Money in the Empire of Splendour

The Yen
The Empire of Splendour is at heart an agrarian economy, and it originally defined the value of goods and services according to a unit known as the cormu. The cormu is defined as 'the amount of rice a man can harvest in one day', but it quickly became apparent that this value was notoriously unstable.

During the reign of Emperor Resilient Patience, the representative currency known as the yen was introduced. Initially set at a fixed value of the cormu, later based on first a jade, then a gold, standard, the first yen were semi-precious stones but were later replaced by coins of coloured glass without intrinsic value. The Imperial Guild of Glassblowers developed secret methods for imprinting markings inside the glass coins to indicate legality. Much money and time has been spent since in an ongoing arms race between the Guild of Glassblowers and organised crime, notably the Black River Society in creating or preventing forgery. A yen coin is a flat ovoid of glass, tapered at one end with a hole in the tapered end to allow coins to be strung together on a purse string (hence their nickname of "beads"). Denomination is indicated by the colour of the glass and the image within. The image often also imparts date of minting and, now that many different governments mint their own yen, the provenence of the coin.

Money in Imperial Society
The Empire considers professions that make money without producing anything to be amongst the lowest strata of society, valued only above those who deal with dead things, and criminals. Imperial law forbids the lending of money with interest, so moneylenders tend to charge a flat rate for their services instead. More commonly, an Imperial citizen in need of a loan will petition their local Magister Administory who, if he considers the cause to be just, will petition his superior Magister and so on up until the Imperial Treasury, found in the city of Reflected Glory, making the application process one that can last months, or sometimes years. Repayment of the debt is often in the form of goods or services rather than coinage, and the length of the loan depends upon the validity of the claim and the generosity of the Magister Administory.

Merchants League and the Banking Clans
The rise of the Merchants League saw a change in the fortunes of the merchant class. No longer reviled by society, the merchant clans were able to produce considerable profit from goods, services... and money. Those merchant families with a strong presence in the finance markets are known as Banking Clans, although in truth no Merchant League clan focuses on one area exclusively. Largest of the Banking Clans are House Feloung and House Daas.

The Banking Clans are venture capitalists, first and foremost. They accept money from investors with the promise of a greater return from their business. The riskier the venture, the higher the return but also the greater the chance of losing the investment. Citizens within the sphere of the Merchants League often open savings accounts with the Banking Clans, usually funding the low-risk every-day business of the clan. For those who simply want their money in a safe place, the Clans offer a strongbox service, the advantage being that money held in safe-keeping in, say, Llaza, can be withdrawn as funds from any other League holding upon presentation of the correct documentation.

The Banking Clans also lend money, sometimes with interest, sometimes with the old Imperial system of a flat rate and this earns them money to repay their investors. Many of the Banking Clans offer insurance, again as a form of risk investment, but this service is generally not offered to anyone who is not at least a Journeyman of the Merchants League. Similarly, stocks and shares in goods and business ventures are sold amongst League members and sometimes the League raises funds by selling League Bonds. League Bonds may be bought by anyone, even those without League membership and they offer League membership, or voting rights on League decisions. The League has practically taken the representative currency of the yen a step further. Instead of yen coins, the League deals in the promise of yen coins, written on paper and sealed with Clan seals.

Property Ownership and Bondsmen
Although Imperial Law says that no man may own another, and that even the lowliest peasant is free to move where he or she wishes, in reality high land prices mean that most farmers have to remain where they are to make ends meet. Worse, wealthy families have bought up arable land that they then rent out to tenant farmers at exorbitant rates. The tenants spend most of their earnings paying off the rent, and so have no spare capital to start anew.

There is a new and insidious practice on the rise where a debtor may pay off his debts by effectively signing himself as a slave (known legally as a fiscal bondsman) to his creditor for a period depending upon the amount owed. Since this practice is new, there is no established time spent as a bondsman for a given value of debt, so the potential bondsman is at the mercy of his creditor. Moves are afoot to have this practice declared illegal, but as yet the motion is blocked by inept bureaucrats and wealthy groups with an interest in allowing it to continue.

Money Elsewhere
When the Anhoi states broke away from the Empire, local branches of the Glassblowers Guild began to mint their own yen coins, backed by the local authority. Llazan yen are considered the strongest, with Meadow Flower, Nirhamsa and Oksan yen all roughly the same value (about 3/4 of a Llazan yen). Imperial yen are seriously devalued outside of the Empire, worth about 1/10th of a Llazan yen.

The Salsham'ai use wooden tokens within their own lands, although yen are also accepted. Some Moa-Ruaki have been known to use shells and shark's teeth as currency, although they tend to barter. Fon makes no coinage of its own but, like its eclectic attitude to language, will happily make use of that of other countries. Vaartan nobility and priests use coins of silver and gold (known as Ryub). Out amongst the islands one can find people who use the teeth, claws and ears of dangerous animals as coin - the more dangerous the animal the greater the value. A wise Merchant's League member will carry with him a wide collection of currencies.

Uses in Gaming
Something not commonly seen in fantasy gaming settings is the concept that the player characters can borrow money. The decision to front funds to player characters is up to the gamesmaster, although the characters should be in good standing with the League. Some Merchant Clans may provide funds for an adventure if they can be convinced that there will be profit in it for them. Otherwise, having a debt to pay off is a good incentive for player characters to continue to accept paid adventures, and if they consistently default on repayments they may find themselves the target of League Agents. The threat of becoming bondsmen may also spur them on to new adventures.

The Nature of Treasure
With coins of no intrinsic value, the nature of treasure hoards changes. A pile of ancient money may be worthless if the coins are no longer legal tender. Alternatively, rare editions may be worth more to collectors or numismatists. Coins of rare provenence can also be used as subtle clues, providing historical records to astute adventurers. Rather than old hauls of coins, payment in services, League Bonds, promissary notes or shares will become more valuable. During times of upheaval, such as the War of Red Winds, specie currency - coinage made of precious metals - was issued, and so there is still the possibility of finding a hoard of gold and silver coins.

Forgers and Counter-Forgers
League documents authorising the withdrawal of funds, share certificates, promissary notes; all of these can be forged with the Forgery skill in order to defraud the League of funds. Note that the League is wise to such practices, and most banking houses will have on hand someone with levels of Expert and a Forgery skill of about +8 in order to spot fakes. Forgers may get away with this procedure a few times in the same League house, but they can be sure that the League watches for patterns of forged documents.

Forging yen is a much harder proposition. Not only does it require a successful Forgery check, but to even manufacture fake yen in the first place requires a successful Craft (glassblower) DC 15 check and a successful Craft (alchemy) DC 25 check, all by the forger. Characters who attempt such things in Llaza may fall afoul of the hawk-like Magister Painu, a genius charged with overseeing the purity of Llazan yen.

Purchasing Power
Below are a few goods commonly sought by adventurers, and their cost in yen.

A bowl of noodles, 1 yen
Candle, 1 yen
One chicken, 1 yen
10 ft. pole, 2 yen
1 Arrow, 5 yen
Flint and steel, 10 yen
Labourer's Wages, daily, 10 yen
Peasant Clothing, 10 yen
Pint of oil, 10 yen
Night in a Cheap Inn, 20 yen
Craftsman's Wages, Daily, 30 yen
Night in an Average Inn, 50 yen
Trail rations, per day, 50 yen
Winter blanket, 50 yen
20 Arrows, 100 yen
Sai dagger, 100 yen
Waterskin, 100 yen
Night in a Good Inn, 200 yen
Sheep or noyaki, 200 yen
Dagger, 200 yen
Light wooden shield, 300 yen
Artisan's Tools, 500 yen
Simple Spell from a Charm-Seller, 500 yen
Glaive, 800 yen
Flask of acid, 1000 yen
Leather armour, 1000 yen
Sword, 1500 yen
Courtier's Clothing 3000 yen
Shortbow 3000 yen
Rowing Boat, 5000 yen
Healer's Kit, 5000 yen
Healing Elixir (potion of cure light wounds), 5000 yen
Vial of antitoxin, 5000 yen
Magisterial Robes 7500 yen
Riding Shandix, 7500 yen
Sampan, 10,000 yen
Trained Vug, 10,000 yen
Breastplate 20,000 yen
Masterwork sword (Silent Sword or similar), 31,500 yen
Masterwork Half-Plate Armour, 75,000 yen
Trained Tembu, 80,000 yen
Simple House, 100,000 yen

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Anhoi River States
City of Llaza
Empire of Fon
Empire of Splendour
Imperial Culture Part One
Race, social order, language, geomancy, the Nine Arts, births, marriages and deaths.
Imperial Culture Part Two
Law and order, magic, Imperial Couriers, travel.
Imperial Culture Part Three
Arts and entertainment, bathhouses, dragon scales, clothing and costume.
Imperial Calendar
Khazarate of Vaarta
Magister Painu
Meadow Flower Alliance
Merchants League

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Yen Coins
Yen coins are made of tough glass; egg-shaped discs with a hole in the narrow end. Denomination is indicated by colour, provenence by an image magically implanted within the coin. Date of minting is either engraved on the surface of the yen, or implanted as well. The denominations are:
Green Yen - the 1 yen piece (1 cp), also known as a yenti, meaning "one".
Red Yen - worth 20 yen (2 sp).
Blue yen - worth 100 yen (1 gp).
Silver Yen - worth 200 yen (2 gp). Clear glass with a thin swirl of silver within.
Gold Yen - worth 1000 yen (10 gp). Clear glass with a thin swirl of gold within.

One yen is roughly equivalent to a copper piece in standard game money. Equivalents are:
1 copper piece = 1 yen.
1 silver piece = 10 yen.
1 gold piecen = 100 yen.
1 platinum piece = 1000 yen.