Well, it is clear that we can talk on this subject for a long, long time. So let’s not stop now.
Here I quote from Jhandar again,
“The trafficking and sale of actual magical items within the realm of commerce ... this may be an easy opinion to suppose given the relative expenses of other luxury items within your world. Simply put, is it that they are rarely, if ever, available, and cost quite literally a king’s ransom to procure?”
However logical it may be that any produced commodity by a rare segment of the population ought to have a price attached to that commodity, I am forced to confess that in this case I adhere to the enormous elephant in the room: that this is a game. And being a game, there are limitations which I apply for the sake of playability. And for this particular circumstance, I believe that playability presumes that the game must have a certain level of challenge AND theatrics.
As such, I don’t allow players to buy magic items. I do allow them to SELL them ... but I’ve never had a player do so, not in 24 years of having economics incorporated in the game. Now and then, I’ve had a player barter an item in exchange for a resurrection, restoration, regeneration or raise dead spell - they’d rather have back their level, or their arm, or their life, than the magic item. But this is the only case where I’ve had a player agree to surrender a (non-cursed) magic item willingly. They will otherwise keep a weapon or other item they can’t personally use, in the hopes they might give it to someone else in the party (a henchman or another player). Most magic items, however, will be useful ... eventually.
For the record, I’ve had parties gain magic items through bartering, also ... almost always in exhange for some service they’ve performed. I see that as likely; a master of a realm is likely to have extra swords and things laying about, reserved for just such an occasion. Still, one must wonder why they don’t distribute them to their minions - unless it is that they don’t trust their minions. But then, why should they trust the party?
Only one reason I can think of. The game is more playable that way.
Let me give a universal example of how playability trumps possibility where it comes to games.
I have always had a soft spot in my heart for the game of monopoly, although I haven’t played in years. It is a clever game in concept, but I think that where the game falls down is where it depends upon the competance of the people you play with. Invariably, as you are fighting to win the game, Harold on your right does something unbelievably stupid, like trading away Marvin Gardens to Jeremy on your left for Mediterranean, giving the yellow properties wholly into the hands of your chief enemy while gaining the pathetic mauve properties in return. Result? You’re fucked, and you weren’t part of the deal. And you don’t have any right to be part of the deal.
Worse, if you’ve ever played with the sort of miserable people who decide that since you’re a problem, they can simply give their properties - lock, stock and barrel - to your primary competition just to see you lose, you’re well aware of the faults in the game. There are no rules that say they can’t do that. But there’s no point in playing once they have.
As a result, I spent many years seeking to play the game with alternate rules, which limited trading or simply removed trading altogether - such as allowing the building of houses on single properties, or limiting how many houses you can build a turn in order to even out the competition, and so on. And generally, rules like those made the game better for everyone.
Now I know that there are people out there who ADORE the property-trading aspects of monopoly, who swear vehemently that the game is ruined by limiting or otherwise eliminating that aspect. But I’ve never enjoyed playing with those people. Mostly because Jeremy, who is able to persuade the stupid ass Harold into thinking Mediterranean-Baltic is a winning strategy, is actually sort of an asshole.
On many levels, I feel that the DMs out there who have kiosks in their world selling the Ring of Gaxx or the Sphere of Annihilation (we’re overstocked this week, selling at half price!) are, again, a different sort of asshole. I want that very clear because when I get comments from DMs that tell me that THEY do allow players to buy magic items, I want it clear how I feel about them. I think they’re assholes.
There will always be a very special response from a magic-starved party when a particular enemy is using a wand of such-and-such against them. They may hate the damage, the saving throws and the general threat, but said party will be slavering to get their hands on that wand of ... whatever. This is what I meant earlier when I spoke of theatrics. It is a tremendously charged moment in the game - a magical moment, if you will - when you tell a successful party that there is magic within the treasure.
It takes a real asshole to reduce this part of the game in exchange for allowing other assholes the privilege of buying +1 daggers from the bargain bin down at ‘Enchantorama.’ I’ve had the opportunity, now and then, to watch such groups play, and it is a pretty pathetic collection of non-thinking boobs solving all their problems with whatever they’ve remembered to shop for - rather than with their brains.
So I don’t allow buying magic, and I keep my parties pretty magic scarce. For example, the online party has YET to see a magic item; I know they’d love for me to give them one. And I will. When the time is right.