Tuesday, January 6, 2009

The Weight of Coins

You know that ridiculous 10 coins = 1 pound deal in traditional D&D?

Isn't that commonly house-ruled away?

I have an idea. Since, in The Olden Domain, nobody from the civilized lands has taken any coins from the unexplored areas, and since there are no civilized men out there, the coins of the two realms are completely distinct. The treasure you take out of the Domain is going to be ancient coinage, and since there's nowhere to spend it (and creatures out there would never be bribed with that tiny modern coin), there's never a reason to take civilized coin on an expedition out there.

The Olden Domain's coinage is simply large and unwieldy and impure in comparison to the modern civilized coins. The ancients' economies weren't about convenience. Therefore, ten of those buggers weigh a pound.

Problem solved.


  1. Just treat it abstractly. One AD&D "coin" weighs c. 45 grams. That size of coin is not totally unknown, though they were likely prestige pieces. In any case, what you then end up with is 675 grams of gold will buy you a long sword. Given Gygax's assertion in the DMG that this represent's "gold rush" prices, it's not too unbelievable.

    An AD&D "coin" need not be an actual coin, but rather a unit of weight.

  2. Coins were typically minted in fractions of a pound. Typical fractions are 1 dram (256 drams to a pound), ounce (1/16), 1/12th, 1/20th, etc. 1/10th of a pound is a bit heavy but not unheard of.

    Even at the dram weight say 250 coins to the pound still makes the typical dungeon haul a monster to haul away. Each 1,000 gold is 4 pounds of weight.

  3. That is a bit misleading. The English sterling pound is not the same measurement as the modern pound, so even if that were true the fractions are different.

    240 silver coins of 20-24 grains (c. 1.5g) would be minted from a Trojan pound of silver, which equates to about 300 coins to the modern pound. Romano-Byzantine gold coins were more like 4-4.5g, which equates to about 100 coins to the modern pound.

    Nominally, these were measured in grains, not in fractions of a pound. So, the thirteenth century Italian florin was initially minted at 54 grains, which neither divides into the Trojan Pound (5,760 grains) nor the modern pound (7,200 grains).

  4. Sounds like the commentary is reflecting the "realism" that seemed so pervasive in the "Silver Age" of Dragon magazine articles... (grins)

    I say make the coins weigh whatever you want. Screw real-world examples of actual coins weights.

  5. Pff. Nah, given that the post starts off with the assumption that ten coins to the pound is ridiculous, "silver age realism" commentary is only to be expected.

    To be blunt, there is no problem to solve unless you consider ten coins to the pound to be unacceptable (and therefore are concerned with "silver age realism").