Page 461 - Working Class Wisdom

1st Jul 2014, 6:00 AM
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Working Class Wisdom
Average Rating: 5 (2 votes)
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Author Notes:

Newbiespud 1st Jul 2014, 6:00 AM edit delete
Newbiespud
There are few foes more tenacious for a group of adventurers than the well-oiled machine of commerce.

...Wow, could I have possibly written a more purple way of saying "Merchants and adventurers tend to not get along in my experience"?

More specifically, what I mean is: It's amazing how often PCs try to undercut merchants in some ways, and intriguing how simple merchants have ended up being the most tenacious, resilient, and cunning villains I've ever encountered. I feel like, for some reason, there's just a natural incongruity there.

62 Comments:

dracostarcloud 1st Jul 2014, 6:25 AM edit delete reply
dracostarcloud
The only time my adventurers don't get along with merchants is when they try to sell me drugs and claim it's air crystals and when they try to sell me air crystals and claim it's drugs.

Otherwise we're the best of friends!...once they pay for my services.
Silver Bolt 1st Jul 2014, 1:51 PM edit delete reply
Wait, how could they possibly get air crystals and drugs mixed up?

(I ask in this way because I'm not seeing how someone could intentionally try to sell one as the other)
dracostarcloud 2nd Jul 2014, 10:37 PM edit delete reply
dracostarcloud
I was looking for some Air Crystals in preparation for a possible underwater area in a campaign, but my character didn't know what they looked like until one of his traveling companions pulled some real air crystals out and basically said the shopkeep was a lying sack of crabapples.

Fortunately, nobody needed to die over the misunderstanding ('cause we found out where we needed to be).
Digo 1st Jul 2014, 6:35 AM edit delete reply
In one campaign, there was an adventure where the PCs found a derelict alien craft buried under the snow of the frozen north. The ship was pretty much dead except for a beacon that was pinging at a frequency that drove nearby wildlife mad, particularly dogs (bad for the villagers that relied on dogs for hunting and pulling sleds).

The PCs disabled the beacon and took it's power source with them (a metal rod with odd runes and a slight green glow to it. Very hot though, handle with care). Well being the murder hobos that they were, the party SOLD this rod to a shady merchant that they knew was into selling black market goods. They get paid well for it and run off to spend their money on booze and weapons to kill things more efficiently.

Meanwhile, the merchant found out the rod could power other alien artifacts that he collected, including alien Weapons. Now with this power source, the merchant began his criminal career and ended up killing thousands of people (and destroying one major city) before the PCs went back to stop him.

This time they destroyed the rod, something they should have done ages ago.
Kynrasian 1st Jul 2014, 6:38 AM edit delete reply
Kynrasian
Only merhcant our group doesn't really get along with is the pineapple merchant who became a running gag after he critted me three times in a row by tossing his wares at me.

The full story is somewhere on another page.
Toric 1st Jul 2014, 10:22 AM edit delete reply
You'd be amazed how much money you can get from non-magic using vendors with a few clever lies and some glitter.

I had a rogue who was notorious for it. He routinely found mundane weapons or armor, including a set of full plate. Well, as a birthday gift/gag item, the DM had provided us with tiny pebbles that could produce a bucketful of glitter 1/day. I would coat these mundane items in glitter to give them that "obviously magical" feel and spin some yarn about them being unique pieces or just claiming that they were magical with a rigged demonstration. Made so much money, especially early on, but it was the continual victory by a margin of 1 that was really sweet.
Jennifer 1st Jul 2014, 6:46 AM edit delete reply
I notice that Applejack's helmet is speaking her line.

That said, this is getting to be an interesting arc, delving as it does into the motivations of all the characters in one session. Like the Po-Mo guy once said, it's taking bits from a lot of different episodes instead of sticking to one. I like it, but I'm not sure where it's going, either.
Newbiespud 1st Jul 2014, 6:52 AM edit delete reply
Newbiespud
Ah, I remember how that happened. Comic Life has a contextual "add word balloon tail" button that I accidentally pressed. The extra tails are easy enough to delete, but I guess I deleted the wrong one and somehow missed it on the final pass.
Other Guest 1st Jul 2014, 8:54 AM edit delete reply
"Hey, what's this on your character sheet about a magic talking helmet?"
"Since you created relatives for Twi, I made one for me. Her name is Goldie. She's a crazy cat lady and a hoarder. I figure she has some magic items in her collection that I can borrow."
"No. Just no."
"I want relatives too! I want two... no, three sisters!"
Digo 1st Jul 2014, 7:57 AM edit delete reply
Applejack's NPC sorting hat! It tells AJ which category each NPC falls into (Good, Unaligned, Evil, Hufflepuff). This is how she's so savvy at this campaign. ;)
FanOfMostEverything 2nd Jul 2014, 5:10 AM edit delete reply
The Hufflepuff-aligned outsiders are the ones you really have to watch out for. An entire plane full of badgers... *shudder*
kriss1989 2nd Jul 2014, 8:10 AM edit delete reply
kriss1989
At least it's not as bad as the dimension of nothing but shrimp.
Mort the Ghost 1st Jul 2014, 6:49 AM edit delete reply
Well ... I'm currently playing a wizard who's just learned "Mount" and "Disguise Self". "Mount" allows me to summon a horse for two hours, and "Disguise Self" is exactly what you think it is.
I'm currently trying to sell disappearing horses for hefty profits. I don't think my DM approves.
Disloyal Subject 1st Jul 2014, 12:11 PM edit delete reply
Disloyal Subject
Huh; I'd always assumed that mounts summoned by that spell were obviously magical in origin, probably spectral and surrounded by wispy blue energy, but looking back on the description, there's no mention of any such tells. You'd think such an open to abuse exploit would be commonly watched out for by hostlers...
Godzfirefly 1st Jul 2014, 5:18 PM edit delete reply
What kind of horse rider buys a horse that has no lineage paperwork in less than 2 hours? That's the customer's own fault for being stupid...
Chakat Firepaw 1st Jul 2014, 6:38 PM edit delete reply
Back when horses were mostly used for practical purposes most people cared more about "is this horse strong/fast/etc. enough for how I'm going to use it?" and "is it healthy right now?" Most horses also wouldn't have papers.

Even in a culture where pedigrees are tracked, the magic fake con still works based on a cut rate price because "I need the cash, right now, you can see that he's a good steed so you'll have no problem selling him to someone who isn't breeding."

Of course, you can also run the con based on: "He's a gelding, it's not like you're going to breed him."
Chakat Firepaw 1st Jul 2014, 6:42 PM edit delete reply
The special effects for that kind of thing are a judgment call: The spell does not say anything one way or the other about it being detectable as a fake.

As a DM, my default is to rule in the way that helps spellcasters the least. Therefore, IMC the Mount spell creates something which is clearly not natural.
kriss1989 1st Jul 2014, 6:54 AM edit delete reply
kriss1989
My current Pathfinder campaign, the PCs are the merchants. They're each running their own seperate business.
FanOfMostEverything 1st Jul 2014, 7:29 AM edit delete reply
I'm imagining the Pathfinder equivalent of Recettear. "Capitalism, ho!" seems like a pretty awesome battle cry, actually.
kriss1989 1st Jul 2014, 11:52 AM edit delete reply
kriss1989
Well it's more of a side things they're doing in their downtime...and to be fair only two are running mercantile businesses. The other two are working towards building a massive temple and a wizard school. As for the two shops, they're a short-order shop that recently managed to finally afford the expansions to turn into a gunsmith, and a blacksmith that's going to expand into more exotic works later.
Disloyal Subject 1st Jul 2014, 12:07 PM edit delete reply
Disloyal Subject
Funny, I pictured a fantasy equivalent to Rogue Trader.
kriss1989 1st Jul 2014, 7:56 PM edit delete reply
kriss1989
No, that's what happens once PCs access a dragons hoard, they break the economy.
Luna 1st Jul 2014, 7:20 AM edit delete reply
Well, merchant in rpgs tend to buy for half the price and then sell you stuff for full price, making quite a hefty profit on the way, so yeah, I don't have much qualm when I'm doing... er... "unofficial inventory and accounting" of their business.

But as a dm, I just love to play bazaar merchants that are irritatingly and cheerfuly try to sell any piece of junk to any passing player, claiming that this rusty old goblet was in fact the mythical and magical cup of mighty power that would grant its drinker outlandish strenght as long as the ritual is properly completed, which is why you don't detect any traces of magic, dear mage. What ritual ? Well, I just have it there and will sell it to you at a bargain, yes !

And it's even more fun when out of habit, your players turn down those merchant and this one turns out to have the genuine stuff. Which they heard about some time later.
Digo 1st Jul 2014, 8:13 AM edit delete reply
One GM I worked with LOVED to screw the PCs over by making most of the merchants unsavory. Any items that were legit had their prices inflated ridiculously.

As the party wizard, I took a couple magic item crafting feats to ensure the warriors in my group were able to be of any use in combat since they were reliant on gear to function. To prevent the GM from trying to screw us by making it impossible to buy the "raw materials" for me to make magic items the party barbarian became skilled in recycling the metal and leather equipment from enemies we slain. So that meant the only way the GM could prevent us from equipping ourselves was to either send creatures that don't use equipment (which the party ranger could skin for material components that I can use to cast spells that "create" raw materials for making magic items) or send naked goblin monks at us.

Haha, we totally slaughtered those monk tribes.
kriss1989 1st Jul 2014, 11:53 AM edit delete reply
kriss1989
That he actually did that is kind of depressing,
Digo 1st Jul 2014, 12:43 PM edit delete reply
Now that I think about it... yeah...
ShadowDragon8685 3rd Jul 2014, 5:53 AM edit delete reply
ShadowDragon8685
Clearly, the solution, then, is GOBLIN LEATHER!

If your DM is going to be Dorfenly hard, you turn into Dorfs!
TheStratovarian 1st Jul 2014, 8:24 PM edit delete reply
This is why I liked fabricate with polymorph options. You could turn x into y, and use y to fabricate what is needed, from your higher quality mineral. Rock into gold, or adamantite, or mithril. Regular plant mass into rare herbs, or ironwood?

Because you are using the same view, all changes are at the +9 mod, there isnt any duration to worry about. This cuts out the merchant completely, and lets you make what you want for coppers on the platinium. Self created tower and fort's by the day, pretty easy.

But thats why I like artificer. Because you don't need to know the spell, all you need is a staff craft at 12th, and the world opens up to you. You just need to buy the poly object spell. and use it in the crafting of the staff. It just comes down to your xp pool really.

If the dm goes after you with custom critters, well, you above all, are likely to have contingency spells about to mess with him. And also the means and money to do so. Your party isn't going to let him likely either, every character loves their special rare gear well before they are supposed to get it.
Chakat Firepaw 1st Jul 2014, 6:48 PM edit delete reply
Remember that the whole "buy at half price" thing is really intended to be a quick way of simulating what the PCs will get when they want to make a quick sale to people buying on spec. This is why trade goods get full/near full price, there will almost always be a final buyer for whatever it is.

In situations where the PCs have more time or there is a reason someone wants it right now, a good DM will allow a richer sale. (Paizo APs do often do this, noting who will pay extra for unusual objects.)
Digo 1st Jul 2014, 7:59 AM edit delete reply
All this merchant talk has given me an awesome idea of making a PC based on Holo from Spice & Wolf (an interesting manga/anime about merchants and economics).
Joe the Rat 2nd Jul 2014, 4:36 AM edit delete reply
Glad I'm not the only one thinking of that. Though with the right group, you could actually build a whole campaign on that premise.

It would take a pretty special group to make an adventure out of coin speculation and apple chicanery.
Siccarus 2nd Jul 2014, 8:55 PM edit delete reply
I was debating on making a Holo character with a merchant follower. The only doubts I had were if I could pull off her Mannerisms and what class to base her off (Ranger or druid, maybe both.)
Malroth 2nd Jul 2014, 9:30 PM edit delete reply
Druid could definately do what Holo does and more but its somewhat hard to justify turning to a dire-wolf for combat when you could turn into a Tyranosarus-Rex just as easily.
The MunchKING 1st Jul 2014, 8:03 AM edit delete reply
The MunchKING
A lot of players I've seen tend to have this idea; "If we can get the super-sword +5,000 of Explosions and Death buy paying this guy a million GP, we could get it for FREE if we just kill the guy and take it." I've seen them dial that mentality all the way down to blaster pistols in a Star Wars game.

*sigh*

Players...
Digo 1st Jul 2014, 8:55 AM edit delete reply
I've had players like that as well. :)
Draxynnic 1st Jul 2014, 9:15 AM edit delete reply
And people let them get away with it on a consistent basis?

Anyone who's primary market is a group that can be described as 'murder hobos' are probably going to be aware that less savory members of that group may be looking for alternatives to paying for their goods, and use some of their profits to put in security systems that can handle their typical customers. In D&D, for instance, killing a merchant to avoid paying for a 50000-gp magic item will probably start looking a lot less attractive when it turns out that the case has a Symbol of Death on it and the merchant you just killed is the only one who can open it without triggering it. (Not an insurmountable puzzle, I know, because immunities to death effects exist, but that's just one fairly cheap example that can be combined with other effects. Someone who commonly deals in expensive magic items could probably afford to have cases that are trapped up to the point of having similar values to the items they hold just due to all the traps, on the basis that the case can be reused for more items until someone does set the traps off.)
Digo 1st Jul 2014, 10:08 AM edit delete reply
There's also notoriety. Witnesses spread the news and that eventually leads to groups getting hired to capture the PCs for trial (if their lucky). If I'm GM, I'll have the guild that the late merchant belonged to come after the PCs. And a merchant guild has both money and connections!
kriss1989 1st Jul 2014, 11:55 AM edit delete reply
kriss1989
Digo, I'd do the same thing. The merchants hire bounty hunters. Their payment? Really good magic items. Given up front. So they can kill the murder hobos.
terrycloth 1st Jul 2014, 11:01 AM edit delete reply
The magic items aren't actually in the store. When the merchant goes into the back room to get them, he steps through a portal to the Merchant Kingdom where epic-level guards maintain the storage space of all magic item merchants. Adventurers who try to follow are slaughtered and their souls bound into golems.
Digo 1st Jul 2014, 12:44 PM edit delete reply
I dunno why, but that sounds vaguely "Elder's Scroll" to me.
Chakat Firepaw 1st Jul 2014, 6:57 PM edit delete reply
One thing I do is to simply say that you _can't_ simply walk up to a merchant to buy a high-end magic item. High-end items are going to be in private hands and buying one generally involves the services of a local agent who knows that Lord Beaverbrook has a sword his grandfather took from a dragon's hoard and quite a bit of gambling debt.

Also, the bigger the payment, the more effort that will go into insuring there can be no betrayal. Deposits, payments held in escrow, swaps that involve separated actions, etc.
Digo 2nd Jul 2014, 4:04 AM edit delete reply
That works, yeah. What I did in the last few campaigns I ran was that high-end magic items had to be commissioned/built to order. Thus powerful items could take a couple weeks to make and always required down payment.
you know that guy 1st Jul 2014, 2:54 PM edit delete reply
I have a DM whose basic tenet is "tempt the PCs towards evil actions" sort of like a Dogs In the Vineyard kind of thing. He finds it interesting how players will react to this.
ShadowDragon8685 3rd Jul 2014, 6:14 AM edit delete reply
ShadowDragon8685
Depends on how badly you need the blasters.

If you're a group of Rebels and the local merchant has the blasters you need to fight the Empire, but won't give them to you and you're broke because you just landed in an escape pod, just killing him, or stealing the blasters, may well be a viable solution.
Jason Shadow 1st Jul 2014, 9:04 AM edit delete reply
Jason Shadow
Merchants and adventurers not getting along, you say? This is relevant.
Specter 1st Jul 2014, 9:32 AM edit delete reply
Specter
I have had many different reactions to merchants, I have little faith in them now days, and I have no care what happens to most of their merchandise. But if I ever found a merchant I actually liked, their entire store would not receive so much as a scratch if I could help it.
Raxon 1st Jul 2014, 10:35 AM edit delete reply
Raxon
Undercutting merchants, you say?

Have you considered haggling?

Perhaps an homage to a classic haggling technique.
AnonponyDASHIE 1st Jul 2014, 12:18 PM edit delete reply
In an Exalted campaign that a friend DMd I had my most memorable run-in with a merchant. My character, a Dawn Caste (warrior), went to a local merchant to sell the spoils from a few earlier fights. I rolled well to evaluate the selling value of my items and, asked for their worth from the merchant. Our DM decided he wanted to barter instead and since my character had started asking only for what the items were properly worth, he'd offer me 1/4th of that instead. I as a person am unused to bartering, and so my characters fare no better. After about fifteen minutes of real-time bartering with the shopkeeper, both I and my character were about to blow our tops over being unable to wrangle even a semi-decent price out of our DM and his merchant proxy. So I decided to turn the tables to something my character was undeniably better at, combat.

I ran the old merchant through with my daiklave (she was dragon-blooded so it seemed warranted), and myself and my Night-caste (thief) companion proceeded to loot the shop. He ran off after procuring a couple of items of worth as my character proceeded to shove everything shiny he could find into his bags. Our DM decided that a guard patrol just so happened to be passing by at the time and looked in catching me as I was ready to leave. Thinking on my feet, I immediately profusely thanked the guards for their diligence and told them they had arrived in the nick of time. The man that had just run out of the shop had just killed this poor old shopkeeper in front of my very eyes, but if they hurried they should still be able to catch the vile murderer before he got away.

After a very fortuitous bluff check, they left only a single guard to take my statement as the rest of the patrol ran after the thief (who was easily able to avoid them). After a very quick and one-sided battle, my character strode calmly out of the shop, his bags filled to the brim with magical items.

Our DM decided bartering wasn't a very good tactic in the future.
Disloyal Subject 1st Jul 2014, 12:27 PM edit delete reply
Disloyal Subject
...bartering or haggling?
Either way, well played. Of course, that did leave you with even MORE loot on your hands...
Disloyal Subject 1st Jul 2014, 12:24 PM edit delete reply
Disloyal Subject
Conflict with merchants?
Well... The traveling merchant they met an route to the dungeon was deliberately suspicious; I took a few cues from Zecora's introduction to the show there. However, she was a Gorgon (sorry, 'Medusa,' because someone at WotC doesn't care about mythology) and an inspection of her cart turned up several humanoid statues. They figured out what she was, but to my surprise, they parted in peace. It probably helped that the Monk's approach to being Lawful Neutral was to have a mafia-esque drive to protect businesses. Gonna have to think of some way to reward them down the line for that, in case we ever play again; she had a few consumable magic items that'd've helped out a lot with traversing the dungeon with a little creativity.
bobcat@dcn.davis.ca.us 1st Jul 2014, 1:19 PM edit delete reply
I think part of the problem is that the art of haggling and negotiation is lost on modern society. In a true setting, we'd see a lot of back and forth, some barter, a promised favor or three, and arguing.

Nowadays, we expect the listed price to be the price, no complications. "If they didn't want us to buy magic items, they wouldn't list prices for them, so I'm buying twenty bags of holding."

I've generally just gone with a straight die roll, based on any merchant skills they have, plus any other 'social lubrication' skills they want to apply, up to and including threat of force (which will have bad results down the line if theyr'e too heavy-handed).
Good roll? You get a fine item, at the price the merchant paid for it, because he likes you. Bad roll? Your name is a black mark among the merchants, and they'll sell you their worst wares at triple price, and probably spit on it before handing it to you.
Digo 1st Jul 2014, 7:01 PM edit delete reply
I watched a NatGeo program that showed those places where haggling is still an art. Oh wow, but it get's involved! There was one store that the merchant and buy shared some tea, talked about their life stories, and somewhere in that they were haggling between the lines.

It was like watching art.
Chakat Firepaw 1st Jul 2014, 7:29 PM edit delete reply
The 'MagicMart' thing is why Pathfinder has magic item availability as part of a settlement's stat block.

BTB, there will be at most 36 magic items for sale in anything but the largest cities. Items which are determined randomly, so that small city might have:

10 potions, (4 1st level, 5 2nd level, 1 3rd level)
6 scrolls, (2 each 0th, 1st and 3rd level)
2 wands, (all 2nd level)
an Improved Ring of Swimming
a Periapt of Proof Against Poison
an Orange Prism Ioun Stone
a +6 Belt of Mighty Constitution
a +6 Belt of Physical Might
and
a +3 Composite Shortbow of Speed

(I will note that some good rolls were involved here.)

Don't like that selection? Well, you could head somewhere else or you could wait around for a month or two. For the potions and scrolls, perhaps there is someone local who makes them and you can talk them into making the ones you need.
Specter 1st Jul 2014, 9:42 PM edit delete reply
Specter
Video!

The standard currency in (virtually) every rpg game of all kinds (d20, d6, video games, etc.)is gold. I don't really know why that is, maybe because it's pretty, has different scientific properties, maybe because humans are greedy. Instead of music or MLP video today, I will instead educate everyone with the Funniest Science Team I know
Chakat Firepaw 2nd Jul 2014, 1:01 AM edit delete reply
Gold gets commonly used in premodern derived settings largely because gold really was a significant form of exchange until recently.

The reason for that is a combination of rarity, corrosion resistance, distinctive appearance and the ease of spot-checking purity.
Steeeeve 1st Jul 2014, 11:08 PM edit delete reply
Party was hired by a town to take out a group of brigands that were raiding the supply wagons. Stopped at the local merchant. By sheer luck (and a paranoid cleric who kept using sense motive + ... .disercn lies? we realized he was in cahoots with them and was selling the goods they stole at inflated prices. Had the Bard pull a Mcfly (What the hell is that?!) to distact him and put a crossbow bolt tween his eyes. We then looted a good chunk of the stuff (mostly useful gear and magic goods)and blamed it on the thieves.
mistriousfrog 2nd Jul 2014, 3:06 AM edit delete reply
mistriousfrog
I think merchants get along badly with PCs because any merchant with a decent stock of items the PC might actually want tends to have very high resistance to bluff and intimidation. PCs hate to play fair and actually pay for their goods like everyone else.
scot ravenspeir 2nd Jul 2014, 8:07 AM edit delete reply
my favorite comic so far is my little ppny betral is makic. And only the first part of this comic has a real story line. After that there is no defined story story line
Newbiespud 2nd Jul 2014, 2:06 PM edit delete reply
Newbiespud
...

Well, you tried. And that's what counts.
Siccarus 2nd Jul 2014, 9:02 PM edit delete reply
I actually was In a party with a Merchant PC once, Never had to worry bout getting Ripped off again, At least I think so...
the player had an amazing poker face and we had a note passing Dm.
Paradoxical 3rd Jul 2014, 3:24 AM edit delete reply
In many a game system the heroes come back with tons (often literally) of treasure. This would have the tendency to destabilize the economy and would be a great temptation to many a person. Therefore to get back or out of natural inclination the merchants would attempt to cheat (occasionally "for the greater good") the characters.
Oh, on the other side: many (most?) PC's are secretly chaotic jerk-ish on the alignment scale. [I mean how often do you see characters run into peoples' homes and kill them for defending their homes, by claiming they are {for example} "evil" goblins.]
aeroz 4th Jul 2014, 11:23 PM edit delete reply
Once at a bizaar a merchant was trying to sell the party an incredibly valuable diamond. Of course one of them stole it. Unfortunately for them I knew that would happen. It was a cursed gem.

long story short the group was driven mad by Cthulhu. It was so bad they actually now have a rule to never pick up a diamond