Currency and Economics on the Anomaly

And for a bonus post today it’s some more of the background for the Anomaly setting – in this case the…

Economic Basics:

While they look like a minor race, the Gathri are actually one of the major economic influences in Avrinthos and several of the neighboring realms. Whether gathered in little clans (their natural tendency), spread out as freeholders, or held as slaves, serfs, or peasants, their racial mastery of “Hedge Magic” allows them to be incredibly productive. An average Gathri has enough power to – in just a few minutes – plow a field, fertilize it, plant it, remove the weeds, and ward it against vermin or harvest it. Sure, that will be it for the day (unless they’ve developed their abilities a bit more) – but that’s still normally two or three weeks of work for a team of four to six peasants. Even without the use of any Charms, Talismans, or other special powers (such as their modest allotment of “city magic item” equivalents), the Gathri are fifty to a hundred times as productive as a “normal” farmer. Enough so that their basic survival strategy tends to be “we supply all of you warlike sorts and you protect us”. Most of the time… the local Gathri are treated as a part of the loot, rather than opposition.

So things like “a hearty meal and someplace warm and reasonably comfortable to sleep for the night”, “traveling supplies for a week”, or “basic clothing” tend to be available for the equivalent of pocket change. Starving street children, crude mud huts, and desperate beggars simply are not at all common despite the superficially unindustralized appearance of most rural settlements.

So for the most part, there’s not much point in trading in basic commodities. Any settlement that doesn’t have some Gathri will soon import some, and any settlement that does will have plenty of food, cloth, rope, water, and housing. Moving small amounts of exotic foodstuffs, spices, fine wines, and similar items supports some local traders – but differing racial tastes and Gathri clannishness tends to keep the markets fairly limited. It’s a pretty good job if you want to take the risks – but it certainly isn’t a road to fabulous wealth.

Trade Goods – Exotic Materials:

The Anomaly is full of plants with strange properties (physical or biological) that only grow in limited areas, exotic materials, locations where rare metals and crystals are mined, and more. The demand for such things tends to vary – but near Vitromasse alone, Ironwood is as tough as highly advanced starship hull material, Firesap Vines produce incendiary sap that serves as fuel as-is and can be crystallized into a powerful explosive, and Bronzefruit rinds supply metal. For those with the capacity to transport reasonable quantities of such things – and willing to put up with the erratic markets and risks – simply wandering from settlement to settlement can provide excellent profits. It does tend to require tying up a lot of cash and carrying capacity in various cargoes while you roam about looking for a buyer however – so only bold and well-funded merchants are likely to take this route.

Trade Goods – Devices:

On the Anomaly – or at least in the local area – “Devices” usually refers to anything that most people can use without a lot of training but which are tricky to produce – requiring either special talents or special resources. Items in this category include:

  • Basic Chemistry, Advanced Medications, and Alchemical Items, including things that have been “distilled into their ideal forms” by someone with the right knack or various semi-unique compounds derived from special local resources – allowing there to be trading in things like “2000 Proof” alcohol and very high grade explosives as well as powerful medicines. Fortunately, alchemically enhanced curatives tend to be effective on an immense variety of species.
  • Charms and Talismans from The Practical Enchanter (or psionic equivalents), When linked with a user these devices can help focus the ambient energies of the Anomaly into an immense variety of minor-but-useful abilities. Unfortunately, many of them require special materials or particular affinities to make – so they’re a common trade item to places that cannot produce a desired charm or talisman. Most people can only use a few at a time, but several Birthrights allow more.
  • Basic Technology includes steam engines, chemical batteries, explosives, flintlocks, and similar items – which can be unexpectedly powerful by off-realm standards given alchemy, materials with weird properties and alchemically-boosted materials can result in flintlocks that fire the equivalent of small cannon shells. Oddly enough, a selection of microtronic devices work as well – but the vast majority of places near Avrinthos cannot produce them.
  • Low-End Magic and Psionics (Mostly levels 0-2, most Witchcraft) can be learned and used by pretty much anyone – and so devices built using such effects work for anyone who knows how to use them. While such devices are relatively low-powered in high-magic worlds, they can be remarkably potent and very, VERY, useful in less magical realms.
  • The Elemental Forces may or may not be distinct from Psionics and Magic. They are popularly believed to have a different origin and mechanism, but the actual effects are similar enough to Magic and Psionics to lump them into that category.
  • Midrange Social Constructs aren’t usually direct-export items – but experts capable of organizing things on a higher level than that, and books and courses that help out the less talented ARE. This isn’t usually a major field of trade, but it is a requirement for building major trading networks, organizing large projects, going past the city-state level, or organizing large-scale religions. Thus most religions are local cults. Interestingly, the domestication of animals falls into this category; skillful trainers have a very marketable ability.
  • Ceremonial Magic – using the exotic energies inherent in times, places, and materials – works for anyone with the skill to use it, and underlies a great many superstitions. It’s a fairly important trade item in itself, since ceremonies often call for exotic components and ceremonial magic is easy to adapt to very specific tasks and the creation of minor devices, b ut isn’t very powerful.
  • Religious Powers are based in the Four Spiritual Elements – Life, Spirit, Death, and Destiny – although they only function at relatively low levels in most of the Anomaly, leaving much confusion about the nature of the afterlife and similar issues. Oddly enough, however, they still have a fairly massive impact since minor and major tokens of the four powers are easily invoked by anyone who holds them and are easily recognized as valuable by any sapient being – making religious faith a basic part of the system (such as it is) of currency.
  • Gems, Crystals, and Rare Metals are valued somewhat for their durability and beauty, but mostly because they’re used in a wide variety of Devices. They don’t have the blatant inherent value that the Tokens of Life, Spirit, Death, and Destiny have – but they’re compact, fairly valuable, and easy to carry, making them common and reasonably important trade goods almost everywhere.

Trade Goods – Living Beings:

  • Racial Powers – including the exotic properties and abilities of various plants and animals – seem to work almost everywhere, even if they offer access to to abilities that the Anomaly does not normally readily support. This seems to be linked to the Anomalies life-supporting properties. Plants, Beasts, and Indentured Servants or Slaves with exotic abilities or talents are a major trade item.
  • Birthrights – the dimensional attunements that are acquired at the moment of birth – seem to be more or less unique to sapient beings and travel with them. While relatively few individuals are capable tapping into the full power of their Birthright (it takes great personal strength and a lot of practice / being higher level), once again, Hirelings, Indentured Servants, and Slaves with the more useful (and controllable) Birthrights are a major trade item.

One Response

  1. […] Currency and Economics on the Anomaly – A description of the basic economics and trade goods available […]

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