View Full Version : Profession: Merchant [Mechanics]

2007-07-18, 02:15 PM
Making a living by buying and selling things is handled in D&D by Profession: Merchant.

This has some problems, because the wealth generated by a merchant varies both with the merchant's skill and by the merchant's wealth -- having lots of high-priced goods for sale means that a merchant can make more money.

So here is an attempt to factor in one's goods into one's weekly Profession: Merchant roll. A traveling merchant and her guards also provides a decent adventure hook: using these mechanics, you can generate reasonably fair results and returns on investment.

Goods for Sale: For every 1000 gp in goods for sale, the Merchant gains a +1 bonus to their circumstance bonus for their weekly income roll. This bonus takes the form of being able to sell their goods at a price higher than the 1/2 normal price, and buying goods for 1/2 normal price to replace some of those that are sold. The value of the stockpile of goods does not change, but 100 gp for every 1 gp earned changes form.

Capital assets, like a store, also count towards this bonus.

Roll of a 20: A roll of a 20 means you have a chance at a risky venture. If the merchant chooses to take it, your stockpile changes by (2d6-7)*10% -- you could lose half of your stockpile, or you could have your stockpile boosted by 50%. That is what makes the venture risky!

Roll of a 1: If you roll a 1, a threat to your goods, and possibly your personal health, occurs. The larger your stockpile of goods and the worse you are at being a merchant, the more threatening this event is.

The DM could simply make a call asto how dangerous the event will be.

If you want to have numbers:
Start with your bonus from your stockpile. Divide by 5. Divide by your Profession(Merchant) skill (without the stockpile circumstance bonus). Add 1d4, and subtract 3.

That is the CR of the encounter that threatens your life and stockpile over this week.

The DM can break the encounter up over multiple encounters, or replace a ridiculous CR encounter with a simply overwealming one.

Dangerous Ventures: A Merchant can trade through dangerous areas in order to increase one's profit. These can boost both the CR and frequency of threats and the money earned.

Getting a Threat on a 1-3 doubles income from the weekly check. 1-5 triples income. 1-10 quadruples income.
Every +2 CR boosts income by a factor of 1.

In general, the mechanics of risk of a venture is determined by the GM, not by the merchant. The GM is encouraged to make the threats sufficiently dangerous and frequent to challenge the merchant's ECL.

Bob the L 2 Expert Weapon Trader with a 10,000 gp shop and goods.
12 wis, total of +9 on his Profession(Merchant).

Bob's weekly income rolls are d20 + 19, generating an average of 29.5 gp per week of surplus wealth.

When Bob rolls a 1, he only earns 20 gp that week, and a potential threat occurs of CR 1d4-3 -- usually nothing.

Alice the L 10 Spice Trader with 1 million gp:
14(16) wisdom and a Pearl of Commerce (+5 to her Profession:Merchant skill).

Her base Profession(Merchant) roll is +24
Her weekly check is at +1024, so she earns about 1000 gp per week buying and selling spices.

If she rolls a 1, there is a threat to her wealth.
1000 / 5 = 200 / (24) =~ 8, +1d4-3 = 1d4+5 CR. This could easily threaten her life or livelyhood unless she hires guards and other protectors.

Her annual income is about 50,000 gp -- 5% of her stockpile -- and she has to fight off about two to three threats per year on her wealth. She is playing it safe.

Charlie the Carvaneer is a L 12 merchant with half-a-million gp in stock.
He is engaged in a dangerous Caravan (+8 CR, danger on a 1-3) to boost his income by a factor of x6.

Total Skill: +25
Base CR of encounter: 500,000/5/25 = 1+1d4.
Boost from Caravan Danger: 9+1d4.

Weekly income: 1d20+(525) = 535.5 on average, x6 for danger =~ 3000 gp per week, or ~165,000 gp per year.

In that year, Charlie would encounter an average of 8 threats of CR 10 to 13.

Charlie is earning more money than Alice, but is engaged in significantly more danger to increase his earnings.


The ROI on stockpiles is about 5%.

An NPC Expert:merchant can safely have about 5000 gp in stockpile per level before the CR of the encounters start ramping up on the merchant.

Dangerous ventures generate a huge amount of income relative to playing it safe. In general, when a party tries a reasonably dangerous venture, one should boost the max CR of the encounters to being at most slightly higher than the ECL of the party, and increase frequency to whatever one feels is appropriate.