Coinage, wages, cost of living, settlements, and the market

In games with copper, silver, and gold coins I typically use a pretty similar scaling of settlements and economy. Some settings like that in Meskellian have different availability of items than my usual settings (Meskellian has plentiful weak magic items), but here’s some of the common rules I use:


All coins are an inch across, a twelfth of an inch thick, weigh a quarter ounce, and are mostly an alloy of copper and nickel. Depending on the time of minting and the city they were minted in, they may display any number of designs or markings which make counterfeiting especially difficult. Their coloring comes from a simple and cheap alchemical bath. I’ve included here their rough conversion to USD since I personally find that a handy reference point.

Copper coins are worth about $3 and are the base standard for how folks talk about money. One copper can buy a pint of cheap beer, a bowl of stew, or shared transportation from A to B in a city. Most beggars in cities make about 1d4 or 1d6 copper a day, and street performers make around 3d6+skill copper a day.

Silver coins are worth ten copper coins and are the largest coin an average person might be expected to carry. Your average worker makes about 3 silver a day and most merchants and business owners make 5 or 6 silver a day in profit.

Gold coins are worth ten silver and are generally not carried in pockets, even if one was wealthy enough to. The going rate for mercenaries is usually 1 gold a day while guild wizards, barristers, guild healers, and high-ranking bureaucrats make about 3 gold a day.


The average person pays about 2 silver a day in basic living expenses, which includes three meals a day and roughly a thousand square feet of living space. Two silver will also get you a 5’x10′ room at the average inn and a meal. For lifestyle categories, if you use them: Wretched (1c/day), Squalid (4c/day), Poor (10c/day), Modest (20c/day), Comfortable (40c/day), Wealthy (100c/day), and Aristocratic (1000c/day).


Settlements come in three orders of magnitude of population:

Communes make up the majority of settlements and have populations in the hundreds. They produce the majority of raw resources (wood, stone, ore, food), and trade the excess of their production to a nearby town or fortress in exchange for their military power which keeps roads safe. They are largely self-regulating and don’t use coin much (if at all). A traveler can usually trade stories, news, and a little help with chores in exchange for a meal and a bed in someone’s home. They have the common trades involved in food and clothing, but not much in the way of commerce. Expect to barter.

Fortresses and towns are common hubs of trade and military, and have populations in the thousands. They’re surrounded by communes in a ten to twenty mile radius, spaced two to five miles apart. Most non-magical trades (one or two tradies per thousand people, per craft) can be found here, common gear and arms can be purchased, and freelancers can be hired. The resident government usually has a magic-user or two on staff.

Cities are rare, only a handful in the world, are almost always on the coast, and number in the tens of thousands of citizens. They are unique in that governmentally, they are actually spread over multiple settlements; the towns and fortresses around them. All manner of trades, magical and mundane, can be found here. Leaving a city usually costs a toll of at least a gold unless you have guild connections.


Some common prices, for reference:

  • Piecemeal Leather: 15-25 copper
  • Piecemeal Chain: 150-190 copper
  • Piecemeal Plate: 900-950 copper
  • Simple Melee: 20-40 copper
  • Martial Melee: 100-200 copper
  • Bow: 120-150 copper
  • Potion of Invigoration: (Doesn’t heal wounds, just restores hit points.) 50-60 copper
  • Potion of Healing: 350-400 copper
  • Wondrous Items: 20k copper and up