Monday, June 27, 2011

Apothecary Shop

I have noticed lately a lot of attention paid towards an equipment list I posted three years ago.  It really is due for an upgrade, if for no other reason than as an example of what an equipment table looks like for my players these days.

As I said in the last post, I'm in the process of upgrading the whole table, so now is a good time to post the various tables as I build them.  This time, I won't try to post them all at the same time.

Sorry, the prices will not all appear on the list below.  The new equipment list doesn't include items that are rare or unusual for the market zone for which the list is generated (some facets of the table are random).  As I said, this is what my players would see.

There are three portions.  The first, in grey, includes what is available for purchase.  The number column (a darker grey) shows the number of items per player that are available that week (the next week I generate a new table).  The second section is the number of items and the price that the shop will pay the players, should the players be able to sell.  If nothing appears on that row, the shop isn't buying.  Period.

Finally, the third section is what the player is able to sell to persons on the street, either to vendors, other shops or individual people.  There is a 1 in 36 chance of the player attracting attention from a guard for every sale, which would lead to an arrest (or a chase) if the player does not have a vendor's licence in that city.



I feel I am somewhat at fault here for not including a further description of this table, rather than merely leaving the table up to be viewed and perhaps investigated.  It behooves me to do some of the investigation myself.

To begin with, the table includes a number of herbs which I investigated to determine what medical effects have been attributed to them throughout history.  This is a painstaking process, and that is why there is a limited number of herbs here.  I began work on the DMG's long list, throwing out anything I could not find effects for.  Those things listed above on the table, such as acidum boricum, alder catkins, aloe vera and so on have ascribed merits.  One of the things about a world of magic and D&D, whatever false effects may exist in reality, in fantasy can certainly have much as the DM allows.  For the present, I have not sat down and worked out what those exact effects are.  But in a game, should a player try the application of this or that, I would make a call that was readily positive.  For example, devil's dung - which is listed as protecting against demonic possession - might offer a +3 saving throw vs. suggestion, magic jar or some such, if it could be eaten prior to the event (perhaps having an effect of an hour or less).  I feel this list is stronger than the one from the DMG, since it offers a price for what's available and the method by which is it stored.

There are a number of spell components included in the list - not because I am interested in using spell components, but because I feel these are important items to have if the player wishes to write and additional spell into their spellbook, or research a similar spell for creation, or even to create a scroll - which I think should require components even if normal casting of the spell does not.  The various prices are based upon real world commodities, tweaked in workmanship or by the cost of preparation.  For example, the cost of the eyeballs is based upon the cost of a human slave, since one living person would need to be sacrificed in order to obtain both eyes.  The slave price serves as a stand-in for the bother or danger of even creeping up on just anyone and committing murder for the sake of their ocular organs.  These dangers must be reflected in the price.

Some of the items are stolen outright from 3rd edition equipment lists: gripcolle and quicksilver, for instance.  I'm not above stealing if the idea is good.

There are two interesting potions that exist in actual alchemy.  Blue mass was a medicine created and sold in the 19th century (but is too interesting not to include in my 17th century world) which contained mercury, but was nevertheless used to treat tuberculosis, constipation, toothache, parasitic infestations and pain resulting from childbirth.  It was ingested, although of course mercury is quite toxic.

The other, Four Thieves' Vinegar, is a plague remedy dating from the Middle Ages.  Wikipedia does not do the subject justice, particularly as it does not include the recipe, which can be found here.  It is less likely to kill you, although wormwood is a critical ingredient of absinthe, which will eventually cause some rot to your brain.  Undistilled, however, wormwood is less harmful.

I apologize for not including this discussion when I first posted.  In future I shall try to include more commentary on the equipment lists as I post them.


SupernalClarity said...

Alexis, seeing these tables of yours always make me wish my worlds has such spectacular detail. I don't think my players are nearly as interested in this kind of thing as I am—but man, if I had realistic, variable trade tables, I know I'd find a way to make them interested.

On a more curious note, this table got me wondering about how black powder figures in to your D&D earth. From my (admittedly limited) knowledge of history I figured it must be in use by now, and I notice you specifically mention in the description for saltpeter that it's a component.

Do you have a pricing for black powder listed on one of your equipment tables? And is it something that's seen any use in your games, whether in the form of firearms, explosives, fireworks, or whatever else it might be applied to?

Alexis said...

I do have black powder in my world. The party has purchased it, and used it against enemies. It is not used in pistols or firearms, since walking within ten feet of a mage most anywhere risks the chance that one of them will surreptitiously cast dampen or some other cantrip on the device and it will blow up in your face. Of course, if you had a mage to ensure the powder was dry ...

I don't sell firearms, but I don't restrict a rational person from investigating into the process.

The thing about black powder, it is notoriously unreliable. More so where magic is concerned, though of course magic has its benefits with regards to the substance, too. It can be very expensive, and it can fail to go off when its needed.

Always remember, if the party can use it against enemies, enemies can use it against the party.

All the items you name exist, but except for fireworks in China and Japan, not in abundance.

SupernalClarity said...

Alright, I figured it must be something you'd included in your system somewhere. I never even thought about the immense danger that a single mage could pose to someone carrying black powder, though; that definitely would lead me to think twice about its use.

On another topic, tangentially related to the subject of gunpowder: have you put any thought into the existence of the great goals of mediaeval alchemy—elixirs of life, philosopher's stones, and that sort of thing? After all, if mundane herbs can have special effects in a magical setting, certainly the more miraculous application of alchemy must have a chance of functioning. I'm sure the recipe for such substances would be nonetheless difficult to discover, and closely guarded by anyone who had, but still: is it something you've ever considered?

(Sorry to ask such inane questions about little details of your world, but these sorts of posts always get me curious.)

Alexis said...

My gawd, Supernal, no honest question can possibly be inane. I may be on a hair trigger, but pure curiousity is always treated with respect. Don't hesitate; I'll answer as long as you ask.

Virtually every kind of thing that has been conjectured by the mind of man has the possibility of existing in my world, including elixers of life, philosopher's stones and so on. If it is something I haven't heard of, but someone can point to something the Hindus believed or that was held sacred by the Inca's, or a theory from the Koreans, I'm open to fitting it somewhere into the milieu. Heck, I just wrote on the blog recently about how I've implemented the nail that was driven into the left hand of Christ as a sentient artifact (now in the party's possession). What mythical flotsam and jetsam wouldn't I consider fair game? I love this sort of thing ... pieces and bits from a hundred different cultural history just laying about ready to be found.

So yes, considered and applied. If you wanted to work up your own philosopher's stone, you're right - difficult to make, dangerous to make, a carefully guarded secret ... and even having it in your hand probably wouldn't end the various game scenarios that would suggest themselves.

Symeon Kokolas said...

If you have time for some heavy reading to support the list of apothecary goods, I would recommend two books. These are not proper encyclopedic references, but I have found them to be useful for a number of reasons.
The first is 'Three Books of Occult Philosophy', ISBN 0-87542-832-0, Llewelyn publishing; supposedly published originally in 1531, this collection forms the underlying framework of various Western occult practices. Of particular interest to you might be a list of the tools and substances to be used in rituals.
The second is 'Cunningham's Encyclopedia of Magical Herbs', ISBN 0-87542-122-9, also Llewelyn publishing. This contains a fairly comprehensive list of herbs, spices and related substances along with their indications, associations, toxicity if any, and some notes on historical uses. The same author wrote a similar text on crystals, gems and metals that may be useful for other tables.

Eric said...

I just wanted to say I am really enjoying this series. This table in particular is *loaded* with adventure seeds.