code::2050: Economy


So, one of the last big things we need to crank out for the code::2050 SRD is the economy. Yeah, it’s a biggie, and I’ve been putting it off for a while. However, once I finally sat down to do it, I realized that it was pretty easy for one simple reason: I can just make this shit up.

Let’s start with the fundamentals.

Currency

We all know the standard currency for D&D is the Gold Piece. This has been true pretty much from the very beginning, and it is generally true of all fantasy medieval settings. However, the standard currency of future-future settings is always the “credit.” Well, except for approximately 90% cyberpunk settings which always use the New Yen or the Nuyen, or the Neo Yen. Yeah, apparently Japan’s currency is going to be awesome after it collapses and reforms.

So, on the one hand, we could stick to real world currencies projected forward (I’m lobbying for the NuRupee), or, on the other hand, we could go with a whole new thing like the “credit.” The gripping hand of it is that we are projecting a D&D setting forward into the future, so just using “Gold” is also an option.

This last option, in the end, is what we’ve decided to go with. In code::2050, everything still costs “gold,” even though it is all in paper and digital currencies. Indeed, if you’ve been watching our code::2050 playtest at all, you’ll hear me say things in terms of how much gold they cost.

The primary reason for this, aside from a genuine lack of creativity, is familiarity and compatibility. One of the top priorities for this ruleset is to stay as true to vanilla 5e rules as possible. In terms of buying gear, that means keeping the prices the same. I don’t want to force players of code::2050 to look up a piece of equipment in the PHB, then work through an equation to spit out the “modern currency” equivalent. Shit, even typing that sentence makes me hate that process. It’s too many steps between players and fun.

Manufacturing

The secondary economic concern, especially in terms of how much stuff generally costs, is that modern manufacturing is generally way cheaper than that used in fantasy medieval settings. In some cases, this is problematic, but in others it’s surprisingly not. This is especially true of weapons and armor.

A sword is WAY easier to make in the modern day than it was hundreds of years ago. It’s even easier if you’re not married to forged steel, and branch out into other modern materials. So, intuitively, it should be cheaper. However, and this is where good ol’ Adam Smith can help us out, there is also a far smaller demand for combat-ready swords in the modern eras. Gone are the days when a king would requisition a thousand new swords for his knights errant. Instead, the market is relegated to a relative handful of hobbyists and their suppliers. Smaller demand means smaller supply, and smaller supply means the price goes up. So, we have a sword that is physically cheaper to make, but more expensive due to its rarity. In my thinking, these cancel each other out. So, in terms of weapon and armor, the prices will be the same.

A similar phenomenon occurs with things that are made with modern materials. Let’s take the bedroll as an example. There are lots and lots of sleeping bags made today, and they are undoubtedly a quicker and cheaper manufacturing process than a medieval bedroll. Hell, back in the day, that shit required a trip to the tannery! Today, a factory can spit out dozens a day. This, of course, brings down the cost. However, it is also true that the materials used in modern sleeping bags are far superior to simple leather. There’s tough nylon, insulative stuffing…stuff, fancy zippers, etc. Those materials cost money, and bring the price back up a notch. Added to that their general efficacy (a modern sleeping bag can keep you warm at temperatures below zero without much trouble), and you have another bump in price. All in all, these ups and downs will even out. Want a modern sleeping bag? Snag a bedroll from the PHB, and we’re in business.

Some things are, however, more problematic. Take a glass bottle, for instance. In the PHB, this is listed as 2 gp in value. That’s twice the cost of a bedroll. Yikes! This makes sense when we consider that, back in the day, the only option for glass vessels was hand-blown. That’s a slow, skilled, and, therefore, expensive process. Today, we spit out glass bottles so cheaply that sometimes it feels like it’s not worth the trouble to walk all the way to the recycle bin to throw it away. They’re a nothing expense. This is also true of metalworking that is still in very high demand, such as chains. Chains used to take a smith weeks to pound together. Now, though, a machine can spit out yards and yards of the stuff in minutes. So, in code::2050, we’ll need to make sure these things are cheaper. In all honesty, these sorts of things are so cheap, that I’m not sure I would even charge my players if they wanted to pick up some bottles or a hundred feet of chain.

Gold Sink

One of my chief complaints about D&D has always been how hard it is to spend money. By level five, a party is gushing with thousands of gold and nothing really to do with it. Don’t worry, we know exactly how much a meal costs at different levels of fineness, but once I hit the quadruple digits in gold, I stop keeping track of anything that costs less than 50 gold. After 10,000 gold, I stop caring about even that.

It used to be that you could buy magic items, and they were pricey. However, after you got the ones you wanted, to had nothing left to buy. Healing is free, arrows are negligible, and food is dirt cheap (or free, depending on your cleric’s spell prep). What’s the solution to this? Fuck if I know.

However, I’m going to try to subtly change this. First of all, ammunition costs money, and in a near-future setting, bullets will be the go-to physical weapon. I know tracking ammo can be a bit tiresome, but it’s crucial if you want to keep the economy even remotely reasonable. Second, things like grenades and computer scripts are expensive and have limited uses.

Below, I’m going to include some gear tables we haven’t published yet (and I’ll add them to the SRD). These tables are still in flux, so they will change even after I publish this. Further, I have added costs to all of the weapons, armor, and cybernetics tables in the SRD. Even the vehicles got prices, though these are clearly just me saying “uh, 10,000 sounds good!”

Ammunition Cost
DamageCost (per 20)Weight (per 20)
1d41 gp.5 lb
1d62 gp1 lb
1d8 or 2d43 gp1.5 lb
1d104 gp2 lb
1d12 or 2d65 gp2.5 lb
Adventuring Gear
ItemCostWeight
Smartphone25 gp.5 lb
Laptop50 gp3 lb
Headset5 gp-
AR Glasses15 gp.5 lb
VR Headset & Gloves30 gp2 lb
Immersion Trodes500 gp2 lb
Scripts
NameCostUsesEffect
Cracker100 gp6+2 on Intelligence(Computers) checks to break into a secured computer.
Sniffer100 gp6+2 to Intelligence(Investigation) checks when searching a computer.
Decrypter100 gp6+2 to Intelligence(Computers) checks to break into locked and encrypted files.
Tracer100 gp6+2 to Intelligence(Computers) checks to map networks, find specific devices on a network, or trace data streams.
Defender100 gp6+2 to checks and saving throws against countermeasures.
Scrambler100 gp6+2 to Intelligence(Computers) checks to erase drives and make batches of data irrecoverable.
Tier 2 Version500 gp3+4 to appropriate checks.
Tier 3 Version1,500 gp1+6 to appropriate checks