What FPRGs can teach us about gold


An FRPG is an acronym for a “Fantasy Role-Playing Game”, where the “role” is always an obsessive compulsive, homicidal kleptomaniac.

The part of the goldbug’s strategy I don’t get is:

  1. Invest in gold through some obscure third party gold-buying firm.
  2. Complete and utter societal collapse brought about by Obamacare.
  3. ?
  4. Profit!

If society collapses, who the hell is going to go tabulate your gold investment and then deliver the bars to you?


This article is inane. Whatever the merits of investing in actual gold are, the “gold” in FRPGs is exactly fiat money - some authority says it exists, and how much of it there is in existence.

I’ve never played WoW or the ilk, but in the old JRPGs you did get gold for doing productive work - fetching something for an old lady, slaying a monster so inter-village commerce could resume, etc.

Perhaps if he stuck to the whole “I don’t think it will come to total meltdown” argument it would be more compelling than using video game evidence that clearly does not reflect the real world.


I think what FRPGs (not FPRGs) teach us is that fantasy is an excellent Rorschach test; people look at it and project their own biases.

(BTW, not all FRPGs favor stupid/selfish/obsessive/violent behavior. Computer games in that category often do because those are relatively easy to program. Traditional wetware roleplaying games become as complex a world as the players want them to be; if you don’t like the world you’re playing in or the characters you’re playing with, find another group.)

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Yeah, and in fact MMO gold is usually not even fiat money, as there’s no set limit or control over it. It’s constantly being produced by almost every non-player (i.e. constantly regenerating) entity in the game, including non-character nodes that spit out resources. It’s effectively infinite, and the only thing that keeps it from accumulating is that giving any to a non-player character destroys it. Such economies require “gold sinks” that players have to spend money on in order to try to keep the amount of gold in the economy from exploding. (Of course, the games are already designed such that the value of gold decreases over time for each player anyways.)

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The point of using gold in the real world is that it doesn’t require a state to issue it, and Alan Greenspan (or other Federal Reserve or Central Bank counterfeiter) can’t devalue everyone’s purchasing power with the stroke of a pen. And unlike BitCoin (Galt bless it, too), gold will survive a global EMP burst or Internet kill switch.

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Did You Know: limits or control is not intrinsic to the definition of fiat money.

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Unless they decide to flood the market because they’re pure evil MWUAHAHAHA

To add to that, even if you have the gold in hand what’s not to say the new post-apoco society trades in something more accessible like VHS copies of 1997 comedy classic Good Burger. Economies don’t work very well if only a tiny few have the power.

Also people will find value in ‘rare’ items to use as a large denomination side-currency (provided that main currency is provided in game), for example certain ships in EVE, Earbuds in TF2 (estimated at 30 to 40 irl-bucks) or paper party hats in Runescape (ok I’m not totally sure about that one, I haven’t played it much).

People don’t buy gold because they think society will collapse.
Well, maybe a few people do - but the sort of redneck survivalists that have a basement full of tinned goods and assault rifles tend not to be the sort of people who can make multibillion dollar gold investments.

Investors buy gold when they don’t trust the fiat currency issuer. If you think the treasury will devalue the currency (e.g. quantitative easing) then you buy physical goods to hedge against inflation. Gold is used because it is highly liquid (compared to other physical goods like property, antiques, art, etc.).

And FRPGs teach us that if you want to get quick gold, you outsource your production to a sweatshop in the developing world.


(a) Gold? Pfft. Adamntine is where it’s at.

(b) There was an excellent little broadcast from Planet Money recently about the confusion with using gold and silver as currency at a libertarian gathering.


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That approach backfired in Diablo II, when the Stone of Jordan (a relatively rare ring) became the medium of exchange for other rare items; someone figured out how to forge it, and its value plunged.

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Pen and paper RPGs played by someone other than middleschoolers? That’s a myth!

  1. is financial collapse, not societal. runaway inflation. And not necessarily caused by Obamacare, but by the Fed

Well right, but by “no control,” I mean the gold is, in a very real sense, created (and destroyed) by the players’ interactions with the various entities, not by the game’s creators, even if the number of (infinitely regenerating) gold-issuing entities is defined by the game designers. So the players define the value of it - the more active they are, the less value it has. And sure, it ultimately has any value at all because it has been so defined by the rule system that makes up the game, but so has everything else. (And even if the gold becomes worthless between players, it still can have intrinsic value that makes it necessary to have to advance through the game.) It doesn’t entirely work as a parallel to either gold or fiat money, given that the entities originally declaring the currency has value are also defining the rules that govern the reality as a whole.

This is a dumb article because it assumes that gold is useless to you after the apocalypse because you’re walking down the street defenseless waving your huge gold bar around and demanding goods and services. Obviously a more cautious approach would pay off as part of a mixed and balanced end-of-the-world strategy in an ideal post-apocalyptic scenario.

But of course there are no ideal post-apocalyptic scenarios, the highest probability is that said catastrophe would leave you and statistically everybody else near you quite dead (probably from starvation and/or dehydration as water and then food runs out in major metropolitan areas with little-to-no farming capacity).

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