Suppose a generic medieval fantasy setting, where a well-to-do lord desires to keep the orc- and condottiero population down during times of peace, so as to prolong said times of peace. Therefore, he/she/it posts a bounty of one gold piece for an orc's ear.

So, the bounty on a typical orc is two gold pieces. Supposing the gold pieces are about one ounce each, and presuming the real life precious metals market hasn't moved for a millennium, that's about nine pounds of silver. I'll round that up to ten pounds sterling silver which, in turn, strikes me as a whole lot of money.

And here we get to the title's question: just how tough would an orc be for the effort and risk of killing one to be worth two gold pieces or ten pounds sterling?

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    $\begingroup$ I think the question itself is not what would be asked in reality. Nobody in his right mind gives a bounty just because it's a hard job. The people cleaning the bathrooms in soccer stadiums are not the best paid people in the world even though they have the hardest job in the world. The question should be how much damage does an orc do in economical terms that he's worth a bounty of 2 gold (assuming one doesn't use its meat or something), and the answer to that would be "people assume equal to about 2 gold pieces". Sometimes a subjective threat is all you need, see bounties on wolves. $\endgroup$ – Raditz_35 Sep 23 '17 at 11:20
  • $\begingroup$ @Raditz_35 You make a solid point: Indeed, on one hand you need to consider the amount of damage caused by an orc or a bored mercenary. On the other hand, you also need to find the price-point where said sellsword will find it worth their while to stick their neck out where an orc might chop at it. $\endgroup$ – HAEM Sep 23 '17 at 11:28
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    $\begingroup$ Yeah you're right. Oh dear, this is one complex topic. So you have to ask yourself how many people would be willing to go orc hunting (I guess mostly as a collaboration of several orc hunters which makes the high pay more realistic because it's divided into x parts) to get competition that lowers the price. This might be your angle - how many people can live from 2 gold pieces times (how often someone goes orc hunting) and the amount of people to savely take down an orc is your answer. But you are assuming one guy hunting alone, right? It's really hard to quantify effort in that case $\endgroup$ – Raditz_35 Sep 23 '17 at 11:45
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    $\begingroup$ Just tangentially related to the question, but keep in mind that historically such bounties on the death of specific creatures tended to backfire colossally. People realized that hunting the creature to extinction was sabotaging their financial future, so they were breeding them instead. If I were an orc hunter in your scenario, I would try to capture orcs alive, cut off their ears, and let them go so they can breed more orcs. An earless orc is no less dangerous, so you paid me for accomplishing nothing in your interest. And nobody else is going to hunt that orc, because no ears = no reward. $\endgroup$ – Philipp Sep 23 '17 at 13:31
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    $\begingroup$ I like the idea of the bounty hunter walking in with a basket of orc ears, collecting the gold and then walking back out into the wilderness and handing out the gold to a bunch of earless orcs. Minus his commission, of course. $\endgroup$ – Willk Sep 23 '17 at 18:18

If we convert 2 ounces to kilograms, we get about 0.05 kg. Gold has a present day value of about 40.000 dollars per kg, or 2000 dollars for your average orc.

2000 dollars today would be worth about 3 pounds in the year 1400, which would get you five cows, 2 horses or a year's rent for a merchant's home. It would be a lot of money, enough to pay an actual knight's wages for 3 months.

An average baron (the kind of noble lord who talks to the king now and then) makes about 300 pounds a year, so assuming that his lands are also profitable, and he has a very particular hatred of orcs, he could have about one hundred of them killed each year.

I don't know what that means for how strong they are, because the correlation between strength and bounty doesn't seem a very strong one. But with this kind of money, they're definately considered to be a bigger enemy then invading soldiers or common outlaws.

sources: buying power converter: https://www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/currency/results2.asp#mid medieval prices: http://www.luminarium.org/medlit/medprice.htm

  • $\begingroup$ It also means your lord is unbelievably wealthy, assuming orcs are numerous. $\endgroup$ – John Sep 23 '17 at 13:55

I do not have the time to research any numbers, but since you are inventing your world, you might have a general idea for numbers to use in your world. I'm also neither a historian nor an economist.

Here is how I would go about it:

We have a price for all the equipment they need to buy specifically for this expedition like ropes, traps, food, wine, rent for stuff, nails, permits perhaps, information about where orcs are and so on (let's say p_a).

You have stuff you can use multiple times like a weapon, tools or horses or so where you have to divide the price for buying them by the number of orc hunts they will be of use for (let's say amounting to p_b).

You might have to hire several people to do the job. You have to pay them according to the job they are doing. Just some kid fetching stuff for you or a veteran orc hunter spotting for you? You have to collect the entire pay for the operation (let's say p_c).

Hunting an orc takes time, practice and more. Count all the days you put into it and consider what one of those mercenaries gets per day and is willing to work for at the minimum which should be very close to the amount of money you need per day just to support your lifestyle. This could be the amount he would earn if he didn't go Orc hunting but do something else instead (like working on a farm) or just the bare minimum to stay alive (let's say it's minimum wage per day x days spend at this = p_d).

Now we can substract all your expenses from your bounty:

2 gold - \sum_{i=a,b,c,d} p_i = surplus.

Your surplus could be a measure for the effort it takes to take down an Orc because that's the amount (whoever) pays extra just so that people consider going Orc hunting.

Now I would do the following: Extract everything that makes it hard to go Orc hunting. For example a boy fetching you stuff isn't making killing an Orc easier, but an extra fighter will. So do traps or poison you might need, but the price for an Orc hunting permit (if it does exist, just an example) does have nothing to do with the difficulty. Be aware that an extra Orc killer will consume more food and maybe require an extra horse.

So now take everything in p_a b and c (not d) that makes hunting an Orc easier. In combination with your surplus for your own efforts, you have the money they give you just because it's a hard job. If you want to be fancy, you can also divide your time and you're hired mercenaries time and pay into administration duties (and other stuff like traveling and more) and actual fighting and so on and adjust your surplus and p_c accordingly. At the end you will get some amount.

Now you have to compare the money that remains to let's say a bounty for a wolf or a criminal and you might be able to say: "killing an orc is worth twice as much gold as killing a particular criminal and assuming a linear relationship, that means killing an Orc is twice as hard".

Yes, this is a very primitive model, but I believe one would have to know a lot more about your world to actually find some equilibrium price, starting from the sanity of the guy making up the bounty (if he really hates Orcs, he might overpay) to how many people offer those services and Orc density and much much more. I can't do that stuff without spending some time refreshing my memory. I hope my answer refresehd yours, this is actually very doable, you just have to remember some basic economic stuff you might have heared in school or college.


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