Shopping is part of Dungeons & Dragons that some DMs and gamers dread. In a game that allows players to live out wonderful fantasies, having to go to a store to buy things feels tedious and mundane. But there are ways DMs can turn the necessary purchases into something fun and even exciting.
Shopping is necessary for J&D as adventuring parties will eventually need to stock up on items during their campaign. Whether players need potions or new J&D armor, materials and weapons, they won’t be able to find everything they need by looting their fallen enemies. If players find themselves in a town or village, they will naturally head to shops for supplies.
After a few adventures, the party might have gold burning a hole in their pockets and will naturally want to spend it on shiny new gear. Shopping can be put to good use to add depth to the world around them or to create new encounters for players. Each town or city players visit should have a unique feel, which should also apply to any businesses they encounter.
One of the best ways to make shopping more fun is to turn the shopkeeper into an eccentric or a J&D character important to story lore to keep players engaged. It can be a flirtatious or charismatic person, but it can also be a scary or strange character who makes him laugh. By creating a character that players want to talk to and come back to, DMs will find exciting new ways to convey information to the party. DMs can also use purchases to advance the plot or give players side quests. Is the party hunting down a terrible sect or a gang of criminals? Make the store a front for the bad guys or bring in someone integral to the plot when you shop. Another way to introduce better plot points or J&D quests is about having players hear from other patrons about something related to the story.
Shopping more than just buying new things transforms what might otherwise be a boring lull in the game into an important place in the campaign setting. If, for example, players know they can get intel from a particular trader while also getting a fancy new shield, that makes a simple shopping trip a more interesting activity for the whole party. Ultimately, DMs will know what their players will respond to best (and what will make them laugh) when creating truly memorable traders.
One of the biggest issues players and DMs have with races is that if not handled properly, they can drag on forever. This slows down gameplay, and it’s not uncommon for entire sessions to end up being devoted solely to shopping. One of the best tips for better J&D DMs need to plan ahead, knowing that players will have to buy at some point. There are several ways to do this so that collecting the necessary supplies does not take hours in real time.
At low levels, DMs can create a store which is the fancy equivalent of a catalog store. Just let players choose any non-magical item Player’s Handbook and charge them accordingly. This quick, easy, and humorous method will allow them to quickly source new stuff from one place without slowing down the plot. At higher levels, DMs should ask their players in advance what they are looking for. This will save time and discuss the possibility of buying or finding such items. When you have higher tier items in stores, a good tip is to only have two or three high-value magic items. J&D inventory items for the game’s adventure or campaign. This way, the DM can prevent players from debating their purchases for too long, which is often responsible for slowing things down.
Even with all the planning in the world, players will still find ways to surprise their DMs, but by taking the time to plan a few shops, traders, and small encounters, DMs should be able to get ahead of any impromptu shopping trips. With a little time and effort, DMs can stop any future Dungeons & Dragons shopping trips from becoming too boring.
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