May 19, 2011

Magic Item Black Market

Recently, I was presented with the exciting opportunity to start up a new D&D campaign from scratch. I generally enjoy this aspect of the Dungeon Master’ing experience. I’m an organized, planning-ahead kind of person by nature, and the start of a new campaign gives ample opportunity to put those tendencies to good use.

One of the complaints from this group of players during the last game we had was the overall lack of magic items and loot. During that campaign, I opted to use the inherent enhancement bonus option from DMG2 and use a handful of very special, powerful, almost artifact-like magic items through the entirety of the game world. I also banned the enchant magic item and disenchant magic item rituals, and the related martial practices. This allowed me to keep magic rare and special in the world, to give it a sense of wonder and mystery. My efforts fell on deaf ears, however, as the players preferred to haul away barrels full of loot. They missed the +1 magic longswords, having some sense of nostalgia for their prior adventures in that style. Being the manager of this dog and pony show, I acquiesced to my audience and went back to Rules-As-Written magic item distribution. I would even let the dungeoneers (gasp!) buy magic items.

The campaign has been shaping up to be loosely based off of H2: Thunderspire Labyrinth (WotC 2008), redone with piles and piles of tips gleaned from the internet, MM3-style monster stats, and covering 1st through 3rd Levels. This mini campaign will take place centered around a massive trading settlement at the crossroads between the Underdark and the surface lands, called ‘The Seven Pillared Hall’. The original adventure emphasized the importance of the trade going on throughout The Seven Pillared Hall, how lucrative it is for its overseers, and the availability of strange and exotic wares available here, brought up from the depths for perusal by the civilized races of the surface. With all the fantastical commerce going on around them, The Seven Pillared Hall seemed a perfect location to place a magic item shop.

I ended up creating several venues for magic item purchase. First, I took a few of the merchants described in the original adventure and wrote up descriptions and item cards for things that they would have on-hand, ready to sell to the adventurers at any given time. I’ve summarized this below:

+ Deepgem Mining Company: mounts and animal hirelings
+ Grimmerzhul Trading Post: poisons and alchemical items
+ Vadrian’s Curios: potions and arcane key skill rituals
+ Temple of the Hidden Light: potions and heal key skill rituals
+ Wainwright’s Shop: vehicles
+ House Azaer: mundane equipment, and a location to sell of treasures in exchange for coinage

After establishing the baseline needs in consumable items, mundane items  and ritual casting, I moved on to permanent magic items. I felt that the described “thriving black market” of Thunderspire Labyrinth could be shown as a noisy, ever-changing mob of comers and goers, bringing with them all sorts of wares. This is where I could place Common Magic Item buying, and not have it feel cheap or too easy. I wanted the magic item shop to be something different every time, something magical, with its own rewards and pitfalls. I also wanted to find a use for the Streetwise skill. Normally, that thing is positively worthless in my campaigns.
Afterwards, I placed Uncommon and Rare Magic Items, the good stuff, in the dungeons, waiting to be claimed by the dungeoneers.

Provided below is my step-by-step method for running this.

The Black Market

1). Each dungeoneer declares what item type they are looking for on their magic item shopping trip. A dungeoneer may only do this once per extended rest. Each dungeoneer also declares how much of any communal wealth they are taking with them on their shopping trip. This creates an interesting decision point, as the group must decide what strategy to split their wealth with. Should they put all their coinage on one character and hope to get the opportunity at a big buy? Should they play it safe and spread the wealth?

2). Each dungeoneer makes a DC 20 Streetwise check. On a success, the character finds a merchant selling the magic item type that they are looking for, and can choose their item type from the table below. On a failure, the PC must instead roll on the table below, randomly determining what item type they are allowed purchase.

d8            Item Type
1              Heavy Armor
2              Light Armor
3              Shields, Gauntlets, Gloves & Bracers
4              Wondrous Items
5              Amulets, Holy Symbols, & Ki Focus
6              Orbs, Rods, Staffs, Wands, & Totems
7              Melee weapons
8              Ranged weapons

3). Each dungeoneer can now buy any of the Common Magic Items listed in their Item Type, using the available funds they have from Step 1.

I grouped the common magic items by a theme, melee wapons for example, instead of strictly by item type. Hence, you’ll see warforged components mixed into the Wondrous Items group, because they seemed to fit better there. I also took out Dark Sun specific items, since that didn’t seem to fit the style of the campaign.

Heavy Armor: +1 magic armor, +1 deathsteel armor, +1 veteran’s armor, +1 armro of cleansing, +1 armor of durability, +1 fortification armor, +1 black iron armor

Light Armor: +1 magic armor, +1 veteran’s armor, +1 armor of cleansing, +1 sylvan armor, +1 armor of durability

Shields, Bracers, Gauntlets, & Gloves: burglar’s gloves, shield of deflection, bracers of mighty striking, gloves of grace, gloves of agility, parry gauntlets

Wondrous Items: headband of perception, belt of vigor, delver’s light, +1 armbow, boots of stealth, girdle of the oxen, boots of surging speed, circlet of authority

Amulets, Holy Symbols, & Ki Focus: +1 magic holy symbol, +1 magic ki focus, +1 amulet of protection, +1 safewing amulet, +1 amulet of health, +1 symbol of the holy nimbus, +1 amulet of recovery

Orbs, Rods, Staffs, Wands, & Totems: +1 magic orb, +1 magic rod, +1 magic staff, +1 magic totem, +1 magic wand, +1 rod of deadly casting, +1 rod of dark reward, +1 rod of hope triumphant, +1 defensive staff, +1 utility staff, +1 autumn harvest totem, +1 pure spirit totem

Melee Weapons:  +1 magic weapon, +1 axe of sundering, +1 defensive weapon, +1 vicious weapon, +1 deathsteel weapon, +1 annointed mace, +1 flail of winds, +1 hammer of victory, +1 shielding blade

Ranged Weapons: +1 magic weapon, +1 distance weapon, +1 defensive weapon, +1 vicious weapon, +1 deathsteel weapon, +1 raider’s crossbow

1 comment:

  1. Simple and easy to use. Does what it says on the tin.

    I always preferred the idea that all magic items were created with a purpose and, therefore, were difficult to come by. I've yet to play with a party that makes their own magic items, so I'm grinning a little when I see that you banned the ritual. To my mind, these items exist to fill an adventurer's need--the are created or commissioned by the heroes.