Thursday, 21 November 2013


Who'd have thunk it? A House Rule to adjudicate Condiments. But it's true . . . at least for those of us who like just a little "reality" thrown into our game. For me, that old chestnut – "but it's a fantasy game" – only goes so far. For me, a little "reality" makes it more believable. Of course, I'm talking about . . . Salt.
Yep, that's right, salt!

According to the publication, "Arms and Equipment Guide," page 31, salt sells for 1 copper piece per ounce, or 16 copper pieces per pound. By comparison, coffee sells for 5 gold pieces per pound. I'll be generous and call that a "typo."

Man, not only is that not "right," it's not even close. Google salt and you'll find statements like these:

"Salt may have been used for barter in connection with the obsidian trade in Anatolia in the Neolithic Era. Herodotus described salt trading routes across Libya back in the 5th century BC. In the early years of the Roman Empire, roads such as the Via Salaria were built for the transportation of salt from the salt pans of Ostia to the capital."

Roads were built for the express purpose of transporting salt. And there are even more telling statements about salt, such as this one:

"In Africa, salt was used as currency south of the Sahara, and slabs of rock salt were used as coins in Abyssinia. Moorish merchants in the 6th century traded salt for gold, weight for weight."

Yes, salt was money, literally. Salt was traded "weight for weight." In other words, an ounce of salt cost an ounce of gold . . . not a single copper piece. And how about this statement:

"Wars have been fought over salt. Venice fought and won a war with Genoa over the product, and it played an important part in the American Revolution. Cities on overland trade routes grew rich by levying duties, and towns like Liverpool flourished on the export of salt extracted from the salt mines of Cheshire. Various governments have at different times imposed salt taxes on their peoples. The voyages of Christopher Columbus are said to have been financed from salt production in southern Spain, and the oppressive salt tax in France was one of the causes of the French Revolution."

Salt, the mineral "that launched a thousand ships." Sound familiar?

No such history exists for the Coffee bean. In fact, in the time frame we're dealing with – game wise – the only "expense" associated with coffee is transportation. Unfortunately for "coffee supporters" that exact same expense exists for salt as well. We've already mentioned the building of roads for the express purpose of shipping salt.

Otherwise, coffee is cheap; one man, his wife, teenaged son & daughter can grow 100 acres of the stuff easily. On the other hand, even today, there are three or four hundred workers at the Salt Plant outside of Salt Lake City – as a Truck Driver, I used to pick up salt there – coupled with tons of modern machinery. "Back in the day," there was no machinery, so just how many hundreds of men were needed to mine the salt?

Coffee was once grown only in certain locations – that's true – but no longer. Coffee is now grown in many parts of the earth, despite the fact that "quality" can be argued. The point is that salt is still only found in certain locations and not everywhere. Unlike a plant, mineral deposits cannot be relocated and/or grown in nearly any climate.

My Greyhawk works in the same way: Coffee from the Amedio – or wherever – can be transplanted to the appropriate climatic area. Salt mines – on the other hand – are located where they are located, nothing you can do about it.

No, salt is more expensive than coffee by far. So, a House Rule, because I absolutely hate "but the book says." The writers of the "Arms and Equipment Guide" obviously had/have no idea what they're talking about.


  1. Nice points, Mystic. This is the kind of realism that makes my campaign more believable, and fun, to me as well. :)


    1. Thanks, Xaris.

      I feel that little bits of realism -- like this -- bring real "life" to the game. Knowing how these things really "work" helps to bring in the proper "flavor." Suddenly, being hired to guard the salt mine, or shipment, takes on real meaning. There is a real danger associated with the stuff.

      It's not just "bandits," or an Orc raiding party that are the threat. Nope! Soldiers, from another kingdom/barony/county are a threat as well. "Real life" Robber Barons can be counted on to cause trouble.

      Trained soldiers are a lot more dangerous than bandits, or raiders.

    2. Do you think the Salt Mines located in the Bright Lands could be part of the reason that Rary and Greyhawk squabble over the area? Yes, Greyhawk and the Empire of the Bright Lands need no greater reason than -- Salt -- to go to war.