt traders in Baldur’s Gate who caused a massive crash in the market, a la the 2008 Housing Bubble in the USA. Your players would then have to confront their own interests, the interests of the people, and their willingness to exert change upon the status quo.
And that’s it! That’s how I would implement a stock market into a DND game. I think your key takeaways should be:
1. Use simple systems that are easy to understand and fun to manipulate.
2. And that Economics drives Storytelling.
Thanks for reading!
- Mod idea: Currency and stock exchange and Mod request: Thalmor currency
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More about Dungeons & Dragons OnlinePost: "🚀💎📈 TO THE MOON: How To Put a Stock Market in DND and Why You’d Want To" specifically for the game Dungeons & Dragons Online. Other useful information about this game:
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