How do you determine what spells are available in a settlement?


Scarab Sages

I'm just curious how people determine what actual spells are available in any given settlement. Lets say the settlement has a purchase limit of 1,000, spell casting level 2nd and you have a wizard looking for new first level spells with some gold to buy them. Do you assume they can find a caster willing to sell/teach any 1st level spell, randomly roll a number of spells that will be available, ask the player for a list then roll to determine if they're available?

"There is a 75% chance that any item of that value or lower can be found for sale with little effort in that community. "

Ask what spell he wants, if it's less than the purchase limit of the community, roll percentile, if it's less than 75%, then he can find the spell.

Or, just be a generous GM and say he can find any spell under the purchase limit. (since spells are so cheap)

Generally speaking, unless a spell is problematic unto itself (blood money) I just assume any spell of the appropriate level is available.

Any divine scroll or spell can be made available to a cleric of appropriate level, so I assume it can be gotten even if it takes a few days.

Arcane The 75% rule works for most cases, and I assume any spell in the CRB is available without much effort. The more obscure the rules source or the more esoteric the effect I'll see if the local arcane caster is the type to keep such things around. (It is surprisingly difficult to find a copy of aboleth's lung in a desert town, etc.) And if I personally do not care for the spell, I won't make it available and the player will have to use one of their free 2 per level to get it.

1000 GP limit and 2nd level casting means you're looking at a Hamlet. This is a tiny settlement with no more than 60 people there. Are they going to have both an Arcane AND divine caster in residence? Is the Arcane caster the right kind of caster to sell spells to the PC? What makes sense narratively for your campaign?

For a hard-and-fast mechanic, the 75% chance works but if I have the time and mental faculties I try and answer these three questions. With the themes I put into my homebrews, settlements the size of a village or smaller tend to have only a single spellcaster with a broad range of spells: Bards, NPC Adepts, Shamans or Witches for example. These are folks with healing or curative magic that might also combine a few utilities from Arcane caster lists.

This doesn't always mean the wizard buying spells for their spellbook is out of luck however. There might be other adventurers passing through willing to sell a spell or two from their own books; perhaps the townsfolk have old wizard scrolls or a spellbook to sell that they can't use; maybe there is a crazy hermit living in a tower near the hamlet that is rumored to be a wizard themselves.

A lot of this depends on what spell the player wants his PC to buy. Are they looking for Jump or Magic Missile, staples of these RPGs going back to the late '70's? I'll probably just handwave it. Are the PCs about to go underwater and the PC wants Monkey Fish? That might involve some scrounging around.

This is going to be highly dependent on the type of campaign the GM is running. Looking at what you have said this looks to be a hamlet, which has a population between 21-60 people. In a campaign I run it is unlikely a settlement this small even has a wizard. More likely the town spell caster is going to be a cleric, or a witch. I don’t use adepts in my campaigns, but if I did, they would be another option.

Assuming there is a wizard in the settlement he would be 3rd or 4th level. A 4th level NPCs should have about 2,400 gp is items. Wizards get a spell book for free and the 4th level wizard with an 18 INT will have 13 free spells in their spell book. 4 of those are probably going to be 2nd level spells. That leaves 9 1st level spells. Some of that wealth will be used for magic items like wands and minor items. Spending 25% of the total wealth on spells seems reasonable. The wizard will probably want a couple more 2nd level spells. If he purchases 2 2nd level spells that will leave him with about 220 gp, so he will be able to add around 6 more 1st level spells. That gives him 15 1st level spells.

A wizard living in a small settlement like this is going to make a living selling things people in the settlement need. His spell list will have some combat spells, but they will also include a lot of utility spells. Spells like Ant Haul, Endure Elements and Expeditious Construction will be more useful for that. He will also probably have spells like Mount and Unseen Servant that make his life easier. If the wizard has the feat Brew Potion, he will have a lot of spells that can be made into potions. The chance of the rare village wizard having an obscure spell is fairly low.

In a larger settlement there would be a better chance of a wizard being present and would have more resources so your chance of finding the spell you want would be greater. In my campaigns a town that has a population of at least 1,000 would have a good chance of having a wizard.

This is all based on the way I run my campaigns. In my campaigns Wizards are fairly rare. Divine spell casters are more common than arcane. Sorcerers and Witches are also more common than wizards. Other GM’s will do things differently.

Scarab Sages

The hamlet was just an example as it was what got me thinking about this, could have just as easily been a metropolis and 9th level spells was just wondering how people handle it. Seems like its the percentile roll or thematically appropriate banning.

The random roll for settlements is just for a quick and easy reference for items that could be logically be found in a settlement a settlement. A GM should try to actually have some idea of the make-up and demographics of a settlement at least for logic purposes.

If it's been decided that there are no dogs in a settlement, period (other than ones the PCs bring with them), then it doesn't matter what the price of a dog, a riding dog, or a war dog is. The PCs can't buy one.

It's the same deal with spellcasting services; just finding some to cast a spell for you, let alone spend the time teaching you or letting you copy from their spellbook. If there's no one of that class in the settlement, it's not happening. If there is someone, then are they high enough level to cast that spell? If not, it isn't happening. If they are the right class and high enough level, do they know the specific spell? If not, you can't get it.

It's possible that without such a caster, you could try and find a scroll of the spell (depending on the price and availability of magic items in the settlement). A wizard could then at least copy the spell (after paying appropriate scribing costs).

Otherwise, using the guidelines, you can see the likelihood of classes present in town and their likely level. From that you can determine what spells they might have. Even if they do, you'd still have to determine whether someone would be willing to spend time teaching those spells. At that point, it should become roleplaying and not roll-playing to determine. Not every wizard is willing to let some stranger sit and read through their spellbooks. You might need to call for some Diplomacy rolls or do favors.

man, you guys like to play on hard mode. Buying spells/equipping the party is the boring part of the game. roll some dice, give the characters some stuff and move on to the actual campaign. quit wasting valuable game time on roleplaying out whether I can find a damn spell or not.

Scarab Sages

TxSam88 wrote:
man, you guys like to play on hard mode. Buying spells/equipping the party is the boring part of the game. roll some dice, give the characters some stuff and move on to the actual campaign. quit wasting valuable game time on roleplaying out whether I can find a damn spell or not.

I admit I don't entirely like all spells being available everywhere but the flipside is your not likely to want all spells everywhere. Aboleth's lung may not be available in your average desert settlement but if the PC is looking for it I'd imagine there's a chance someone in that area wanted it for the same reasons the PC does.

My inclination given the feedback here would be ask for a list of spells in the settlements limit e.g. 2nd, 3rd, 9th, etc. Once I have that roll % for it if I roll above 76+ the spell isn't available, if below it is then go from there to develop the reason.

You got a 78 for alarm so its not available here the mongrelmen have always relied more on their training and survival knowledge to alert them than magic so no one know's the spell. You rolled 88 on identify the only person who know's that spell in this desert oasis isn't willing to sell it because identifying the magic items found in the ruins is their main source of income and they don't want competition. You rollled a 47 on unseen servant the local witch see's no harm in teaching you this spell as she only uses it for chores around her home and it can't harm her or threaten her livelihood so she allows you to scribe it from her spellbook under her watchful eye. Pay your money and go on your merry way.

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The settlement has those spells that the GM wants it to have and doesn't have those they don't want to have.

If you use the narrative method, or setting and story have any influence on your choices as GM at all, consider the buildings in your settlement, the reasons for it's qualities. An Insular village with Rumormongering Citizens that sustains itself on agriculture probably isn't going to have a lot of wizards with spells to sell.

On the flipside, what if the town contains a wizard's academy? The secret government manipulating the lord mayor is a cabal of arcanists? The tiny hamlet is Magically Attuned to some Arcane phenomena that materializes every year in the hot springs nearby? All of these and more might mean there's a constant flow of people with spellbooks looking to earn some extra income selling access to their spells.

Senko wrote:

My inclination given the feedback here would be ask for a list of spells in the settlements limit e.g. 2nd, 3rd, 9th, etc. Once I have that roll % for it if I roll above 76+ the spell isn't available, if below it is then go from there to develop the reason.

Our group trusts our players well enough that we let them roll the dice and use the time saved on other things. We only have about 4-5 hours a week to play, we hate wasting upward of an hour determining what spells can be bought.

It’s not a matter of running in hard mode it is a matter of where in the adventure it is. If the players are in down time, I am not going to stress out on them wanting to purchase something as long as the purchase does not create problems for the adventure I have planned. If the adventure is actively taking place, I will have already created the setting and adding in extra NPC’s that I did not pan on can mess things up. When the party is in the hamlet investigating the <insert problem> or resting up after the battle that is during the adventure. In most cases where the party is in downtime they will usually be in at larger more populated area.

Once the adventure starts downtime is over and at this point if the players forgot something that is their problem. Any NPC’s the players meet during the adventure could potentially become involved in the adventure. This includes when they are traveling through an area. I have had plenty of times where my players managed to recruit an NPC to aid them. If there is a 5th level wizard in the hamlet willing to sell the players a spell, why is he not willing to help fight off the orcs that are going to destroy the town?

The general rule of thumb is that we don't do serious shopping unless we're at least in a Small Town, unless we've moved on to a city as the hub of our adventures, in which case, it's gotta be another city.

If we're shopping for something in a Hamlet when low level or desperately looking for something in a Large Town at high level, something's gone wrong and we're in unique, specific situation territory to be handled on a case by case basis.

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