Friday, November 04, 2011

Coinage in Dark•Heritage

Well, the last two weeks have been absolutely crazy.  I've had in mind two updates to the DARK•HERITAGE setting through this blog, but haven't had time to type them up.  Right now, I'm making the effort to at least put one of them out there, with the hope that the second will follow later today or at least this weekend.

I've said before that for the sake of simplicity, I'd probably keep the D&D standard coinage of copper pieces (cp), silver pieces (sp)(worth 10 cp) and gold pieces (gp)(worth 10 sp), but give them more flavorful names at least.  I've now got that, plus a few "filler" coins that some mints have issued.  I've also got a slightly more complex option for those who want them; after all, is it really reasonable that all copper pieces are the exact same weight and purity, regardless of mint and country of origin?  For most, reasonableness in terms of verisimilitude takes a back seat to ease of use, and I can dig that.  I want to offer a slightly more complicated picture, for those who want it, though.

The default, and "standard" (as well as most traded and most respected in the area) coinage is that of Terrasa itself, unsurprisingly.  Terrasa uses the following set of coins, which track exactly to the D&D standard, with a few extras.
  • The pillar, or pilar is a copper coin (worth 1 cp) stamped with the image of a pillar on one side, and usually the current king in Terrasa on the other. 
  • The real is a much larger copper coin (worth 5 cp) with a larger picture of the king, with more detail, and the queen on the other side.  Because it has double heads with two royals, it was named the real (or royal).
  • The escudo, or shield, is a small silver penny (worth 1 sp) with a stylized image of the seal of Terrasa embossed on a shield.
  • The ducat is a much larger silver coin (worth 5 sp) with different faces on them.  They are minted in smaller batches, typically, and have the face of a person who is in royal favor at the time of minting.
  • The doubloon, or "double ducat" is a smaller gold coin (worth 1 gp) with a picture of Rossolló, an ancestor of the current king and folk hero to the Terrasan people.
  • Finally, the guilder is a large gold coin, the most valuable in current circulaton of the Terrasan coins, worth 5 gp.  It has a picture of a sailing ship on one side, and the palace in Terrasa on the other.
The other city-states who are part of the Terrasan empire do occasionally mint coins, usually to commemorate a special occasion.  However, past kings have passed and enforced strict laws governing the weight and purity, and so while such coins may have different images on them, they are worth the exact same; they are sorta like the various state quarters in the US currently--still quarters, but with a "collectable" face.  A few of these have their own nicknames, but mostly the differences between them are ignored, and they circulate freely like their more common cousins.

Porto Liure is a city that trades in all kinds of coins, and it's not unusual to see trades happening on the street with a mixed bag of all kinds of coins from all kinds of places.  Terrasan coins are probably the most commonly traded, but Porto Liure does mint its own coins, and they see a fair bit of local circulation.  For the simple version of coinage, assume that the values are equal (i.e., 1 cp is 1 cp, regardless of whether it's a Terrasan pilar or a Liuran pistole), but in reality, the purity and weights of the Liuran coins is not as good as that of the Terrasan coins.  Typically, Liuran coins trade for 70-80% of the value of standard Terrasan coins, and for worn or suspected shaved coins, they could trade for as low as 50%.
  • The pistole, marked with the image of crossed blackpowder pistols, is a small copper penny (1 cp)
  • The ecu, marked with the image of various lords of the Port, is a larger copper piece.  While no longer minted, these do have some value as collectors items, and can sometimes fetch rather hefty prices, depending on the demand of the buyer.  In general, based on copper content alone, it's worth 3-4 cps, but many merchants will not take them.
  • The plata is the silver piece, marked with an image of the lighthouse in the Port's harbor. (1 sp)
  • The piece of eight, so named because it was originally worth eight ecus, has since been standardized to be a simple gold piece (1 gp) but the name remains nonetheless.  This coin is stamped with a stylized image of the naval battle of Gandesa, a decisive victory for the Liurans, and the battle most directly responsible for their independent status today.
  • A number of black market coins called cobs see circulation in Porto Liure amongst the criminal element.  These are usually made of melted down ore, often from items that are more difficult to fence, such as stolen silver, bullion or jewelry.  Molded into a roughly round, flat shape, and stamped or carved--sometimes--with the seal of a gang or smuggler, the weight and purity of these coins is very suspect and variable.  Anyone willing to deal with cobs better take some ranks in the Appraise skill, and even so: caveat emptor.  This is not to say that cobs are not valuable--they are made of precious metal after all, simply that without any governing force, the exact value of any particular cob could be almost anything.
When the Qizmiri came to these shores, they had no tradition--so they say--of using coins, but contact with the Terrasans soon cottoned them on to the benefits of a monetary system.  They use a system that's similar to the Terrasan model, but stripped down to simply one coin of each metal (copper, silver and gold.)  You can go the simple route and treat them as copper pieces, silver pieces and gold pieces, or recognize that they are actually somewhat larger than their Terrasan counterparts, and usually perforated.  Some are also not round.  In fact, some have protruding parts that can break off, so traders are careful to inspect Qizmiri coins and ensure that they are all in one piece--either that or weigh the total carefully.  If whole, Qizmiri coins are usually worth about 125% of a Terrasan coin, due to their larger size.
  • The drachma is the copper piece, with an image of the first sultan of the Qizmir island itself, and an old-fashioned trireme on the other side.
  • The dirham is a silver piece.  Like the Terrasan ducats, there are a number of personalities who have been minted on these coins, although they all still circulate easily enough.
  • The dinar is the gold coin, always minted with the current caliph--although older coins with former caliphs still circulate as well.
Baal Hamazi used to issue coins, and most of the successor states do as well, based on the coinage of the former empire.  In reality, there'd likely be a bewildering array of coins of various sizes and purities, but for simplicity's sake, I'm going to consolidate all Hamazin coins to a single coinage, and the details between them will just be the names and faces stamped on them.  In Baal Hamazi, they prefer to keep things at the silver level, as much as possible.  Copper coins circulate as well, as do gold, but gold coins are much more rare, and for large purchases, writs, gems or other items are preferred.  The hamazin coins are somewhat larger, worth about 110% of the Terrasan equivalent.  Unless, of course, you prefer to simply harmonize all your weights and values to a standard, for ease of use.
  • The lu is worth 1 cp.
  • The luhhan is worth 1 sp
  • The namme is worth 2½ sp, or 25 cp
  • The rashi is worth 5 sp
  • The zizi is worth 1 gp.
Trading with Kurushat is much more difficult, as they don't use a simple base 10 system, where copper and silver and gold are equivalent to 10 of the next higher denomination.  In addition, their "coins" are actually chits of mother-of-pearl cut from shells found in the Karkose Sea.  Their money sees little to no use outside of Kurushat itself, and because Kurushat is separated from Terrasa by the Black Mountains and the Cavusto steppes, direct trade is not common between the two areas anyway.  What does happen tends to be more about barter and takes place at a high level between powerful merchant brokers, nobles or caravan owners, involving entire barge loads or caravan loads of goods, if not more.  That said, here are the various mother-of-pearl standard chits and their relative value:
  • The mazad is worth 3 cp.  It is very small, and easily misplaced by the careless.
  • The ashad is worth 18 cp--often rounded up to 2 sp for convenience.  Especially if trading in the silver pieces favor.
  • The arkhad is worth 6 sp.
  • The jharad is a fairly large piece of mother of pearl, as big as a man's palm.  It is worth 2 gp.

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