OSR: 1d20 Dungeon Merchants

Another excerpt from the Treasure Overhaul, but formatted for a blog post. Arnold K's dungeon merchants are, as usual, well worth reading.

In the depths of a dungeon, in the desolate wilderness, adventurers may be lucky enough to encounter a Dungeon Merchant. They carry a limited selection of mostly mundane items, but occasionally have magic items and potions for sale.

If your players still have an “I stab the king” mentality, dungeon merchants probably will not work for your group. There are forces you meddle with, and forces you do not meddle with, and Dungeon Merchants are firmly in the latter category.

Marko Laine

1. Springald Jackback

Appearance: a human-sized cockroach wearing a thick wool coat, scarf, and jaunty hat. Wears its inventory like a one-man band kit. Rattles and creaks.
Voice: Piping, cheerful, mangled vocabulary. “Hoy hoy, adventursomes. It is I, Springald Jacback, forbearing treasures and oddifacts of trite reasonablity.”
Covets: horrible and unique smells.
Shrewdness: interested in coins and gems. Disinterested in other items or long-winded tales. Functionally immortal. Scuttles through the world.

Springald Jackback opens trading from a safe distance or while hanging from the ceiling. It carries miscellaneous adventuring gear and pickled rations, but rarely any magic items.

2. Sister Charity & Sister Avarice

Appearance: two nuns in black-and-white habits. Sister Charity is apple-cheeked, freckled, and smiling. Sister Avarice is battle-scarred, has a milky eye, and scowls like a cursed-blasted oak.
Voice: Sister Charity is syrupy-sweet, soft, and unflappably cheerful. Sister Avarice grunts and points.
Covets: donations.
Shrewdness: highly moral, but with the instincts of career extortionists. Probably supernatural.

The Sisters put out a trestle table covered in baked goods, gently used sweaters, sporting equipment, knick-knacks, and occasionally rare magic items. They accept donations. Remember, it’s all for charity.

3. Harry J. Hesterhausen (& This Mule)

Appearance: a high-sided canvas-topped two-wheeled cart pulled by a scruffy grey mule. Harry is broad, bearded, unwashed, and wears muddy tweed.
Voice: strong oaths as punctuation.
Covets: money, directions.
Shrewdness: impatient, harried. Trades rapidly; hates  bargaining and frivolity.  

An otherwise mundane traveling trader who gets stuck in the most implausible situations. On a path behind a waterfall, in a locked vault, at the bottom of a pit trap. Blames “f’ing wizards and this f’ing mule.”

4. Ogmar’s Third-Hand Goods

Appearance: an incongruous wooden door below a faded painted sign. Smell of mildew and dust. Inside, rickety shelves stuffed with obscure goods. Faded yellow tags. Drifts of dust and shoals of cobwebs.   
Voice: silent. Jangling shop bell. Dusty hand-lettered sign on the counter reads “Out to lunch. Leave money on the counter. Exact change only. -Ogmar.”
Covets: quick and efficient transactions.
Shrewdness: damaging or removing an item without paying inflicts 3 rounds of mind-shattering agony and drops the miscreant to 0 HP. The store then violently ejects all customers and vanishes.

Shelf after shelf of wood dowels, bales of cotton, sacks of glass orbs, and chalk. Items in the store are have moldered for decades. Rope crumbles, leather creaks, but steel is still sharp and gold still glitters.

5. Writhing Protorootball

Appearance: an unnatural amalgamation of roots, fungal veins, lichen, wilting leaves, and fused fruits, pushing from a wall or bursting through a floor.
Voice: soothing telepathy. A lullaby whisper. Simple sentences, clear intent.
Covets: rich and nutritious food.
Shrewdness: grasping. Cannot pursue thieves quickly, but will seek slow and terrible revenge. Terrifying legend to dryads and myconids.

A complex semi-magical colonial life form. Might be vast and extra-dimensional. Trades by extruding items and absorbing coins. Magic items are clutched in the partially digested skeletal hands of unlucky warriors. 

6. The Price is Not Negotiable Show

Appearance: a smiling slightly waxy host named Eli Boyle, a wooden podium, brightly coloured set.   
Voice: booming game show cadence. “Welcome to The Price is Not Negotiable. I’m your host, Eli Boyle…” Laugh track from an unseen audience.
Covets: fair play.
Shrewdness: rigid magically enforced rules. Blatantly inhuman. Hideous and menacing friendliness.

When the game begins, the host will produce three items. These could be mundane or magical, useful or actively inconvenient. A volunteer / contestant must guess the price of each item. If they guess over, they get the item but must pay the price they guessed. If unable to pay, they don’t get the item. If they guess exactly the price, they get the item for free. If they guess under, they do not get the item. The host explains the rules. After the three guesses, the host, set, and unclaimed items vanish.

7. Goblin Pop-Up Market

Appearance: skittering goblins, crude stalls, smell of rotten meat, assorted fruit, strange chemicals. Glowing eyes in the darkness. Fleas, muck. Set up quickly; vanishes even more quickly.  
Voice: shrieks, hoots, garbled speech, laughter.
Covets: shiny-shiny to hold, yes, and others.
Shrewdness: all trades are perilous. The market dissolves into violent omnidirectional chaos at the slightest provocation.

Stolen and lost things, but mostly junk. Goblin-made items are comically shoddy. Do not eat the fruits.  

8. Jarscorx Hoxliate

Appearance: a blue-green humanoid with mirror-bright eyes and teeth. Shimmering, ambiguous. Has a crinkling silver bag.
Voice: cheerful but unconvincing. Buzzes whenever it says a proper noun, as if a different voice took over.
Covets: gold and platinum, probably.
Shrewdness: thinks lies and forgeries are amusing jokes, but refuse to accept them.

Jarscorx Hoxliate is a huge and eerie fan of anyone it meets. It has an almost omniscient knowledge of a past encounters, and will combine unconvincing flattery with inflexible prices. Items produced from its bag are blisteringly cold. 

9. The Spiral Pilgrim

Appearance: grey robes, grey beard, bulbous nose, sad watery eyes.  
Voice: sighing, tragic, depressing, deeply unhelpful.  
Covets: current coins, novelty.
Shrewdness: can suck the life out of any long conversation.  

The Spiral Pilgrim was cursed to wander the worlds for being unbearably morose and pessimistic. They trade trinkets and items picked up along their journey.

10. Repetitious Broseph Thundercloud

Appearance: steel-clad paladin with an implausibly muscular frame. Closed helm, enormous sword.
Voice: echoing shouts. Quotes holy texts no one else has ever read. Homicidal black-and-white joy.   
Covets: helpful items or portable wealth.
Shrewdness: brought too many items on a convoluted quest, and acquired too much loot along the way.

Offers mild discounts for feats of strength. Loves arm wrestling because Repetitious always wins.Repetitious does not understand charity. Repetitious’ quest is vital. Your quest is incomprehensible.


11. Braden’s Bulk Bin

Appearance: a rusty iron cube. Speaking grill and item  exchange chute. Flickering neon sign.
Voice: echoing, garbled, but youthful and bored. Sounds underpaid and fed up. Follows a script.
Covets: rare magic items.
Shrewdness: not paid enough to handle weird arguments. Do you want your torches or not?

Mundane items sold by Braden’s Bulk Bin are twice as heavy and occupy twice as many Inventory Slots as normal. They are usually badly painted custard yellow.

12. Parlour Toad

Appearance: a cat-sized green toad. Eyes pulse with multicoloured lights. Faint sound of music and conversation inside.  
Voice: polite accented inquiry when opened.   
Covets: gems, cultural trinkets.
Shrewdness: expert assessment. Provides receipts. Refuses to open if captured, held, threatened, enchanted, or otherwise bothered.

Parlour Toads contain portals to a mysterious extraplanar city. Only items that fit through the toad’s stretchy mouth can be traded. They wiggle, hop, and squeeze their way out of confinement.

13. Horace Moonstalker

Appearance: terribly unlucky adventurer. Scruffy, hunched, pale. Afflicted with vampirism, lycanthropy, mummy rot, roving petrification, thirty-five different curses, ooze-marrow disease, scurvy, and syphilis.  
Voice: coughing, sneezing, muttering.   
Covets: portable wealth, healing.
Shrewdness: seasoned, immune to threats.  

Horace is very difficult to kill. Do not spend more time around Horace than absolutely necessary. Horace endures; the rest of his parties never do.

14. Crypt Vulture

Appearance: an embalmed and fossilized horse-sized vulture. Stone wrappings, clay flesh, painted eyes. Flies through stone. Vomits or swallows items.
Voice: formal, croaking, archaic.
Covets: weapons to aid their master in the afterlife.
Shrewdness: skeptical of all claims. 

The Crypt Vulture trades honey, wine, clay jars, torches, and other grave goods for weapons or other items that might influence a cosmic battle.

15. Arianda Eladrohiane, Chronocurator

Appearance: a beautiful elf in a gossamer gown. Lit by unseen suns and splintering tachyons.
Voice: monumentally, cosmically bored. Faded echoes of arrogance. Polite, but in a dismissive way.
Covets: beautiful things. Gems, but not crude coins. Nothing humans create is worth examining.
Shrewdness: judgmental. Will respond to rudeness by  skipping forward or back in time to spread rumours. 

Collector from the end of time. Willing to trade ingots, elven items with imperceptible flaws, and paleo-synthesized goods for perfect, rare, or unique things. 

16. Unionized Familiars

Appearance: a swarm of cats, bats, rats, toads, snakes, baby-faced homunculi, and stoats.
Voice: babble of conflicting voices, jibes, counteroffers, innuendo, and hissing.
Covets: drugs, secrets, spells.
Shrewdness: collective cynical wisdom.

When wizards sleep, witches cavort, and alchemists recover from mercury fumes, their familiars sneak out to play cards, trade gossip, and smoke cigars. At least that’s what you assume is going on. 

17. Tempters In Training

Appearance: one well-dressed devil with a clipboard, and a swarm of minor imps in unflattering uniforms.
Voice: stuttering, awkward mispronunciations, formal contracts, unconvincing side-deals.
Covets: commerce.
Shrewdness: the imps are credulous and confused, but the devil will step in if things get out of hand. 

Before they can lure mortals into temptation, imps have to learn the basics of contracts, exchange, and trade. The items they sell aren’t cursed in any way. They’re just practicing interacting with people.

18. King Onion

Appearance: an ogre-sized yellow onion with a gold crown, pantaloons, and a cheerful face. Followed by a train of thinner purple onions carrying sacks. Not actually a king, just an arrogant merchant.
Voice: royal proclamations, trumpeting.
Covets: glittering treasure, deference.
Shrewdness: expert knowledge of local prices and customs. Haggles with glee; offers additional onions.

For every mundane item purchased, get a free onion. Magical items come with a sack of onions. Anyone eating, disparaging, or discarding onions within sight of the King of Onions is cursed to smell like rotting onions. Washing only makes it worse. 

19. The Fire-Blackened Mirror

Appearance: a scorched full-length oval mirror in a wood frame. Walks on four paper-thin brass legs. Reflections imperfectly match reality. Dead eyes, flickering expressions, mismatched items.
Voice: distorted viewer’s voice, as if they were sounding out words backwards but playing them forwards. Profoundly unsettling.
Covets: items of any sort.
Shrewdness: eerie insight.

Only non-living matter can pass through the mirror. Does it show a false world, a parallel dimension, or a bound demon? Who knows. Who dares to inquire? 

20. Peter Pock, Theoretical Cryromancer

Appearance: a portly frost-coated wizard in heavily enchanted robes. Wooden trunk floats nearby.
Voice: confident, but slightly bewildered. Teleported their way into this situation and they’ll teleport their way out.
Covets: rare magic items, powerful spells.
Shrewdness: haughty, unhelpful.

Peter Pock is perfecting a new ice-based method of teleportation. It keeps sending him to strange locations. He has a variety of powerful defensive charms and will teleport away if threatened, but, in the meantime, is willing to trade.


  1. Ooo, I did one of these!



  2. These are great to read all by themselves.