So I took a bit of a break from mapping over the last few weeks, since I have instead been focusing on the economy of my campaign. The problem I have been dealing with is that a reasonable economy is kind of important in a campaign that will have the players establishing businesses and empires, but the one in 4th edition is pants-on-head retarded. It’s 100% based on players finding magic items they want of their appropriate level. You only get a finite amount of money per level, and if you spend it on things other than magic gear you are wasting it. Saving it is also wasting it, as if you save up every GP you get during paragon tier you only have enough for one level 21 item. And yet, getting more money somehow (such as through a successful business) will unbalance the combat in the game.
So I just threw all that out. We are using the Inherent Bonuses system from the Dungeon Master’s Guide 2, which means the players don’t NEED the bonuses they normally get from magic items to fight effectively. Instead, I’ve set up a system that will allow the players to craft as many copies of a small set of magic items they like, assuming they have the base item to enchant. The idea is that they will eventually set up magic item factories to create large number of magic items to sell, using the swords and armour and such that they have created from their other establishments. This will provide a way to make money needed to expand further, equip any armies they create, and equip themselves.
The big problem with this is figuring out how much anything costs to begin with. How much is an iron sword? How much is the iron to make it? How much do blacksmiths get paid? What about other goods that the players might want to get involved in? Answering all of those questions was going to be a lot of work. Luckily, I found Grain Into Gold, which walks you through building an entire fantasy economy from the ground up, starting with the cost of some wheat and using it to calculate how much everything else in the game would cost, including things like transportation, wages, and building ships and structures. All of their numbers are based on historical data where possible, and approximated from modern data when not. It was also a good read, to be honest, if you have any interest at all in the subject matter.
In the end it basically solved every problem I had. I just decide what relevant goods each of my cities create, and then I can calculate what any good will cost in any city based on how close it is to the source. I can also easily add in new fantasy goods, like special metals, and add in “magic items” as another step in the production chain at the end. If you want to have any sort of economy that makes sense, I can’t recommend Grain Into Gold enough.