Three previous posts to reference, as part of a meta-series.

Link: Characters Attaining Godhood
Link: Characters and Magic Rings
Link: Player Character Strongholds

I’ve mentioned before how I hate handing out treasure and magic items in the game unless they’re somehow plot-relevant. Heroic fantasy doesn’t often cover the parts of the adventure where characters haggle with merchants to upgrade their armor from plus-one to plus-two, so I don’t like to give it much time in my games.

Part of the game I’m designing would actually require some kind of economic strategy at higher levels of play — when characters acquire followers, strongholds, and city-states of their own. Treasure hoards play a part in storytelling, and you can’t have heroic thieves like Robin Hood without oppressive taxes.

Why shouldn’t you be allowed to play a heroic merchant-prince? Fully half of Batman is his Bruce Wayne persona — a business savvy corporate executive. Where would Iron Man be without his wealth? Would Lex Luthor be nearly as effective as a villain without his vast resources?

Clearly, the archetypes exist, but how do you realize them without literal bookkeeping? Wealth really just represents a kind of advantage — a power source — like anything else. A Wizard has his spells, a Fighter has his sword, a Priest has his faith — why can’t the CEO use his checkbook as a weapon?

Before you ask, I don’t mean using money as a literal weapon.

Part of my idea reduces different economic models — the types that you might commonly find in a world that supports adventurers — to simple concepts on par with say, 4e’s combat roles. The basic assumption is that each economic model works. Each has its own strengths and weaknesses, but is equally viable.

The methods I came up with are also intended to develop into the other:

Forage economies are based on subsistence. Generally speaking, a creature’s entire existence consists on sustaining itself. It wanders, occasionally raiding communities to feed and shelter itself and other members of its family unit.

Hoard economies grow out of foraging. Creatures following a hoard economy stockpile what they can to sustain their communities through times of scarcity. Hoarding creatures can potentially provide for larger groups than foragers.

Barter economies tend to grow out of hoarding communities, but circumstances can cause various economies to appear seemingly out of nowhere despite appearances of so-called “obvious societal advancement.” Bartering consists of finite transactions between groups of creatures which may or may not be allied.

Historically, friends don’t barter — they give gifts. Indifferent or potentially-hostile communities engage in barter to maximize individual profit.

Trade economies are what you tend to get when lots of hoarders are flourishing. An abundance of goods makes encourage specialization and make possible service-to-goods exchanges. Trade economies can support dedicated craftsmen.

Market economies are what you tend to get when multiple trade and barter economies succeed. It makes it possible to trade services for other services because there are enough goods to support people who don’t produce goods.

Of course, markets in turn create new kinds of “forage” economies, as an abundance of one type of goods or services creates new kinds of demand. The greater the quality of life, the more variety in demand there is. As goods and services become more abstract, kinds of “foragers” become more and varied.