Saturday, December 11, 2010

Economics Part 7: Middle Men(part 2)

In order to understand demand, we have to understand the economy being used. The assumption of this blog is that we’re using a barter-and-coin based economy similar to that used in early towns and cities found in Europe or in the various settlements found in Northern Europe before feudalism took hold.
This means that wealth can be divided up into a few different types:
  • Immovable: This is the most valuable kind of wealth as it consists of land and buildings. Land is the ultimate wealth. As such, it would take a stupidly high amount of any other form of wealth to get it, and anyone willing to accept such a deal would have to be outrageously desperate or incredibly foolish. Buildings on the other hand are different, as they can be easily sold, even if it does take a somewhat insane amount of money to purchase one.
  • Better-than-currency: In campaigns set at the early part of our era, certain items will actually carry more value than any easily amassed amount of gold(and thus accepted in more places), be far more easily transferable than land, and would generally be used to pay for large price items(such as buildings). This would include cattle(which is why the rune for Cattle and movable wealth are the same thing, Fehu/Feoh/Fé, in most of the Runic Poems of the Norse and Saxon tribes), Horses, and for a fantasy campaign: Magic Items.
  • Currency: This will consist of your coins, bars, beads, or whatever. The point is, this type of wealth is Cold hard cash. In a manorial village, this will be found almost solely in the hands of the feudal lord, while in a town or city, the vast majority of this wealth will actually be found in the hands of the “lower” and middle classes(more on classes later).
  • Items: This is going to be the most common form of wealth found in villages and other areas where currency hasn’t become the norm. The value of items is highly subjective and is the least stable. Interesting to note, despite their usual worth, Gems and jewelry are a part of this category. In terms of our world building, this is the great mass of stuff you’ve already generated.
  • Perceived Currency: This covers IOUs, promissory notes, and shares, all of which existed in Western Europe by the 12th Century(probably earlier, but off the top of my head, I can only confirm reading about some of it in a book pertaining to the 12th Century). This basically covers any sort of wealth that doesn’t actually exist in “hard” form.

The next thing you’re going to need to understand is class, and where all this wealth is distributed. As the vast majority of actual trade is going to occur in towns and cities, we’re only going to concern ourselves with the class structure of these locations:
  • Upper Class: The Upper class is going to consist of roughly 5-15%(5+1d10) of a town or city’s population. This includes the very wealthiest of merchants, guild leaders, aristocrats, and powerful clergymen(and may even include successful retired adventurers). The vast majority of Immovable wealth, Better than currency, and perceived currency is going to be found in their hands.
  • Middle Class: Given the era we’re working with, the middle class is a relatively recent phenomenon, and will only represent a small portion of the settlement’s population, perhaps 15-25%(15+1d10). This is going to be your middle and high ranking guildsman, successful merchants, craftsmen, as well as possibly up-and-coming adventurers. The vast majority of currency will belong to this class, though a growing share of all other forms of wealth are slowly creeping into their pockets.
  • Lower Class: This is your rank and file wage slave. Journeymen, laborers, mercenaries, low ranking guildsmen, craftsmen just starting out, second sons who haven’t quite made it as adventurers yet are all of this social class. The vast majority of item based wealth will actually be found in the hands of this class as currency is only recently available to them. Additionally, a large majority of this class is beginning the inexorable merge with the middle class. This is where you’re going to find the vast majority of people working for that 1 sp per day.
  • The Poor: These are the destitute, those actually earning less than 1 sp per day. Given the already somewhat unforgiving nature of the era, their numbers are actually quite low, consisting of only 1d10% of the local population. This will however be where the least savory members of the settlement’s population are likely to come from.

How does this all relate to supply and demand? Stay tuned to find out next time!

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