Thursday, May 7, 2009

From the Attic; The Sorcerer's Supply House

In the City-State of the Invincible Overlord, the first city ever released for a RPG circa 1977, you can wander up Regal Street look left and see...

The Sorcerer's Supply House,

where various magical ingredients and items are sold.

Over at the Bard of Valiant, they are talking about how magic is too common here.

I agree that an over abundance of magic items is not the best for most campaigns. However unfortunately Bard of Valiant is wrong about it being a defining characteristics of Old School Gaming. From the beginning it was always a point of contention whether magic items should be able to be bought and sold. Or remain mysterious artifacts woven in myth and legend.

The very first city detailed for RPGs had a magic item shop. Viridistan the City-State of the World Emperor had several.

My own solution is to allow COMMON magic items to bought off the shelf. +1 Arrows, amulets that give +1 to saving throws, certain potions, and scrolls, etc. Maybe a +1 sword will find it way into the shop.

The market or high end magic items I treat similarly to how high priced art and collectible are treated today. They are sold in auctions where only select bidders are allowed. A small group of brokers scattered throughout manage these auctions. These brokers also work hand and hand with the Overlord and other rulers to insure dangerous artifacts don't fall in the wrong hands.

Magic items can be commissioned and these have to be arranged through the various magic guilds. +1 enhancements are relatively easy to commission however more sophisticated enchantment will mean showing that you have some money in the bank.

I find the plausibility of the system tend to have players accept it. Players become reasonably satisfied. They can get useful "magic tech" to aid them in their adventures, and gain a outlet for the items they acquire but do not find useful.


Derek said...

In the past when I've run, I've pretty consistently had one-shot items (e.g. potions, specific spells) be available. Every village has a witch or wise-woman that does one or two potions, usually a weak cure light wounds equivalent and for members of the faith, more potent draughts available at the local temple. More scarce, but not rare are low level magic users that don't adventure but provided scrolls from a limited select for a moderate to high cost, same for items like arrows +1 - which for me were one-time use items. Any permanently enchanted item, had to be found or commissioned.

It made for a fair balance, since the things that could be bought were not only a bit pricey, but perishable or fragile (the mule carrying the potions case was often better guarded than the mule carrying the food supplies) and allowed a way to help parties w/out a magic user or a cleric, at least a bit. The selections were limited, but generally useful.

lurkinggherkin said...

I'd agree that low-magic wasn't a defining characteristic of old-school play - my group certainly rain some very monty haul campaigns back in the day before we settled into a more restrained and roleplay-focussed style.

However, I would say that there's more of a sense of entitlement in modern gaming attitudes towards magic items. Certain levels of magical equipment get included in encounter balance calculations, for example. That ethos wasn't there in the 70's.

Tim Shorts said...

I also think there is a lot of character centric thinking when discussing the dispersal of magic items. Adventurers are going to have the resources and opportunities the very few people in the gaming world would ever have. Sure adventures can leave a dungeon with a fist full of magical items, but they are going toe-to-toe with liches, trolls, evil warlords and so on. There needs to be a balance absolutely. Scarcity of magical items would sky rocket the price and be honey to everyone who wants to rule the world. Too many magical items makes them non magical in a way. No more wow factor. “Ah crap, another +5 Holy Avenger. Throw it on the stack.”

In Rob’s campaign and mine, we have a similar philosophy about the market for low end magic items and the market for high end magic items. Just as water, food and protection are his on the needs of people so is the need to make money. So if there is a way to make money someone will find a way to do, including mages.

Viriatha said...

Interesting write-up :) Didn't know about the 1977 city, obviously :P