5E "Auction-style" magic shoppes

CapnZapp

Hero
TL;DR: A way to give gold meaning without involving downtime, allowing a 3rd edition playstyle.

Here's an attempt at fixing the lack of a magic item economy in 5th edition, by using the idea that at auctions, the "true" value of an item is less relevant than what the buyers are prepared to give for it.

Essentially, new items are continously introduced at high prices, and then the price drops at some rate until one of three things happen:
1) a player character buys the item at the current price
2) the item reaches the bottom of its price range
3) the item "disappears" (presumably somebody else bought it)

The idea is that if a character is really interested, he or she will buy it at a premium. Other characters will wait for the price to drop, taking the chance somebody else will snap it up before it reaches an acceptable level.

This crucially means the dependency on having objectively correct pricing is lessened, since this concept does not feature at auction.

This idea assumes a fairly self-contained campaign setting, where adventurers can't just cherry pick the items they want by visiting countless magic shoppes. I don't want to go so far as to have a single centralized list, but there should definitely not be more than a couple of shoppes even at the highest tier of play. If your world contains huge metropolises like Waterdeep, that is out of scope for this discussion.

Instead, assuming fairly sandboxy or hexcrawly play, the discovery of a new town with a magic shoppe is meant as a fairly major reward in itself. Say the scope of this idea is a single tier I shoppe, two tier II shoppes, three tier III shoppes and four tier IV shoppes for a grand total of ten shoppes in the entire world.


Let's rate the price on a scale from ten times the listed price down to half the listed price. While I want to keep the math clean and simple, I feel I need an exponential curve for this to feel at all realistic.

And so we'll simply take the Rating squared divided by forty, and apply that as a multiplier to get the Current Asking Price. The CAP can never go below half price, and once it reaches zero the item disappears.

Current Asking Price = List Price * Rating * Rating / 40

If we assume the list price of the quintessential magic item, the +1 Longsword, is 1000 gold pieces, we get the following.

At rating 17, the Asking Price is 7225 gp.
At rating 11, the Asking Price is 3025 gp.
At rating 9, the Asking Price is 2025 gp.
At rating 2, the Asking Price is 500 gp (not 100 gp).

Each "tick", we decrease the Rating for each item by 1d6 and check if the item "disappears".

A "tick" would be each time the party returns to town after having had a meaningful adventure. I'm not saying they need to level up each time, but they can't just loiter around the shoppe to see when the prices go down.

I'm thinking we roll a d20 with advantage to set the starting Price Rating, and we can then roll a d12 with disadvantage to see when it disappears (if the result is higher than the current rating).

Average starting price rating is then 13.8 for a starting Asking Price slightly less than five times the listed amount, which feels about right.

The math of 2d12 keep lowest is quite nice in that half the time, the item will not be removed until it reaches below a rating of 5, where we hit our minimum Asking Price of half the listed price. Very roughly, you need to accept a roughly 50% risk of losing the item if you want to gamble on getting it for half price.

For example: rolling a d20 twice we get 17. This is then our starting Rating for our +1 Longsword. The proprietor asks for 7225 gp when the adventurers show an interest, quite probably making them balk at the exorbitant price.

The next time the adventurers come check the shoppe, we have rolled 6 on a d6 and so the price rating has dropped from 17 to 11, lowering the Asking Price from 7225 gp to 3025 gp.

We roll a d12 twice and take the lowest result: 6. As this is not higher than our rating (11), the item stays in the shoppe.

Had our roll turned up 12 (which isn't exactly likely, since it means both d12s come up 12), the item would not be available for sale when the adventurers return.

On the third visit, we roll a 2 on our d6 and the Rating drops to 9. We check our d12s but the item stays around and now the price is 2025 gp.

Constructive criticism welcome :) Essentially, do you think this will work?

Posts that just want to say how you hate magic item economies are not welcome. I really wish this forum maintained "plus" threads, where posts that question the very premise of the thread are considered off topic.
 

CapnZapp

Hero
Let me create a tiny example Shoppe, by populating its inventory with two random rolls on DMG Magic Item Table B and Table F each.

I'll be using "Sane Magical Prices" for my list prices.

Roll of 29: Potion of Resistance. List Price 300 gp. Starting Rating 20 (rolling 2d20 keep highest)
Roll of 87: Driftglobe. List price 750 gp. Starting Rating 10.
Roll of 28: Bracers of Archery. List price 1500 gp. Starting Rating 16.
Roll of 49: Slippers of Spider climbing. List price 5000 gp. Starting rating 12.

Week 1.

Potion of Resistance, Asking Price: 3000 gp
Driftglobe, Asking Price: 1875 gp
Bracers of Archery, Asking Price: 9600 gp
Slippers of Spider climbing, Asking Price: 18000 gp

Week 2.
Potion of Resistance 20-5=15, still there. Asking Price: 1687,5 gp
Driftglobe 10-4=6, still there (rolling 2d12 keep lowest). Asking Price: 675 gp (lower than list!)
Bracers of Archery 16-3=13, still there. Asking Price: 6337 gp
Slippers of Spider climbing 12-4=8, still there. Asking Price: 8000 gp (a drop by ten thou!)

Week 3.
Potion of Resistance 15-1=14, still there. Asking Price: 1687,5 gp
Driftglobe 6-4=2, gone (lowest d12 shows a 4).
Bracers of Archery 13-5=8, gone (lowest d12 shows a 9)
Slippers of Spider climbing 8-4=4, still there. Asking Price: 2000 gp (lower than list!)

While the Driftglobe really needed to be picked up week 2, the Bracers were a bit unlucky. The Slippers were really worth waiting for, but if you don't pick them up this week, they're gone too.

Obviously, if you're like me, you'd use Excel to make all of this quick and painless :) A proper Shoppe would have enough items to interest all character classes, this was just an example.

Do you think the risk/reward ratio is good enough? I'm concerned you will feel compelled to purchase items at too high prices (compared to list) - is d12 with disadvantage too aggressive in pruning away low-cost items...?
 

jgsugden

Adventurer
That is a well thought out system, but I don't like the idea of a system for magic items.

I find that 'magic shops' run a bit more like Amazon is many games than like an antiques dealer. I think the DMG has the right approach in giving us a guideline, but encouraging us to treat any significant magic item as something that doesn't have a fixed price.

In my games: Outside of potions and magical trinkets (Feather Tokens, continual light objects, etc...), a dealer is unlikely to have a price on an item. Instead, he'll be looking to sell it for as much as possible from a prospective buyer. If he thinks he can get more in the future, he'll pass on selling - unless he has a need of funds now. He may trade a powerful weapon for a magic item that rich merchants might covet more. A merchant in a smaller location might have less items to sell, but be more likely to sell at a lower price because of his limited market. A merchant in a big city might demand 20,000 for a +1 dagger if a hero busts in the door with a monster that can only be hit by magic weapons right behind him. A merchant might be intimidated into lowering a price, but costing him that much money will have ramifications for the PC. On the other hand, a starving farmer that has a relic from his hero father might sell it for a few hundred gold and consider himself lucky - despite it being a +3 weapon.

Magic items are a big deal. Roleplaying any exchanges involving them rather than just using a menu or system helps keep them feeling important and helps to keep D&D from feeling like a MMORPG.
 

TheCosmicKid

Adventurer
I think there's a lot of good ideas in here. An auction-style economy makes the magic item economy feel grander and less like a commodities market, which I appreciate. And tying price changes and item appearances/disappearances to the passage of campaign time makes campaign time more important, which is something I think a lot of campaigns could use.

I do think the math could be cleaned up a bit for ease of use. I don't think you need to introduce a formula to calculate the current asking price. Oh, there can and should be a formula, of course, but you can just plot it all out on a big table tying asking prices to ratings. That way a DM only has to look up the number, not do any multiplication (or exponentiation, as you threatened). So something like...

Code:
Rating  Price
1    $1
2    $3
3    $5
4    $7
5    $10
6    $14
7    $20
8    $28
9    $40
10    $55
11    $80
12    $110
13    $160
14    $220
15    $320
16    $450
17    $640
18     $900
19    $1,200
20    $1,800
21    $2,500
22    $3,600
23    $5,000
24    $7,000
25    $10,000
26    $14,000
27    $20,000
28    $28,000
29    $40,000
30    $55,000
31    $80,000
32    $110,000
33    $160,000
34    $220,000
35    $320,000
36    $450,000
37    $640,000
38    $900,000
39    $1,200,000
40    $1,800,000
(Numbers ripped from a d20 Modern thing of mine for sake of example -- not balanced or considered in any way.)

Then, instead of having a "list price" for an item, you give it a "demand bonus", which is a modifier to the roll for its starting rating and when it disappears. A +1 longsword, then might have a demand bonus of +5, starting as high as 25 and disappearing at a minimum of 6, whereas a measly healing potion with no demand bonus just goes from 20 to 1.
 
I concur. When magic items become just a commodity to be bought and sold for gold, they become a lot less magical. But of course, this being your campaign, if you want a magic item economy, go for it. I might suggest placing the markets somewhere special, like making the PCs schlep to Sigil or some remote wizard’s tower, to keep some of that air of mystery and wonder.

One thing I have done in my campaign to give them stuff to spend gold on is create semi-magical items that can be found for sale in certain places. Stuff like gauntlets that give you fire and cold resistance, but only on your hands, or a bottle of glowing Wizard Wine, the drinking of which gives you advantage on an intelligence check. Small things that might look cool and give a boost in the right situation.

Magic items are a big deal. Roleplaying any exchanges involving them rather than just using a menu or system helps keep them feeling important and helps to keep D&D from feeling like a MMORPG.
 

Blue

Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal
I wouldn't set the "disappear" price with a d12 die roll, where it's nigh impossible to have not at least one price decrease and several price decreases are very likely.

Instead, if I was reducing by d6, I'd have a 6 means someone else bought it or the seller took it off the market. So there would always be a threat of letting it tick.

Or perhaps reduce by a d12/2 steps, but first roll it disappears on a 12, then 11-12, and so on - a cheaper price makes it more likely to get snapped up.
 

lowkey13

I'm sorry, Dave. I'm afraid I can't do that.
First, I'd like to extent a big congratulations to CapnZapp for creating a magic item shopping system!

Personally, I'm not a big fan of any such system, because I think that the predicate for it is different in 5e than 3e- specifically, 5e runs fine without magic items, and, well, you need to be careful. But my philosophy isn't shared by everyone, so it's good to see this work for those who like it.

In terms of substance, my biggest concern would be pricing. I like that time matters, and there is a chance things will disappear. But I'd but higher odds on things being bought (disappeared) and lower odds on prices going down. If you want the magic item shop (which CapnZapp does!) make it expensive. IMO.
 

Lanefan

Victoria Rules
This is fine for buying items, if perhaps a bit over-complicated to be practical at the table.

But, (as usual for me) some questions:

- how does it work if you turn it around to where the PC (or party) is the seller?
- is it random which items come up for sale when, and if not how is the 'available inventory' determined?
- where does the initial 'list price' come from, and how is that set?
- how long needs to pass between price checks? (the write-up seems to imply one check per adventure, which is too slow given most campaigns only seem to go for 5-10 adventures)
- how does this work, if at all, with internal party treasury division?

This last question already exists in 5e as written. If a party comes back from the field with 1200 g.p. worth of booty and a +1 sword, realistically the character who ends up with the +1 sword shouldn't get as much cash as everyone else (that person's benefit from the adventure is the sword)...and as soon as the difference between that PC's cash share and everyone else's is determined then >boom< you have an item value.

Why does this matter? Because if you just divide the cash evenly and a PC still ends up with the +1 sword that's an unfair division, pure and simple. Never mind that 5e in its foolishness as written won't let you sell the sword and divide the proceeds...

This one issue alone makes magic item valuation absolutely essential, unless a table is willing to allow unbalanced treasury division - which generates its own stable of problems, believe me. I've seen it.

Lan-"a magic item also acquires a fixed value when sold or traded from one PC to another within the party, and no rule can stop this"-efan
 

TheCosmicKid

Adventurer
- how does it work if you turn it around to where the PC (or party) is the seller?
That seems simple enough. The PC determines a starting price, and the system kicks off from there. The merchant probably takes a cut of the final price as commission, or maybe a flat commission.

This last question already exists in 5e as written. If a party comes back from the field with 1200 g.p. worth of booty and a +1 sword, realistically the character who ends up with the +1 sword shouldn't get as much cash as everyone else (that person's benefit from the adventure is the sword)...and as soon as the difference between that PC's cash share and everyone else's is determined then >boom< you have an item value.
This strikes me as an excellent opportunity for roleplaying. The characters find a valuable item. How valuable? They're not sure. They've got to negotiate a division based on imperfect information. Maybe they divide the gold evenly and then bid portions of their treasure on magic items, so the amount each one gets is dependent on his or her tolerance for risk.

Never mind that 5e in its foolishness as written won't let you sell the sword and divide the proceeds...
Wait, what? What makes you think you can't do that? Is the money you get all glued together in a giant sticky ball or something?
 

Lanefan

Victoria Rules
Wait, what? What makes you think you can't do that? Is the money you get all glued together in a giant sticky ball or something?
No, it's that by the rules you can't get money for an item in the first place.

5e as written has no magic item economy, meaning items cannot be bought...or sold.

It's a stupid rule, to be sure...but a rule nonetheless, for those as likes their games RAW.

Lanefan
 

Lanefan

Victoria Rules
That seems simple enough. The PC determines a starting price, and the system kicks off from there. The merchant probably takes a cut of the final price as commission, or maybe a flat commission.
And if the PC has to wait for a few price drops to occur it might be months before any return comes in. And, you're assuming a merchant or middleman - what if the PC wants to sell the item direct-to-buyer?

This strikes me as an excellent opportunity for roleplaying. The characters find a valuable item. How valuable? They're not sure. They've got to negotiate a division based on imperfect information. Maybe they divide the gold evenly and then bid portions of their treasure on magic items, so the amount each one gets is dependent on his or her tolerance for risk.
Quite right, and in the OP's system this would (probably) be the case. My point is that - in a typical 5e game that doesn't have a magic item economy or item values - once an item is thus claimed at a value that item then has...wait for it...a value, which flies in the face of 5e rules as written.

Lan-"the one huge headache I can see arising with the OP's pricing tables is the game might devolve into a mind-numbing exercise of 'buy low, sell high'"-efan
 

CapnZapp

Hero
I do think the math could be cleaned up a bit for ease of use. I don't think you need to introduce a formula to calculate the current asking price. Oh, there can and should be a formula, of course, but you can just plot it all out on a big table tying asking prices to ratings. That way a DM only has to look up the number, not do any multiplication (or exponentiation, as you threatened). So something like...
I'm trying to understand how you feel this is easier.

I might add that I won't be making any manual calculations like in my example above.

This is much more easily handled by a spreadsheet. Doing the = X^2/40 * Y calculation is no bother there.

Having prices fluctuate by a factor of nearly two million :heh: is too hardcore even for me... :)
 

CapnZapp

Hero
I wouldn't set the "disappear" price with a d12 die roll, where it's nigh impossible to have not at least one price decrease and several price decreases are very likely.

Instead, if I was reducing by d6, I'd have a 6 means someone else bought it or the seller took it off the market. So there would always be a threat of letting it tick.
Hmm, nice simplification.

The probability of not rolling any sixes out of three tries is (5/6)^3 or 57%. So this actually has the same property I desire, that if you risk letting the item stay on the shelf for three consecutive weeks

But that's very rough math. Without doing it more properly, I'd say we probably want to up the disappear risk slightly, perhaps by simply stating we reroll all ones on the d6. This makes the risk go up to 1-in-5 instead of 1-in-6.
 

CapnZapp

Hero
the predicate for it is different in 5e than 3e- specifically, 5e runs fine without magic items
It's not that I need magic items to make 5E work. In other words I don't disagree.

But my players have specifically asked for ways to spend their gold on worthwhile things, and as I've said, we don't focus on downtime.

Being able to turn your loot into personal power ups is fun! :)

So this isn't about fixing what's broken, it's about bringing back a layer of fun customization to the game.

Specific to this thread is: do you feel something of this nature would work in "hiding" the lack of framework visavi item pricing? I mean, Sane prices is better than nothing, but this way it hopefully matters much less whether the prices are an accurate reflection of the item's utility in game and in combat.
 

lowkey13

I'm sorry, Dave. I'm afraid I can't do that.
Specific to this thread is: do you feel something of this nature would work in "hiding" the lack of framework visavi item pricing? I mean, Sane prices is better than nothing, but this way it hopefully matters much less whether the prices are an accurate reflection of the item's utility in game and in combat.
Sure! Seems pretty cool, for your needs.

I think the best way to find out is to run it.

I would probably error on the side of caution, and both start with higher prices, with a higher chance of an item disappearing. Just because it's easier to start with scarcity and make it more generous, than the other way around.
 

CapnZapp

Hero
This is fine for buying items, if perhaps a bit over-complicated to be practical at the table.

But, (as usual for me) some questions:
No problem. In fact, I welcome them :)

- how does it work if you turn it around to where the PC (or party) is the seller?
- is it random which items come up for sale when, and if not how is the 'available inventory' determined?
- where does the initial 'list price' come from, and how is that set?
- how long needs to pass between price checks? (the write-up seems to imply one check per adventure, which is too slow given most campaigns only seem to go for 5-10 adventures)
- how does this work, if at all, with internal party treasury division?
Different editions of D&D have set selling prices to 20% to 50% of the list price (not counting haggling and bargaining systems).

We have found that in order to not focus on hauling loot a lower percentage works best, for us. (At 50% I have at least one player who can't resist spending the whole session on figuring out ways to bring back every. single. scrap. of inferior armor, various knick-knacks and even low-grade ore. Making looting a non-issue seems to help him focus on actually having fun... :uhoh:)

Yes, random. In my example, I made rolls on the DMG magic item table. In actual play, I'd do pretty much the same, but with one eye to serving the actual characters and their classes.

List prices: you can use the DMG. I use Sane Prices.

Not once per whole adventure, but once per visit. Between visits you need to perform at least one quest or mini-scenario. This would pretty much boil down to once every session for us, since we level up every three sessions or so.

Treasure division: my players have never had any issues with this. They have an internal round-robin list where you get to pick an item (and be placed last on the list) or keep your spot (but get no item).

Once everybody passes, any remaining loot is sold for cash. Cash is then split equally.

But that's just one single group. Other groups do it differently.

It's not part of the rules in any case, so my answer can only be "do it as usual" :)
 
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CapnZapp

Hero
Sure! Seems pretty cool, for your needs.

I think the best way to find out is to run it.

I would probably error on the side of caution, and both start with higher prices, with a higher chance of an item disappearing. Just because it's easier to start with scarcity and make it more generous, than the other way around.
Are you merely erring here, or are you saying you believe the prices and risks need to be higher?

Very few items will have a starting asking price of less than five times its list price (unless my math broke down). To me, that sounds very high.

And my goal was that every other item disappears before it reaches list price. That would make the list price the actual <s>average</s> median, assuming you can keep your cool and never jump your gun.

These assumptions are definitely up for scrutiny (as is the math!) :)
 

lowkey13

I'm sorry, Dave. I'm afraid I can't do that.
Are you merely erring here, or are you saying you believe the prices and risks need to be higher?

Very few items will have a starting asking price of less than five times its list price (unless my math broke down). To me, that sounds very high.

And my goal was that every other item disappears before it reaches list price. That would make the list price the actual <s>average</s> median, assuming you can keep your cool and never jump your gun.

These assumptions are definitely up for scrutiny (as is the math!) :)
No, not erring.

It really depends on how you view this. I agree that the starting point is already higher than the list in the sane items thread; I would argue that it should be even higher. And the chance to disappear (pace the d6 idea) high as well.

In other words, you are introducing the system for FUN (good!), and you also recognize that 3e and 5e are different (also true). I think it will be awesome for your table, but if I were you (which I'm not), I would introduce with an average of no less than 10x the "sane price" with price drops, and if that ends up being too high .... then it's easy to adjust downwards.

It's much easier, IME, to start a system like this and make it to pricey (and then tinker) than to accidentally make it easy, and unbalance the game ... because it's easier to adjust and give players things than to take it away.
 

CapnZapp

Hero
Wait, what? What makes you think you can't do that? Is the money you get all glued together in a giant sticky ball or something?
No, it's that by the rules you can't get money for an item in the first place.

5e as written has no magic item economy, meaning items cannot be bought...or sold.

It's a stupid rule, to be sure...but a rule nonetheless, for those as likes their games RAW.

Lanefan
My easiest answer would be: when you sell a magic item, you get half the list price.

I'd add: but not in cash; only as a part payment for something more expensive. But in practical play that doesn't make a difference.

The convenience in simply converting that +1 Longsword you found into 500 gp is that then you can share that to give 100 gp to each party member. This convenience is so great, I see no reason to make the above qualification.

Especially considering how all those gp will probably end up in the pockets of the magic item merchant anyway....
 

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