5
$\begingroup$

The Setup:
During his trip to the town of Ar-Piji, our hero stumbles upon a mysterious shop. It contains all sorts of oddities, but for some reason he's the only one in there except for the hagged old shopkeeper who keeps cackling and petting her black cat. As our hero examines an item, she calls out, "Ohh, you'll like that one. That's [convenient plot artifact X]. Been around here forever. I'm in a generous mood today, so for 2 coppers it's all yours." So our hero purchases the item. When he returns later, possibly to inquire about the item's origins, the shop has disappeared *le gasp* and is promptly forgotten about for the rest of story.


Desired Result:
I want a world where such artifact shops are commonplace (disappearing optional). Adventurers can find all manner of items in one ("By the gods! A Broadsword of the Archangel's Fury +7!") which may or may not be plot-centric. Some items are truly unique while others are common items with a rare combination of properties or enchantments (affixes, in RPG terms) or are simply rare items themselves. There is also some sense of buyer urgency behind the idea that items are rare or one-of-a-kind and even more urgency if the shop is only present at a location for one day.

Part of the problem is supply. The whole idea behind the disappearing item shop is that it's a plot device to place an item in the hero's hands without explaining its origin and removing all ways of finding out its origin. With a multitude of these shops, it becomes harder to handwave the supplier away, at least from a worldbuilding perspective. There would need to be a way to have a consistent supply while more or less maintaining the "unique" aspect of the items.

The other problem is maintaining the fantastic appearance of these shops. In our world, we don't go into a pawn shop and find it filled with dazzling goods. We might find a few nifty knick-knacks, but the majority of the goods are mundane even if they are unique. So how can I make these shops alluring, yet common?

Is it economically sound to have shops filled with unique artifacts throughout the realm?

Where would these shops get unique artifacts?

Is it possible to have these shops be common, yet each one is still unique and exotic?

$\endgroup$
  • $\begingroup$ Terry Pratchett would be proud $\endgroup$ – Joe Bloggs Mar 15 '16 at 12:32
16
$\begingroup$

It's a multidimensional shop. All the shops are really 1. But since it has no real time or space, it can be any where and all the magical items it holds makes it's appearance change as well as it's location. It also has an effect on which items show up.

The reason why 'all the shops' can have so many 'unique' items is because they are all the same shop, and depending on who is walking in the door affects what items are on display. The 'shop owner' might not even really exist, the shop itself could be semi-sentient and produces unique owners to interact with customers. It also knows the best places to find and get new 'unique' items and just happen to be there when someone needs to 'pawn' some 'junk'. The same artifact might have passed through the same shop dozens of times over the centuries. So it can find the great things at bargain basement prices!

$\endgroup$
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ For some reason this really reminds me of Howl's Moving Castle. $\endgroup$ – The Anathema Mar 9 '16 at 21:14
  • $\begingroup$ @TheAnathema I've heard of it, but don't know the story. I've read short stories with a similar theme $\endgroup$ – bowlturner Mar 9 '16 at 21:15
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Making the shop a semi-sentient multidimensional entity sounds like an interesting premise. I might run with that, thanks. $\endgroup$ – Kys Mar 9 '16 at 21:47
  • $\begingroup$ The Fritz Leiber story "The Bazaar of the Bizarre" had a fun take on this. $\endgroup$ – CAgrippa Mar 9 '16 at 22:35
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ IMHO it should be fully sentient at with an agenda of its own. Basically it wants somebody to do something that will further its agenda and will thus exist in the correct place and supply an item that will enable the target to do what is wanted. This works because "when all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail". Similarly providing an item that provides information allows "guiding" the characters decisions. Essentially the shop acts just like the author of a novel providing plot devices, but with a separate agenda. $\endgroup$ – Ville Niemi Mar 13 '16 at 4:47
5
$\begingroup$

The shop belongs to another adventurer who retired years ago. During his adventures, he acquired a huge supply of artifacts and now sells some of them to have the funds to build elaborate vaults for the others.

Mr. Retired travels around the region when he needs another influx of cash, researches the local populace, and, if he finds someone who needs something specific, places himself in the perfect place to deliver the artifact. If he isn't charging significant prices for the artifacts he's selling, then he may be in it for wealth from another source.

For example: Mr. Retired sells Young Villain the staff of Cthulhu. Young Villain then goes and causes havoc in the area. Later, Mr. Retired approaches the people in charge and says he'll deal with Young Villain for a fee. Having once possessed the staff, Mr. Retired easily dispatches Young Villain, recovers the artifact (to sell to some other unsuspecting Young Villain), and claims his reward.

A community of such retired adventurers, or an organization representing the interests of Mr. Retired and his compatriots (if any), could make these mobile shops somewhat common.

Alternatively, Mr. Retired isn't really retired. He says he is, but he still goes out and ransacks ancient ruins, plunders tombs, and raids the vaults of the gods themselves in an ever-increasing need to collect all the artifacts in an attempt to become the God of Artifacts (whom other adventurers would try to steal from and the cycle continues).

$\endgroup$
  • $\begingroup$ Heh, this sounds like Recettear. Sell gear to adventurers then make a profit off them. $\endgroup$ – Kys Mar 9 '16 at 21:46
2
$\begingroup$

The shop is operated by a powerful deity who fancies himself a story teller, entertaining his fellow gods with tales of human adventure. Whenever he runs out of new adventure stories, he slips his shop into an empty store front, just as your heroes turn onto that particular alley. Knowing what the heroes are likely to need and what they can afford, he magically fills the store with appropriately powered and priced objects; then waits for his new customers to enter.

Once the heroes pay and leave, he closes up shop and returns to monitoring their adventure remotely, collecting details for his next great story.

If you work out your story structure carefully, the shop keep might even turn out to be your narrator.

$\endgroup$
1
$\begingroup$

Fairy Shops

The shops are run by the Fair Folk, creatures who live in a parallel universe where magic is commonplace but there is some resource in the mundane world which they lack and are unable to acquire without fair trade - a rather common trope when dealing with fairy creatures. Naturally, they can appear human with magic, but are actually not remotely human at all. The wonderous magical items they sell are basically garbage to them, and they trade for things which seem cheap to us, but precious to them.

Ideas for things they might trade for:

  1. The satisfaction of the customer. Maybe they have difficulty feeling emotions, but enjoy the sensation of the customer attaining something of value. This is usually a little too benevolent for the Fair Folk, though...
  2. Along the same line, they might want objects of sentimental value, to feed off of the psychic residue left on the item by the owner. To a lesser extent, they might be willing to take money, not for trade, but for 'eating' the value people place on it.
  3. For the fun of it. The fairy world is too chaotic for sensible stories, and the fairies like stories (or maybe they even need stories to live). So they sell interesting items to interesting people and watch what happens.
  4. To create conflict. Along the same lines, maybe the fairies are evil and feed off of human pain and suffering, so they give people magical weapons to increase the pain in the world. Or some other malovent/eldritch purpose that has long-reaching consequences beyond what we see.

It could also be possible that items from these shops can come with an unforeseen drawback or curse that forces the buyer to pay the seller back with something. But sometimes not. Genre-savvy people might be wary about buying from these shops, but sometimes they have no choice, or are willing to take the risk.

$\endgroup$
0
$\begingroup$

I'd suggest making 'Artifact Shops' common. And magical obviously (disappearing, appearing, moving). And fully explained and part of your world. You seem to have given them already some thought and it would be sad to have them removed from your story just because you want the original artifact to have it's origins shrouded in mystery.

That original shop however does NOT need to be an artifact shop. It was simply mistaken for one, it was something much more mysterious, mythical, or maybe even sinister. (You can hint this through the story). There's only so much I can go on for here without making my own story.

Anyway, cool premise, good luck!

$\endgroup$
0
$\begingroup$

It depends on how much you want to flesh out the world economy that you're in.

If it's in a "world not that much unlike our own", there's going to umpteen bazillion little pawn-style type shops... however, there's only going to be one or two that will frequently have incredibly rare or extraordinary items (IRL, those would be the Pawn Star's shop, or the Antiques Roadshow type thing). The average Artie's Artifacts will have normal things, with a single rare tome hidden in a stack of mundane ones, or a sword that is really powerful, but the shopkeeper only knows it as John Peter's (you know, the farmer) sword that was passed down from his grandfather. Like a normal pawn shop, the original owners can be coming back to retrieve their wares at any point, be they fantastic or mundane.

You can have the surrounding area with nonstandard currency, any travelling marketeers that have carts full of wares may rely on bartering supplies and other things rather than trying to keep track of how much each currency requires. That allows them to have a good reason to have whole bunch of random things of various power levels on hand.

You can have a shop that can move by itself. You can use the Dancing Hut of Baba Yaga as a reference, or Howl's Moving Castle, or "the Barn" from Haven, or the Witch's hut from Brave, Or the town of Brigadoon, the eponymous circus from The Night Circus novel or from the 4th season of Heroes... the list goes on. It doesn't matter if it moves on legs, wheels, tracks, a stiff eastbound breeze in the form of a mist, or simply vanishes at the speed of plot. It will plunk down outside of town, near a main road or crossroads. Perhaps they collect the wares from the passers by before moving along, as mentioned above, perhaps the crafters contained within don't realize that their wares are enchanted when the customers leave (because reasons!).

$\endgroup$
0
$\begingroup$

Hope I'm not too late to the party.

I would think such a shop would be either hard to notice or hard to find, otherwise everyone would be in there grabbing up all the cool stuff. Since I don't know of any businessmen who would want his shop to be difficult to find or see from the road, I would guess he's probably rich enough not to care, or he serves a certain...clientele. If you are fortunate enough to be aquainted with such people (good or bad in nature), you would know where to look for shops of the same calibre in the next city or town.

Maybe there's a symbol on the doorframe that denotes which shops belong to/serve the mysterious group? And maybe a certain phrase rarely spoken clues the shopkeeper in to the nature of his customer and he will tie up the curtain in the back of the room revealing another small corner of goods for this particular customer?

$\endgroup$
0
$\begingroup$

The shop is set outside of time and space. It only opens to travelers who happens to possess some insignificant-seeming items (but actually have hidden attributes the shop can activate). The shop then offers the traveler an item that looks pretty awesome. While the traveler is distracted, it steal the artifact.

After the traveler left, the shop activate the artifact and sell it to the next innocent traveler. The act of activating artifact is expensive and exhausting, so the shop put a magic-sapping charm (and/or other evil viruses) on the artifact so the traveler will stupidly spread all over the world.

The shop sit back and collect the magic transferred from countless artifacts it sold.

$\endgroup$
0
$\begingroup$

Why don't you just consider a caravan model (think gypsy sort of inspired). All the vendors are of the same race/background, given a common, if unknown, explanation as to why they all have acquired rare artifacts (perhaps, centuries earlier, their people found a treasure trove or some magical artifact and kept it secret all this time). The shops open up for a week and then close and they move on. They could be exceptional at covering their tracks, making them impossible to follow, find, or predict. This avoids any extra-dimensional sort of explanations.

$\endgroup$

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.