Solving the "Let's Rob the Magic Shop" Problem


First Post
All magic items are cursed until paid for. Sorta like those tags you put on clothing that set off the alarms when you walk out? Yeah same deal.
Ha! That was the first idea that sprang to my mind _if_ you feel a need to actually have magic shops in your campaign.

I vastly prefer that all magic items (excepting the most common types of potions) are custom-created to order. Typically, they also only work for the customer or the person that is intended to use them. This has the interesting implication that you'll never find usable magic items lying around as treasure and the pc's opponents can be decked out in magical armaments without the GM having to be afraid of them falling into the players' hands.

But what if you want the pc's to find cool magic items from time to time?
The solution are 'Legendary Items', an idea that afaik originates in the Earthdawn RPG: Items that slowly reveal more of their true potential as the newly bonded owner gets more powerful, investigates the item's history and completes quests that replicate the deeds that originally shaped the item. This is similar to the concept of 'Weapons of Legacy' in D&D, except those required personal sacrifices of some kind (xp, gold, hp, etc.) to unlock more and improved powers.

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Staff member
For the most part, magic items are sold one of 3 ways:

1) a private sale or auction.
2) as the higher-end stock of those who deal in such goods.
3) involving individuals, establishments or institutions who obviously can afford protections- guilds, temples, schools of magic, merchant houses, nobility, etc. “Magic shops” (extant, though rare) fall into this category.

In each situation, security measures may vary greatly. For instance, in the second category, ther may not be much security beyond the clutter of the store, the inventory known only by the keeper. While you may be able to rob him easily, how do you know you’re getting what you came for? And is it really worth robbing the man for what may be the only magical item in there?

In a high-magic campaign, there may even be magic item retrieval specialists among the ranks of bounty hunters, prepared with all kinds of magic-neutralizing gear and tactics.

Kobold Boots

I'd add one more path as a matter of course - custom order magic.

Someone's got to be crafting these things and though they are rare, its possible to find them.


Brokers plus this...

Standard sale agreement
You agree for a one time assistance clause in the case the shop ot its owner is robbed. You may be required to provide assistance to the shopkeeper or estate in finding, apprehending and punishing said thieves.

This allows them to see this well established broker likely has a trove of markers to calk in and basically its not the shopkeeper but those he has helped and who benefit from the service they should be worried about.

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Magic Wordsmith
My go-to solution is the epic-level shopkeeper, but I've got to admit it's pretty ham-handed. How else do you keep a gang of wild murderhobos from taking all of a 3rd level commoner's worldly goods and breaking your economy?

Provide plenty of adventure opportunities outside of town that are more interesting than robbing a shopkeep in town.

In my experience, players only try this sort of thing when they're bored. When they have plenty of dungeons to explore and dragons to slay, knocking over a store isn't really on their radar.

I would agree that someone selling magic items probably has power in their own right. It’s not good to steal from an archmage.

I would also tell the players before they acted, that this is an evil act, and their alignments will shift as a result.

The problem with murderhobos, as I’ve said before, is that they hate consequences. Some to the point of quitting the game. It may be better to just say to the players, “hey, this isn’t the sort of campaign I want to run. I don't want to tell you what to do, but this sort of thing isn't fun for me”


All my magic stores also sell very dangerous items, including cursed items. Only a fool would blindly rob a magic store.

Now see, I appreciate this naturalistic kind of solution. It feels less like a challenge to be overcome (read: security, magic traps, etc. which make the robbery feel like a dungeon) than a reason to not do it in the first place.

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