DM Advice on dealing with PCs buying/selling magic items





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  1. #1

    DM Advice on dealing with PCs buying/selling magic items

    This has been an ongoing issue for me when I DM and I was wondering how others handled it when they are DM-ing.

    Whenever the party finds treasure, some of the players immediately jump into what I call "bean-counter" mode. They start calculating the GP value of the items and figuring out what they can sell them for as well as what they might buy with the porfits (new magic items, etc.). Almost never do they actually want to keep the magic items for themselves; preferring the idea of getting items "custom made" or buying standard items from the DMG which they would prefer.

    Now, I like how 3e has provided more detailed rules and prices on items than some other systems and versions of DnD, but a couple of my players are taking this further than I'm really comfortable with. They use the DMG like a "Kelley's Blue Book" for magic items and try and figure out to the copper exactly what their loot is worth and what they can afford to buy. When I tell them what they can sell an item for, and that their characters don't HAVE a DMG price list to go by, etc.; they constantly try to talk me up on the price. They also are always "hustling" for any price break or advantage they can get in buying items, etc.

    If they would do these in game and in character, I wouldn't really mind; but it's always a flurry of between session phone calls & emails trying to get the "bookkeeping" out of the way before the next game (a motivation I applaud). The problem is they aren't willing to play out the transactions and use their character skills in a session for it and they don't like to just accept my rulings and cope when handling it "offline."

    *sigh*

    Sorry to babble on about this. I'm venting a bit. The players involved are friends whom I've gamed with a long time (decades!), but their bean-counting sucks a lot of the fun out of the game for me because:
    1) it strains the credibility of the game world to have them be so "cut & dried" re: magicand
    2) it stresses me out to have to constantly have to "hold the line" on them pressing for the advantage out of game.

    I swear they take turns calling me to "wear me down" etc.

    </rant>

    I know, I know, "Talk to your players and explain it to them. It's your game." etc. That's true, and I will talk to them. What I'm really wondering for you guys (and gals) is how you handle magic item values and buying/selling in your game? Is this kind of thing ever a problem for you? What do you find works for you?


    Thanks.
    "Green Explosions? People flying in and out? That was NOT real and I wanna talk to the cops!" -Jack Burton, BTLC

 

  • #2
    Mostly OOC (out-of-character), because haggling at the market isn't our idea of fun. On the other hand, the only things to be bought and sold so far are relatively minor items.

    I allow purchase of minor expendable magic items (potions and scrolls) more or less freely - whether it's through a wizard's guild, a local temple, etc. (My players, being without a cleric, are almost single-handedly keeping the local temple of the Merchant God in business.)

    Bigger stuff will take time to find a buyer/seller, and of course the size of the city comes into account. I usually figure on twice the amount of time it would take to craft such an item, and use Gather Info rolls (modified by the city size) to speed it up or get a better price. Rolls may be repeated more often based on the amount of travel passing through the city - you're more likely to finda buyer in a port town, simply because more people pass through there.

    J

  • #3
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    My concept requires them to use a broker. Something like a art dealer. He can find most of the lesser stuff easily but as the price goes but so does the time (also increasing the cost) to locate something similar or to find someone to make the item. I also require them to use in character terms like a sword that uses sound or vibrations to damage's target or a cloak that makes it harder for magic to affect the character along with necessary game terms just for fairness.
    Garmorn


  • #4
    Here's what I use. It varies on the level of items that is in questions

    - Scrolls and potions are available in all but the smallest villages. In a small town there may not be much variety, but you can almost always get healing potions.

    - In a larger town, you can get items up to the GP in value. However, that does NOT mean that they are sitting on a shelf ready to be picked up! For one, this is far too expensive a proposition for the shopkeeper. Two, it makes theft too tempting, no matter how good his guards are.

    So, that means virtually all bought items are commissioned. THis takes time, something the characters seldom have an abundance of.

    Getting the most powerful items commissioned is all but impossible. The reason is that anyone who could make such an item is either retired or doing something more interesting or profitable than making toys for adventurers. Such as advising the king or researching the planes.

    So getting a powerful item (sword over +5 total, staves, some rings) will involve either hunting down a lost one with a sage, convining a high level mage to do it for you (best of luck) or finding a seller. This would work through a broker, the same type of person that would arrange buying and selling of rare art.

    From the problems you post, you may be giving them too much down time. My players are generally loathe to take even a week off. THey too prefer custom items, but more generally will use what they have, then barter with it when they have time to get something custom made. It isn't uncommon to pay to have something made, with the arrangement that the adventurer will be back to pick it up when its done (after the next adventure).

    Oh, and if while they are gone the BBEG takes over the town and steals the magic item the character paid for, it will really tick them off .
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  • #5
    From the problems you post, you may be giving them too much down time. My players are generally loathe to take even a week off. THey too prefer custom items, but more generally will use what they have, then barter with it when they have time to get something custom made. It isn't uncommon to pay to have something made, with the arrangement that the adventurer will be back to pick it up when its done (after the next adventure).
    :rolleyes: My problem is getting these guys to STOP with the downtime!

    They get halfway through a dungeon then decide "We've got enough stuff to sell for now!" Then they hoof it back to the nearest large town and are willing to sit for weeks to get upgraded gear. Then go back and finish the dungeon. I've messed with them occasionally by putting them on deadlines, but as often as not, they ignore them.

    Example: in the current adventure they were tracking some orcs who had kidnapped some peasants. They got to the cave where the gang (run by an orc Sorcerer, an elf Wizard & a human Ftr/Rog) was based, fought through all the junk and killed the BG's. In the final room was a portal humming with magic, etc. etc. One of the players figures -not unreasonably- that the prisoners were already shoved through the portal for some foul purpose.

    Now, what would most people assume? That the party would go through and try to rescue them, right?

    Wrong.

    "Heck, those peasants are probably already dead! Let's take this swag back to town and get geared up and come back. I'm sure we can re-open the gate later, somehow!"

    oy!

    I know I could penalize them in XP for being less than Good alignment-wise (All-Good group with a LG monk in party), but that won't motivate them to change, just to push to get more combat XP to compensate. Also, I don't want to "Plot Hammer" them.
    "Green Explosions? People flying in and out? That was NOT real and I wanna talk to the cops!" -Jack Burton, BTLC

  • #6
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    Wow... this problem sounds exactly like the one I have sometimes, though not as extreme... *waits for the masses to reply*


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  • #7
    Any magic Item a party sells should be lucky to bring half the price the DMG has listed, unless it is very rare or powerful. I would also disallow any down time bartering, that is something that needs to be done in character. The first offer any merchant who deals in magic items will probably be only a fraction of the actual value and should be negociated from there. They should never get full price for anything, how would the merchant make any money reselling it if he bought it for full price. I'd also make them play their stats and skills too, a Barbarian with a 10 charisma and no appraise would have no clue what something is worth or how to go about haggling with a merchant to get a good price. (he might be able to do it but he wouldn't be very good at it at all.) If a item isn't appraised then the characters don't have a clue to what it is worth. Also I wouldn't let them know what they have found, if they have found a sword that shows up to detect magic then they really don't know much about it except that it is magical. To find out they either have to test it or cast Identify (which has a 100gp spell component). Testing a magic item can be quite tricky (how do you test a ring of feather falling unless you jump off of something? what happens if you are wrong about it being a ring of feather falling?) The more they have to struggle to figure out what they have the more magic items will have meaning. Another way to go about it is to have merchants who are willing to trade items but don't want to buy them (most merchants just wouldn't have the gold on hand to by the majority of the items in the book). That way you can still control what items they get. It is also a bad idea to let PC's look through any book but the players handbook during gameplay.

    As far as buying magic items is concerned, the best way to go about that is to make the vast majority of the magic Items custom made, that way they can either purchase what a merchant has on hand (giving you control over what they can buy) or they have to have the item created. Make Item creation take enough time that it isn't convienent, if it takes 3 months to have a +2 sword made then they might figure they are better off keeping the items that they find. Having the wizard backlogged with orders can drag things out for months, and if they want their item done as a rush job or moved to the top of the list, well that will take even more money beyond the listed cost ("you want it now? that will cost you double.") Most magic items have a exp point cost associated with making them too, a high level wizard probably has plenty of gold, so it is probabaly not worth his time or effort to make something for somebody else for the cost listed in the book. That gives you the oportunity to have the wizard barter for services on top of the gold payment, which is a excellent adventure hook ("you want me to make you a sword, and I want this spell component, when you show up with my Red Dragon's toungue I'll start work on your sword.") I would also just mark off alot of items as not being able to purchase reguardless of where they are or how much gold they have, nobody in their right mind is going to sell off a Rod of Lordly Might or a Staff of Power or any magic items of similar power or value. Finding somebody to make you a Rod of Lordly Might should be a whole adventure in itself, it could take years. Likewise finding somebody to buy a Rod of Lordly Might from your characters should be nearly impossible unless they only want a fraction of it's value.

  • #8
    Originally posted by kengar


    :rolleyes: My problem is getting these guys to STOP with the downtime!

    They get halfway through a dungeon then decide "We've got enough stuff to sell for now!" Then they hoof it back to the nearest large town and are willing to sit for weeks to get upgraded gear. Then go back and finish the dungeon. I've messed with them occasionally by putting them on deadlines, but as often as not, they ignore them.

    Example: in the current adventure they were tracking some orcs who had kidnapped some peasants. They got to the cave where the gang (run by an orc Sorcerer, an elf Wizard & a human Ftr/Rog) was based, fought through all the junk and killed the BG's. In the final room was a portal humming with magic, etc. etc. One of the players figures -not unreasonably- that the prisoners were already shoved through the portal for some foul purpose.

    Now, what would most people assume? That the party would go through and try to rescue them, right?

    Wrong.

    "Heck, those peasants are probably already dead! Let's take this swag back to town and get geared up and come back. I'm sure we can re-open the gate later, somehow!"

    oy!

    I know I could penalize them in XP for being less than Good alignment-wise (All-Good group with a LG monk in party), but that won't motivate them to change, just to push to get more combat XP to compensate. Also, I don't want to "Plot Hammer" them.
    In that situation I would be forced into making them check their alignment or possibly forcing a change of alignment, if you are more worried about treasure than compleating your goal or rescuing the peasants you came to save, then you are going to have a hard time convincing me that you are a Lawful Good monk (a alignment change could take away his monk special abilities). I would never penalize them experience, but there would definatly be repercussions (if they came back to town without even recovering the bodies, moreless rescueing the peasants, I would think they would be less than welcome at the very least. Being pelted with rotten vegtables and finding out that nobody in the town will sell them anything or let them rent a room wouldn't be that unreasonable, they didn't prove to be that trustworthy or heroic, just greedy.)
    Last edited by jdavis; Monday, 9th December, 2002 at 05:45 PM.

  • #9
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    A few comments.

    It gets complex...

    Cure potions are almost always available, depending upon the level of the local church priest. And then they have to deal with that specific church. Sometimes the PCs decide they don't need curing potions that badly when they have to buy them from the Church of the Plaugebearer, or the Gatekeeper ( death god ).

    Scrolls are available, if there is an arcanist in town, usually only low level scrolls, and then never scrolls of damage-dealing spells unless they are members of that particular wizard's guild.

    More permanent magic items are only available in major towns, and only when dealing with the Wizard's school, or a church that deals with magic item creation, like a Mystra analog.

    But the guild will almost always buy magic items, so the party can always offload their loot for cash. I have no problem with this due to a feat from the Netbook of Feats which allows an artificer to destroy magic items in order to drain the energies out for crafting new items and thus save themselves some exp ( lifeforce ).



    The PCs leaving a dungeon to go sell stuff, wait to get re-equipped, and come back to finish up is the perfect time to introduce a rival team of adventurers. Have the PCs come back to the dungeon to find it stripped bare. The other adventurers heard of the PCs taking a crack at it, and coming back early with loot. So the rivals went in and cleaned out the dungeon, taking all the credit for resolving the threat and getting the best of the loot to show for it.
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  • #10
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    Well, first off, how do they know what their magic items do? Are they casting analyze dweomer all the time? Cuz identify only tells you the least powerful property or spell involved in making the item. The group may well get far less than an item's worth if they're basing their sale price off identify spells.

    Secondly, they have to find buyers for the stuff they want to sell and sellers for the stuff they want to buy. They'll prolly get about half the market price for the stuff they sell; and they may need to pay more than market price for stuff they have to buy (either because the owner's reluctant to sell it or they're commissioning the valuable time and energy of a high-level caster to make it).
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