|King of Vrock|
OK, so I'm running a large group of 7 PCs through the an Adventure Path and when they find the time to buy gear it usually takes a good chunk of time that I'd rather spend actually playing. I'm trying to come up with a way to not only lessen the GMs workload, but to further involve the players between sessions by having them explore and learn about the world of Golarion. It will also teach them to think like their characters in order to solve problems within the context of their campaign world rather than just having a player look through the books to find the perfect item and casually stroll into town and expect it to be there.
We have the rules in the Game Mastery Guide (GMG) for Settlements, which has the Base Value and Purchase Limits that are adjusted by the settlements size, type of government, and special qualities and disadvantages. There’s also a number of items that are supposedly above the base value of the settlement available, though it’s probably a better place to add in special items native to that region/settlement or items you might want to entice your players with. I call those the “featured items” discovered when PCs attempt Diplomacy checks to gather information. We have the wonderful appendix tables in Ultimate Equipment (UE) that break up consumable items like potions, scrolls, and wands into common and uncommon, as well as dividing the minor, medium, and major labels from the Core Rulebook (CRB) further into greater and lesser.
Between these resources we can determine a baseline for what a given marketplace reasonably has for sale. The Base Value of a settlement says that at any given time there is a 75% chance to find any item under that value. Easy enough but should ANY item really just be available? I think it strengthens the verisimilitude of the game world if items and spells that are labeled uncommon and greater are a little tougher to dig up, say only 35%. Another question which isn’t directly answered by the above resources is how many of a given item are available. Sure a scroll of resurrection is available at the local temple, but what if the PCs ask for 10? Though it doesn’t come right out and state it, the settlement’s Available Magic Items line has an appropriate number of items for a given category listed already!
So now that we know the availability and number of items we can find what happens if we don’t find a given item? The rules say you can try again in a week of game time. How about if the items aren’t in the CRB or UE? Maybe they’re in the Adventure Path back matter, the Campaign Setting book, or the Player Companion line for that AP (or your home setting). If the item is appropriate it’s more than fair to consider it common and to sort it into at least the minor, medium, or major categories. If its from a source that isn’t necessarily connected or completely unassociated (an Ulfen item in a Mwangi village for instance) feel free to consider it at least uncommon, but some items could easily be rare (available only 10% of the time), or even unique!
So how do you curtail a Player scouring through their entire library, or the d20pfsrd.com, for just the right item to thwart your BBEGs weakness or to shore up a weakness of their own? Well here’s where you can try to detach the player from the straight game mechanics and make them think as their character would. Would a rough and tumble brawler from the docks who grew up poor with no formal education know about the hand wraps of holy fire the ascetic monks that live on the other side of the sea wear? Maybe with enough ranks in the appropriate Knowledge skill. For common items appropriate to your campaign a typical adventurer who is a cut above the average person after all should have at least a shot at making a successful Knowledge check.
DC 10 is appropriate for any common spell that can be made into potions or wands (at most 3rd or 4th level respectively) or any lesser minor items that fall into the Arms and Armor, Rings, or Wondrous Items categories.
Beyond that a PC will need to not only make more difficult Knowledge skill checks, but they may even have to do research. This is a great way to teach them that paying attention to the details of the campaign world is important! Did they save a burning library or perhaps get the cart of a traveling merchant unstuck from the mud? NPCs can provide Boons by assisting in making skill checks the PCs don’t have access to, provide clues to where such items might be found, or even brokering the deal and retrieving the item for the PC while they continue adventuring!
In order to do this the PC must take the initiative and figure out how their character would interact with their fellow party members who can make checks for them and NPCs or other in-game resources to provide a short narrative on how they discovered the item they want and how they are going about tracking it down. Its up to them to determine the best Knowledge skill and PC/NPC/in-game resource to use. In between sessions they relate their narrative for you to determine the DC of the skill checks needed and the availability the given item. Then you can allow them to make the rolls out-of-game or at the beginning of a session.
So in our above example the dockside brawler is looking for something to make his unarmed strikes more effective against a Water Yai Oni that’s been terrorizing the fisherfolk near a sacred islet along the coast. The party bard having identified the weakness of the Oni with a Knowledge (planes) asks the cleric for items that do fire or holy damage. The cleric makes a Knowledge (religion) check and identifies the hand wraps of holy fire of the distant monks. Earlier in the campaign the brawler and the party recovered some cargo from the local thieves guild for a ships captain who frequents their port from a city across the sea. The PCs then ask 1) is the captain in port, 2) does he have the item for sale, or 3) can he retrieve the item?
The GM now determines if the item is appropriate (common, uncommon, rare, or unique), the chance the captain is in port and has the item for sale (availability), and the DCs of the Knowledge checks involved. Everyone makes their rolls and go from there.
The GM could also use this opportunity to deliver a side trek to the party. Say the captain doesn’t have the item but could retrieve it but needs an important passenger (an investor in his ship) entertained and protected in the city while he fetches the item for them.
So given the various categories what do you think are appropriate DCs are for items beyond common and lesser minor?