Black Market Blymouth

By | 19th September 2018

Rules for dealing with black market trading in LOTFP and other OSR games.

Trading and buying equipment is often something that gets glossed over in RPGs, and quite rightly so in my opinion since doing a bit of shopping doesn’t really compare to the heroic (and not so heroic) deeds that PCs engage in during the rest of their adventuring career. I’ve done it myself recently in my own campaign game, the players rocked up to the City of Blymouth to buy some gear and–wanting to get on with the rest of the adventure–I pretty much said “Yeah, if you can see it on the equipment list then you can buy it at city prices.”

It did get me thinking though, one of the things I’d half had in mind for Blymouth (since the high taxes that Duke Salt imposes on the citizens was mentioned in the Midderlands Expanded book) was that there would be a thriving black market economy. But how best to represent this without every shopping trip turning into a mission on it’s own?

I also wanted the black market expedition to have an element of both randomness and player-choice in it. With that in mind I’ve put together the following set of rules for Black-marketeering:

Stages of Black-Marketeering

In order to gain access and trade on the black market the PCs must go through the following stages (each of which is covered in more detail later in the article):

  • Locating a black-market vendor.

  • Purchasing the item/assessing it’s quality.

Locating a Black Market Vendor

In order to use the black market, the PCs must first make contact with it; if they have already had dealings with a named contact in the current settlement and are on good terms with them then they can do this automatically.

If the PCs do not have a named contact they are on good-terms with then they must make a Charisma check to locate an appropriate vendor, the player-character’s Sleight of Hand score is added to their Charisma for the purposes of this check (to represent familiarity with the underworld).

For example: Michael Childs is a suave thief with a Charisma of 15 and a Sleight of Hand score of 3-in-6; when making his roll to contact the black market he counts as having a Charisma score of 18.

If the player succeeds on the roll then they locate a black market vendor without any problems, if they fail then something has gone wrong; roll 1D6 on the following table to find out what.

1D6 Roll Result
1-2 The PCs are spotted by the watch and are approached by a group of town-guard, if they can't talk their way out of it then the PCs will be fined 1D6x50SP. If they cannot–or refuse–to pay the fine then the guards will attempt to apprehend them and throw them in debtors prison.
3-4 The PCs locate a vendor, but he is actually a thug with some of his fellows lurking nearby, as they are discussing purchases a group of footpads attempt to disable and rob the PCs.
5-6 The PCs fail to find a black market vendor because they are distracted by another event (roll on the random encounter chart for this area).

Purchasing the Item/Assessing It’s Quality

If the PCs manage to track down a black-market vendor then they are able to locate the item/s they are seeking to purchase, however such vendors are not like more reputable tradesmen, their wares are a jumble of broken, salvaged and cobbled together items.

When purchasing from a black-market vendor the player may choose to take a discount of 10, 20 or 30 percent from the cost of their purchase. Once they have decided on their discount, roll a 1D6 to determine whether or not the item is 100% functional, the chance of this being the case is listed below.

Discount Taken Chance of Something wrong with Item
10% 1-in-6
20% 2-in-6
30% 3-in-6

Please note: This roll must be made for each item purchased.

If there is something wrong with the item that has been purchased, roll on the table below to determine what exactly is amiss with it and consult the table below:

1D6 Roll Weapon Armour Magical Misc
1 The first time the item is used it falls to pieces immediately afterwards. The first time the item is used it falls to pieces immediately afterwards. The first time the item is used it falls to pieces immediately afterwards. The first time the item is used it falls to pieces immediately afterwards.
2-3 The weapon does only half damage. The armour provides 1 less AC bonus than it should. The magic item has only half charges or provides 1 less bonus. The item is evidence in a crime and is being sought by the authorities.
4-5 The weapon does only a quarter damage. The armour provides 2 less AC bonus than it should. The magic item has only a quarter the charges or provides 2 less bonus. The item is sought by a powerful villain who will stop at nothing to recover it.
6 The item is cursed (as determined by the GM). The item is cursed (as determined by the GM). The item is cursed (as determined by the GM). The item is cursed (as determined by the GM).

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