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
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