A bunch of silver fantasy coins thrown onto a table.

I recently wrote up an article detailing the simpler setup I use for my FFXIV x DND game for currency. In that setup, I distill costs down to ranges for various categories of items and just figure out the appropriate cost within the range on the fly. Part of that concept is based on using the “Silver Standard” concept for fantasy gaming. There is a lot of information and discussion on the Silver Standard out there, and there are various versions of it. Since I’m basing part of my current currency system off of the idea, I thought it might be a good idea to talk about just the silver standard side of things and how it might be applicable.

What Is The Silver Standard?

There are multiple takes on the silver standard, but the core concept is to use silver coins as the main available currency rather than gold coins. Some versions merely replace the gold cost with silver, so a set of ring mail that would be 30 gold becomes 30 silver. Some versions change the conversion rates and tweak things to represent prices differently. In some of these systems 100 silver equals 1 gold or 20 silver equals 1 gold, etc. The goal here is to create a more realistic pricing model to medieval societies. That’s a very tall order in a fantasy world, but the various silver standard conversions change the paradigm to make gold feel more rare.

The big benefit of any silver standard system is that things “feel” more realistic based on our modern sensibilities. Gold is a much rarer metal and there is always a bit of a disconnect to think of things in gold coins. The modern exchange rate (currently) for an ounce of gold is ~1,650 USD. That means we would value a single, small gold coin at well over a thousand dollars in the real world. While there may be other societal factors at play in a fantasy world, it’s always hard to get around that idea. The mind wants to fall back to what denomination prices are listed in and match that to our understandings, so seeing 50 feet of rope listed at 1gp creates a weird mental accounting. The silver standard aims to fix that by putting things in easier to conceptualize denominations.

The Simplest Implementation Of The Silver Standard And Why It Works

My own take on the Silver Standard is inspired by this forum post and this comment by WIK:

“Well, when I did it, I just made sure that I made most transactions in silver pieces. When you do that, you start getting a bit more precise when you do prices – what would normally be a 10 GP per week stay at a nice inn is now 115 silver per week…while the one down the street is 110 silver, but they don’t do your linens (or whatever).”

 So that’s it, the simplest – and in my humble opinion the best – implementation of the Silver Standard is to mark all gold prices in silver and salt to taste.  

That resonated with me and that simple concept works about 90% of the time. Change gp to sp and multiply by 10. The ring mail that was 30 gp becomes 300 sp and that feels more correct  in my mind. It’s easier for my brain to connect a silver piece as about a dollar and to conceptualize a 300 silver piece of armor. An inn stay costs about 8 silver per night while a very nice in stay costs about 20 silver and a super nice inn stay costs about 40 silver. Inflation and other factors make those not match up exactly to most real world costs, but they provide a better basis to work with. A decent dagger costing about 20 silver feels more realistic, even if you pay for it with 2 gold coins. Determining price variations becomes much easier. Is it a really fancy dagger – how about 35 silver or 90 because of the jewels.

So that’s it, the simplest – and in my humble opinion the best – implementation of the Silver Standard is to mark all gold prices in silver and salt to taste.  It will change the tone of the currency while not really changing any of the mechanics. You and your players can conceptualize the costs better and make quicker changes to provide the feel of a more alive economy. A chest of gold coins feels much more valuable and carrying around larger denomination coins becomes a way to rationalize not carrying 40 lbs of coins if you are playing more realistic, old school. It doesn’t quite mesh up to a real world currency but feels more in line and doesn’t require any other math.

What do you think of a silver standard this simple? Have you used one of the many versions of the silver standard out there or a totally different currency system? What works for you and doesn’t with pricing in gold pieces for D&D / fantasy games?