posted Friday, March 3rd 2006 by
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, Â£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!