How much does ice cost?

So, I've been doing research on "easy ways to make money if you're a magi" - the obvious one being salt, but unfortunately that gets into the Rule of Silver. However, in skimming through TME, it seems that while producing a product using magic counts against the 2mp/magi/tribunal limit, TRANSPORTING a product with magic doesn't.

And so I got to thinking - what's a resource that's easily available in one part of a tribunal that's scarce in another? And the answer is obviously (if you're read the title of this post) - Ice. So, I got to researching the ice trade; according to the wiki, the ice trade was primarily a 19th century invention - this seems to be a consequence of improved transportation (shipping and rail), as well as other factors, that allowed such an industry to be created. However, storing ice for later use can be traced back in Europe to the 1600's, as well as ice pits in the late roman Empire. ( So the concept itself isn't unknown - a hermetic magi could reasonably have heard of the concept.

The question then, is - how much is it worth? Ultimately, I suppose the response may very well be "how much time are you willing to put into it" and "what kind of magic are you using to transport it" and ultimately "eh, it's just a minor or major income source, anyway."

In context: the transportation mechanism is a flying obelisk of granite - with enough lifting power to fly ~40 mph, and carry ~1 ton (2,000 lbs) of cargo. The game is set in the Provencal tribunal, in the Massif Central region. Which, in looking at the pictures, doesn't seem to have year-round snow. So, the actual solution would be either to build ice-pits or ice-houses and store them at high altitudes during the winter (how hot does the Massif Central get during the summer?), and load up the sled during the summer to sell the ice in lower areas - or alternately, to just fly over to the Alps or Pyranees, and get it there.

There is of course the second concern of "who do you sell a ton of ice to in the middle of a Mediterranean summer?" - at this scale, I'm guessing the answer is "nobility, for cooling off fancy drinks" - there's not nearly enough scale here to use it for food preservation (and besides, circular wards do a better job of that). And yes, there are the associated stories of interacting with nobility, and getting a supply chain set up, and figuring out how to get the ice the last five miles (ie, land the sled outside a major city at night, load it up in a cart insulated with hay, and haul it to the seller the next day.) And of course the consequences of flying around Europe on a granite obelisk. That's all understood.

So I suppose the real question is this: how much ice do you need to sell in order to get a minor income source? Salt is the high bar for effort/reward - 1 trivial spell, and you've got 60+ mp of product (which, again - you're stuck with the Rule of Silver, so you can't actually sell all of it.). I imagine that ice probably isn't quite in that range, but still pretty pricy stuff. But are we talking 1 mp per ton? PRetty good money for a few day's work, but it only runs during the summer - and could you keep up those prices?

Hm. In looking at it a bit more, 1 ton of ice is ~1.1 cubic meter (yes, I know - ice is slightly less dense than water, and this should be in imperial tonnage.) That's ~1,000 quarts of ice. If we assume that you could buy a quart of ice for 1 mythic penny (probably lowballing it), that's 4-5 mp/shipment, at the least.

In looking at the chart of trade goods in City&Guild, it looks like a gallon of ale is a 1/2 penny - so a penny for a quart of ice seems to be (sort of) in that range. Maybe. Of course, it ALSO says that I should feel free to make up prices for exotic stuff, as getting concrete historical numbers for such goods is pretty difficult to do.

Many mountain communities in 13th century Europe will have regularly used snow and ice stored in pits and caves for food preservation during the summer. They thus would replace costly imported salt with a local resource.

Snow and ice in summer as a luxury item is quite rare in the middle ages - though there might have been a white raven cook using it as table ornament or new sensation in food and drink.

Is building a viable market for ice in the 13th century the scope of your saga?

  • Transporting and selling it for ice-box type food preservation competes with the established and entrenched salt trade. Its delivery would be conspicuous. Problems with it could endanger a community and then lead to grave consequences for the trader. So your magi need good backup: think guild.
  • Selling it as a luxury item requires establishing an expensive fad and braving the onslaught of the conservative majority led by the local bishops. Think fork.
    Both approaches can lead to interesting adventures with insights into medieval life and society.


I'm not sure the Code likes technicalities... the Rule of Silver is there to prevent inflation, no matter where the "magical" goods come from.

That said, if you want to move goods because in your saga this is not against the code, why not move salt directly? Buy a saltmine and teleport the stuff around.

The value of ice is tricky -- you need to build a demand for it first. I've read some bits on the 19th-20th century ice trade, and the "Ice King" of Boston went bankrupt I think three times, and always had difficulty building demand for this ice. A lot of this was due to the fact that his transportation was difficult (he needed to guarantee ice availability the whole year through), and that he went the route of selling ice cheaply to the masses. In mediaeval Europe, probably only the highest of merchants and nobles can afford ice, and it's thus not as profitable. Definitely story potential to build up demand for ice! :slight_smile:

EDIT: you might also be interested in the Persian refrigerators (, which were available in the era. Perhaps your magi stumble across these in some books and want to build them themselves, and enhance them with vis? Being able to store food all year round would have a significant political advantage, in addition to the monetary effects.

In the meantime, I found a decent English translation of the quote of Peter Damian I had in mind. Here it is: ... able-fork/ .

Replace fork with ice and use some imagination: presto an adventure for your saga.


As a alternative to valorise some ice, the mages can offers to store fresh food over long period of time.
Sure they are not selling ice, but it is a service, thus they won't have any issue with the Rule of Silver.
Second, although similar results could be achieved with Ring-based preservation spell, using ice won't look magic since it is a known way to preserve food (even only used in some location where ice is available).
Third, that could be a way to build a business: you start by offering a service for those who don't want to risk too much money by buying ice. Then, once they realised that it works well and it will be cheaper for them to buy ice, you then sell them ice.

I believe that nothing in the Code will prevent this kind of business endeavor.

Canonically, the only current, specific limit (as opposed to generic "interfering with mundanes" and "endangering the Order") is
a) Tribunal-specific, rather than Order-wide and also
b) limited to the amount of magically produced silver, and nothing else and also
c) limited to two pounds of silver per covenant resident, including mundanes, rather than per magus.
So if you want to put lots of magically created gold into circulation, or lots of magically created silver in the Rhine or Normandy or Thebes, you are "fine". So you are if you put 100 pounds of magically produced silver per year in Stonehenge, and your covenant counts 5 magi and 50 mundanes. Though obviously, if it disrupts the economy, you will be charged with the generic charges of "interfering with mundanes" etc. so magi tread with some care in all tribunals and with all goods.

TME looks at the possibility of much, much stronger regulation being introduced by the code - in terms of where, what, and most of all how much. TME is very explicit about the fact that it's not canonical, but something like it may be introduced in a variant saga. Now. I think that if it does get discussed, it will be highly unlikely that gathering, moving and reselling a good in large quantities will be accepted, while producing it won't, if both disrupt the economy in the same way (echoing Aurentulus here). Also, I think that 2 mythic pounds per magus, rather than per resident, is something that so thoroughly disrupts the Order's economy that very very few magi would agree to it - even the single Tribunal that regulated silver production considers two pounds of silver per resident, rather than per magus, reasonable. I think that if a silver consensus gets passed, it would accept a limit of two mythic pounds per year per resident, in each type of good produced by the covenant (so, 2 pounds of silver AND 2 mythic pounds of wool AND 2 mythic pounds of salt).

Last but not least, note that "salt production" is effectively just salt collection, transportation and transportation: you collect it from the sea and you transport it.


Another deviant rule from Ken, who really hates the canonical rule about inflation but understands the desire to keep magi from dominating the economy:

Grubby commerce is not the rightful province of either the mundane nobility or the greater, more noble and august heirs to the glory of Bonisagus.

In real Europe, social convention and sometimes actual law kept senators, nobles and other luminaries away from such base pursuit.

These constraints exist in Mythic Europe too. Player characters tend to ignore and evade such trivialities, of course. But Mythic Europe enforces conventions of this kind through (faerie) correspondence. If you are a magus or a noble or anyone who shouldn't engage in commerce, but do, you gain xps in a Reputation, Grubby Merchant. These act as a negative correspondence, affecting all noble and magical pursuits. The amount of xps gained is totally up to the GM, in proportion to how effective you are in your commercial endeavors, but any notable activity or growth kicks your reputation up by a full point. Losing these xps is extremely difficult and if possible at all, involving a very long time, renouncing your ignobly gained lucre and working to gain other Reputations. Evading the gain through technicalities is also difficult, because it's a Reputation: If it seems unseemly, it is.

Verditius magi are considered lesser magi because they engage in base commerce. When trafficking in magic items, they do not gain Grubby Merchant points. They do gain Hubris as usual, and some magi who have studied this matter suggest that Verditius initiation channels one into the other.

EG: Digitus Argentum conjures a roomful of silver upon completing his Gauntlet. He immediately gains 5xps in his new Reputation, and now subtracts 1 from all Lab Totals, Casting Scores, Finesse rolls, social rolls involving nobles and magi, etc. He then starts buying things, gaining one more xp for every notable purchase as his reputation spreads. He donates a whole lot of his silver to charity, but this only gains him more xp since he's just another grubby merchant trying to look good.

Moral: Really, the best way to get rich quick is kill a dragon or king and take his stuff.



A related note about magical transportation vs. magically created goods - from what I recall of the medieval economy, merchants really weren't considered to be adding value to a product - hence Ovarwa's "grubby merchant" idea. We as modern folks see the creation of a market (in the abstract sense) to be a necessary part of commerce, but back in the day, it was all about the folks that made the stuff, and the people who bought the stuff. The middle part (the transportation and sale part) wasn't really considered part of the process - or at best, a necessary evil that was mainly a sap on the end result.

Hence, I have no real problem with the Order making an (un)conscious distinction between magically creating something, and magically transporting it. Magically creating it is replacing a natural process with a magical one - in contrast, transporting something is cutting out an unnecessary part of the process. (I mean, it's not like you're selling the product for any less - you're just not tacking on the additional cost of transportation!)

Yes, I know that doesn't really make sense - however, it seems to fit into the mideval mindset regarding commerce and sales.

Using my variant rule, the ice scheme would totally earn lots of Grubby Merchant points.

I considered this, selling ice, a couple of years ago. My conclusion was that once a market developed, ice would have a price similar to salt.

Once a market developed. There was, historically, little market interest in ice once freezers were developed. Early ice merchants had to sell the concept. Weird, I know.

I think you under-estimate the price and the value of salt in middle age... it was used as tax, which is not the case for iced water.

ice can be luxury good, but certainly not as expensive as salt...