Are valuable organs easy to find?

My son, who you may recall I am raising to be an ultimate dwarf, has asked me for permission (and funds) to construct a dungeon in which to test his machines. Given the great expense of such a project, I am a little reluctant to give in to this particular request. Undaunted, my son has tried to persuade me by suggesting that we could eventually make a small profit by selling special components harvested from any monsters that settle in the dungeon.

As an adventurer, I never needed to buy or sell special components; What my mage friend needed for his research, we obtained with our own strength. As a consequence, I have never needed to find a merchant who deals in such things. At my son's request, I've started looking into how the market operates, and from what I can tell, it's a wonder that special components are traded at all.

Monster parts are listed as a precious material on the tables of trade goods; Given that only 15% of merchants specialise in precious materials and only 10% of those deal in monster parts, the chance of a given merchant specialising in monster parts is only 1.5%. But worse, there's a footnote that says you should roll on the area's wandering monster table to find out which kind of monster a merchant deals in - which means that the odds of a merchant buying or selling the specific special component you're interested in is tiny at best, and zero if you're in an area where the monster is not endemic.

In such a climate, I'm amazed there's a trade in special components at all... Which makes me think I'm misunderstanding something. I had always assumed that mages have to hire adventurers to fetch the special components they need... But could they equally just walk into a town and buy what they need on the open market? Why, then, does the practice of hiring adventurers to obtain special components exist at all?

As you point out, it is unlikely for monster parts to be available at all, much less the specific one you need.

My interpretation of that footnote is that you should roll each time monster parts are available, not once and say ‘ok this is a troll blood merchant’, but rather ‘this merchant who deals in monster parts happens to have troll blood this time’.

So if you need a specific part, especially if you need it in large quantities or on a recurring basis, hiring adventurers is the way to go.

[quote="GMJoe"]  Monster parts are listed as a precious material on the tables of trade goods; Given that only 15% of merchants specialise in precious materials and only 10% of those deal in monster parts, the chance of a given merchant specialising in monster parts is only 1.5%. But worse, there's a footnote that says you should roll on the area's wandering monster table to find out which kind of monster a merchant deals in - which means that the odds of a merchant buying or selling the specific special component you're interested in is tiny at best, and zero if you're in an area where the monster is not endemic. [/quote]

Two comments:

1. You are correct that only 1.5% of merchants will default to being monster parts sellers. However, a merchant can be persuaded to transact as a seller of precious merchandise with a reaction roll of 12+. That means at least 1 in 36 merchants (about 3%) can be persuaded. Some minor modifiers to the reaction roll can raise this to 25% fairly easily. [The merchant is assumed to be making arrangements through his network of traders to provide the goods, etc.]

2. The intent of the rule is that each merchant who deals in the monster parts deals in monster parts generally. The roll on the wandering monsters table is to determine what he has on hand to sell or is interested in buying at that moment, without requiring to be persuaded.

3. It is an open question, not answered in the rules as written, whether a merchant who is persuaded to sell monster parts, is persuaded to sell random monster parts or specific monster parts. E.g. if you persuade a merchant to sell "hides, furs" that's all that matters, but if you persuade a merchant to sell "monster parts" are you getting whatever he can find, or what you specifically need?  How ought we resolve this ambiguity?

  • Option A: If you persuade a merchant to sell monster parts, you persuade him to sell exactly what you needed. This seems somewhat hard to swallow from the point of view of verisimilitude. 
  • Option B: If you persuade a merchant to sell monster parts, you roll randomly to sell what he is able to get his hands on to sell you. That is probably more realistic.
  • Option C: A reaction roll of 12+ is required for any monster parts, 15+ for specific monster parts. 

>  In such a climate, I'm amazed there's a trade in special components at all... Which makes me think I'm misunderstanding something. I had always assumed that mages have to hire adventurers to fetch the special components they need... But could they equally just walk into a town and buy what they need on the open market? Why, then, does the practice of hiring adventurers to obtain special components exist at all?

Let's separate this into two questions. The first is "are monsters hunted" and the second is "at the orders of whom?" 

I think the answer to the first question is "yes, probably, if they can be." We know that in the real world, when wild animals have valuable body parts, they have been hunted, even when they are considered fierce and terrifying animals. Consider whaling in the pre-modern era - a very dangerous endeavor with a high fatality rate for the crews. Whalers were, indeed, often called "adventurers".  And  if you have Lairs & Encounters you'll have noted that many, many monster parts have value beyond simply being worthwhile as special components. Monster fangs, claws, feathers, carcasses, armored hides, and more. Elephant tusk and whale blubber are valuable in the real world without needing magic and so I think magical special component value has to be thought of as additive to that. 

The answer to the second question is "it depends". In remote areas without functioning markets, mages may hire adventurers to fetch the special components they need. In highly urbanized areas, mages who function in guilds in urban settlements may well contract with the merchant's guild, who in turn hires adventurers to fetch the special components they need. 

All of the above is, of course, subject to Autarch's first law, that every campaign is a law unto itself.

 

 

I'd like to propose an Option D: If a merchant already sells monster parts but doesn't have the desired part, a reaction roll of 12+ will persuade him/her to "special order" and sell a specific monster part. If a merchant doesn't normally sell monster parts, a reaction roll of 12+ will persuade them to sell random monster parts.

I like Option D very much!

Ah, thanks for clarifying all that, Alex. (I got to thinking about this question after seeing the discussion on ceremonial magic in the Heroic Fantasy playtest subforum.)

Option D does sound pretty good... I like the way it distinguishes between "an ordinary merchant who happened into a shipment of cursed monkey paws" and "a trader who specialises in the strange and powerful organs and substances beloved of alchmists and magic-users."

Hmm... I wonder wheher it should be possible for players to comission specific monster parts, and what time periods and markups might be involved? Using the standard "1 day per 5 gp of value" seems a little odd, given that buying arbitrary parts through merchants is kinda tricky. Hmm... Maybe players should need to meet with such a merchant before they can place comissions? Or maybe the period of comission should be extended based on the distance between the location where the order is placed and the nearest hex in which the monster might be found?

How about something sort of equivalent to a "Hijink" using Tracking or Naturalism?

[quote="GMJoe"]

Hmm... I wonder wheher it should be possible for players to comission specific monster parts, and what time periods and markups might be involved? Using the standard "1 day per 5 gp of value" seems a little odd, given that buying arbitrary parts through merchants is kinda tricky. Hmm... Maybe players should need to meet with such a merchant before they can place comissions? Or maybe the period of comission should be extended based on the distance between the location where the order is placed and the nearest hex in which the monster might be found?

[/quote]

That's an interesting idea. 

I'd wonder if the Mercenary Recruitment tables (by realm size) could be hijacked for that - each monster does have a merc cost.

This actually JUST came up for a player of mine who was saying how inconvenient and somewhat murderous it is to have to go wipe out a tribe of troglodytes every time he wants to make some potions of chameleon.  It was at this point I took the time to figure out and break down interacting with merchants as has been done in this thread.

For my answer to "what's in the box, man?", I figured I would roll a random monster for each crate, such that a merchant so persuaded has a menagerie of death for sale, but I like Option C and Option D very much.

This sounds like it needs to be an Axioms article - "The Hunt for Monster Parts"

[quote="Alex"]

This sounds like it needs to be an Axioms article - "The Hunt for Monster Parts"

[/quote]

 

That would actually be quite useful because I find this scenario comes up a lot:

"Hello, PC wizard, I am your NPC teacher and I am sending you on a quest for monster parts.  The spell I'm using is *rolls on spell table* chameleon and the part i need is *looks in Lairs & Encounters* Troglodyte bits."

PC wizard: "Yes sir, I'll get you some troglodytes! where can i find them?"

NPC Teacher: "well, there's a 1/48 (1d8 then 1d12) chance in most hexes that there will be troglodytes, and there's a % chance that will be a lair"

PC wizard: "Isn't there some way for us to go track down a lair?"

NPC Teacher: "¯\_(ツ)_/¯"

[quote="Alex"]

This sounds like it needs to be an Axioms article - "The Hunt for Monster Parts"

[/quote]

 

I've got something applicable about one-third-written, though it's more than just determining what sort of monster parts are available.