The player covenant is cash poor. Their Herbam specialist has suggested creating saffron because he's heard it's worth more than its weight in gold. Permanent Creo spells need to be Rituals, so how does this seem?
Target: Creo targets are always Individual or Group. Saffron is the stamens of crocus flowers. To create saffron that is recognisable to prospective purchasers it has to be in the form they expect so I suggest you want to create a Group of stamens, which is +2 levels. The base Group is 10 individual items.
Saffron is a finished plant product so it increases level by 1 (inferred from Creo Herbam guidelines).
Range is certainly Touch, for +1 level
Duration is Momentary (base)
Therefore to create a Group of 10 dried Saffron threads is Base + 4 = level 5 spell
Increasing magnitude increases mass or number by 10x, so as the Herbam specialist rightly points out, a Ritual is minimum Level 20 (page 114), you can increase the quantity by 10 to the power 3, i.e. create 10,000 threads of Saffron.
How much does this weigh? A pound of dry saffron requires 50,000â€“75,000 flowers. For ease, we will say that this equates to about 320,000 threads. Therefore, you can create half an ounce of saffron.
Value is a real problem and so far I've not found historical evidence for the value of Saffron in 13th century in NW Europe. However, costs from around 1400 suggest it's not so valuable as gold.
I've heard that factoid too, but I don't know when and where it was true, if ever.
I'd rather create an individual-sized heap of powdered saffron one pace wide (that is, if you don't allow a heap of saffron threads as an individual). Merchants may be suspicious at first, but if they're allowed to sample the spice they'll see it's pure. They will have more difficulty selling it themselves, but you can afford to offer them a discount. Once people get used to dealing in powdered saffron, this reluctance will disappear, which will counterbalance the fall in price due to increasing the supply.
Wikipedia says there are 70,000 to 200,000 threads to a pound. If this is correct, 10,000 threads will be about one ounce.
I found a price of 12-15 shillings per pound in the 14th century, probably in England, at economics.utoronto.ca/munro5/SPICES1.htm is similar. An ounce of saffron will therefore fetch about a shilling. That's probably a retail price, so your covenant might get half that from a merchant.
A pile of saffron a pace across might weigh 50 lbs (guessing wildly, but saffron is not dense), which would make it worth 40 pounds in money retail, perhaps 20 wholesale. Increase the magnitude by 3, and you have a whole room full of saffron. You can sell 500lbs a year, if local demand is high enough, and it will still take a century to run out.
Don't forget the annual CrHe to prevent it spoiling. And I'm sure there are faeries who'll find huge concentrations of flower parts irresistable.
Further Research - appears I was wrong and it's the Stigma, not the Stamen, that make up Saffron. There are three Stigmata per flower. If we allow for a little wastage then my number of flowers (which I think came from Wiki) and your number of threads is certainly in the same ballpark.
The rules are a bit vague when it comes to creating things - is a heap an individual? As a storyguide I want the players to be able to generate some wealth but not ridiculous levels of it. However as it stands the level 20 spell does not produce enough saffron to be significant source.
Considering your suggestion of using a "Heap" as individual: the base for Herbam is a 1 pace square "plant". It does not say how tall this plant is. If we assume a cube of 75cm (i.e. one pace) per side then that's about 0.4 cubic metres. The density of powdered saffron has to be somewhat less than that of water, say 0.5, which means that a heap would weigh about 200 kg. That's 2.2 x 16 x 200 = 7040 ounces (or 440lb).
If saffron IS worth (just) more than gold (which has a 1:10 conversion with silver) then we're looking at around Â£5000. TOO much!
The value in 1400 in Spain was around 1-2 days labour from a carpenter per ounce so your 6d is reasonable (I'd come to 5d using the 1400 carpenter model). On this basis, they can generate around Â£200 worth of saffron. That's acceptable I suppose!
Saffron lasts a long time in cool dark conditions: annual spells may not be necessary.
In my troupe, the individual seed is an individual plant. The seed contains the entire plant (potentially), and so is just as metaphysically demanding to produce as an entire plant would have been.
You're talking about stigmata. Stigmata aren't plants, and they aren't seeds, so they're parts of a plant, and that makes for a +1 magnitude. But that's to produce just one of them, however small they may be. For 10 stigmata, +1 magnitude for size; for 100, +2.... That should slow down the mass production a bit and also fits neatly with the paradigm (in my opinion).
When we did this in our 4th ed. game, I ruled that the players only got about 1/2 the asking price because they were unknown, untrustworthy and frankly creepy sellers. We took the saffron to a major port to sell it to limit the suspicions.
Even so, a couple casting of these sorts of spells allowed the covenant to get through some very lean years. I wish I had the number I used handy, but I'll look around for them.
I don't think spoilage would be a problem, but retaining flavor might be. My understanding is that saffron stigmata last reasonably well but that ground spices (of all sorts) tend to lose their flavor much more rapidly.
Are there any foodies on this forum who might care to comment?
Bryan - I agree they are parts, which could be counted as +1. If taking this interpretation then the rules are not clear as to whether to then increase the number of items is +2 (for Group) or +1 to increase size (but meaning number). If the latter then it's the same as the +2 for Group. However I am treating dried stigmata as individual finished plant items, which are of their essence separated from their flower, which is why I think this is a Group spell.
I see your point. In that case, the finishing changes the magnitude much as the target: part would have. I would definitely make the base rather high, given the nobility of the plant: I would use the terram guideliness to suggest appropriate bases.
(I have a strong aversion to the possible use of magic in industrial-scale production; it seems to be out of the spirit of things and also that it would blow the paradigm all to pieces. So I instinctively would try to make this sort of thing very, very demanding)
Hmm. I would simply create a powder of saffron, as was suggested, in the volume dictated by the He guidelines.
Hermetic magic can create wealth fairly easily. You can CrTe silver or gold directly, create wheat or saffron with CrHe spells, or so on. By my calculations a CrHe spell to create wheat creates enough to feed 2000 people for a year.
I don't have a big problem with this, I accept and am happy that magi don't really have to worry about financial matters unless they want to. Many find this unappealing, though. If you fall into that camp, I suggest that instead of fine-tuning the rules you simply add an ad-hoc magnitude increase untill the level suits your wants for the saga. And make it a saga rule - magic can't easily generate wealth.
Each crocus gives three stamens. You can change the weight and decrease the value by including the white bit of the stamen, which is useless.
It's listed as being more expensive, by weight, than gold in "The Merchant in Medieval Europe", but the price varies a very great deal over time and place, because its one of those high-luxury items that has only a few buyers.