An Old-School Swords and Fantasy RPG Blog

Economics and the Availability of Goods

Continuing on in my series of posts examining my house rule supplements, today I’ll be going over my rules for the availability of goods and services. The lack of inclusion of any sort of guidelines for what goods and services should be available in a given settlement is probably the single most glaring omission in classic D&D and the retro-clones. (Obviously excluding Adventurer Conqueror King System, which pioneered the concept.)

Making expensive items scarce in small settlements not only mirrors reality, but it drives play. Assuming you start your campaign in the traditional manner of a small village on the frontier with a dungeon nearby, it prevents PC’s from just securing anything and everything they need and provides a motivation to travel to, and explore, any larger settlements in the setting.

Finally, having guidelines for the scarcity of goods and services implies a living breathing world that exists beyond the PCs with its own economic pressures. Including these rules does a significant amount to build verisimilitude in a game.


As a quick note on how to use these rules, these lists (except for the spellcasting) are intended to show the quantity of goods or retainers available monthly. If you want to be a little less restrictive, you could refresh what equipment is available every week, or even every separate occasion the OC’s go shopping. Additionally, in my game, I use a house rule that PC’s can commission items using the row above the one they would normally use, but the item takes 1 day per 5 gp value to create or secure.

Secondly, these lists are intended to also encompass the availability of buyers when selling items. PC’s should be able to sell items for full price if they wish to spend time securing a buyer (2d6 days). Otherwise, they can hire a merchant to secure a buyer for them with a 2d10% commission.

We also haven’t gotten to it yet, but you’ll note that three of the specialists listed, “Healer,” “Cook,” and “Minstrel” are specialists of my own invention  with specific effects in my game. The minstrel and the cook I’ll detail next time in the travel rules, but the healer can heal 1d6+1 HP once per day.

Now let’s look at the impact of these rules. There are synergistic interactions between these rules and the equipment list from my previous post. By adding scarcity, we can drive interesting play. For example, the healing herbs listed last time can be extremely useful in avoiding what would otherwise be certain death, but their supply is heavily limited. This forces players to be deliberate about how they use them and also allows the GM to scatter herbs around dungeons and wilderness as quite valuable treasure (in terms of pragmatism, if not value.)

Next up in the series will be overland travel.

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