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To My Trusted Advisors;

It has now been six months since the founding of Puzzleville around the entrance to the magic-filled Labyrinth of Wonders. As expected, adventurers from around the world have braved the subterranean depths to extract the countless artifacts left behind by the maze's builder, the elven mage Parasaxor. The city's population and wealth have exploded these past months.

Unfortunately, so too has the number of magic items increased dramatically. There have been complaints from the adventurers that a majority of the items they find are insufficient to their needs or inferior to their existing equipment. As a result, they often pawn the goods to the merchants of Puzzleville.

Four times now, merchants benefiting from this influx of powerful magic have become delirious with power, using the wonders of the Labyrinth against their fellow citizens and to exact retribution for past slights or force payment of old debts. This is, of course, upsetting to hear. However, it has caused some adventurers to take their business to merchants in other locales, where the influx is starting to have a similar effect.

The king has been made aware of this growing problem and has charged me with presenting a solution within the next few days. As you are well aware, His Majesty has concerns regarding the use of magic, especially after the pie incident at the recent Thanks Festival. As such, I am asking each of you to formulate a mundane solution to the problem I have outlined above.

Please have your plan on my desk as soon as possible. The solution that imposes the least impact on the merchants and the Merchant Guild while safeguarding the royal coffers and all levels of the economy will be implemented.

Ebyssybl Mollassand

First Treasurer to the King

P.S.: Remember that the roads are unsafe in our Medieval world. Stay safe while traveling for this year's hibernal solstice celebrations.


On Adventurers

Adventurers are treated in the region as a necessity. They help keep the growing monster population in check and deal with mages that become crazed and/or delusional, some of whom even build elaborate subterranean vaults filled with magical artifacts. Adventurers typically don't receive support from the government; they make their livelihood purely through adventuring, though they may receive a commission for undertaking certain tasks on behalf of the government or an individual. As a result, the common folk are happy, but cautious, about the average adventurer.

On Others

This question is only concerned with merchants, not the issues of thieves that necessarily arise parallel to the merchant issue. Also, note that this is not an issue with all merchants, but only the ones that are particularly aggrieved/vengeful/etc. Finally, while mages are available, this question is specifically focused on defining a non-magical solution.

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    $\begingroup$ First, in your scenario the adventurers would be more powerful than the merchants, so they would be more of a problem and capable of suppressing any uppity merchants if offered a bounty. Second, merchants do not collect items, stockpiled items lose money for them. They would seek to sell items forward as fast as possible,so they can keep non-productive inventory low and maximise their profits. Third, if the items are powerful to be a threat they would be worth buying directly from the adventurers, and making buying items a royal monopoly would be trivial. $\endgroup$ – Ville Niemi Nov 28 '16 at 15:18
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    $\begingroup$ Mind sharing tips on naming? Ebyssybl is quite nice $\endgroup$ – Zxyrra Nov 28 '16 at 23:01
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    $\begingroup$ The number of upvotes on the question, answers to the question, and upvotes on the answers to the question, comments on the question and answers, and upvotes on the comments on the question and answers, all seem to suggest that far more people are happy than unhappy with this question. No-one should be close voting a question with this much positive voting and activity dripping off it. Shame on you five, shame. And I mean the stumbling naked through Kings Landing followed by a tolling bell and a moaning nun kind of shame. $\endgroup$ – Grimm The Opiner Nov 29 '16 at 14:12
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    $\begingroup$ @GrimmTheOpiner A high number of answers to a question is not a sign of a good question for stack exchange. We actually have a close reason just for that: Too Broad. Similarly, a high number of comments is a negative, not a positive. And Ville Niemi pointed out the basic problem with this question with the first comment, so it is disingenuous to claim that there has been no feedback. $\endgroup$ – Brythan Nov 29 '16 at 17:14
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    $\begingroup$ @GrimmTheOpiner - popular != on scope. Public executions used to be quite popular, doesn't mean that the practice should be continued. $\endgroup$ – AndreiROM Nov 29 '16 at 20:07

14 Answers 14

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Dear Ebyssybl Mollassand,

So, if adventures tend to only sell items that don't make them better adventurers, that means, no matter how powerful someone becomes with sold magic items, there will always be an adventurer (or group of) strong enough to take them down.

This seems like a situation that the Adventurers Guild and Merchants Guild could solve on their own. If a merchant starts getting out of line, their guild will revoke their membership, and send a notification to the adventurers guild.

The adventurers guild than sends someone (or a party) to track down, stop, and hand over the rogue merchant to the proper authorities. (We could even allow them to be paid with the magic items the merchant was misusing)

From there, The law would be applied as normal. (Was anyone hurt? Murdered? Harassed? Robbed? Number of Victims?)

In the event that the Adventurers and Merchants guilds don't exist, I'd recommend instituting them. They are a great way of keeping track of who's in the profession, who's reputable in the area, a steady source of work for its members, makes it easy to set up connections/contracts with people of different lines of work, and makes polices on merchants and adventurers more enforceable (as the benefits of being a member are typically too valuable to just brake their rules whenever).

Your Trusted Adviser,

Tezra Raine Sekoi

P.S.

Now that I think about it, since magic items typically are mostly useful to adventurers, most combat magic items should, one way or another, find there way to the adventurers guild (since adventurers would be the primary consumers, and that's where they gather). So the adventurer guilds should be the ones 'buying' magic items from adventures (more convenient for both of them) and for magic items more suited to the common folk, the adventurers guild can work a deal with merchant guild for selling/supplying magic items to shops. Maybe even keep the magic items held by the adventurers guild for safe keeping until purchased.

I feel I should also note that improving enforcement of the law not only deals with the current problem, but also other problems related to illegally distributed/misused magic items. Otherwise, you are usually just trading one problem for another. (Remember to consider the black market's effect, civilian happiness (or else revolt), and how easily an unlawful man can bypass the kings new policies)

P.P.S.

It has come to my attention that there has been a fair amount of talk about putting regulations on adventurers, and even some whispers about waging war to eliminate one of our most prized resources (adventurers). So I decided I should weigh in on these options.

Starting with the most drastic, culling the adventurers in our kingdom would incur heavy losses on both sides. Even if we win, our loss of adventurers and military strength will be seen by our enemies as a sign of weakness. And without the aid of our adventurers, I fear we will not last a fortnight.

As for directly regulating adventuring activity, I fear we lack the resources to do this. If adventurers can't offload their goods legitimately, they will end up selling to the black market, helping these magic items fall into the hands of people more willing and able to misuse them. And setting up guards not only will ENCOURAGE adventurers to enter (as they will believe the loot will be better), but our guards would not last long against an ambush of adventurers.

There also seems to be rumors that these magic items are corrupting the minds of those who handle them. Looking over the reports you gave, it seems more like the majority of these cases are people, who are emotionally distressed and have access to lots of magic items, are misusing them in an attempt to, as they believe, 'put their life back together'. We should not be treating these cases as bad people doing bad things. Good people do bad things when they feel they have no other options. We should instead be viewing this as a cry for help. Obviously, injustice should never be just forgiven. These merchants should make amends for the damage they have done.

Unfortunately, These distressed citizens won't just come to us and tell us there is a problem. Normally, this is a matter I feel best left to the Merchants Guilds to address themselves, and we should only help as much as they ask for. However, I do have a few suggestions on how we might alleviate some of this burden ourselves.

1) Start an outreach program. Let the people know that we are here to help them. Encourage people who are feeling distressed to come to our local agents to talk about their hardships, and receive free counseling to help them feel better and make things in their life again. We could even come up with a name for these agents who handle the more 'psychotic' citizens... something like "psychiatrist" should work!

2) Drop taxes on magic item sales. With the economic boom these magic items bring, making them easier to sell at a profit will make merchants feel these goods are better used as sellable goods than personal tools of retribution. The lost taxes on magic items should be supplemented by the increased trade of other goods like iron and silk (thanks to the overall increase in trading).

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    $\begingroup$ I'm not sure this assumption is true. A sword that strikes x10 faster won't easily take down a merchant guard with a sword that strikes x9 faster, and another with one that strikes x8 faster, and another with one that strikes x7 faster... all against him at once. Extend this to the cases for other equipment and gear. $\endgroup$ – Ranger Nov 28 '16 at 15:58
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    $\begingroup$ @NexTerren at face value, true... but these adventurers are likely going to be in parties (to raid dungeons faster/safer), and they will be much more proficient in using these items in combat. The merchant + guards will usually need to out number / maneuver the adventures, and the more profitable taking down a rouge merchant becomes, the more numerous and larger the waves of adventurers coming after the merchant will become. (and technically, this expands to anyone who uses magic items for mischief) $\endgroup$ – Tezra Nov 28 '16 at 16:15
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    $\begingroup$ Merchant Guild sounds like a good idea. After all, that's how laws were enforced in early middle ages before the kings realised the importance of it. But I would be vary of the Adventurers Guild—when the adventurers unite, you might quickly find them running the kingdom. Because laws are good for trade, but adventurers are strong enough to defend themselves, so they'll rather form power cliques. $\endgroup$ – Jan Hudec Nov 28 '16 at 21:09
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    $\begingroup$ "hand over the rouge merchant to the proper authorities." Since when is selling makeup a crime? $\endgroup$ – Timbo Nov 29 '16 at 0:34
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    $\begingroup$ @JanHudec You have just stumbled onto the classic problem of, "How do fantasy-world towns even survive when the typical party fighter can solo its entire militia?" Really, the only way for a town or kingdom to survive is to deliberately cultivate the same level of power as the groups of adventurers. In point of fact, you'll find a lot of this kind of fantasy setting where the local rulers started out as adventurers and either won the people's trust, or conquered them. $\endgroup$ – Perkins Nov 29 '16 at 1:04
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To the honoured Ebyssybl Mollassand,

Unfortunately my agency will be unable to assist until you are willing to take a holistic solution to this problem.

Your continued insistence on using freelance agents to address a problem that should be handled by permanently retained specialist military units has led to a large accumulation of unsavoury elements within your kingdom. These merchants, whose behaviour would be considered criminal by any other standards, are tolerated because they are willing to do business with the "adventurers" upon whom you depend for internal security. Should your kingdom be attacked by an external power these adventurers, who it must be said have have no loyalty to the kingdom or indeed to anyone but themselves, could well end up fighting as mercenaries for our enemies. These freelance adventurers should be absorbed into your standing army and directed to the regions where they can do the most good rather than where they can gain the most profit. It is essential that the security of the nation is not put at risk any further.

A healthy pay and pension scheme, along with bonuses and rewards for securing strategically critical areas and recovering valuable equipment, out of which they should certainly be able to take their pick, would easily outweigh the short term benefits and risks of the solo adventure.

Your faithful servant,

Separatrix

Security Consultant
Guild of Anachronistic Trade Specialists



On the kingdom

It's clear from your description of adventurers that your kingdom has a problem. A country only exists so far as its own military, logistics and infrastructure controls the territory they claim. Especially in a more warlike age, you can sit there ranting that it's your land by right, but the only right is the right of the sword and if your army can't control that land it's not your kingdom. The same applies whether it's hostile armies, mad mages or troggs. Your territory, your army, your problem. What you can't control reverts to the wilds, the badlands, no-mans land. Once you have to start getting external agents in to control the local pests, people are going to start sniffing around what else you can't control, like your borders perhaps.

On adventurers

Adventurers should be out adventuring, this is not something that happens within the borders of your country (maybe within the borders of someone else's country though), what happens within the borders of your country is policing and pest control. If mad mages are a common regional pest then your army must be equipped to deal with them. Adventurers are basically criminals with a license, privateers on land if you like. They rob, the kill, they steal, they trespass, they cause ecological disasters. They upset gods and men alike wherever they go. They don't care about local predator prey balances, they don't care that dragons are endangered, that rocs are almost extinct, they don't care about local economies, they don't care how much of a mess they leave behind them on the road littered with the corpses of the people/beasts/things they meet. All they care about is glory, beer, money in approximately that order.

To crush your enemies, see them driven before you, and hear the lamentation of their women.

This rather casual attitude of roaming adventurers to the wellbeing and economic balance of a region is a good reason not to allow them into the area, regardless of short term benefits they may apparently bring (apart of course, from the glorious sons of our nation returned home to spread their wealth).

On merchants turning into villains

Your merchants are villains, to be specific, they're fences. They buy goods of often highly questionable origin from the "adventurers" and sell them back onto the open market. They don't ask questions, they launder salvaged goods, stolen goods, whatever. Some master craftsman somewhere made this stuff, it certainly wasn't the adventurer selling it, it's equally unlikely the adventurer paid for it. Adventurers being adventurers couldn't really care less what the merchants do with the items sold to them, all they care about is getting the best price (and where the tavern/brothel is).

However there is a standard issue solution when it comes to merchants and other civilians attempting to use high end combat equipment:

A good sword in the hands of someone who doesn't know how to use it will soon find its way into the hands of someone who does.

(I've never been able to trace this quote)

Should this be a repeat problem rather than one quickly solved with an arrow to the knee, then a royal monopoly on purchasing anything that comes out of the labyrinth should be easy to establish.

On Puzzleville

A town that springs up in a place like this could at best be described as a frontier town. Its population is going to be the people who know that the way to profit from a gold rush is to sell picks and shovels, it's going to be thieves, prostitutes and innkeepers. The borderline mass murdering, grave robbing, temple looting, "adventurers" who pass through are not going to be people you want in your country. The best thing you could do with a town like Puzzleville on your patch is to kill it with fire. Then salt the ground and put in a permanent garrison to stop people accessing the labyrinth. You do not want the people who gravitate to a place like this in your country.

If this labyrinth has suddenly cropped up in the heart of your territory and you're looking for a way to exploit it then you have to take a different approach. The town should be a military town, the entrance to the labyrinth tightly controlled. Who knows what could come out or try to get in.

The garrison should hold a full kit inspection for anyone going in or out. Nobody is allowed in unless they are adequately equipped and experienced, all persons coming out again must submit loot they haven't chosen to use for inspection and purchase, at a good price, by the garrison quartermaster. The garrison itself should be equipped from this source. In return the adventurers passing through should be allowed access to the garrison facilities, catering, accommodation, blacksmiths for armour repair etc. Only the most mundane and mildly magical toys should be allowed onto the open market.

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  • $\begingroup$ Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. $\endgroup$ – Serban Tanasa Nov 30 '16 at 16:00
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Dutch Disease

It is a clear case of the Dutch disease, where an influx of gold/oil/cloaks of charisma +2/butterknifes +5/whatever ravages the local economy, with the adventurers briging out so much gold that a back massage now costs 10 gold pieces (a yearly salary before), with self-healing swords and self-sharpening plows putting blacksmiths out of the trade, horns of abundance driving down the price of cheese and grapes to below producer costs, guardian golems replacing paid guards and so forth. For a medieval economy without a proper workforce retraining program, the effects can be catastrophic.

The king's astrologer-economists would normally suggest "sterilizing" the inflow of magical goods by forcing a "magical quarantine" period, supposedly to prevent cursed items from entering circulation, but really to slow down the flow of magical goods enough to protect the economy.

However, the flow of adventurers and items is such that keeping control of the flow of magical items once they're out of the dungeon is out of the question. To cries of "(Dungeon-)crawl, baby, crawl", former shoe-shiners and barbers are now taking up adventuring. This has the clear hallmarks of a magical bubble.

Treasure interest rate hike required

More drastic measures are required. Thankfully, the King's consort is a (thrice removed) blood relative of the great black dragon Nizidramanii'yt, who has (secretly, obviously) agreed to help safeguard the Parasaxor trove for a modest monthly contribution of maidens. Great spells of dissillusionment will hide the entrances and strong magic will redirect the adventurers to lesser dungeons where Nizi will plant medium-level monsters and properly vetted magical items. The few high-level parties that can make it past the dragon's illusions will either be destroyed (if the dragon judges that it is safe to do so) or a negotiated settlement and treasure disposition agreement will be signed between the parties.

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  • $\begingroup$ I’m going to quibble with your terminology. You’re describing technological innovation that disrupts the economy and causes mass unemployment, creating social tension. (The Robot Apocalypse, but with golems.) The Dutch Disease is when some lucrative export, oil being the classical example, brings in so much foreign currency that foreign currency becomes cheaper, making imports less expensive and exports more expensive, and all other exports become uncompetitive. That would not happen in a world that ran on the gold standard. $\endgroup$ – Davislor Nov 28 '16 at 21:46
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    $\begingroup$ It’s also not the situation that the letter describes: the problem isn’t that unskilled labor is uncompetitive, but that merchants are getting a lot of magic items and using them to hurt people. $\endgroup$ – Davislor Nov 28 '16 at 21:48
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    $\begingroup$ @Davislor, I'm just attacking the problem at the root. If there are no unvetted artefacts coming out, there is no merchant problem. I'm not going to try and fix human greed and mischief. $\endgroup$ – Serban Tanasa Nov 28 '16 at 22:09
  • $\begingroup$ It's not Dutch disease. The only reported effect has been a small increase in a particular criminal behaviour. No economic shock, no joblessness. $\endgroup$ – Grimm The Opiner Nov 29 '16 at 13:53
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Expanding upon what Tezra said:

In a society with a flourishing adventurer class the adventurers are generally the most powerful agents around. There might be some wizards in their towers that are more powerful but they aren't really combatants and have little chance of taking down a balanced group of adventurers.

Multiple answers have suggested banning them--but how? Remember, they're the most powerful agents around and likely have access to magic that will defeat your security attempts even if they don't simply march through your guards.

Rather, we need to look to them for the answer to the problem. How do you control an adventurer who has lots of power and little if any loyalty to the government?

Wanted posters. If someone, adventurer or not, gets out of line the government puts up a wanted poster. They make no efforts to bring them to justice, they just let everyone know that it's acceptable to bring them to justice, or to kill them if they won't surrender. The traditional payment for adventurers is their loot--it need not cost the king a copper piece to do this.

Sure, if the adventurers were to get together they could take over the realm without difficulty. They're too much free spirits for this to happen, though. Adventurers are no more herdable than cats.

Since adventurers do not want to have to always be watching their back they're going to behave. After a merchant or two goes up on the wanted posters and finds that good gear is no match for better gear plus great skill the rest of them will also behave.

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I see two possible solutions to this dilemma, each with its pros and cons:

  1. The merchants need to have a wizard to act as a magical item essayer on call to evaluate items that are brought in. This essayer will evaluate the potency of any magical item, and advise on any primary and secondary effects that the item has, as well as provide warding services to keep magic from items from leaking out and combining with nearby objects, building up to dangerous levels.
    It takes a real wizard to know that this sword has a +10 thaumaturgic field that needs a class 4 ward combined with Fane's circle of demon imprisonment to keep it from leaking toxic levels of magic all over the place.
    Any merchant found dealing under the table with unessayed items would be fined and possibly jailed.
    The cons are that the essayer would have a fee, and so that is a small amount of overhead that the merchant may not like to pay, meaning that fee would be passed on to the customer.
    EDIT:
    An additional pro is that the essayer would be able to tell the merchant the items true worth, so that a hidden gem doesn't get sold way under value. If an adventurer brings in Grimthane's Helm of Eternal Sight, thinking it's worthless because they don't know the incantation to unlock the power. Or The -3 Boots of Horrible Blisters. The essayer can work with the merchant to make sure that it is bought and sold at the correct price, which would make up for any fee.

  2. The sale of magical items could be nationalized. This option is more of a "stick" in case the merchants guild doesn't like the first option. The logic is this: the merchants guild is responsible for enforcing order among the merchants. If they are unable to keep the merchants in line, then it becomes necessary for the government to step in and maintain peace. Since the influx of magic is the cause, then the government will have to take over as the wholesaler of all magical items, and all adventurers would have to sell to the government, who would ensure the safety of the items, and then allow licensed merchants to purchase some of the more harmless ones at a wholesale price.
    The merchant guild will not like this, and it will open the door to a black market in magical items, and it will be an added drain on the budget to maintain, so option 1 is preferable.

Edit:

  1. A hybrid approach: Just make a law that upon exiting the maze that all items must be essayed and cataloged for a small fee, which would give the adventurer a notarized report of the precise properties of the treasure that they found. And then make it illegal to buy or sell any item that does not include this report. This way the Adventurer has the knowledge that they are getting the best price, and the merchant is getting information on the safe care and handling of the items being purchased.
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  • $\begingroup$ With option 2, I feel you will likely only be shifting the problem from merchants to kings men. It might even be worse if you are making the magic items MORE concentrated. And the black market flourishes on goods not available to the public. $\endgroup$ – Tezra Nov 28 '16 at 16:23
  • $\begingroup$ @Tezra But you would have the very best wizards in the kings service to make sure that the items are stored in a safe manner. It's like dealing with explosives. If you use them all the time then you'll have a respect for them and what they can do, and treat them accordingly. While someone that just sees it as a business transaction and "I'll just throw this sword over in a pile with all the other swords" would not. Option 1, while having a little more overhead, does have another pro: If you know about an item, you can know what it's actually worth and price it accordingly. Pawn star style. $\endgroup$ – AndyD273 Nov 28 '16 at 16:32
  • $\begingroup$ Option 3 doesn't really address the problem of merchants, who obtain magic items from adventurers legitimately, from turning around and misusing them on their fellow countrymen in a fit of rage... (unless the report also seals the magic item, adding the need for the consumer to get it unsealed after purchase) $\endgroup$ – Tezra Nov 28 '16 at 21:43
  • $\begingroup$ @Tezra It doesn't stop them from bashing in someones head with a rock in a fit of rage either. The problem as I read it is that the magic from the items is causing the merchants to go mad. The advantage of Option 3 is that it removes most of the governments "meddling" with the merchants, with the expectation that the merchants will take the information in the report and safe the items properly. Like most things in life, all of these are vulnerable to the laziness, greed, and stupidity of people, and so having a police force is still needed. But any boom town with lots of money is the same. $\endgroup$ – AndyD273 Nov 29 '16 at 14:46
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As heirophant, I recommend prayer. Pray to the gods to take away the dungeon. To sate the greed of adventurers. To cleanse the hearts of the merchants. To bring peace to the world. Now, this being a pantheonistic environment, Your Majesty will need to focus on a specific set of gods (see Appendix A). Large donations to the temples will encourage the clergy to join their prayers to yours. Divine Will overcomes the strongest magics. And the best part of this strategy? If it does not work, it is not your fault, Majesty. It is the will of the gods, and you may rest easy knowing the economic disruption is approved by Heaven itself.

Yours, The Hierophant

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    $\begingroup$ PS This does not violate the zero-magic constraint. The gods may or may not actually exist. In many civilizations, real and imaginary, propitiating the gods when things go wrong and expecting that to suffice has been considered a viable strategy. $\endgroup$ – SRM - Reinstate Monica Nov 30 '16 at 1:33
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Sir Ebyssybl Mollassand,

Everything that is magic shall be deemed heretic. As soon as you give us, Inquisitors, immunity from common laws, be assured that we will address that problem.

  • Father Gregory IX, head of the eastern Inquisition division
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From: Tammat, Guardian of the King's Forests, North Puzzleville region.

To: Lord First Treasurer, Ebyssybl Molassand-sama.

Lord First Treasurer,

Had it not been a direct order and had my life not been already forfeit, I wouldn't presume it upon me in my low rank, to even address thou, Lord First Treasurer, much less offer suggestions. Forgive me for my transgressions, as a former military man I have no way with words. I'll be therefore unacceptably blunt.

Lord First Treasurer! I urge you to act immediately, lest the problem of occasional merchant villains will be an organized Guild of villains. Merchants are no strangers to alliances and already alliances are being formed. Most dreadful are ones made between those, who have been driven to insanity in their new-found power. All my sources agree to the fact, that Merchant Guild as we know it will soon cease to exist. Instead, something else will emerge. Our actions - and the decision of His Majesty, may he live forever - will shape that new organization. In the best scenario, it will be current Merchant Guild, albeit much weaker and with little ability to deal with this internally. Worst scenario means current leadership, appalled by practices of insane merchants, will be replaced by them entirely. Means to that end are various: it may be puppetry, hypnosis, old-fashioned and perhaps even mundane blackmail, forceful control... There are as many means as there are magical artefacts and then some. Therefore, Lord First Treasurer, please hasten the matters or Puzzleville may soon be our country's territory in name only.

You need to know Molassand-sama that it's not certain what amount of magical artefacts (and of what power) drives the man insane. Furthermore, we cannot truly tell if the insanity begins due to sheer power they are able to wield eroding their wills or if there's dark magic afoot. We cannot therefore exclude nor can we confirm:

  • some merchants being weak-willed, or greedy enough to misuse the artefacts they acquire (despite adventurers possessing more powerful magical equipment, there's little to no such occurrences among them)
  • only certain merchants being susceptible,
  • any amount or power of artefacts being "safe",
  • number or power of artefacts that triggers the insanity,
  • any special handling of magic equipment that makes adventurers immune or resistant to it, as opposed to merchants
  • foreign power ploy: e.g. 'tainting' some artefacts to cause lust for power, bribing some adventurers to sell dangerous or 'tainted' items to certain merchants
  • existence of a merchant resistant or immune to magical artefacts 'siren call'

I woe my inadequacies in providing these answers. I've made best efforts in tracking and collecting necessary facts, however I plead with you, Molassand-sama, to find someone more capable than myself and entrust that person with this task. Researching these merchants made them aware of my existence and they deemed it displeasing. There have been three attempts on my life and I'm certain there'll be one that succeeds as I have less and less means and my disposal to avoid them while I continue my duties. Knowing my time is running out, I've compiled all I know, copied it and dispatched five of my best rangers, in hopes at least one will reach you. Roads are not just unsafe, they are outright controlled Lord First Treasurer. Two patrols have gone missing. Six men led by Seargant Hamare tried to reclaim a bride captured on her wedding day and met their deaths at the hands of a masked villain wielding Cane of Illusions. Said Cane was traced by one of my agents to hands of one Illustrio Ropatis, merchant of mediocre standing and dubious loyalty. Not a single soul however, including the groom, was willing to even admit he was the abductor. More worrisome however is another patrol. Noticeably weaker, consisting of only two men and not of the army, but of local militia. Lord First Treasurer, this patrol was LURED and killed. The way it's been done suggests a preliminary test. I can only think that this was done with premeditation, to know how powerful the item was. However choosing local militia for that particular test instead of some monster suggests next targets are most likely from the local garrison.

Finally, it is my duty to inform you, that at least seven adventuring parties currently located in Puzzleville hail from other nations that our own. Therefore it's only a matter of time when current situation becomes known to foreign powers, if it's not already.

Lord First Treasurer, now you know the seriousness of our situation. I propose the following:

  • counterattack
  • intercept further magical items temporarily
  • find out the cause for merchant's insanity and introduce countermeasures

Counter-attack

Is necessary Lord First Treasurer. Without it, the nation will be perceived as weak and King's agents already are simple targets. Also, immediate counter-attack shifts their focus and disrupts their plans. This is the only way to save current leadership of the Merchant Guild.

Please:

  • announce a mission to curb down merchants driven to insanity
  • have all royal and affiliated adventurers undertake that mission
  • put up wanted posters for several merchants about whose misdeeds we have certainty (my rangers carry that list as well)
  • seize all their belongings (and make most of it Crown's property)
  • mobilize the army to seize and punish as many wrongdoers as possible, or at least to increase our presence in the region and make it harder to strike at King's men

Intercept

Please be aware that mishandling that point will cause unrest among both merchants (insane or no) AND adventurers. I can guarantee the cooperation of current leadership of the Merchant Guild (for how long, I cannot tell, I'm not privy to plans for coup d'etat). There are several solutions present:

  1. Announcing that since some magical items found in Parasaxor's labirynth are very likely causes of insanity, all items must be verified, therefore temporarily they'll be confiscated and studied, before being returned

  2. Using the royal adventurers to seize the belongings of several high-profile insane merchants and using their funds to fund the compensation for other items.

  3. Offering obligations to adventurers for selling the items directly to our kingdom, obligations could be exchanged for cheaper inns or equipment repairs.

  4. Buying items directly from adventurers.

  5. Forcefully seizing all magical items from certain merchants, who cannot tell where the items involved in certain incidents are (like Cane of Illusions, or some middle-grade items capable of flame/explosion magic like the one that obliterated militia patrol).

None of these work long-term, my more economically-inclined friends tell me so. Nor will banning the trade. However all those temporary and inadequate stop-gaps may give us time for finding the true solution.

Stop the cause

Please, assign a more suitable than myself person to investigate the cause for merchant's insanity. Only by addressing the true cause shall we prevail.

Apologies for burdening you with my incompetence Molassand-sama. I'm fully aware that above solutions are inadequate. I see the reason for that in the fact I am unaware of what is truly causing the issue. Therefore, I can only ask, please make that utmost priority for someone who is well-versed in magical items and human minds alike, for it is between these two where this crisis was birthed.

Tammat, Forest Guardian, PS. Regarding the choice of my successor, I'd like to nominate all the rangers to reach you, Molassand-sama, among the five I've sent. I'd personally select the one that reaches you with least amount of trouble and without being detected by the enemy, both foreign and domestic. Apologies for burdening you with such a trivial matter which should be handled by myself.

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To First Treasurer Ebyssybl Mollassand

Your Honor,

I would summarize the issue you describe as: adventurers are selling their unneeded magic weapons to untrustworthy people who abuse them. Describing these purchasers as “merchants” is perhaps not entirely accurate. As your letter reports, the problem arises precisely when a buyer does not resell the item at a profit. I would humbly suggest that it makes no difference whatsoever whether the person terrorizing His Majesty’s subjects found the item, purchased it from an adventurer directly, or purchased it second-or-third-hand. The difference between one of these “villains” and an “adventurer” might be more difficult to draw than one would assume. In other words, I advise Your Honor to focus on what people do, not who they are.

The problem, simply put, is with the unrestricted sale and use of magic items. If the realm can focus on illegal use of magic, punishing and deterring it effectively, that could suffice. His Majesty's government might additionally wish to require purchasers to report all such purchases and sales; in addition to making crimes easier to solve, it would be very useful to know just what people are finding and how that is changing over time. Failing that, the Crown could attempt to set up a monopoly on the purchase and sale of potentially dangerous items, if it is prepared to crack down on the black market that inevitably would spring up. This could guarantee that items too dangerous for use would be identified and locked away safely in the Royal vaults.

In addition to regulating sellers, the Crown could regulate buyers, such as by holding merchants partly responsible for selling the item used in a crime, or requiring the adventurers purchasing their magic items provide proof of their good character and responsible conduct. It might be wise to recruit the next cohort of adventurers from youths from good families who have trained as squires or apprentices, or even to require a commission as agents of the Crown.

—Your faithful servant.

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You may not actually have a problem at all. Four incidents of criminality in a whole city doesn't sound like much, has the total level of criminal intimidation risen at all, or are you just seeing a change in the means?

You only have a problem if the abundance of magical items has:

  • Led to more crime.
  • Made crime harder to prevent or detect.

If either of these is true then you have what is known in the universe next door (sometimes called "The Real World") as a negative externality. That is, a cost to providing a service that is not directly born by the consumer or provider.

The answer is mundane. You tax the sale of magical items. This is known (in the universe next door) as a Pigovian tax. The tax will either cover the social cost of the trade in magical items, or discourage the sale of magical items - or both.

You have mentioned the social benefit of heroes who trade in magical items incidentally keeping the monster population down. This is know (next door) as a positive externality. With less money being made for heroes from the sale of magical items you need to ensure this positive effect continues, I recommend use of a Pigovian subsidy - possibly on the production of goods derived from monster furs, teeth, ivory etc.

Toodles,

GtO Chief Economist to Whoever will Bloody Listen.

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Offer to buy the adventurers' old equipment at a much higher price than any merchant could afford. Then create a high tax on the buying of magical artifacts by private citizens.

Done right this could bring the entire market for magical artifacts under your control.

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Invest in adventuring parties

Deal is simple: party is supplied with resources they need and transported to the entrance. After they exit, the Treasury has exclusive right to buy any items adventurers want to sell for a price a little higher thab they'd get from local merchants.

This can be bootstrapped with gold only. Next, come Treasury-owned adventuring parties - adventurers are supplied with magic items by the Treasury, but Treasury owns anything they get from Labyrinth. Adventurers themselves are sufficiently compensated, but not in magical items. This theoretically allows to get stuff that is not inferior to adventurers' gear.

If merchants wanted to become villains and could afford that, they'd become villains long ago. Hence, we should assume that they either didn't want or could not afford. The second option is simple: they were paying adventurers way less than those items actually cost. This seems plausible and allows the Treasury to buy those items cheaper than they actually cost while still paying a tad higher than local merchants.

There are 2 ways how things may play out next.

If the Labyrinth has low enough quantity of items, they will all simply go to Crown's disposal by pretty cheap prices. That's a win.

If the Labyrinth has high enough quantity of items to change their market value then the whole world is going to change drasticly due to abundance of miracle-spewing mcGuffins. Magical items would become cheaper, yes, but at least the Crown ensures its position in riding that wave of changes.

Routing majority - or all - magical items through Treasury also allows extensive research to conclude that these items do not, in fact, corrupt anyone who uses them. Nobody but the Government is going to fund that.

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Go to war

The problem is weapons are not selling well enough so they sit on shelves costing the merchants money. The merchants have to watch these unsellable but still quite powerful items sit idle while they fail to grow rich, the solution of taking matters into their own hands is bound to occur to them.

So you need to increase demand for weapons. Take a good long look at your neighbors and maybe their neighbors, certainly there will be some choice land that has the wrong sort of people on it. Now is the time to see that properly grateful people are given a chance.

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First Treasurer,

Start by having the royal armoury buy all the excess magical gear from the merchants. Since demand is low those should be cheap.

After acquiring enough weapons, let some kobolds and goblins loose in the city. They are low enough of a threat that the population will be able to exterminate them without excessive casualties, but enough of a threat to justify arming the population. At this point the royal armoury should distribute magical weapons and armour for the populace at a low cost.

Once the threat has been dealt with, all the survivors will be armed to the teeth. The merchants will not dare mess up with them. Problem solved.

Yours Truly,
Renan, Bayesian Empirimancer of the 8th circle

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  • $\begingroup$ Because nothing bad can happen by giving a bunch of untrained civilians access to powerful magic in the midst of a gremlin invasion. ...Right? $\endgroup$ – Frostfyre Jul 17 at 14:34
  • $\begingroup$ @Frostfyre on the bright side you have more material for lore and adventures :) $\endgroup$ – Renan Jul 17 at 15:06

protected by James Nov 30 '16 at 15:03

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