Guillermo Del Toro's 2008 film Hellboy II: The Golden Army has a wonderful sequence where the heroes have to go into a hidden "troll market," filled with all kinds of weird creatures, as part of their investigation. This is a long scene full of wonderful visuals; Del Toro is a genius and he clearly gets to let his imagination run wild here. It's also an idea I quite like, and I find a good analogue in the Plaza of Dark Delights from Fritz Leiber's "The Bazaar of the Bizarre."
Michael Curtis's Stonehell megadungeon has a small kobold market on level 1, but it doesn't really have the same kind of flair that the Troll Market did. The 13th issue of Fight On! does have a neat table for the "Goblin Market" that I think hints at the kind of wonder that Del Toro managed to create.
The central idea that I like here is that there are spaces in the dungeon where a sort of "armed peace" is maintained, however tenuously. The idea of the market or bazaar implies a particular sacrosanct character, where people and creatures are generally not killing each other and taking their stuff. Of course, this can be broken for a wide variety of reasons, but overall the character of the market is one of neutrality.
What I think is important is that such a thing is not in any way a "magic mart." The things for sale should be strange and wondrous, and not always available for something so mundane as money. There is ample precedent for such markets to be covered in webs of illusion and full of wondrous things, as well as dross posing as the same. Dangerous bargains and barters should be possible, from selling one's soul to requiring unusual items or dangerous favors in return for a good or service. And of course the issue of slavery is always a possibility here.
It's a natural place for NPCs to be found and get more information on the dungeon; this is likely to be a rare and precious commodity. Witches, representatives of dungeon factions, and all the other elements of intrigue in a faction dungeon are possible within the market. Indeed, it's simply brimming with possibilities for bargains and backstabbing.
Neutral ground, by its necessity, will be governed by some rules that keep it from being a free-for-all of murder. Maybe it is under the protection of one faction, or maybe governed by a truce between two or three factions. In either situation, there is likely to be some enforcement of a "don't kill everyone" rule. Given the morality of the dungeon dwellers, it may not be too heavily punished; there may be a tax like a weregild on murder, or permanent exile from the market, or worse. Of course, this sets up an obvious giant chaotic scene where the neutrality of the market is violated and everything goes to Hell in a handbasket.
The other reason I like the market in particular is that it's not necessarily permanent. Access may be limited in time; there may only be a market day on Saturdays, or only for a week at a time, leaving the space open to other uses in the interim. There may also be a special access to the market, such that PCs wouldn't normally be able to access it, and getting in may be itself a reward. Having things like this makes time meaningful and gives the dungeon the feeling of being alive.
Different sorts of neutral spaces may be present as well. For instance, it's conceivable that there is an arena in the dungeon with gladiatorial combat, or one faction may control an area and allow others to use it for certain purposes. These can also vary with how strongly they are neutral for the PCs as opposed to for other factions, depending on how PCs relate to various groups within the dungeon.
I'd love to hear of any experiences with markets or other neutral places that readers have used or seen in dungeons.
Check-out module S1: The Gobin Fair by Matthew Finch published for d20 in 2002. At Goblin Fairs, alignment is put aside so that everyone can buy, sell, eat, drink, play games, etc. together. Thus in the Goblin Fair you will encounter such beings as elves and goblins who are not trying to kill each other on general principles. Within the fair the PCs can encounter a delightful array of magical toys, a goblin potion-maker, a drunk treant, a guard patrol whose major concern seems to be to ensure the wine quality is good by drinking as much of it as possible (all in the line of duty, of course...), fireworks and pyromaniac goblins, elven musical instruments, an archery competition, out-of-control angry giant chickens, various fairies, an elven knight mounted on his warpig, ogre bullies, a seductive elven maiden and her jealous husband (Whistlereep Pricklyfeather), etc.ReplyDelete
Thanks for the recommendation, Geoffrey; I was not paying attention to d20 at the time and did not get this, so I'll have to be on the lookout for it. Funny that this is apparently Matt's RPG debut.Delete
I haven't looked at this in ages, will have to pull it out again to see what it looks like :DDelete
Does anyone have a source for this? I see some used copies around, but that's it. Not even for sale in .pdf, it appears!Delete
FT 1: Creeping Beauties of the Wood, has a Goblin Market in it. Although I wrote it for DCC, the material - and particularly the Goblin Market - can be easily adapted to other systems.ReplyDelete
Nice, I'll be sure to check it out. Although I'm not into running DCC, I consider it fair game for grabbing source material.Delete
In general I like this idea of an underground market a lot, Wayne, and it can work in a variety of formats too:ReplyDelete
- a black market for thieves, fences, smugglers, bandits, pirates, and underhanded traders to launder money and stolen goods
- a strangely futuristic "goods Automat" where you have to deal with a currency converter, buggy keypads, incorrect change, out of stock items, getting bogus change back ("What's a Ruble?"), received goods that are not in fact the item you selected (even if you did it properly), etc. (This would make a wonderful addition to the Machine Level! :D )
I also don't know that magical items need to be excluded---obviously something like Odd Alley/Weird Way in Greyhawk/Diagon Alley can work well, or the (mostly-cursed) magical weapons shops from some of the middle books in Thieves World; there was a good one in Neil Gaiman's Stardust too (both a fixed market, as well as the travelling gypsy wagon...); I was thinking, though, that such places would sell the equivalent of alchemical items from 3.x, as well as material spell components, potions and elixirs, rare herbs and wines, exotic (and potent!) liquors, drugs, etc. would also fit in well in such markets.
For ideas read Neverwhere, by Neil Gaiman.ReplyDelete
Also perhaps something from Fallen London from storynexus.com.
I think the old Menzoberranzan box set had an introductory adventure for surface dwellers that had a similar market in it that was a truce among Svirfneblin, Drow, and Duergar.ReplyDelete