# Mercantile Ventures - selling goods

In our campaign we have finally started to test the waters with mercantile ventures, and we have run into a possible contradiction in the rules. In the book it states:

“Each merchant will buy and sell only one type of merchandise. Roll on the Common Merchandise table to see the merchandise each merchant is interested in buying and selling.”

But there is also an example:

“EXAMPLE: Farlaghn’s caravan is carrying 20 loads of dyes and pigments when it arrives in Arganos. Farlaghn wants to see if any of the 7 available merchants will buy this specific merchandise from him. Dyes and pigments are common merchandise, for which Arganos has a demand modifier of +2. For each merchant, he makes a reaction roll of 9+. Since he is trying to find buyers, he will add the demand modifier of +2 to his roll, so he will only need a natural die roll of 7 or more. He rolls 9, 3, 7, 3, 4, 8, and 2; 3 of the 7 merchants are persuaded to buy dyes and pigments. Rolling 3d4 for each merchant, Farlaghn discovers they will buy 8, 8, and 9 loads of dyes and pigments respectively, for a total of 25. Farlaghn will be able to unload all the dyes and pigments in his caravan!”

These seem to contradict each other. If each merchant buys and sells only one type of item, why is there a reaction roll for each merchant rather then rolling to see what kind of item they will buy first?

IANAA (I Am Not An Autarch), but I read it as not being able to unload three different loads on the same merchant. In other words, the three merchants from the example may have bought your pigments and dyes, but that means they’re not interested in anything else you’re selling right now.

The difficulty with the strict reading of that first paragraph is that it becomes near impossible for the party to unload any merchandise; the odds of rolling the exact merchandise the party has hauled on one or more of the handful of available merchants are slim to none.

IAANAA (I am Also Not An Autarch), but I interpreted it as first you roll to see what one type of good the merchant is looking for independently. THEN, if that doesn’t match up, you start making reaction rolls to try and huck whatever it is you have to merchants who weren’t originally actively looking for the goods you’ve got. From there, they will buy 3d4 or however many loads of whatever you’ve got, although it’s probably easier to stick to a single good per merchant since the demand modifier figures into the reaction roll.

Another point of ambiguity is if you’re trying to sell 4 types of goods to 7 merchants, is that 7 reaction rolls with different modifiers or 21 reaction rolls? That I’m not sure on, but I would lean towards just the 7 rolls since combat morale works similarly. If you interpeted it that way, it would mean a roll of 7 before the demand modifier was taken into account would require a good that was at least +2 in that market.

My interpretation is the same as Jard’s. Otherwise they don’t even seem worth doing, since it becomes near impossible to get the rolls to sell anything and you end up stockpiling goods for months before selling them. But there’s a holdout who prefers the more strict interpretation, which is why I am here.

The process works as follows.

2. The number of merchants is generated.
3. For each merchant, the merchant’s merchandise is generated. The merchant will buy or sell this merchandise without a reaction roll.
4. For each merchant, the adventurer may attempt to persuade him to buy or sell a particular type of merchandise.
4a. If this roll succeeds, the merchant will transact with that type of merchandise.
4b. If this roll fails, the merchant will not transact with the adventurer at all.

To helps you understand the example better, I have added some additional explanatory text in brackets.

EXAMPLE: Farlaghn’s caravan is carrying 20 loads of dyes and pigments when it arrives in Arganos. [There are 7 merchants in Arganos, but none of the merchants is interested in buying or selling dyes and pigments. Therefore,] Farlaghn wants to see if any of the 7 available merchants will buy this specific merchandise from him. Dyes and pigments are common merchandise, for which Arganos has a demand modifier of +2. For each merchant, he makes a reaction roll of 9+. Since he is trying to find buyers, he will add the demand modifier of +2 to his roll, so he will only need a natural die roll of 7 or more. He rolls 9, 3, 7, 3, 4, 8, and 2; 3 of the 7 merchants are persuaded to buy dyes and pigments. Rolling 3d4 for each merchant, Farlaghn discovers they will buy 8, 8, and 9 loads of dyes and pigments respectively, for a total of 25. Farlaghn will be able to unload all the dyes and pigments in his caravan!

Why Does This System Work This Way?
One of the problems that tend to arise in RPG trading systems is that the PCs will find the One Good that has the best profit margin, and exploit it to an almost unlimited extent.

The “merchandise of interest” mechanic is meant to reward PC merchants who diversify their merchandise purchases, ensuring that they will have a better chance of selling at least some goods when they get to the next market. This will tend to drive down their margins, since not every type of merchandise will be at the best spread of demand modifiers, which is desirable.

The “reaction roll to persuade to buy/sell” mechanic is intended to reward PC-merchants with a high Charisma and appropriate proficiencies (such as Diplomacy) by allowing them to have a better chance to “load” and “unload” merchandise. The higher target number for precious merchandise reflects their rarity, scarcity, and high gross margins.

The “reaction roll to persuade to buy/sell” mechanic is also a way to account for the demand modifiers in terms of how easy it is to buy and sell goods. The random rolls for which merchandise is available do not otherwise take that into account.

This is a good clarification! I am sort of curious about step 4b, though - if I’m a rug merchant, and someone comes to me with dyes he wants me to buy, and I decline, and then he decides he wants to buy a rug, I will probably still sell him a rug. I could certainly see only permitting one attempt to buy or sell a non-interested good to a given merchant before he runs you out of his shop, though… Might run it on a case-by-case basis.

(Also, how does convincing a merchant to sell you something he doesn’t have work, logically? Are merchants assumed to have multiple cargos ‘in reserve’ that they’re planning on moving to another location? I guess that makes sense when you look at the relation between cargo available per merchant and the cargo volumes for caravans)

Thank you that is exactly what we needed. Now our goods that have been stockpiled for four months can finally be sold…assuming we get a good reaction roll!

Step 4b: The in-world explanation was that the merchant got pissed off at the PC. Sales in the historical past were always a matter of haggling and personal negotation, rather than fixed prices.

I don’t think it would break the game to ignore the penalty, but it would likely encourage the PCs to attempt a reaction roll on every merchant to try to convince them to transact with a particular good.

Convincing to Sell Something He Does’t Have: My assumption is that the merchants being dealt with are merchants in the true sense (arbitragers and dealers) rather than the actual producers of the merchandise. Therefore the merchant might have other goods he could sell you, or access to them, they are just not the goods he’s trying to hock right then.