Buying and Selling Magical Items

Anyone who plays D&D in campaigns comes to the realization, that the characters will have more gear at some point than they need. Be it due the numbers of attuneable items (I love the attunement system for the limit, normally) or because they found simply better gear and the old one is not needed anymore. Or, of course, because you, the DM, gave all these enemies some cheap magical items, for whatever reasons.

Or maybe your players wants to buy some simpler magic gear, like a Battle Axe +1 without going through all the trouble of a great adventure.

The main question remains: How do you determine the price. Of course the DMG have a table, which shows the value of a magic item, but it’s always in a range.

  • Common: 50-100 gp
  • Uncommon: 101-500 gp
  • Rare: 501-5.000 gp
  • Very Rare: 5.001 – 50,000 gp
  • Legendary: 50,001+ gp

For my campaigns, I use simple pointers.

  • Potions are always the least possible price
  • Scrolls are twice as valuable as Potions, this is also the standard price for one-time consumables
  • for every further charge of non-rechargeable consumables add a potion
  • Weapons and Armor uses a special table, depending on their type (see below)
  • non-combat gear is 30% of the highest possible price, if you have to attune it and 60% if you don’t have to
  • 60% for attuneable combat gear and 90% for gear you don’t need to

This won’t be helpful for all items, but at least it covers a lot. For weapon and armors, I simply take the highest possible price for the rarity and takes a portion of it, depending on the type of item. Since I personally think, that a dagger is much easier to enchant than a greatsword (since it’s simply lesser you need to work on) and the power of a weapon or armor often synergies with its price.

Armor (Rare; x10 for very rare and x100 for legendary)

Here you have consider the fact, that there are some things to consider. First, the most powerful armor in each category have to be more expensive than a lesser armor of a category before, since they are less useful. And heavy armors in general are bad except the Plate Armor or if you have a sub-par Strength score. You always have disadvantage and only your STR determines the final outcome and most characters which uses heavy armor, should have STR 15 to see it through.

  • Padded 501 gp
  • Leather 550 gp
  • Studded leather 1100 gp
  • Hide 550
  • Chain shirt 1100
  • Scale mail 1100
  • Breastplate 3500
  • Half plate 4000
  • Ring mail 550
  • Chain mail 1500
  • Splint 3000
  • Plate 5000
  • Shield (Common 110gp, Uncommon 550 and then use the x10 formula)

Weapons (Uncommon, rare x5, very rare x50, legendary x500)

Since most weapons aren’t as pricey as armor and there are actually reasons to have a certain weapon within your proficiencies, these should be normally less valuable. But don’t hesitate to push up the value of certain weapons, like Flametongue, which seems to be too great of a weapon for the ‘over the thumb ruling’ I provide.

  • Club 101 gp
  • Dagger 110 gp
  • Greatclub 110 gp
  • Handaxe 120 gp
  • Javelin 120 gp
  • Light hammer 110 gp
  • Mace 120 gp
  • Quarterstaff 110 gp
  • Sickle 101 gp
  • Spear 101  gp
  • Crossbow, light 250 gp
  • Dart 120 gp
  • Shortbow 250 gp
  • Sling 101  gp
  • Battleaxe 150 gp
  • Flail 150 gp
  • Glaive 200 gp
  • Greataxe 300 gp
  • Greatsword 450 gp
  • Halberd 200 gp
  • Lance 150 gp
  • Longsword 175 gp
  • Maul 150 gp
  • Morningstar 175 gp
  • Pike 120 gp
  • Rapier 250 gp
  • Scimitar 250 gp
  • Shortsword 150 gp
  • Trident 120 gp
  • War pick 120 gp
  • Warhammer 175 gp
  • Whip 110 gp
  • Blowgun 150 gp
  • Crossbow, hand 500 gp
  • Crossbow, heavy 450 gp
  • Longbow 450 gp
  • Net 101 gp

Be beware

These are only quick and dirty rules for the value of items. If a player asks about a certain item, like: “How much would it be, if I want to acquire a Longsword +1?”, you can look this list up, to say: “At least 175gp, but be prepared to spend more.”

If the players asks about a “Manual of Bodily Health”, of course you’re supposed to answer in mean laughter. A permanent boost to an ability score is of course something, which isn’t measured in gold pieces, but in mercy.

Consider always the possibility to lower or raise the price, if you can or if the item is especially powerful or too specialized to be useful most of the time. You should even go over the normal limits of the category, if you think it’s doable.

And of course, it’s only the value. For selling, you should adjust it (normally half the value, but I often use reputation and such to raise or drop the selling price).

How to make a character back-story

For now no pictures, since I’m on the clock, but won’t be back until late in my timezone, maybe I’ll edit some later.

Sometimes you have a DM, who actually wants a character back-story and often only one player in the gaming group will be delighted. You might think, that you only write some lines out of cheesy, classic stuff and your DM will be delighted, but then you notice that he reads it, frowned and just says: ‘It’s OK.’

Since I’m about to start my first 5e campaign and I’m one of the DMs which want a back-story, I’ll tell the world how to do it. Here a some simple advices toward that goal:

1.) Start with the back-story, not the personality

In most cases, human’s personality is derived from their background, even if it works the other way around, too, the personality can change while the back-story can’t. It’s easier to focus on the actual back-story instead of bringing an well-shaped personality in the game, which will warp a natural storyline into a unnatural one. A cynic character wasn’t necessarily cynic as a child, most likely he was even naive.

2.) Choose your background from your back-story, not otherwise

If possible, don’t let your back-story be bounded and especially the background-rule will do it greatly. In most cases, reading backgrounds will grand you inspiration, but maybe the journey on writing a back-story will take you to another background before you realize.

3.) Start with some cornerstones

Typically your back-story should have an answer to following questions, if you can answer them, you’re already half done, if any one of these is answered in 1-4 sentences:

  1. Where and how grew your character up?
  2. How did he learn to be his class?
  3. Was he happy with his life?
  4. When and how did he decided to be an adventurer/mercenary/whatever your campaign says?
  5. What is he looking for in that occupation?
  6. If he gets a lot of money, how will he spend it?
  7. When do he actually plan to retire?

In Question 4 you lay the most important aspect, which is why it got italic. This is a great turning point and you shouldn’t stop at 2 sentences, just throw in any twist you like and this is the part, were you can easily shape your final personality, just using all those things, you learned from the media.

These cornerstones will explain the how and ensure that the character is not finished, a character with no goals, bonds and other things that have great influence on his future, is pretty boring after all. Because he’s just lacking something which drives him.

Here I just write an example, how it could look for a half-elven wild magic sorcerer:

Theron was always an outsider, he and his human mother lived about at the village’s edge, his father was an adventurer, but Theron couldn’t care less about it, since he had his own problems. For the other kids he always seemed otherworldly from appearance, but every time he got emotional, he let cows fly and burned trees, his mother always told him, that it was his magical blood. He tried to suppress it, but after a village boy got hurt by a wave of thunder, the villagers went into a frenzy and burned his house down, banning him and his mother.
To survive long enough to reach the next form of civilization, Theron had to use his magic, so he and his mother wouldn’t be eaten by ankhegs or murdered by orcs. After a long journey, he and his mother got to Baldur’s Gate and to survive there, his mother had to get into debts, while working at a tavern for a living. Theron looked for work himself, but since his magic wasn’t still stable, he would do more harm than good. But he was scouted as an adventurer, an occupation where his talents are useful.
The one who scouted him is also an half-elf, a fighter called Benning. Benning was like a big brother for Theron and taught him everything from the start. But after Theron’s mother found out about Theron’s adventurer’s life (he lied to her, that he found work as a laborer), she made him an ultimatum to either stop that dangerous career or to be on his own for now. He decided for the latter, partly because his friendship with Benning, partly because of his further goals.
He dreams about getting enough treasures in one adventure to pay the debts back and ensure his mother a lifetime worth of money. And maybe for himself, too, but being an adventurer is the only time he felt accepted, so maybe he might spend some more time in that occupation than planned.

Theron has to have a lack of confidence, a strong feeling of responsibility and the feeling to be an outsider everywhere he goes. Benning would be a great friend, villain or even drive, depending how to use him. Maybe Benning could be a PC-party-member himself, then you’d actually had to adapt a thing or two, but this works out as well.

4.) Get friends and enemies

Most people have friends, so your character should at least have one person he can trust, even though it don’t need to be fully. Enemies, rivals or siblings (a bit of both) are great assesses for a DM.

In Theron’s case, he trusts his mother and Benning most and have a whole village against him. Maybe the word spread and some mage hunters will come after him or maybe the boy he hurt will get a career outside the village, even may want to learn the way of the magic himself, since he felt too overpowered. Or the debt collectors might collect his mother at some point, trying to squeeze more money from her now adventuring son. Or maybe Benning will turn out to be a real bad deal, since he needed Theron for some schemes. These little details may be made up by you or your DM, as long as (s)he understand his work.

5.) Consider family bonds

Often further details of the family are obscured in shadows, but they’re a vital part of the character, since they’re still family.

6.) Don’t be afraid to play an archetype

First of all: A lot of psychologists believed that the human brain is incapable of creating new stuff and can only adapt, combine and carry on memories, perceptions and other things it already knows. That’s one of the reasons, why many scientifically theories are only approaches, not actually the real deal. So you aren’t able to create a whole new story.

Being the sole survivor of a village, being chosen by prophecy, needing money for the sick sister, which can only be cured by greater magic, all of it are pretty common back-stories in the media and pretty popular. An archetype is easier to play, since everyone knows what to expect, you won’t need 3 game sessions to realize what a brawny, stupid barbarian would do, you just need the courage to actually do it. The same with back-stories, since they’re well known, everyone knows what to expect.

But don’t copy blindly stuff everyone already knows. Copying a mainstream media in your gaming-group will most often provokes a snarl or a snicker, just adapt some major parts or combine it with another, so it becomes a bit more original.

7.) Leave room, embrace the conflict

A DM will hate you, if your back-story is long, too detailed and with no room to wriggle, Don’t expect, that your flawless back-story won’t get flawed, you have to be prepared that your whole character story might be like the hangman’s rope around your neck and just enjoy it.

And don’t write too much, it’s pretty annoying to read ten pages, when you as an DM awaits only one.

8.) Ask your DM

Since a DM will know more or less what’s going to happen, you can simply ask him, if he have something useful. If he says: Actually I’ve an ongoing antagonist, ask him if your character might be bonded by that antagonist already. Then you can work around that and the story will be even greater.

After those pointers, maybe you’ll have less trouble in making a back-story. If you’re still not sure, maybe it helps when I’m telling you, what I as a DM am looking for:

  • Something in the past which follows a character
  • Something he actually has his hands ful
  • A goal he tries to achieve

And if this all don’t work: Play Theron, he already got plenty of those. 😉

Gold – Too much gained, too less to spend it on?

(This post is pre-DMG)

One of the concerns in the 5e is how to spend your gold. Since magic items aren’t for sale for now, dozens of adventurers are now sitting on enough gold to live their whole life in luxury, never needing to go out to adventure again. How could it happen, if one of the main reasons to become an adventurer is to get a lot of money in a short amount of time?!

LOOT!

Isn’t it much more natural to spend all the money in magic items, to get into even more dangerous dungeons to get even more valuable goods and sell them for even more money, so you can spend more lifetimes in luxury, even though you only have one… OK, I’ll stop being sarcastic, but everyone should consider, if the first thing a character would do with a lot of money would be buying magic weapons or other stuff.

Yes, after some adventuring your character may be lucky enough to call some treasures his/her own (especially after backstabbing his/her party members) and after life expenses, replenishment and one or two nights in a tavern (or more adult place) you (as the player) might wonder, what you can actually do with all this gold.

But after getting a hundred healing potions, enough material components to revive a whole village and other expenses, which are kinda useful or preventing, options will run dry. Even with downtime activities like Training, you won’t spend enough in time to balance out your incoming treasures.

So what to do?

Normally most characters would just retire, get a more safe job as a hobby (like pub owner for a tavern targeting adventurers) and start a new life. But that can’t work, since then the campaign would be over… or is that so? As a DM I wouldn’t generally make a campaign stop, just because the PCs got a new life, let the party reassemble again to fight a new evil, this time because they have a life to protect.

Other adventurers could seek nobility/titles or an own property, this will cost a lot of gold and these could be great adventure hooks, some adventures in the past would make the PCs to landowners, just to bring their land and people in danger.

A third way would be setting a goal, which will take humongous amount of money and other resources. Like building and support an orphanage in every town in your home country. Or to build a big organization which should be able to act over a whole continent. Or maybe you just want to support an organization you already belong to (like the Harpers), so they can expand their influence or at least break even.

The last way would be a very obvious choice: Have fun! Buy a house/villa, instead selling these art objects, shelve them or set them on display, hire some guardians and take the rest to taverns, partying every night, spend it on (wo)men, gamble and see how fast the bailiff will take your art objects and house away, while you still have debts to pay and need a fast way to get money again. Well, time to use the rest of your adventure gear, hoping that you could hide your vital items in time.

And if your character is just an adventure-junkie, seeking the excitement? He won’t need magic items, since they make dungeons less exciting (obviously!) and spend their money for information about the next adventure and the new episode may begin after spending a bit of time and a lot of money for it.
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But even those who are adamant about buying those magic swords, armors and other stuff: Don’t worry, this state of not being able to spend money on items won’t be permanent. The Dungeon Master Guide will come out and there will be advanced rules for magic items, those who played the playtest already know some of them. There were rules to sell items, so even if in the DMG won’t be any to buy them, you can still make your own basing on selling.

And I think the Eberron Campaign Setting will be the latest end, since Eberron is a world, where a lot of magic items exists and in the big cities magic is about everywhere you look.
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Personally, I like the fact, that magic items in normal campaigns are rare again. Somehow it just felt wrong to have a great among of those and a real market system, which considers those. Of course a magic sword could be on sell, but would a non-expert on magic items even know its value? Or just tag a price which seems higher than reasonable and smooth-talk adventurers into buying this Longsword +1 for 10.000gp, selling it for the most powerful weapon in existence?

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So for players: There are more ways to spend money but to gain more power. And DMs, just let your players see ways to spend their money on. Some players won’t be as happy with a character, who gets an actual life and want just the power of personal gear, instead military might, politic connections and other ways to get real power. Those player’s characters are sad people, which are small-minded, short-sighted and without a real drive.

But for now, you get a lot of money and only a few magic items, which means:
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Like good old times.