In Fairness: D&D Economics Again.
After having complained at Multiplexer last entry, I figure I might point out an interesting entry I don’t much disagree with here. The fundamental question; when your wizard casts that spell requiring 500 gp worth of diamond dust, how does the universe know that you spent 500 gp worth of diamond dust? What does it really mean for something to be worth 500 gp?
Well, in D&D, this is simple. Objects have costs independent of their market values, as absolute properties inherent to their nature. A standard longsword has observed properties of size, weight, dimensions, and price. Presumably, each granule of diamond dust has a very tiny cost, such that a small amount adds up to 500 gp. And you can end up in a weird situation, where an item can be easily down-convertable in a way which doesn’t reduce its price, but does reduce its value. A 5000 gp diamond has a lot more magical uses than 10 500 gp sacks of diamond dust, but you can presumably get that much dust out of a diamond and sell it accordingly.
Multiplexer rejects the inherent-cost property, however, and proposes a few alternatives. I happen to be tickled pink at the last one of those, in which the Great Modron March is actually a price audit for everything in the planes, and speculates that you could, with the right con in the right place, adjust the market price of a spell component. This is hilarious because, in another world, this actually happened. In EVE (of course), a mechanic was introduced in which destroying an enemy’s cargo awarded you honor points, which could be traded for regular currency at 1/10th the value of your raid. Destroy an enemy ship carrying a million in cargo? Get a hundred thousand’s worth of honor points. OK, that’s great. But how much is cargo worth?
EVE is unique among major MMORPGS for not having the fixed, inherent price structure of D&D and other worlds. Every item buys and sells for what players are willing to buy and sell it for. So, with no look-up to determine the price of a cargo haul other than actually putting it on the market and seeing what it’s worth, the EVE programmers just did a periodic audit of all of the transactions for each item and determined its average sell price.
So, Goonswarm (whose relationship to EVE could basically be summarized as “Imagine the Joker with the resources and respectability of Wayne Enterprises.”) spun up their false-flag factions and frenemy-alliances. They picked an item which was generally regarded as useless and was barely transacted upon by the normal economy, and then did thousands of buys and sells of huge lots of that item for wildly inflated prices, all the while creating huge hoards of it. Then, when that audit ticked over, that worthless item was suddenly worth an enormous honor value. Enough, actually, that even with that 1/10 loss, you could destroy a cargo of it, cash out your honor, buy more from people who hadn’t learned the trick and were happy to get their cargo of this worthless item off their hands at a good deal, and repeat the process.