Poverty or subsistence?

I’ve been reading through Tomb of Annihilation since it became available last week. Last night I got to use some of the content for the fist time, when I ran City on the Edge, which is based in and around the city of Port Nyanzaru. Surrounding the city, but outside its protective walls, there are three districts where the poorer people live. The Old City is home to workers who can’t afford to live within the walls. Tiryki Anchorage is home to fishers (and possibly also smugglers). Malar’s Throat is described as the slum of the city, the place where the poorest people live. But I wonder what that means? Could it just mean that they don’t participate much in the cash economy? What if they’re hunter/gatherer people who subsist on resources from the jungle? Maybe they’re people who once lived in the jungle? Maybe they’ve relocated to the gorge outside the city for protection from the thunder lizards, zombies and other monsters that roam the jungle? Maybe they’ve moved to the outskirts of the city because their food sources in the jungle have been depleated by the death curse?

A few years ago my friend Jonothan Cornford spent time on the Mekong River, learning about the lives of people in the subsistance economy, and the impact new industries in the area were having on the subsistance economy. You can read his report, Hidden Costs, here.

3 thoughts on “Poverty or subsistence?

  1. I’m always interested when D&D’s massive wealth gap gets spoken to. The difference between adventurers pulling hundreds of gold without a sweat at first level, and farmers who may never see more than two gold pieces together in their lives is on that has always existed in the PHB but is never mentioned when discussing the world. It’s interesting to see ToA approach this within the text (or at least the subtext).

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    1. Yeah, I’ve often worked it into my adventures. I’ve often characterise the hired goons that most villains have helping them out as people who have little choice because they need the work (because the traditional economy has collapsed) or because they don’t have any other adult role models.

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