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Cluedrew
2015-07-01, 10:27 AM
The magic shop is a surprising rarity some times. It seems to be less common then magic schools sometimes despite the simple fact that if magic existed, it would take half an hour for someone for someone to figure out how to sell it. But even when someone does it often ends up as you "Corner Magic Store" which is basically a regular store which sells magic items.

That works put it lacks... spice. How do you make the magic shop interesting?

I'm not looking for a particular style or even for a particular setting, it is just I have seen few interesting magic stores and I wonder what one could do to make another one.

My personal favourite is to get ride of the store and have a Travelling Salesmen. (Or woman or primordial creature.) If you do it right you can get away with just the one and get away with always having "just the thing" that characters are looking for.

Mark Hall
2015-07-01, 10:58 AM
For me, it comes down to "what do these shops actually do?"

Dragonlance had relatively common (i.e. available in really big cities, plus the Tower) mageware shops. They'd sell common spell components, a few consumable items, and maybe have something special available, from time to time. So all the apprentice and low-level magic users wouldn't have to gather esoteric components all the time... sure, anyone can find sand for a Sleep spell, but the prism for your Read Magic is a bit more difficult, and no one really wants to go spelunking for their own sulphur and bat guano.

Cluedrew
2015-07-01, 11:43 AM
Now that you mention it there are two types of magic shops. Those that sell to magic users and those that sell what the magic users make.

I was originally thinking more the second type. The first also works though, or some service business. I guess a more refined version of the question might be: "How does having ready access to magic change a store front?"

On your note of "what do they do" let us consider a magic shop that sells transportation by teleportation. That's all they do, you give them a delivery in a objects or people, they calculate the magic energy they need to move it* by the distance and weight and give you a price. Pay it and your delivery is made on the inside of 10 minutes.

But because they are magic they have a few extras in the store. So the maps and globes they have are enchanted to say answer simple geography questions, or come when you ask them and put themselves away. The scales they use has marbles for counter weights which can weigh as much as 20kg when you put them on the scales. They also have no doors to the back room, instead using magic circles and short range teleports to move to and from the main store. They use doors the rest of the time, it is just for effect.

So that is one particular example I came up with... I wonder if I can draw anything out for the general case from it.

* I felt the example would make more sense if I swapped out spell slots for something else.

Mark Hall
2015-07-01, 12:06 PM
Well, as you said, if magic is a technology (in that it is repeatable to achieve the same results relatively consistently), then you're going to commodify it, and then prices will come to a point. A lot will come down to how difficult it is, and how many people can do it.

If you've read the Vlad Taltos series by Steven Brust, magic very much is a commodity. You can get people to teleport you places, get people to revivify you if you're dead, get people to send psychic messages across the continent... all sorts of things. Almost everyone CAN use magic, and there's really nothing to prevent everyone from becoming an expert except time and effort... but if you're teleporting, you have to know the place, so they'll teleport you. To send a message across the continent you have to have developed your psychics and know someone there, so they'll help you for a fee.

Magic will become part and parcel of the business world. Teleporting will probably be more expensive than hiring a caravan, because it's harder to do, but, hey, maybe they're running a special.

Bard1cKnowledge
2015-07-01, 12:09 PM
Read Boozle, the magic shop appears when you need it, and you need to be specific about the item (if the item is not in stock they joke and hand you a joke item or offer advice)

Honest Tiefling
2015-07-01, 12:19 PM
You could steal from the Thayvans of Forgotten Realms. Great selection, low, low, low prices...And the lingering knowledge that your money is going to fund some slavers on the other side of the world. But hey, you now have a wand of enlarge person. So worth it!

Magic and crime go together quite well, as you often need funds to acquire the magic, and magic can get around those pesky guards doing that whole 'obey and uphold the law' nonsense they keep going on about. So why wouldn't criminal factors be invested in magic?

Bard1cKnowledge
2015-07-01, 12:54 PM
Better yet, the store itself is magic, as in it teleports/plane shifts/transmutes itself every so often, but the goods inside are just common items/arms

Huzzah for being literal

Honest Tiefling
2015-07-01, 12:56 PM
Better yet, the store itself is magic, as in it teleports/plane shifts/transmutes itself every so often, but the goods inside are just common items/arms

Huzzah for being literal

No, no, I think this is a great plot point. The shop is cursed, and the shopkeeper cannot leave...So they try to tempt adventurers into the shop in the hopes of not appearing in a volcano again and getting more food and water.

jok
2015-07-01, 04:20 PM
My magic shop is a multivers traveling coach. The players found a little figurin to call it. The coach always looks like it belongs into the current area, due to illusion magic. It appears only if no danger is around and you can not bring any extradimensional spaces into it.
The interior is a comfy lounge with refreshments and a counter to conduct buisness.
The buisness comes with a cost. If you order an item you have to absolutely pay the price the next time you call the coach. You do not know the price in advance. I roll randomly how much more the item will cost.
If you can not pay, bad things will happen...

Milo v3
2015-07-01, 08:11 PM
The magic shops for my players setting are actually just places that take requisitions and then send those requests to the six-nine highly skilled item crafters through sending devices, then that item is created, and sent to the magic shop for the person to pick up. Most of the shop's clients are settlements.

nedz
2015-07-01, 08:15 PM
Given the prices these are all high end purchases they should be quite rare. How many Rolls-Royce or Ferrari shops are there in your town ?

That said I either abstract it into a general market or have specialist shops depending on the setting.

In the latter case: if you want a magical weapon you go to the armourers, who stock mundane weapons as well; if you want a potion you go to the apothecaries; if you wand a wand of curing you go to a temple; etc.

In both cases I also expect that PCs will establish contacts for their more unusual purchases.

Vitruviansquid
2015-07-01, 09:36 PM
I've always wanted to run a high fantasy campaign set in a world like Futurama - it's main premise is that the magical high fantasy world is just as tacky and crappy as the non-magical world, and just as boring once you've gotten used to it.

In this world, being an adventurer is like being a really big nerd in ours. That means wizards prefer to get their spell components from mom and pop street corner shops that have distinctive "wizard funk," and a room in the back where you can have your wizard duels if you like. Fighters might mail order a magic sword from a specialist smithy that has no brick-and-mortar stores. Every year, thieves attend an annual RogueCon where the newest in lockpicks and grappling hooks are unveiled for the general public to see. People who aren't adventurers generally don't understand what the big deal is with all this adventurer crap.

In short, it's kinda like being into Warhammer 40k. :smallconfused:

ShaneMRoth
2015-07-04, 02:08 PM
In my campaigns, magic shops don't exist.

With the spells in the Core Rules and the abilities of rogues, security at a magic shop is impossible to sustain. And I don't mean DC:40 Technically Impossible. I mean "the shop will be robbed so frequently that it will be incapable of turning a profit no matter what" impossible.

Buying and selling magic items is a grey market.

The PCs need to find a "broker" and need to get that broker to take a Helpful attitude towards them. (Trafficking in magic is legal, but it is extremely risky)

Then the broker needs to arrange for an exchange that is somewhat like that between a drug deal and an arms deal. It takes at least a week to arrange the sale. Everyone provides their own security. And no one trusts anyone further than they could throw a fit.

If I were to design a magic shop (a place of business where magic items could be bought and sold) I would do it in such a manner that the shop never actually had any inventory of magic items in the shop.

It might be more like a stock exchange. People would negotiate the sale and purchase of items, and then arrange for the transfer of custody of the items elsewhere. A market in a large city might even look like the NYSE and have an opening bell and a floor populated by brokers shouting over each other. Perhaps a chalkboard with "commodity prices" displayed. (Someone is trying to corner the market on Figurines of Wondrous Power... Sell, sell, sell!)

Kami2awa
2015-07-04, 06:19 PM
If magic shops exist, they don't exist only for the PCs. Lots of other people will want magic items, and this means the shop is a place where interesting encounters, quite possibly with high-level characters, are likely. After all, practically every NPC has at least one magical item as loot past a certain level - they must have got them from somewhere!

Does the shop cater for all alignments? If so, you never know who you're going to meet. And just what are the consequences of fighting or throwing around spells in a shop that deals in and makes magical items? Imagine a fight in a chemistry lab crossed with a surrealist film, and go from there.

So maybe only a few alignments get in? Well, that means there's got to be a black market catering to the other alignments. An evil-only magic shop is going to be an interesting place to buy anything... a literal deal with the actual devil, quite possibly. And where, or more likely who, did they get it from?

Magic items are powerful. That means that anyone else who is powerful will want to know who has them, or even restrict it. Quite possibly there might be a test of worth, alignment or prowess, or secret codes and passwords to get in (or even to find out where the shop is in the first place!)

In the shop, patrons might be under surveillance (magical or mundane) to see what they buy, with or without the knowledge of the proprietor (depending on who is doing it). There might even be a register of magic item owners.

Magic items are expensive things and so the shop's going to be super-secure, and the owner is going to be powerful in the community. Not a person to cross perhaps, but a useful contact or ally.

nedz
2015-07-04, 09:02 PM
A magic shop doesn't need security, just a scry and die team on a retainer. This needs to be well known of course. Something along the lines of "You can steal from us, but we can kill you in your sleep"

Endarire
2015-07-05, 10:09 PM
"If you steal our stuff, we'll steal it back with interest!"

How's that for a slogan?

5ColouredWalker
2015-07-05, 10:36 PM
It seems to be less common then magic schools sometimes despite the simple fact that if magic existed, it would take half an hour for someone for someone to figure out how to sell it

Yes, because everyone is just rushing to line up to sell their XP.
Yes, they're NPCs, but one must consider their XP to.

Agincourt
2015-07-06, 08:34 AM
Yes, because everyone is just rushing to line up to sell their XP.
Yes, they're NPCs, but one must consider their XP to.

That depends on which RPG you are playing. Not every RPG requires experience to craft magic items.

Also, you are forgetting about permanent magic items. These items are going to have a second-hand value. Either people are going to craft items in order to sell them, or a second-hand market will spring up. If no one is ever willing to make new items, then second-hand items will be sold. (This assumes some sort of capitalistic system; I could imagine a setting where capitalism is evil and there is only a black market.)

dream
2015-07-06, 10:00 AM
The magic shop is a surprising rarity some times. It seems to be less common then magic schools sometimes despite the simple fact that if magic existed, it would take half an hour for someone for someone to figure out how to sell it. But even when someone does it often ends up as you "Corner Magic Store" which is basically a regular store which sells magic items.

That works put it lacks... spice. How do you make the magic shop interesting?

I'm not looking for a particular style or even for a particular setting, it is just I have seen few interesting magic stores and I wonder what one could do to make another one.

My personal favourite is to get ride of the store and have a Travelling Salesmen. (Or woman or primordial creature.) If you do it right you can get away with just the one and get away with always having "just the thing" that characters are looking for.
Magic stores shouldn't even be a thing. What mage in his or her right mind would sell the most powerful thing in the world? Magic trumps all other forms of power (politics, wealth, fame, violence, ect.) because it possesses all those things at once. The wizard is that ultimate symbol of social power, a power that most men fear and the rest covet. Sell the power to shape reality? Never.

You don't see modern stage magicians selling the secrets to their tricks openly. It's the opposite; most of them zealously defend their craft and attack anyone who reveals their secrets as a group. Normally, to learn the craft one must approach a mage and spend a great amount of time and money charming them in order to win their favor (and the secret you crave). That magic was rare is what made it so fantastic and wanted. All the world dreams of having the power to do what even a 1st level Wizard can do. To have just the cantrips, even. And the older wizards understand this and thus kept the craft away from the masses, out of benevolence or greed or both.

Magic in a shop that players can toss down coin and buy? There's no better way, IMO, to trivialize sorcery in a game of 'swords & sorcery' than to put it on a shelf like shoes or detergent, to be picked over and negotiated like simple product. From my personal gaming perspective, it just feels wrong. Power should have great cost; to gain it, wield it, and keep it. That cost should be beyond the reach of gold, and more a matter of quests and rewards that involve great sacrifice.

But, that's just me. To contribute to the thread OP, my "Magic Store" would be a small, innocuous place ran by an equally innocuous man who was known to dabble in secrets & vice, but to have your wish you must pay his price; "this that you want comes easily, but first, you must do a thing for me ...."

Cluedrew
2015-07-06, 09:06 PM
OK, I would like to clarify that I'm not talking about D&D or swords & sorcery, not in particular at least*. Any setting in which magic can be sold is valid. Obviously settings where magic cannot be sold (or doesn't exist) is out. Well, fakes are an option, but not really the intent of this thread.

That being said the "high stakes" magic shop sounds cool. If I ran a magic shop in classic D&D it would be more of a potion shop. Forgive me if I have this wrong, despite almost always playing an artificer no D&D campaign I have played in has ever gone long enough for me to do much crafting, but I don't believe positions take any XP, just the correct skills and the ingredients.

Maybe something like a small walled garden that leads into a dim room, a few of the low light plants are grown here, bundles of dried herbs hang from the ceiling and the shelves are crammed with mysteriously labeled jars.



* Is there a term for assuming someone is talking about D&D 3.5, or whatever edition although it is usually 3.5, when taking about a system agnostic topic. Not that D&D isn't important or worth talking about, but there are other games... a lot of them.

Mark Hall
2015-07-06, 09:35 PM
* Is there a term for assuming someone is talking about D&D 3.5, or whatever edition although it is usually 3.5, when taking about a system agnostic topic. Not that D&D isn't important or worth talking about, but there are other games... a lot of them.

Since it happens so frequently here, I suggest "Gigantism".

Milo v3
2015-07-06, 10:32 PM
Magic stores shouldn't even be a thing. What mage in his or her right mind would sell the most powerful thing in the world? Magic trumps all other forms of power (politics, wealth, fame, violence, ect.) because it possesses all those things at once. The wizard is that ultimate symbol of social power, a power that most men fear and the rest covet. Sell the power to shape reality? Never.

What if they just want the world to be a better place? Why not sell bottles that remove disease, or baskets that clean clothes, or bowls that always have food?

ShaneMRoth
2015-07-07, 03:15 PM
...
That being said the "high stakes" magic shop sounds cool. If I ran a magic shop in classic D&D it would be more of a potion shop. Forgive me if I have this wrong, despite almost always playing an artificer no D&D campaign I have played in has ever gone long enough for me to do much crafting, but I don't believe positions take any XP, just the correct skills and the ingredients.
...

I strongly concur with this sentiment.

In my campaign, there might not be magic shops, but there are Alchemist shops. They are, for lack of a more elegant analogy, the Walgreen's of my campaign setting. You can get Alchemist materials... a headache remedy... maybe something for the missus... The place would have reasonable security, and be built well enough so that it doesn't take out an entire city block if something blows up. This would be the natural place to inquire about where one might (*wink wink nudge nudge*) procure or sell a magic sword.

TheCountAlucard
2015-07-07, 07:43 PM
What if they just want the world to be a better place? Why not sell bottles that remove disease, or baskets that clean clothes, or bowls that always have food?Because those things would go on to fuel the war efforts of nation-states, not to help the poor or hungry.

Indeed, the fact that you're selling it for money makes it really really unlikely that these things that will come incredibly handy to a warlord's armies are going to be used morally (incidentally, even if you don't sell to warlords, that's where they'll end up; to be fair, that'll probably happen even if you give the stuff away).

elliott20
2015-07-07, 11:43 PM
The nature of a magic shop will largely be dependent upon the nature of magic itself in the setting.

In settings where magic is mysterious and impossible for any mortal man to understand, the magic shop is not really about selling the wares, it's about the magic man sitting there doing his thing.

In settings where magic is basically just technology though, the natural result is commoditizaton and specialization. In such a setting though, there is literally no reason to be a fighter EXCEPT in situations where you have no other access to an education. It would probably not be a stretch for every character to have at least a rank or two in using magical items, and wizards would be treated more like engineers are in our world.

So in terms of stores? Magic stores is redundant. It's just a store that happens to use magic. Different kinds of magic, for different kinds of stores, mind you, but just stores, none the less. And by in large, cantrip items will probably be the most common thing people sell for simple reason that not everyone who walks through needs a friggin' +2 flaming great sword, but I can imagine just about everyone will find a staff of mending to be handy in daily life. What you end up getting though, will be a lot like our world, where you will have specialized stores that sell specialized items for specific industries. I can totally imagine an iGem, which is basically an obscenely overpriced Gem of Sending, sold by a mage who seem to only own turtlenecks.

You would also have businesses that specialize in servicing these technology vendors with raw materials. There's probably someone out there whose whole job is to find bat guano.

Milo v3
2015-07-07, 11:58 PM
Because those things would go on to fuel the war efforts of nation-states, not to help the poor or hungry.

Indeed, the fact that you're selling it for money makes it really really unlikely that these things that will come incredibly handy to a warlord's armies are going to be used morally (incidentally, even if you don't sell to warlords, that's where they'll end up; to be fair, that'll probably happen even if you give the stuff away).

Oh no, the military now have washing machines. Making really low-level magic items that are just mundane utilities still helps.

TheCountAlucard
2015-07-08, 02:26 AM
Oh no, the military now have washing machines.Wounds going septic is a thing; this is a pretty sizable advantage if the other side has to devote significantly more time to sanitation efforts.

kieza
2015-07-08, 03:02 AM
The most memorable magic shop in my campaigns was actually an extension of a magic school.

See, in order to practice and learn magic item creation, the students had to do some practical work, which required expensive supplies. The school included most of the supplies in tuition--but, in order to save money, they stipulated that the students' projects were school property if they used school-provided materials. And then they sold the projects (sometimes to the students themselves, at cost) in order to cover the costs of the materials.

So, you had this magic shop filled with student work--which had upsides and downsides. Everything in the inventory was fairly cheap--but it tended to have quality issues because, you know, student work. The school didn't sell any of the really dangerous stuff, of course, but they did sell a lot of stuff with "quirks." Such as:
--Double-strength potions of fire resistance that would wear off suddenly if the fire got too hot (i.e. you took a lot of damage in a single hit).
--Shocking weapons that discharged when you hit something metal, shocking everything nearby (including the wielder).
--Wands which, as they got below 10 charges, had a chance to fire off all the remaining charges, uncontrollably, at a rate of 1/round until depleted.
--Keen weapons that tended to cut through whatever you set them down on if you weren't very careful.
--Scrolls written in a form of shorthand developed by the student who wrote them, and virtually indecipherable to anyone else.

Despite the fact that the shop never had exactly what they were looking for, my players loved it. Yes, they were buying "cursed" items, but the shop was very good about explaining the curses up front, and the items did exactly what they said. (No surprises.)

elliott20
2015-07-08, 08:52 AM
The most memorable magic shop in my campaigns was actually an extension of a magic school.

See, in order to practice and learn magic item creation, the students had to do some practical work, which required expensive supplies. The school included most of the supplies in tuition--but, in order to save money, they stipulated that the students' projects were school property if they used school-provided materials. And then they sold the projects (sometimes to the students themselves, at cost) in order to cover the costs of the materials.

So, you had this magic shop filled with student work--which had upsides and downsides. Everything in the inventory was fairly cheap--but it tended to have quality issues because, you know, student work. The school didn't sell any of the really dangerous stuff, of course, but they did sell a lot of stuff with "quirks." Such as:
--Double-strength potions of fire resistance that would wear off suddenly if the fire got too hot (i.e. you took a lot of damage in a single hit).
--Shocking weapons that discharged when you hit something metal, shocking everything nearby (including the wielder).
--Wands which, as they got below 10 charges, had a chance to fire off all the remaining charges, uncontrollably, at a rate of 1/round until depleted.
--Keen weapons that tended to cut through whatever you set them down on if you weren't very careful.
--Scrolls written in a form of shorthand developed by the student who wrote them, and virtually indecipherable to anyone else.

Despite the fact that the shop never had exactly what they were looking for, my players loved it. Yes, they were buying "cursed" items, but the shop was very good about explaining the curses up front, and the items did exactly what they said. (No surprises.)
I actually love this concept, because it shows that magic is not always reliable and that quality control is still a real factor. By most standard rules, D&D magic is SUPER reliable once you get the spell. Sure, a fireball by a level 5 mage is going to be weaker than a level 20 mage, but the actual precision and reliability of the magical energy release is ALWAYS on point. That's the kind of reliability that you generally don't get out of MOST products unless a company is able to enact some massive sigma-6 level of quality control activity. (And generally, only really large companies can do this)

This concept right here basically takes one more step to make magic more human and interesting.

Vrock_Summoner
2015-07-08, 12:24 PM
I actually love this concept, because it shows that magic is not always reliable and that quality control is still a real factor. By most standard rules, D&D magic is SUPER reliable once you get the spell. Sure, a fireball by a level 5 mage is going to be weaker than a level 20 mage, but the actual precision and reliability of the magical energy release is ALWAYS on point. That's the kind of reliability that you generally don't get out of MOST products unless a company is able to enact some massive sigma-6 level of quality control activity. (And generally, only really large companies can do this)

This concept right here basically takes one more step to make magic more human and interesting.

At the same time, though, the fact that that's different from the standard assumption is actually what prevents magic shops from falling prey to "if it can be profitable, it will become a commodity." I rarely play or run D&D anymore, but when I do, I keep it clear that magic is very distinct from the technology everyone so happily equates it too. In particular, it simply works the way it works; there's no way to make it more time-efficient, or less expensive, or to make items craftable by lower-level people, or to stave off the fact that it saps your life energy. Magic isn't something you can take new advancements to, the way technology is; you do it the prescribed way or it simply doesn't work at all.

"Human and interesting" magic can rather easily become "mass-produced magic," though there are still ways to avoid it.

Cluedrew
2015-07-11, 11:23 AM
In settings where magic is basically just technology though, the natural result is commoditizaton and specialization. In such a setting though, there is literally no reason to be a fighter EXCEPT in situations where you have no other access to an education.In a sense there is actually less reason to be a wizard in these settings. Because with magic items you can get someone else to be the wizard for you. Of course you still have pay them some how but that is what dungeon crawling and side-quests are for.


So in terms of stores? Magic stores is redundant. It's just a store that happens to use magic.This an entirely realistic interpretation of what a magic story would be like. It is not invalid "the corner magic store" way... but it isn't really the point. The point is how do we make feel magic.

I'm the type of guy who calls a +1 magic sword a sharp blade. It doesn't burn or shine or hum happily when it slays a monster while producing mournful tones if it should ever be turned against the innocent. It's just a sword.

I don't mean to belittle your idea, its just that it highlighted that I didn't explain what I was going for.

On a different note I do like the school shop and including the "magic =/= technology" slant on the wears. I'm wondering if I could incorporate that into the store itself, maybe a store with hours based off of the lunar calendar instead of the days of the week.

Mark Hall
2015-07-15, 12:38 PM
Magic stores shouldn't even be a thing. What mage in his or her right mind would sell the most powerful thing in the world? Magic trumps all other forms of power (politics, wealth, fame, violence, ect.) because it possesses all those things at once. The wizard is that ultimate symbol of social power, a power that most men fear and the rest covet. Sell the power to shape reality? Never.

What about stuff you simply can't use? Spell scrolls for opposition schools, or items that draw on them? Magical weapons you have no use for? Items that are redundant for you (i.e. a tiefling who winds up with potions that give a small amount of fire resistance)? Magical items that are of little consequence but you need to barter using them to get bigger and better stuff? Old spellbooks you've long since copied over ("Oh, look, another spellbook full of cantrips and low level spells I already know?"), or simply cannot use ("I want to go on record that my sorcerer is tired of getting spellbooks as treasure.")? Heck, even evil or mildly cursed items that can still be useful (like a dagger of venom that the good priest wanted nothing to do with... but someone else was willing to clean out, fill with holy water, and use to fight undead).

And this says nothing of other folks. The Red Wizards in the Forgotten Realms sell magic items as a means of access to locations and information. Minor magic that can't get back to them is a big deal. Or priests of mercantile deities, selling their skills for reasonable prices, as their God intended.

And this says nothing of the magical services industry. People with some Arcane Lore who make a living gathering and selling common spell components. Minor wizards who aren't planning on adventuring who make a living with the Repair spell, or use their Death spell to clear the corndiggers out of the crops. Local druids who will sell their Plant Growth spell (more often for services than cash).

There's a lot you can do with the concept of "magic shop."