New GM question on handling location of magical equipment in town

Pathfinder First Edition General Discussion

My group is new and we have just started playing the Rise of the Runelords AP. In the book it describes Sandpoint in great detail with the 40+ shops and places of interest in the town. The town marketplace is describe as having 3d4 minor and 1d6 medium items. I understand this to mean that this is a randomly generated list of magical items that are available in the town.

I used one of many online random generators to create a list of magical equipment that's for sale in the town... but now what? I see magic shop, potion shop, armory, tannery, etc. Am I expected to sprinkle the list amongst the various shops? Is this all or should there be common items like cure light wounds potions and wands available?

For the sake of clarification, here is the randomly generated list that I came up with.

[25] gp Potion of Guidance
[25] gp Potion of Arcane Mark
[375] gp Divine Scroll of Helping Hand
[750] gp Wand of Bless (50 charges)
[2,282] gp Orc Slaying Arrow
[9,203] gp +3 Light Wooden Shield (Darkwood)
[1,170 gp] +1 heavy steel shield
[2,315 gp] +1 heavy flail
[4,000 gp] bracers of armor (+2)
[5,000 gp] ring of rat fangs

You don't have to pick the items randomly. A wand of bless is almost useless, whereas a wand of CLW is almost absolutely necessary. 0-Level potions are useless -- replace those with level 1 scrolls or potions, and your players may actually buy them.

Helping hand? Eh, could be interesting.

Orc slaying arrow? Are there even any orcs in ROTRL? Change this to something useful. Look at what really tough enemies are coming up at levels when paying 2282g for a one-use item makes sense, and make the arrow keyed to that type of creature.

Light wooden shield and heavy steel shield -- make sure someone in the party actually uses shields, or this is useless. If no one does, make these armor instead.

flail -- again, if someone uses this kind of weapon, great. Otherwise, useless. Make this the weapon of choice for one of your primary damage dealers. E.g. if you have a greatsword-wielding fighter, make it a greatsword or a similar two-handed weapon. (If he's taken Weapon Focus as one of his initial feats, make it that weapon.) If they're not weapon-specific, feel free to mix it up a bit. If your barbarian uses a battleaxe, feel free to put a falchion in there instead or something.

Bracers of armor: assuming you have a party member who would use these, great. If you don't have a monk or an armor-less spellcaster, though, these may be useless.

In addition, I assume that the basics are available in any reasonably-sized community. You can buy a reasonable number of CLW potions or scrolls at all times, for instance.

Thanks for the suggestion about tailoring the list to their current characters and needs, that is a good idea. I can change the orc to an Orge perhaps.

Do you have any suggestions about low level potions, wands and scrolls that would be available outside of this list other than cure light wounds?

Liberty's Edge

What you SHOULD consider is how likely the magic items will be for sale in the area. It's OK to have an arrow of Orc Slaying available for purchase in an area where there are few to no orcs, but the cost should be quite a bit less.

It is also ok to have magic items that the characters may not be interested in. After all, the world is made up of many more people than just the PCs.

If you are going to use a random generator, I do agree that it is a good idea to adjust the results a bit if after several 'rolls' there is nothing the PC might be interested in.

Paladin's assessment of the items is valid.

However, neither the entire world of Goarion, nor Varisia, nor even Sandpoint, gives a dire rat's tail about whether the items are good for the characters or not.

There are two schools of thought on this:

1. This game exists for the PCs. Therefore the GM MUST make sure that the PCs have everything they want, even if it seems out of place. Have a monk in Sandpoint? Then the shops are loaded with eastern weapons. Have a group that everyone uses 2H weapons? Then the shops all have fancy 2Hers and don't bother to even stock 1H weapons at all. Etc. In this school of thought, the shops would generally carry only the things you think your PCs will want to buy - they probably don't stock anything, even common useful items, unless the items in question are specifically useful to the PCs.

2. The world exists. Millions of people go about their daily lives, including buying inventory for their shops based on what the world needs, regardless of whether the PCs need it at all. If there is a PC who really wants to buy a +1 Large Kukri, well, he probably won't ever find anything like that in the Sandpoint shops because nobody in Sandpoint would ever want one and those shopkeepers are only stocking what they know they can sell to EVERYONE. In this school of thought, the shops would generally carry only the things that are commonly desired throughout the world - they probably don't stock any weird rare items that the general world population wouldn't regularly purchase, but they definitely might and do stock common items that are totally useless to the PCs (and, of course, are also sometimes useful to the PCs as well). And, of course, they'll take prepaid orders to stock up on something a PC wants, but it might take a little while to procure it.

Option 1 is more PC-friendly but Option 2 is far more realistic as a world setting.

Paladin's answer about not having shields, flails, or bracers in the shops is clearly favoring option 1. Fine. He obviously likes that. Other GMs may disagree, suggesting that when the shopkeeper decided to make or purchase that +1 Heavy Steel shield, he was fairly certain he could and would sell it soon and he didn't care if some random strangers wandered into town (the PCs) to buy it, or if he might just sell it to the town guards, or one of the NPCs in town, or maybe he'd ship it off to Magimar and sell it there.

Every goup is different. Pick the style that suits your group.

OK, granted, I tend to adjust items to favor the PCs. But what is more frustrating to a player than, "Here's the magic item shop!" "I want a magic sword" "Magic swords? Sorry, not much call for those, but here's a dust of tracelessness, soul soap, a ki mat, and an apparatus of the crab."

I'm tempted to write a pastiche of the Monty Python cheese shop sketch.

I started RotRL a few weeks back (also a new GM) and have this to add:

You should have a mix of useful and useless items. This helps with immersion and will get your players more interested, especially once you start rotating stock and adding new items to Sandpoint's vendors.

As for the shops and where to put the items, sell them where they make sense. Don't forget, there is also a very long list of mundane items that most every shop keep would have for sale, and probably plenty of CLW potions and scrolls available in addition to your 3d4 minor magic items and 1d6 medium items. Don't forget also that these are more like.. er, guidelines, than actual rules. ;)

As for locations:

Bottled Solutions probably has a number of useful potions and oils

Savah's actually lists in the Sandpoint appendix that she sells a magic crossbow named "Vansaya"

There is a magic shop (can't remember the name off the top of my head) run by a guy with a funny sounding name... that's probably where your PCs would buy their scrolls and wands and sell off their magic items

Das Korvus might not sell magic weapons but he might "know a guy"

The Pillbug probably sells magic potions and healing items (and don't forget about his... er, "side" business)

Basically, it's up to you. Paizo gets you started with RotRL and the NPCs and the town and shops, but it's up to you entirely how you want to populate the items in those shops. The more you GM, hopefully, the more you begin to realize that it is all left to you to decide. At least, this is how it's been for me thus far. I hope this has helped! :D

@DM Blake
I'm very much in school 2. There are several reasons why. But the biggest one is one that hasn't been mentioned yet. There are a lot of cool magic items in the game that are out designed out there. Just like there are a lot of cool rule options. However, just like the rule options, magic item options have opomized options. Someone already mentioned "the standard" magic items. That's why I steer clear of Option 1 school of thought. Just as I discourage optimization.

Why do you need 1 million options of character rules and 1 million possible magic items, if the optimized choice is to never pick 90% of those options. Why wouldn't designers just not publish any of the other fluff? Is it the Magic: The Gathering aspect of game design in that you have to have the WHOLE BOOK to get "access" to those "best" or "standard" options?

So I certainly play by the option 2....mostly. I do not want a party of PCs decked out in the "standard" magic gear by level. I think most players who have played for any length of time have done that and seen that. Let's try something different. There are so many other options out there.

Well another option, which is what I've always used going back to 1E, is little to no magic for sale. Potions are the most available, wands can be bought most times. All other items would only be available if a party was selling one basically. I'd just add it to the treasure out there, and let the party get their magic the old fashioned way, by killing a critter and taking their stuff.

I'm currently running RotRL (finishing up #2), and I've let them buy a few potions and a wand. All my characters have a variety of core and less common items.

Another option, as it were, is to look at the level of local spellcasters, and those in Magnimar, which really isn't all that far away.

For lower level heroes, the magic items they can afford can easily be enchanted in a few days to a week or so. It's entirely possible to have a weird, eccentric collection of magical items in Sandpoint, but still also make it possible for the guy who wants a small, cold iron, +1 kusari-gama to get one.

"I'm sorry, sir. I don't have anything quite like that. However, if you will be in town for a week or so, I'm sure that I can get my hands on one for you. If you'd just put down a deposit of gold coins for it...".

Unless you are changing up the Pathfinder crafting rules, this works for both 'realism' and 'playability'. Just like you might not be able to find the exact model of car you want in the color you want with the options you want, you might have to special order a magic item.

In my version of Sandpoint, Vorvashalli Voon is known for his enthusiasm for eccentric magical items, or magical items with an unusual provenance. Thus, he will usually pay for those 'strange' magical items nobody uses, especially with a good Oratory check to give him a good story. He's also got mercantile contacts in Magnimar, so a PC with some time can often get a specific magic item from him. Savah (at the armory) tends to deal mostly with normal items, but she can often obtain master-crafted items given time, or ones made of special materials. Not only are these useful in and of themselves, it often allows a PC to 'split up' an expensive magical purchase by buying the item first (when gold is scarcer) and paying to have it enchanted later (when the funds are available).

On the other hand, some of the magical items that I have generated aren't at either of those stores. They might be something that another merchant happens to have, or something that a traveller in town is trying to unload, or something that is being hawked at the market in Sandpoint this week. I think having a rotating list of unusual stuff available keeps people interested in Sandpoint, rather than just thinking of it as a place that they 'outgrow' when they go up in level.

Thanks for all the continued input everyone, I appreciate it greatly!

Don't tailor everything to the party there should still be a few things in there that are not just for the party
Especially with items that are race specific as the party will soon learn that if there is a
sword of giant slaying up for sale then they are probably going to fight giants soon
But do be aware of what characters can use as its not much fun if one character can never find anything that they can use

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