How do you do shopping in your game?


Advice


Righto, so my party has been becoming stronger and stronger (As expected in a game wherein you level up.) and after a particularly long string of combat related sessions, they have come into quite a large pile of loot. I've always been rather lenient on the buying items, to a fault really... Everything was made available to them, as long as they were in the large enough town for me to justify it. This, as you could imagine, has lead to my players being able to get their 'Dream build' without taking any crafting feats. With the amount of spending gold they now have, I decided to review the rules for purchasing items. It feels rather brutal and I was just curious on how other GMs handle this? Do the rules work for you? And has anyone else taken my approach and found their party becomes absolute powerhouses?


I'm pretty lax.

I roughly follow the settlement wealth guide (it's much easier to find a vorpal sword in a city with over 100,000 population than it is in a village with 40 people).

When the PC wants a common basic item (ring of protection, magic sword, etc.), I assume those are probably available in a settlement of sufficient size. But when they want something rare or even unique, then I assume those are hard to find, maybe unavailable, even in the largest city. The rarer the item, the lower the chance. The more costly the item, the lower the chance. The larger the settlement, the higher the chance.

I have no formula for this. I just make a quick decision and pick a number from 0 to 100. Well, I assume that nothing is 100 percent available, not even a +1 Ring of Protection or a Handy Haversack or even a wand of Cure Light Wounds, so maybe about 99% but very few items are more probable than 90%.

It's all gut feeling, and practice.

For this, I always have them make a luck roll on d%. Low is bad, high is good. If I determine that a +2 longsword is 80% likely to be available for sale in this city, then they find it on a 21-00 or they fail to find it on a 01-20. In the same city, a +3 dancing giantbane khopesh might only have a 1% chance. Heck, maybe 0.

If I'm feeling generous, I might let them add Diplomacy to their roll, but usually only in really huge cities where the ability to ask around and get directions might make a difference (it wouldn't matter in a small village with only one person selling magic items).

Also, if they fail to find the item but came close, say, within 10%, then they might find somebody to make the item. Sometimes, if I'm feeling a bit contrary*, I might reverse that and have them only find a willing craftsman if the beat the roll but only by 10% or less.

Sounds complicated, but it's really much easier than it sounds.

* by "contrary" I generally mean that I'm very willing to let players find whatever they want for average characters or fun characters, but I'm often much harder on those characters that are over-optimized and feel more like the player built them to "win" the game rather than play it - for characters such as this I often make it harder for them to find things that only make them even more optimized and/or campaign-breaking.

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Honestly, I always found the greater headache to be in managing the distribution of loot/treasure rather than in providing a challenge, so I'd personally lean toward making the shopping easy and then judge whether any adjustment is needed in encounter design.

Since Pathfinder treats wealth as a character progression mechanic every bit as much as XP/levels, having certain items randomly not be available (as per the Settlement rules) seems equivalent to having to roll to determine the availability of the feat or spell or class level you wanted to take. Not a fan of that.

Of course, I'm not a fan of wealth as character progression as a concept, but that'd be a little off-topic. :)


DM_Blake wrote:

I'm pretty lax.

I roughly follow the settlement wealth guide (it's much easier to find a vorpal sword in a city with over 100,000 population than it is in a village with 40 people).

When the PC wants a common basic item (ring of protection, magic sword, etc.), I assume those are probably available in a settlement of sufficient size. But when they want something rare or even unique, then I assume those are hard to find, maybe unavailable, even in the largest city. The rarer the item, the lower the chance. The more costly the item, the lower the chance. The larger the settlement, the higher the chance.

I have no formula for this. I just make a quick decision and pick a number from 0 to 100. Well, I assume that nothing is 100 percent available, not even a +1 Ring of Protection or a Handy Haversack or even a wand of Cure Light Wounds, so maybe about 99% but very few items are more probable than 90%.

It's all gut feeling, and practice.

For this, I always have them make a luck roll on d%. Low is bad, high is good. If I determine that a +2 longsword is 80% likely to be available for sale in this city, then they find it on a 21-00 or they fail to find it on a 01-20. In the same city, a +3 dancing giantbane khopesh might only have a 1% chance. Heck, maybe 0.

If I'm feeling generous, I might let them add Diplomacy to their roll, but usually only in really huge cities where the ability to ask around and get directions might make a difference (it wouldn't matter in a small village with only one person selling magic items).

Also, if they fail to find the item but came close, say, within 10%, then they might find somebody to make the item. Sometimes, if I'm feeling a bit contrary*, I might reverse that and have them only find a willing craftsman if the beat the roll but only by 10% or less.

Sounds complicated, but it's really much easier than it sounds.

* by "contrary" I generally mean that I'm very willing to let players find whatever they want for average characters or fun characters, but I'm...

Thanks Blake, that seems to be a good middle ground to keep it enjoyable and manageable at the same time.

I have players that have gone for more of the numbers side of the game, it is how they enjoy to play and most of them still offer up excellent roleplay, so I'm not too terribly fussed about that... In saying that however, it is the reason I have opted to do some more research on item acquisition- In changing it up, my hope is to bring them back down to the roleplay side of the game.


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I normally just assume that pretty much anything a player wants is available subject to veto by me. I don't like relying on random rolls. It slows things down and doesn't really help me run the game.

It also either removes any semblance of control from the game that I have as GM, as an example: I roll on a random item table and an item comes up that I think is wrong for the game comes up and I let it in anyway because rolled for it and bad things happen. Or it's not really random - as an example: If an item that I don't think is right for this game comes up on the random table and I don't allow it, why roll in the first place? - yes, I have seen GMs do this, "no, you can't have that *re-roll* nor that *re-roll* ok, you find a tree token".)

It's much better to just make a decision and say "no matter how hard you try you won't find a +3 dancing giantbane khopesh" or "Your contacts have let you know of a merchant from Katapesh has a +3 dancing giantbane khopesh, you can collect it next time you're in Magnimar".

I will also set metagame restrictions, I just let players know the limits (e.g. cloaks of resistance are only available at a + = to level/3) and get on with the story. They can shop in their own time.

I did try a more organic, random items, must travel to specific shops to get certain items etc. and RP some shopping trips in my current Runelords campaign - it lasted until about 3rd level. It's just confirmed that it is not what adventuring is about for me.


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The rules are brutal. Because gear does mean level advantage, and unlimited options equals power overwhelming. A Ring of Regeneration dropped for me at 4th. Behind the screen, after his announcement of his percentile roll, I think I heard a sob. I asked for only one piece of the overall loot and the group let me have my shiny as they scrabbled for the +1 items. It changed the game. The healer no longer had to worry about long-term heals spent on himself, and it allowed me to stay on the front line and be a combat multiplier.

Players are meant to become more powerful, and there would not be so many slots if they were not meant to be filled. If the options are there, and are unfairly denied, then players are being victimized. The DM simply needs bump up the challenges to keep them on their toes and the DM feeling rewarded by having players still struggling, adapting, and evolving instead of cakewalking and trampling their magical realm.

If you try to complicate item buying outside of what is reasonable -make items regional! and if they were regional, keep em that way or charge them an import premium as in real life- the game is going to slow down.

As a DM, I have set time at beginning, end of, or in-between sessions to where we can do inventory management along with help in character development, as I have come to view it. This is not an audit, do not view it that way, but a chance to do fair shopping where it will not detract from the storytelling and everyone else's time spent roleplaying.

With the cash you they have now, if you have an issue with their reach, then you may want to consider how you drop the loot they have access to, but that sounds tyrannical as DM damage control. An in-game robbery or loss of resources is just as unfair unless they were asking for it with their in-game conduct.

I agree with the Veto comment. Sometimes it places a player beyond a DMs ability to cope; be honest to them about it. If they push you beyond your personal limit/capability, the campaign will suffer, and the DM is just as important as the players when it comes to satisfaction from the experience. Let them know that it would make it uncomfortable and unfun for you. This is a hobby, not a job, and a reasonable player would want a DM that is operating within their comfort zone.


I stick with the idea of not permitting any items to be purchased that are worth more than half the wealth per level guidelines. For ease of bookkeeping, I don't change the price for buying and selling items, and seldom use diplomacy for purposes of haggling unless it affects the plot rather than just the cost of an item. I also try not to be too restrictive about item availability so long as it is level appropriate. Usually if they are trying to get something unbalancing I will just tell them they don't know the right people yet to find the item.


I am very lenient when it comes to buying and selling magic items. Right now, I'm GMing an adventure with a group of noobs with 2 experienced players and another group of experienced players who basically sit around all day thinking up character concepts and how to make them real. With the noob group, I'm fairly lenient when it comes to buying magic items and selling because I want them to have fun this first time around. I made it clear to them that in subsequent games, that I would make the buying and selling a little harder once they've learned how to play. For my group of experienced players, I usually go by gut feeling and common sense. Most magic items are incredibly expensive because it is assumed that the players will have loot and money coming in from their adventures. With availability, I get creative. I like to pick specific items, tailored to the party members, and place them in locations based on the size of the town/village/city. I liked how in the Carrion Crown AP "The Haunting of Harrowstone", the background information of the town of Ravengro had special items sprinkled around the town that made certain items available for players to purchase and added, IMHO, a nice flavor to the town. One example, the Ravengro General Store had a suit of Masterwork Full Plate armor on display in their store as more of a decoration than an item for sale. Now, a group of 1st level characters couldn't normally scrape the 1,650 gp to purchase said suit of armor until after they return from Harrowstone and have some loot to liquidate. I might add a small side-adventure of rescuing the General Store's owner's children as a way for the fighter in the party to gains said suit of armor for free and so the party fighter can have some fun RPing.

If a player goes to a general "Mageware Shop" to purchase minor magic items, I may charge them close to market price for those items. I allow a Diplomacy roll to negotiate for a slight discount on purchase price if the player RPs the exchange. This leads to fun "haggling". I go by gut feeling on the DC but the most they could get discounted is usually 10-20%. If a player commissions a magic item or magic weapon or magic armor from a "Mageware Shop", I'll charge them Cost to Craft price with a 1-2 hundred gp tacked on as a "service fee". If the PC has certain affiliations, IE: a cleric commissioning a magic weapon at the church/temple of their deity, they may waive the "service fee" and may knock 1-2 hundred gp off the Cost to Craft for affiliation purposes. Selling magic items, I usually give half price on selling items. If the player rolls a good Diplomacy and RPs the "selling" of the item, IE: Car Salesman Style, I may bump it up to 3/4 price of said item. This has worked well with the noobs and has kept things fun. Medium and Major magic items are more based on location size and level balance. They haven't gotten to crafting magic items yet, but that will be a fun session as well.


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I run pretty low-magic. I use the Unchained inherent bonus rules so the PCs don't need much gear, and I've house-ruled healing kits and the Heal skill to actually be useful for out-of-combat healing so Cleric-In-A-Bottle/On-A-Stick isn't as necessary.

Nobody, anywhere, simply has magic items on shelves in shops. They'd be too tempting a target for thieves, plus 99% of the populace would never even be able to afford a frickin' Potion of Cure Light without saving every spare copper for like a decade. You'd have to get an item custom-crafted, providing half up front then the rest on completion ... assuming the crafter is even willing to make it ("A nine lives stealer? Aw HELL no.")


I use the magic item availability rules in the book. I roll for items outside of the 75% availability threshold.

I have added a houserule wherein items above the 75% threshold can be found at increasingly diminishing percentages.

My player's characters make a fair amount of their magic items, but if they spend too much time crafting they find that the world of events moves on with or without them.

I am concerned about something though. Soon my player's characters are going to want specific expensive items, and depending on random generation for that stuff is infeasible.

I suppose I'll take it as an opportunity to insert those treasures more intimately into the story.


Zhayne wrote:
Nobody, anywhere, simply has magic items on shelves in shops. They'd be too tempting a target for thieves, plus 99% of the populace would never even be able to afford a frickin' Potion of Cure Light without saving every spare copper for like a decade. You'd have to get an item custom-crafted, providing half up front then the rest on completion ... assuming the crafter is even willing to make it ("A nine lives stealer? Aw HELL no.")

I run it much the same, for any settlement of sufficient size. Especially if there's a mage college or major temple of some kind in the area. "Need some wands of cure light wounds? Sure, we can put you on the waiting list and have some of the acolytes make those for you in say, 6 days."


DM_Blake pretty much nailed it.

If you want the focus to be on the story, focus on the story. Making gear hard to find just introduces a challenge that will side-track them till they get what they want.

You control how much wealth they get, THEY control what they do with it.

If someone has their heart set on owning a portable hole, you damn well know they are gonna look for it till they find it.

:D

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Yup. Let them have the shinies and you can indeed focus on the awesome story.

In my Way of the Wicked campaign the party away from civilisation for a LONG time, so I let them bump into a Mercane and do special orders.

(Thanks to kevin_video for that idea)


carborundum wrote:

Yup. Let them have the shinies and you can indeed focus on the awesome story.

In my Way of the Wicked campaign the party away from civilisation for a LONG time, so I let them bump into a Mercane and do special orders.

(Thanks to kevin_video for that idea)

Not bad, I like that.

We usually get access to Teleport so quick that shopping trips often take place at the end of an adventuring day.

"Dungeon crawling is my day job, at the end of a tough work day I like to kick back with my friends and have a pint at my favorite pub." :D


The game already has really clear rules for this. As a GM I follow them and I find that they work great. Items aren't available on demand, but there is a good chance they can be found with enough time and effort. My advice is save yourself and your players the headache of agonizing over this.

I just say that after browsing the market stalls for a while, you roll your percentile die and if it says the item is available you find it for sale. Most of the time it's a dull and pointless exercise to role play going to the shops, unless it's integral to the story.

Gamemastery Guide wrote:

Base Value and Purchase Limit: This section lists the community's base value for available magic items in gp. There is a 75% chance that any item of this value or lower can be found for sale in the community with little effort. If an item is not available, a new check to determine if the item has become available can be made in 1 week. A settlement's purchase limit is the most money a shop in the settlement can spend to purchase any single item from the PCs. If the PCs wish to sell an item worth more than a settlement's purchase limit, they'll either need to settle for a lower price, travel to a larger city, or (with the GM's permission) search for a specific buyer in the city with deeper pockets. A settlement's type sets its purchase limit.

Minor Items/Medium Items/Major Items: This line lists the number of magic items above a settlement's base value that are available for purchase. In some city stat blocks, the actual items are listed in parentheses after the die range of items available—in this case, you can use these pre-rolled resources when the PCs first visit the city as the magic items available for sale on that visit. If the PCs return to that city at a later date, you can roll up new items as you see fit.

Scarab Sages

I just use the Settlements page of the Gamemaster Guide to determine what is available as pointed out above. I do not roleplay or spend time on the shopping. (All I tell them is it is not a "magic shop" with magic on shelves that can be robbed.) I use one of the calculators on the internet to determine what minor /medium items are available, and roll 75% to determine if lesser items are available that they want.

I have the group take 5 days between adventures (they adventure on weekends) and we conduct most of the shopping over email between sessions.

For discounts, factions, etc, i use the rules for Prestige and Fame in Ultimate Campaign. So they can use Prestige Points to purchase a 10% discount in a city for one item per adventure. This makes a nice simple rule since otherwise they want to start making contracts like "we will give you first choice of items for a discount if you give us a discount" etc and I really don't want to deal with that. Plus since it's written down by Paizo they are willing to accept it.

Of course, that means for each module I have to assign fame and prestige, and give them little sub goals, but that actually has helped draw them in more to the RP side of things.


Another piece of advice if you use the Gamemastery Guide rules. I pre-roll what's in the marketplace and available without a roll beforehand as part of my preparation if the PCs are going to be in a city the next session.


Shaun wrote:
Another piece of advice if you use the Gamemastery Guide rules. I pre-roll what's in the marketplace and available without a roll beforehand as part of my preparation if the PCs are going to be in a city the next session.

That seems like so much WORK though... :D


It can be, but the random item tables in the Gamemastery Guide make it pretty easy and quick.


Shaun wrote:
It can be, but the random item tables in the Gamemastery Guide make it pretty easy and quick.

Out of curiosity, do you use treasure from other books at all?

I use an online generator, and take requests from my players (they each have a 'wish list' that I occasionally refer to).

There is a lot of cool stuff outside the GMG, even just the UE has a ton of great new items...

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I use an online generator that includes UE - I figure most other stuff is fairly rare and needs to be sought out.

But in general I use the straight 75% chance to be there if below the base value of the city. I also don't allow infinite rerolling with silly variants of the same item - no checking for a wand with 1 charge less, then 2 charges, and so forth. Pick one and check.

It's already pretty silly that you could have a tiny hamlet of two dozen people and they somehow have more 1st level potions for sale than there are villagers.

Shopping generally already takes long enough without making it a further chore.

Scarab Sages

For my players, shopping is more about selling than buying. There are no "mage shops" because there tend to be a lot fewer mages, and there are very few buyers who can afford fancy magic weapons. HOWEVER:

I am much more lax about crafting magic items. My players know that if they want something specific, their options are either to quest for it (look up legends to try to locate where such an item might be hidden and go after it) or to make it themselves. Sometimes a combination of both (quest for the components and then craft the item). It helps drive the story and gives the PCs something to do with their downtime.

Silver Crusade

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Shopping is done during down time so it is handwaved i.e. You gots the cash, you gots the item. Same thing with crafting you got the feat, you made the item no rolls needed


Back when I was using the item/settlement rules (I currently play E6 with a home brew version of the Unchained inherent bonuses - bye bye magic mart), I found the system unwieldy, especially when it came to the "list" of items a settlement has available above its base value. Generating all those lists of items was a giant pain, especially if a player decided that their character must have a particular item and was willing to halt adventuring and wait.

I ended up turning that item chart into percentages and let players ask for an item and then roll to see if it was in stock that week. It made it difficult (or time consuming) to obtain rare items and I didn't have to roll up countless item lists. I also allowed the players to pay a 10% premium to "special order" an item which showed up in something like 1d4 weeks.

In the end, getting rid of the magic mart entirely and making things like potions and scrolls the only available magic items has solved a multitude of issues.


Low level magic items like a flaming longsword or ring of protection they could pretty much find at any magic shop. Specific items such as The Holy Avenger or a magic item that cost more than 20,000ish gold is something that has to be crafted or found adventuring. I tend to honor request from my players when I'm adding loot to dungeons.


One thing I still haven't figured out is how to generate the number of charges a random wand has. I usually assume any bought wand is fully charged at 50. Any methods for random charge?

For random charges so far I've been doing 1d100/2 but I don't know if there is a better way or more "official" way.


Shaun wrote:
One thing I still haven't figured out is how to generate the number of charges a random wand has. I usually assume any bought wand is fully charged at 50. Any methods for random charge?

Percentile dice/2


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alexd1976 wrote:
Shaun wrote:
One thing I still haven't figured out is how to generate the number of charges a random wand has. I usually assume any bought wand is fully charged at 50. Any methods for random charge?
Percentile dice/2

This works, but I prefer a curve. I don't want the same chance that a used wand has 1, 25, or 49 charges. 1 charge is pretty much worthless (it's basically a stick-shaped scroll). 49 charges seems like it's brand new (doesn't really feel like it's 'used').

So I roll 5d10 which gives me a range from 5-50 with most "used" wands having between 20-35 charges.


Shaun wrote:

One thing I still haven't figured out is how to generate the number of charges a random wand has. I usually assume any bought wand is fully charged at 50. Any methods for random charge?

For random charges so far I've been doing 1d100/2 but I don't know if there is a better way or more "official" way.

Best way is to pick a number - It's quicker, easier and you get to control how many uses you want the party to have. (Have I mentioned I am not a fan of leaving things to random numbers :) )


alexd1976 wrote:

DM_Blake pretty much nailed it.

If you want the focus to be on the story, focus on the story. Making gear hard to find just introduces a challenge that will side-track them till they get what they want.

You control how much wealth they get, THEY control what they do with it.

If someone has their heart set on owning a portable hole, you damn well know they are gonna look for it till they find it.

:D

don't forget the mandatory bag of holding to go with that portable hole

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