4e: Economic downturn

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Earlier this week, Wizards posted a preview about the treasure-economy of 4e. As has been noted elsewhere in the blogosphere, it is rather rigid. I understand the reasoning. In 3.x, magic items make an enormous difference in terms of character power level… and, therefore, game balance. Today, the preview was specifically about magic items. One of the stated goals of 4e was to reduce this relationship between magic items and character power. It seems like they only had limited success with this (not surprising – it is a difficult design task) and, instead, increased the rigidity of the rate at which magic items of various power levels are acquired.

I’m skeptical, but I’m going to reserve judgment. The DMG may well have advice that isn’t in the preview on deviating from the strict schedule of magic item acquisition. I hope it does.

What does bother me, though, is this quote from today’s excerpt (accompanying a table of magic item market prices):

The sale price of a magic item (the amount a PC gets from either selling or disenchanting an item) is one-fifth of the purchase price. . . Prices shown are the base market price for the items. The actual cost to purchase a magic item depends on supply and demand and might be 10 to 40 percent more than the base market price.

In 3.x, it was assumed you could sell a magic item for half the market price. This was a kludge, but it worked as a guideline. If PCs went to the effort of trying to get a good price, they could… and it wouldn’t disrupt things much. Mostly, though, they didn’t bother. They took what they could get easily and didn’t spend the time or effort on shopping an item around.

Of course, with the ‘new’ system, a magic item might sell for as much as SEVEN TIMES what the PCs can easily get for it. Presumably, it will be possible for some PCs to have mercantile skills. It would bother me if the rules (and built-in balance) of the game don’t allow players to get reasonable prices for things if they really tried… and I worry that with the increased difference between sale and purchase price, PCs will have a dramatically increased incentive to try…

I hope this isn’t an issue, but I am a bit concerned.



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