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This is my first time ever posting. Please let me know If I've done anything wrong and I'll do my best to correct it.

This is my first time attempting to create a functional world in D&D5e and I'm a bit stuck on what to include and what to exclude. I'm currently trying to decide what type of goods are sold and where goods are from just in case my party needs to go to a specific region to find a resource or item. The issue is I don't know what types of resources and goods to focus on and what to ignore. Two out of the four people in my campaign are interested in the details of things like this so I want to make it right.

I've looked all over to find guides for goods that I should take into account in a High Fantasy setting. I know I need to include things like lumber, livestock, grain, spices, metals, spell components, and things of the sort but I want to just get someone's opinion who actually knows what they're doing.

The continent I'm currently focusing on is a single landmass that is divided into 15 major provinces. my goal is to have each of them be in charge of a single (maybe double if there are more than 15) general resources. The end goal is to basically make it be like the 12 districts in the hunger games and their roles but it's a pseudo-medieval high-fantasy setting and not a dystopian fiction.

I already have five definitive provinces down. Hopefully, this will help give an idea of what I'm trying to find:

  • The Liquor Province. Makes roughly 70% of the continent's booze.
  • The Defense Province. Home to the continent's military headquarters and training camps.
  • The Smithy Province. The only province where dwarves and elves are over 90% of the population. Is the home to the creation of the finest weapons, armor, tools, jewelry, and household items in the entire continent.
  • The Livestock Province. the wide fields of this land are perfect for raising livestock. The forest just on the edge of the province is bountiful with wild game.
  • The Grain Province. Located on the Hills of Gnamm. This province has a strangely varied biome that has confused scholars for thousands of years. This province harvests over 50% of the world's wheat, barley, corn, oats, and rice.

There are a lot more things that I should put into the equation like geography and travel like that but for now I'm just looking for ideas and advice.

I'm looking for roughly 15 big umbrella terms/types of goods that are needed in a high fantasy setting for a society to properly function. Not a detailed thing like Rubies, Emerald Dust, and Diamond but something a lot more broad general like Gems. If I should add to the provinces I already have or change them let me know about that too. This is my first time doing anything like this and I'd really appreciate some advice.

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    $\begingroup$ How much do you need? Only as much as you need. Remember not to get carried away with details that are too small to be useful (it's really easy to get distracted like that). As for what you need. Start with your kitchen and look at the things you use to live every day. There was a medieval analog for all of them. Then go to your bathroom. Then list the primary trades (e.g., blacksmith) and start "looking" through their tool boxes. (*continued*) $\endgroup$ – JBH Nov 17 '20 at 0:31
  • $\begingroup$ Unfortunately, though it's understandable, what you've asked for is an off-topic infinite list of things and we need to convert the question to an on-topic finite list of things. I'm tempted to close the question to give you time to do what I suggested and then have you edit the question to focus on specific problems, which would let us reopen it. $\endgroup$ – JBH Nov 17 '20 at 0:33
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    $\begingroup$ Let's narrow this down more (a lot more). For example, I could legitimately answer your question with things like horseshoe nails, spoons, flag poles, lances, and Brouha's Complacent Elixir. (a) What size town are we talking about? A village of 20 won't sell what a city of 2,000 has. (b) What similar Earth year are we talking about? (c) Ask about magical items in a second question (be prepared to explain your magic system in detail). (d) Are you focusing on luxury, household, or career tools (pick one). $\endgroup$ – JBH Nov 17 '20 at 1:21
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    $\begingroup$ Finally (and this is really important) just how much detail do you really need? A list of 10,000 items (literally) would be incomplete. Before you finish editing your question again, think through what it is you're really trying to achieve? Because in an average D&D campaign, you're likely only interested in 15-30 items used as "window dressing" to add flavor and imagination to the story. Are you really trying to build a detailed trade economy? If so, we'll need to know a lot about your world (politics, religion, sport, demographics, monsters...). What's really blocking your creativity? $\endgroup$ – JBH Nov 17 '20 at 1:24
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    $\begingroup$ Also, understand where your raw materials are coming from, e.g. various types of grain is needed to make beer and whiskey, grapes for wine, etc. so the "liquor province" should be either the same as or situated directly adjacent to the main grain and fruit producing provinces - you can't transport e.g. ripe fruit very far before it spoils. You need both coal and metal (so mining) to produce steel for your weapons and armour, etc. Without the rail network of Hunger games, many industries will be mostly local. $\endgroup$ – Gwyn Nov 17 '20 at 3:33
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Generally in all economies, you have three levels (or sectors) of industry: Commodities, Manufacturing, and Services.

Level 1 is commodities and covers basic goods that must be harvested from the environment in some fashion to be used and are in a raw state. In a modern setting, there's generally five generic types, but the fifth one listed is very recent:

  • Agriculture - Your farms both mass harvest of plant based food stuff and live stock.
  • Fishing/Hunting - While generally only covering the former, I add hunting because that would be used back then too. Covers meat based foods that are caught in the wild rather than raised for the purposes of harvesting.
  • Forestry - You might slide hunting here, but this generally concerns the production of timber and depending on advancement paper.
  • Mining- Extraction of solid Mineral Commodities from the ground. Ranges from Gems to Coal.
  • Petrochemical - This one is more recent, developing around the 18 century and likely not to come up, it concerns the harvesting of petrochemicals such as oil and natural gases often used in energy sector, though these products have other manufacturing goods. Generally overlaps with Mining but covers non-solid state material.

Level 2 is simple, yet is probably the biggest thing to deal with as it's the real mover and shaker of your economy: Manufacturing. Since commodities are raw items, you need to process them into goods people can actually use. Manufactures take your raw goods and turn them into things people need. Your factories, your smiths, your butchers, your bakers, your candle stick makers (not to mention your brewers, your crafters, your carpenters, your artisans, ect). Anything that you can't pull from natural resources, has to be created from them. In the modern world most of this is factory goods, but in medievel times these were often your tradesmen. Certain goods may need multiple layers of manufacturing... making a leatherbound book would require both a paper maker who takes the wood pulp (forestry) and a tanner who takes the cow hide (agriculture) and the thread spinner (agriculture again) in order to make a book.

Finally at level 3 we have service industry. This covers a variety of things best summed up as misalanious. Generally, these are the people who take the goods from level 2 and sell them to the consumer (grocers, pubs, book shops, jewlry stores) and can be the people in level 2 if they are taking commissioned goods or selling their own products (a farmers market). But it's more general than that as this is the level where instead of products, skills are traded. A lawyer, doctor, or a hired gun would fall here as well, as well as most government workers from the lowely beuracrat to all the King's men. In addition, transportation of goods also falls here as well.

One big problem with your set up is that it's unrealistic. The farming district will often have manufacturies of some type in the same area because the logistics of moving food from one spot to another is difficult... they will want to be close and often are (as more preserving techniques become available, they can be placed much father apart. Hershey Chocolate's factory is in Hershey, Pennsylvania because of all it's major commodities needs (sugar, coco beans, nuts, milk) one was more spoil prone than the rest, Milk. The location is in the middle of a major dairy producing area in the United States, and imports the other goods that are less spoil prone.). It isn't always the rule either. If one district produces all the forestry products, how do you build buildings in any district? Or barrels in the Ale district? Your smiths are needed all the world over, not just in the minig district. This is why you have a transportation sector as some enterprising person realizes they can buy metal cheap in the mining district and sell it for higher prices to Smiths far away from the mines making the journey worth it. Otherwise the smith has to go and get it himself, delaying his work.

This set up reminds me of the economy of "Hunger Games" and there are numerous works explaining why that structure just won't work online.

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  • $\begingroup$ don't forget that you need 10 farmers to feed 1 citydweller in medieval times $\endgroup$ – Trish Nov 17 '20 at 16:21
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You need to consider what forms of transportation your world has. On the whole, by water is better than by land for trade, and you may have magical additions that work still better. (Remember that when using animals to carry it, you have to find or carry food for them.)

After that, you have to compare the value of the item versus the cost of transportation. Spices are imported from afar because they are immensely pricey and very light per unit. Conversely, grain is not exported far by land and not very far by water because it's a bulky good.

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This is more of a DMing question than a worldbuilding question, IMO. Worldbuilding in a RPG should serve gameplay, rather than realism.

In D&D your players will mostly be interested in things they will have fun interacting with. So don't worry too much about what medieval economies are like. Even if your players say they are interested, they probably aren't really that interested in how the economy works - they want to know how they can mess with it. Focus on items that can spawn interesting story beats. Here are some example adventure hooks for the 5 provinces you've listed:

  • Liquor province: Your party is drinking at the tavern when the owner announces, "I'm opening me last keg! Not the last keg o'the night. The last one, period! So come get it while you can, else you needs be goin' down the road to fight them brigands what's been stealin' all the shipments from Mazra!" A bar fight ensues.

  • Defense province (likely the capital): A member of your party (the one whose player can't make it to the game this week) has been kidnapped and is being held in a prison in Ark'tok, the capital city of the kingdom. To rescue him, you will need to pose as new recruits to the King's militia, sneaking through the training camps and barracks' of the province.

  • Smithy province: To solve a mystery, the party must travel to the mountainhome of Ozok Dun to find out who made this ornate dagger and who bought it.

  • Livestock: You can't afford a good horse, but you can win one if you compete in the rodeo in Cono-eq.

  • Grain: A blight is sweeping through the Hills of Gnamm. No matter how many fields they burn, the peasants cannot stop the spread. It must be a magical curse! People are hoarding food throughout the lands and riots in the capital have brought the King's full attention to the developing catastrophe. There is a huge reward for whomever can find and kill the dastardly wizard causing all this suffering.

Along with adventure hooks, try to think of things that will lend themselves to fun scenes with interesting imagery and cool possibilities for player interactions:

  • Liquor: Your party comes across a man in the road, staggering drunk. You ask where he got the drink and he says it was from some gentlemen but he can't remember where. But your ranger can use animal handling to have her hound sniff out the booze fume trail this guy left behind. When you find the brigands you have a melee atop a wagon piled 2 stories high with kegs of ale, barely held together by a couple of thin ropes... as it careens out of control down a mountain road.

  • Defense: There are uniformed troops everywhere! Units of 50 armed men march, rank and file, through the streets of the capital on regular patrols. Your rogue has observed from the rooftops for a full day and night. She returns with a thorough understanding of their routes and timings.

  • Smithy: The dwarves work in near darkness, their faces lit only by the faint green glow of the bioluminescent moss on the cavern walls and the occasional blast of flame from the gargantuan furnace looming above. The heat of the flame hurts your cheeks even from this distance. Gear wheels the size of houses turn slowly against the back wall. Huge mechanical hammers pound white hot steel. THOOM...THOOM. The dwarves toil in silence, not looking up to note your presence. Just as you become accustomed to the noise and the dark and the heat: BOOM. A shower of sparks erupts from the furnace above. Globs of hot metal rain down. The dwarves don't even flinch. You look up to see a crane with a huge iron bucket. The bucked is swaying, upside-down and empty above the bulk of stone and fire. (Successful intelligence check) The new charge of scrap metal they just dumped into the furnace must have had snow on it from out in the storage yard. It flashed to steam instantly, causing the explosion. This must happen several times a day here. You think to yourself, "this would be a gnarly place to have a fight!"

  • Livestock: The stag snorts and struggles beneath you, pushing your legs against the tight confines of the holding pen. You hug its graceful neck with one hand gripping the base of its majestic antlers, as you were instructed by the rodeo coach. You feel the hot pulse of the panicked animal. Its coat is slick with frothy sweat. You aren't sure which is the more terrifying possibility: slipping off and being trampled, or losing your hold on the antler and being gored in the back as it rears its gorgeous head. The bell rings, the gate yanks open, and your mount leaps forth into the arena, frantic. Its muscles are sleek and powerful. How do they expect you to lasso a calf while holding on for your life?

  • Grain: Magical bolts explode into puffs of rich topsoil and shattered stalks of blackened corn around you as you run for your lives through the dense clouds of white smoke. The haze to your left glows orange from 5 hectares of flame. Behind you, somewhere, an enraged sorcerer hunts you. To your right are fields of shriveling wheat. And before you stands an old well amongst the corn. Beyond it, the barn where you slept last night, its huge fat silos reaching up, like fat fingers. They are empty now, but their size suggests that this land was once bountiful beyond belief.

There's no need to invent the entire economy of your setting up front. Unless you have a Grand Strategist type of player in your group who really wants to start a trading company or something, you can generally lean on people's preconceptions and stereotypes of the setting. One of the most compelling reasons to play D&D, rather than a more niche game and setting, is that the medieval, sword and sorcery setting will be relatively familiar to most players. And it has enough flexibility for you to add almost any customization you want. Where you have a neat original idea for your world, use it! Where you lack anything original, go with the cliched defaults of the setting!

Or better yet, do nothing and let your players fill in the blanks with their imaginations! I love to make my players do the work. When they stroll into a town and ask you what they see, ask them what they expect to see before you tell them. Record their answers and riff on that as you prep for your next session. Build the world as you go, in a sort of collaborative way. You'll end up with something much more interesting than a shopping list.

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Worldbuilding for fiction versus for an RPG

In an RPG, the world exists only insofar as your players find interest in interacting with any given part of it. Improvisation is the order of the day, as at any time, your players can decide 'Important NPC must be a servant of the Villein's Monarch' and assassinate them, or even 'the world will be destroyed if the cult succeeds, so the safest thing to do is level the city first, ask questions later'.

So really the answer is "you need to think this through more deeply than your players will, and ideally no farther". If your group has, like, an economist that works for the Fed in it who geeks out over this stuff in her free time... that's a lot. If your group is a bunch of fellow Art History majors ... that's probably a lot less. Because the game is ultimately for you and the people playing it, and no one else. The people in the second group might really get into the detail, and appreciate the work. But they're more likely to not even notice.

Fiction - which this site is targeted more to - is different. The idea is to appeal to a wider audience. This basically means the author hopes to attract the kind of readers who will be able to follow the technical intricacies, and appreciate that they're done right.

TL;DR

Apparently the RPG stack exchange thinks a question very similar to yours "lacks focus". Well, the question is somewhat more problematic here, because a large part of the answer involves how much worldbuilding you should even do - whereas this site presumes you already know exactly how much worldbuilding you need. But it's definitely about worldbuilding, and we can answer that part here.

And my answer is: seek DM'ing advice elsewhere. Getting that right is almost certainly more important than the worldbuilding problem anyway.

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Turnips

All vendors sell turnips and only turnips unless otherwise required. If the players require something else they can ask around and you can decide whether the city has a trader in such commodities.

Remember that in any agricultural economy, most traders would be selling farm produce apart from a small number selling farm supplies and high fantasy is fundamentally still a world of peasant farmers and hunter gatherers. There's no reason for the party to casually encounter anyone selling anything else. Turnips store well.

Also due to the nature of the environment, you can build your world on the fly where needed. No need to encourage metagaming.

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Monopoly districts are unfeasible

You will have to categorize. And you need to feed your people. Let's take modern Germany as size and use Medieval Demographics made easy and the Donjon-website to generate one population:

Physical Area The kingdoms of Germany covers an area of 137847 square miles. Of this, 44% (61 thousand sq. miles) is arable land, and 55% (76 thousand sq. miles) is wilderness.

Population The kingdom of Germany has a total population of 11 million people.

Settlements The largest city has a population of 59 thousand people, the second largest 35 thousand. There are 5 other cities of note in the kingdom, and 63 towns. The remaining population lives in numerous small villages, isolated dwellings, etc.

Castles The kingdom of Germany has 220 active castles and 38 ruined. Of these, 132 castles and 29 ruined are in civilized lands, and 88 castles and 9 ruined are in the wilderness, along borders, etc.

This assumes the "average" setting, not the suggested 90 people/square mile. Anyway, of those 11-million people, only roundabout 256 thousand (605 thousand max) live in urban areas using the average size for towns and cities. That's on average 2.3% and 5,4% maximum. Or in other words: More than 90% of all people will work in the first sector - which is agricultural and fishing!

Comparatively: This is a map of the 40 biggest cities in Germany in 1300, all of them are above 1000 inhabitants and all but the smallest dots are larger than 5000, so the numbers given by Donjon are roughly ok.

enter image description here

Even in the late medieval ages or renaissance, the urban population only gains about 50% more than that, so roundabout 3.5% to 8.2% maximum in urban areas and the rest still in small settlements of below 1000 inhabitants. The big ratio of rural v urban life will stay more than 9 to 1 until the modern age hits: Urbanisation was a thing, but it was super slow in medieval times. It took the industrial revolution, 2 world wars, and all in all about 600 years to get to the roughly 22% rural population in Germany today. We have numbers starting 1871! In fact, there are research papers on the rural-urban ratio needed to feed the people and how urbanization happened in various timeframes, like the 1819-1977 urbanization in germany, Germany's industrialization period, and the correlation between population growth and urbanization in Germany.

10 million farmers, 1 million urbanites!

Ok, let's round the numbers by putting the rest of the million into mines and industry in smaller settlements than 1000. All the blacksmiths and miners and such will be in the 1 million. As will be the brewers. Any non-food-producer is in the 1 million.

Now, we need 10 million people creating food. These 10 million people will fill the vast majority of the land and coasts to feed the 1 million that do all the other works. The 10 million will need about 100 times the space of the 1 million, just for the fields so they can do farming, compared to the building and workshop of the others alone. So our sectors dedicated to food combined are about 100 times larger than all the others combined. And here it starts to fall apart:

The distances between the sector center and the next become far too large! You proposed grain district has 50% of all grain output, so it has up to 50% of all farmers, which is about 5 million people. That makes it the largest population district! Putting a million people into the fishing district and distribute the remaining 5 rural millions into other farming, mostly food and cattle.

can it be made feasible?

Only if Food production is not a sector on its own. You could at best get away with all industry being confined to a number of monopoly towns, but never with Hunger-games food production unless magic transportation is extremely massive, and even then the food-producing people could just cut off the towns from being fed: the real power in such a district map lies with the food producers since nobody else has the means to produce any food, and they rely on it!

Addendum

If you want to look into the trade aspect and splitting up: I have an answer on that on the RPG-SE

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