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

Quickleaf

Legend
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?

While I agree with much of what's been said, if you do wish to have magic shops in your game, I remember reading a good example of one in Faction War. While it's a much-reviled AD&D2e Planescape adventure, it has one saving grace: Alluvius Ruskin's magic shop is exactly the sort of dangerous unpredictable mini-dungeon I'd expect PCs to face if attempting to loot a magic shop.
 

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adwyn

Community Supporter
By and large I go with the broker model, but for that occasional, magic everywhere and so on campaign I use extra planar magic shops that can only be entered with a spell. Most wizards have the spell in their books, few others bother wasting a slot on it, and it only locates a magic door to the place. Rampaging on the other side inevitably leaves a party stranded because only the shop keepers can open the door back.
 

Jhaelen

First Post
I would also tell the players before they acted, that this is an evil act, and their alignments will shift as a result.
Well you could tell that to the players, but at least in the terms of D&D it would just be an unlawful act, and if I was one of the players we'd get into a serious debate over this.

Note that alignments in D&D are one of my pet peeves. I think they're terribly inadequate as a roleplaying tool.
 

I think there will always be a degree of subjectivity in alignments, for better or worse. But that’s my go-to response to murderhobos trying to hide behind the CN alignment.

Well you could tell that to the players, but at least in the terms of D&D it would just be an unlawful act, and if I was one of the players we'd get into a serious debate over this.

Note that alignments in D&D are one of my pet peeves. I think they're terribly inadequate as a roleplaying tool.
 

Calithorne

Explorer
I think this is the rare occasion where the DM has to put his foot down and say, "No, you can't rob the magic shop." Otherwise, you are forced to create a mini-adventure dungeon every time the PCs go shopping. This is a game-breaker in my opinion, as PCs are supposed to be heroes helping the world rid itself of evil monsters, not magic shop looters.
 

nightwind1

Explorer
I think this is the rare occasion where the DM has to put his foot down and say, "No, you can't rob the magic shop." Otherwise, you are forced to create a mini-adventure dungeon every time the PCs go shopping. This is a game-breaker in my opinion, as PCs are supposed to be heroes helping the world rid itself of evil monsters, not magic shop looters.
How do we know that? That might not be the case in this game. Maybe they're a crew of thieves, operating under the Thieve's Guild. Maybe they're all Neutral or Evil.
 

Dannyalcatraz

Schmoderator
Staff member
Supporter
I see robbing the shops & merchants as a self-solving problem. They do it enough times, there will come a day when they either come up short of HP to complete the mission, or they get IDed and become outlaws.

Does it change the campaign? Sure? But I see that as a feature, not a bug.
 

tomBitonti

Adventurer
I'm thinking there is a problem, but it is an instance of a more general problem:

Why don't higher level PCs and NPCs make rounds through easy locales, hoovering up any easily obtained loot?

That is to say, to use the old Keep on the Borderlands as an example, why would it be 1-3 lvl PCs dealing with the Caves of Chaos? Why wouldn't a 7'th level party be on the lookout for such areas and make a point of slaughtering all of the inhabitants and taking their stuff?

Then, if there are magic shops for 1-3'rd level PCs, wouldn't those be quick targets of higher level evil NPCs?

Turned around, the problem of guarding a magic shop seems to be not too much of a problem as long as the power level of the shopkeeper and PCs have a relationship where the shopkeeper (or their available guards) are strong enough to scare away PCs with thieving tendencies.

This all runs headlong into a conceit of RPG's (or at least of D&D), which is that the world constantly tunes itself to present just the right amount of challenge to PCs. To say, this isn't quite true in all campaigns; but it does seem to be increasingly built in to the game world.

Thx!
TomB
 

Kobold Boots

Banned
Banned
Others have already said much of this but here goes.

The game is whatever the players want it to be, if the DM wants to be running a game. Yes, the DM can find other players but if the ones he has want to rob a magic shop then what's the DM to do if he wants to play?

That said, the magic shop problem is something that should be approached in campaign design. The game gives pretty good guidelines about magic item price and always has. I've always felt that was the leading thing that made those who play D&D both players and DMs think "there must be a magic shop if there are prices". Over time with people writing stories in the D&D worlds and with new versions of the rules there have been direct references to magic stores, but very little written on how to manage them so you don't end badly.

There are many good ideas in this thread. Personally, I really dig those folks who said, hey assassins protect the shop and the owner has contacts and customers that will protect him. Then I think about the down level implications of both. If the assassins are protecting the shop, then there's the chance that the assassins are really well equipped. How does that affect other structures in the game world?

The broker idea is great as is treating magic items like real estate. I'd treat this like an art brokerage and auctioneer service (Sotheby's) but then you're making the cost of the item a reserve bid and there are down level implications of that too. Truly powerful magic will be bought up and used by the 1%.

Ultimately I've tried very, very hard not to make magic items available via static shops. When players have asked me how to get a specific magic item I've asked them to ask around to get rumors or do research on where such things have been seen historically. When mages have asked me how to make a magic item I've sent them to learn artificer skills or to find an artificer (usually in the employ of a major personage). Point there is to have them commission an item. I do believe that's what the magic item prices were originally intended for, material cost.

In any event, I come from the school that says magic items are intended to be unique things. Rules are intended to make everything look like Walmart. If players came up to me when visiting an artificer and said "lets' rob him" I'd have no issue killing the entire party. Mostly because it's infinitely stupid. If I as a person can make a +2 sword and do it for a living, for people that have money to spend (and lets not forget that wealthy people could have an army to take the shop if they wanted) the crap that I must have protecting myself (as others have already alluded to) must be ridiculous.
 

Kobold Boots

Banned
Banned
I'm thinking there is a problem, but it is an instance of a more general problem:

Why don't higher level PCs and NPCs make rounds through easy locales, hoovering up any easily obtained loot?

That is to say, to use the old Keep on the Borderlands as an example, why would it be 1-3 lvl PCs dealing with the Caves of Chaos? Why wouldn't a 7'th level party be on the lookout for such areas and make a point of slaughtering all of the inhabitants and taking their stuff?

Then, if there are magic shops for 1-3'rd level PCs, wouldn't those be quick targets of higher level evil NPCs?

Turned around, the problem of guarding a magic shop seems to be not too much of a problem as long as the power level of the shopkeeper and PCs have a relationship where the shopkeeper (or their available guards) are strong enough to scare away PCs with thieving tendencies.

This all runs headlong into a conceit of RPG's (or at least of D&D), which is that the world constantly tunes itself to present just the right amount of challenge to PCs. To say, this isn't quite true in all campaigns; but it does seem to be increasingly built in to the game world.

Thx!
TomB

Good questions, here are some possible answers.

Are there higher level PC or NPC groups looking for easy loot - sure. In fact the best ongoing antagonists for an adventuring group is another group trying to take their stuff or beat them to whatever the players are looking for.

Why isn't it happening all the time? It is. The only reason why lower level adventurers get their due is because higher level NPCs don't live in a vacuum and have other things to worry about whenever the players are doing their thing.

Magic shops are "protected" by a variety of things as well, but perhaps the most effective could very well be due to taxation and whose territory the shop is located in. If I've got a shop that's paying off local guilds while paying taxes to the local duke, then I've got the mafia and the army watching my back. Players might get a fortune in magic items if they raid the place.. or they might just get out the door with a bag of loot and be hunted for the rest of their lives. (others have also said this)

The reason why the game tunes to the players is because you can't kill the players every week and expect them to come back to the table. However, if your players come to you and say they want to rob a magic store and you immediately as a DM advise them to prepare for the adventure by rolling up new level 1 characters "just in case" something goes wrong and you have to restart the campaign, they might get a hint. :)

KB
 

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