Money, Barter & Potlatch on Snakepipe's Edge

From: jhughes@mgdestmx01.erin.gov.au
Date: Tue 30 May 1995 - 21:49:09 EEST



Howdy folks

All the good stuff about money of late has encouraged me to post these few notes about money, barter and potlatch from my 'Snakepipe's Edge' campaign. (Sandy, for your listing - it's a clan-based Pendragon Pass/storytelling campaign amongst the Tovtaros of Far Point. Based around Lagerwater Stead some two days west of Ironspike, on the lip of Jaskor's Hold).

The wild upland steads have little use for money, and only accept it when they attend the yearly Earth Season cattle market in Ironspike to sell off excess beasts before the winter culling. In fact, most coins have a hole drilled through their centres and are worn on strings as signs of conspicuous wealth. (Such 'defaced' coins aren't accepted outside the steads).

This highlights the key to understanding wealth in Far Point - it is not about securing comfort but securing power. Wealth is something to be given away. Gift giving is the way to secure power and influence. Potlach (giving and calling gifts and favour) is practised almost universally between the members of a clan.

If Braggi Afraid of the Dark wishes help in a cattle raid, he does not just go and ask for it. He might go to Broddi Clapsaddle (or someone else he has gifted) and say, "Do you remember that fine thunder gong I gave you last Sacred Time. I was thinking of it this morning, what a fine and wondrous thing it was. By the way, I am thinking of going raiding." Broddi understands perfectly. He will either offer help in the raid, or give Braggi an even bigger gift to get out of his obligation. If he can do neither, he will be horribly shamed.

Potlach is fun, but it can take up quite a bit of room on your character sheet. We use an abstract system of approximate values based upon the following table. Note that some items are purely symbolic, good only for further gift giving, but highly prestigious just the same.

Gift Equivalents

'Gift' Equivalent

1 A piece of gold or jewellery, a kid, a kukling, a cloak, a hunter's

    goddess bird charm.
2 Three goats or sheep, a cow, a fine tool, a goddess bird, a fine cloak or

    blanket, a cask of berry spirit, a week's labour. 3 A helmet, a fine weapon, a cauldron, a musical instrument, a pot

    of sticklepick.
4 A fostering, a magical or iron weapon, a hill pony, a hunting lynx, the head

    of an enemy, a season's labour.
5 An iron sword, a suit of metal armour, an heirloom, stead rights,

    a wheelstone, a magic crystal, a famed kukbird, a year's labour.

Notes

A kukling or kukbird is a fighting cock. In Far Point, Orlanthi men are addicted to cock fighting, and it is an important focus for politics, clan rivalry and social manipulation.

Goddess birds are wilderness birds with extremely beautiful (and magical) plumage.

Sticklepick is the fermented fish sauce for which Far Point is famed.

A wheelstone or godi stone is a hollow wheel of volcanic glass about half a metre in diameter. They are associated with Youf ruins, and have a high prestige value. No one has the slightest idea what they were used for, but they look really impressive stacked against a stead wall.

Cheers

John.



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