Dungeons & Dragons Online

Dungeons and Macroeconomics: When Prices Are Too Static

Dungeons and MacroeconomicsWhile the Player's Handbook lists prices for various trade goods, and in some ways encourages engagement with those goods, those prices don't change. It's largely left up to the DM to decide on how a party's actions, or just the world at large, might affect the price of iron or salt. This becomes even more glaring if a party decides to get into the business of trading goods on the side.

Here's a fix.

The linked spreadsheet contains two different models: one for a short term model of random changes in prices, and one for a long term model. The long term model will have prices begin to self-correct themselves back to the price that they started at, and the larger the difference, the faster they self-correct. They work off of random numbers, but this can be replaced; eg. a party's actions lead to several iron mines becoming unusable. The price of iron begins to climb for a few weeks.

How to use this (technical):

To use the spreadsheet, make a copy of it so that you can tweak, or reset the numbers, on your own. If you like a particular pattern, save the numbers by copying and pasting their values somewhere. There's several graphs already set to see how prices change over time.

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There's three broad categories of example goods I've included: agricultural goods, precious metals, and overseas goods. Agricultural goods see little change in price; precious metals see large fluctuations; and overseas goods change based on which way the winds are blowing. All goods will generally move in the same direction, but at different speeds.

ELI5: Wheat will generally stay around 1 cp. Flour is dependent on wheat, but will also stay around 2 cp. Salt and iron might change a little bit more, to reflect the fact that they are more rare, but will also stay around their normal prices. Because of the rarity of gold, silver, and platinum, random changes in price will have a much larger effect. And the price of saffron will look like a wave because its price changes based on the weather. The prices change based on daily and weakly trends, equivalent to rolling d1000s and using those to change prices day to day.

How to use this (campaign wise):

This is mainly meant as a source of inspiration as to how prices might change over time. If your campaign is set in, or stops for a while in, a major trade city, the party might see the fortunes of the city rising and falling based on the prices of goods. If your party decides to start a business trading wheat for iron from the dwarves, their profits might change based on how the market is looking, rather than rolling on the business table, and give them more room to react to various trends. Of course, don't force this on your players; I don't think most parties particularly want a daily update on the price of salt and iron. However, it would excel in campaigns that have an emphasis on trade and commerce; it gives you a way to essentially automate the business of rolling the dice and figuring out how prices might change. This is mostly a tool to automate the hard part of figuring out how prices might change without having to deal with trade, production, peasants and the rest of the market.

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