Every item in a game world has a story. Sure, it might not be an exciting story, but it has a story. And when you go to a blacksmith or a “general store” you have a great opportunity to use an item’s story to help inspire plots in the world – or at the very least – give your players a bit of crunch around some of the inventory that sometimes gets a bit ignored…
Like everything else, this could probably be overused, so I’d only use it for those items you think are worthy of such treatment – but it’s up to you. 🙂
Honestly it all boils down to the owner. Who was it? Have there been multiple owners? How long did they have it? How did they lose it? How did they use it?
Let’s take the average long sword sitting on a stand in a blacksmith’s shop and go through a potential scenario.
The current owner is the blacksmith who owns the shop, but let’s see if there’s a story in how it got there.
Who were they? Roll a d8…
How long did they have it? D4
- Days (roll d30 or 5d6)
- Weeks (roll d4)
- Months (roll d12)
- Years (roll d20)
Why did they have it? D6
How did they get it originally? D4
And lastly, how did they lose possession? D6
- Given away
So let’s take a look at our long sword… Who did the blacksmith get it from? Working from top to bottom, I get (3) Royal, (1) Days, (5) Commerce, (3) Stolen, (6) Killed.
Wow. So we’re dealing with some kind of Royal figure who stole the sword but only had it for a few days in his or her possession, intended to sell it, and was killed. This sword has a bit of a story!
“Lancel Raines, spoiled first child of the windowed Duchess Raines, had a gambling problem. It was well known throughout the capital that if Lancel appeared, he would likely attempt to bet on just about anything. The Duchess had money and for a while was content to have her wayward son spend it wildly, but when it grew tiresome she cut him off. An addict, he had to find other ways to get the funds to keep himself alive in a monetary sense.
In his desperation, he sometimes stole weapons from the family contingent of guards and found one he thought might be worth some serious money. One at a time, he sold them to a local blacksmith who sometimes dealt with items of questionable provenance. But it wasn’t enough.
A local thug, sent on behalf of the bookie Lancel dealt with regularly, tracked him down to retrieve the funds he was owed. This was not the first time this particular thug had reminded Lancel of his debts, but it would be his last. Lancel drew his latest purloined sword to protect himself from the thug and was hacked to pieces in the street. The thug wanted nothing to do with the sword Lancel had, but had no idea it was stolen – so he picked it up and took it to the very same blacksmith it was destined for in the first place.
The sword is now for sale, at a decent price, and has been cleaned for display.”
This has all sorts of potential. The blacksmith will likely let the buyer know that it is a used item with a potentially shady past, but probably has no idea about the rest of the story. It’s likely that the sword is marked in some way, either on the tang or on the blade itself, noting that it is the property of the Raines house or of a particular guard in the house. Once the body of Lancel is found (if it hasn’t been already), an investigation will start and there’s a good chance that the person who buys the sword could get pulled into a bit of intrigue…
And all of that from just 5 random die rolls.
Let’s do another one. Let’s say that a dagger is found in a treasure hoard after the party defeats a monster. Where did that dagger come from? Some previous adventurer made their way here and didn’t quite make it out again (or they dropped it on the way).
Some of these are selected and some are rolled… (8) Adventurer, (3) Months, (1) Protection, (4) Found, and (6) Killed. So how did this play out?
“Harold the Mercenary lived a challenging life but eventually fell into a career that he loved. Exploring, looting, and killing were three of his favorite things to do. Unfortunately he wasn’t the best at the killing part. He and his party were sent here to empty the old ruin of any creatures and loot that they discovered. They found a few piles of loot and fought a few kobolds who were holed up there, but they didn’t interrogate the smelly creatures before they killed them. If they had, they would have learned about the room where you found Harold’s stuff. Turns out that not everything can be killed with standard, run-of-the-mill weapons…”
Again, we have some additional hooks that we might explore. Perhaps Harold works for the same guild of adventurers that the PCs do. Did their employers tell them that another group had been sent ahead of them? Perhaps Harold was working for a rival group and had a map to the next location they were supposed to raid. Maybe Harold was flush with gold and items when he died and left a pile of great loot for the Pcs to find after they defeated whatever killed Harold in the first place…
Or maybe Harold was just a poor schmuck whose luck had run out.
Like I said at the beginning, I don’t think you’d want to use this on every item in a store – but a few items might be fun to lay the ground work for other story bits in your campaign world. Your sellers may know the story and reveal it all or only the “relevant” bits. I’m sure that Mr. Hand of Hand’s Goods has all sorts of stories he could tell you about the items in his pawn shop. 🙂
But it’s some food for thought, anyway! Thanks for reading!