Buying and Selling of Magic Items
I'm not really the kind of DM that wants a campaign where each character has a set of boots of striding and springing, a
ring of sustenance, a magical means of flight, bags of holding, goggles of the night and so forth. After
allowing easy access to magic item purchasing I could easily see that this was the direction that magic items were taking in
the campaign. It cheapened their feel, reduced their uniqueness and wonder value, and it made them feel mass produced. It was lame.
In response to that trend the following guidelines were established for finding and purchasing items
on the market.
Adventurer Magic Items
We're not talking brooms of dusting and sound proof windows. A noble worth their money will have connections to get
these things made for his household. These are baubles. We're not talking about potions or scrolls either, these should be available
for characters to purchase and their pricing, XP cost, and ease of creation justify their relative availability.
What we are talking about "adventurer class items." These are items that require 100+ XP to craft, things
that cost 2,500gp on the market, things that cost a serious 1,250 gold just to craft. The cost of these items is not a small investment,
even though 2,500gp really is the bottom of the barrel for more adventurer class magic items.
The Nature of the Magic Item Market
Most magic that's out there for sale has effects that rely more on the power of suggestion and superstition than any real
magic, such as a ring of love's eternal hope or a pendant of fertility. Sure, there are a few merchants and circles
that deal with the good stuff, but this is fairly uncommon and they require certain connections; they don't just deal with anyone.
After all, we're talking about large amounts of money here. Real magic item shops don't usually advertise, often bear no signs, and
their location and reputation spreads only by select word of mouth by those "in the know." In a large city, such as Bluewater
(pop ~150,000), you might expect to find one, maybe two such shops. These vendors don't actually make the items, they don't have
the experience to spend on such things, instead they operate as a select consignment. Which means, that unless someone is looking
to get rid of something then it probably isn't for sale anywhere.
Other items of a potentially destructive nature are carefully watched by the city. Items like wands of
lightning become very dangerous when they fall into the hands of a criminal or negligent bearer, and so the city naturally takes
an interest in who buys and who might sell such a thing. For this reason, people sell items of this caliber to people they can trust,
though occasionally they are also sold on the black market for less reputable enterprises. Either way, one needs connections for this
kind of thing.
Due to all these things, one needs to either find their way into an organization with the means to
create its own items or which has connections to those who do, or one needs to make inroads into the rather select market where
items occasionally come up for sale. Even so, expect things that are of common use to people with money; not adventurers, but
wealthy merchants and nobles. They are things you might see when a noble house goes bankrupt and needs to make some quick money
without losing too much of its comfort. They aren't selling family heirlooms, but they will probably sell their
magic air fresheners and mirrors of attire choosing.
Adventurers do sell stuff, we can't deny that. They sell used wands that don't have enough oomph
anymore or weird curiosities that they've stumbled across while poking around in ruins like beholder shaped magical robots, +1 chain mail,
and the like. Very few adventurers are there out there are powerful enough that they are willing to part with their gauntlets
of ogre power and other useful adventuring gear. These things do enter the market, but rarely. Most items purchased, found, or
crafted by adventurers are not outgrown anyway, but instead they end up lost and sitting in the lair of whatever ate their bearer
rather than on the open market five experience levels later. More often than not one needs to have the items created that one wants.
Buying an Item Off the Market
A variety of methods are available. Typically, through connections, one begins to develop a reputation amongst a select circle
of interested parties as a person of good repute and reliability. In the case of a buyer, this is someone who promptly pays their bills.
For a seller, this is someone who doesn't misrepresent their wares and who can keep a secret. People who trade in such things would
rather the government didn't know about it because if the government did, they'd probably start charging some tax and regulating it.
Establishing a reputation of trustworthiness, good repute, and reliability takes some time and requires that one spends a good amount
of time in the community beforehand so that one has an actual reputation. Getting into such circles typically requires some kind of
sponsor as well, someone who already does trade in that circle.
Established members of mages guilds, guild leaders and high ranking officers of other significant city
guilds, nobles that display an interest in such things, and well known adventurers all might be allowed into such circles after a
certain amount of scrutiny by its existing members.
Most of the time, someone who has an interest in procuring a magic item and who spends enough time looking
into how to get it will eventually hear by word-of-mouth that so-and-so has the right connections. This so-and-so is probably a member
of some magic item consignment circle and they act as a middle man to the interested party if such an item is actually available. If
so-and-so was good friends with the interested buying party they might even introduce them to the consignment circle when it was
obvious that they had something to contribute. Buying items in this fashion usually involves some markup as the item exchanges
through the network.
Then, there's the black market. Naturally there are some risks involved. You might pay less than you
expected, but you might also get junk, cursed, or otherwise misrepresented items. Black marketeers are frowned on by established
circles of consignment dealers, and occasionally friction develops between these circles as one attempts to keep the market
legitimate and the other attempts to cut a better profit.
Of course, there are also direct sales, this typically occurs when an adventurer offers to sell used
items to some mages guild, religious order, or a known curator of items. High-class adventurer taverns in rich cities can provide
great inroads for adventurers hoping to find true one-on-one sales that can be completed over a good beer. As with any of these
methods, the actual availability of a specific item is often in doubt and one frequently has to resort to having the item created new.
Paying Someone to Make an Item
Because it takes so much time and energy to create a powerful or unique item, wizards who actually make and sell magic items
for a living typically only produce baubles of minor effect and then sell them at reasonable prices. These items rarely are
usually no more powerful than your typical 1st or 2nd level potion. Many wizards tend to look down upon wizards who do trade
in magic items, and with good reason. Trade wizards rarely have much adventuring experience, and they sometimes lack in ethics.
Wizards who do make items of real use to adventurers and similarly powerful people tend to be cautious
about who they make such items for. Most wizards would rather not be the one who made the +2 dagger that was used to
assassinate a local baron, especially when the authorities come asking questions. And besides, a wizard can live fairly comfortably
making baubles that require no serious investment of experience points.
Having found a person who can do it (Gather Information checks), you have to convince them to do it
(Diplomacy/Charisma), which rapidly becomes more difficult the more powerful the item is. Roughly speaking, a DC 10 plus the
creator's level might be reasonable. This is assuming they are receptive to the idea of making items for strangers of course.
Naturally, this can be much easier when one adventures with someone who has the skills to actually
make items, but we all know this isn't always an option.