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Bought & Broken: Goblin Markets

Welcome to the jungle
We got fun 'n' games
We got everything you want
Honey we know the names
We are the people that can find
Whatever you may need 
If you got the money honey
We got your disease
-- Guns N' Roses, "Welcome to the Jungle
"

Market & Merchant Worksheet in Google Docs

Market Generator for rpgchartmaker (see directions below)

Merchant Generator for rpgchartmaker

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There are many things to be gathered from the Hedge and dreams, and even more that can be created from them. No one person could possibly use them all, so the phenomena of the goblin market was born. These marvelous bazaars spring up worldwide to offer safer places to trade in unusual fare. Each market is unique and meant to be an experience unto itself, wonderful and sinister, as in the Rossetti poem of the same name. A few examples have been offered in Changeling books over the years. The Goblin Markets book (for 1st edition Changeling: the Lost) provides a good deal of guidance for creating and running your own.

But such a fantastic source of plots and flavor begs for more consideration. The sheer number of variables can be difficult to keep track of. Trying to figure out what distinguishes one market from another can be tricky. Figuring out where to put it and what its stalls offer can be quite a task. After all, when a bazaar can be nearly anywhere and offer almost anything, where is a Storyteller to begin deciding its flavor and boundaries?

My main goals here are to create generators that create markets and goblin merchants in an instant. This can be helpful for Storytellers who need new markets and stalls on the fly or for those who simply need inspiration. A generator will not be able to weave a market into a particular setting’s history or geography, but it can serve as a guide for those efforts. My vendor generator will aid in portraying individual merchants, but as always, the Storyteller will have to decide what to keep and how to bring everything to life during play.

You have two ways to access my generators. The first is through Google docs, in the form of a worksheet. Simply save a copy for your own use and you can edit it as you wish. While the worksheet will not automatically generate results, you can pick and choose for each box, or roll dice to decide as you go along.

The second, fastest option is to download the .json file and use the rpgchartmaker site online. Simply go to the site, load the file into it by clicking the load button at the top, and you can use the Roll button to generate what you need in seconds. The online generator is also fully customizable; you can add or delete entries, add lists, use the check boxes to decide which lists to roll for, and even change the theme. When you are done, you can save your own copy for future use.

Below, I will go over what’s in each generator so you have an idea of what to expect and more information about what the entries mean. I also make suggestions as to ways the different aspects can reflect and play off of each other, in the hopes of a more nuanced experience.

woman with glowing vial

The Market Generator

Entrance gives you an idea of where the market can be accessed from in the real world. While you can always opt for the standard flea market location, a market could just as easily be entered from a historical landmark, a place known for laughter or danger, or the gated garden of a local church.

Location indicates whether the bazaar is mostly based in the real world or in the Hedge. This can be vital to know because real-world locales require more rules to avoid the notice of the normals, especially law enforcement. On the other hand, a market entirely in the Hedge is likely to have many more bizarre customers, up to and including fallen Keepers (known as Charlatans in 1st edition Changeling).

Venue gives some possible real world locations for the market or for where the entrance into the Hedge can be found. A goblin market needs some real space to operate more than a few stalls; on the flip side, very large venues often have greater security and scrutiny that puts the market at risk. In the end, it helps to choose a place where it isn’t unusual to see visitors or where special events after hours can be easily explained.

Age establishes how old this particular market is as a whole. Some markets have been known to gather for centuries; others have only just begun. Relatedly, Reputation tells you how the local freehold feels about the market. Just because there’s a well established emporium in town doesn’t mean that the local freehold is happy about it, particularly if it allows the sale of slaves.

Virtue and Vice reflect the entire marketplace, not individual participants. Although goblin merchants with similar “morals” will tend to feel more comfortable there, few markets would survive by only allowing one kind of vendor. These traits can help explain the feel of the bazaar and explain its policies, vibe, and reactions. For the generator, I use my collection of Virtues and Vices, which can be found elsewhere on this site.

The Recent Event and Desires columns can give the Storyteller ideas on what’s been going on behind the scenes of the market, and what its deeper needs are. These things can influence how visitors are received and what goblin merchants might ask for - as well as ways that the PCs can earn some points with the venue.

Population and Access can reflect important things about one another. If a market is in an isolated location, with no roads or nearby attractions, that doesn’t mean it will be empty; it might have such word of mouth and lax entry rules that it’s bustling with customers. Likewise, Access can refer to how easy it is to find or how strict the entry rules are. A forbidden market that greedily trades in slaves might be nearly impossible to visit without a hedgespun invitation.

The next few traits - Repair, Impression, Sanitation, and Lighting - guide descriptions of a market. A tumbledown, lethargic, dingy market at an old racetrack after hours with poor lighting is going to be a vastly different experience from the luxurious and spotless - but haughty - market staged beneath the chandeliers of the local opera house.

Movement can be the lifeblood of a goblin market. Some changelings can depend on their local market to be in the same place at all times, while others must track down its new spot after an eclipse or wait for it to materialize in an alleyway where enough secret mortal dealings have occurred.

Nearby Threats can keep visitors on their toes and make getting to the market its own adventure. Dangers can be found in the real world, the Hedge, or both. The basic types of threats are mortal, fae, structural, and other (usually other kinds of supernatural threats, like vampires or werewolves), but feel free to mix them or add to them based on the needs of your chronicle.

Duration sets the limits on how long the market remains open and active. Few markets are open all the time, if only because they need to resupply. Some are tied to moon phases, solstices and equinoxes, or agreements with local freeholds to be open on certain days during the month. Areas with extremely rare market days tend to have small, changeling-based markets in the interim - but goblin markets that are hardly open tend to be the grandest, with the widest swaths of merchandise.

The Merchant Generator

The merchant generator begins with the basics of the character - Age, Virtue, Vice, and so on - but includes some key elements needed for the goblin market experience.

Species indicates the type of character the merchant in question is. While most merchants are some type of hobgoblin, other creatures are not out of the question. Markets that exist entirely in the Hedge might have Hedge Ghosts or Incubi (creatures native to dreams) as vendors, while bazaars that are squarely in the real world might be open to mages or other supernatural denizens who have worthy wares to sell.

Specialty provides the main wares the merchant sells. While a single merchant can have all kinds of bits and baubles for trade, they are likely to specialize in one or two particular areas. Some of these are straightforward, like selling goblin fruits from the Hedge. Others require further discussion, however, for many reasons.

Abstractions are usually based on memories, from the memory of a visit to the Chicago World’s Fair of 1893 to the memory of a song performed only once for a lover in 1978. They are not necessarily of vital importance in the larger scheme of things, but they can be priceless to a desperate customer. The more rare and distant they are, the more they cost.

Magic items at markets tend to be based on fae magic, either from the Hedge, imbued by common fae, or even borne from the intense fantasy of Arcadia. Some of them might originate from other supernatural sources, and some might not even be of use to the fae at all - but could be impossible for visiting mages to pass up.

Attributes, Conditions, Experience, Merits, Morality, and Skills might sound straightforward, but there’s a major problem: They are often harvested in desperate deals made with ignorant mortals. While people may not be forced to give up their ingrained strengths, they can be duped into parting with precious things they need. These aspects tend to come with side-effects tied to the lives and conditions they were taken from, leading many freeholds to forbid members from buying permanent possession of them. Temporary boosts are possible (save for Experience) and can be provided by the strength of the Wyrd alone, but permanent gifts are granted at too high a price.

Contraband is a catch-all category for anything that local laws forbid the populace from having. Whether they are mortal restrictions or freehold forbiddances doesn’t always matter, depending on the market; if it’s not allowed, the goblins may have it.

Curiosities represent mundane objects that might become imbued with magical properties. These can be of deep importance to particular people or groups, like religious relics from saints. They may be painstakingly handcrafted and rare, the last of their kind, or involved in a major historic event (like a particular illuminated manuscript). There is a sense of power in such objects, even if they haven’t manifested magical powers. The more rare and legendary, the more they are worth; see the Goblin Markets book for full values.

Living merchandise - hedge beasts, indentured servants, and slaves - are entered in their own categories for a reason. Hedge beast pets and indentured servants can be convinced to stay and are not necessarily owned in a master/slave sense. Slaves, however, are auctioned with the intention of keeping them in permanent bondage, and are taboo for most freeholds (unless they intend to release said slaves after buying them).

Fertility is a special area of expertise that is particularly dangerous, given goblin side-effects, but it is also keenly sought by humans and changelings alike. Likewise, some physical transformations are possible; they tend to reflect fae nature (like growing claws) but can offer ordinary changes that would normally be difficult or impossible to obtain (like changing genders). Their duration and severity determine their cost, and anything that is taken from another person to give to the seller might have dire ethical complications.

Non-Fae Goods do not have to be magical in nature. Tomes of mage lore, decanters of rich blood, ritual objects used by earlier werewolves, and other mundane trinkets tied to supernaturals can make their way into goblin market stalls.

Riches might be available, but they tend to be rare and more than meets the eye. Mortal currency is dull and credit cards are yawn-inducing to goblins - but a bag of cash lost from a bank heist has an emotional history, and probably a rousing destiny. Goblins tend to offer crafted goods like jewelry rather than gemstones or gold, but rarity and emotional reaction can change their minds. They don’t like to take money in exchange for wares, but are not above selling normal valuables to greedy customers.

Services abound at goblin markets, often used to pay for items but sometimes made available for purchase outright. Artists can be commissioned, guides can be found, and it’s not unheard of for Jack Ketches to offer contacts to kill fetches for local changelings.

Vice can be easy for goblins to sniff out, and even easier for them to tempt. A customer who often gives into her Vice is far more likely to find a merchant who can give her just what she craves, but probably shouldn’t indulge. Vice merchants’ wares can shift from customer to customer, offering an array of items that appeal to Wrath one moment and a different selection for Vanity the next.

Youth is one of the more taboo offerings to be found at any goblin market because it invariably comes from someone else. Rarely do donors understand what they are giving up - and rarely do buyers realize the true cost of buying life force that isn’t theirs.

Caveat Emptor

When in doubt about what something is worth or what a customer should pay, we can use the base WoD system as a guide. Magic items and Merits have their own value ratings; abstract goods and wares can be assigned dot ratings by the Storyteller, as needed. Duration, power, and the like will influence what something is worth, but things will rarely be offered for free, and will be highly suspect if they are. We must remember that not all things are equal in the WoD system. The experience costs for different traits can help us figure out which things are worth more than others in an ultimate sense.

A goblin merchant who is favorable to the customer will offer something closer to a “fair exchange,” generally asking for payment one dot higher than the base worth of the item or service (or a collection of lesser offerings that add up to more than the worth of the offering). So, for instance, 2 dots in Resources will be worth 3 dots of payment. This can be offered by giving up another Merit, a beloved memory, or the pocket watch of a famous general valued at 3 dots. It could also be exchanged for a Skill specialty and a dot in Socialize (which add up to 3 experiences in 2nd edition Changeling; see the core rulebook for details).

A goblin who asks for far more than something is worth can spook a customer away from a sale - or entice them further. The difference in value can be applied as a penalty to any rolls a goblin makes to close the deal. It can also be applied as a penalty to a customer’s rolls to figure out they’re being fleeced if they are in dire straits or they have a Vice like Avarice or Despair. So, if a goblin is requiring a permanent dot in an Attribute in exchange for those 2 dots of Resources, it would get a -1 to convince the buyer to part with such a precious part of themself. A greedy buyer, however, might also suffer a -1 to rolls made to figure out they are being had.

Generally speaking, there are 3 tiers of value when discussing market prices: minor, medial, and major. That’s not to say that Merits, which are in the minor category, can’t be impressive at high levels; it means that they are roughly equivalent in value to curiosities (which can also be amazing at high dot values). “Minor” simply means that they are worth less overall than medial and major offerings and tend to be plentiful. Medial offerings usually involve things that are yours to keep and which have multiple uses, like Contracts and magic items. Major purchases cover the most expensive, life-changing deals you can make. After all, even the temporary gift of Intelligence dots can help you shift the tide of a situation.

This is why minor trades tend to be lighter-hearted and informal, finished with a handshake and exchanging goods out in the open. Medial trades, by comparison, are more serious business, take longer to complete, and might involve guards delivering the merchandise. Major trades happen in private, after much haggling, and are signed for in blood - and everyone present is ready to kill anything that tries to get in the way of the final exchange.

  • Minor: 1-Use Magic Items, Abstractions, Contraband, Curiosities, Dreams, Goblin Fruits, Hedge Beast Pets, Hedgespun, Information, Merits, Riches, Vice
  • Medial: Contracts, Conditions, Experience, Indentured Servants, Lesser Magic Items, Non-Fae Goods, Services, Skills
  • Major: Attributes, Fertility, Major Magic Items, Morality, Slaves, Transformation, Youth

You can use the experience chart on page 94 of the Changeling: the Lost 2nd edition book to get an idea of the full values assigned to these tiers.

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