Open For Business

A good DM encourages a player to have more goals then just to survive and obtain another level. Role-playing is more then just combat, and characters probably do have some sort of plan for themselves that are more long-term then just adventuring. Adventuring, after all, is for the young. If one wants to be secure then they will probably have a dream beyond adventuring. Some source of income which won’t require him risking his neck. Maybe he wants a family, or own a private business, who knows! A hobby discovered during his youth, can become a profession once he gets older.

Some of this is just role-playing, and there aren’t many rules to aid in this, and I say GOOD! But in regards to owning and operating a business, this is a really good idea! A business can finance more adventures, provide a service for the owner, and help in countless ways which make the game more personal to that player. Say a player wants to buy an inn in the Free City of Greyhawk? Awesome! Or maybe he wins a tavern in a bet? Splendid!

Property is better then treasure in many ways, and makes for an excellent alternative to magical items which can unbalance our campaigns. The problem is that the name of the game is “Dungeons & Dragons” and while finances do factor into our games, we definitely don’t want to be bogged down by junk that ties us down and is boring. I’m sure that somewhere out there there is an accountant who almost got really excited by me even hinting that we’ll introduce a heavy financial structure where we get to determine all of the crap that goes into a business, and to him, I am sorry but that just isn’t my bag either. I want to make it easier, not more difficult.


This is a fantasy game, and while the character is off adventuring he’ll probably have to hire someone to tend the place for him, he’ll need an accountant to manage his affairs. Depending on the product, he’ll either have to have the product made, else have someone manage merchants to bring the product in to him. All of this needs money, and the best way to handle this is determining how much stock he wants to start with for the first month and multiply it by 3. This is the initial cost of starting a brand new business. How we go about doing this is anybodies guess! We can just claim that a business is 1,000-10,000gp until the thing has the potential to make money (after 3 months it will, because we said so).

Once we’ve established the place, every month we’ll see how business is by checking a dice chart. Now this is mine, and you can make your own if you want something more crunchy and advanced, but for me, I like things to be as easy and simple as I can get them.

ROLL 1d20
Business is booming! (+ 1,000-10,000)
3-7 Business is good (+ 300-1,800)
8-11 Business is average (+ 100-400)
12-15 Breaking even (no change)
16-18 Minor setback (- 300-1,800)
19-20 Major setback (- 1,000-10,000)

Now, depending on the business, the money up or down can mean different things. A cheap business like a tavern or that offers some cheap service will deal mostly with Copper Pieces, while an inn or shop would deal in Silver. Big business such as selling arms, horses, or armor will use Gold Pieces.

This table can also be used for farmed property, but will be checked once for each growing season (normally 2 or 3) and will use the numbers given as Electrum.

A + signals that money is made, a – means that the owner will have to pay this amount by the end of the month, failure to do so will require all employees to make morale checks, failure indicates that they quit. The longest a business can go in the minus is 3 months, at this point, else all of his employees will quit, and the owner may lose his business, or be arrested. If the owner stops adventuring and focuses completely on his business, this will effect the business by his reaction adjust, improving his odds of making money that month.

The numbers include all cost of operations being covered as well as restocking new products and paying the proper taxes.

The DM can just determine the exact number made/lost, or change the value as he sees fit to make it more logical, and it should be compatible with his money system.


The table above assumes that the business will be operated in the city, however if it is in a tiny hamlet, the table will have to be altered, you won’t be handling that much product. The best you’ll do is keep even, and the worst that you’ll do is have a minor setback which might cost you at most 100-400 coin. A village of pretty good size might qualify you to make some money (Business is good), but you run the risk loosing more money too (Minor setback)

Logic is your best friend here. If business is good we should think of a reason why it is so good, and if it is bad, especially if it is a major setback, we’ll have to determine why and have the adventurer either investigate it personally, or hire adventurers to do so for him.


An owner is expected to check in periodically, banks do not exist in this game and the money is never transferable to different accounts. In order to collect money earned one needs to contact his accountant or whoever is in charge of money going in and out. An adventurer who does this himself is no longer an adventurer as this is a full time profession. Hiring a manager is necessary while the owner focuses on other things.


There are always exceptions to the rules, aren’t there. The exceptions for businesses is namely those centered around Armor and Arms. If the owner contracts a superbly made weapon, he must still pay for the materials himself, but for standard equipment, he can just take what he has at any time.

Armor is the same way, however there is one big exception to the rule called “Full Plate” Plate is extremely hard to produce. An armorer must have all of the material for it, the exact cost of this material is the cost in the PHB for Full Plate, at that time the armor must get the measurements for the person who is going to be armored and do his best to keep everything aligned. The armorer must make a successful armorer’s check, failure indicates that the armor is worthless and all of the resources used to build it are destroyed. This is a very risky business! Armorers always expect payment up front, and success is never guaranteed.


Strongholds, while technically a business, have their own rules which thankfully have been thoroughly documented. This system isn’t meant to apply to barracks, forts, churches, thieves guilds, or anything else which a PC can manage himself.

I hope that this helps, and, as always, I am interested in how you DM’s out there have handled this kind of situation when it comes up. I know that many of you fine folks out there consider me an expensive DM, while others think that I’m too cheap; to each their own, but if you’ve got some ideas on the subject, then I’d love to read them!


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