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I've now asked some questions about the viability of a pure mana economy, and the answer is that it could work. I don't yet have a full world in mind for this, I'm mostly building up what a viable economy would look like, once I get one I like I can stick it into whichever world I think would benefit from the concept. The details decided so far:

  • Mana is produced by all humans just by existing, I have not yet decided how much mana production varies per person, but I'm slightly leaning to there being no significant fluctuation.
  • Mana is expended to cast spells, there is a sufficient demand for casting of magic to surpass supply so mana still works as a viable 'scarce' resource.
  • Due to supply and demand we can infer the amount of mana produced by a peasant in a day should be noticeably less then the cost of paying for food and shelter for a day, ie you still need to work to survive, your daily mana influx can't cover your expenses.
  • Humans can store a certain amount of money, say ~100$ worth, in their body naturally, if they wish to carry more then that they can charge coins of various denominations to hold excess mana.
  • Humans trade mana as a currency, the coins are government regulated and used as a means of ensuring an agreed amount of 'mana units' are transferred between people during a transaction.

I imagine people would prefer to keep their personal mana charge high before transferring mana to a coin, thus allowing them to use mana if they need it, and if nothing else making it harder to be pick pocketed. Given the average net worth of peasants it's likely the majority of folks have all their 'pokey money' stored as mana within their body and only bother charging coins immediately before handing them off to someone to make a payment.

Now the main question, what happens to the mana when someone fully charged with 100$ worth of mana dies? I can imagine three potential scenarios.

  1. The mana is completely lost, thus 'currency' is regularly destroyed at death. I imagine this would significantly hurt the stability of a mana currency?
  2. The mana lingers on the body, someone nearby can consume it. So basically if you kill someone you can steal his mana reserve. This does encourage thieves to kill in theory, but then again killing people to steal their money is hardly new, nor is holding a gun (sword? wand of fireballs?) to someone's head to demand they transfer their wealth to you so I'm not sure this actually increases total criminality over our world significantly.
  3. The mana still is lost into the either, but having a side effect of increasing the ambient mana and thus allowing those who live in the vicinity to generate mana a little faster for a few days until that extra ambient mana was transferred to others. This prevents currency from being destroyed, but also implies mana generation depends on where you live, how many have died relative to number of people living locally, how much mana the average local carried at death etc which may cause odd economic problems by allowing income to vary by virtue of location alone?
  4. Some other great idea I haven't thought of yet that you smart folks will suggest as a better alternative?

My question is which of these options would still allow a stable mana based economy if we assume death mana, as I have just dubbed this, to be a small but non trivial amount of our total mana reserve? Are there any funky affects on the economy that choosing one of these options would cause I should know of, and which gives a feel closest to how our current fiat currency works?

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  • $\begingroup$ You're asking multiple questions, one of which is asking us about how a thing feels. That seems like the definition of a subjective question. It appears like you're looking for help brainstorming and generating "funky affects" rather than asking a single specific question that would be suitable for this site. $\endgroup$
    – sphennings
    Nov 25, 2022 at 16:34
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    $\begingroup$ There's an SF movie where it's just time that is traded. imdb.com/title/tt1637688 $\endgroup$
    – Boba Fit
    Nov 25, 2022 at 19:50
  • $\begingroup$ I tried to cast my "answer" spell several times, but it fizzled everytime 🪄💫. There are interesting points to raise, but I don't know how to hold them. The hardest part for me is to compare between all 3 options at once to give out a clear winner. I believe it's partly because I see like they're more "just different" than tierable in regards to economy stability, and partly because it's tough as nut to evaluate the global changes from something this specific. I don't know how you could make it easier to answer, though... [...] $\endgroup$
    – Tortliena
    Nov 29, 2022 at 8:54
  • $\begingroup$ [...] If you focused on one scenario it'd be (obviously) easier to talk about its flaws and strengths, but would it help answering the question which encompasses them all? I'm not sure x_x. $\endgroup$
    – Tortliena
    Nov 29, 2022 at 8:56
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    $\begingroup$ \$100 per person would have practically zero effect on any modern-scale economy. I think the real flaw here is that you're assuming we all know how much mana is worth \$100, i.e. how much magic work can be accomplished with a human's full charge. But, if the economic value of that work is approximately \$100, then it won't make any economic difference what happens to the tiny fraction of wealth that a person stores in their body as mana. $\endgroup$
    – Tom
    Dec 4, 2022 at 23:08

2 Answers 2

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Due to supply and demand we can infer the amount of mana produced by a peasant in a day should be noticeably less then the cost of paying for food and shelter for a day, ie you still need to work to survive, your daily mana influx can't cover your expenses.

Average US wage is a shade over ~ \$1,000/week, which suggests people wouldn't need to work if their mana rose to \$100 twice a day. Minimum wage is $7.25, so you could earn min wage if it rose to \$100 every 13.75 working hours, or about twice every three days.

That means it probably fills at most about $50 (50%) a day, and takes at least two days to fill completely.

Unless there was an instant way to use the stored value as soon as it hit \$100, nobody for whom $100 was significant would ever have \$100 of mana stored.

If they hit \$100, their mana generation falls to \$0/hr and that revenue stream dies. I'd expect that people who cared about it would plan to sell or use most it any time they got to about a quarter tank free, just like people nowadays typically aim to fill their car any time it gets down to a quarter tank, and people nowadays shop around to save a few cents a gallon; they wouldn't let whole dollars just go to waste!


On to the options.

  1. The mana is completely lost, thus 'currency' is regularly destroyed at death. I imagine this would significantly hurt the stability of a mana currency?

Absolutely not.

That $100 of "potential earnings" lost per person dying averages out, over a lifetime, to about 10 cents/month/person, or about 1/10,000th of their wage.

A company I worked for with over 10,000 employees considered anything below \$100,000 discrepancy in monthly revenue "not worth delaying end-of-month-accounting to resolve". Assuming this is typical, it suggests businesses can be fine ignoring a deviation of $10 per employee per month, let alone 10 cents.

Put another way, average US wage is ~\$1,000/week. \$100 is a tenth of a 40 hour week, or four hours' work. So this \$100 per person per lifetime impact on the economy is the same as if everyone in the land died a half-day before they were going to die anyway.

  1. The mana lingers on the body, someone nearby can consume it. So basically if you kill someone you can steal his mana reserve. This does encourage thieves to kill in theory, but then again killing people to steal their money is hardly new, nor is holding a gun (sword? wand of fireballs?) to someone's head to demand they transfer their wealth to you so I'm not sure this actually increases total criminality over our world significantly.

For \$100? Yeah, I agree, for criminals the juice is not likely to be worth the squeeze. Especially because, in order to suck all $100 of mana out of them you need to be completely empty yourself (so can only use physical weaponry, no magic!), and they need to be completely full. So your real benefit is going to be maybe \$50 if you're lucky, and that's really not murder-worthy money. You're better off mugging them for their wallet of mana-coins.

  1. The mana still is lost into the either, but having a side effect of increasing the ambient mana and thus allowing those who live in the vicinity to generate mana a little faster for a few days until that extra ambient mana was transferred to others. This prevents currency from being destroyed, but also implies mana generation depends on where you live, how many have died relative to number of people living locally, how much mana the average local carried at death etc which may cause odd economic problems by allowing income to vary by virtue of location alone?

You've already established that mana grows too slowly to be worth an income. Adding a few percent from people dying isn't going to magically make it a viable income.

  1. Some other great idea I haven't thought of yet that you smart folks will suggest as a better alternative?

The "it doesn't make a significant difference either way, so you don't need to overthink it" option is looking quite appealing to me at this point.

BUT... what about animals? Plants? Grinding up a hundred people to get maybe $5k of mana in total isn't worth it, you'd get more from their wallets, and likely more still from grinding up a single cow for meat. But what about an ant farm? What about slaughterhouses? Are humans the only thing with mana? If not, which other organisms have it, and can they be harvested? Can the mana gene be bioengineered into, say, corn stalks?

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    $\begingroup$ Just FYI I had to escape (almost) every \$ in this message because anything surrounded by $ was being converted into bold with no spacing making it nearly painful to read. I've never run into that before so not sure if stack overflow just added that formatting character or I just haven't had too many questions that used \$ so frequently as to run into it. Still this is one reason it's a good idea to peak at what the post will look like post formatting, not just what you wrote, before posting it in case strange formatting happens. $\endgroup$
    – dsollen
    Dec 5, 2022 at 14:29
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    $\begingroup$ ....and I had to edit my own comment twice because the same thing was happening to me in the comments lol. Not sure I approve of that choice of formatting character Stack Exchange! Anyways now that I can read your answer it is well thought out so upvoting it, thank you. $\endgroup$
    – dsollen
    Dec 5, 2022 at 14:34
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    $\begingroup$ The "\$" is used on Stack Exchange for portions using MathJax, a formatting system useful for writing anything math related. For example, "3/4" can be written as $\dfrac34$. This makes writing complicated math equations easier for those on the sites that requires a large amount of math. So yes, be careful with how you use dollar signs. $\endgroup$
    – PiGuy314
    Dec 5, 2022 at 14:37
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    $\begingroup$ @dsollen Thank you so much for that catch, and for editing to clean my mess! I do normally read over whatever I submit (it's why I hate the 5-minute edit limit for comments!), but in this case submitted without checking as I got dragged away by IRL stuffs just as I finished it :( $\endgroup$ Dec 5, 2022 at 15:20
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  1. If you have a max of \$100 losing it to the void wouldn't really hurt the economy because \$100 isn't worth that much in the grand scheme of things.

  2. It changes very little for the reasons you stated. However, it would make combat scenarios interesting, as whenever you killed one of your enemies, you would receive more mana to commit further manslaughter.

  3. It would encourage murder, especially by people further up in society. To boost their own mana regeneration, they could commit mass murder to increase the strength of certain individuals in society. If you gathered a large number of people and then killed all of them, you could quickly profit greatly. Additionally, battle scenarios would be interesting, because as possibly thousands of people are dying in a confined area, the mana regeneration rates would fly through the roof, causing extremely chaotic warfare. Also, hanging out in graveyards would be quite profitable.

  4. When an individual dies, their stored mana is relocated into the nearby inanimate objects that can hold it like a type of gemstone. So a killer would need to kill people while having an object that can store mana on them, otherwise it would be dispersed into resource deposits.

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