Buying and Selling Magic Items by Population Size

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There are several systems, both official and not, for buying and selling magic items in fifth edition D&D. When I think about buying and selling magic items, one of the key factors for me is the population size of the settlement where the characters plan to sell their goods. Surely a character has more luck finding a buyer or seller in a big city (but has to spend more time searching through a large populace)! With that in mind I’ve come up with a system for buying and selling magic items. Take a look.

Note: These are the rules and prices I use for my game. I am aware they are different than the very excellent rules in Xanathar’s Guide to Everything and the Dungeon Master’s Guide. Use any rules you like (or mix, match, and tweak to create your own). These are the rules I use for a typical high fantasy setting like the Forgotten Realms.

Buying and Selling Magic Items by Settlement Size

When buying or selling a magic item there are multiple variables to consider:

  1. What is the item’s type?
  2. What is the item’s rarity?
  3. What is the population size of the settlement where the transaction happens?
  4. Is there a swindle during the transaction (and if so, what is it)?
Item Type and Rarity: Base Price

For the purposes of dividing item types, this system places them into three categories: consumables, which includes potions and scrolls that are not spell scrolls, spell scrolls, which only includes spell scrolls, and permanent items, which includes everything that does not fall into the other categories. Each category has a base price for its items, based on their rarity (or spell level), as shown on the following tables.

Consumables Base Costs
Potion Rarity Cost
Common 50 gp
Uncommon 100 gp
Rare 500 gp
Very rare 5,000 gp
Legendary 50,000 gp
Spell Scroll Base Costs
Spell Scroll Level Cost* Rarity
Cantrip 25 gp Common
1st 50 gp Common
2nd 100 gp Uncommon
3rd 250 gp Uncommon
4th 500 gp Rare
5th 2,500 gp Rare
6th 5,000 gp Very rare
7th 15,000 gp Very rare
8th 30,000 gp Very rare
9th 50,000 gp Legendary

*Plus the cost of any material components used in casting the spell.

Permanent Items Base Costs
Item Rarity Cost
Common 100 gp
Uncommon 500 gp
Rare 5,000 gp
Very rare 50,000 gp
Legendary 150,000 gp
Population Size

The population size of a settlement where a magic item transaction occurs determines the likelihood of finding someone willing to buy or sell the item, the time it takes to find that person, and the variable price of the item. You can use the Magic Item Sales by Population Size table to determine an item’s price and availability in a settlement.

Finding a Buyer

The Number of Days column on the Magic Item Sales by Population Size table determines how many downtime days a character must spend searching a settlement for a buyer or seller for a particular item. At the end of this time, roll a d100 and consult the number listed in the item’s rarity column. If this number is equal to or less than the number shown, the character finds a buyer or seller for the item. If the number rolled is higher than this number, the character cannot find a buyer (see “Starting Over”).

If an item’s rarity is 100 for a settlement, the character does not need to spend any downtime days finding a person to make a transaction. A merchant with a storefront in the settlement is happy to do business with the character.

Variable Price

The Variable Price column on the Magic Item Sales by Population Size table shows dice that should be rolled to determine the price variable for the magic item. The number rolled on these dice increases or decreases the item’s price by a percentage equal to the result. When you roll these dice, roll an extra die, which does not count toward the total. If the number rolled on this extra die is even, the item’s price increases. If this number is odd, the item’s price decreases.

If the character is not happy with the price offered, that character can make a DC 15 Charisma (Persuasion) check. On a success, an NPC buying a magic item increases their offer 1d10 percent, and an NPC selling a magic item decreases the price 1d10 percent.

Some NPCs may offer trades for magic items instead of gold. These NPCs only offer items of equal or lesser rarity for the items the characters wish to trade.

Starting Over

If the character cannot find an NPC to make a transaction, or if the character refuses an NPC’s sale, the character cannot search for a new NPC to make another transaction in the same settlement for 1 month.

Magic Item Sales by Population Size
Population Size Common Uncommon Rare Very Rare Legendary No. of Days Variable Price
0-50 20% 5% 0% 0% 0% 1d4 4d20 + 10
51-500 25% 10% 5% 0% 0% 1d4 + 1 4d20 + 5
501-2,000 50% 25% 10% 5% 0% 2d4 4d20
2,001-5,000 75% 50% 25% 10% 5% 2d6 3d20
5,001-10,000 100% 60% 40% 20% 10% 2d8 2d20
10,001-25,000 100% 70% 50% 30% 15% 2d10 3d12
25,001-100,000 100% 80% 60% 40% 20% 2d10 2d12
100,001+ 100% 90% 70% 50% 25% 2d10 1d10

Whenever the characters make a deal for a magic item, you can roll any die to determine if a swindle occurs. On an odd result, roll or pick a swindle on the following tables. You can also choose to have a swindle occur if you feel the dice are giving the characters an unfair transaction in their favor (because if a deal seems too good to be true, it usually is).

Swindles When the Characters Sell an Item
d6 Swindle
1 The buyer tries to steal the item without paying.
2 The buyer tries to rob the characters of everything they have.
3 The buyer is an enemy of the characters and assaults them instead of making the sale.
4 The buyer plans to use the item to frame the characters for a crime.
5 The buyer later decides the deal was unfair and hunts the characters down to get money back.
6 Thieves attend the sale and try to steal the item.
Swindles When the Characters Buy an Item
d8 Swindle
1 The item is cursed.
2 The seller tries to rob the characters of everything they have.
3 The seller is an enemy of the characters and assaults them instead of making the sale.
4 The item is a fake.
5 The seller later decides the deal was unfair and hunts the characters down to get the item back.
6 Thieves attend the sale and try to steal the item.
7 The seller stole the item from someone else who will stop at nothing to get it back.
8 The seller secretly works for an enemy of the characters. The item is enchanted to allow that enemy listen to the character’s conversations and know where they are as long as they carry it.

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