Lore & Setting > Economy
Imperial Heibesu has a regulated economy, based on mercantilism, but with hints of feudalism and commodity currency, especially in the more remote regions. Quite obviously, the Merchant and Magistrate Spheres are quite at the heart of the economy. They are the wealthy classes, and have increasingly more power. Guild institutions, in particular, have become reasonably strong and are akin to minor clans or Houses.
The Empire mints its own money : it is called the Koi currency.
The Koi Currency
The Koi is, in theory, based on the price of rice, which is the most important crop in the Empire. With time, the value of the Koi has fluctuated. The base Koi is a silver coin, though the 10 Koi coin is made of a gold alloy. 100 Koi are worth one Taikoi, the biggest denomination - it has a different name because the Taikoi Coin is a large, flat gold plate. The Koi has a subunit, the Shokoi; it takes 100 Shokoi to make one Koi. The Shokoi is minted in bronze. It used to be minted so to be worth a hundredth of a Koi in metal, but nowadays the alloy is more flexible, though melting it is strictly forbidden and the difference in value is minimal.
In short : 1 Taikoi = 100 Koi = 10000 Shokoi.
The Koi is used throughout the continent. Oranda, for instance, also uses Koi coins.
The Gold Coin Currency
Other parts of the world use standard Gold Coins (known as GP). Gold Coins are subdivided in Silver and Bronze coins.
As in standard Pathfinder, 1 GP = 10 SP = 100 CP.
The current rate of exchange between GP and Koi is as follows :
1 GP = 2 Koi (therefore all GP item values in Pathfinder need to be multiplied by 2)
1 SP = 0.2 Koi = 20 Shokoi
1 CP = 0.02 Koi = 2 Shokoi
1 Koi = 0.5 GP = 5 SP
1 Taikoi = 100 Koi = 50 GP
Here's a quick table to how much money some professions are expected to make per month
Untrained Farmhands, Prisoners, Apprentices
Peasant and Lower Artisan Spheres
Non-landed Farmer, Miner, Driver, Cook, Miller, Prostitute, etc
Meddling Artisan Sphere
Sailor, Librarian, Clerk, Scribe, Midwife, Ashigaru, countryside Shrine Maidens, etc
Magistrate, Merchant and Upper Artisan Spheres
Courtesans, Engineers, Innkeepers, Merchants, Geishas, Officers of the Guard, city Shrine Maidens, etc
Upper Magistrate and Bushi Spheres
Magisters, Samurai, wealthy Merchants, Barristers, Judges, lesser nobility, etc
Bushi and Court Spheres
Upper nobility, Regents, etc
Money earned, on average
6 to 10 Koi / month
from 30 to 60 Koi / month
from 50 to 80 Koi / month
from 70 to 100 Koi / month
from 100 to 150 Koi / month
from 150 Koi / month
You can find a list of items for sale here.
Caste System (or the Six Spheres)
As shown above, castes are very important in Imperial life. However, as time goes, the boundaries between castes has vastly eroded and is being replaced by a more mercantile system of classes. Both concepts, however, continue to be called Spheres.
Historically, the philosophy behind the Spheres is one of wealth production - while lower artisans and peasants are direly needed to keep the economy running, they are often poor and, in some provinces, depend on local landlords to subsist. Merchants on the other hand make profit out of their work.
The citizenry is separated in six different Spheres, as determined by the Sphere Act 654 :
- Court Sphere : On the very top is the Empress, her Court, followed by Clan Champions, and Regents.
- Bushi Sphere : Sphere made of the military nobility, they are often the core of any Heibesu army. They are expected to ‘set an example’ and setting them so high in the Heibesu hierarchy also gives them an ethical aura.
- Magistrate Sphere : Members of the Chantry, and high-ranking Guildmasters/Guildmistresses. Local law-enforcing paramilitary organizations can also be found here.
- Merchant Sphere : Traders and other merchants that do not produce goods, but generate most of the wealth.
- Artisan Sphere : Producers of non-agricultural and processed goods belong to this sphere. It is to be noted that this Sphere shows a large gap between its lower and upper wages.
- Peasant Sphere : Farmers, fishermen, but also miners are ranked here.
In olden times, when landlords and the nobility all but owned the peasants on their land, spheres would have an increasing number of privileges. As the Sphere system transitions from a caste-based system to one of purchasing parity and earnings, many of these privileges are revoked; however quite a few persist. For instance, only Bushi Sphere members (the nobility) can become Samurai, and many senior appointments are only given to Magistrates or above.
Yet other privileges have vanished. The Sphere Act strictly regulated marriages and segregated the castes, yet the role of the Sphere in traditional marriage is nowadays more tied to that of economic power.
Many privileges, notably the owning of land by nobility, have fallen into obsolescence as Guilds, Merchants and even upper-income Artisans gained the income necessary to buy land. Earnings also used to be rigidly defined by Sphere, but with the birth of Guilds this practice has actually become unlawful, with markets playing a much bigger role in who earns how much.
Samurai used to enforce law on their own, but now religious and economic courts manned by Magistrates have appeared, even though Judges are still all part of the nobility. Nobles used to own land, but they are now are only tasked with the political stewardship of parts of the Empire.
Nonetheless, Spheres still define one's economic freedom. Barristers are highly-paid and many peasants cannot afford their rates, for instance. This all leads to some discontentment, especially amongst the lower classes, though it is often kept in check by the Bushi and Magistrates.
One special "sphere" is still rigidly upheld in Imperial society. The Casteless, though to be the troublesome or bothersome elements of society, are a caste of the unwanted, populated by rogues, thieves and ronins of all sorts. They are denied many rights enjoyed by the rest of the population and are often shunned from villages. Many make their home in slums or abandoned forts, but it would be simplistic to dismiss them as outlaws and rogues. Many Wokou pirates are employed by the Empress herself as privateers to harass sea trade, especially Orandan trade. In fact, the Wokou and other Casteless were given control of a whole island as a reward for their instrumental role in the defeat of Oranda during the War of the Broken Lilies.
There have always been minor Houses and families that, while not part of a clan, controlled key aspects of a certain trade. In 835, they were formalized as Guilds, as part of a plan meant to restructure and centralize the economy.
They are not part of the nobility. They do not steward over land the way the Nobles do. They also do not raise armies unless it is in direct relation to their trade. They tend to attract the most skilled of their trade into their ranks, either through marrying and guild promotion. Many artisans and peasants benefit from the Guild system, though they hardly ever become part of the Guild itself and instead stay Associates, if anything at all.
Guilds are part union, part lobbies; by grouping the best of their trade they also help drive innovation throughout their sphere of influence.
Guilds are usually built around a Guildmaster or Guildmistress. Anyone from a specific trade can become an Associate of the Guild, but to be come a Journeyman a high tithe must be paid. The third and highest rank is that of Master, which can only be achieved through such high feats as the completion of a masterwork item for the Guild.
Most trades are not represented by a single Guild; though some Guilds are more prestigious than others it is not rare to see Guilds competing against one another. Guilds tend to be province-based, though a few are notably present across the whole Empire. The Mages' Guild, for instance, covers the entirety of the Empire, while the Nishino Merchants Guild is so powerful that they are the sole Merchant's Guild present in most Imperial port towns.