Weighed Down by Treasure

Posted: 8 June 2012 in Settings
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As some of the Shadows of Keron players have large amounts of cash, I wanted some idea how much it weighs, so that I know how much trouble it is to cart around. A bit of Google-fu revealed the following…

Silver Moons: The Dread Sea Dominions is vaguely Graeco-Roman in feel for the most part, and the standard ancient Greek silver coin seems to have weighed about 6 grammes, while a more modern silver US dollar is a bit over 8 grammes. I’ll round that off to allow for the weight of coin pouches, boxes etc. and say a pound of silver is worth about $50, just to make the math easier.

Gold: Only people with the Noble or Rich edges are likely to deal in gold. Gold is worth roughly 10-20 times as much as silver, so I’ll say a pound of gold is about $1,000.

Gems: Gems are trickier. A pound is around 2,270 carats (again, I’ll round down to 2,000 carats to allow for packaging and keep the math easy), and gems range from $1 per carat to over $10,000 per carat, depending on a variety of factors. So, a pound of gems could range from $2,000 to over $10 million in value. Some gemstones – mostly the cheap, common ones – have a roughly linear relationship between weight and value, and others – the rare, expensive ones – have a value that increases geometrically with weight, or better. Arbitrarily taking averages of US prices in 2008, some of the more interesting ones are:

  • Amethyst: $16 per carat, call it $30,000 per pound.
  • Blue sapphire: $1,200 per carat, rounded down to $2 million per pound (you’ll want a very secure box for that many sapphires).
  • Blue topaz: $7 per carat, $10,000 per pound.
  • Emerald: $3,200 per carat, rounded down to $6 million per pound.
  • Tourmaline: $80 per carat, say $150,000 per pound.
  • Garnet: $30 per carat, $60,000 per pound.
  • Ruby: $2,000 per carat, $4 million per pound.

Diamonds were too complicated to work out, so I gave up. Basically a well-cut diamond can be worth as much as you want, so I’ll go with $4,000 per carat as I want diamonds to be the top of the range; that’s $8 million per pound.

Jewellery: Like gems, only more so. Fine workmanship and a good setting can multiply the value of a gemstone enormously.


The upshot of all this is that any significant amount of money the PCs lay their hands on is really heavy in silver, heavy in gold, and of negligible weight in gems or jewellery.

Copper pieces, you say? Faugh, heroes have no truck with such piffling trifles.

  1. Sean says:

    Sounds good. I still remember when our DM first introduced the idea of encumbrance. At 12 years old we were appalled that we couldn’t carry every last copper out of the dungeon. So we ended up basically moving all of the lower valued coins into the next room. Good times.

  2. Umberto Pignatelli says:

    You like making your own life harder, aren’t you :)?
    So you didn’t consider the relative rarity of the gem in a country (for example Ivory Savannah diamonds will be far more valuable in Jalizar than in Kyros)…

    • andyslack says:

      Nope, I assumed they could get gems in any city. It happened this way…

      1. A couple of the players had their PCs carry improbable amounts of stuff and loot.
      2. I pointed out to them that neither their characters nor their mounts could actually move under the weight.
      3. They responded by selling off enough so that they could still move, and converting the rest into gems.

      I think the Letter of Credit is due to make an anachronistically early appearance, given the harsh response to the savings rules. Serves me right for giving players a choice, eh? =]

      • Umberto Pignatelli says:

        But no hero drinks, eat… feast, in other words… live? 🙂

      • andyslack says:

        Not so much, sadly, except for Gutz. I think it’s time to introduce the After the Adventure card draws, or something like them.

        In the 1970s I played in a hybrid SpaceQuest/Traveller campaign where the GM had a random table for what happened to our scoutship crew after we came home to blow off steam; I particularly remember my PC waking up after an epic drinking session to find himself in a remote mountain monastery, having given away all his possessions and joined a religious order. That generated a fun adventure where he had to escape…

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