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Artifact Values in Glorantha


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So, something that's been sort of grinding my goat lately is the estimated value placed on Ernalda's Mirror in TSR: 300,000L (page 86, sidebar). It feels so out of place to me, in comparison with how the core rulebook presents items and value. In particular, what's in my head is the "Value/10" rule of thumb in the RQ2 conversion appendix—and even placing its value at 30,000L still feels like a gigantic sum. Using 60L=yearly income of a free household as an estimate, 300k is 5,000 free households of value, for a little context.

At this stage, the amount of value getting tossed around just starts to feel preposterous (not even to mention if a location outside maybe Nochet or Glamour has that quantity of coin sitting around). Like, I feel like "value of kingdoms" or "cities" would make sense to me, but trying to attach a cash value to the Mirror just feels really odd to me and my understanding of Glorantha.

Point of discussion: what do y'all think magical artifacts, when sold/traded/etc, actually are exchanged for in terms of value? Is there really stuff out there which would make Argrath go "Yup, here's the keys to Pavis, thanks for the bling," or which a tribal chief would trade rule of a town in exchange for? And how often do these kinds of trades actually happen?

I can't help but think that this sort of value is a little like the items from D&D3.5's Epic Level Handbook, which had magic items valued in the millions of gold. It feels like, although RQ typically does scaling in ways I like better than D&D, this is a place where that similar "everything has to keep going up and up and up" gaming mentality creeps in.

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My thoughts are that such artifacts are generally well beyond anyone's ability to pay for in movable wealth, and since land is not really available on an open market in most of Glorantha (it may not be available on an open market anywhere in Glorantha, really), the only things that can reasonably pay for such treasures are nominal debts that manifest as relations of tribute, clientage, patronage, etc. with the payment of tribute "officially" paying down the debt (and perhaps in some instances this does happen). Alternatively, they may be transferred as war indemnities or to pay off stunningly massive legal fees (eg if you were to successfully sue Daga for inflicting a drought on Dragon Pass or whatever, you might get a monstrously valuable treasure as recompense for damages).

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Depending on your style of play, Glorantha tends to be a "cash poor" economy compared to many other game worlds. Some of the rarest Gloranthan artifacts would be worth a very high "price" to a number of groups who would benefit the most from attaining said artifact. An artifact treasured by the Lunars could command a princely reward. Possibly a large estate, title, and income, not to mention favors from those in power in the Empire. The same could be said for something valuable to the Lhankor Mhy cult, who could offer a variety of training, assistance, and such as "payment in kind". When you speak of prices equal to a king's ransom therein shows the only possible source for reward, someone, or some group holding great power. Other than the dwarves, who tend to horde various metals and such, I doubt hardly anyone would have 300,000L in cash or bullion. As for the Ernaldan Mirror, I would think a deal made with the High Priestess of that cult could involve great rewards, although it wouldn't be 15,000 gold wheels. 

Edited by Rick Meints
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Hope that Helps,
Rick Meints - Chaosium, Inc.

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