A Trick For Low-Level Magic Items

Roleplaying Tips Newsletter #0829

Here are some cool ideas from long-time Roleplaying Tips reader Roger Barr:

What kind of excitement can this place offer to my players?

Even a common market can provide distractions.

Ever been shopping at a thrift store or a flea market?

You can find the most interesting items, odd clothing, and unusual glassware. Now add the fantasy flavor.

Nearly everyone loves to go shopping in roleplaying games when it becomes part of a Treasure Hunt. And every market has something to offer adventurers.

A couple of examples from an old 3.5 game a while back were inspired by the question, “When someone is learning to craft healing potions or magical items, what do they do with all of the ones that are crafted while they are still in training?”

This kind of question sparks all kinds of ideas.

We had a campaign where there was no cleric in the party, so the PCs were always looking for healing items and were desperate for anything that would help. One of my favorite market encounters was someone who was selling (at a reduced cost) weaker versions of healing items from people who were still learning their craft.

“Healing Potions, Cheap!” says the sign. Sister Sarah of the Order of the Faithful is a bashful young woman who freely admits that she is practicing the craft, and is willing to sell these low quality healing potions to “Nice people who are adventurers and willing to do good with them.”

(In game mechanics, the potion has triple the normal volume of a potion, but only provides 1d4 hit points of restoration. Basically, they cannot drink them in a single combat round due to the time it takes to get the large bottle out and consume it.)

Since the party had some good and charming folks in the team, she sold them the potions for less than a third the regular cost once the PCs assured her that they were indeed good and upstanding people.

A fellow craftsman next to her was willing to sell healing wands, and for a mere fraction of the cost. They were fully capable of providing a Cure Light Wounds spell, but only one. He had a small stack of them. “I just cannot get the stinking stick to hold more power,” he explains. “Something is wrong in the layering between the platinum wire bands and the olive wood.”

A bright blue cloak sits on a rack of nice looking garments, and has a few minor runes sewn into the collar. Any mage might notice that a couple of the runes don’t look quite right. The old man wants 80 gold for the cloak, and swears it is magical, that it provides defence against magical attacks.

(It does. The cloak allows the wearer to activate a first level Shield spell, but only once every three days.) The man does not want to admit that he knows about the extended recharge time, but if the buyer presses him about it he will admit it and possibly drop the price if well bargained.

The Technique

Here is the trick on how to improvise in this manner. All I did is pick a first level spell, add it to a device, and then make it not as useful as the ones in the rules for fully operational magical items. I will tell you however, that this kind of stuff works really well for low level characters, and gives them a sense of accomplishment of finding a treasure in something as basic as a market. If you enjoy roleplaying out the conversation, you can allow the players to haggle and feel good about themselves for getting a better deal as well.