It is hard to manage shopping in DnD for the Dm. Your players want to buy things with their gold, but it might break the game. Furthermore, you might not have any idea on what to price items, so what should you do?
When you manage shopping in DnD you need to know your setting, tables, and how the price differs from shop to shop.
A shopping session can be stressful for a DM, but the worst is when it completely destroys your game.
Resources and quick setup
You might have come here because you need help on the fly. So before we talk about how to not break your game with a shopping session, here are 4 things to keep in mind.
- If you are interested in how much a normal item would cost (like a blanket or chair) remember that gold is worth a lot in DnD. In 1st edition 1 gold was a year’s wage for the average person. For people in 5th edition, it is closer to 1 month’s pay for the average citizen. If you are ever confused about how much things cost, let small items be cheap (in the silvers or even coppers) and bigger items for businessmen like a cart be fairly expensive. Your adventurers are rich and that is why some people love them.
- Use the resource here for a random shop generator. It will give you ideas and tell you how to describe an item to your party. Just don’t give items that are too rare. If you just want to know about what items are common/uncommon, there is a tab for that as well.
- Keep your setting in mind. Don’t allow too many magic items or allow your players to buy them if it is a low-medium magic setting.
- For the cost of most magic items, here is a chart that can be found on page 135 of the DMG that tells you how expensive a magic item should be and when to give it.
- Common 50-100 gp 1st level or higher
- Uncommon 101-500 gp 1st level or higher
- Rare 501-5000 gp 5th level or higher
- Very rare 5001-50000 gp 11th level or higher
- Legendary 50,001+ gp 17th level or higher
With these resources, you should be able to make a shopping session on the fly without a problem.
If you are interested in not destroying your game and how to plan for a shopping session, then continue reading about how to manage a shopping session in DnD.
Low and average magic Settings
The setting is something important to consider. Are you in a low magic, normal, or high magic setting?
A low magic setting will not have any shops. Magic items are too rare and if someone has a magic item they will not give it up for gold. Even healing potions would require a service of some kind. So that makes your sessions easy to deal with when it comes to shopping. Don’t allow magical items for your players unless they know a person and have already done some service or will continue to do a service for them.
Normal settings will not have magic shops in most cities. Generally, the big cities will have 1-2 magic shops. The reason why is due to demand. Not many people are willing to spend 100s of gold on a magic item. Most people in DnD are far too poor, so the clientele is very small. This makes business risky to open a magic item shop, so very few open up.
If you are in a big city that loves adventurers, then there might be a few more magic item shops. Most shops should only carry baubles and common items though since it is quite expensive to house magic items and most adventurers are interested in the common/uncommon items.
In normal settings, players should not be able to buy very rare items. If the players are extremely close with the shopkeeper and that shopkeeper is well-liked then maybe. Maybe the players are able to make a shopkeeper work hard for them to get a very rare item, but this is only due to loyalty and possibly doing a favor for the shopkeeper.
I would recommend having at least 4 uncommon, 3 common, and 2 rare items for the players to choose from. If it is a big shop then maybe a little bit more, but not too much more when it comes to rare items. Don’t forget to keep player character levels in mind when allowing them to purchase items, and make them a little bit more expensive since they are rarer.
This is already a lot for how to manage shopping in DnD for a normal setting, but we now have to cover a high magic setting.
High magic settings
High magic settings could allow players to buy almost anything. This is the only setting where players can buy legendary items they want for gold, but most likely they will only find these items in a metropolitan shop.
High magic settings allow players to buy almost everything for a fair price due to competition and will have many shops for magic items.
The only concern with a high magic setting is giving your players too much. You let them buy every variant of a magical sword there is, and then you don’t have a weapon to give your players who wield swords. This issue compounds and soon you will be unable to give your players anything useful.
This is the main problem with high magic settings and is why you should make your shops not carry everything. I would recommend 1d6+player level uncommon items, player level common items, and player levels -1 after they are able to attain those items for every other rarity.
For example, a level 12 character would be able to choose from 1d6+12 uncommon items, 12 common items, (12-5) 7 rare items, (12-11) 1 very rare item.
The extra level is to make it so that found items are still better, but the players will have options to purchase from. Make sure that each shop specializes in magic items for high magic settings. Make 1 only give armor, another only give swords, etc.
You will have more than enough shops and this will solve the problem of characters trying out 20 different stores until they find what they want.
This is already a lot to cover, but there are some other important aspects to manage shopping in DnD.
What you allow to be bought
In your game, you might randomly roll a shop’s item table. This can involve a bunch of items that you just list and give your players the option to chose from.
DON’T DO THIS!
If you just randomly assign items it can and will break your game at least once. Think of the ‘Deck of Many Things.’ If you didn’t know what this item did it would just be a legendary item that sounds cool. Almost everyone knows that this is wrong and it will destroy your game, but you didn’t know.
There are other items like this.
You could at level 6 give your player the option to purchase a sun blade. This doesn’t seem too powerful, but it is a monster against undead. If you didn’t know what it did and planned to run an undead exclusive campaign then your game is pretty much done. that fighter can deal with a +4 strength mod 4d8+12 damage every round. This is ridiculous and if they use any abilities the damage goes up!
This can destroy your game and that is why I have 3 rules for you.
- If you don’t know the item, don’t give them the option to purchase it.
- If you are not sure about how powerful the item is, don’t allow it to be purchased.
- Don’t give the players the option to buy the weapon and take it back once the players figure out how to break the game.
If you followed steps 1 and 2 you did your due diligence. you didn’t see how the item could break the game, but the players found a way. This is what players do so let them have their moment in the sun. Then find a way to make that weapon not break your game.
Now that you have an idea of what you can allow your players to buy and what not to buy, let’s manage shopping in DnD by talking about city size.
We have mentioned city sizes before when talking about the volume of magical items available. The volume of items follows a simple formula.
If a city is bigger, it will have more magic item options and a fairer price. If the city is small and is lucky enough to have a magic items vendor, their prices will be much higher due to convenience cost.
City size will also help manage shopping in DnD by having guilds or affiliations with other merchants. There might be a general merchant that only has uncommon or common magic items. If you are affiliated with an adventuring guild there might be 1-2 magic item shops and a secret shop for very wealthy clients.
This applies to non-magic item shops as well.
A lone shop in a village will charge more for their services and goods than a shop in a city would. The stock is also less for the players to chose from.
When you manage shopping in DnD remember the size of the city to help determine the stock, quality, and price of items.
City size is not the only way to manage pricing.
Today when we go shopping it is simple. There is a fixed price and we either buy an item for that price or we don’t. That is for regular purchases. For high-cost purchases like paying for a car or house, we still barter.
In DnD there is no fixed price for anything. The tables I gave you with the cost for each type of magic item is a guideline. The same goes for any item that is not magic. They are guidelines that can be changed.
1 part of changing these guidelines is the mentality of sell high, buy low.
Shopkeepers will want to sell their items for as much profit as possible and buy for as little as possible to maximize the profit when sold. It makes sense and every smart businessman/woman would want to make the biggest profit possible. This is also a good way to manage shopping in DnD by making your players able to buy fewer items than they originally intended.
This is why most items are sold for more than market cost and bought for an insulting amount. what is more, adventurers do not know the market value of these items. That makes your clients easy to rip off without them knowing about it. Especially since there isn’t much competition to compare to.
This allows for players to barter using persuasion and feel like they got a good deal.
This is not always the case though. Some places use this practice, while other cultures may vary. For example, 1 culture might value market prices and are insulted if someone tries to barter. Another culture might be insulted if the players don’t try to barter and will start the cost at least 10x higher than the actual cost.
There are many ways to go about bartering, but don’t let your players just buy from market value. That is unless you buy between sessions.
Buying between sessions
Many groups like to have shopping sessions because they are fun, can further the plot, and give new NPCs that the players might enjoy. If you are curious on how to make great NPCs like this, then check out our article on NPCs here!
Making those NPCs can be a pain though. Imagine being in a high magic setting where there are 10 different magic item vendors or an inexperienced DM who doesn’t want to keep track of 4 different NPCs. Lastly, you might not want to do this because players keep going to different shops for common supplies.
In these instances, it is a valid option to buy items out of game or in-between sessions. It will save time and lets everyone get what they want.
To others, this sounds boring or a recipe for disaster. You don’t know what your players have and not being able to see their sheet can worry you, but I would recommend that you play with people who you can trust. That way this isn’t an issue and you will have more fun with a great group.
This is the easiest way to manage shopping in DnD, but what if you want to voice all those NPCs?
Having many shopkeepers
If you want to have a lot of shopkeepers, you need to consider if you will be using different voices for each person. If you are concerned about voices, check out our article on how to use character voices here.
If you checked out the article you can tell that it will be a lot of work to be able to use each voice well. That is why you might not want to have too many shopkeepers if you voice them all.
A great way to get around this is by making some related, twins, or whatever excuse you can come up with. If you do this though, it will take away their uniqueness so be careful when you give the same voice to multiple shopkeepers.
I would recommend 1-3 shopkeepers that are voiced, and the rest is just basic transactions. Use your normal voice with maybe a gruff or lighter tone for the less important NPCs and keep the spotlight on the NPCs who the players are most interested in. Or, the NPCs who have the items that the players are most interested in.
This is a simple section on how to manage shopping in DnD, but it is important for those who want to voice NPCs and not get overwhelmed. Don’t voice 5+ NPCs unless they are established or you already have that many voices.
When you manage shopping in DnD it can be quick. Just get some resources out, take a random table, and boom! You are done.
If you do this, it might destroy your game though. You might introduce a magic item that causes the game to break, or you might just give out too many good items.
That is why you have to consider your setting, bartering, and how you want your players to go shopping. You can do this in-between sessions or during a session with NPCs, but both have pros and cons. Figure out what which 1 is best for you and stick with it.
With that, I hope that I have helped you scramble to make a shopping session happen, or plan a great shopping session for you and for your players.
This has been Wizo and keep rolling!