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What is One Gold Piece Worth?

posted Friday, March 3rd 2006 by Jonathan Drain
None of the Above

So how much is the currency of Dungeons & Dragons worth in the actual money of today? Read on to find out.

I began my calculations going by the real-world price of gold. As of writing, one troy ounce of gold was worth 565.081 US dollars. Twelve troy ounces are in one pound of gold, which the Player’s Handbook prices at 50gp, making one gold piece equivalent to one fiftieth of a twelve XAU of gold. At the current gold exchange rate, a gold piece would set you back precisely $136.11528 in US dollars. If a real-world person today were to gain the ability to use true resurrection and wanted to bring back Hitler, the diamond dust alone would set him back $3,402,882.

Gold must be far more expensive in D&D than it is today, though. A more accurate comparison is a mug of ale, the value of which has remained constant throughout human history. A mug of ale is 4cp, while a Budweiser might be what, $2.50? (This price will vary depending on where you buy it, but it’s as good a figure as any.) One copper piece is therefore worth 62.5 cents, and one gold piece is worth $62.50 US. That’s 51.9242 Euros, £35.6333 UK pounds, $70.9240 Canadian or $83.9273 Australian. (D&D economics doesn’t always fall precisely in line with modern day figures – an unskilled labourer earns only $6.25 per day – but $62.50 is about as reasonable a figure as you can get.)

A sword is thus worth $937.50, a masterwork sword $19,687.50, and a suit of masterwork full plate armour $103,125. The value for the swords seem about right, although the armour is overpriced for game balance reasons. A light horse is $4,687.50 – about the same price as a car, which is reasonable! A heavy warhorse in comparison is $25,000, which I think is in the right region for some military jeeps. A masterwork musical instrument is close to an expensive electric guitar at $6,250. A warship will set a nation back $1,562,500.

Magic can get even more expensive than mundane equipment. To cure blindness costs $9,375. To travel via teleport costs $28,125, more expensive than a plane trip but a lot faster. A magic sword costs a tidy $125,000, or for a doubly magic (+2) sword it’s a cool half a million. Your characters own the equivalent of $4,125,000 in magical artifacts by 11th level, which is quite a sensible number considering how powerful your character is at that point.

Bear in mind that the player characters are special in this sense, and that NPCs typically have much less gear. While player characters will each be the equivalent of millionaires when they reach level 7, NPCs have to wait until level 10 for the privilege. Thus it is only a legendary NPC that is as rich as an exceptional player character. Unless the DM is feeling particularly generous, party of four 9th level NPC adventurers will only own 48,000gp ($3,000,000) between them – slightly less than a single 10th level player character who will own 49,000gp, or the equivalent to $62,500 more!

When the PCs ride around on armoured warhorses with bags full of gold and expensive magic items, their modern counterparts would be riding in expensive bulletproof cars, armed with the world’s best custom handguns and sniper rifles, and carrying around briefcases full of $100 bills. Remember this the next time you give “a few gold pieces” to a beggar – it’s equivalent to handing someone several $50 bills!

Comments

  1. Ishan

    September 11th, 2006

    You want to be careful pulling real world diamond price equivalents into the game, unless your game world also has a cartel that artificially inflates the cost of diamonds like DaBeers does. Actual diamonds have something like a 70% resale value straight from purchase, and can actually depreciate in value over time because the prices at which they are sold are controlled artificially.

    Otherwise, wow, thanks. We’re always arguing over what a gold piece actually buys and how you’d adjust that so you didn’t destabalize the local economy.

  2. Jonathan Drain

    September 11th, 2006

    Ah yes, but diamonds are actually worth a lot more in D&D land than their actual value here, since they can be used to raise the dead.

  3. Aspect

    December 1st, 2007

    “D&D economics doesn’t always fall precisely in line with modern day figures – an unskilled labourer earns only $6.25 per day – but $62.50 is about as reasonable a figure as you can get.”

    Agreed, and the figure makes more sense looking at actual economics. In the States, what with costs of living, labor unions, the need for a high enough price to draw employees, and any other possible factors I’m likely forgetting, US workers would get paid more than your average feudal serf. If you look to other countries for an equivalent to the feudal serf–perhaps a child worker making sneakers in Asia somewhere–I think you’d find the wages to be much more equal.

    Excellent article, by the way. It was a stroke of genius using the price of a mug of ale rather than relying on the whimsies of currency exchange. I’ve read a number of articles trying to answer this question, and this is the first one I’ve been really truly pleased with.

  4. Ted Willingham

    January 3rd, 2009

    Well, Feudal serfs barely had enough to survive– and often NOT enough to survive.
    I would estimate that a feudal serf made less that a dollar a day.

  5. jenna

    February 14th, 2009

    Okay, I was looking around my room, then I steped on somthing in my closet, I picked it up and it was a gold coin with a ladie and a baby on it. I do not know what it stands for or how much it is but please tell me :)

    Michigan,
    Jenna

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