6
\$\begingroup\$

This question reminded me of an old issue that came up in a campaign: is there any in-universe reason that the players, armed with a Spelljamming ship, couldn't make ludicrous amounts of money bringing steel to Krynn and taking payment in gold(other than the general idea that many NPCs would have gotten to it first)? This trading scheme would change Krynnish economics forever, and probably lead to making the planet a vassal state of some space empire.

There seem to be various theories online about whether or not the steel currency is fiat money or reflects to true material value of the coins. Even if it is fiat (I find that less persuasive than the possibility that steel is simply scarce), could the players still make massive profits by converting all proceeds of trade to gold before leaving?

Is gold simply more abundant in Krynn than in similar worlds?

\$\endgroup\$
7
\$\begingroup\$

Spelljammer was designed to fit around the individual AD&D campaign worlds, but they predate it — the AD&D game worlds were never truly designed with spelljamming ships in mind. "Why aren't the PCs making a lot of money doing arbitrage?" is rather minor compared to all the ways spelljamming fleets can change a groundling nations' transportation, trade, and war without ever even needing to do the long voyage between crystal spheres. At some point, you will just have to paper over this incongruity quite a bit, or rewrite the story of Krynn &c. to integrate the starships.

On top of that, the rulebook is a price list for going shopping and getting on with your day, not trying to run an import/export business. The game's not designed to be a thorough economic simulation.

Trying to construct either a fancy trading strategy or a bulletproof reason why it just can't work is going to be a waste of time, because the setting isn't really built to answer this entire class of questions.


If you just need an excuse for why it doesn't work, though — not to win an elaborate argument for someone who's dead set on turning the D&D campaign into a trading simulation, but to smooth over some confusion and discomfort and get on with the campaign you all actually want to play — then you need to step back and look at the specifics of (fantasy-)medieval life:

When we talk about the economics of commodities in modern terms, we get to make all kinds of simplifying assumptions thanks to massive resource, manufacturing, and transportation pipelines. Get that model out of your head and replay the question.

There are many different kinds of steel, with different useful qualities and manufacturing requirements. You're used to a world where "stainless steel" feels like little more than marketing buzzwords, not a major invention full of new possibility. You're used to a world where the alloys and reagents needed for steel-making are inexpensive commodities; but aluminum was a rare and costly thing until, like, 1880. You're used to a world of industrial strip mining and massive super-hot furnaces; your characters can only sort of approximate that with magic.

You're used to a world where transportation is safe and reliable, too. But you're talking about a long voyage here, through wildspace and the perilous phlogiston,. on a ship that costs like 200,000 gp to obtain in the first place. If this was all feasible, you'd still be talking about the equivalent of a Spanish treasure fleet rather than a nice modern logistical pipeline. And the encounter table says there are a lot of storms and pirates in your future.

Is Oerth's steel up to par with Krynn's? Does Krynn mine enough gold to usefully trade it? Et cetera.

There's tons and tons of assumptions here — which is perfectly fine, at some point you're just making assumptions in order to play a fun game! You don't need to step through all of them, either. Just identify the assumptions you've made and reevaluate one or two of them, keeping in mind that you're telling stories about a fantastical, pseudo-medieval world of magic and adventure.

|improve this answer|||||
\$\endgroup\$
  • \$\begingroup\$ Yeah, was definitely thinking more on the 'excuse' end of things. Had some of the same thoughts for the campaign, but I'm hoping there was something, somewhere in the published material from that time period that touched on the issue. \$\endgroup\$ – ucbpaladin Jan 23 '19 at 19:18
  • \$\begingroup\$ As great as these answers are, they all focus on the steel (fiat?) side of the equation, whereas my group mostly wanted to take advantage of the potential of taking payment in gold, when selling something like multiple ships + helms, and getting 10x as much. Maybe coins are much smaller? Think I tried the smaller coins dodge in a time-travel scenario and took fire for it for weeks afterwards. \$\endgroup\$ – ucbpaladin Nov 16 '19 at 3:50
6
\$\begingroup\$

The reason players can't do that is because it's not fun.

Seriously, it's Dungeons & Dragons, not Forex & Forecasting. While in-universe it's a plausible economic development, roleplaying games require players that buy into the premise. The players could also make money by opening a tavern, or just becoming moneylenders after their first dungeon or two. But the game is not about business, it's about adventure.

Plus, if it's so easy, someone must have done it before them. There's a reason nobody does it, but I guess it's up to the GM to define WHAT reason that is.

|improve this answer|||||
\$\endgroup\$
  • 2
    \$\begingroup\$ That said, I’d play the hell out of Forex and Forecasting. +1. \$\endgroup\$ – Paul Jan 23 '19 at 13:57
2
\$\begingroup\$

Post-Cataclysm, Takhesis steals the world of Krynn, and it's no longer accessible to spelljamming PCs with mercantile interests. Pre-cataclysm, it appears to be a case of poor worldbuilding on the part of the people who wrote up Krynnspace, and thus is up to your DM to adjudicate.

I will note that Krynn has regular wars, proactive gods, and dragons that involve themselves in said wars between said gods with some regularity. Especially if steel is a fiat currency (or, more likely, semi-fiat currency where the metal value is an appreciable fraction but not all of the face value) the ability of any one area to support said arbitrage is going to be somewhat limited.

It may be that by the time you can put together a working spelljammer that can get you safely through Krynnspace, the amount of money you can make off of it is simply not worth your time to invest in heavily. If you somehow do set up a mercantile organization with enough reach to perform said arbitrage at levels that are useful to you, you may well find that one or more of the belligerent groups are showing up to loot your subsidiary branches for the coin passing through their fingers.

That's not to say that it can't be done, and can't be done profitably, but the DM could plausibly bring it to the point where it was similar in risk/effort/reward to standard adventuring, at which point it goes from "game-braking exploit" to "interesting variant campaign".

|improve this answer|||||
\$\endgroup\$
  • \$\begingroup\$ There's a lot more information on the state of coinage in Krynn at Dragonlance nexus. But I think the only needful point here is that prior to the Cataclysm a fiat currency of clay coins was used, and that steel isn't actually rare on Krynn. It just gets used for other purposes so steel coins themselves are rare. dlnexus.com/archives/astinus/artifacts/currency.aspx \$\endgroup\$ – Wesley Obenshain Jan 23 '19 at 22:48

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.