Culture Idea: Chance Based Currency (Part 1)

What if there was an economy which had legal tinder that was made of dice? I’m going to call the currency Felix (“lucky” in Latin). For example, a two felix “bill” would be a two-sided coin, a six felix “bill” would be a normal 6-sided dice, and I don’t know how they would work with hundred felix “bill”‘s. When you pay for something, you pull out your dice and roll them. Whatever value they land on is how much they are worth for that transaction; you could have a 100 sided die, but if it lands on 1 then it’s only worth one dollar. Perhaps when paying something, you have to bring out enough dice to have the price be halfway between the minimum you could roll and the maximum you could roll (I’ll explain that more later), and after the cashier checks to make sure that everything adds up properly you roll the dice. You pay whatever value that comes up is, whether cheaper than or more expensive than the original price.

This could lead to an interesting treatment of the value of money. Here’s some math to explain: You’re buying a new hammer that is worth 5 F [F is absolute money (after the die has been rolled), and felix is potential money (pre-roll), e.g. a 10 felix die rolls 5 F]. If you have a 5 felix die, you still probably wouldn’t be able to afford it. This is because, on average, the die wouldn’t roll a five, and thus, on average, the seller would lose money. The seller doesn’t want to lose money, so he wouldn’t sell the hammer for a 5 felix die.

The way you’d calculate the average value of a die is to divide the top value it could roll in half and add 0.5. The additional 0.5 is because the die can’t ever roll zero, so it’s not the halfway point between the top value and zero that you’re looking for, it’s the halfway point between the top value and one. This would place the average value of the 5 felix die at 3 F. To get you’re hammer you need an average of 2 more F, so if subtract 0.5 from 2 and double the outcome you see that you’d need a 3 felix die to complete the transaction (I assume that a culture based on this currency would figure out how to make a three-sided die).

So now you have two dice which have an average F of 5, enough to satisfy the shopkeeper. You roll your dice. The 3 felix die lands on one, good for you, but the 5 felix die lands on 5, for a total of 6 F. Your heart sinks. The shopkeeper happily pockets the dice, having earned an extra F, and gives you the hammer.

Later, your friend sees the nice quality of your hammer and gives you a 9 felix die to buy him one. The interesting thing about this situation is that a 9 felix die also has an average value of 5 F, even though a 5 felix die + a 3 felix die = 8 felix. The difference is that every die has a minimum roll of 1, so the minimum F for two dice is 2, meanwhile the minimum F for one die is 1. The added price of 1 felix accounts for the added risk to the shopkeeper of 1 felix.

You visit the shopkeeper again, and he seems a bit worried about your 9 felix die, but doesn’t stop you from using it to pay. You roll, and his fears are confirmed. The die landed on 2, giving it a value of 2 F, 3 F less than the asking price! You can see that the shopkeeper is upset at being shortchanged as he pockets the die, but you’re elated. You can’t wait to get the hammer to your friend so that you can tell him what a steal you got it for.

In this system, most sellers would always want to be paid in the highest number of the lowest denomination dice they could get, at least for the more important deals,  so that they are guaranteed at least a certain amount of F, even though the fewer dice that are used the higher the felix value is. Some shopkeepers wouldn’t allow dice with too high of a felix value to be used to purchase items, meanwhile others might make a sale by requiring the average F to be less than halfway between the top value and one. Gambling would be easy in this culture; simply have both players roll a 100 sided die (or whatever they use instead) and switch dice. One might roll 50, and the other might roll 20, who gets 30 F while maintaining the same amount of felix.

After all that though, the only more flawed currency system that I’ve seen anywhere (not that I’ve looked for any) was this one:

Alternate Currency

(Source: http://www.explainxkcd.com/wiki/index.php/512:_Alternate_Currency)

I can’t decide which flaws I should go over first, but this post is too long already, so I’m going to split it into a number of smaller parts focusing on specific problems with this system and addressing them. These I will write and publish those parts until I’ve gone over this idea thoroughly, or I’m tired of it.

~ George

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