Tuesday, January 5, 2010

On Wealth and Horses

Medieval horse Types and Traits is an awesome contribution by Icelander. Especially since Horses would be more central realistic/gritty games. They are tools of combat, logistics and travel. Thus their strategic relevance to certain games can be immense.

I draw mostly from my byzantine sources, which have pretty much the most detailed medieval sources of incomes and costs thanks to its bureaucracy (the Logos). As a basic rule of thumb, the cost of equipment (investment capital) is proportional to the a character's annual income.

In the 11C and onward byzantine soldiers were roughly middle class (average wealth, and not working class at struggling). Constant man power shortages and demand is what influenced this. Note that these middle class infantry men were Skilled archers comparable to English Yeomen (who were middle to upper middle class- average to comfortable wealth). These soldiers would have a budget of their annual disposable income for pack horses or work horses (for their farms).

The Cavalry was x3 the Income of Infantry men but had more land, so we can chuck that into "wealthy" (x5 average income) for the sake of simplicity.

Men-at-arms who earn $42,000 (wealthy) have disposable income at around $6,000. Given the risks of war many soldiers or their patrons would hedge around up to the disposable income for replacement gear. Patrons are usually the ones who take care of this because its cheaper and more secure if it left to the owners discretion than to leave it up to the soldier (examples of which can be found in the Gothic Campaign and Belisarius and other byzantine texts on waging war).

From my experience in studying pre-capitalist business owner behavior - Patrons typically will not be paying the Full Market Price when purchasing gear. Economies of scale play a strong role in much of equipping vassals, retainers and soldiers. Patrons like the army would get horses at 7 solidi or $2100 for horses that have a market value of 21 solidi ($6300).

The biggest buck can be made selling to the state or lords, and orders for horses are raised with scale in mind. (brokers will always haggle for their patrons) Like many pre-capitalist economies basic principles of future sales were very risky. Hence the high cost multiplier for individual sales. This principle can be applied to all war-related production costs.

A sword at $600 could actually follow the same rule. At market price it is the books listed price, but when ordered by a lord or the state to equip their armies the costs would fall to 1/3 the individual sale market value. So a Cheap Sword market value at $360 would fall to roughly $120 close to historical prices kept in war time ledgers by bureaucrats.

Basic rule of thumb - Market Price in pre-capitalist eras is pricing heavily modified by uncertainty of sale. It ranges opportunistically from x2 to x5, more dependent on the arbitrary value of the merchant.

At the +100% enhancement of patron, a retainer can expect gifts (aka employment fee or loyalty bribe) up to their annual income. the higher the wealth level, the more of this "gift" is made up of Land Assets used to generate income. (its hard to cite the sporadic sources that talk about gifts of land from patrons, the byzantine practice is better documented and makes for a better example; Emperor Nikopheros 12C).

Of course, rarely do patrons "provide" for their retainers so when pricing your patron advantage minimal intervention -50% and freq-6 x1/2 are very common point modifiers.

One must understand that pre-capitalist patrons cheapen their over all costs when they take on the logistics of their retainers instead of letting them run their own logistics. Unfortunately this is a lot of work and not all Patrons will do this (or have a retainer who is good at doing this).

Emperor Generals like Maurice who took good care of these details were rare. In my readings of Chinese warlords (from anecdotes in Tsun Zu) this was also the case.

in reference to: Medieval Horse Types and Traits - Steve Jackson Games Forums (view on Google Sidewiki)
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