Runequest Thursday #64 - A Score of Random Market Happenings!

Clint Staples

Here are a dozen events or attractions to add spice to a market visit in your next Runequest game. Although these do reference Gloranthan things occasionally, it would be easy to make them more applicable to another game.

If you want a commotion, roll 1d10 If you want an attraction, roll 1d10+10. If you aren’t picky roll 1d20. You might also try rolling twice and combining the effects. For example, rolling a 3 and a 12, fives me a highly suggestible crowd suffering the effects of ergot poisoning, while watching a sorcerer’s magic show. The end result is up to you, but panic, brawling, magical duels, and more are all possibilities.

  1. Black Sale-day: There is a ruckus over a terrific sale at a particular stall. Roll on the Trade Goods Table to see what is being sold at a deep discount. The heroes may be able to take advantage of the sale, or might simply be caught up in the brawl that erupts. Regardless, it is the fight that is the attraction.
  2. Poison: One of the food stalls is selling food that is bad, and patrons accuse the stall of poisoning. This may be because of rotten ingredients, contamination, or intentional tampering on someone’s part. It is also possible that it is a case of a new regional or ethnic/ racial food preference that doe not meet with local tastes. [Example: A troll chef trying to sell his giant beetle soup to the locals, right out of a tureen made from the giant beetles's carapace].
  3. You Got Your Ergot in my Sammich: Bread sold at the market is ergot contaminated. Ergot is a fungus that grows on many plants, and is perhaps best known for living on the rye plant, which many ancient peoples harvested for grain.  Known medievally as Ignis Sacer [Sacred Fire or St. Anthony’s Fire], it can cause circulatory and neurotropic difficulties including hallucinations, burning feelings in the limbs, highly irrational behavior, convulsions and even death.
  4. Cheaters Never Prosper: In an Issaries or Etyries run market, with a Market spell cast, those who intend hostilities, including cheating others in trade, are found out magically. But there is always one seller who thinks he can get away with it. An uproar develops as the fellow’s scheme becomes known to the presiding Merchant-Priest.
  5. Stockyard Showdown: Animals don’t always get along, especially if they are of different types and temperaments, forced into tight quarters. A fight erupts between two draft, food, herd, or riding animals. There is a 3 in 6 chance that this is a staged fight, on which there is gambling. It is also possible that this is a fight between two different Praxian beasts, or even a man and a beast.
  6. It’s All Fun and Games Until . . . : A juggler, dance troupe, or knife throwing act that has set up in the market has had a painful, possibly bloody, potentially costly, mishap. If the entertainer is an Eurmal Trickster, he might appeal to a PC Orlanthi for help getting out of this mess.
  7. Get in the Spirit: A shaman visiting the market has lost control, or released, a spirit. The shaman may not mean ill, but the spirit intends to use the freedom to kick up its metaphysical heels. It will attempt to possess various folks, never for long, and never with bad intent, but influencing them to do things that are not normally in their natures. Eventually, of course, it will choose a PC. You can decide which one by seeing who has the worst Luck roll [or just choose a PC who is not otherwise engaged, possibly slipping toward boredom].
  8. Suspicious Activity: An outsider locally, ideally one that is not well thought of, such as a morokanth, a troll, a baboon, a Praxian nomad in Pavis, etc. has attracted the attention of some local toughs and things look like they will escalate to fisticuffs or worse.
  9. Hostile Intent: Someone has entered the area of the Market Spell with hostile intent. The hostility is coming from a Lunar patrol looking for a malefactor. Are any of the PCs in trouble with the Lunars. If they are Orlanthi, or troublemakers, or have a friend who is a priest of Issaries, they will get a warning. There is a 2 in 6 chance that the warning will come just as the patrol gets close enough to see it given. 
  10. A Great Deal, errr, Duel: A Humakti has proclaimed that within the truthful presence of the Market spell, [s]he will have justice. The Humakti calls out a local tough who has wronged her/him, in an honorable challenge to first blood. The identities the Humakti, and the challenged, are left to be determined. Could one of the PCs be challenged? Or a local Yanafal Tarnils cultist? Or perhaps a PC Humakti is being challenged by a Yanafal Tarnils worshipper. If none of these work, someone known to the PCs would be a good choice,
  11. What a Deal: A PC comes across a great buy. Have any shopping PCs make a Luck check. Whoever rolls best gets the deal. If they rolled under POWx2, the deal is actually on something they were shopping for. Otherwise roll on the Trade Goods Table to see what is on offer at 50% discount.
  12. A Life of Service: A slave, up for sale, appeals to one of the PCs, begging for freedom, or at least to be bought and saved from the worse fate of being sold in the auction.
  13. Gifts are Always Nice: A new arrival at the market is giving out small gifts to attract attention to her stall. These might be snacks, little utensils, trinkets, even extremely minor [single use] magic items.
  14. A Spectacle: A garishly dressed sorcerer is putting on a show for the crowd, while his apprentice carries around his hat, hoping for tips. Illusions, summonings of elementals and ‘demons’, and a final disappearance have everybody oohing and awing, clapping and contributing to the hat.
  15. A Procession: A chanting procession of acolytes and priest insist on moving though the crowed market at a slow stately pace. If the market is an Issaries one, there is a 2 in 6 chance that the procession is a Lunar one, which causes quiet hard feelings among the assembled Lightbringers. The market is quiet and expensive for an hour or so afterward.
  16. Many Little Hands: A horde of shrieking children race past, chasing one of their number. There is an equal chance the children are happy and pursuing their leader, small treats in hand, or angry and chasing some child they think has stolen from them, or an 'outsider' youngling like a baboon or morokanth. 
  17. The Babbling Baboon: A baboon festooned with many necklaces and armlets of bones and feathers, appears drunk, sitting on his haunches and rocking to and fro. In truth, the baboon is a shaman communing with his dead forefathers, massacred on this spot years earlier. 
  18. A Cuppa: A nearby tavern has come up with the gimmick of selling cheap clay mugs with the logo of the tavern painted on the side. The cups are empty and about half the price of a mug of beer, but they are given with the promise of being filled if they are brought to the tavern.
  19. Stop, thief!: One of the PCs is importuned with a deal on some item [roll on the Special Items Table for a pricey, rare item] at a bargain price. The seller appears slightly shifty looking, but is not aware that the item was stolen and then sold to her/ him outside the confines of the market a while ago. Thus they do not trigger the wards on the Market Spell. Naturally, the original owner of the item appears at the least convenient moment, to challenge the PC who bought the item as a thief! The PC could walk away with a bargain if [s]he can maneuver through the tangle.
  20. Corksure/ Cocksure Comedy:  An Eurmal Trickster is wandering the crowd, turning warriors spear-shafts from Wood to Cork and them making off-color comments about those same fellows' romantic prowess. On being confronted by a particularly aggressive dupe, [s]he appeals to a PC, ideally an Orlanth worshipper [who must help him or lose honor or reputation] for protection.


Of course, there are probably a lot of other possibilities, if you are inclined to help out.