This was originally posted by Rhys of Eigengrau's Generator on his patreon, but he asked if he could also post it here.
The Economy of the Generator
Dungeons and Dragons has always had a fast-and-loose relationship with economics.
We want players to feel big and powerful, with gold pieces being rare, making peasants swoon at the sight of them rocking into town and splashing a load of cash on things, but we also want the aforementioned peasants to make a decent enough living to be able to afford to hire out adventurers to take care of the goblins that just stole the blacksmith's daughter.
We also need things to be pricey enough that they can't afford to rest on their laurels, and have to continue going out to earn more gold.
This is first and most obviously rectified through the rarity of magical items. A single piece of armour could wipe out the entirety of a PC's gold reserves, and give them that crucial dopamine hit that motivates them to continue going out and adventuring.
But this does nothing to fix the peasant folk, who are toiling away in the fields for a couple copper, and are then showered with 237 silver "just because it was taking up space".
Grains of Gold
There's an excellent supplement called "Grain Into Gold", which goes into the mechanics of a medieval fantasy economy.
It articulates something very important; everything is much, much less comfortable than nowadays. Breads have coarser grains, meats are more salty, and the worth of a human life is much lower.
This allows a certain amount of guilt-free economy-wrangling; if we can accept that our average peasant is going to be taking a bath maybe once, twice a year, we can value their labour much lower.
Feudal systems have higher levels of wealth inequality (kinda), and thus we're not so worried about leaving poor Aldus the woodcutter with next to no money, because he has next to no money. Chicken would be a rare dinner.
The other thing that Grain Into Gold points out, is that the process of value-adding is much more costly. Economies of scale and automation make processes like creating paper, beeswax candles, or jewellery almost trivial; everything can be done either in-house, or at a tiny markup.
In medieval times, harvesting the beeswax would be a lengthy, dangerous affair (and also involve a season without the bees, so there's the cost of loss of honey, too). This pumps up the conveniences and comforts that our PCs are likely to want to partake in to an extraordinary level.
Economy in Eigengrau's
So, how does this relate to the Eigengrau's generator?
Well, we have recently just finished a lengthy process of coding in every medieval profession known to man, and their wages. We can take the Living Expenses table (1gp for a modest lifestyle, 2gp for a comfortable, etc.) and then evaluate how various professions will be able to live.
The Generator already tells users how its citizens are taxed, but now this will have real, knock-on effects; NPCs will be taxed, and have less to live on. Add in upkeep expenses that rise with children, and we will begin to be able to see how many are able to eke out an existence comfortably, and which are in debt.
A planned future module is going to add NPC 'missions', and NPC debt levels will factor into it; those who lead a wretched lifestyle or are heavily in debt will be more desperate. General town wealth levels will inflate or deflate the wages. Taverns that are priced for aristocratic patrons will see aristocratic patrons.
In the next update, we'll be adding in generic buildings. These will be implemented for minor shops such as florists, bakeries, and tailor shops, and also as homes for NPCs.
Using the NPC's living standards, we can also match the buildings to suit; those living a poor lifestyle will have rundown shacks, while aristocratic NPCs will live in suitably lavish houses.
As described in the PHB [Player's Handbook], NPCs living in squalid conditions have usually suffered some sort of setback, or are beset with disease or illness. We can use the NPC's inventory and sell off items, and add hardships as life events. Adding finances to NPCs really gives us a lot of options for improving depth of NPC history, making them more interesting characters.
Another bonus feature is that because the generator expresses money purely as an integer, we can evaluate all of the prices and costs through the lens of the Silver Standard, which sees one gold equal 10000 copper pieces. This is an optional feature that has been implemented for some time, but is even more useful now that the economic side of simulation is being taken into account.
The update to the generator will (hopefully) be out soon, and also include some greatly refactored code (thanks to the wonderful boost of coding interest on GitHub), modular buildings, and more customisation options.
This post has been made possible by my wonderful Patrons, who have received it a week earlier as thanks for their continued support. Thanks guys!