DM's Guide Generating Shops

ABOUT A MONTH AGO I had to bury my Grandma, the funeral was lovely and mostly a happy occasion, she lived a long life but the last few years were really tough on her and she was in sever pain all the time, thus death was a blessing.

The entire family hoped in the family truckster and we headed out to the country for a couple of days. This adventure gave me an idea of what characters go through when exploring new towns and villages which they aren’t familiar with.

After a few hours of driving long distance, we finally got into town and we needed to find someplace to eat. I had never been to this little town in a very long time, and since then it has grown into a rather large city, just big enough to not be able to find anything in. I hit the main square, but could only find a Mexican Diner, which wasn’t an option because the 4 year old hasn’t eaten a meal without complaining in 3 years. Somehow I did find a Pizza Hut, and everybody was happy. . . well, except for me cause I hate Pizza Hut, but at least I could eat their plastic food in peace, so it wasn’t a total loss.

How does one go about buying supplies in a new village that you’ve never been in before? Most DM’s are lazy in this regard. They don’t want to play store scenes, which, hey! Unless there is something to do besides buy stuff, it is kind of boring. But, why do some DM’s force players to role-play this stuff? Easy, they do it to restrict what a player can and cannot buy, and to set different prices then those listed in the Players Handbook (PHB).

WHICH WAY TO THE MARKET?

A character’s first, and basic impulse, once arriving into town is to get his basic needs met, especially if this is a long trip! He’ll first probably find an Inn, preferably with food that isn’t in any shape or form related to hardtack and isn’t dried and salted to the point were it is a mystery as to what the original thing was twenty years ago when it was first made. After this, it is time to get supplies. . . but where?

Most villages are set up all the same. They have a main square and a main road through town. Most of your needed stores will be right on the square or on the main road, of course the drawback to using them is that they are expensive, typically 2x the price listed in the PHB. To find the better deals, you have to leave the main street and go where the locals shop, of course for these stores, supplies are limited but the prices are more reasonable. To get this information, all you have to do is ask around, and they might tell you about it . . . or they might not because maybe their cousin owns the General Store on the main strip, thus the Innkeeper really wants you to shop there.

WHO SELLS WHAT?

Depending on the size of the town, and their main export, the equipment and services lists are all going to be different. A mining town, for example, will sell items which miners need, but probably very little else. If the town is large enough to have a militia, then you might be able to find arms and equipment which they use for sale, as well as simple swords and other items which commoners use for self-defense, but other then that, that is it! They may not even have a full-time armor or weapon-smith, and all of these items are shipped in. Weapons may not even be allowed within the town walls, and must be checked into the local authorizes, who knows!

The biggest factor in all of this is that nothing is mass produced. Work was very specialized back in the day. A Cooper didn’t do anything but make barrels and he needed to buy his supplies from a blacksmith that only made metal rings for barrel-making, and has wood specially made for him to construct the barrels. Everything was done this way, so take a look around the PHB and figure out how much time went into making the product, something as specialized as a Magnifying Glass are just beyond the means of your average glass-blower who is only specialized enough to blow bottles. Much of the equipment list can be found everywhere, but some items can only be found in large cities.

A good rule of thumb is to just take a look at the towns position on a map. Is it next to a lake or a river? If so then their mode of transport is probably mostly boats, thus they don’t have much for horses and you can’t get them bartered there. Is the town just outside of a massive forest? Well, hunting is probably their main pursuit and you’ll find lots of items which will help you with this, but no farming equipment since there isn’t any farmland, which will also effect the prices of produce. Location is key to figuring this stuff out, so be creative!

EQUIPMENT LISTS

If the party is going to spend a lot of time there, you can write up a detailed equipment list for everything which can be purchased in the town, and give it to the players. Items not on the list can usually be special ordered . . . well, within reason. Naturally a full-plate armor suit isn’t going to magically be shipped to your character, but a shop owner can order a jar of fine ink for spell-casters, granted the cost will be higher as you might be charged extra for the cost of shipping the item, but not always. It will take about a month before the ink is in, but I guess that it really depends upon how far away the town is from a major port or city. If it is just a couple of days out, then it will take just a couple of days for the clerk to get the ink.

Naturally, the easiest way to handle this situation if the adventures are just going through town is to sit there with a PHB and let the characters ask permission to buy the things that they need, while you dictate its availability and the cost if it is different from the equipment list price. But, if this store is a regular store for your adventurers to haunt, then you might want to create some store lists for them.

AK-MEE’S GENERAL

Backpack 2gp
Barrel, small 2gp
Basket, Large: 3sp
Bucket: 5sp
Heavy Chain (per ft.): 4gp
Chest, Large: 2gp
Chest, Small: 1gp
Candle: 1cp
Canvas (per sq. yard) 4sp
Chalk: 1cp
Flint & Steel: 5sp
Iron pot: 5sp
Ladder, 10 ft.: 1gp
Hooded Lantern: 7gp
Lock, Poor: 20gp
Map case: 8sp
Lamp Oil (per flask): 12sp
Rope, Hemp (per 50’): 1gp
Sack, Large: 2sp
Signal whistle: 8gp
Soap (per lb.) 5sp
Torch: 1cp
Whetstone: 2cp
Wineskin: 8sp
Winter blanket: 5sp
Helmet, Basinet: 8gp

Tools for Mining: 8sp-5gp
Hand crossbow (1): 250gp
Hand axe: 1gp
Knife: 5cp
Dagger: 1gp
Short sword: 20gp
Bastard Sword (5): 50gp
Long Sword (1): 30
Whip: 1sp


Now this is a typical list for a shop located in a mining town, notice the numbers in parenthesis? This means that it is a limited quantity, it looks like somebody at sometime ordered a hand crossbow, but either died or left town and never picked it up and the store-keeper has lowered the price on it. Other items cost double of what they normally would, but since this is the only store in town, and not many people buy these items, this has effected the price that he himself pays for them. For the most part, anything that the miners need is cheap, but the few adventurers goods cost you a little bit more.

These lists aren’t as painful to make as you might think. If you got more time on your hands then sense, you could generate some random lists separated by size of the town, and use these to determine what a village or shire has available at that point.

A DIFFERENT METHOD
Another method, which requires even less prep and works really well in large cities, is to have common shops on the strip always charge double, or triple the amounts listed, and if a player wants to look around town to see if he can’t find a cheaper seller, figure out the chances of him locating a different store and check the roll with a percentile dice to find out if he was successful or not. The logic behind this is that it is always easy to find whatever it is that you wish to buy in a new city, but it is really hard to find it at a reasonable cost! Of course you’ll probably think up some modifiers to improve a characters chances, the longer that he stays in the city and explores, the better his chances are of discovering a nice little market. Of course once he finds a cheap place, he’ll probably want to go back there, if this is the case, remember to make it specialized an item type. Weaponsmiths don’t usually make bows and arrows, however they do make arrowheads! And can sometimes tell a buyer where he can go to find a fletcher.

RETAIL NPCS

Usually these folks can be ignored, but under some circumstances, this can be very very important. Situations such as a soldier adventuring deep in enemy territory, or adventurers of a different race then the clerk . . . or maybe the same race which might get the clerk to cut you a better deal! If a NPC reaction could stand to be checked, then go ahead and do it.

A shopkeeper can be a great source for adventure leads, once the players grasp this, they might return and form a relationship with a specific shopkeeper. We need to keep notes on this guy, thus it is always cool to determine his personality either randomly or what we picture him as being. We should also throw in a bit of character from time to time, weird things which the NPC hates and refuses to carry, or maybe he is of a weird race, such as a goblin who sells stuff dirt cheap, but it’s all low quality. If you want to bring attention to the NPC, then give him a personality which the players will remember, and keep to it. Shopkeepers should be static as possible.

BONUS LINK: Trade in the Game World a Classic article from 4/8/08

ART BY: Walter Velez

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