

The D&D 3.5 Economy
From my Weblog, March 4th, 2005
(Note: This is more of a collection of random thoughts as
I tried to explore how the economy works in D&D 3.5. It is
not, by any means, an explanation of how I'd do things in my own
game, nor do I get into how historical economics and craftskills
worked...there are many, many obvious holes that D&D makes no
attempt to cover. I just wanted to see how big those holes
were).
Okay...this is more for my own benefit than anyone elses (thus why its
here), and I suspect what conclusion I'll come to, but here goes.
Objective
Determine how viable the economy is in D&D 3.5, based on
the Craft rules and prices for a few select items.
Methods
To try and provide a broad range of items, eight items of
various types will be chosen as examples. Semirandomly, those items
are: Backpack (2gp), 10 ft of Chain (30 gp), a Water Clock (1000
gp), a Scholar's Outfit (5 gp), a gallon of ale (2 sp), a Galley
(30,000gp), Chainmail Armor (150gp) and Masterwork Chainmail Armor
(300 gp).
We will assume an average craftsman to be a 5th level Expert with
maximum required skill rank of 8, a +1 from the appropriate
attribute modifier and a +3 from Skill Focus, for a skill bonus of
+12.
According to the PHB, minimum wage for a skilled hireling is 3sp per
day.
To secure accurate results, we'll be using the Craft rules by the
day (instead of by the week) in all instances.
We also assume a tenhour workday, where necessary.
Results
The Backpack: There isn't anything specific in the rules for the
Craft Skill for a DC for making a backpack. Unfortunately, a judgement call must prevail. I'm assuming a backpack is more complex
than a wooden spoon, less complex than a bell. Thus, a typical item
with a DC of 10. The item costs 2 gp, or 200 cp. The craftsman must
pay for 1/3 of the item's cost in materials, or about 6 sp, 7 cp.
With a skill rating of +12, the Craftsman will roll an average of
22. We multiply this result by the DC, getting 220. Thus, he'll
complete a bag on average once every 9 hours. So after less than a
day, our Craftsman has created his Backpack worth 2gp. Thus:
Materials Cost: 67 cp
Time taken: 9 hours
Craftsman wages: 27 cp (2 sp, 7 cp)
Total cost: 94 cp
Profit: 106 cp (or 1 g 6 cp)
Assuming our Craftsman makes a career out of backpacks, he will be
able to make approximately 381 backpacks a year (accountin for a 5%
chance each Craft roll for failure). The cost to create the
Backpacks (materials and wages) would be about 364 gp, 7 sp 7 cp
(36,477 cp). Assuming all our backpacks sold, it would bring in 762
gp (76200 cp), for a total yearly profit of 397 gp, 2 sp, 3 cp.
Handy. 10
ft of Chain: Again, this item seems more complex than a
wooden spoon, less complex than a bell. So another DC of 10. The
item costs 30 gp, or 3000 cp. The craftsman must pay for 1/3 of the
item's cost in materials, or 10gp. With our DC of 10 and skill
rating of +12, we end up with a production value of 220 cp per day
again. Assuming average rolls, it'll take our Craftsman 13.6 days to
complete the ten feet of chain. Thus:
Materials Cost: 1000 cp
Time taken: 136 hours
Craftsman wages: 408 cp (4 g
8 cp)
Total cost: 1408 cp
Profit per unit: 1592 cp (15
gp, 9 sp, 2 cp)
Assuming our Craftsman makes
a career out of chains, he will be able to make approximately 25
chains a year (accounting for a 5% chance each Craft roll for
failure). The cost to create the chains (materials and wages) would
be about 35950 cp (359 gp 5 sp). Assuming all our chains sold, it
would bring in 750 gp, for a total yearly profit of 390 gp, 5 sp.
Hmmmm... The Water
Clock: A water clock is easily one of the most complex
standard items, so we'll call this a "Complex or Superior Item" with
a DC of 20. The item costs 1000gp (100,000 cp), so the craftsman
must have 33333 cp (333gp, 3 sp, 3 cp) worth of materials to start.
On average, the craftsman will progress at a performance value of
440 cp a day. He has a 40% chance of failure, so we can reduce that
to 264 cp a day. He'll have a complete failure 15% of the time, so
we'll knock the initial material cost up to 38,295 cp. So, on
average, it will take our erstwhile craftsman 378 days, 8 hours to
complete the item. Thus:
Materials Cost: 38,295 cp
Time taken: 378 days, 8 hours
Craftsman wages: 11,364 cp
Total cost: 49,659 cp (496
gp, 5 sp, 9 cp)
Profit per unit: 50,341 cp
(503 gp, 4 sp, 1 cp)
Assuming our Craftsman makes
a career out of Water Clocks, he will be able to make approximately
0.96 clocks a year. The cost to create the clocks (materials and
wages) would be about 47713 cp (477 gp, 1 sp, 3cp). Assuming our
clock sells, it would bring in a yearly average of 800 gp, for a
total yearly profit of 322 gp, 8 sp 7 cp. Okay...this is getting
funky... The
Scholar's Outfit: Again, no specific DC, so we'll have
to default to a typical DC of 10. The item costs 5 gp, or 500 cp.
The craftsman must pay for 1/3 of the item's cost in materials, or
about 167 cp (1 gp, 6 sp, 7 cp). With a skill rating of +12, the
Craftsman will roll an average of 22. We multiply this result by the
DC, getting 220. Thus, he'll complete an outfit on average once
every 2 days, 3 hours. So after two plus days a day, our Craftsman
has created his outfit worth 2gp. Thus:
Materials Cost: 167 cp (1 gp,
6 sp, 7 cp)
Time taken: 23 hours
Craftsman wages: 69 cp (6 sp,
9 cp)
Total cost: 236 cp
Profit: 264 cp (or 2 gp, 6
sp, 4 cp)
He will be able to make
approximately 150 outfits a year (accounting for a 5% chance each
Craft roll for failure). The cost to create the outfits (materials
and wages) would be about 36,000 cp (360 gp). Assuming all our
outfits sold, it would bring in 750 gp (75000 cp), for a total
yearly profit of 390 gp. Huh. Ale
by the gallon: Yet again, no specific DC, but I'm going
to say ale's pretty easy to brew (assuming a lack of modern sanitary
practices and being unconcerned with silly things like bubbles), so
I'll set the DC at 5. The item costs 2 sp, or 20 cp. The craftsman
must pay for 1/3 of the item's cost in materials, or about 7 cp.
With a skill rating of +12, the Craftsman will roll an average of
22. We multiply this result by the DC, getting 110 cp/day progress.
As this is greater than three times the amount needed, he'll finish
it in a third of the time. Therefore, he's making about 3 gallons a
day. So in one day, he has 6 sp worth of ale (3 gallons). Thus:
Materials Cost: 21 cp (2 sp,
1 cp)
Time taken: 10 hours
Craftsman wages: 30 cp (3 sp)
Total cost: 51 cp
Profit: 9 cp
He will be able to make
approximately 876 gallons a year (accounting for a 5% chance each
Craft roll for failure). The cost to create the ale (materials and
wages) would be about 18,615 cp (186 gp, 1 sp, 5 cp). Assuming all
our ale sold, it would bring in 219 gp (21900 cp), for a total
yearly profit of 32 gp, 8 sp 5 cp. Woah...
A galley: Guess what? No
specific DC, but I'm going to say a galley is pretty damned complex,
so I'll set the DC at 20. The item costs 30,000 gp, or 3,000,000 cp.
The craftsman must pay for 1/3 of the item's cost in materials, or
1,000,000 cp (10,000 sp). On average, the Craftsman will progress at
a performance value of 440 cp per day. He has a 40% chance of
failure, so we can reduce that to 264 cp a day. He'll have a
complete failure 15% of the time, so we'll knock the initial
material cost up to 1,300,000 cp. So it'll take our boatwright
11,363 days, 6 hours (about 31 years) to complete the item.
Thus:
Materials Cost: 38,295 cp
Time taken: 11,363 days, 6
hours
Craftsman wages: 340,908 cp
Total cost: 379,203 cp (496
gp, 5 sp, 9 cp)
Profit per unit: 2,620,797 cp
(26,207 gp, 9 sp, 7 cp)
Assuming our Boatwright makes
a career out of galleys, he will be able to make approximately 0.03
boats a year. The cost to create the galley (materials and wages)
would be about 12,180 cp (121 gp, 8 sp) per year. Assuming our
galley sells, it would bring in a yearly average of 96,360 cp (963
gp, 6 sp), for a total yearly profit of 84,180 cp (841 gp, 8sp).
Wow. Chainmail
Armor: Alright...some hard rules on this one. The DC for
making armor is 10 + the AC bonus, so in this case, 15. Cost is 150
gp or 15000 cp. Up front material cost is 50 gp. Average roll of 22,
we get a production rate of 330 cp a day. He'll fail only 10% of the
time, so we drop this production rate down to 297 cp a day. Thus, we
get a suit of chainmail every 50 days, 5 hours. Therefore:
Materials Cost: 5000 cp
Time taken: 50 days, 5 hours
Craftsman wages: 1515 cp (15
gp, 1 sp, 5 cp)
Total cost: 6515 cp (65 gp, 1
sp, 5 cp)
Profit: 8485 cp (84 gp, 8 sp,
5 cp)
Assuming our armorsmith makes
a career out of chainmail, he will be able to make approximately 7
suits a year. The cost to create the suits (materials and wages)
would be about 459 gp, 5 sp (45,950 cp). Assuming all our suits
sold, it would bring in 1050 gp (105,000 cp), for a total yearly
profit of 590 gp, 5 sp. Nice...
Masterwork Chainmail
Armor: But really, who wants to make "bland" when you
can make "masterwork"? The rules take this "masterwork" status as a
separate item, with a cost of 150 gp (15,000 cp) and a DC of 20.
Okay, so our material cost for the suit doubles to 100 gp. With the
masterwork part, a DC 20 and an average roll of 22 gets us 440 cp of
production a day. Taking into account that 40% chance of failure
drops that rate to 264 a day. The 15% chance of complete failure
increases not only the materials cost of our Masterwork part, but
also the base materials cost of the suit, up to 115 gp. Alright, so
doing the masterwork part takes our smith 18 days, 9 hours. This is
in addition to the 50 days, 5 hours that it takes to make the base
suit. Thus:
Materials Cost: 11,500 cp
Time taken: 69 days, 4 hours
Craftsman wages: 2,082 cp (20
gp, 8 sp, 2 cp)
Total cost: 13,582 cp (135
gp, 8 sp, 2 cp)
Profit: 16,418 cp (164 gp, 1
sp, 8 cp)
Assuming our armorsmith makes
a career out of masterwork chainmail, he will be able to make
approximately 5 suits a year. The cost to create the suits
(materials and wages) would be about 684 gp, 5 sp (68450 cp).
Assuming all our suits sold, it would bring in 1500 gp (150,000 cp),
for a total yearly profit of 815 gp, 5sp. Not bad at all...alright,
moving on.. Permutations
Before getting to the conclusion, let's really try
to break things. Let's assume the best craftsman possible, using the
best tools. So he's a lvl 20 Expert, with rank 23 in his skill. He
has Skill Focus, giving him a +3, Masterwork tools giving him a +2.
His appropriate attribute is a 23, giving him a further +6. So his
skill comes out to +34. He'll roll an average of 44 on any skill
check.
Alright...I'll pick one low
and one highprofit item.
If he were a clockmaker, he'd
have a DC of 20, which he'll make easily, for a production value of
880 cp per day. The materials cost is down to 33333 cp (333 gp, 3
sp, 3 cp). So it'll take him 113 days, 6 hours to finish the job.
Thus:
Materials Cost: 33,333 cp
Time taken: 1,136 hours
Craftsman wages: 3,408 cp (34
g 8 cp)
Total cost: 36,741 cp
Profit per unit: 63,259 cp
(632 gp, 5 sp, 9 cp)
As the best clockmaker in the
world, he can make about 3.2 clocks a year. The cost to create the
clocks would be around 117,615 cp (1176 gp, 1 sp, 5 cp). With a
total of 3200 gp coming in if all 3.2 sold, he'd stand to make about
2,023 gp, 8sp 5 cp per year!
But nooooo...our craftsman's
father thought ahead! He sent his boy to the smithy's guild to
train! And of course, our boy only makes masterwork chain mail! So,
with a DC of 15 for the suit, his production value is 660 cp per day
and 880 cp for the masterwork part (DC 20). The materials cost is
100 gp flat. It'll take our master armorsmith 22 days, 7 hours to
make the mail and an additional 17 days for the masterwork part, for
a total of 39 days. Materials
Cost: 10,000 cp (100 gp)
Time taken: 390 hours
Craftsman wages: 1,170 cp (11
g 7 sp)
Total cost: 11,170 cp (111 g,
7 sp)
Profit per unit: 18,830 cp
(188 gp, 3 sp)
As the best armorsmith in the
world, he can make about 9.4 suits a year. The cost to create the
suits would be around 115,948 cp (1159 gp, 4 sp, 8 cp). With a total
of 2820 gp coming in if all of them sold, he'd stand to make about
1,660 gp 5 sp 2 cp per year!
Huh...guess he should of
stuck to to clocks...
Results
Okay, let's see what we've got. First, let's look
at the yearly profits of our craftsmen:
Bob Backpackier: 397 gp, 2
sp, 3 cp per year
Charley Chainwright: 390 gp,
5 sp per year
Clark Clockmacher: 322 gp, 8
sp, 7 cp per year
Thomas Tailor: 390 gp per
year
Barney Boatwright: 841 gp,
8sp per year
Arnold of Armorville, making
chainmail: 590 gp, 5 sp per year
Arnold of Armorville, making
masterwork chainmail: 815 gp, 5sp per year.
Abe of Armorville, Master
Clockmaker: 2,023 gp, 8sp 5 cp per year
Allen, Brother of Abe of
Armorville, Master Armorsmith: 1,660 gp 5 sp 2 cp per year
Okay...so we've got two basic
classes of craftsmen...the Tailors, Clockmakers, Chainwrights and
Backpackiers will earn a profit of about 320 to 400 gp per year. The
Boatwrights and Armorsmiths will make about twice that. Being at the
pinnacle of your field will net you 1500 to 2000 gp a year. Nice.
Conclusions
What an interesting world this would make. Lets
take a look at the life of Bob Backpackier...
He actually doesn't do much
work, but pays a "skilled craftsman" 3sp a day to work for him. He
provides the craftsman with the materials. Before expenses, he
brings in about 397 gp 2 sp, 3cp per year. He doesn't eat beyond his
means, so a common meal every day (at 3sp a day, that's 109 gp, 5sp
a year). He rents a common room, costing him 5 sp a day (182 gp, 5
sp). We'll also assume guild dues, gate taxes, various bridge tolls,
etc. cost him about 10% of his income a year (76 g 2 sp).
Alright...so he's left over with 29 gp, 3 cp a year. Not
shabby...about enough to buy a 10 foot chain from Charley.
On the other hand, let's
check out Arnold and his Masterwork Chainmail Shop. He also just
provides materials to a craftsman, who is paid 3sp a day. He eats as
the same bar as Bob, and rents the room next door. His taxes are
about 150 gp. So he rakes in around 373 gp 5 sp a year. Let's really
get crazy and assume that's how much he brings in the first
year...the second year, he reinvests some of that coin into the
business, hiring on 9 new hands. At the end of the second year, he's
got a cool 4,108 gp 5sp. That's around 300 mercenary soldiers he can
afford to hire to set seige to his hometown and be crowned King
Arnold, the Black Sword of Armorville.
So yeah...there are some
serious flaws in the abstract nature of the D&D 3.5 economy. The
biggest of which is the complete lack of ale, despite it only taking
three and a half hours to make a whole gallon (I know some
brewmasters who would love to know that secret). It's just not
profitable as, say, the backpack industry... 