An interesting question came up on the Chaosium Discord. Pig_soldier asked, when a character sells something, and has a normal success on Bargain, what’s the base price they’re selling at?
Surely it can’t be shop price, can it? To me, this was an obvious thing, with an implied answer – there isn’t a buying price and a selling price – there’s a price, and then a bargain roll. However, Pig_soldier actually asked it, which got me thinking as well as talking.
In general, I roll this as an opposed roll against the shop-keeper, so with one success each it would be at list price. That, to me, takes into account how the bargaining favours the shop-keeper over the long term, so usually they pass and you fail. You can equally just roll for the shopkeeper, or just the PC – it doesn’t really matter. That might seem a bit odd, at first, in particular if you’re used to modern pricing and resale value, or you’re taking a modern view of what a sale is.
It’s not that the shopkeeper will buy something at sale price and thereby have no benefit. For one, they may think they’ll sell at a profit. For another, buying and selling creates harmony and trust. There’s a religious reason to make no money, but to provide items to people. In general, my philosophy here is that we want the game to make sense. So, merchants don’t usually buy and sell to make a loss. One of those reasons above is a good reason – they know they can sell at a higher price elsewhere, or they know that they can pass this on and increase harmony (and probably make a client happy). There are other good reasons too, I’m sure. It’s not really a thing that needs to worry me.
However, we can get much more into it than just rolling. Let’s look at different ways you could move items on.
When PCs hand things over to their clan they get about 2/3 of the value of it, so that’s the number I’d use for a start, if I wanted a different price for sales. You might expect to get about that, as value, for what you’ve been doing lately. However, that value will come with extra bonuses, like the social interactions with your clan.
If you know an Issaries or an Etyries or an Argan Argar merchant, they might sell it for you, and take a cut. You might sell it directly, not to a shopkeeper, but to someone who wants to buy from you.
The saleability of goods table has a hint there – smaller places give a large negative to your bargain roll, because in those places there might not even be a shopkeeper of the sort you’re expecting to sell to. In those cases, you’re searching around to find someone to buy what you want to sell, and the market might not be able to support that anyhow.
However, Pig_soldier has the idea of selling to a shop, so let’s look at that a bit. We want to make that more ‘realistic’. I’m using those inverted commas because there are a lot of reasons you don’t have to, but especially when you’re starting out, you might not be meshed into the weird bronze age world, and things can throw you.
There isn’t a retail model of economics in Glorantha. You don’t have to meet the living costs of all the people who do processes in a long chain – you have to meet lower living costs and you’re probably already selling luxury goods, if you’re an adventurer. You’re divorced from most people’s experience. That means, though, that if you walk into a shop with an iron helmet that you found in an old tomb, you’ve got plot hooks right there. You’ll have Rune Lords sniffing around before you can open your mouth to say, “I am a walking target.”
Much of the reason we have prices as we do in the modern world is that most goods support a long chain of people relying on sales of the end result. You have growers, manufacturers, shippers, retailers, rental costs, and so on. Not all of those apply in Glorantha, and a lot of the cost for some things is just the materials and a little for labour. Merchants often live in and own their shops, and crafters are members of the same family, and prices are often controlled by the cult-guilds of the makers.
So, I think if you’re dealing as a merchant, start with the fact that the Merchants are effectively a guild or a monopoly. If you want to use a marketplace or a shop, and you want to deal as a merchant, then there needs to be a cut for the Issaries temple. You might be asked to join (and pay market fees) or you might be expected to give a donation for the safe use of shops, as you’re selling, not buying. You’ll also probably be taxed and tolled – if you’re carrying things up and down the King’s Road, there are tolls for caravans. You’ll have advantages in return, like protection from thieves, as far as the local merchant cult can give it to you.
If you choose to use a factor who sells for you, you avoid the taxes, take a 10-20% pay cut, and depend on an expert’s bargain rolls, but you miss out on the community aspects of presenting these things to your clan and being helped and becoming the centre of attention. You do get a powerful, rich merchant who likes you, though – if the factor doesn’t have the ability to clear all these goods at once, you can get passed up the chain. Politics will happen.
To sum up, I don’t think selling at list price is a problem, because of the bargain roll, but there are more interesting things you *can* do, if you like.