Tuesday, March 15, 2011

[Resources] Money Changes Everything

File:Yap Stone Money.jpg
On a small Pacific island named Yap (or Wa'ab to the natives), carved stones are money. Known as Rai Stones, these carved rocks range in size up to a yard across and at least two cars in weight. The stones are carved into circular disks with a hole in the center, out of limestone that the natives mined on another island, Palau, and took back to Yap on canoes and rafts.

The economy was simple - because limestone was rare on Yap, it had value and so ownership of the stones passed to others as normal as using a credit card today but the larger stones rarely moved. Ownership was known among the people and there seemed to be few disputes about it.

The amazing thing is this went on for 500-600 years before a situation changed the economy - a shipwrecked American named David Dean O'Keefe. He showed the islanders how to quarry the limestone with iron tools and the value of the Rai stones fell, but not before he became wealthy, rich enough to own an island. There was a book and movie made about O'Keefe (His Majesty O'Keefe and the film was made in 1954 with Burt Lancaster).

The best thing about all this is the Rai Stones themselves. If you look at most RPGs, especially the fantasy ones, the units of money are all the same: coins, jewels and magic items. But what if the humanoid tribes in your game had money stones like the Rai? What if they collected gold and silver and gems simply because they're pretty to look at and, hell, those stupid humans carry them around a lot, so they must be something, maybe childrens' toys - but the real value is in large stone money?

The addition of this bit of culture to the game (known only to humanoids or those half-begot bastards they raised) would change the "monsters slavering for gold and gems" into a quest for understanding at the least - their motivations are not loot (as seen by humans and demi-humans) but as opportunities for them to gain riches in their own culture (with attacking those stupid humans and elves an added bonus).

I think I'm going to incorporate these stones into my Ashford Valley campaign setting among the humanoid tribes (which Bugbears and Orcs feature prominently).

1 comment:

Unfortunately, due to spam, I have set up comment moderation. I will review and approve your comment as soon as possible. Thank you for your patience.