Country Living 4 – People

I love it when people do something that makes me start thinking about social structures in my world. I, sort of, know all of this stuff in advance – but writing it down makes me consider it more fully. In the process of writing this blog, I amended the rules for manufacturing developments slightly, revisited Divine Adepts – and added ‘dog’ as a custom familiar for Divine Adepts dedicated to a nature god. All-in-all, and excellent return.

Commoners

Most of the people in the countryside are commoners. These are people who haven’t had very much going for them, and who haven’t managed to ‘escape’ into one of the other classes – most of the people in the game world are commoners.  They live in a world of barter and copper pieces, where a couple of silver pieces is a good day’s wage – but they are both resourceful and hardy.

In my game commoners get full HP at first level then progress at average HP, and my NPCs have a basic 5 point build.  They don’t get traits, and I have removed Craft and Profession from the class skills list – nor can they take the Skill Specialization feat.  They are the ‘Salt of the Earth’ who provide the labour needed to do … just about anything.

It isn’t all bad :}  Most commoners have a roof over their heads,  clothes to wear, food to eat and aren’t too cold in winter.  They just don’t have any luxuries, or even any particularly nice things.  Like other classes they progress, but few go beyond Level 3.

L1 Commoners are Young Adults –  Probably 14-17 with few skills, no traits and no skill points in Crafts or Professions. They are kids setting out in life – unskilled, as yet, but ready to learn.  These are the guys you can employ for 1sp per day or hold your horse for a couple of coppers.  You will also find them doing the washing up, mucking out the stables or doing similar unskilled jobs.

L2 Commoners are Adults who have learned the basic of their job, and probably work somewhere as a labourer. They get average HP, and have learned one or two craft or Professional skills.  They might also take a trait, from my Commoners Traits list.  These traits represent ‘extra’ training and include some basic military skills, hunting skills, housekeeping skills.   They make up the majority of commoners.

L3 Commoners are well established.  They are the people who run the stronghold, act as foreman on work-gangs or oversee tasks.  They probably make up 30% of commoners in an area and are the backbone of the rural community.

L4 Commoners (and above) are rare – and all have their own character sheets.

This is a fairly standard template for my NPC Commoners :-

Str-11, Con-11, Dex-11, Int-11, Wis-11, Cha-11
Feats= Toughness, Endurance and Great Fortitude
HP 10 (L2, 13) (L3, 16)   (includes 1hp/Level for Favoured Class)
Skills (Includes 1 Skill Point/level for Human)
L1 – Climb, Swim & one at random.
L2 – 2x Profession or Craft & one at random.  (eg Prof:Farmer, Craft:Leather)
L3 – Often just extra points in the same skill areas as before (BUT – sometimes I get inventive)

That probably doesn’t look very useful – however, they can Take Ten on skills where they have spent points.  That puts DC10 tasks comfortably within their skill set – which means farmers can grow the common crops, woodworkers can make basic furniture, smiths can make everyday items, etc.

Those commoners with traits that give weapon proficiency will generally be proficient in one more of Sling, Club, Staff or another free weapon as well – as will any commoners who travel regularly or might find themselves in a tough spot.  Those with ‘Military’ traits will probably own a home-made Reinforced Tunic as Armour.

Clothing is basic – drawstring trouser or skirt, with plain jacket or vest, probably fastened with ties, laces or a simple belt.  Most are made of cheap wool, although some are of leather.  A shirt and breech-clout of a softer material probably finer wool (rarely linen) are prized items and are the only items washed regularly.  Wooden soled clogs and boots (more expensive) are the favoured footwear.  Beanie hats, socks and gloves are probably knitted wool, while cloaks, hoods and other coats might well be made of hessian.  Colours are often muted greys, greens, browns and yellows – all of which can be dyed fairly easily.

Food is basic as well.  Vegetable stew is the staple, perhaps with meat or fish a couple of times a week, while eggs can be hard-boiled and accompany apples or even raw onions.  Herb teas are a common drink –  Nettle Tea is a favourite, because nettles are readily available and can be dried for use through the year.  Hooch, is a weak fruit wine, fermented enough to make sure the water used in the process is safe and disease free.  Small ale serves the same purpose, but grain is harder to come by.  Bread costs money (or at least the grain does), so many commoners eat pease pudding instead.  It is a sort of porridge made from peas,  which solidifies when cold to make a bread substitute.

Inside the house will be some simple furniture – table and benches, a dresser for the pots and crockery, simple bed frames with straw filled mattresses.  Blankets and drapes will be rough wool (perhaps crocheted) or hessian.  There will be a single fireplace for heat and cooking.  Light comes from cheap tallow candles.

This equates to a ★ or ★★ living standard, depending on the status of the individual.  It is a basic existence – but one that provides enough food, shelter and warmth.  For most of the people, most of the time.

Warriors

Every village has some warriors, who are employed by the local lord, to patrol the village and its hinterland.   Villages with a watch tower just have a unit of guards, but larger villages might have scouts and cavalry as well.

Most are level 3 warriors, although their officer may be level 4, and if so probably has a level of Aristocrat, to represent his experience of management, leadership and command.  The officer is usually the magistrate for the area and the Lord’s bailiff, with responsibilities for collecting rents and assessing taxes as well.

The stats for the light troops I use in this role can be found here

Some Troopers live in barracks, while some live in cottages in the village and have the same standard of accommodation as most of the villagers.  However, they are paid in cash and have a slightly better standard of living.  Shoes and clothing is a slightly better quality, blankets are thicker, they have bread instead of pease pudding, meat is served more frequently, and they generally have some coin left over for a night in the tavern.  Not a huge change, but enough to be significant in a rural environment they are comfortably into the ★★ rankings, with some junior officers pushing towards ★★★.

Many troopers come from a similar background as the people they patrol –  and while they don’t get posted to their home village until they have proved themselves elsewhere, they have sympathy with, and understand, the people of the village.  Officers get paid more, have better accommodation and an even better standard of living.  In many cases the Local Officer is the wealthiest and highest ranking person in the village. …. While most officers come from a ‘better’ social class, it is still possible for someone from commoner stock to get promoted to that level.  An officer is the likely to be the only person in the village with a noticeably better standard of living  (★★★) as they are looked after by servants (Military Auxiliaries) almost as if they were a knight or a noble.

This is one of the easiest, and cheapest, ways for a commoner to move up the social ladder.  Lords are always looking out for likely lads (and lasses) to join their forces – the recruit is trained, equipped and paid, regularly, in real money – and it is likely that their offspring will be able to follow them into a similar role in the future.  Many commoners see it as a first step on the social ladder, and if they can make it as an officer … the world is their oyster …

Adepts

Almost all the smaller religious establishments, like those found in villages and hamlets, are overseen by adepts.  Great Shrines, Graveyards and Holy Houses are prevalent in Villages while simple shrines are sometimes found in Hamlets, however, there are exceptions.  Some religious orders develop hamlets that are primarily religious sites so, occasionally, you might run across a hamlet built around a Priory.  While there is normally one main deity in a hex, you can find shrines dedicated to other deities close by. 

The type, and level, of community support will vary according to the deity represented.  Pharasma, for example, concentrates on funerals, but will also help celebrate weddings and namings.  Erastil is more involved with the community, encouraging active participation in all sorts of events from the whole community.  Sarenrae’s priests, concentrate on community health, with advice and their healing skills. It is rare to find other deities’ houses in a rural setting – however, larger defensive buildings, such as a Fort or a Garrison, may well have their own Military Chaplain to support the troops and, perhaps, to help run militia training sessions.

Nearly all rural priests live at about the same standard as their parishioners, although they are normally comfortably into the ★★ rankings, in the same way as warriors are. These rural priests are almost built as Collegiate Adepts and come from a similar background to their flock.  While Rural priests get some of their stipend in cash, they also receive ‘collection plate’ donations in kind (perhaps a rabbit, or a bag of apples) from the local community.

This is another way that Commoners can move up the social ladder, although chances of promotion it is limited.  This is because most religious buildings (from Chapel Upwards) have a Cleric (rather than Adept) in charge.  At best, an adept might hope to become second-in-command at one of these larger establishments.

Of course, some rural religious buildings are home to PC clerics – and then all bets are off. You are unlikely to find many arcane or spontaneous adepts in a rural setting, as most gravitate towards towns and cities.

Experts

Experts are a different kettle of fish.  They are all different and unless you have family connections, it is difficult to become an expert.  Most Experts learn their skills in the family business, although some have parents with enough clout (or cash) to arrange a suitable apprenticeship.

Any business with an Econ value is run by an Expert, so every village and most Hamlets will have a few experts in residence. The farms are managed by expert farmers, the tavern by expert Inn keepers, the mill by an expert miller and even the market has its own expert merchant. In wilderness areas there will be expert hunters, trappers and guides.  While Commoners provide the labour that keep the economy working, Experts are the managers, supervisors and specialists.

Developments with Econ +1 (Tavern, Mill, Craft workshop) are normally run by an Expert-3 with +7 in the main skill that relates to the business. Developments with Econ +2 (Road House, Brewery)are run by an Expert-3 who has Skill Focus and (if appropriate) masterwork tools – which gives +10/12 in their main skill.

Along with the main expert there will be a spouse (probably Commoner-3) and a couple of other experts (possibly an Expert-2 and an Expert-1) who are either children of the ‘master’ or outsiders taken on as assistants.  The development makes work for a number of the local commoners, with a few taken on as permanent labourers, and many others finding part-time work here.

There is probably an apprentice or two as well.  L1 commoners who are learning the basics of the trade- in return for acting as gofers, servants and menial labour.  These apprentices can find themselves doing anything including sweeping the floor, pumping bellows or carrying fence posts.  Some develop as commoner-labourers, a few lucky ones might learn enough to become an expert themselves.

Most experts have the same sort of living standards as Warriors and Divine Adepts, although their exact place in the Village Hierarchy depends on ‘status’ of their developments

Example Hierarchy

Outpost and its hamlets

  1. Cdr Ress
  2. Lt Pickering, Brody (manager of the hopyard)
  3. Garrison Sergeants, Sub-Prior of Pharasma’s Holy House, Market Manager, Innkeeper (Tavern), Farm Manager (Westfarm), Manager of Roths Local Ales (Rothyard).
  4. Warriors, Adepts & Experts
  5. Smallholders and labourers.

Country Living 3 – Villages

Villages

Villages are the centre of rural life.  They act as a hub for smallholdings and hamlets that surround them, providing security and other basic facilities.  A ‘classic’ village has the church, the pub and the local market –  the main source of Security, Faith, Socialising and Trade  for everyone who lives in that hex.  It is the heart of the community.

Outpost, described below, fits that model – the garrison patrols a larger area that most and a lot of troops.  Under my Campaign Rules,  that takes up space so some other facilities are ‘smaller’ than they could be.   However, the better the defence/security the more hamlets it can support – so Outpost can support three hamlets rather than the (more normal) one or two.  As each hamlet is able to support at least one more business, with (perhaps) a local brewery, mill and blacksmith are probably first on the list for Outpost.  With a bit of thought, you can develop a thriving rural community – distributed among the hamlets but centred on the main village.

Then there are the smallholdings.  The various maps of the hex show the small holdings closest to the Village and hamlets, but there are others scattered around the countryside as well.

Example:  Outpost

This isn’t the Outlook of the present, but represents the plans for the Village of Outlook.  There is no Tavern at the moment, and the Holy House is still only a graveyard – however, this is what it could be. It currently has two dependent hamlets, West Farm and Rothyard, and has the potential to add a third.  However, it could be expanded – building a palisade around the village proper would increase its ‘Defence’ to four, which would permit the development of a fourth hamlet.

The Village of Outpost

The Garrison (1) The garrison buildings house three separate units of troopers – Guards to patrol the local area, Scouts who travel further afield, and Light Cavalry who patrol the roads.  Lt Commander Ress is also magistrate for the town and Lord Henry’s bailiff for the area, his assistant Lt Pickering oversees the patrols and day to day running of the garrison.

The Outpost Tavern (2) A simple eating and drinking house provides the village’s only real social space, and is busiest on market days, when more smallholders come in from further afield.  Its main stock-in-trade are local ales and wine, along with simple meals.  You are most likely to see tables of locals playing cards or dice, rather than hear a musician or entertainer.  However, there are occasional entertainers, and the Tavern often allows travellers to sleep on the common room floor for a night or two.

The Market (3) The market is busiest of Market Day (held twice a week) when people fetch in their wares from outlying smallholdings.  On those days you can buy a large range of local produce –  mainly foodstuff,  although there are other locally produced items as well.  There are always a couple of local smallholders with stalls, so you can buy fresh veg most days of the week.  And there are a few enterprising who buy up the left-over stock, and hold it to sell on over the rest of the week.  One trader has taken it a bit further, and buys up minor items to sell on his stall, and you can generally get an eclectic mix of wooden spoons, clay bowls, lengths of home-spun material, simple cloaks, hats, gloves – all sorts of basic accoutrements, available every day of the week.

Pharasma’s Holy House (4) A small religious community run by Broth Amos – who oversee the spiritual needs of the community.  They can offer simple weddings, namings and funerals – and have a small cemetery plot attached to their mission.  Pharasma isn’t big on ceremonies (except for funerals) so weddings tend to be a formalized hand-fasting and ‘namings’ tend to be little more than a recognition of the new villager.  They do, however, keep the villages records of births, marriages and deaths.

Workers’ Cottages (5) Terraced rows of cottages that are little more than a one up, one down – they often house a family of five or six people.  Each of the two rooms is about 20×10 – the ground floor often contains separate spaces for living and working, while the upper room can be partitioned with curtains or screen to give some element of privacy.    Each terrace (about 5 houses) has a couple of privies to service the block.  While not ‘comfortable’ by modern standards, it is often better than they would find in a town or city.

Country Living 2 – Hamlets

Hamlets

A Hamlet is little more than collection of smallholdings that are close to each other – but with something that gives them common goals and sense of community. 

Smallholdings are often built close to larger settlements (Village, Town City) which offer better protection, more work opportunities and a central market to see their goods.  This mean that the smallholdings near the settlement are closer together than those located further away – and that means that the people of the smallholdings have more chance to mix with each other and develop a sense of community. 

Very occasionally this will lead to the smallholders getting together on a communal project that benefits them all mutually – such as a community hall or a shrine (if they all share the same faith).   More often, someone else sees that smallholdings are close together, and sees that there is a ready supply of labour for a ‘country’ business, so starts a local business.  Once a hamlet is established, it can attract more smallholders, and develop into a living thriving community.

Country Businesses make use of whatever resources there are in a region – mostly they are farms of some type, although quarries, fisheries and lumber camps all have a place, if the terrain is right.  If there are suitable mineral resources, it might even be a mining hamlet, although in that case it is often the mine that comes first and the smallholders follow.  There are a few ‘special cases’ where a Lord or a Cleric  builds a hamlet for their own purposes –  much like a mine, the smallholders follow, knowing that there will be work available for them.

Example 1 – West Farm

This is an example of a basic hamlet, just starting out on its development.

There is a farmyard, with a row of cottages for the regular farmworkers.  It is a mixed-economy farm – in other words it grows vegetables, a cash crop (normally cereals) and keeps a few head of livestock for milk, eggs, wool and leather.

There are a couple of smallholdings nearby, and they provide casual and part-time labour to help keep the farm running.  Although they still maintain their normal smallholding practices at the same time, the steady supply of casual work gives them a bit more financial stability.

A win for everyone.

Example 2 – Rothyard

Rothyard started out in much the same way as the farm described earlier, but has grown. 

First it added fields of hops as an extra cash crop, along with the extra buildings needed to process the hops. Then, as more smallholders moved to the area, they added a small brewery making a beer for local consumption and a community hall to help bind the community together.

Now it is a nice, compact, hamlet.  There are a number of permanently employed staff living in cottages, and enough local smallholdings to provide part-time and casual labour when they need it.  However, it has grown as much as it can, and can’t really develop any further without losing its character and status as a hamlet.

Country Living 1 – Smallholdings

A couple of characters in The Stolen land have been building an agricultural rural stronghold – which started me thinking. While very little of this is new, I have spent some time pulling things together, and tweaking them slightly. Expect posts on Hamlets, Villages and the Urban Hinterland at some point 🙂


Smallholding

A single small holding, some distance from the nearest settlement is known as a thorp.  However, they are also the main type of housing found in hamlets and villages, and the most common housing in the hinterlands of towns and cities, as well.  Most of the population are small scale, subsistence, farmers and labourers.

A smallholding is the smallest unit of Country Living, which produces enough for basic living, and  is often a home for one extended family of, perhaps, 10-12 people. A smallholding is often a single room dwellings, perhaps with curtains or screens for privacy that serves as a living room, work room and kitchen – with cooking over a fire (perhaps in a fireplace).  Building materials depend on the environment – wattle and daub, sod/earth, logs – or a combination. There will be a few simple outbuildings, mainly sheds of some type, for tools, storage and animals.

Smallholders use hand tools to cultivate small plots of land, where they  grow common food plants,  and generally have a couple of goats and a few chickens to provide milk, eggs and (occasionally) meat.  There is often a small herb and fruit garden, growing crab apples, green plums and blackberries as well.  A well-established smallholder will have a few more goats, grow different varieties of fruit and may even have a donkey as a pack animal.

Foraging and small game hunting supplement this diet.  Game birds and rabbits might be taken with a sling, fish can be taken with a net and wild foods can be collected locally.  Occasionally a smallholder might have (and be proficient with) a light cross bow, and use that to hunt larger game

Many smallholders also have craft skills, although only at skill +4 or +5, which supplement their income.  They can often make a few coins by making baskets or simple furniture – or even shoeing horses.  These items are either bartered locally, or sold in a local market to make a few coins.

There is always work available in hamlets, villages and urban settings.  Much of it is casual or seasonal work, and there is never enough to go around – but it pays in coins, and they can be used to pay taxes of buy the few items that they can’t make for themselves.  If nothing else, there is often work available maintaining roads, bridges and other infrastructure – the local lord might pay in coins, but will probably take labour in lieu of taxes.

Smallholders work hard and might not be rich –  but they are self-sufficient.  Generally, they can feed themselves, clothe themselves and have a roof over their heads.  There might not be much in the way of luxury, and what they have is often basic, but they stay dry, warm and fed – for most of the year.


Example

Gurford is a smallholding situated at one of the few crossing places on the Gur River.  It consists of three dwelling huts, a work hut and a storage hut.  At night the compound is guarded by two large dogs.

There are a few ‘gardened’ areas around the village – a well tended and maintained radish and cabbage beds as well as wolfberry  and cloudberry  patches.

They make a few coins selling leather and reed baskets.

1 Arvon Fisher  is a fisherman!  He travels in a coracle – uses a net to take shoals of the small fish known as silver grunters, traps for eels and uses rod and line to fish for trout, pike and other larger fish.  The eels are normally smoked to serve as winter rations, while grunters are pickled in their own juices.  Old Arvon is a bit of a loner, he loves being on the water and will happily spend all day alone in his boat.  Since his wife died, a couple of years ago, his daughter (Mila) runs the holding.

2 The Tanners are a young couple and who have a son called Tigan (14).  Ramo Tanner smokes the eels, pickles the grunters and plucks the game, as well as curing hides and skins.  Mila Tanner (Arven’s younger daughter) cooks meals for the family, brews hooch and small beer, preserves the fruit, and patches clothes when needed.  She also oversees the gardening and basketwork.  Tig looks after the goats and helps out with the gardening.

3 Work Hut.  Is really just an open hut that is used as a work space by the family, mainly Ramo.   It is generally filled with food and hide that is being preserved one way or another – smoked eels, pickled grunters, or skins that being cured.

4 Storage, is another empty hut that is used to as a place to store provisions against the winter, however, it can serve as a second working area as well.  Depending on the season, there may be a barrel of pickles radishes, salted cabbage, a basket of dried cloudberries, an urn of wolfberry hooch and root vegetables ready for winter.

5 Besh Hunter is a Male half-orc trapper who married Arven’s older daughter – she died in child birth many years ago.  Besh works the local river banks, mainly for eels and small game, but also brings back reeds for basket making, sale and building maintenance.  His two daughters, Snaga(14) and Ush(15), tend the fruit and vegetable patches – although they sometimes go out on trips with Besh.  The Hunters have two large dogs, one of which stays with each of the girls during the day and guard the compound overnight.

Peter Gasgano

Peter Gasgano first came to life back in 1999, as an NPC for a game I was running at a precursor to PlayByWeb, based on a home-brew Sage class. He became a PC in another game at RPoL running D&D 2.5 (Skills and Powers), before reverting to an NPC in a NWN persistent world, and eventually turning up in Pathfinder game I ran. In between he was a PC in a couple of ‘Tavern’ style games. Now he has grown powerful enough to be an Immortal in my latest game world.

This biography of my long-standing sage, has been ‘written by’ another long-standing character, who also has an interest in collecting information, and will probably serve as my ‘Senior Sage’ now that Gasgano is so important. I might write up Flower’s biography one day.


A biography of Peter Gasgano – as told by Flower Nightsky, Advisor and Librarian to Sir Joromi Doxaro, Lord of Holbridges.

I first met Peter when he come to Berghof to visit the Nightsky Monastary, in the hope of seeing their famous books of prophesy and, while he was refused access to the prophesies, he stayed with me for a few weeks, to learn what he could of the area and the order.  He was interested many things, his current field of study was people and societies – so he collected stories about individuals, groups and societies.  Eventually, he published a paper on the people and history of Berghof.  In return for my help, he told me about his long life and experiences – which I duly wrote down and published as a short biography. 

Peter, or as he is often known, Gasgano, is a small lithe man, not particularly strong, nor light on his feet – but gifted with love of knowledge and the ability to learn, with a knack of rooting out things that few others can find.   He isn’t particularly gregarious, although he is personable and people feel comfortable in talking to him.  Even when his notebook comes out and he starts writing things down.

His early years were spent on a farm, as a child of reasonably wealthy parents – who rented out their lands to tenant farmers.  While not robust, and not interested in the physical work of farming, Peter turned his mind to the academic side of farming.  Before long he had a good understanding of crop rotations, complementary planting, fertilizers and laboursaving systems.  He also had interest in herbs and, particularly, fungi.  Eventually, his father found him and apprenticeship with a sage called Reece, in Angasa.

He was soon sent to Galinia, to act as support for a group of adventurers who were clearing and exploring the land ready for recolonization.  Gasgano’s role was to bolster agricultural production for the clans that had remained behind and to offer support in the form of herbal remedies to the party, as well as recording the wildlife he encountered.  It went well, and he was eventually offered the role of Chief Herald for the newly reformed state.  All went well until, after a trip to Holy Isle to meet the Raven King of Armes, he returned to the land of his birth expecting to reconnect with his family.  Things did not go as planned, and he was caught up in a magical gate-trap which transported him to a different plane – and into the middle of a war between two competing religious factions.

Initially disappointed with their ‘catch’, his new colleagues realised Gasgano’s worth when they found a copy of the Book of the Dead, in the dungeons of a necromancer, and he was able to translate some of it.  That included a spell that allowed him to open a gate to the Paths of the Dead.  The Paths of the Dead surround a world and, if you know how, you can use them to travel rapidly from one point of the world to another.    However, he was soon scrabbling for other, defensive, spells as he and his group fought their way through The Paths to their enemy’s headquarters for the decisive battle.  His use of the book attracted the attention of Ankoo[i] (who is a servant of Aroon[ii], god of the underworld) who taught him how to use the book to travel between planes, and thus find a way home.  However, that made it easier for Gasgano to translate some of the more complex parts of the text, and he worked out how he could absorb some of the powers that were held in the book.

Eventually he summoned a Guiding Light, which led him from The Paths to The Boatman and eventually onto the realms of the goddess Takri[iii].  Takri’s role in her Pantheon is to ensure that souls got to their proper destination, and in this case, seeing as Peter wasn’t dead, he managed to convince her to allow a Guiding Light to show him the way back to his original plane.

He studied with a cleric of The Ruby Sorceress[iv] who sold resurrection to adventurers, and was at the destruction of an Artefact created  for a follower of the Four Horsemen[v] – then studied the religious library that priest had kept.

By this time he was well versed in the Paths of the Dead.  He could manipulate the borders with our world and move between those planes at ease.  He could also control the unquiet spirits of the paths and, if it was required, undead on this plane as well.  And he is the Master of Reincarnation.  Should he ever be killed, he was able to hold his spirit together, and then reform a new body 24 hours later.  He had become an immortal.

He must have sensed a kindred spirit in me, because he invited me to visit his home.  He lives on a permanent demi-plane, somewhere on the Astral Plane.  We travelled via the Path of the Dead, of course, and that alone was an experience worthy of note. The Paths are grey/green, with little or no other colour at all – it is a bit like looking at the word through a pair of heavily misted spectacles. They are full of the unquiet dead, souls who have not released their hold on the living world, or who do not have a coin to pay the ferryman. They clamour around trying to steal life essence, in the misguided belief that they can return to the living world, or trying to steal coins that they may pay their way forwards.  Gasgano constructed a barrier around us and they parted to leave us a way through, although they were always close and moaning softly  – although unable to reach us.  They, and their moaning, accompanied us all the time we were on the Paths of the Dead.

Then there was a very short trip into the Astral Plane, before Gasgano opened a way into his own home.  We entered into a small garden surrounded by fruit bushes and walls slung with climbing plants.  A shallow stream flowed from a wall fountain to make a pond in the middle of the garden, which was surrounded by trees, many bearing nuts, which obscured the sky and left us in dappled shade.  On one side a door leads into a small house.  There is a central living area a main suite for Gasgano and smaller rooms for guests.  While we needed to collect our own water and fruits from the garden, the house itself was kept clean and neat by an invisible servant. A flight of stairs led down …

Into the most comprehensive library I have ever seen.    Chambers filled with books and scrolls of all sorts – there is one with general works, another dedicated to natural sciences such as agriculture, herbs and fungi.  A third contains Gasgano’s own writings on the people and societies of our world, while another contains his books and research notes on death, the Paths of the Dead and other similar topics.  It was most impressive.

A door from the other side of the garden led to the Sunset Land.  A large red sun hung on the horizon, throwing the cool shadows of evening across a pleasant parkland dotted with large trees and small open air amphitheatres, all linked by narrow paths..    Small group of people congregated under trees to discuss lore and theories, while some of the amphitheatres hosted a ‘teacher’ holding forth of their favourite theories and philosophies.  Mostly this led to quiet debate, although occasionally voices were raised in fiercer debate of the finer or philosophical points of an argument.

We didn’t stop for long, before Gasgano returned us to this mundane world and the tasks of daily life.  However, that was a journey that I will never forget, and one that changed my outlook on life.  I have always followed a path of physical and mental development and trained both my mind and body to deal with the rigours of life – and my upbringing at the Nightsky monastery gave me a healthy respect for books and reading.  However, now I have taken the step of deliberately searching out new information and recording it as best I can, in the hope that one day I will be deemed suitable for an afterlife filled with gentle discussion and debate.  Who knows, one might still be able to grow and develop, even after one has died.


[i] Ankou, Breton Celtic: shepherd of souls.

[ii] Arawn, Welsh Celtic: God of the Underworld.

[iii] Takri, Valarez Pantheon: A bespoke Psycopomp written for a game set in Valerez, now translated to my New World Pantheon.

[iv] Wee Jas, Various D&D.  Shepherdess of the dead. She was the story-core behind the death system in NWN worlds that I worked on.

[v] The Four Horsemen, Pathfinder 1 Mythos.

A quiet month …

Wow.  That has been an interesting month.  A cold followed by a bit of a cough (no, not coronavirus) slowed me down, and a whole series of other bits and pieces as well.  My wife is preparing to start a new job, so we have had all the up and downs of interviews and preparing to leave a long-term employer.  The government have added yet more paperwork for the training providers I work for (Part Time) and that inevitably gets pushed down to me.  However, this is just  …

There was a rant here that I took out  J  But you get the idea!

It has, on the other hand, been a quiet month on the game front.  I spent a few days thinking about building the Rules Website that I spoke about in the last post.  I even went as far as creating a game and a Wiki at RPoL so that I could think about structures and start putting some content together.  It didn’t go well, as I soon realized that I wanted to do a number of different things.

  1. I want to include the rules changes I have used (or have considered) to make my D20 games work faster, or more easily, on RPoL.  Anything that delays a player posting holds the game up.  Effects that run for more than one round, may need tracking over weeks of real time.  There are lots of little tweaks.  (Note:  I run slow games with a once-a-week post rate)
  2. I want the site to only contain ‘Core’ rules, but I also want it to be usable for both Pathfinder and 3.0/3.5e.  So whose core rules?  I suspect that this is not an insurmountable problem – but it is one that I haven’t thought about yet.
  3. I started putting my own tweaks in.  For example, Gnomes haven’t had a strong ‘persona’ across the game’s history, and every new version /publisher that comes along chops them about a bit more. Because of this, Gnomes don’t really feature in games worlds I write, and I found myself writing an article justifying why I wasn’t going to include them as a PC class on the website.  Now this is something I do want to do for my games world site –  but I don’t know that I want to mix the two up together.

So that project has been put on hold and sent back for more consideration.  One day I will learn to separate the three things – either that or I’ll just publish a whole new games system with an integral world …   Well, a man can dream :}

However, there have been some real positives this month.  We recently finished the Kingdom Round and I promised the players that I would start up a couple of pure RP threads for them to play around in.  These are ‘Fuzzy Time’ threads that run alongside the adventure threads.  The PCs are still out adventuring, slaying monsters and exploring deserted strongholds – but they are also doing social / RP things that are outside the normal timeline.  I monitor ‘Fuzzy’ threads, to make sure that they  don’t cross over with the ‘Adventure’ threads, but the players, generally, understand the concept and I don’t have to interfere all that often.  It has  worked really well as a way of letting players develop their characters, without interrupting play.

One thread took a group of  PCs into Restov, where they have been meeting up with their families, shopping and politicking.  That particular group gave been exploring their backstories and (in some cases) forging strong links and relationships between their characters.  A second group took a boat south to explore Jovvox  (Yeah!  Gnomes.  But this is Paizo’s game world, rather than mine) and Mivon.  So far we have got to Jovvox, and we are about to go and have dinner with a gnome merchant.  There are others who have been in the woods trying to catch a thylacine.   They have all been great fun to watch, and they have given me (and the players) an opportunity to understand the characters better.  And the ‘Boat Trip’ thread gave me the opportunity to wheel out one of my favourite NPCs – Helga! 

Helga first appeared in my Kingmaker table-top game, when I needed someone who knew their way about boats and Mivon.  As she was going to be a recurring NPC, she had to have a character sheet of her own, and that meant I could be a  bit more flexible within my own NPC guidelines.  Helga is a Half-Orc commoner, who grew up on the Mivon dockside and finished up working on the docks and as a sailor in The River Kingdoms.  And as everyone knows, River Kingdom sailors are not far short of Pirates ….

Helga is now L5 and has some nice gear for a commoner – including hand-me-down magic items passed on to her from her previous employers. She has a very low charisma, negative mods for Diplomacy and Bluff –  but a decent Intimidate modifier.  As a Ship’s captain she barks at her crew, threatens them –  but is always there alongside them with her Masterwork greataxe (or her Brass Knuckles) if ever they are in trouble.  Her Str and Dex  are high enough that she doesn’t get pushed around by the everyday folks of a city.

But she is great fun to play.  She is never very diplomatic in what she says to her bosses, and tends to tell things as she sees them, rather than prettying them up.  And then she shouts at her crew, and (potentially) anyone else she  is lower down the pecking order than she is.

I like playing Helga!

Warriors

So far, I have blogged on commoners and experts and now it is the turn of the Warrior!  While commoners are a fantasy world’s labourers, and experts provide specialist skills – warriors are security.  They may well turn into an army during mass combat, but most of the time you use them as city watch, scouts or mercenaries. 

While experts often get their training from family members, military training is the easy to come by.  Towns, cities, militias, armies and even mercenary units are always looking for new recruits and they will take just about anyone who can show some basic aptitude – so there are always a few around when you need them. 

Most of my warriors are built with a standard NPC template (12,12,12,12,12,12) which gives a skill modifier of +1 in all areas, they get one trait, although if I have a warrior who will play a significant role in the game, s/he has their own character sheet and is designed as a ten point build.  Like many of my other NPCs, trained warriors are generally L3 – which means a small patrol is tough enough to deal with most other NPCs and minor countryside threats.  Larger patrols get dispatched to deal with tougher threats, if they are needed.

I use three standard builds.

City Guards

City guards are a visual deterrent to bad behaviour, some walk the streets, others guard the gates and more patrol the walls.  However, they should be visible enough that PC (and the NPCs)  know they are around.  My guards are able to trip people up, if it helps to take offenders into custody however, they will use force if need be and aren’t averse to taking a PC into negative hit-points should it be required.

  • Warrior L3
  • Initiative: +1 Perception +6, Sense Motive +6
  • AC: 15 HP: 30 (3d+9)
  • Fort +4: Ref 1: Will +3
  • Melee: Halberd +4 (d10+1 x3) Brace; Trip| Dagger +4 (d4+1 19-20 x2)
  • Ranged: LXB +4 (d8 19-20 x2) Range 20 | Dagger +4 (d4+1 19-20 x2) Range 10
  •  
  • Str:12, Dex:12, Con:12, Wis:12, Int:12, Cha:12 (+1 bonus all abilities)
  • Feats: L1: Toughness (+3hp) , Race: Iron Will (Will save +2), L3 Additional Traits (Suspicious, Eyes & ears of the City)
  • Skills: Climb +3 (+5), Diplomacy +4, Intimidate +5, Perception +7, Profession(Soldier) +5, Sense Motive +7, Swim +3 (+5) | (in brackets – without AC Penalty),
  • Favoured Class: HPx3
  •  
  • Gear: Chain Shirt, Halberd, LXB, Dagger, Signal Whistle.

Scouts

Scouts patrol roads, villages, and  keep an eye any wilderness and are configured for that role.  While they aren’t rangers, they work well in the countryside and can survive, fairly easily, away from home. While they deal with small incursions, their main role is to keep their area safe and make sure that any incursion or risks are reported back. They are set up as missile troops, have survival and stealth skills, but aren’t particularly diplomatic.

  • Warrior L3
  • Initiative: +1 Perception: +6
  • AC: 14 HP: 30 (3d+9)
  • Fort +4: Ref 1: Will +3
  • Melee: Machete +4 (d6+1 19-20 x2) | Dagger +3 (d4+1 19-20 x2)
  • Ranged: Shortbow +4 (d8 20 x3) Range 60 | Dagger +3 (d4+1 19-20 x2) Range 10
  •  
  • Str:12, Dex:12, Con:12, Wis:12, Int:12, Cha:12 (+1 bonus all abilities)
  • Feats: L1: Toughness (+3hp) , Race: Iron Will (Will save +2), L3 Additional Traits (Militia veteran (Survival), Eyes & ears of the City)
  • Skills: Climb +5 (+6), Intimidate +5, Perception +7, Profession(Soldier) +5, Ride +5 (+6), Survival +7, Swim +5 (+6) | (in brackets – without AC Penalty),
  • Favoured Class: HPx3
  •  
  • Gear: Studded Leather, Short Bow, Machete, Dagger

Mercenaries

Mercenaries fit in just about everywhere else, rather than working for the state (city, kingdom etc) they work for individuals.  You might find then riding with a caravan, accompanying a noble, or even guarding a shop somewhere, some will be in regular employment, others take short contracts.  They are the generalists and can turn their hand to anything.

  • Warrior L3
  • Initiative: +1 Perception:
  • AC: 15 HP: 30 (3d10+9)
  • Fort +4: Ref 1: Will +3
  • Melee: Short Sword +5 (d6+1 19-20/x2) | Dagger +4 (d4+1 19-20 x2)
  • Ranged: LXB +4 (d8 19-20 x2) Range 80 | Dagger +4 (d4+1 19-20 x2) Range 10
  •  
  • Str:12, Dex:12, Con:12, Wis:12, Int:12, Cha:12 (+1 bonus all abilities)
  • Feats: L1: Toughness (+3hp) , Race: Iron Will (Will save +2), L3 Weapon Focus (Short Sword)
  • Skills: Profession(Soldier) +6, Intimidate +6, Climb+6, Swim +6, Ride +6, Diplomacy +2, Sense Motive +2
  • Favoured Class: HPx3
  • Gear: Studded leather, Light Shield (wooden) Short Sword, Dagger, Light Crossbow.

Experts

A few weeks ago, I blogged on commoners, where I said that Commoners were the class that provide the unskilled and, I suppose, semi-skilled labour in my game world. The other NPC classes provide the skilled labour, management and administrative skills that hold the tapestry of civilization together. Warriors, Adepts and Aristocrats cover Defence, Religion and Leadership respectively – the Expert covers everything else.

My ‘standard’ experts are all built with a standard build template of – 12,12,12,12,12,12 – which gives a skill modifier of +1 in all areas. It makes it nice and easy to wing an expert when I need to. If I have an Expert who will play a significant role in the game, s/he has their own character sheet and is designed as a ten point build.

Experts are specialists, they are significantly better at what they do than characters from other classes, even PCs, at equivalent levels, as their whole life is spent working in their ‘chosen’ field. Chosen is a bit of a misnomer, of course, it is the skill that their family passed down to them. That skill is their family heritage – and not to be treated lightly. At first level they use a feat to for Skill Focus and gain the Family Background Trait from my house rules – which gives them big skill bonuses right from the start.

Heads of the ‘Business’ tend to be level three, while lower level experts are considered to be Apprentices or Journeymen. Most Skill Masters are L3, but they can develop to L5 (or even higher) as they get older – however, use those sparingly, as they probably deserve their own character sheet.

If, for example, if a PC walks into a carpentry workshop, they might find :-

  • The Master Cabinetmaker (L3 expert – Skills Craft:Wood 14, Craft:Bows 12, Profession:Merchant 7, Appraise 7 etc) In this case, the main ‘Family Skill’ is work working,  however this cabinet maker has used his L3 Feat to take Craft (Bows) which brings his skills in the second field up to Master Craftsman status. Masterwork tools add another +2 to his skills.
  • Apprentice Cabinetmakers – perhaps 1xL2 & 1xL1 experts with lower skill in the same thing as the master Craftsman. The apprentices do the basic working and shaping under supervision of their master while they, in turn, oversee the labourers. Their skills don’t really matter, as everything is calculated on the Master Craftsman’s skill.
  • Labourers. 3 or 4 commoners all with Craft:Wood skills between 4 and 6 – to carry out the most basic work.

For me, a master craftsman has at least 10 ranks in the appropriate craft skill – that way the NPC can ‘take 10’ and successfully craft the masterwork elements every time. I.e. They can regularly, and reliably, create masterwork items.

As an aside – most of the work in the Craft Workshop is done by the apprentices and labourers.  In this example, the Master Carpenter will choose the wood, specify basic shapes and probably even grain patterns. He might even scribe outlines on the material. Rough blanks are cut out by the labourers, then handed to the apprentices before being turned over to the master craftsman for finishing touches.

The same model works in other areas, in this case – the Legal Profession. If it suits your purposes, you could decide to give them access to a Law library, and increase their Profession:Lawyer skills by an extra +2. These guys probably all have Profession:Scribe (or something similar) as a secondary skill

  • Lawyer (L3 Expert, Profession:Lawyer 12)
  • 2x Legal Assistants (Expert, Profession:Lawyer 8/9) This score only counts if the PC is cheap and decides to have one of the assistants advise him.
  • 4x Clerks (Commoner Profession:Lawyer 1-3) These guys might be available to represent the common people of the town or the city.

In this example I have made the Expert a bit older and a bit more experienced.  Imagine a wheezy old sage working in a small building somewhere in city – he has spent his whole life learning about things … people in particular. Old age = +2 (Wis, Int, Cha), -3 (Str, Dex, Con) – so wheezy and getting infirm. However, enough time has passed that he is a L5 expert and has collected a decent selection of books (which I rule gives a +2 – but takes longer to get an answer).

  • Sage – L5 expert (Knowledge:Geography 17, Knowledge:People 15, Knowledge:Nobility 12, Linguistics 12, Librarian 10, Scribe 10)
  • 1x Apprentice – L2 expert – skills don’t really matter as their job is mainly to keep the library in order, fetch books as needed and listen to their master – this is one of the reason most sages are skilled librarians :}
  • 2x Servants. L2 commoners used to running errands on the sage’s behalf – they have Knowledge:Nobility 1 and Librarian 1, picked up as they have served ‘The master’.

TBH, though, a guy like this probably deserves his own character sheet as an PC worth their salt is liable to be back a few times. He has clearly spent a lifetime researching people of one type or another – he is the person the PCs go to when they want to know about the Humanoid Tribes in a given region, or custom and practice in the local town. He can detail the local Nobility along with whom the PCs need to speak to and then, almost as a side line, translate all those weird runes they found – and all without using magic!

Commoners

It feels like a long time since I have posted on here, although it is really only a couple of weeks. Since that last post I have re-enacted an English Civil War Battle, been on a Bee Keeping Experience and spent a few days at a music festival! But life is getting back to normal – so another post about NPCs, and this time it is Commoners.

Commoners are the bedrock of a D20 society and make up over half of the NPCs in my games worlds. They provide all the unskilled labour that makes the economy work, and they are everywhere. Typically, you will find commoners working on farms, cutting trees, unloading ships, carrying goods around, cleaning out the stables, acting as servants, working behind a bar, working in the penny store – basically any job that requires minimal training or education is work for a commoner. They are the background – they shouldn’t stand out, and they shouldn’t be memorable. They should just be there, doing what ever needs doing. Because of that, most commoners remain part of the Copper Economy.

My standard commoners have all abilities set to 11. That works out, roughly, to a 5 point build or the equivalent of average abilities (10.5), plus racial bonuses. It is easy, straight forward and means commoners don’t get ability based bonuses on Skill Rolls. If I want a commoner to be different or significant, then I build personalized character sheets for them.


Level 1 Commoners

In my world every character starts out as an L1 Commoner – or at least with the same stats as an L1 commoner. Commoner-1 represents a young person who has just attained adulthood and is ready to make their way in the world (about 15 for a human). They haven’t learned anything useful, but are keen and ready to face the world. These are the guys who work for 1sp per day, doing jobs simple jobs such as cleaning, running errands, delivering messages or holding a PC’s horse OR go on to train in other classes. See my Training and Development post if you want a detailed explanation.

  • Commoner-1,   CR 1/3 ; Init +0
  • STR 11, DEX 11, CON 11, INT 11, WIS 11, CHA 11
  • Saves: Fort +2, Ref +0, Will +0
  • Defence: AC 10; HD (1d6); hp 6;
  • Offence: Club+0 (1d6); Punch +1 (1d3 non-lethal)
  • Skills:  Diplomacy +1, Perception +4, Sense Motive +1;
    (2 for level & 1 for chosen class)
  • Feats:  Endurance, Great Fortitude

They don’t have any traits, feats reflect the simplicity of their life so far, and they don’t have any saleable skills. As such they can be employed for 1sp per day to do unskilled work. They have full HP at level one (I do that with all of my NPCs) and then advance with average HP/level.

I use this basic profile for nearly all commoners regardless of race, gender, creed, background. It is close enough all the characters are all interchangeable background material, as far as the main game is concerned.


Level 2 Commoners

After a year or two, some L1 commoners retrain into a different NPC class, and follow different development paths, but the rest stay as commoners. Eventually, when they are18 or so, they gain enough experience to advance a level.

As a Commoner-2, they have learned some basic skills and can earn more than 1sp a day, if they are lucky. Some might be fortunate enough to have a regular job, such as builder’s labourer, cleaner, bar maid, stevedore or workshop assistant – it might be a part-time job, but it still provides a regular wage. However, many Commoner-2s still work on a casual basis. Sometimes they can pick up a few days semi-skilled work at other times, they might have to take unskilled work, just to keep some money coming in. In the countryside it is a bit different and many commoners are subsistence farmers or small holders – but they still need to take paid work such as farm labourer, road builder or groundsman, so they can pay taxes, rent and fees.

  • Commoner-2,   CR 1/2 ; Init +0
  • STR 11, DEX 11, CON 11, INT 11, WIS 11, CHA 11
  • Saves: Fort +2, Ref +0, Will +0
  • Defence: AC 10; HD (2d6); hp 9;
  • Offence: Club+1 (1d6); Punch +1 (1d3 non-lethal)
  • Skills:  Craft (X) +4, Diplomacy +2, Perception +4, Profession (X) +4, Sense Motive +1
  • Feats:  Endurance, Great Fortitude
  • Trait: See Below

A fairly standard progression with three extra skills added, in this case Diplomacy with generic craft and professional skills. They are all class skills, so they work they give a Skills Modifier of +4. In play, I give them what ever skill I want them to have 🙂 It might be Profession(Farmer) for a smallholder (or farm labourer) or Craft(Cloth) for someone who spins yarn or weaves cloth.

This helps me to keep skill levels consistent across a game. If a village doesn’t have a blacksmith (for example) there is might be someone who has farrier as a ‘second skill’. While they don’t do it full time, they shoe horses and do basic metal work when villagers need it. In this case, a PC might be able to get their chain mail ‘stitched’ back together, get metal spikes made, or a chain repaired. They won’t be able to find someone to make a sword – although the farrier might be able to make a club with nails in. Basically quick and simple fixes / replacements that will work OK until the PC get back to a town and get a proper fix. In reality, this is what I have been doing for years – this just formalizes it 🙂

The one big difference is that they might have a trait – but only if it fits with what I want the NPC to do. Again, this helps me to maintain consistency across the game without doing too much record keeping. Rather than recording everything separately, I just use the ‘standard’ profile with the following ‘add on’ traits.

  • Existing Traits
  • River Rat: +1 Dagger Damage and Swim+1
  • Bully: Intimidate is a class skill and Intimidate+1
  • Convincing Liar: Bluff is a class skill and Bluff+1
  • Criminal 1 : Disable Device is a class skill and Disable Device +1 (Disable Device +4)
  • Criminal 2 : Sleight of Hand is a class skill and +1 on Sleight of Hand (Sleight of Hand +4)  
  • Life of Toil: You gain a +1 trait bonus on Fortitude saves.
  • Poverty Stricken: Survival is a class skill and Survival +1 (Survival +4)
  • Suspicious: Sense Motive is a class skill and Sense Motive +1 (Sense Motive +4)    
  • Miner: Appraise is a class skill and Appraise +1  (Appraise +4)   
  • River Folk: Profession (sailor) +2 and +2 on any skill checks involving ropes
  • Smuggler: Bluff +1 and Sleight of Hand +1 :
  • New Traits
  • Military Auxiliary: Proficient with Light Crossbow & Dagger; Prof(Soldier) +1 (Military Servant / Missile Support)
  • Militia: Proficient with Spear & Darts; Prof(Soldier) +1 (P/T Reserve Soldier / Posse)
  • Watchman: Proficient with Club & Sling; Perception +1
  • Bandit: Proficient with Club & Light Crossbow; Intimidate +1
  • Poacher: Proficient with Dagger & Sling; Survival +1  (Small Game Hunting)
  • Street Guide: Knowledge Local is a class skill and Knowledge(Local)  +1  (Know(Local)  +4)    
  • House Keeper: Craft(Cooking)+1, Craft(Clothing) +1 (This could be a servant or a ‘stay at home’ husband/wife)

Level 3 Commoners

Commoner-3 represents NPCs who have grown into positions of responsibility. They are normally in their thirties and oversee other commoners, perhaps as head smallholder, senior teamster, or some other similar role. They are more perceptive, do their main job a bit better and have basic management and diplomacy skills. These are the guys who make decisions on behalf of their group and keep the commoner world working properly.

  • Commoner-3,   CR 1; Init +0
  • STR 11, DEX 11, CON 11, INT 11, WIS 11, CHA 11
  • Saves: Fort +3, Ref +1, Will +1
  • Defence: AC 10; HD (2d6); hp 13;
  • Offence: Club+1 (1d6); Punch +1 (1d3 non-lethal)
  • Skills:  Craft (X) +4, Diplomacy +3, Perception +6, Profession (X) +5, Profession (Team leader) +4, Sense Motive +3
  • Feats:  Alertness, Endurance, Great Fortitude
  • Trait: See Below

These are my get-out-of-jail-free NPCs. They are rolled out when I need an NPC with a slightly wiser head, or able to calm down situations. Most Commoner-3 NPCs are in regular work and earn enough to be right at the top of the Copper Economy or bottom of the Silver Economy. In the countryside, you will most likely find a Commoner-3 as the head of a household, and the highest level NPC in a smallholding.


Beyond Level 3

I can’t think of any commoner in my current games that are higher than L3. The last one, that I recall, was a half-orc called Helga. She was initially taken on as a crew member for the party’s boat and quickly took charge of the rest of the crew. Racial advantages, such as Intimidation and the ability to use a Great Axe, saw to that. She soon became a party favourite, took charge of shore parties and finished up with all sorts of cast-off magic items. I just checked my old files, and she progressed to Commoner-6, and possibly higher.

Guidelines, not rules 🙂 Be prepared to break them when you want to, just make sure you keep notes when you do.

The Economy

I have been round and around this subject so many times, because the various rules and rule iterations really don’t fit together very well – however, I have dome to a compromise position that gets reasonably close. 

I use a three tier economic model based on the principle that there aren’t enough regular jobs to go around and that many people have to take whatever work is available, when it is available.

The Copper Economy, is based on ‘Unskilled labour earns 1sp per day’ – a rule that made a lot of sense in AD&D, but stopped making sense with 3rd edition.   Many commoners, nearly all L1, most L2 and even a few L3 commoners live at this standard – as well as many other L1 NPC-class characters.

My views on the economy are partially informed by this post that deals with food and cooking.

The Copper Economy

Characters in the Copper Economy can afford things that are costed in Copper Pieces, but have to save for anything costed in Silver.  This probably means plain porridge for breakfast, a flat bread and an onion at mid-day, with vegetable stew (perhaps Potato, Beans, Turnip or Cabbage) for dinner.  A couple of times a week there might be some chicken or fish in the stew, and occasionally there might be some cheese with lunch. Clothing is often second hand, or hand-me-downs, that has often been altered or patched – it looks reasonably tidy, rather than ragged.  Even the lowest peasant has some personal pride.

Characters in the Copper Economy live communally – this might mean a whole family sharing two rooms in a city or a basic cottage in the countryside.  However, it could also be bunk rooms, dormitory accommodation, students room-sharing, or any other form of communal living.

The Silver Economy

The Silver Economy is based on Skills in the various d20 rule systems.  All of them seem to have a section that says ‘Earn ½ your skill roll in GP per week’, or something similar.  For most skilled NPCs in my world that works out at between 10 and 20sp per day, on average – this includes a few well-off commoners, most of the other NPC classes (once they have been trained) and NPCs with a few levels of a PC class. 

Characters in the Silver Economy can afford things that are costed in Silver Pieces, but have to save for anything costed in Gold.  Meals are more varied and include meat much more frequently – sometimes even twice a day.  Breakfast Porridge is still probably a staple, but it might be flavoured with honey, lunch might include an apple, a hard-boiled egg or cheese on a regular basis.  Dinner will quite often still be a stew (it is really easy to cook) but with more fish and meat, a better range of vegetables and bread to mop up the gravy.  NPCs in the silver economy have more than one set of clothes, with at least one decent-looking set for best.  At the top end of the Silver Economy scale, characters might have a courtier’s costume to attend up-scale events.

However, the biggest difference is privacy.  Silver Economy households have more rooms with specific purposes.  The head of the household and their spouse will have their own bedroom, children will probably share rooms, but there are separate rooms for the boys and the girls. There is a separate ‘living room’ for cooking and socialising.  The toilet only serves this household, there is probably a small private yard – rather than shared facilities.  There might be a live-in apprentice or even a servant, to help keep the house and workshops running smoothly.

The Gold Economy

The Gold Economy covers everyone who can readily purchase items valued at 1gp or more without saving.  This includes PCs, most NPCs with PC levels, many Aristocrats and a few higher level characters with other NPC classes.   It is by far the widest ranging part of the economy – but covers the least number of people.  It can include anything from a decent house in town, mansions, noble estates or even palaces.  Meals will be varied and enjoyable – accompanied by anything from a decent ale to an expensive wine.  It almost certainly involves at least one courtier’s costume and in some cases, noble or royal clothing.  It almost always includes servants or assistants – with the wealthiest having a whole entourage of staff.

Social Mobility

There isn’t much social mobility, most people stay at the economic level they were born to.  The big exception are characters with PC classes, who can crash through to the Gold Economy.  PCs tend to do this really quickly as they go adventuring and find huge amounts (in relative terms) of treasure.   NPCs with PC classes tend to do it more slowly, but normally enter the Gold Economy at higher levels – in my games that normally means level five or six,  although that could be very different in your games.

Other than that, moving between the economic bands is generational.  A commoner who does really well for themselves and moves to the top part of the Copper Economy might be able to afford Military Training for their eldest child.  That child might then work their way into the Silver Economy as a sergeant or junior office in the local military, and be able to afford a better education for their own children and establish a whole generation into the Silver Economy.  In the next generation, one of the children mi break into the Gold Economy …