I was giving my coinage rules some thought, and I wanted to put a modern equivalent into my houserules to give players a sense of scope for the treasure hoards they find.
Looking around, tried to find modern equivalents to the items listed in the player’s handbook. My initial thoughts were to have copper pieces the equivalent of $1. Let’s see how that holds up across copper, silver, gold, and platinum.
copper pieces ~$1
1lb of flour = 2cp, per PigglyWiggly 2lb. Bag = $2 ($1/lb. Or half the D&D “price”) https://www.shopthepig.com/shop/product/gold-medal-flour-all-purpose/175522
1 chicken = 2cp, per https://www.cacklehatchery.com/product/black-silkie-bantam/ $3.80 (twice the D&D “price”)
1lb of salt = 5cp, per PigglyWiggly 26 oz. or 1.625lb = $1 ($0.61/lb. Or 1/8th the D&D price)
1 dart = 5cp, tough to find because lawn darts have been banned since 1988, but I’m finding training mini javelins or things like this for around $30-40 (Or 8 times the D&D price)
So things are up and down based on what people make or manufacture compared to a high-medieval society, but it seems like 1 cp can roughly be about $1.
silver pieces ~$10
1 dice set = 1 sp A set of dice and a cup $13 (or roughly equal on price) https://www.amazon.com/Leather-Lining-Shaker-Farkle-Yahtzee/dp/B07DYHT5R6/ref=sr_1_4_sspa?dchild=1&keywords=dice+set+and+cup&qid=1612541274&sr=8-4-spons&psc=1&spLa=ZW5jcnlwdGVkUXVhbGlmaWVyPUExVTJQQ1JGMk9ZUDhKJmVuY3J5cHRlZElkPUEwODIyMjAwM0tURzFCUDBYQ1FJViZlbmNyeXB0ZWRBZElkPUEwOTI1NjY3MUo4NVpLQkM5MVFBRSZ3aWRnZXROYW1lPXNwX2F0ZiZhY3Rpb249Y2xpY2tSZWRpcmVjdCZkb05vdExvZ0NsaWNrPXRydWU=
1 lb copper = 5 sp, while 2 lbs of copper $30 ($15/lb. Or 3 times the D&D price)
1 wooden club = 1 sp, while a fish whacker is $12 (Or roughly the D&D price)
The standout here is the copper price, but I could easily see that being the fact that it is coming in 99% pure, where the high medieval period would be highly unlikely to get anything that pure from their material supplier. Again, the exchange rate accounting for inflation settles nicely at around $10 per 1 sp.
gold pieces ~$100
1 bag of 1000 ball bearings = 1gp, while a box of 1000 slingshot balls $21 (Or about ⅕ the D&D price) https://www.amazon.com/1000-Inch-Steel-Slingshot-Balls/dp/B00JZ18KNY/ref=sr_1_2?dchild=1&keywords=bag+of+ball+bearings+1000&qid=1612542343&sr=8-2
10’ of chain = 5 gp, while 10’ of high security chain $81 (or ⅙ of the D&D price)
1 camel = 50 gp, and Camels on an exotic animal website had multiple going for $5000 (or roughly the D&D price)
1 woodcarving kit = 1gp, while a woodcarving tool set is $42 (Or 40% of the D&D price)
This is where the price disparity starts to really appear. As most of the gold piece priced items are highly manufactured goods, those manufactured goods have fallen in price due to our advanced (and cheap!) manufacturing compared to where medieval prices might be. This makes for some weak correlations but the wide variations could realistically put the gp at anywhere from $20 to $100.
platinum pieces ~$1000
1 keelboat = 300pp and personal sailboats ranging from $100,000 to $1,000,000 (Or roughly in the range of D&D prices)
2 lb of platinum = 1 pp and the current price of platinum is $1132 per oz (Or $18,112/lb. For 18 times the D&D price)
1 spyglass = 100 pp and a modern mocular telescope is $19 or a telescope is $89 (Or anywhere from 1/5000 to 1/1000 of the D&D price)
1 carriage = 10 pp and on the open carriage market they seem to go for anywhere from $2000 to $5000 on average (Or roughly ⅕ to ½ the D&D price)
Platinum piece valuation is all over the place with modern equivalents. I can come up with reasons like modern lens making being dirt cheap while platinum flying up in price because we have uses for it besides just currency nowadays. That being said, if I need a rough rule of thumb to go by, $1000 per platinum piece isn’t totally unsupported compared to some modern goods.
But of course those are all based on the normal D&D rates, so how do they fit with my shift down of the coinage categories for adventurers and magic items? I think it is more necessary than ever. Let’s look at my expected wealth by level.
A first level adventurer can hope to earn 150 sp, or $15,000 as they level up. If we were in the original gp based game, that adventurer would be raking in an expected $150,000 for fighting goblins and rats. I get that the job is risky, but why wouldn’t everyone and their mother be doing some low level adventuring to bring in that kind of money? Anyone willing to risk being a soldier should be willing to be an adventurer instead for tons of money, right? All the people willing to brave the hostile elements and thieves for places gold is found? No, I think having the starting adventurers earn $15k is still a good chunk of change compared to a normal livelihood but not so much that it should distort economies from all the people rushing to join the profession. Of course all of this assumes a D&D 5e rate of death on the job rather than other grindier games where the expected lifespan of adventurers is measured in weeks.
If we turn to 5th level and 10th levels, we see they should have lifetime earnings of $325,00 (3,250 sp) and $3,200,00 (32,000 sp) respectively. Healthy amounts for what has likely been significant danger over a long career, especially with most of it having been reinvested in themselves. Even only selling a fraction back, those amounts make for reasonable seed money to purchase farm, tavern, or workshop to retire to from adventuring. If this were based on gp rates, those adventurers would have over $3M at 5th level and over $30M at 10th. Those are the kind of monetary resources that would set you up for a lifetime of luxury without ever working again. I like setting it at the level where a hero of the realm (5th-10th levels) could retire with a nice homestead or well funded business while keeping most of their old gear but it will take much higher levels to reach the levels of being able to buy a noble title or live in the lap of luxury for the rest of their days.