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Are there any specific rules for the creation of electrum? I have found some sources saying it was naturally occurring in some editions (as noted in the forgotten realms wiki) but I haven't located anything specific for artificial creation, or enchantment. I'm happy to cannibalize old editions for good ideas, but I'm not sure if anything actually exists.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ What is it you're trying to make or expecting to get out of something being electrum? \$\endgroup\$ – NautArch Oct 1 '20 at 18:28
  • \$\begingroup\$ I am as yet unsure. One of the players in the campaign I run has an electrum coin, so I thought it would behoove me to learn more about the material, but I have had little luck looking up sources. \$\endgroup\$ – Robert Hodgson Oct 1 '20 at 18:59
  • \$\begingroup\$ I'm not sure if D&D ever have much emphasis on metallurgy at all... but various points which might clarify the question: are you looking for D&D-specific lore on electrum, or real information on it? Are you interested in anything that has been called "electrum" in reality (there are a variety of compositions which are all considered electrum), or are you focused on the 50/50 value ratio of gold and silver that the 5e coin value exchange rates suggest? Do you expect your game to require that electrum be manufactured, or can it be naturally occurring for your purposes? \$\endgroup\$ – Upper_Case Oct 1 '20 at 19:18
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Upper_Case FWIW, Farhrd and the Grey Mouser, in one of their early stories, referred to some of their coin as electrum coins, so references to it are pre D&D on a literary level. \$\endgroup\$ – KorvinStarmast Oct 1 '20 at 19:20
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    \$\begingroup\$ Isn't electrum just a gold-silver alloy? Like, in real life? I thought D&D electrum coins were just an intermediate denomination between Silver and Gold and worth about half-a-gold (5 silver) each. Are you suggesting it's a magical substance in some way? \$\endgroup\$ – Darth Pseudonym Oct 2 '20 at 13:39
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Since it is a naturally occuring alloy, probably not

Electrum has been around as a material for coins In Real Life for about 2700 years, give or take. You can simply treat it as you do copper, silver and gold, or you can put a little spin onto it.

  1. It's a good approximation for "debased gold coin currency" depending on how much economy you want to put into your game. In other words, some kingdoms may issue coins of electrum to make their 'gold' go further, but that's very much a DM choice for world building.
  2. Going in the other direction, the DM can also remove the anachromism that is platinum coins, since that's a bit of a modernist device to handle the overabundance of gold coins in the game after the third or fourth dragon hoard is looted.

FWIW, it is not uncommon for me, as a DM, to take a piece of jewelry that I roll up out of the DMG for a treasure pile and describe it like this:

Finely crafted brooch of a dove, made of electrum with an emerald eye

The value will still be the, for example, 50 GP that I rolled for, but the description sometimes makes the players "see" it better.

The survey in wikipedia is a place to point your player to if their curiosity has been aroused.

The gold content of naturally occurring electrum in modern Western Anatolia ranges from 70% to 90%, in contrast to the 45–55% of gold in electrum used in ancient Lydian coinage of the same geographical area. {Note: that's a bit closer to the 'half a gold piece' value found in the PHB} his suggests that one reason for the invention of coinage in that area was to increase the profits from seigniorage by issuing currency with a lower gold content than the commonly circulating metal. (See also debasement.)

Electrum was used as early as the third millennium BC in Old Kingdom of Egypt, sometimes as an exterior coating to the pyramidions atop ancient Egyptian pyramids and obelisks. It was also used in the making of ancient drinking vessels. The first metal coins ever made were of electrum and date back to the end of the 7th century or the beginning of the 6th century BC.

The first literary reference I recall seeing in a swords and sorcery context was in a Fafhrd and the Grey Mouster story (Fritz Lieber) but there were doubtless references to it in the pulp fiction that inspired D&D from decades before that. (I think that R.E. Howard may have alluded to it in some of the Conan stories, and Lovecraft might have in one of his pulp stories, but it would take me an exhaustivec search to figure out which of those stories might have included that as a descriptive element for the coins in Conan's purse ...)

But how do I make it, in game?

One way would be to produce it via the Forge Domain cleric's class feature "artisan's blessing." (Xanathar's Guide to Everything) (@NautArch, thanks)

You conduct an hour-long ritual that crafts a nonmagical item that must include some metal...The Creation is completed at the end of the hour,...

The thing you create can be something that is worth no more than 100 gp. As part of this ritual, you must lay out metal, which can include coins, with a value equal to the Creation. The metal irretrievably coalesces and transforms into the Creation at the ritual’s end, magically forming even nonmetal parts of the Creation.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Either magical or mundane would be interesting. Sadly, my attempts to google an answer seem to land me in forums about bitcoin wallets and minecraft tutorials. \$\endgroup\$ – Robert Hodgson Oct 1 '20 at 19:44
  • \$\begingroup\$ @RobertHodgson The magical looks to be easily done via the Forge Cleric feature, but if you have not got a Forge Cleric then you can mix molten silver and molten gold in a cauldron in the proportions that you desire ... and call it good. Stir occasionally. 😕 What is this, a chili recipe? \$\endgroup\$ – KorvinStarmast Oct 1 '20 at 19:49
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Upper_Case Found something! It's called "green gold" and enamels adhere to it better than normal gold. Might make an interesting usecase for "painting" spells onto gold through the enamel. per the wiki entry: The alloy of 75% gold, 15% silver, 6% copper, and 4% cadmium yields a dark-green alloy. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Colored_gold \$\endgroup\$ – Robert Hodgson Oct 1 '20 at 19:49
  • \$\begingroup\$ @RobertHodgson Oh, yes, use cadmium. It's poisonous. 😎👍 This message is brought to you by your industrial safety department \$\endgroup\$ – KorvinStarmast Oct 1 '20 at 19:51
  • \$\begingroup\$ @KorvinStarmast Don't worry. I'm absolutely positive my players with their very high charisma and very low INT stats will know all about the dangers of toxic heavy metals, and won't associate the hallucinations with some sort of arcane wonkery at all. :D \$\endgroup\$ – Robert Hodgson Oct 1 '20 at 19:54
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I doubt it, as the Forgotten Realms has historically had ready access to magic, gold, and silver, and little current use for electrum

This may be a bit softer of an answer than you're looking for, and is meant more to supplement KorvinStarmast's excellent answer. But:

  • I've never heard of anything like a gold shortage in the Forgotten Realms (which is one reason to look to electrum for coinage, to "stretch" your gold supply)
  • Electrum is naturally occurring
  • Electrum is associated with fallen civilizations or lost kingdoms, and no longer much used, and so probably not much forged in "current" times

Given these, it seems like electrum is more likely to be mined directly and then cast, rather than forged to make a lesser coin from which it is difficult to extract the silver and gold comprising the electrum.

Further, the Forgotten Realms has access to magic! It's hard to compare directly, but it may not be much harder to train a Wizard or Forge Cleric than it is to train a skilled metallurgist using D&D-level equipment and technology.

I can only think of a few options for magically creating electrum, but if you have access to someone that can use any of these abilities they are probably easier, more reliable, and faster than forging alloys the mundane way. These assume that you are using a 50/50 value ratio of gold to silver in the electrum (implied in the value conversion table of currencies in the PHB), and are ignoring trace elements:

  • Fabricate (maybe): the wording might be a bit tricky (it's not totally clear, as written, if you can combine different materials into a product). But if your game allows it, you could take a pile of gold and a pile of silver and produce a 25 square foot, 50/50 gold-silver block of electrum to be melted and minted.
  • True Polymorph: probably not efficient, as you'd need to use the creature-to-object application of the spell, spend an hour per transformation, and have a high-level Wizard, Bard, or Warlock to cast it. But D&D has lots of examples of powerful magic users doing odd things, so it's not totally implausible that someone in the Forgotten Realms might do this (or have done it) quite a bit.
  • Wizard, School of Transmutation, Major Transformation: at level 14, a Transmutation Wizard gets access to Major Transmutation, which allows them to transform a 25 cubic foot item into another 25 cubic foot item of equal or lesser value. It might take some doing (like melting the gold and silver together into one object, even if the metallurgy isn't right for electrum), and can only be done once per day, but 25 cubic feet is a lot of metal!
  • Wish: included mostly for completeness, as Wish can do basically anything. This may be an... uninspired use of the spell, and is perhaps not worth the risk of Wish-stress. Nevertheless, it remains an option.
  • Cleric, Forge Domain, Channel Divinity (Artisan's Blessing): the best option, to my mind, as it requires no fancy rule interpretations or setups, and is available to lower-level workers. You lay out the components, which must include metal (easy here!), of equal value to what you want to make, and then magically create your output-- in this case, a block of electrum worth no more than 100 gp. This takes an hour and can be reused after a short rest, so a single Forge Cleric could do this ~12 times per day, at most.
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