Warning: this post contains math.
At the beginning of my campaign, the PCs get an opportunity to go shopping for equipment and supplies they will need for their first adventure. I’ve been populating the starting city of Saragnor with interesting shops, and I was having difficulty pricing a lot of the unique items. Somehow, my frustration grew and morphed into this big chart full of terrifying numbers. Check it out.
The simple stuff
The most important part of this chart is the top line.
Base shop price formula: (power – 4) * 5 = gold.
So, basically what this helps me do is figure out how powerful a weapon is, and then use a really simple calculation to derive a price for that item based on its power.
The slightly more complicated stuff.
Power works like this. You add the minimum damage, the max damage, and any points of bonus to-hit. That means that a weapon with a high minimum damage but a low max could be as powerful as a weapon with low minimum damage, but a high max. Dead simple so far, but things get a little trickier with magic weapons. Anytime you see a weapon with a +1, +2, or a +3, that’s a magic weapon. They get a bonus to damage AND a bonus to-hit. That means that each point of magic bumps up the power by 3 because the minimum goes up by 1, the maximum goes up by 1, and the to-hit bonus goes up by 1.
At this point, I’m asking for 5 gold for every point of power the PC buys. That’s an almost entirely arbitrary price point that I pulled out of thin air…. I have no idea how to even begin to balance this campaign without just… playing it and seeing how it goes. It’s also worth noting that the upper limits of the chart represent weapons that are ridiculously powerful, and probably significantly overpowered for most purposes.
Once you get all this stuff in your head, it really is very intuitive. It’s hard to explain, though, and It looks terrible, doesn’t it? All those numbers. The good news is, the players don’t ever have to see any of this. The benefit for the players will take the form of a smoother, more polished looting and shopping experience. Shops can now be filled with interesting, unique weapons that can’t be found in the Player’s Hand Book because the DM is able to quickly create and price them. Treasure chests can now be filled with weapons that are precisely targeted to be slightly more powerful than the party’s current weapons. That’s the theory, anyway.