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Crashing markets in the D&D world

Written by LovelyRotten - Published on August 28, 2015

Trooper economicsRecent financial craziness from China illustrates how interwoven economies are in a modern world. But how would this play out in D&D and what affect would they have on the PCs?  Well as Master Of The Game you can use these ‘real world’ issues to inject a different challenge:  fiduciary.  Here are a few such scenarios.

Shortages are almost always a bad thing, and shortages of all types can easily affect the PCs. Empty iron veins, collapses in coal mines and even nearby wars can soak up all the available steel, driving prices for the most pedestrian of weapons through the roof. What does get made is poor quality, and prone to break. Meanwhile armor begins degrading quickly, getting worse with each deflected blow, and replacements or repair can be expensive.  The few smiths that can craft masterwork items become deluged with requests or snatched up by rulers to make only for them.  And most magic armament disappears from the marketplace as a frightened nobility or upper class snatches whatever they can for protection.

Then there are artificial scarcities which are even worse. Price hikes can be keyed to factions looking to corner markets, or keep items and materials from their rivals or the party directly. Healing opportunities are limited to the party’s cleric when the powers that be refuse to help whomever they consider to be foreigners. Even god-level boycotts and magic strife can place embargoes on spell use at the worst possible times. Hunting down the sources of these can be an adventure unto itself, and the party then finds out the real challenge is getting those divine pipelines flowing again.

The ‘paper tiger’ is a nice twist to bring to the game. A powerhouse of a nation or city-state regularly imports what the need, and those caravans need guards. But the arrival of the convoy finds a squalid, run-down destination. No one’s getting paid? Worse yet, they are likely going to take the food/gold/livestock by force. Now the party is threatened by both a starving citizenry and corrupt government. Or, in their expedition to invade a neighboring ‘belligerent’ nation and take down the ‘vicious’ and ‘evil’ leaders, they come to find their sources were all liars, who were looking to have the party weaken the neighbor and open the door for a takeover by a greedy merchant cabal.

Closer to home, economic strife is just as troublesome. The king has suddenly found himself unable to pay his debts, and is handing out dukedoms with the attention of a sugar-filled kobold child. Now competing families are given the same land, and the party has to sort out the mess. Or, they’re protecting the king from the machinations of his rivals, the mother in law of the foreign princess (being married off to the king to resolve his debt) in turn owes another country who has her spying for them, where they in turn are the cause of the king’s woes, as they are in cahoots with the hill giants that have taken over the garnet mine that the kingdom had used to prop up its crown.

Taking a few real time issues on the economic front, and twisting them to your game’s purposes and story, can be a new and challenging way to keep the party interested in their endeavors.  In short, it can pay off for your group if you get them to go for broke.

Written by LovelyRotten

Gamer for 35 years, Metal for Life.

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One Response to “Crashing markets in the D&D world”
  1. JRCameron says:

    Iron shortages? Rapidly degrading weapons and armor? I played Baldur’s Gate too.

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