I'm working on a fantasy setting for a game, the gameplay of which includes trading and government in a fantasy world that is experiencing a negative trend in trade.

The setting is outwardly medieval. A majority of the population of the world are farmers and craftsmen, with some being adventurers. The player's role as an adventurer makes him especially useful in that he can get more gold from the bandits and monsters on his quest.

Although the world's technologically medieval, there is an emphasis on trade that sustains the high population of the major continent. Years of high production and utilization of magic have resulted in a steady population growth. The increase in monster and outlaw activity jeopardizes the flow of trade in and out of the continent. Since magic is used occasionally for trade and farming, and needs a certain material to be used, a lot of people are without jobs or a source of income.

My question is, how does the money and resources flow being obstructed affect the rest of the world setting? Should towns be wiped off the map? Would militias form to retake the lost wealth? Or would chaos eventually ensue? What would happen to the areas my continent trades with?

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    $\begingroup$ Please explain what you mean by "medieval", because in the real Middle Ages money was not really that important on a macroeconomic scale, and long distance trade was a rounding error. The very essence of the medieval economy is that it is made of numerous small almost self-sufficient domains, with only a trickle of trade between them; and of whatever little trade there was, most was barter. Once money became important again the medieval society collapsed... $\endgroup$ – AlexP Aug 10 '18 at 20:14
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    $\begingroup$ Could you be more specific about what "money and resources" are being taken? If a dragon takes half the kingdom's gold, that's going to cause deflation, but if he takes half the kingdom's crops, you'll have a famine on your hands. $\endgroup$ – MJ713 Aug 10 '18 at 20:15
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    $\begingroup$ A recession is a domino effect. The flow of a raw material from mines is blocked by monsters and bandits. But what does that effect? Is it processed in a city, meaning workers are laid off due to lack of raw materials? Or is it shipped overseas, meaning dock workers and sailors are laid off? Or is it a traded commodity, meaning wealth your nation has become addicted to is no longer flowing into the coffers, subverting civil services? If you tell us exactly what goods/resources are effected and how they're used, we can explain the dominoes. Google "economic dominoes" to learn more. $\endgroup$ – JBH Aug 11 '18 at 6:25

This sounds more like the Renaissance than it does Medieval times, because money wasn't as common as fantasy makes it out to be. Most fantasy worlds are more Renaissance in nature than solidly Medieval because coin was far more common.

You'll want to look at this article and this one which covers late Medieval to Early Renaissance

There actually was a depression in the late 1300s. There were a lot of factors that played into it, extreme taxation destroying the Champagne Fairs, the Black Plague, wars and so forth.

Government response to changing economics is important.

The longest-lasting ill effect from the Black Death was the response of the English Crown in imposing permanent maximum wage control and compulsory labor rationing upon English society. The sudden decline of population and consequent doubling of wage rates was met by the government's severe imposition of maximum wage control in the Ordinance of 1349 and the Statue of Labourers of 1351. Maximum wage control was established at the behest of the employing classes: large, middle, and small landlords, and master craftsmen, the former groups in particular alarmed at the rise of agricultural wage rates. The ordinance and the statute defied economic law by attempting to enforce maximum wage control at the old pre-plague levels. The inevitable result, however, was a grave shortage of labor, since at the statutory maximum wage the demand for labor was enormously greater than the newly scarce supply.

Every government intervention creates new problems in the course of vain attempts to solve the old. The government is then confronted with the choice: pile on new interventions to solve the inexplicable new problems, or repeal the original intervention. Government's instinct, of course, is to maximize its wealth and power by adding new interventions. So did the English Statute of Labourers — which imposed forced labor at the old wage rates for all men in England under the age of 60, restricted the mobility of labor, declaring that the lord of a particular territory had first claim on a man's labor, and made it a criminal offence for an employer to hire a worker who had left a former master. In that way, the English government engaged in labor rationing to try to freeze laborers at their pre-plague occupations at pre-plague wages.

This forced rationing of labor cut against the natural inclination of men to leave for more employment at better wages, and so the inevitable rise of black markets for labor made enforcement of the statutes difficult. The desperate English Crown tried once again, in the Cambridge Statute of 1388, to make the rationing more rigorous. Labor mobility of any sort was prohibited without written permission from local justices, and compulsory child labor was imposed in agriculture. But there was continual evasion of this compulsory buyers' cartel, especially by large employers, who were particularly eager and able to pay higher wage rates. The cumbersome English judicial machinery was totally ineffective in enforcing the legislation, although the monopolistic urban guilds (monopolies enforced by government) were able to partially enforce wage control in the cities.

So it looks like you've got "increased bandits" and lots of monsters as the CAUSE of the lack in trade. But this might actually be an effect.

The question you might want to ask is WHY are both of these true? Why are more people turning to banditry? And how are they making any money if there's not any people passing through?

Why are there more monsters? Why aren't the monsters eating the bandits?

And lastly, why aren't the merchants and governments doing anything about it?

If an area is isolated, then local trade will abound. If there's money to be made exporting goods, then the cost of getting them to other places will be factored in. Trade guilds will band together--in this time and during the Renaissance towns and trade guilds did get private security to patrol and wipe out bandits.

If a trade route is abandoned because of bandits, then the bandits will no longer live in the area. They will move on or starve.

What you actually need is a disaster before this, something like the Plague that pushes populations down enough that they can't even harvest (because there aren't enough people). It would follow that there would be less people to kill monsters. You might even have something that targeted adventurers, which in the past had served to keep both bandits and monsters in check. With a smaller population of adventurers, they'd be in high demand and people might even do their best to get them to stay in an area to take care of problems. (Giving them free stuff and all once they prove themselves, like room and board.)

Other countries that don't get goods in from the bandit-ridden country, well, this depends. If the other country is known for their fabric and they can't get the raw goods from bandit-country, then they will look for supply elsewhere. If they can't, yes, the town might disappear.

It's going to be specific to needs, and would not happen often.

Now, after the Black Plague, many tiny communities DID disappear. But these were groupings of maybe 20 houses or less. Anything on any trade route pretty much stayed.

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    $\begingroup$ I think your answer shows my world needs some more theorycrafting. As far as being more similar to the Renaissance, I can agree. Thanks for your answer! $\endgroup$ – Krons Aug 17 '18 at 6:03

Your recession of trade effects the common man little as most medieval economies where almost entirely self-sufficient, requiring little trade. Normally, things where made, stored and consumed all in the same town. that being said if bandits are just outright nicking peoples stuff right from thier homes (especially if that stuff is food) then we have a problem. It's likely that local lords&knights will have more common revolts on their hands since peasants will view the lords as failing completely at their jobs. remember the feudal system was a system built on mutual contracts, at the lowest level peasents did work and expected to be kept safe if the local lord can't keep you safe, still demands taxes and (probably) lacks the army to keep you in check why on earth are you keeping him in power?

Towns probably won't be wiped off the map though. Historically bandits have rarely caused so much devastation as to de-populate an area, if anything its more likely that with the growth of temporary bandit settlements towns are being put on the map.

Since this is a magical world its possible bandits are preventing thoose vital druids/nature clerics/agricultral mages from getting from place to place and are thus causing major famine but it's highly unlikely the bandits themselves are causing mass famine as to steal enough food from someone to make them starve to death requires the sort of super-human intimidation only nation-states have. Though people just not having as much food as they would like or as is normal is quite likely.

one sector of the economy in medieval times that did require trade and transport was cathedral building. You might want to consider adding an in construction cathedral to the setting of your game that way when the workers won't come beacuse of all the bandits you have a much bigger problem; an angry church. A lack of trade and a small treasury were really par for the course for medieval lords but an angry church was something that absolutely no-one wanted to deal with (espacily in a fantasy worlds where the gods might well exist.)

  • $\begingroup$ Thanks for your thoughtful answer! I did not consider adding religion as the world hasn't been fleshed out yet, but that's a really cool idea! $\endgroup$ – Krons Aug 10 '18 at 20:43

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