D&D Commoners Make Plenty of Money

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That's the thing though. In D&D, according to RAW, there is no such thing as an "unskilled" labourer.

Not true, at any time you are working on a chore in which you have no skill ranks to back it up is unskilled labor. You could have max ranks in Craft (tea cozies), but if you're working out in a field, then you're working as unskilled labor. Ask any college grad working at McDonald's.

I think the issue should come back to the world you want to create and interpreting the rules in a way that allows you to do it. For example: If you’re a fan of Robin Hood than the commoners SHOULD be dirt poor, and unjustly so. That way the good aligned characters will feel compelled to help.

Ah yes, but this would be a factor of how heavy the taxation is, not of how much the commoners actually produce.

I have a question about the levels of the commoners used in example. I've read on other forums that commoners and other NPCs in their 30s should be about 3rd to 5th level. I tend to agree with this; only their very young adults should be 1st level IMHO.

Would this increase in level significantly increase the earning potential of NPCs? Do you disagree about NPCs and increased levels?

I did the example with two ideals in mind for the levels of the commoners.

1) I'm an Eberron player, not Faerun. In Eberron, it is very rare to find anybody with more than one or two levels in an NPC class. By lvl 5, you've racked up quite a bit of fame, actually. This is explained by saying that there is a major difference between how common people and PCs gain xp, and that even though an NPC may be a war hardened vet with years of front line experience, he would still only be a lvl 1 or 2 Warrior, because he just doesn't "have what it takes" to level up like a PC. Since Eberron is my setting of choice, this is how I tend to view the game. No NPC is above lvl 2-3 unless they are absolutely required to be for some reason.

2) I wanted to keep it simple. At level 1-2, the commoners are going to have minimal skill ranks, and almost no feats. This makes the baseline argument much easier to construct and demonstrate, as it removes a great deal of variables from the equation that would only muddy the water.

I know that the source of what you are talking about stems from an article written by Sean K. Reynolds, which you can likely find on his website easily enough. And in general, if you want the NPCs to gain xp, his system there is a very good way to go about doing it, and makes a lot of sense.

It also means that your average commoner is actually going to be a higher level than discussed in this article, which means they will have a higher check and possibly additional helpful feats, which will only raise the amount of money they can make per year. If you want to go that way, then you can treat this article as showing how a brand new starting family can still make ends meet, and that older more established families are capable of producing even more.

Oh, and nice post there Dereliction.
In support of the “NPCs are low level” argument, they live their lives mostly without direct opposition (monsters), they avoid fights rather then conquer people, and they don’t do things alone so any exp earned would be divided.
Nowhere in the rules does it say that you have to take entire months off from work due to the weather.

No where in the rules does it say that a dead man can't dance a jig too, that doesn't mean that he can.
I wasn't going to do it, but some things can not go unanswered. I suppose with a handle like I only read thread titles, we should not expect depth of analysis, but come on, people. Edymnion has already covered the "real world" examples and whether or not full year work is available. (Good work, E, by the way. Loved the article and the thinking behind it.) It seems that any actual arguments against the article are all based on the same argument. An argument that has been raging ever since the first RPG was ever created: Mechanics vs. Real Life.

Whenever you play a RPG, the rules as written can only cover so many real life situations. This is not a farming simulator. When trying to figure out what the average commoners yearly budget, you don't have to factor in all the possible scenarios. The question is can the rules simulate the economics of a commoner? I think the answer is clear, yes, they can. I think Edymnion did a great job of proving that. It is the same argument with the combat mechanics. D&D combat cannot possibly cover every single Real World combat situation. And RL is not turn based! So we get arguments from people like, “it should be possible to hit someone 6 times in around by Level 3-5. any average martial artist could easily do that....." The question isn't whether or not all the possible details are ironed out, but whether the rules hold up as a simulator of the activity they are governing.

I am still unconvinced whether the craft skill works in this manner, but the profession skill and the commoner class do. (How do the blacksmiths make the armor and weapons that requires so much gold and time to make?) I think someone already wrote that the problem with D&D economics is not the rules, it is the players/DMs that add on all sort of additional unnecessary expenses or add too many NPC class levels and so either end with "super rich" peasants or working "beggar" class. Remember, PCs who use the profession class do not need to pay taxes on their wages or subtract expenses. Not according to the rules. If this was true, they would've included it in their description of the skill. Just because you want to add all your "real world" or "historically" conditions doesn't mean the rules don't work as written. And that's all I have to say about that.
Making money by farming in winter:
1. Assume that the weekly income is "average." In the good months, they make more, in the bad months they make less, but over the year it evens out.

2. Just because it's winter, it doesn't mean you don't have to sell anything. In autumn, right after the harvest, prices for food are certainly going down, so you don't want to sell everything anyway. So you keep some, preserve it when necessary, and sell it in the cold months when the prices are rising again.

3. Don't forget livestock.
This is a great discussion! What about the figuring out how much of the "food budget" is offset by the son hunting? The survival skill says you can feed X people for every Y points your check is above 10 (I believe).

Also, we are assuming that the farmer gets the full best use of his fields for the whole period. Maybe he only produces 75% of the maximum crop due to a sever weather change just after planting. (Yes, I live in Canada and we've had a really weird winter this year.)

As for what he spends his money on, a mule would be acceptable but I don't see every peasant owning a horse. They cost more to acquire and to maintain, correct? And maybe he borrows a plough horse from his neighbor in return for sharing the eggs from his chickens? He also may have to pay someone for milling his grain, pressing his cider, etc...

Soon his "savings" dwindle to practically nothing and, while not necessarily living a hard life, it's not putting away 200 gold pieces but maybe 10, which he spends on the family at the spring Planting Festival, or saves towards an extra sow or some sheep. Or maybe he's got his eye on that small plot of land from that abandoned farm left behind when Erik decided to go off and be an adventurer?

As long as the story works and the mechanics make sense in the context of the campaign, wouldn't that work? (Just to add some more views into the mix.)
No where in the rules does it say that a dead man can't dance a jig too, that doesn't mean that he can.

So tell that to the blacksmith, who uses the exact same rules. Why he can't walk over to his forge and get to work just because it got cold outside?

Or the manuscript maker that can't transcribe texts because it’s raining outside.

Or the accountant that can't do the local lords’ books because it’s hot outside.

Let me say this one more time. Farming is just the easiest to use example. As I said in the original post, it applies to *ANY* profession skill. It is not meant to be 100% realistic and true to life, it is intended to refute people who say that the D&D economy cannot function as written. As written, the economy functions just fine.
Actually, as far as I am informed, back in the days they didn't know about land management and letting the land recover. They just farmed it all year after year (which obviously let to the soil becoming exhausted and giving less/worse crops).

Correct. That's why everyone in Medieval Europe starved to death, and white people are extinct.
Not true, at any time you are working on a chore in which you have no skill ranks to back it up is unskilled labor. You could have max ranks in Craft (tea cozies), but if you're working out in a field, then you're working as unskilled labor. Ask any college grad working at McDonald's.

A college grad is a bit of a poor example in this case, since those Knowledge skills get you nothing in D&D.

But the point is that if you have max ranks in Craft (tea cozies) then you can make Your-Skill-Check/2 GP a week selling tea cozies. Always. This is not limited by anything at all. Even if the bottom fell out of the tea-cozy market. Even if the King passes a law making the manufacture of tea-cozies illegal, you still make the same amount of money. It's the rules.
This is a great discussion! What about the figuring out how much of the "food budget" is offset by the son hunting? The survival skill says you can feed X people for every Y points your check is above 10 (I believe).

If the son is hunting, in many historical settings--and some fantasy ones--he'll be hanging around doing nothing. (or being an anti-bard—decomposing.) Lords were very jealous of their hunting privileges, and would hang anyone who presumed to hunt on the lord's land.

If this is not the case, then he still needs wilderness to hunt or forage in--and that is far between in farm country, and will be hunted out in a hurry.

Now, a frontier farm might just be able to stretch the provisions that way--if the son has survival, and doesn't get eaten. (The local animals and monsters are making their survival roles, and he might well count as "provisions...")
If the son is hunting, in many historical settings--and some fantasy ones--he'll be hanging around doing nothing. (or being an anti-bard—decomposing.) Lords were very jealous of their hunting privileges, and would hang anyone who presumed to hunt on the lord's land.

If this is not the case, then he still needs wilderness to hunt or forage in--and that is far between in farm country, and will be hunted out in a hurry.

Now, a frontier farm might just be able to stretch the provisions that way--if the son has survival, and doesn't get eaten. (The local animals and monsters are making their survival roles, and he might well count as "provisions...")

True. But I was thinking more along the lines of small game (rabbits, squirrels, pond snakes, small rodents, maybe even up to foxes and beavers). I think these would be things he could supplement the family diet with that might be found close to home. If I were a farm boy, I certainly wouldn’t want to go into the deep dark woods that seem to swallow adventurers that wander in there ... never to be seen again. (I like your "provisions" line. )

And I see him using a shortbow or sling as opposed to a longbow. If I were the farmer, then no son of mine would be a lay-about and waste his time slacking off ... at least, not more than once ;)
Edymnion, I liked you post. It was very insightful.

To all others that criticize his math/ideas/whatever. . . Come on people, he made nice sense of the rules. Now, understand, every DM interprets the rules the way they want (and makes his own assumptions). So, what ever you say doesn't make his article more or less valid. It is his way of thinking. Heck, I even included supply and demand schemes in my game. Technology varies from different eras and there's even a banking/stock system. Those are my rules, who's to say that I am wrong?

So, please, if you really want to say something, go do some research, and post your own series of equations, showing the way you think it should be done. This is a fantasy game, where the rules can be changed and bent at the DMs will. If you've got nothing nice to say, don't say it at all. (And, definitely, don't repeat what other people have said, it's redundant and takes more time than really needed to read a good thread.)

The X

I would like to see this banking/stock (market?) system of which you speak...

This is an intriguing discussion. I have always envisioned running a campaign with a (software program?) system more or less running in the background running a world wide economic/stock market/banking/supply and demand simulation such that when the PC's ask questions in the tavern like "Where can we buy supplies?" or "We found this moldy sword out adventuring. Where can we sell it and for how much?" or even "We are going out to the Tomb of Instant and Painful Death tomorrow. Is there any place where we can buy some Life Insurance? You know a policy that if needed gets raise dead cast for us?" and that uses honest-to-g0d actuary tables (well fantasy tables anyways!).

Adventurer: Yes I'm interested in some adventuring insurance.

Insurance Agent: Hmmm, well you know that adventuring insurance is quite expensive right?

Adventurer: *sigh* Yes I know.

Insurance Agent: Well ok let me see. You are a level 4 fighter with Power Attack and 3 Action Points. Hmmmmm. Good news! You qualify for our top of the line policy, the "If you take a Licking, We get you back Kicking" policy. This policy guarantees one raise dead casting upon presentation of your properly identified remains at one of our local Healing Huts. The price if very reasonable at only coppers a day!

Also what about all that TREASURE the PCs accumulate? Wouldn't someone somewhere wanna sell them some stock in a company? I mean come on...

Stock Broker: Yeah man, I was schmoozing with one of the owners at the Romanesque Bacchanalia the other day and he told me that his mining company was fixing to hit big. Do you wanna know what that's gonna do to the stock price? Do you?!

Adventurer: Well ummm, ok! I'm in for 1000 shares!

Stock Broker: OK at 3 gp a share that's 3000 gp plus my 10% commission comes to a total of 3300gp. Here are your stock certificates and you are now the proud owner of 1000 shares of the Pyrite Delve Mining Company.
Well, some (valid) nitpicks aside, it does look like a commoner can make enough to live on by his skills. However, where I find the D&D economy most "broken" is not in the pay (which can occasionally be whacked), but in the prices.

In a society like they describe, even a "skilled" worker is paid just enough to get by. In our modern, post industrial revolution society, goods that require the work of a craftsman are more expensive because that craftsman works slow and expensively compared to a machine. But in a pre-industrial society, that kind of work is the norm, and less valuable because of it: nobody's willing to pay extra for "hand-made" chairs. Something that would take a craftsman a week to make should be priced at roughly one week's food (for the craftsman) plus materials. This is not always true of the Official price lists, though.

And it should never be possible to break an item down into its components and sell it at a profit, nor should versions with extra work (and thus extra cost) cost less. Thus, a 10 foot pole (2sp) should not cost less than a 10 foot ladder (5cp), or someone will set up a shop where he buys ladders and breaks them in half and sells the sides as "poles". And a Spiked chain with a 10 foot reach weighs 7 1/2 times as much as a 10 foot chain, yet costs 5 GP less. So, the only people buying regular chain are people who care a lot about the weight. And with all those Spiked Chains lying around (used to fasten animals to their stakes and stuff), I'd guess proficiency with it would be fairly common, too, so I don't really see it being an "Exotic" weapon in a world where it is that common (cheaper than chain).

The best repair of the D&D pricelist (and what it says about the economy) I've encountered was this: those aren't the real prices. Those are the "He looks like a wealthy adventurer, so let's see how much I can gouge him" prices. Commoners don't pay those prices, and neither do PCs who haggle.
And it should never be possible to break an item down into its components and sell it at a profit, nor should versions with extra work (and thus extra cost) cost less. Thus, a 10 foot pole (2sp) should not cost less than a 10 foot ladder (5cp), or someone will set up a shop where he buys ladders and breaks them in half and sells the sides as "poles".

I agree. Someone screwed up on that pricing.

a Spiked chain with a 10 foot reach weighs 7 1/2 times as much as a 10 foot chain, yet costs 5 GP less.

Except a spiked chain's 10' reach depends on it being wielded by a Small or Medium creature with a 5' reach. Thus, the spiked chain really only has 5' of chain.

5' of chain would, theoretically, cost 15 gp, 10 gp less than buying the spiked chain weapon. So I think that one actually makes sense.

Another price anomaly is that an iron pot is 10 lbs. and costs 5 sp., but 1 lb. of raw iron is only 1 sp. You can buy an iron pot, melt it into a brick and resell it for a 100% profit!

To me, the answer is that raw iron should cost 5 cp/lb., iron pots should cost 1 gp, and wooden 10' ladders should cost 5 sp. In my opinion, this should immediately go in the next errata!
The reason for the pricelist anomalies are, of course, that they're for game balance. The cost of an item in D&D has nothing to do with how it's made, and everything to do with how useful it is in a dungeon.
A good article, and I wholeheartedly agree. I did a lengthy analysis of the same thing for the Yeomanry region back when I was a LG Triad including taxes and all.

A couple comments from someone whose grandparents actually ran a farm:

You would get your Profession (farmer) income all year long (I'm noting this not for the original author but for some of the later posters). In reality it comes in one or two big spikes during the year, but Profession abstracts that. To spread out income, farmers have winter crops, preserve and pickle produce for later sale, sell milk year round, sell chopped wood, etc. And remember in a medieval setting, people can't go to the grocery for food, so they're willing to pay more in, say, February for some grain than they are in October.

Taxes do take a big hit, and yes, it takes a long time to save up for hard goods/farm equipment. It's a rough life. There's plenty of whole historical villages that have just plain died out because of it.

Why doesn't everyone be a farmer, or skilled craftsman, instead of working those laborer or merc jobs? A couple reasons. One is that in most medieval examples, someone else owned land. Just because you decided to "have a farm" didn't mean you could, and moving out to homestead in an area not protected by a lord was quite dangerous. Similarly, there were regulations and/or guilds that said who could do what - you couldn't brew beer unless you were licensed; couldn't grind grain unless you were licensed; couldn't be a tailor or blacksmith unless you had apprenticed up and were in the guild, etc. It's quite possible to be stuck without an outlet for a legit Profession or Craft skill and have to do day labor or go "join the military" as a mercenary. Pay was low as a merc/soldier but the ability to loot/steal stuff was a big plus.

Adventurers are the ultimate in that continuum - willing to accept a grotesquely short lifespan for potentially huge rewards.
Edymnion... we disagree on a lot of stuff and this is not one of them. Fabulous article. I will be using this as a guide in my games. My players are already starting to talk about taking the profession skill so they can make money in down time. MY players! It's nothing short of a freaking miracle.
The reason for the pricelist anomalies are, of course, that they're for game balance. The cost of an item in D&D has nothing to do with how it's made, and everything to do with how useful it is in a dungeon.

I'm not sure how game balance is affected by increasing the price of ladders?
I think the DMG should've already covered this. Hard enough going about trying to shove all the mechanics together. Ah well, at least we have the boards. Reading it just tears me up from the inside learning just how dirt-poor these farmers are.
Caveat: I edit my posts, ever and anon after.
Edymnion... we disagree on a lot of stuff and this is not one of them. Fabulous article. I will be using this as a guide in my games. My players are already starting to talk about taking the profession skill so they can make money in down time. MY players! It's nothing short of a freaking miracle.

Good god... what have I done?!? ;)

Actually, I've been known to give out a free skillpoint at level 1 on the caveat that it has to be spent on a profession skill. I mean, unless you started adventuring when you were 12, you had to have *SOME* exposure to something resembling a job.

I'm not sure how game balance is affected by increasing the price of ladders?

It’s not so much that, as it is the other way around. A 10' pole costs more than a ladder because the 10' pole is easier to manage and has more potential uses for an adventurer. Items in the PHB are priced so that things that are more useful to an adventurer cost more than things that are less useful. This is because, more so than level, character wealth is the real defining power gauge for a character. A level 10 character with the character wealth of a lvl 2 character is by no means a CR 10 opponent, and as a PC would get his butt handed to him repeatedly by monsters that should be an easy fight, if he was properly equipped. The same way a lvl 1 character decked out in +5 everything is going to tear encounters 5 CRs above him to pieces.

So, the problem arises when NPCs have to deal with PC prices. Luckily, the answer is also in the rules, as the Profession skills were also made to be PC ready, and are still accessible by NPCs. So, while they may have to pay artificially inflated prices, they are also able to make (potentially) artificially inflated wages, so it balances out.

Looking at just the RAW, any NPC that actually sets his mind to working, and working hard, is going to be able to make enough money (either in coin, in barter goods, or a combination of the two) to survive on, and have enough left over for savings. NPCs with less focus that drift around aimlessly (aka, they spend their skillpoints in many different areas, but never more than one or two points per skill) do not work as hard, and do not make as much money, and may have problems making ends meet. Just like real life. The guy floating around from one burger joint to the other that never applies himself is going to have to live with a half dozen roommates just to make rent, while the guy that went to college, worked hard to build up his skills, and then got a good job will make much more money.

In mechanical terms, the burger flipper is unskilled labor, and is only making a silver per day. He'll never be able to afford a house by himself on minimum wage. The college grad has poured his skillpoints into a single skill, possibly having taken Skill Focus in that skill, and hence is a skilled laborer, who gets a better job with more money.

Will the guy with a good job ever be able to afford private jets and high end sports cars? Most likely not, but he won't be living off ramen noodles either. But, if he really dedicated himself to it, and saved diligently for a decade or two, yeah, he could afford that Ferrari. Which is basically the same as saying Joe Commoner here could save up his money to buy that really nifty magical item.
One thing to consider is the quality of the farm and equipment. A farm with good land and the latest in tools should gain a masterwork bonus--or perhaps add a "fertility bonus" or penalty to allow it to stack with masterwork tools. On other categories of profession or craft, the basic equipment can also give bonuses or penalties, aside from masterwork tools.

Circumstance bonuses should be plentiful--a tavern right next to the guard barracks has more potential than one at a deserted crossroads. Perhaps even add some sort of "investment bonus" or penalty for the facility he's using to make his money. The shop on the corner of a busy street costs more, but will bring in more money.

And last, many urban commoners aren’t entrepreneurs, but employees. I'm sure we all know that many employees don't make what they are really worth...
And last, many urban commoners aren’t entrepreneurs, but employees. I'm sure we all know that many employees don't make what they are really worth...

You could say the employee’s prof. role is the amount of revenue they GENERATE. Their boss then decides what to actually pay them.
And last, many urban commoners aren’t entrepreneurs, but employees. I'm sure we all know that many employees don't make what they are really worth...

They do in D&D. One skill roll = Gold in your pocket. Every week.
the amount of taxes paid would *NOT* be a third or half of everything the peasant produced.

Ah... Most peasants were sharecroppers. The lord owned the land, and collected 1/2 of what was grown as rent.

You're still half-right; the bushels of wheat from the fields was only part of the value produced by a peasant family. The women did weaving, the men cut firewood, they had vegetable patches, etc.

The taxes went mainly towards supporting the lord and his family, meaning that once their food needs were met, and he got enough coin to keep his affairs in order, the people kept everything else.

Erm... on which planet? :D The French nobility bled their peasants to the point of rebellion time and time again. There were many, many French Revolutions. It's just that most of them failed.

My estimates are about 40 GP a year for the peasant family (which isn't as grim as it sounds, since they have the additional sources of value as above - but it's still grim), and 40 GP a year for the lord. So for 10,000 peasants, you have about 2,000 families, which yields about 80,000 GP a year to pay your army, repair your castle, feed your servants, pay taxes to your lord, etc. etc. etc.
Truly excellent post.

We will assume that Joe, Jill, and Billy each eat the equivalent of 1 common meal and 2 poor meals per day (5 sp per day, each), and that Susy eats the equivalent of 2 poor meals per day (2 sp per day), and that the baby does not eat enough to be worth factoring into this.

Just my 2 cents - as I understand the DMG (both 3rd and 3,5 edition) define the price of meals per day not a single meal. That means that the costs to feed one person for one day are 1 sp if the person eats 3 poor meals, 3 sp if he eats 3 common meals and 5 sp if he eats 3 good meals.

Correct me if I am wrong.

Also - the point of being farmer (or a cook) is that you get your meals "free". Farmer grows it himself and cook, well we all know what the cook can do, working with food products all day long.
A stock system might make sense in some campaigns, but historically, ordinary people did not have the opportunity to invest in a company. Only the ones that already had good money could do so. That would consist of wealthy bankers and merchants pooling funds for an expensive, risky venture.

Granted, if a band of adventures swagger into town, bearing the hoard and magic of a dragon that's terrified the entire land, they suddenly become a valuable resource to exploit. Trying to force them to pay taxes on it might be impractical but offering them a choice might be more palatable.

Tax assessor: "Lady Elaine Stormweather, normally, I would be forced to assess you 20 percent of the treasure trove you have found. However, since His Majesty is desirous of increasing the flow of trade, he has authorized me to tell you that if you invest 25% of your take in the new trading venture, the tax will be waived."

That gives the party an incentive to pay rather than simply teleport away--and gives them a stake in the continued well being of the venture. They could just pay and check back in later for reports--or decide to make sure it's a success.

This would only be for people of vast power and wealth--not worth the trouble for a measly few thousand gold from people that couldn't effectively protest anyway.

(Keeping the low status people from sharing in big economic opportunities keeps them low status. And if they see some of them make it big, they may start thinking of themselves as the equal of merchants and bankers--or even worse, nobles. So the forces of oppression and order don't want them getting too much money.)
Here's what I find interesting.

A homesteading farmer has a fair amount of disposable cash, but he's easy target for bandits, random monsters, etc.

If he pays about a third of his income to a lord, he loses most disposable cash (but has enough for equipment maintenance and the occasional big purchase, probably done with barter and on credit to make it more affordable rather than paying with "coin"...he trades half-price grain to the blacksmith for a half-price masterwork plow and both benefit).

The lord then takes care of chasing off bandits, killing dangerous monsters, so Joe Farmer doesn't die and Jill Farmer doesn't suddenly have to support a family with most of the income gone. And yes, being a widow (or widower) is a significant hardship, as it puts you into barely surviving range instead of "with disposable income for maintenance and occasional purchases).

It's not that different from modern working poor - with two incomes and any job that isn't minimum wage, you can afford to have a normal dwelling, a car and medical insurance. With only one income you can make the rent, but the car goes without maintenance and discretionary purchases are out, and if anything bad happens you're eating macaroni and cheese or top ramen or lentils (depending on cultural preference).

This model is plausible. In a society where the peasants weren't serfs, they did pretty well during good times, and really really suffered when they could not work (war, famine, insufficient protection from predators - humans in our world, etc). In D&Dland, you can virtually assure decent harvest if there is somebody to work the land and accidental death is less common (coming up with cost of a cure disease to save Joe or Jill Commoner's life is worth years and years of debt in the long run).

Farmers make all of their money around harvest time, and need to be actively working during harvest and planting time, but have some disposable time during summer and winter to do other things. I'd assume profession (farmer) would include making good use of that time (maintaining fences, weeding, hunting animals such as rabbits and deer that are eating crops and eating THEM, brewing ale, repairing the roof, etc). I've never heard of a subsistence farmer that ever had any real free time, so while the crops only come in twice a year, keeping his "profession" skill running smoothly takes work all year around. In an economy with money lending, you'd get the modern farmer who takes out loans for seed/equipment at the start and pays it off at harvest time. In a more traditional fantasy economy where money lending is only for the rich, the farmer has to stay ahead of the game and is in deep trouble if he has to eat the seed corn in a bad winter.

This does mean that a village can in fact come up with 50gp or so to hire an adventurer, or a few hundred for several, if the threat is sufficient to risk losing able-bodied villagers or their livelihood....permanent solutions mean steady money in the future. If the adventurers fail though, they're likely hosed, so they won't usually hire adventurers unless the alternative is pretty certainly worse than losing their disposable cash for no gain.
Excellent article, though I have one small factoid to notice:

A first level human commoner has 12 skill points, not 9. Remember that the bonus human skill points are multiplied by x4 at first level.

That is all.

Cheers,
Save vs DM
Sorry for coming into this late. If someone has discussed this then by all means ignore. Great post first off. Gives some great fluff with a little crunch. My main concern was not the post but some of the replies. Contrary to what is taught today the peasants had a fairly decent life and it wasn't such "Robin Hood". Not every Lord took whatever he wanted or even at times what was owed. After all, peasants unable to continue on the land didn't put coin in pocket and allowed not so much a peasant rebellion as a neighboring Lord to come in and smack down the Lord who wasn't able to manage his land.

The history of taxes are based on taxes that could be claimed at that time. IOW it would be like taking all of the taxable possibilities of the state of Iowa with all the taxable possibilities of the state of New Jersey and then saying that every person in the state of Oregon paid these PLUS the taxes in Oregon. Just sometimes take what is a good post and let it be a good post!
Sorry for coming into this late. If someone has discussed this then by all means ignore. Great post first off. Gives some great fluff with a little crunch. My main concern was not the post but some of the replies. Contrary to what is taught today the peasants had a fairly decent life and it wasn't such "Robin Hood". Not every Lord took whatever he wanted or even at times what was owed. After all, peasants unable to continue on the land didn't put coin in pocket and allowed not so much a peasant rebellion as a neighboring Lord to come in and smack down the Lord who wasn't able to manage his land.

The history of taxes are based on taxes that could be claimed at that time. IOW it would be like taking all of the taxable possibilities of the state of Iowa with all the taxable possibilities of the state of New Jersey and then saying that every person in the state of Oregon paid these PLUS the taxes in Oregon. Just sometimes take what is a good post and let it be a good post!

The peasants' lot varied form period to period, ruler to ruler, nation to nation and there were also famines, droughts, floods and disease, evil rulers and just plain incompetent rulers who miscalculated what people needed to live on.

Generalising "Peasants had a fairly decent lot" or "Peasants were always starving" is wrong.

Anyway using the rules one thing no-one's said what skill rolls actually mean - I'd say the farmer is always the same farmer. Low rolls mean bad weather, crop blights, diseased cows or whatever, high rolls good weather and other favourable conditions. With no savings a peasant family is going to occasionally suffer some considerable hardship just from low rolls. That seems realistic to me.
Anyway using the rules one thing no-one's said what skill rolls actually mean - I'd say the farmer is always the same farmer. Low rolls mean bad weather, crop blights, diseased cows or whatever, high rolls good weather and other favourable conditions. With no savings a peasant family is going to occasionally suffer some considerable hardship just from low rolls. That seems realistic to me.

Yup. It can also mean things like broken tools that need to be replaced, taxes being paid, and everything else. Remember, the amount you make from these checks is the profit. Low rolls mean low profits, which can just as easily represent higher than normal expenses just as easily as it can represent lower than normal income.
I think part of the issue is that much of what they generate would not be in gold but in barter or surplus (a lot will go to feeding the family). Being a cook is great to make the food last longer but in a town full of cooks no one is really gonna spend money to by food made by another cook. For higher skilled craftsmen you often had tinker's traveling about. I am curious how much real coin is there compared what they are listed as earning.

Also forage can help a lot for the family’s economics. In the firefox series of books, I was amazed to find out just how much folks in Appalachia do living with out large farms.
Okay, I tried building a quick little spreadsheet for my own use somewhat based on what has been discussed in this thread.

Here’s my starting assumptions:
1. Using the Craft, Perform, and Profession skills
2. No feats to add to rolls or stats
3. Take 10 (or same for average) on skill checks
4. 7days in a week, 4 weeks in a month
5. Using the equipment list costs in the PHB
6. Using the variant rule in the DMG for Character Expenses:
Self-Sufficient Standard of Living 2 gp per month
Meager Standard of Living 5 gp per month
Poor Standard of Living 12 gp per month
Common Standard of Living 45 gp per month
Good Standard of Living 100 gp per month
Extravagant Standard of Living 200 gp per month

Your average professions:
1st level Commoner, 4 ranks in Profession (Whatever), +1 Wisdom stat bonus = average skill check of 15 per week
Skill check 15 = 7.5 gp/week = 30 gp/month (just shy of a Common standard of living)

Your entertainers:
1st level Performer, 4 ranks in Perform (Whatever), +1 Charisma stat bonus = average skill check of 15 per performance
Average profit per performance = 5.5 gp
Performing 3 times per week = 16.5 gp/week = 66 gp/month (between Common and Good standards of living)

Your craftspeople:
1st level Commoner, 4 ranks in Craft (Whatever), +1 Int stat bonus = average skill check of 15 per week
Earns (on average) gp/month:
Alchemist = 55.91
Armoursmith = 29.75
Baker = 2.8*
Blacksmith = 23.5
Bowyer = 28.29
Brewer = 11.9
Carpenter = 21.7
Chandler = 25.9
Cooper = 24.85
Glazier = 28.77
Jeweler = 36.75
Leatherworker/Saddler = 31.5
Locksmith = 24.4
Papermaker = 24.87
Potter = 3.73*
Tailor = 26.15
Tinsmith/Tinker = 18.82
Vintner = 29.08
Wainwright = 21.67
Weaponsmith = 39.48**
Weaver = 16.65

* - unreasonably low in my mind
** - includes values for exotic weapons

Average Craftsperson profit per week = (approx.) 23-25 gp . . . between a Poor and Common standard of living.
Hirelings making 1 sp per day would make 3 gp per month and fall just over “Self-Sufficient”.
Experienced Hirelings that make 3 sp per day would make 9 gp per month and fall between “Meager” and “Poor”.

If we divide the “Expenses” in the assumption by half (these are only NPCs and not PCs rolling in gold and silver, after all) then the Common standard of living comes out to 22.5 gp per month. This would place the average commoner around the Common standard of living (professionals making more than a craftsperson, entertainers making a Good living without doing much).

Hirelings making 1 sp per day would make 3 gp per month and fall just over “Meager”.
Experienced Hirelings that make 3 sp per day would make 9 gp per month and fall a little over “Poor”.

Any thoughts?
I tried a family with a 4th level dad, 2nd level mom, and a 1st level brother and sister. They made 17 gp a week.
after costs.
VERY interesting discussion. One thing I'm curious about (but too lazy to do the math for), is how much money the local lord is going to be raking in if he can extract (say) 1/3 to 1/2 the peasants' income in taxes. I've got a horrible suspicion that the local baron, even after expenses, will be richer than God (possibly living in a solid platinum castle with catapults that throw basketball-sized diamonds at his enemies).

Sandulax

Well, do remember the local lord will have to:
A) pay to support a small number of dedicated fighting men, including equipment and food.
B) pass on a huge percentage of what he takes in to the king.
Well, do remember the local lord will have to:
A) pay to support a small number of dedicated fighting men, including equipment and food.
B) pass on a huge percentage of what he takes in to the king.

C) Buy powerful magic items to protect the barony from adventurers/monsters/mad sorcerers.
D) Stay up to date with court fashion and hold feasts and other examples of conspicuous consumption.
And of course, there is one flaw with the "But the local lord would just take it all in taxes!" argument.

The local lord is incapable of supporting himself.
All of his food and labor come from those under him. The commoners accept having a lord over them exacting taxes because of the services the local lord *MUST* provide to them.

Please, if you think its just some fat noble sopping up taxes and not doing anything, throw that idea away and go read a few history books. It was an almost purely business relationship. The people support the lord, and the lord is required by the fuedal contract to provide for the defense and well being of those under him. If the peasants are starving, the local lord has broken the contract, and the peasants had every right to rise up against him, and it happened repeatedly.

The local lord provided military protection, they provided aid for public works, they provided education to their peasants, they often times even provided the houses and farmlands for the peasants.

How does a commoner afford his house under feudal rule? The local lord GIVES IT TO THEM. If you want to go the route of the local lord taking massive taxes, then you also have to remove most of the commoner's cost of living as well.
And medieval farmers *DID* know about fertilizers. They would routinely put manure on their fields. Its one reason why English food still tends to be bland today, because of a long history of having to boil everything for hours precisely because their food was covered in .

Actually, I think it was because of the world wars, where the pressures of rationing meant that flavour was considered a lot less important than raw nutritious efficiency, and being an island nation, Britain came off rationing about 10 years after everyone else! So a whole generation grew up never having heard about the old Edwardian and Victorian food, except for the cheapest stuff. Welsh food didn't do so badly, as Welsh cooking had been about efficiency for hundreds of years, basically because they got oppressed frequently, but even so people don't seem to want to eat sheep's heads anymore. Strange.
Actually thats the biggest reason for boiling things; if you use big solid jars, then you can cook just about every piece of the meat, and get some goodness out of it. Its also great if you need a fire on anyway, as you can just stick the thing on top of it for 6 hours, without needing to put on any more firewood.

On the topic at hand though

If we divide the “Expenses” in the assumption by half (these are only NPCs and not PCs rolling in gold and silver, after all) then the Common standard of living comes out to 22.5 gp per month. This would place the average commoner around the Common standard of living (professionals making more than a craftsperson, entertainers making a Good living without doing much).

Hirelings making 1 sp per day would make 3 gp per month and fall just over “Meager”.
Experienced Hirelings that make 3 sp per day would make 9 gp per month and fall a little over “Poor”.

Any thoughts?

Very nice, any chance of putting the sheet up on the boards?
I've been struggling with making D&D more "realistic" for a bit, stuck between wanting mostly level 1-7 commoners with very few PC classes, and trying to imagine a raptorian community where the only people who actually manage to use their wings are basically retired from hunting! Actually though raptorians live so long that their nests would be about 10 level 9 people with a few younger ones, as by this you would think that everyone under 30 (level 5) would not be allowed back,which is strange but actually not that unreasonable when they live to 270.