Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Dragons and Economics: Part 1

You know the scene:

The adventurers, a fearsome fighter, a wise wizard, and a err . . . thieving thief, come upon an ancient hall. Inside the hall is a gigantic pile of treasure, enough money to buy a palace, the kingdom it’s in, and still have enough to throw a really big party. However, atop the pile of treasure is an enormous dragon, its scales chipped and jagged from hundreds, if not thousands, of battles. It looks something like this:

NOTE: if you recognize this picture, you’re a nerd. And/or old. I’m both.

The adventurers, of course, immediately attack the dragon and get killed. Or maybe they kill the dragon. Or maybe they play a game of chess. Or become fast friends. Anyway, something happens, it’s not like the adventurers are just going to ask for an autograph and then be on their merry way.

But here’s the question: Where did the dragon get all that gold? The easy answer is ‘well, it’s been fighting adventurers for hundreds of years, so it’s going to add up.’ However, if you think about the logistics, how would that happen?

How much gold is a standard adventurer carrying? Let’s say 50 pieces. How much gold is in a good sized dragon hoard? Let’s say 500,000 pieces. If you do the math, your typical dragon has killed and looted 10,000 adventurers. If there’s an average of 5 adventurers per party, then the dragon has had 2000 battles. If the dragon is 500 years old, then that means that the dragon has had a battle every three months for its entire life.

And people wonder why dragons are always bad-tempered.

Tomorrow: Part 2


Katkinkate said...

They also attack travelers, towns and castles and loot them of all the shiny they can find.

Astrus said...

Don't forget that whole princess-eating business. Maybe some of the dragons are smart enough to hold the princess to ransom (Then come back to their kindom, loot what's left of the treasury and eat the princess anyway. At least that way someone else already carried part of the shinies to the hoard).
Or dragonscales. If the dragon happens to lose some scales in a fight or through other means it coud always sell them, I hear they're quite expensive.
Actually that opens up a whole new market: faux dragonslayer equipment.
It's not like the unfortunate customer will know his armor and greatsword of dragonslaying do nothing until he's facing a dragon at which point it's probably too late to ask for a refund.

Jason Janicki said...

True, Katkinkate, but how do they loot? I mean, they've got huge claws and gold coins are relatively small. I can't imagine a dragon carefully picking up coins and putting them in a bag for transport. Well, actually I can :)

I've always been curious about the princess-business, Astrus. I mean, why princesses? Are princesses extra yummy? Frankly, the whole thing stinks of class-ism :)

How exactly would a dragon sell scales? I'm not sure they can just pop off to the market? Some sort of dragon's Craigs-List?

Astrus said...

Well some types of dragons are capable of magic so the could just pretend to be ordinary merchants by means of transformation or illusion. If I've learned one thing about adventurers it's that they'll buy stuff from any merchant no matter how shady he is, in fact the shadier the merchant the more eager they appear to be to buy that ancient sword - never mind that there might be a curse on it.

As for the dragons who can't pose as merchants, there's always your regular merchants. Offer them enough profit and they'll sell anything for you. And if your business relation stops being profitable you can always eat the merchant. And loot him. It's probably better to loot him first.