Verdan Arcanis – English Economics I, Currency, Wages, and Status

Alice’s Abenteuer im Wunderland Übersetzer: An...

Was it trying to do your accounts that did it?

The English Monetary System on Verdan is – of course – a hodgepodge mess of traditional coins minted across the centuries competing with several different “reform” efforts. Sadly, since the system fundamentally relies on silver and gold coinage valued by weight, with banknotes backed by stockpiles of precious metal, older – and exotic – coins cannot effectively be devalued or withdrawn from circulation. Even the denomination symbols can be traced back to the roman empire.

Foreign coins circulate as well, in an equally confused collection of denominations and origins. Fortunately, when value is determined by weight, and a certain amount of haggling is common, minor vagaries of purity and origin are subsumed in the overall confusion…


  • 1 Farthing = The smallest copper coin. The price of a decent snack.
  • 2 Farthings = 1 Halfpenny. The price of a filling meal of bread and vegetables with a little meat for flavor – or a sizeable flagon of beer. These are often combined as a penny meal – although the tuppence meal is a lot better.
  • 2 Halfpence = 1 Penny, originally a small silver coin, weighing 1/15’th of an ounce but often a much larger coin, minted in copper. A good days wages for a street kid running errands or acting as a guide.
  • 2 Pence = 1 Tuppence or Half-Groat. The price of a third-class railway ticket, a good, filling, and very solid meal in a tavern, a gallon of gasoline, a bottle of laudanum, or a half-ton of lignite coal.
  • 3 Pence = 1 Thruppence (a “Threepenny Bit” is a subdivided Shilling, but minted Thruppence are preferred). For some reason the usual price of large cakes, pies, and other fancy pastries.
  • 4 Pence = 1 Fourpence or Groat. A coin that persists in sayings, but is relatively rarely found in actual circulation. The standard price of cab fair from anywhere in London to anywhere in London.
  • 6 Pence = 1 Sixpence (a ‘Tanner’, so called because modern sixpence are usually made of bronze). A weeks pay for a pageboy – although such servants are usually live-in, and so get food, lodging, and uniforms as well. Also a weeks pay for poor children in factories, mines, and other nominally-adult positions – but this presumes that they’re partially supported by their parents. The price of a hatchet, a rat trap, a good thick blanket, a days worth of canned food, a machete, or a lantern.
  • 12 Pence = 1 Shilling (a “Bob”). A weeks pay for a housemaid – although, once again, such servants are usually live-in, and so get food, lodging, and uniforms as well. The price of a canvas tarp, a bear trap, a naphtha lighter, a bottle of nitroglycerin – or a stick of less powerful (but far safer) dynamite.
  • 2 Shillings = 1 Florin ( a ‘Two Bob Bit’). The price of a long ton of top-quality coal, a pocket almanac or encyclopedia, an axe, a backpack, or a hundred feet of good rope.
  • 2 Shillings and 6 Pence = 1 Half Crown. The price of a bottle of decent liquor. As always, the price of the good stuff goes up almost without limit.
  • 5 Shillings = 1 Crown. A weeks pay for an unskilled laborer. The price of a good hunting knife, a hundred rounds of pistol ammo, a lantern, or a sledgehammer.
  • 10 Shillings = 1 Half-Sovereign (a gold coin). A weeks pay for a semi-skilled laborer. Add half again for somewhat more skilled professions such as sailor, enlisted soldier, or farmhand. The price of a barrel of black powder, a (large hand-ground) magnifying lens, a hundred rounds of rifle ammo, a portable camp stove,
  • 20 Shillings = 1 Pound Sterling (a gold Sovereign). A pound is a weeks pay for an adult City Worker, Guard, Policeman, Assistant, Clerk, or Coal Miner. Double that for Skilled Craftsman and Expert Servants – such as a REALLY good cook. Expert Engineers, Foremen, and Master Clerks triple it. A Second Lieutenant makes four pounds per week, a Civil Servant in the Foreign Office makes six – and a Cabinet Minister makes fifty. It buys a large technical book, a set of lockpicks, a sturdy outfit suitable for foul weather or exploration,
  • 21 Shillings = 1 Guinea (an annoyingly-valued gold coin). Guineas are considered more upper-class than Pound Notes or Sovereigns. Most folk – tradesmen, laborers, and common craftsmen – usually both pay and are paid in pounds. Upper-class types, such as artists, gentleman-scientists, and military officers are usually paid in Guineas – getting an extra 5% for being further up the social ladder. Of course, upper-class types are also expected to pay someone who’s done an exceptional job in Guineas instead of Pounds – essentially giving them a tip. A guinea will buy a piece of jewelry, a good-quality violin, or an expertly-tailored jacket.
  • Bank Notes include the Half Pound (Ten Bob Note), the Pound (One Quid), The Five Pound Note (Fiver), Ten Pound Note (Tenner), and an assortment of larger notes which are generally the province of banks, corporations, and the very rich. After all, when a Tenner might represent a good months wages for an engineer, how often will the average person find one in their pocket?

For the purposes of the Baba Yaga game wealth is handled by the Finance skill, just as social class and importance is covered by Status. Sadly, both are considerably less flexible in England than they are in partisan resistance groups, hence buying them up beyond the level suited to your initial writeup is going to require GM approval and in-game justification beyond just spending some experience. In any case, while large purchases will still require rolls, the basic wealth bonus covers a standard lifestyle. Sadly, membership in a social class doesn’t necessarily bring the “appropriate” level of funds – or Status – along with it.

  • -1: You’re destitute, and usually desperate. Your food is poor and scanty, your clothing is the cast-off rags of more successful laborers, your knife is probably stolen, you sleep in whatever shelter you can find, and any money you acquire will go for some basic item you desperately need – or to feed whatever addiction keeps you here. If you need to travel, it’s going to be by foot, by improvised raft, or by stowing away. If you’re at all competent, you can almost certainly easily find a job where your employer will support you at a better lifestyle than this. A few religious fanatics and madmen accept this lifestyle voluntarily, but they’re definitely the exceptions that prove the rule.
  • 0: Un- and Semi-skilled laborers, including farmhands and youthful apprentices, usually fit in here. The food still isn’t very good, but there’s generally enough of it, clothing is cheap and mended, but sturdy enough, your knife belongs to you, your lodgings are tolerably warm, reasonably weathertight, and light on vermin, you can spare an occasional coin for fripperies, and the cheapest forms of travel are open to you if the trip is truly important. Unfortunately, your kids will need to be put to work early to help support themselves. Equally sadly, a large chunk of the population is stuck here – working long hours at dead-end Victorian production jobs for little pay with few or no opportunities for education or advancement and every prospect of crippling industrial injuries (or of dying very young indeed, leaving more doomed children to struggle to support themselves and follow the same path to it’s bitter end).
  • 1: Craftsman, sailors, enlisted military, policemen, and junior clerks tend to wind up at this level. The food is fairly plentiful, clothing is utilitarian but in good shape, a common firearm can be obtained if necessary, lodgings are probably a cottage or a row-house, there’s enough money to go out and have a few beers a couple of times a week, and you can afford the occasional train ticket or short ocean trip. Perhaps most importantly, if you have kids, they won’t have to go to work to help support themselves and so can get some education. With any luck, they’ll be able to move up into the Victorian Middle Class as adults.
  • 2: The Victorian Middle Class; skilled clerks, military officers, engineers, minor agents, and similar characters tend to wind up here. The food is good with occasional luxuries, you may purchase decent arms if you need them, your clothes are formal, well-cared for, and regularly replaced, you can afford to rent a reasonable house or comfortable flat, you may regularly attend lower-end plays and musical performances and take your family to the seaside or other minor attractions, and you can try to move your kids up the social ladder. You travel by train, and occasionally by coach in areas where trains don’t reach. You’ll normally employ a domestic servant or two, a nanny (albeit probably not Mary Poppins) will help look after your kids, and you will live the stereotypical Victorian lifestyle. Special hobbies – such as mechanical tinkering, or magic, or taxidermy – will probably be confined to a desk in your den unless they’re job-related.
  • 3: Successful businessmen, civil servants in the foreign office, and very successful members of the middle class wind up here – as do junior aristocrats living off allowances and credit and severely embarrassing scions being encouraged to drink themselves into oblivion. There will be excellent meals, several servants, and a regular dose of luxuries and entertainment. You’re likely to own a house or to rent a very pleasant set of apartments. Your clothes will be reasonably new and stylish. If you feel a need for weaponry you’ll probably have a pistol or two about, and may well have several other weapons. You’re unlikely to own a personal vehicle, but you can travel comfortably – if not quite in the luxury classes. If you have special hobbies, a small laboratory, or library, or similar area is likely to be devoted to them. A companionable servant is practically standard-issue.
  • 4: Successful industrialists, aristocrats and gentry tend to fall into this category. At this point you’re likely to own a well-staffed house in the city and manor in the country, an assortment of horses and carriages, have a rather excessive wardrobe (all splendidly cared-for) with plenty of accessories, own a dozen hunting weapons, have a decent library, several well-equipped rooms devoted to any special hobby you may have, and luxurious travel arrangements, up to your own airship. Basically, you’re rich.
  • 5: Business moguls, wealthy industrialists, rules of small countries, and the richest aristocrats wind up here. These are the people who can build their own experimental ships, set up major laboratories to support their hobbies, own libraries, and send out agents to get whatever-it-is they happen to want. They own dozens of properties and several major vehicles, command the services of hundreds of employees who work directly for them, and generally have their own security forces. They don’t usually join other people’s expeditions and projects; they just fund their own.
  • 6: Characters at this level can draw on resources that most organizations can only dream of. If they need to fund a small private fleet or army, it’s within their means. They can have the best of anything they want, employ small hordes of people, have enough lawyers to get away with almost anything short of high treason (and sometimes even that), and own more properties than they can remember. In general they don’t join lesser organizations; they just fund one that does what they want.

Naturally enough, in Baba Yaga it becomes easier and easier to attain high wealth levels as the games power level goes up. A Normal Adult character who wanted to possess vast wealth could do so – at the cost of having nothing else. A superhero, on the other hand, can attain a +6 score in Finance quite readily – and could even attain higher levels. Go ahead! Own your own private dimension!

Status governs a character’s general social station in much the same way that Finance governs their lifestyle – but it’s a good deal more flexible; if you’re relatively young, inexperienced, or devoting your time to adventure (or to parties, women, drink, and other disreputable activities), rather than to maintaining your social position your effective (purchased) social status may be a good deal lower your theoretical one. If you’re a youthful, inexperienced, adventuring aristocrat all you need to support that is Status 2…

  • -1: Criminal Class. Yep. Pickpockets, prostitutes, muggers, counterfeiters, and unstylish highwaymen all fall into this category of undesirables. If at all possible, most law enforcement officials will view it as a public service to lock you up if they can come up with any excuse at all.
  • 0: Laborer Class. You’re a nobody – but you’re a useful nobody who does rather a lot of work for very little money. Fortunately, most of the higher classes will pay very little attention to what you might be up to; laborers are everywhere!
  • 1: Working Class. This includes enlisted military men, common servants, crewmen, industrial workers, and all the the other people who usually come in semi-skilled interchangeable groups.
  • 2: Tradesman. This group includes superior servants (butlers, expert cooks, etc), tailors, and other skilled craftsmen. If you’re an expert in a particular field – but still work with your hands in some practical field – you probably fall into this category.
  • 3: Middle Class. The Victorians Par Excellence, the Middle Class are primarily administrators – the people who run the banks, the territories, the factories, and all the bustling businesses and engineering projects of England.
  • 4: Gentry. The lower-level aristocrats – the families of sheriffs, magistrates, country barons, churchmen, and lesser landholders who had once provided the troops and organizational background of mediaeval monarchies – make up the Gentry, a group that may be displaced eventually, but who (for the time being) still sustain the rural backbone of the nation. The gentry are well-respected – perhaps better-respected than the Aristocrats, who are often seen as being impractical and insulated from reality by their wealth – and, in return, adhere to their traditional responsibilities.
  • 5: Aristocrats. The Aristocrats have been living the good life for many centuries now, and have no intention of stopping… They also tend to distrust “progress”, industry, science, trade, and anything else that might change things – a reasonable enough reaction when things are very good the way they are! Born to wealth and rulership, they may be prats – but they know how to shoot, ride, organize the lower classes, sneer at threats, and run things perfectly well.
  • 6: Nobility. Basically this means the few people who still hold major hereditary titles – the wealthiest and most powerful aristocrats, and usually the ones with ties to the actual reigning powers of Europe. They’re the ones who push for treaties, command wars, and otherwise run the House of Lords. (If you want to be actual royalty, you’ll need Status 5, Perception +1, AND a special perk).

One Response

  1. […] Verdan Arcanis – English Economics, Currency, Wages, and Status – Specifics on the Finance and Status skills for the Verdan Arcanis campaign setting […]

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