View Full Version : (4e) What would you sell in a black market?

2010-01-25, 02:12 PM
Looking to have a black market in my city that my players will eventually have access to after completing some quests. The problem is I am not sure what to sell in it. I was going to just offer magic items in it with a small discount, as well as maps to surrounding areas. Any other ideas?

Mando Knight
2010-01-25, 02:21 PM
Discount? What kind of silly black market is this? Black markets (as opposed to regular ones) sell contraband, rare items, etc. at market price... which happens to be "whatever they can con the guy into paying for."

Maps should be readily available at the local market for cheap, as should mundane items at list price. Magic items in the normal market should be list price, but have a small selection, especially for higher-level items. The black market would then have a larger selection, but at a higher market price than list... except for ones available on the normal market, which are cheaper but of questionable source.

2010-01-25, 02:22 PM
Poisons. Drugs. Poisonous Drugs. Magic items that are regulated or banned for their terrifying effects. Scrolls of evil rituals. Zombie slaves. Weapons that are only found in the hands of militaries. Nasty critters that nobody in their right minds would legally allow in a city.

2010-01-25, 02:25 PM
Poison. (Pretty difficult to regulate if alchemy or herbal medicine is an established practice.)

Drugs. It depends on how puritanical people are or how well-known these drugs are (or whether their abuse is recognized as a problem at all.)

Spells which are outlawed by whatever local power.

You can also get more "grey market" stuff which simply involves goods that have bypassed local tariffs. If the local guilds protect their own trade, you can count on there being a profit trying to bypass guild or official law.

2010-01-25, 02:29 PM
Is there anything that isn't firmly established as available on the official market that players might want?

Some ideas:

- Religion components: The local temples do not like other people performing religious rituals. They only sell to initiated members of their cult and only in small quantities.

- Magic Items whose powers have the Necrotic keyword. Especially Lifedrinker weapons.

- The wealthy inhabitants of the city had all items and rituals involving teleportation, phasing and similar effects banned. Because... they really liked being wealthy.

- Magic tatoos: Even though magic tatoos have a long tradition in the region, only members of the nobility are allowed to wear them.

2010-01-25, 02:32 PM
Magical creatures sold as sex slaves, if you're looking for a darker game tone. Black beetles from a Lamia that the proprietor assures the party that, if eaten, they'll help the consumer down the path to lichdom. Unusual flavor items in the background, like bottles that scream when uncorked. Food such as pickled elf eyeballs and satyr steaks.

2010-01-25, 02:37 PM
What kind of black market is this anyway?

Is this the kind of black market where you step underground and there's literally a bazaar of shady salesmen?

Or is this the kind where you go to the local herbalists shop and discreetly pick up a "special order"?

The former is certainly fantastic, but it brings up different kinds of logical problems. The former requires that the herbalist from the latter actually show his face in the open to other shady people. It also pretty much marks him as an obvious criminal.

The former could only exist in special conditions.

A literal one-stop shopping Walmart of shady goods would require somebody incredibly powerful, since individual merchants would prefer to eliminate the middlemen.

2010-01-25, 02:50 PM
As has been said, black markets exist for a few reasons: Getting around taxes or tarifs (which is how things might be cheaper there) and selling illegal (or stolen) goods.

You'll have to figure out what is illegal and why in your city. Are your players justified in wanting such illicit goods? Do they know there's a chance they're getting pilfered property? Are there any consequences for participating in such business?

2010-01-25, 03:06 PM
Devil and demon-summoning rituals. Drugs. Stolen weapons. Slaves. The services of individuals who can "correct" certain problems. Information.

2010-01-25, 03:42 PM
A black market can exist for several reasons :

Some goods are prohibited but still in high demand.
A black market will exist because of the high profit margin there'll be on such item, since people will pay lot's of gold for a small quantity of goods.
Drugs, slaves, dark magic, exotic poisons, maybe weapons.

Some goods are legal but heavily taxed.
A black market will exist because people want the good at a cheaper price. Here, the goods are either stolen locally or smuggled through the border. The price is cheaper than on the official market but the salesman still has a huge margin, as he doesn't pay any tax.
A good IRL example would be cigarettes, alcohol and fuel. In fantasy, spice, salt or any common goods that are heavily taxed.

Some goods are legal but so rare they are impossible to find.
A black market exists because the production alone can't satisfy the market. Or maybe there ain't any production at all. Most of the goods here are stolen or are cheap copies. The prices are crazy and the salesman is as likely to sell the good as he is to slit your throat.
IRL example would be painting and other arts, along with weapons. In fantasy, artifacts and very powerful magic items or very exotic magic components. It can also be food or medicine if there's a penury.

Some goods are legal, widely available and cheap.
And yet, a black market exists because someone got lucky enough to find a large quantity of it and want to get rid of it fast, without too many people asking questions. That's not a true black market but that's close enough, as the buyer KNOWS there's something fishy with these goods. Yet, the price is so low he won't ask.
IRL, you got that for mobile phones, computers, cloths,... Anything you wouldn't go out of your way to buy cheaper but you wouldn't spit on a good deal if offered one.

2010-01-25, 03:51 PM
Step 1: Watch a few episodes of The Sopranos.

Step 2: Steal their ideas and convert them into a medieval fantasy setting.

Step 3: Roll dice.

2010-01-25, 03:56 PM
Geez you guys are great? And sorry, I should have clarified. This market is going to be in the sewer system under the city. The players are part of a thieves guild that is connected to the market in the seweres. The sewers have been overrun by rats and it is preventing the guild and the market to trade.

This will be one of the first mundane quests for the party, clearing out the sewers. I was going to have the store owners in the sewers give small discounts to the party for helping out.

Rituals and poisons are a great idea. I dont know too much about rituals yet though. There are scrolls to learn some? WHere can I find these?

2010-01-25, 04:59 PM
it really depends on your setting, is magic looked upon as supsicous, then rare scrolls/ rituals/ magic items.
if magic is abundant, what about certain types of magic (like necromancy, anything sanctioned by evil gods ect).

slaves, body parts, unsavory food items (drink blood, eat humanoid "sweet breads", unicorn meat, lantern archon on a stick), undead or abberation prostitutes, torture tools, assassins for hire, babies (to circumvent legal adoption), drugs, poisons, love potions. I could get more descriptive but that wouldn't be appropriate for public forums.

if its illegal, or should be, its in the black market.

Mark Hall
2010-01-25, 05:22 PM
Johel pretty well covers it. Depending on the regulations of your city, you might have some sellers who are simple merchants, just lacking in certain niceties like "permits" and "tax stamps". These become more likely as the despotism of a city increases.

2010-01-25, 05:51 PM
Flawed enchanted weapons are always fun. Sure, the +2 flaming sword is half price - but roll a 1 on it and you're on fire for the rest of the encounter. Not that you'll find that out until you roll your first 1.

2010-01-25, 05:55 PM
Flawed enchanted weapons are always fun. Sure, the +2 flaming sword is half price - but roll a 1 on it and you're on fire for the rest of the encounter. Not that you'll find that out until you roll your first 1.

SO GOOD! Haha this is great, although since the PC's will be helping the store owners in the sewer I wouldnt want the sellers to screw the PC's over.

These are all great suggestions, although I was hoping also for a lot of things that can be found int he books.

2010-01-25, 06:02 PM
A simple solution is taxes.

Have a 50% to 100% tax on purchasing magic items.

The black market would then flourish with much cheaper magic items, possibly with forged certificates.

White market prices: Standard price, times 140%+1d6*10% for taxes (and sometimes graft). DC (15+item level/2) check can knock 10% off the price by using an appropriate skill. You can repeat this with different skills, but the DC goes up by 5 for each additional skill used. Missing by 10 or more causes negative consequences.

Black market prices are 110% to 160% of book price (100% + 1d6*10%). DC (20+item level/2) check can knock 10% off the price using an appropriate skill, and any failure results in negative consequences. Each skill used after the first has a 5 higher DC, and knocks another 5% off the price.

If a player wants to contribute two skill rolls to the same item, DCs are boosted another 10 (ie, it generally isn't worth it).

Prices are determined on a per item basis, and can vary from year to year.

As an option, you could charge 1d20% to find the seller of an item and get the above price quote. This avoids the problem of players price-shopping between nearly identical items until you roll low on your 1d6. :-) If you use this option, lower the price of items by 10% (as that is the average price it costs you to find it).

Players don't know how much it would cost them to find the right seller.

The justification is that magic item sellers really don't want to be known as "owners of really expensive, portable items, and/or holders of large amounts of cash", or they don't want to be bothered by people who aren't willing to put cash on the table before bargaining (to keep the riff-raff out).

2010-01-25, 06:08 PM
Do you have access to complete scoundrel?

A lot of the stuff in there would be good for this.

Anyway other suggestions:
Stolen goods
Spellcastiong for evil spells
Services (thieves, hitmen, etc.)
Torture equipment
Mechanical burglars (from A&E I think)

2010-01-25, 06:55 PM
Any thing can be sold in a black market. It doesnt even have to be contraband. Alot of leagal things are sold on a black market because its cheaper than buying them leagaly. Mostly because they are stolen. For example cigarets. The mob would 'high jack' (bribe the driver) and steel his cargo. Then sell them on the side. Other things would be sold like leagal weapons but with out having to register them. This would be more expencive but secrecy is what is really being payed for here.

2010-01-25, 07:03 PM
+2 kidney of transplant.

2010-01-25, 07:35 PM
Stolen gems/jewelry: there’s a guy. He buys stuff at half value. He swaps out settings and stones, quick removes/adds/alters inscriptions. Or, melts the settings and sells the gems loose. Sells the stuff at 75-90% of value.

When you enter the city, you have to convert all currency to local tender (at a 10% handling fee. And you arouse attention. Corrupt guardsmen pass your name and location on to crime bosses.)

Down there, a guy will swap currency for 7% and has confidentiality. He also handles and sells counterfeit coins and documents.

Local Mages Guild has a lock on the trade of alchemical and magical items and rituals. They charge 125% cost and limit supply. Down there, prices are about the same, but the quantity is better. They’ll also barter.

Smugglers bring in things without a tax stamp: everything from sugar to eladrin wine. Bakers come here to get it cheaper and cut costs.

Others steal stuff from the docks and unlaod it here quickly and cheap so they can get back to stealing. Merchants who've been robbed sent agents dow to see how much they'll have to pay to get it back.

2010-01-26, 02:03 AM
Rituals and poisons are a great idea. I dont know too much about rituals yet though. There are scrolls to learn some? WHere can I find these?

It's the last chapter in your PHB.

You need to differentiate between a complete ritual (a.k.a. ritual book) and a scroll. A scroll is usuable only once, but any character can use scrolls. A first level fighter (with no arcane experience whatsoever) can use a 28th level True Portal scroll.

2010-01-26, 02:21 AM
Yeah well, the thing about Rituals is there isn't a whole lot of reason I can think of them being black market. Other than the whole "there's a mages guild in town that practices price-gouging."

If it's forbidden or rare magic, then it's probably very plot-specific and therefore not something the PC's should have, or if they do have it, it probably won't be useful to them for very long (if at all).

Going with 4e, as written, there isn't supposed to be a whole lot of demand for them because so few people are qualified to use them. And if it's an established temple/religion, they probably have all the rituals they need anyway.

I guess scrolls are very doable though, since I'd imagine most religions are going to want to tightly control powers like Raise Dead.

2010-01-26, 01:27 PM
The flawed flaming sword is a great idea.
Now we've got to make rules for Flawed magical items, to reduce the price!
A +1 arrow of returning... with a Flaw that means it only works (returns, in this case) about 25% of the time... and another that means 10% of the time, the arrow sparks violently, sending it so far off it's course, it hits the ground in front of you. one reduces the cost of the magic effect to 1/3, and the other reduces it BY 1/3. so, 2/3 of 1/3 equals... 2/9ths! this particular arrow would cost the base +1 arrow cost, +2/9ths of the cost of the magic effect.
I think I'll start right now...

2010-01-27, 04:28 AM
SO GOOD! Haha this is great, although since the PC's will be helping the store owners in the sewer I wouldnt want the sellers to screw the PC's over.

These are all great suggestions, although I was hoping also for a lot of things that can be found int he books.

It's quite possible to still sell them flawed items.

*psst* Don't tell anyone else, but since you helped us, I'll have you know that the items... might fail to work sometimes. That's the price for getting cheaper quality items.

2010-01-27, 06:15 AM
Fighter: Oh cool towershields 50% off! I take two


City guard: Sir, it seems those shields there went missing a few weeks ago from a armory... care to explain how you got them?

Basically anything from the "white" market just stolen... so if you run around with stolen goods there is a good chanche someone identifies his own stuff on your back.

Also non-controlled stuff:
Watered down health potions... Of course advertised as stricktly normal ones, sold at 80% value because the poor shop owner has to pay a cleric now to cure his ill daughter.

Various hirelings with unique but not openly marketable skills: assassins, thiefs and necromancers.

Gambling and make-someone-else-rich-quick-opportunities

2010-01-27, 07:44 AM
In some cases, the "black market" might be a separate plane entirely, mostly unknown by the inhabitants of the city.

Simon R. Green's Nightside might be a good example.

Though here "black market" and "bazaar of the bizarre" overlap heavily.