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Coinage of the Savage Coast

Posted: Sun Jun 16, 2019 9:35 pm
by stanles
In Voyage of the Princess Ark* the currency of the nations of the Savage Coast was introduced, it was introduced as a standard currency for the whole of the Savage Coast. There were brights, fairs, dims and darks. Brights are made predominantly of silver, and fairs predominantly of copper; each mixed with undepelted cinnabryl. Brights deplete down to dims and fairs to darks.

Not that I've done a thorough review of all of the Voyage of the Princess Ark but it is unclear how far and wide these coins were used. The notes for part 22 states that Almarrón silver is used for minting coins, Robrenn, according to the notes for part 24, also needs silver for their coinage. There's mention of Renardois coins being silver in part 26. But then in many of the notes we've also got the cost or worth of things being given in copper or gold pieces.

By the time we get to the Red Steel boxed set it is noted that the coinage of the Savage Coast is D&D standard - "the same as that presented in the PHB" the coins just "have a pinkish glow because they are contaminated by vermeil during carting". In Savage Baronies it points out that "[e]xcept for Guadalante, Texeiras, and Vilaverde, each barony mints its own coinage" and we get the names for these coins for the Baronies. Then in The Savage Coast Campaign Book which ended up being released online and included a section on currency in the nations of the Savage Coast we get a much more complex picture of which nation has what denominations of coins on the Savage Coast and what their names for those coins are.

Curiously then, the Mystaran Almanacs took a little from both ends of the spectrum - going with the coinage from the Savage Coast Campaign Book for the nations covered in the Almanacs; except for Slagovich which forgoes the regular metals and denominations put forward in the Campaign Book and goes with the silver mixed with cinnabryl coins from Voyage of the Princess Ark.

At the end of the day the option you go with is up to you. The names in the Campaign Book, except for the platinum piece, definitely have a Balkans flavour to them - and calling your platinum piece after an immortal is also rather telling of the culture. On the other hand having a standard currency for the whole area indicated the general level of culture of the area - they didn't have time to bother with messing around with different coins for different areas, one set of currency was good enough for everybody and it also showed the value which was put in the item; on top of that a currency which literally devalues itself on handling is interesting.

* part 18, The Slagovich Affair

Re: Coinage of the Savage Coast

Posted: Tue Jun 18, 2019 12:46 pm
by Sturm
Really interesting, I did not remember there were so many differences from a source to another.
I'd go with the diversity of the Campaign book, but maybe the Coast has a silver standard, which would make sense given their trade relations.

Re: Coinage of the Savage Coast

Posted: Tue Jun 18, 2019 8:03 pm
by Cthulhudrew
Some more insights from folks in a similar thread from ages ago that might spur some further discussion Savage Coast Economics.

Re: Coinage of the Savage Coast

Posted: Wed Jun 19, 2019 5:23 pm
by Big Mac
Is it possible to use these different coinage systems together?

Re: Coinage of the Savage Coast

Posted: Thu Jun 20, 2019 10:39 am
by stanles
Cthulhudrew wrote:
Tue Jun 18, 2019 8:03 pm
Some more insights from folks in a similar thread from ages ago that might spur some further discussion Savage Coast Economics.
oops my bad - I even tried searching but nothing came up

Re: Coinage of the Savage Coast

Posted: Fri Jun 21, 2019 2:17 am
by Cthulhudrew
No worries- it was a pretty old thread; I thought it bore some relevance. It might be worthwhile for the mods to merge the two threads, actually.

Re: Coinage of the Savage Coast

Posted: Sat Jul 20, 2019 3:13 pm
by Argentmantle
Since I’m digging around the archives of all things Savage Coast, I wanted to add in my two copper, or two dark, or two cents, or whatever on currencies!

Anyways, in reading through the D&D BECMI materials (Dragon Magazine), I want to try to squeeze out as much information as I can. It appears that much of the area is based on a barter-based or uses cinnabryl coins. Cinnabryl laced coins seem to be quite commonly used in the Savage Coast as a whole, except where they aren’t. This also necessitates a look at what areas have red ore and cinnabryl would be valued. Though there appears to be some peculiarities, that need to be accounted for.

There are some severe problems with this though. As cinnabryl is toxic to anyone who is not contaminated with the Seed of Cinnabar. This means that there is little use of this currency outside the area of the Savage Coast. This would necessitate a secondary, if not primary export-based economy, that uses a less detrimental form of trade. Luckily, the answers are provided in the Slagovich Affair.

Heard, B. ( 1991, July). Voyage of the Princess Ark #18: The Slagovich Affair. Dragon Magazine, 171, 44.
Exchange rates: Precious metals other than silver and copper (e.g., gold and platinum) and precious stones are useless as currencies on the Savage Coast. Merchants will trade them for their ornamental values or to conduct business with foreign powers, but at half the Known World’s prices. Conversely, Savage Coast Fair and Bright coins or objects made of pure cinnabryl are traded at half their values in the Known World. Depleted cinnabryl trades at the value of pure silver in the Known World. Silver ingots are used in most merchant trade. Note that the true value of a Dark coin really is 1.18 cp, but this difference is widely ignored in trade since that coin is used as petty street cash.

So, platinum, gold, and electrum would still be used just at 50% of their Mystaran value amongst merchants. I’d probably suggest that in at least Slagovich and the City-States that this exchange is probably a bit higher, considering their reputation as trading hubs. In economic terms for larger transactions, merchant house to merchant house or governmental the value of precious metals would most likely be valued closer to fair value. Either that or the goods would be exchanged in direct trade. Otherwise the simple ability to devalue certain precious metals around the Known World makes this a bit worrisome. I could very much see an enterprising trader setting up a way to abuse this (trading horses or camels in Slagovich for cinnabryl coins, trading cinnabryl for whatever gold or platinum is available, and returning home to Minrothad, Ierendi, Darokin, Alphatia, or Thyatia and repeating.

In reading through the texts, it also appears that red steel is used as a currency for deals with nations beyond the Savage Coast. This seems apparently true with the Heldannics and Huleans (though we learn that there is at least one mine in Hule), both getting Red Steel for their armies in exchange for favors or trade agreements.
Heard, B. (1991, August). Voyage of the Princess Ark #19: Hule. Dragon Magazine, 172, 44.

Dragon 172, Page 44, Part 19: Hule
“We have already stockpiled enough depleted red steel to outfit several of your armies. We could ship these right now at our own cost, provided... that you relinquish your claim on Slagovichs port and its mines…”[/quote]
Say what? Even in the magic rich Known Worlds this is sort of terrifying. Realistically, it’s the equivalent of an army equipped with magic weapons or armor. Assuming that it is an exaggeration, its still a large amount of wealth. So, there is a lot of spent cinnabryl floating around for there to be multiple armies’ worth of red steel.

Heard, B. (1991, September). Voyage of the Princess Ark #20: Raman’s Holiday Homework. Dragon Magazine, 173, 43.
These dervishes have regularly repulsed barbarian incursions from the north, thanks mostly to their red steel equipment.

Given certain footnotes in a Zvornikian Gazetteer, I conjecture that Hulean red ore is mined and processed in Darkwood, but this is a minor source of red steel compared to that available in Slagovich. Hule recently spent huge sums of money to buy Slagovich’s stockpiles. Many other states compete for that precious metal, especially these nations on the opposite side of the Bay of Hule. There are rumors of other mines existing on the Savage Coast, southwest of Hule, but if these mines exist their owners have hidden them very well. In a merchant diary dated AC 987, I also found mention of a Minrothad ship that bought red steel, then sailed back toward the East.

Here we learn that Hule may possess a source of red ore. This would later be partially retconned in the 2nd Edition material, Hule would not have a direct source of Red Steel. In addition, a shipment of Red Steel to the Known Worlds might create a imbalance of power that might cause the other Known World nations to turn an opportunistic eye to the region.

Some notes on trade within the Savage Baronies appears in the next issue. The most telling are Almarron:
Heard, B. (1991, November). Voyage of the Princess Ark #22: Arsenic and old mantillas. Dragon Magazine, 175, 44.
Don Esteban quickly seized the nation’s most important asset, as he saw it: the silver mines in the Sierra del Plata. Many of the surrounding nations depend on this source of silver to mint their coins. Remaining resources come especially from coffee plantations whose crops are commonly exported to Hule and the Yavdlom Divinarchy, and the production of cigars or pipe tobacco. Much of the nation’s wealth remains in Don Esteban’s hands.
Almarron apparently holds a disproportionate amount of the region’s silver. This amount is large enough for the nation to supply the mints around the region. Coffee and tobacco are both valuable trade commodities.
And Guadalante:

Heard, B. (1991, November). Voyage of the Princess Ark #22: Arsenic and old mantillas. Dragon Magazine, 175, 45.
The gauchos are a major source of horses and bovines for most of the western Gulf of Hule. After a few clashes with the arcane Saragón over border disputes and watering rights for cattle, the two nations eventually settled their conflict with the Treaty of Cortesillas. Guadalante resumed normal trade thereafter.
Guadalante has wealth available in the form of livestock, but lacks access to cinnabryl, cinnabar, and red steel. Cattle and horse herds are a valuable trade asset in and of themselves. Considering the material originally presented in X6, Slagovich and other trading posts are constantly in need of horses and camels, this should give Guadalante an inordinate amount of wealth in the region.

Heard, B. (1992, January). Voyage of the Princess Ark #24: Lords of the Forest. Dragon Magazine, 177, 48.
As the centuries passed, the Robrenn developed trade with other nations, especially with Texeiran and Vilaverdan merchants. Robrenn exports wine, mead, sausage, corn, wheat, medicinal herbs and potions, spices, and amber. Red steel is of no interest to them. “They would rather obtain payment in serfs, to be used as a labor force for the nobles; Guardiano tradesmen will indeed trade common criminals for goods. Silver is otherwise acceptable, which Robrenn need for their coinage.”

Robrenn seems to be one exception to the cinnabryl based economy, adding slave (wait, wait… serf) labor from the neighboring regions as a major import. Naturally, silver imports are a major component of their economy, where it is reminted for their coinage.

Heard, B. (1992, February). Voyage of the Princess Ark #25: Blood and Steel. Dragon Magazine, 178, 44.
Through the Heldannic knights, the king found a steady supply of cinnabryl.but he also suffered an unfortunate dependence upon the knights’ services. Worse, the Heldannic envoys were gaining influence among his knights by offering them red steel. If the Empire of Alphatia could provide the king with a cure for cinnabryl addiction, he would gleefully outlaw the Heldannic knights from the Kingdom of Eusdria. Otherwise, he could only struggle behind the scenes to oppose Heldannic influence. His nobles were growing restless, and he could count on only a dwindling number of loyal knights for his defense.

The Eusdrian king is suffering cinnabryl addiction or from the fact that enough of his nobles are suffering from it to create a need to lean on the Heldannic Knights for a supply. Of course this begs the question where is the Heldannic order able to get enough cinnabryl to supply a nation’s nobles? Besides importing Eusdria, the kingdom brings in red steel that it uses for crafting weapons and armor. The nation mines iron and copper and supplies the beer, honey, fur, herring, and timber.

Heard, B. (1992, March). Voyage of the Princess Ark #26: a glass of wine and a shaggy dog story, 179, 45.
From the next issue, Dragon 179, we learn that wine, sapphires, cloth, amber, grain, and artwork are the biggest exports from Lupin Renardy. Red steel is relatively unknown in the nation. However, the nation’s ruler is actively seeking to import red steel. This would be accomplished by trading the shamanic secrets of crossing the Plain of Dreams with Eusdria.
Heard, B. (1992, May). Voyage of the Princess Ark #28: eyes of the cat, 181, 46.

Bellayne’s descript makes no mention of cinnabar, red steel, or cinnabryl. The weapon description for the war claws does indicate that the rakasta nation is able to acquire red steel though, citing a +2 bonus to damage. I would gamble that its most valuable trade commodity is probably the coal discovered in the province of Penwick. Enough coal has been discovered to warrant immigration of dwarves to the region. The nation also exports wool, tea, and liquors at least to neighboring Renardy.

Heard, B. (1992, September). Voyage of the Princess Ark #32: Silence of the Lizards, Dragon 185, 44.
“Alphamir 10: I returned to the tunnel the next day with Xerdon, Nyanga,, and Talasar, all ready for battle. Nyanga stood in the front, his huge sword strapped to his back.only a smaller blade could be used in these tight quarters. The tunnel led to a larger chamber. The light from our torches glinted off the red ore on the vault. The cay-men had found a small vein of cinnabar. Perhaps this is what attracted the creature in this mine.”

Cinnabar has been discovered in the Cay lands and they have started to trade red steel. This means that they also have an internal use for cinnabryl, which means cinnabar contamination is present. The Shazak and Cay both trade raw natural resources along the lines of pelts, guano, feathers, and rare woods.

Heard, B. (1993, May). Known World Grimoire, Dragon 192, 44.
The Nimmurians oddly have a balanced export and import economy. Exporting exotic natural products. They import obsidian, food, wine, iron, weapons and armor. This includes red steel.
Oddly, Minrothad and Ierendian ships are mentioned as being rare sights in their ports meaning that there is some connection to this western land and the Known World in the east.

Heard, B. (1993, September). Known World Grimoire, Dragon 196, 43.
The Dark Jungle was, and might be home to least one Cinnabryl mine. This is revealed in Dragon 196, Pyre had slaves mine red ore, cinnabryl, over 500 years ago. It doesn’t mention whether the mining is still underway.

This gives an at-a-glance breakdown of what the nations use as export and import commodities in the Dragon magazine articles. It also becomes indicative of where red steel (hence cinnabryl and cinnabar) are imported or exported.

These indications of cinnabar and cinnabryl lead us to another huge issue, one that will be addressed in a different thread:
Cinnabar poisoning in the Savage Coast.