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Top Five Most Annoying Things About DND Magic Shops

Updated: Jan 26

What makes magic magical? The sense of wonder, the mystery, the unknown, the knowledge that your character is privy to arcane secrets that few can hope to master. The hero’s journey from that of Luke Skywalker to Neo to Doctor Strange is one where powers and magic items are hard come by. A hero must journey within themselves for inner truth, they must become the bridge between the world of the mundane and the divine; they must be able to see the magical world that passes the rest of us dolts by. Playing a magic using character in 5th Edition is the most fun, exciting journeys that one can take in role play gaming, which begs the question as to why so many players and DMs conspire to throttle magic itself - with the magic shop.

Here’s our list of the top five worst things about having magic shops in role play games.

1. Shops were invented for convenience, magic should be about inconvenience.

Ever since the birth of mass consumerism, the retailer has had one mission in mind, to make the customer’s purchasing experience as quick, simple and ideally thought free as possible. The existence of the shop or emporium is specifically to take any consideration, tension, uncertainty and drama out of the entire purchasing process. With some RPG purchases (rope, iron rations, boots), arguably the less time spent on roleplaying so much the better, as there is only so much one can gain from discussing the sturdiness of a new pair of archer’s bracers. However, when it comes to magic the acquisition of magic items through the magic shop makes acquiring items of power easy (or at least significantly easier), and drains the game of much of its challenge.

Example 1 - The Instant Power-Up:

Consider a scenario where a low-level player character walks into a well-stocked magic shop and effortlessly purchases a powerful enchanted sword. With this sword, they can easily defeat monsters and challenges designed for higher-level characters. The acquisition of such a potent item with minimal effort diminishes the sense of accomplishment and progression that should come with facing formidable foes. Instead of working hard to earn their power, the character simply buys it, bypassing the challenges that make the game rewarding.

Example 2 - Missing Out on Quest Opportunities:

In a campaign where characters rely heavily on magic shops, Dungeon Masters may find it challenging to weave engaging quests into the narrative. Players become less motivated to embark on epic journeys to recover a legendary artefact when they can easily purchase a similar item at the corner magic emporium. The absence of quest opportunities not only affects the depth of storytelling but also robs players of the sense of adventure and heroism that quests provide.

2. Player as entitled fratboy/girl

Imagine if one day, bored trust fund boy Luke Skywalker decided he wanted to buy a lightsabre. His aunt and uncle had left him some money after their unfortunate incineration by the Empire and he thought he’d blow the lot on a cool new gadget. Buying things isn’t always the same as earning them, and in a role play game world, acquiring money can be a short cut that the player can take which has unfortunate outcomes for the game. What does the player learn? How does the character grow? If the answer to the first question is ‘that money really is the most powerful thing in the world and the sooner we all stop complaining and accept that the better’, then it’s probably time to crash a meteorite into your game world and start again. Of course Luke Skywalker, King Arthur and Aragorn didn’t buy their swords, they were given them by the force of destiny itself. Thor in Avengers: Infinity War, makes his own magic weapon and to do so travels on a quest, nearly dies and almost avenges his brother. The acquiring of powerful items becomes a key plot device and it means that because the item was hard to acquire, it was valued more. In Dungeons & Dragons magic shops are shortcuts to narrative dilution, shortcuts that trade the soul of adventure for the clinking of coin.

Imagine, for a fleeting moment, Luke Skywalker waltzing into a Mos Eisley tavern and plunking down a wad of Republic credits for a pre-owned, slightly used lightsaber. The scene's absurdity stings, doesn't it? The majesty of Obi-Wan's glowing blade, passed down like a family heirloom, imbued with secrets and tragedy, the trials Luke endured to be worthy of it, the very essence of that journey – all evaporates in the face of a credit card swipe. In D&D, the magic shop mirrors this narrative dissonance. When a fireball scroll replaces the grit of outsmarting a dragon and a potion of heroism erases the tension of a moral quandary, we're left with the hollow echo of unearned victory.

It's not just about cheapening the thrill of overcoming challenges. Buying magic circumvents the narrative, the intricate choreography of world-building and character growth that makes D&D campaigns sing. Where's the bard's poignant ballad about the enchanted lute earned through a serenade to a mischievous river nymph? Where's the fighter's battle-scarred testament to the enchanted greataxe forged in the heart of a volcano? These stories, etched in sweat and sacrifice, become mere footnotes in the ledger of a merchant's inventory.

History and literature serve as stark reminders of this truth. King Midas, clutching his cursed gold, learned the bitter lesson that wealth doesn't equate to worth. Odysseus, cunningly wresting the bow of Eurymachus, proves that the journey, not the destination, shapes the hero. In these tales, power earned through trial carries an emotional weight, a depth that no shop-bought trinket can match.

3.One of a kind?

The closest thing you have in your life to a magic item is your smart phone. It runs using invisible forces (battery power, mobile network, internet) and gives you the ability to do things that would have seemed fantastical only a generation ago. The difference between an extraordinary item like a phone and a magic ring or cloak is partly to do with the uniqueness of the latter. Galadriel’s ring was not mass produced, it was unique and part of a limited edition series created by Sauron. If magic item shops exist, it makes sense to assume that their shelves are full and are replenished periodically by the magic item wholesaler, who in turn gets rings, cloaks, hats and wands from the magic item factory. Objects are shorn of their uniqueness when there are lots of them and of their specialness when they’re easy to get.

In the Asgardian marketplace, imagine rows of identical Mjolnirs glimmering, a far cry from the legendary hammer forged for Thor alone. These mass-produced replicas might pack a punch, but they lack the soul of the genuine article. They can't summon lightning or fly their wielder through the cosmos, because their power isn't in the metal, but in the bond between Thor and his worthiness. A king wielding a store-bought Mjolnir would be a hollow spectacle, lacking the depth of Thor's journey to reclaim his weapon and rediscover himself. The uniqueness of Mjolnir fuels Thor's story, and without that, the thunder god's tale loses its epic spark.

Across the misty plains of Avalon, picture King Arthur haggling for a mass-produced Excalibur in Camelot's souvenir shop. This generic blade might cleave through steel, but it lacks the weight of destiny. Excalibur's magic isn't just about sharpness, it's about choosing wisely, leading justly, and proving one's right to the throne. Anyone wielding a bargain-bin Excalibur would be a pale imitation of the true king, their victories lacking the symbolic power of Arthur's legendary quest and the responsibility thrust upon his shoulders. Mass-produced Excaliburs cheapen the Arthurian legend, reducing it to a tale of swordfights instead of a poignant exploration of leadership and legacy.

Down in the bustling Diagon Alley, imagine shop windows crammed with invisibility cloaks, their magic accessible to anyone with a few Galleons. These cloaks might hide their wearers, but they lack the heart of Harry Potter's family heirloom. The real cloak's magic isn't just about concealment, it's about a boy yearning for the comfort of his lost parents and finding strength in their invisible presence. A mass-produced cloak would be a mere tool, its significance lost on anyone who hasn't walked Harry's path of grief and self-discovery. The uniqueness of the cloak is central to Harry's journey, and without it, his story becomes a generic tale of espionage instead of a moving exploration of loss and resilience.

These are just a glimpse into worlds where magic loses its wonder and heroes lose their spark. The true power of magical items lies not in their mass production, but in their singularity, their stories, and the unique journeys they inspire. So, the next time you crave a touch of the extraordinary, remember, the greatest magic always resides within, whispering tales waiting to be written, not waiting to be bought.

4. Magic as part of the everyday

When magical items can be purchased in a shop on a high street, it means that the relationship that people in the fantasy world have with magic has to fundamentally alter. A magic shop has to be as familiar as a butchers, and therefore part of the everyday functioning of a society. In the Harry Potter stories, Harry leaves the mundane world altogether, which is the only place where magic is out of the ordinary and steps into a world where everything is enchanted. Because the reader sees the world through the eyes of a newcomer, we see magic as something to be uncovered and explored. Imagine the book from the perspective of Ron Weasley. When everything is magical, nothing as magical, and enchanted items become another handy technology, which then starts to recreate the world we already live in.

Case study

Imagine two worlds, steeped in magic, yet separated by a vast chasm of wonder. In one, magic crackles like lightning in a storm, a rare and volatile force. In the other, it hums like background music, woven into the fabric of everyday life as naturally as sunlight. Let's call them Scarberia and Encantia.

In Scarberia, magic isn't a shop-bought convenience. It's a whispered secret, hidden in ancient ruins, gleaned from dusty grimoires, or bartered from reluctant witches in secluded bogs. A single enchanted amulet, forged from dragon scales and moonlight, becomes a treasured heirloom, passed down through generations, its power fuelled by legends and desperate hopes. Finding such an item is an epic adventure, a perilous quest worthy of bards' songs. Owning it is a mark of distinction, a burden of responsibility, and a gateway to untold power.

Contrast this with Encantia, where magic flows like tap water, mundane as mending socks. Enchanted toasters churn out buttery crumpets, self-cleaning floors sparkle, and newspapers update themselves with animated headlines. Every household boasts levitating furniture and self-playing lutes. While it might make life easier, it also makes it… predictable. Wonder? That's something your grandparents tell you about, a quaint relic from a time before self-lacing boots and teleporting taxis.

The stories told in these worlds reflect their magic's abundance. In Scarberia, heroes aren't defined by the gadgets they wield, but by their ingenuity and grit. They outsmart cunning sorcerers with clever wordplay, overcome trials through sheer determination, and forge their own magic from desperation and a thirst for knowledge. Every victory feels hard-won, every spell a personal triumph.

Encantia's narratives, however, tend to revolve around social climbing and technological innovation. Who wields the latest enchanted hoverboard? Which magical influencer has the most dazzling self-grooming spell? The quests aren't epic journeys, but corporate ladder-climbing marathons, fueled by ambition and envy. Victories feel hollow, fleeting achievements in a world where even magic comes with an app and a monthly subscription.

The choice, then, is ours: do we want to read about worlds where a single enchanted ring sparks wars and fuels legends, or ones where everyone has a doorbell that sings opera? One offers the thrill of the unknown, the joy of discovery, and the power of individual resilience. The other, sadly, resembles our own technological rat race, albeit with a bit more sparkle.

So, the next time you pick up a fantasy novel, ask yourself: do you crave the raw power of a world where magic is rare and perilous, or the comfort of a world where it's just another appliance? The answer, dear reader, might just tell you what kind of wonder you truly seek.

5. Players want magic shops, but they don’t

Giving players exactly what they say they want is a quick way to throttling the game. Players might say they want access to items that will defeat their enemies and solve their problems, all under one roof at competitive prices, but they don’t. Not really. How can we be so sure of this? Because players play D&D for the same reason they watch Avengers: Infinity War, or The Empire Strikes Back, or The Fellowship of the Ring. They play and watch to become immersed in the story, and each story is really the story of the hero’s journey, the quest to overcome adversity and to solve problems. Magic shops are adventure killers, which is why Luke Skywalker, Thor, Aragorn or Jon Snow never go to one.

Conclusion: Why Magic Shops Cheat Adventure (and Our Brains)

The allure of a one-stop magical emporium seems undeniable. Potions in neat rows, enchanted weapons gleaming on velvet cushions, the promise of effortless power just a gold piece away. Yet, this seemingly convenient fantasy holds a hidden trap: it bypasses the very essence of what makes games – and stories – so captivating. Why? Because at its core, the human brain doesn't crave instant gratification, it craves the thrill of the chase.

Think of the Avengers facing Thanos. Sure, a magic shop offering Infinity Gauntlet replicas for a bargain might seem handy. But where's the satisfaction in snapping away enemies when the journey involved no sacrifice, no teamwork, no near-death experiences? The story's emotional power, the character's growth, and the audience's engagement all evaporate with a cheap purchase.

The psychology of reward tells us why. Dopamine, our brain's pleasure neurotransmitter, surges not just at the moment of achievement, but during the struggle to reach it. Overcoming challenges, figuring out puzzles, and collaborating with friends triggers this rewarding cascade of dopamine, making the victory all the sweeter. A magic shop skips this crucial dance, offering a hollow prize without the intoxicating process of earning it.

This principle applies to real-life too. Imagine training for a marathon, feeling the burn in your muscles, the doubt in your mind, then crossing the finish line. The elation you feel wouldn't be nearly as potent if you'd simply teleported to the end. The journey, the effort, the struggle – that's what makes the reward truly meaningful.

The same holds true for Luke Skywalker, Thor, or Aragorn. Their stories resonate because they're built on overcoming adversity, not bypassing it. Luke doesn't buy a lightsaber, he builds one, imbuing it with his own sweat and determination. Thor doesn't waltz into an Asgardian mall for a Mjolnir, he forges it in the heart of a dying star, sacrificing an eye for the power to wield it. These journeys shape the characters, their struggles forge their inner strength, and their victories become legendary precisely because they weren't easy.

So, the next time you're tempted to introduce a magic shop into your campaign, remember: you're not just offering convenience, you're potentially robbing your players (and their characters) of the most rewarding part of the game – the journey. Let them build their power, earn their gear, and battle their way through adversity. Trust me, the victory – and the dopamine rush – will be far more intoxicating when it's truly earned.

After all, the greatest magic lies not in shortcuts, but in the stories we write together, brick by hard-won brick, spell by sweat-soaked spell. And those, my friend, are stories worth telling.

Q&A: How to Quest for Magic Items Instead of Buying Them

Discovering Magical Treasures through Adventurous Quests

Q: What's the alternative to purchasing magic items at a magic item shop?

A: Instead of buying magic items, players can embark on quests and adventures to discover these treasures during their journeys.

Q: Are common magic items also available through quests?

A: Yes, common magic items can be found as rewards for completing quests and adventures, adding a touch of enchantment to everyday items.

Q: Can I acquire magic weapons through quests?

A: Absolutely! Powerful magic weapons can be uncovered through epic quests, enhancing your character's capabilities.

Q: Is this approach compatible with older editions like 2nd edition?

A: Yes, questing for magic items is a timeless concept that can be adapted to any edition of the game.

Q: How can I find quest opportunities in large cities?

A: Large cities often host quest boards or NPCs with adventure hooks that lead to magical rewards.

Q: Are there online resources like free generators to help with quest ideas?

A: Indeed, there are online generators and forums where Dungeon Masters can find quest inspiration.

Q: Do quest rewards come with a wandering privacy policy?

A: Quest rewards typically do not have privacy policies, but they do come with tales of heroic deeds!

Q: Can players earn legendary items through quests?

A: Legendary items are often the pinnacle of quest rewards, granting players immense power.

Q: How do I determine if my character succeeds in finding a hidden quest item?

A: An ability check, usually based on the character's skills, can determine quest success.

Q: Are there merchants or NPCs specialized in providing quest opportunities?

A: Yes, some NPCs, known as quest givers, provide characters with tasks that lead to magical discoveries.

Q: Do Patreon supporters offer quest-related content?

A: Some content creators on Patreon may offer quest ideas, but it varies by creator.

Q: How can I find a wanderer’s guide to assist with quests?

A: Look for in-game guides or consult with experienced players and Dungeon Masters for quest guidance.

Q: Is it possible to set sane magic item prices for quest rewards?

A: Dungeon Masters can determine the value of quest rewards based on the campaign's needs.

Q: Can I find quest opportunities in an urban center?

A: Urban centers are filled with potential quests, from solving mysteries to retrieving stolen relics.

Q: How do I negotiate quest rewards with my game master?

A: Discuss quest rewards with your game master and negotiate within the context of the campaign.

Q: What if my ad blocker prevents me from accessing quest-related content?

A: Ad blockers should not affect your ability to embark on in-game quests.

Q: Can a portion of our support for an in-game cause lead to quest opportunities?

A: Some campaigns may feature quests tied to supporting specific causes or organizations.

Q: Does shop size influence the availability of quests?

A: Shop size is unrelated to quest availability, but larger cities may have more quest opportunities.

Q: What is the Eden Project, and how does it relate to quests?

A: The Eden Project is unrelated to DND quests; it's an ecological initiative.

Q: Are there quest-related items in the merch store?

A: Merch stores may offer fun IRL RPG-themed gear but not quest-related items.

Q: Can I find quest ideas in a sales blurb?

A: Sales blurbs are more likely to describe products than offer quest ideas.

Q: Do quest rewards include fun features or unique abilities?

A: Quest rewards can include magical items with fun and unique features.

Q: Do I need to have enough in-game money to go on quests?

A: No, questing doesn't require in-game currency; it's about storytelling and adventure.

Q: Can I find legendary magic swords through quests?

A: Yes, quests can lead to the discovery of legendary magic swords and other powerful items.

Q: Is there a use of this website for quest inspiration?

A: Some websites offer quest ideas and resources for Dungeon Masters.

Q: Can I find fun IRL RPG-themed gear as quest rewards?

A: Fun IRL RPG-themed gear is typically purchased and not a quest reward.

Q: Is this approach compatible with 5th edition dungeons?

A: Questing for magic items is fully compatible with 5th edition Dungeons and Dragons.

Q: How can I find a new type of thread for quest ideas?

A: Online forums and communities are great places to discover new quest threads and ideas.

Q: Can I consult a general store for quest-related information?

A: General stores are unlikely to provide quest-related information; seek out quest givers instead.

Q: How can I create my own work or quests for my campaign?

A: Dungeon Masters can craft their own quests tailored to their campaign's needs.

Q: Are persuasion checks helpful in obtaining quest opportunities?

A: Yes, persuasion checks can be used to convince NPCs to provide quests or reveal quest hooks.

Q: Where is the best place to search for quest ideas?

A: Online forums, communities, and published adventures are excellent sources for quest ideas.

Q: Can quests be tailored to fit specific campaign themes or rare items?

A: Absolutely! Quests can be customized to suit various campaign themes and the acquisition of rare items.

Q: How can I involve members of our community in creating quest content?

A: Collaborate with players and engage your

 gaming community to create memorable quests.

Q: What's the role of the hype machine in quest-related content?

A: The hype machine may generate excitement around upcoming quests and campaign events.

Q: What should I consider for quest opportunities in future campaigns?

A: Plan quest opportunities that align with the campaign's goals, themes, and player interests.

Q: Are quests suitable for different sorts of campaigns, including those involving dragons?

A: Quests can be tailored to fit various campaign themes, including those featuring dragons and diverse challenges.

Incorporating quests into your DND campaigns can lead to exciting adventures and magical discoveries, allowing both players and Dungeon Masters to explore new horizons of storytelling and role-playing.

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