D&D Ideas — Shops
Welcome once again to the weekly newsletter. This week’s topic is shops, which we discussed in our weekly live chat. We hangout every Monday evening at 8 p.m. EST on Nerdarchy Live to talk about D&D, RPGs, gaming, life and whatever nerdy stuff comes up. Speaking of shops in Fibble’s Fantastic Familiars a comical fellow seeks to sell a chaotic Oculider, which threatens to destroy his shop. All kinds of other creatures are here too. An innocuous visit to an exotic pet store reveals creatures with mysterious and mystical stories or fantastic fibs along with 54 other dynamic scenarios in Out of the Box. Find out more about it here. You can get the Nerdarchy Newsletter delivered to your inbox each week, along with updates and info on how to game with Nerdarchy plus snag a FREE GIFT by signing up here.
Fill your game worlds with myths, legends and lore in the week that was! Foster better group game experiences, play the ultimate lizardfolk adventurers, navigate natural hazards and so much more plus new live chats with creative folks and industry pros round out this week’s Nerdy News. Check it out here.
Delving Dave’s Dungeon
Shops and by extension shopping montages have been an integral part of Dungeons & Dragons for as long as I can remember. D&D players love to shop. Perhaps it’s a form of wish fulfillment for them. Regardless shops and shopping make a fun pastime for players and great tool for Dungeon Masters.
So many memorable NPCs take life from these shopping sessions in our games. Many times they are just throwaway NPCs the players take a shine to and who drive them back to their shops time and time again.
Shops alone in D&D is reason enough to keep a list of names or bookmark your favorite random online generator for NPC names. You aren’t gonna need just NPCs names but names for shops as well. As a matter of fact one of our Patron supporters and friends run a site just for generating random fifth edition D&D magic item shops.
With a click of a button you can generate the inventory for a magic item shop including the mark up. Here is the inventory including mark up I got for a large city. It even offers up some suggested names for your shop in addition to the inventory and pricing. I chose the Fast Kobold. Check out the inventory of the Fast Kobold here.
A great tool like this can spark ideas for your games. Why is the Fast Kobold named the Fast Kobold? The first thing coming to my mind is a kobold shopkeeper. The second thing is this particular kobold has been subjected to a magical mishap. Our shop is so named because the shopkeeper is an actual fast kobold. The mishap has caused our shopkeeper to be permanently hasted.
Our shopkeeper needs a name. I’ll call him Grizgriz. Hasted all the time sounds great right? What if Grizgriz is also aging at an accelerated rate. They are currently taking a potion daily to stave off the side effect. The problem is Grizgriz needs more and more of it to work. Maybe these details come up or maybe they never do. It’s ripe for side quest opportunities where the adventurers might be rewarded with an item from their shop. There are plenty of ideas that can be spawned just from a player asking is there a magic shop in this city. You just click a button and boom you’ve got a place players will want to return to again and again.
You can check out the 5E Magic Shop website here. This is just one resource and there are plenty of others out there to inspire DMs and players alike.
From Ted’s Head
Shops and shopping are things that have Dungeon Masters divided on the topic. Some players enjoy the process of running from shop to shop to have DMs describe an endless number of strange and bizarre items. Some DMs quiver when players say they need to go buy something.
Despite the numerous options this scenario presents most gaming groups stick to what suits them best. But if your group does enjoy the shopping montage and negotiating with shopkeepers then I urge you to make it as fun, exciting and memorable as possible.
When looking at shopkeepers, these are the type of people who often enjoy interacting with people so give them personalities to match. When players show an interest in shops you can use this time to try out some fun voices and interesting concepts. What to throw a genasi in but not sure where? Boom! Have them run a shop. These fun NPCs can draw players back to them again and again if they like them and like interacting with them or can move on never to be heard from again. But every time DMs create these shop owners, be it on the fly or in advance, we do just a bit more worldbuilding.
We also have to look at the wares of these shops and all the ways this can enhance the game. Shops are an easy way of getting trinkets, quest items, minor magic items and plot devices into the parties’ hands. Trinkets can be fun little items that really do not do anything but are so interesting to shop for. Quest items and minor magic items can be found in shops without the party having a clue what they are buying (or stealing if it applies) or without the shopkeeper being aware of what they have. It is always possible to have a family heirloom that is magical or has become magical.
The classic sword Sting from Lord of the Rings (actually a large Elvish dagger) that glows when orcs are near is a cool blade and could be seen as just a sword with a fancy design if it is never exposed to orcs or drawn within proximity. Something like this or something similar is easy to allow characters to purchase from a purveyor of interesting wares.
Lastly I want to point out another way a DM can gift treasure if you allow the purchase of magical items is to offer a discount. Be it for an untold reason or because it was commissioned and left unclaimed or they never completed the rest of the payment the item is available at one of the shops. This option is preferable to me especially with consumable magical items, which to me are way too high priced for the rarity.
From the Nerditor’s desk
Thinking about shops in the context of fifth edition Dungeons & Dragons cleaves to the heart of something I enjoy the most about the game. Finding the space where the fantastical becomes relatable fills me with glee no matter what side of the screen I’m sitting on. Shops represent one of the best ways to explore this space. Everyone likes shopping in real life right?
During the live chat discussion Ted and I approached the topic from opposite ends. For him shops offer an opportunity to celebrate the magical side of life as a 5E D&D character. Mystical objects, occult paraphernalia and supernatural items on the shelves appeal to adventurers and can become hooks to new quests or encounters. While these things are certainly true — and very useful resources for any Dungeon Master — in my experience it’s the mundane nature of shops players find compelling.
Many times during games when players visit shops they’re pleasantly surprised to find them and the folks working there relatable to real world scenarios. Sterling customer service isn’t a corporate mandate at the crossroads general store and for employees manning the shops it’s often just another day at work. One minute they’re selling horseshoes to a local farmer and the next a group of mercenaries is asking about potions and magical artifacts and trying to barter with platinum and gems worth more than the whole store. Is it 5 o’clock yet?
Perhaps the most fun experiences I’ve had with shops in 5E D&D are times when adventurers hedge their bets on successful questing by operating their own places of business. I know way more about fellow players’ experiences with how they managed Trollskull Manor from Waterdeep: Dragon Heist than I do about their actual adventure in the City of Splendors. Even my own time playing through the campaign is more memorable from our establishment — Lif of the Party (shoutout to those in the know!) — than the campaign goals. Truth be told we basically turned the campaign into our adventures as small business owners.
In the longrunning Spelljammer campaign I ran I daresay shops were integral to the story. Economic interests informed many of the party’s decisions and they often conducted adventure business through shops from their own Pizza Skull Pizzas to the network of convenience shops called Bazaar of the Stars. There was a lot of contract negotiations, location scouting, employee hiring and so forth. What can I say, my friends’ escapist fantasies involved a lot of commerce.
Like any other people, places or things in your 5E D&D games shops can become as vital a component as anything else. I encourage players to view time spent in shops in a relatable way as an opportunity to see the world in a different way. Everything adventurers come across need not be magical and fantastic but whether shops are or not they persist as touchstones to a reality players can understand.
And if you wanna throw in a bit of magical flair that’s always okay too.