Other economies, especially those of primitive lands, worked entirely on a barter system. What a man could produce became his money. The farmer paid the miller in bushels of grain. The miller paid his lord in ground flour. When the flour was baked into bread, the baker was paid in loaves of bread. These he could sell for the few coins, fresh eggs, or whatever luxuries might be available.

During the Dark Ages even a man's life could be measured in cows, horses, or sheep. Kill a serf and you had to pay--perhaps five sheep, some to his lord and some to his family. The cost for a freedman would be even higher. Rents, taxes, and fines could be assessed in gold or grain. Eventually objects were assigned specific values. In parts of medieval Russia, furs were used almost like coins. Squirrel, ermine, and martin pelts all had values and were treated just as we treat money today.

As barter systems became more sophisticated, they included more things. Obligations and duties became part of the formula. A knight received land from his lord, but part of his "rent" was the obligation to make himself and a set number of mounted soldiers available to serve in his lord's armies for 40 days each year. The serf was obligated to work his lord's land and live in the same village all his life. You might adopt an economy like this in your campaign world--one based on obligations.

For the most part, the economies of the medieval period were based on a combination of coins, goods, and services. The knight could escape military service by paying a special tax to his lord. The king could insist that foreign merchants acquire goods only through barter. The baker could be paid a small wage for his services. Generally, changes occurred slowly as medieval man moved from a barter system to a coin-based economy. Thus, many different methods existed side-by-side.

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