Personal Upkeep

Posted: 11 June 2011 in Settings
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I find it useful to know the cost of long-term upkeep for a PC, and extend that into how much NPCs earn.

There’s not a lot of hard historical data for the 12th century, at least not data easy for a dabbler like myself to find. Prices and wages seem to have fluctuated wildly, with most transactions being barter – a day’s work for so much grain, that kind of thing. So, I may as well be guided by convenience.


I assume that a Novice PC hero is roughly equivalent to a mercenary Man-At-Arms, who earned somewhere in the region of a silver shilling per day; ten times or more what the typical peasant labourer made. That gives me the following coinage; value in the mediaeval era seems to have been based on the equivalent weight of silver.

  • One penny, a day’s wages for a peasant, is roughly $1 and weighs a few grammes.
  • One silver shilling, a day’s wages for a mercenary footman or a Novice adventurer, is roughly $12. The shilling is an unwieldy coin, as it weighs nearly an ounce – somewhere around 20 to 30 grammes.
  • One gold or silver crown (5 shillings) is $60. This is where gold starts to appear in the coinage, as a silver crown would weigh about 4 ounces (100 grammes), but a gold crown would weigh a bit under an ounce, say 20 grammes.
  • One gold angel (a pound, 20 shillings) is $240. Even with the increased value of gold, it still weighs about an ounce.

The average starting wealth of $500 as thus roughly equal to 40 days’ wages or upkeep for an adventurer, whichever you prefer; call it two months’ worth to allow for holidays, sickness etc. Those with the Poverty hindrance need less for the same period ($250), those with the Noble or Rich edges need more ($1,500), and the Filthy Rich need even more than that ($2,500).


A typical NPC arcanist (wizard, priest, what have you) has 10 power points. He can expend these in under 30 seconds, but it takes him 10 hours to recharge; and with a d6 in his arcane skill and no Wild Die, he will fail half the time. Unless he wants to live in a state of permanent exhaustion, then, he has five productive power points per day, and they need to generate $10 of income; so he needs to charge at least $2 per power point. Want the Healing power cast on you? That’ll be $6, sir. No, I’m sorry, I haven’t got change for a sheep. Tell you what though, how about you spend next week doing my gardening for me instead?


In the core Rules As Written, you need someone with the Weird Science arcane background to make a device such as a magic sword (say, one imbued with Smite). I calculated in an earlier post that a sedentary NPC in Irongrave gains an advance every 18 months; that’s how often he can build a new magic item, as he needs to take the New Power Edge to do it. As I’ve capped Extra advancement at Veteran, he will build no more than a dozen items in his lifetime.

As a craftsman, your magic item maker probably earns 2-3 times the wages of a peasant labourer. 18 months of that is somewhere near 1,000 pennies, or about four pounds.

The device probably only has 10 power points, and you need to make a Weird Science ("Use Magic Item") roll to activate it, which for most characters will be at the default of 1d4-2, so there’s less than a 25% chance to turn it on. Masters of Weird Science are unlikely to teach you the skill. However, I shall rule that if you know the activation word (engraved on some items) or similar, you gain a +2 to the roll.


  • Mercenaries make a dozen times a peasant’s wage. (Adventurers are another kind of mercenaries; they do violence for money on behalf of rich people.)
  • If you can find a willing spellcaster, you can get a spell cast; it costs about a week’s wages for a peasant, but he might accept payment in labour or goods.
  • Coins are heavy. A pound of gold is about $4,000; a pound of silver is about $300.
  • Only the nobility can afford magic items. They’re not very reliable, though; in most cases you’re better off with a mundane item, or an actual spellcaster.
  1. R Singers says:

    You may want to consider for example in Roman times soldiers were paid in salt as it had a consistant value right across the empire. Infact Soldier, Salt, and Salary all come from the same root word.

  2. […] a previous post, I examined the cost of living in a mediaeval society, but I’m running a science fiction […]

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