Tuesday, March 24, 2020


In the past, when I’ve attempted to track what kinds of equipment might be available in a given town, I have usually just handwaved it or gestured vaguely at the normal equipment list. For a planned hexcrawl game, I will be trying a different approach that I’m calling the Bazaar system. 
First, I assign a market theme to each letter of the alphabet. Then, I populate each theme with three to seven items and attached prices. The same item may appear on different lists with different prices. Printing each market theme on a different card, I can combine different cards to represent different markets. The principle is simple, but it lets me tune things a great deal.

  • You can designate one letter as always present for market staples.
  • Assign more common market themes to more common letters. Then, when I want to populate a random bazaar, I can just ask a player for a random word. The longer the word I request, the more developed the bazaar. Example: I figure a small city will have a small bazaar, so I have the players give me a five-letter word: QUERY. With the themes below, that means the city will have wood, jewelry, travel supplies, beasts, and excavation tools.
  • You can use overlap strategically. Items present in multiple market themes may have different prices, meaning that players will want to shop around.
  • When players go out of their way to follow leads, track down sellers, or barter, reward them with extra cards.
  • When players need to replace or upgrade weapons and armor, they are not assured to get exactly what they want. With sparse options, players are more likely to take up picks, hammers, and shovels.
  • This is a great way to inject setting details
Example market for the Mesomergos setting I'm developing:

A- general supplies
Beer (2 cp)
1 pound soap (2 cp)
Heavy cloak (4 gp) light armor
30’ rope (8 sp)
Knife (7 sp) light weapon
Torch (2 cp)
Wooden pole (1 cp)
Beer (1 cp)
Rice wine or pomace wine (3 cp)
Opium (1 sp)
Absynthe (1 sp)
Random narcomanta* (8 gp)
Random formula (10 gp)
Random gigre (25 gp)
Cuirass (13 gp) medium armor
Plaited reed armor (12 gp) medium armor
Scale armor (120 gp) heavy armor
Wicker shield (2 gp)
O- holies
Tefillim* with a random WORD (15 gp)
Amulet* of a random spell (10 gp)
Serpent torse of a random formula (10 gp)
Idol of a random god (2 gp)
5 pounds lard (2 cp)
1 pound soap 1 cp
Candle (1 cp)
Oil flask (2 cp)
Sesame oil barrel (6 gp)
Shortspear (5 sp)
Sickle sword (2 gp)
Sling (5 sp)
Lance (5 gp)
Masterwork spear (22 gp)
D- hirelings*
Beer barrel (3 gp)
Porter (half share)
Linkboy (half share, tale of adventure)
Servant (half share)
Eunuch (one share)
Q- wood
10 stakes (1 sp)
Mallet (1 cp) light weapon
Sled (2 gp)
Walking staff (3 sp)
Javelin (1 sp)
E- travel supplies
Beer barrel 2 gp
30’ rope (6 sp)
Block and tackle (2 sp)
Whistle (3 cp)
Porter (half share)
R- beasts
Cattle (1 gp)
Dog (1 gp, promises)
Tamed Onager (2 gp)
Sheep (3 sp)
Goat (3 sp)
F- illegal goods
1 pound iron (100 GP)
Thief’s cord (1 gp)
Grappling hook (5 sp)
Cursed item (you don’t pay… money)
Fencing service (25%)
S- fabrics
Quilted linens (2 gp)
Heavy cloak (3 gp)
Fancy chiton (10 gp)
Ciclatoun or samite bolt (20 gp)
Battered narcomanta (15 gp)
Lalon Set (1 sp, or 1 drink and victory in a game)
Ur Set (2 sp, a game)
Instrument (1 gp)
Minstrel (half share)
Opium (2 sp)
T- magic
Random magic ostentation* (10 gp)
Random magic talisman* (10 gp)
Random magic scroll (2 gp)
Random magic scroll (2 gp)
Absynthe (2 sp)
H- writing supplies
Ink (1 sp)
Chalk (1 cp)
Scroll (1 sp)
Scrollcase (1 gp)
U- jewelry
Gem mantle of a random formula (10 gp)
Spiralled bracelet (4 gp)
Reefstone* brooch (2 gp)
Ceremonial dagger (8 gp)
I- trade goods
Beer barrel (2 gp)
Socketed axe (2 gp)
1 pound salt (1 gp)
1 pound copper (1 sp)
1 pound tin (12 cp)
V- alchemy
Acid (1 sp)
Mercury draught (2 sp)
1 pound chimerite*  (3 gp)
1 dose of poison (3 gp)
Dry ice (2 gp)
J- bogwork
Bog mummy (4 gp)
Hand of glory (10 gp)
Random necromantic talisman (8 gp)
Stilt boots (1 sp)
W- contracted work
Indentured worker (60 gp)
Banded club (3 gp)
Apprentice (40 gp)
Concubine (100 gp, half share, promises)
K- metal
Round Shield (2 gp)
Lantern (2 gp)
Bronze ingot (1 sp)
Hammer (1 cp) light weapon
Mirror (1 gp)
X- marvels
Telescope (5 gp)
Lock and key (40 gp)
Water clock (45 gp)
Icon of Noryawes (1 sp, talking shop)
Engineer (1 share, first dibs on loot)
Chisel (1 sp)
Clay tablet (1 sp)
Terra cotta tool (1 cp)
Urn (3 cp)
Y- excavation
Pick (8 sp) medium weapon
Ard plow (3 gp)
Bronze Crow (2 sp)
Shovel (1 gp)
M- mercenaries
Jaded slinger (1 share, 1 drink)
Byway conjurer (1 share)
Bravo (1 share, tale of adventure)
Healer (1 share)
Z-goblin market
A skill (two skills)
A secret (your name)
A fortune (Your firstborn)
A spell (your luck)
*While using a gigre, narcomantas are used to share the benefits and drawbacks with allies. Think a rallying banner, but it gets you high.
*Tefillim, amulets, and other ostentations are simple magic items used to reroll a magic or WORD die.
*Talismans are simple magic items that allow you to automatically memorize a spell.
*I strongly feel that you shouldn't have to track hireling wages per day. Just give them a full share if they're expected to fight and a half share if they're not.
*Reefstone is cut from living above-ground reefs
*Chimerate is the catalyst for magical transformation from which the chimera gets its nam.


  1. I really do like this. I think that in some cases it can lead to nonsensical results (like any random generation) but it's a great starting point. It can help in fleshing out a town too. If a town has a lot of magical supply... why? Answering that question tells you a lot about the locale!.

  2. I love this. I want to add a couple of things.

    First, if this does generate seemingly nonsensical results, you can rationalize that as some kind of shortage of basic goods. Like what's happening IRL right now– toilet paper is sold out, food can be hard to find, but you can still buy cars and artwork.

    Second, for anyone modifying this list, here's all 26 letters ranked by frequency in English: http://pi.math.cornell.edu/~mec/2003-2004/cryptography/subs/frequencies.html

    It has a few surprises, like T being the second most common letter and J and U being way less common that I would have thought.