And while we’re on the subject, you shouldn’t mistake the “Magic Items” chapter of the Core Rule Book for a shopping catalog either. There’s a reason that the guys behind 5e D&D left the prices out of the rules. You’re supposed to loot up by adventuring and questing, retrieving the Sword of MacGuffin from the Tomb of Plot Device by honest work and the sweat of thy brow. When said sword resides in Ye Old Shoppe rather than a dangerous tomb, it suddenly loses its luster. That way lies the mithral skillet. Ain’t nobody want the mithral skillet.

And yet, if you prowl around on 5e forums, you’ll still find dudes requesting pricing advice on a weekly basis. You’ll get referred to the Sane Magic Item Prices thread over on GitP. You’ll find players clamoring for their magic item shops because “I really need it for my build.” And as a GM, you’ll have to figure out how to respond to this mess.

In short, I like it when systems provide me (the GM) with magic item prices. I don’t like it when players assume they can pop down to the local Kum & Go for a 6 pack of holy avengers. And if I want both of those things, I have to manage item availability.

My group is over 7 years into our megadungeon game as of this writing. All this time later, I’m still running with the system that dungeon designers Monte Cook laid out for managing exactly this issue. The basic gimmick is a travelling magic merchant and his son. They show up once a month in the small town the PCs call home. Since they’re repeat customers, the party also have the option of blowing a magic whistle to summon these merchants, in which case they show up in 3d4 days. If the PCs ever go full murderhobo (Let’s rob the magic item vendor! We’ll be rich!), it activates a custom item that teleports the merchants back to safety.

As far as inventory, this magic shop of mine always has healing supplies, as well as a selection of +1 weapons and armors. This is basic gear, and it’s meant to get a starting party underway. In addition, there are about a dozen unique items in the cart each time the merchants show up. These items range from the dirt-cheap to way-out-of-the-party’s-price-range. I hand pick these items to be interesting and quirky rather than straight-up powerhouse items (most of those can be found in the dungeon). The result is that my PCs have an assortment of gear to choose from while I still control what goes into their pockets. The downside is that I have to put in the effort to find relevant images for each item.

This is only one solution, but it’s worked for me from Level 2 all the way up to Level 17. I have made one additional tweak though. If the PCs want to ask this magic merchant to look out for a specific item, they put in the order, roll a % chance to see if he finds it, and then pay a 10% surcharge on his return visit. I’m not sure he’d actually come up with a pulse canon, but this allows niche builds to at least have a chance of finding the +2 elven branched spear of backscratching that they just can’t live without.

This is my take on solving the “magic item shop problem” in my own games. What about the rest of you guys though? How do you manage the magic item economy without turning wondrous treasure of myth and legend into mundane commodities? Sound off with you own solutions and tricks down in the comments!


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