Something I've always enjoyed as a PC are the encounters with magic items vendors. Whether it be a mysterious figure at the back of a tavern, a renowned merchant trusted by the adventuring community, or a retired hero trying to inspired the up-and-comings, there's something incredibly exciting about shopping for magic goods to spruce up your gear list.
As a DM I generally restrict the items I make available to 'common' and 'uncommon' but still useful, even to a high level party (e.g. powerful healing potions, scrolls with utility spells such as neutralise poison, remove disease, restoration, wands of haste or Tenser's floating disc etc.). I find the best items should be saved as rewards for the PCs completing missions and achieving milestones. It's a lot easier to grow attached to a sword you pried from the twitching claws of a dying blackguard than those of a greedy merchant. Also, narratively speaking, why would someone without the skills to acquire a powerful magical item possess one purely for the sake of selling it? A local nobody rumoured to be selling a legendary amulet on the black market makes for a great side quest investigation, whereas a travelling merchant who sells you a +5 vorpal longsword without flinching makes no sense.
I also greatly enjoy playing NPC merchants who have a bit of nuance to them. My favourite reoccurring trader of magical wares is the gnollish exile Kayloch of the Skirmwood. Originally the chief-mutt of the Iron Fangs, Kay was usurped and exiled. He now travels the lands collecting magical objects and is a capable enough combatant to keep his stocks full. His complete amorality means he can find business almost anywhere with almost anyone and has been happily trading for almost two decades, despite his habit of snickering whenever he's about to land a sale.
Another eccentric merchant I would like to introduce to you is the ever-enthusiastic Doctor Modwick. People like the Doctor leave those they meet wondering if the gods of Fate and Fortune are playing some sort of practical joke on them. He is the reason the Royal Academy of Wizardry raised their standards for passing grades. He is the incentive behind gnomish tinkerers updating their ciphers every six months. He is the catalyst for the Alchemists Guild training apprentices to triple check their working. And he's the most successful merchant to travel the King's Roads according to Mrs Modwick.
It only took a couple of roadside muggings for rumours to spread that the brigands who stole his stock found themselves worse off than the man they left bleeding in the gutter. Since then Doctor Modwick has found he can travel pretty much anywhere without any major grievances. Perhaps the King's men have become more vigilant over the past months...
If you ever encounter the man as he tugs his Wonder Wagon across the kingdom, do stop by for a browse. You might find something you like:
Amulet of Unnatural Armour: How Doctor Modwick managed to get his hands on the secretion of an eldritch aether-slug is a story reserved for taverns after the reputable company has left or bards who are considering alternate career paths. The amulet he made using it has a curious spatial contortion effect whenever the wearer is attacked. It adds what is technically a +3 deflection modifier to the wearer's AC but ages the wearer and attacker by the number of days equal to any damage the wearer received despite this protection. This also triggers for damage that is unaffected by AC, e.g. fireball or a dragon's breath weapon because you can't stop the amulet from trying it's best.
Sold for 13,500gp.
Apparatus of Crab: This palm-sized mechanical crab looks more like a tin can with legs and claws attached to it but so did the apparatus of Kwalish and what do you know about crustaceans anyway? Winding up this device causes it to skitter and jump about snapping its claws until it falls over. Apart from amusing small children, the item's effect is that is summons a swarm of crabs that arrives a round after the crab was activated. The swarm is unintelligent and attacks anything within the vicinity of the crab, dissipating after 1 minute. Treat as a swarm of centipedes without any poison effects.
Sold for 8,000gp.
Arrows of Conscientious Objection: These arrows look and feel like normal arrows, even appearing to be of masterwork craftsmanship. They manifest to identification magic as +3 arrows but in reality have no actual combat effectiveness. Instead, when fired they transmute into a bouquet of flowers upon contact with their target. This generally results in a sweet-smelling explosion of petals but no damage whatsoever.
Sold for 200gp per arrow.
Bag of Equity: The bag of holding is a traditional item crafter's rite of passage in many artisan communities. Doctor Modwick made a couple to prove a point and quickly moved on. In actuality this pair of bags function closer to ring gates than anything. Any objects placed into one of the bags are distributed between the two of them so both bags contain approximately the same amount of 'value'. How these bags determine the monetary value of more unorthodox objects has yet to be confirmed. Given that the Doctor sold one of the bags a while ago, the owner of the other may find they sometimes have more and sometimes less in the bag than they remember putting in there.
Sold for 3,750gp.
Boots of Subjective Speed: Once per day the user may attempt to speed themselves up akin to something like a haste spell. Rather than actually hasting the wearer, the boots attempt to give the impression of it by casting slow (CL 5, DC 15) on everything else within a 30ft. radius. The lightning bolt patches sewn to the ankles really do make you feel like you're moving faster though.
Sold for 9,000gp.
Cloak of Partial Invisibility: This fashionably cut cloak looks stunning when visible but when the wearer wraps it around themself they are rendered invisible... mostly. To keep up with fashion trends the cloak was cut to be shin-high, leaving the wearer's boots exposed. Doctor Modwick managed to nail the resizing property common to magic items, so regardless of the wearer's physical nature, the cloak will always reshape to leave their feet exposed. This does open up an interesting avenue of using shoe racks as camouflage however...
Sold for 10,000gp.
Cloak of the Wilds: This bearskin cloak grants the wearer the ability to transform into an animal of Large, Medium, or Small size once per day as a druid’s wild shape. Similarly it restores the wearer’s hit points on transformation. These effects are accomplished through a permanent polymorph spell and healing magic. The cloak makes no claim to be able to change the wearer back.
Sold for 4,500gp.
Crystal Cube: Everyone has seen a crystal ball before. How prosaic. Check out the crystal cube instead! It's sleek, modern and has absolutely nothing to do with how overpriced glassworkers are. The crystal cube functions just like a normal crystal ball except when choosing the surface to view from, the view granted is determined by rolling a d6 where "1" is the direction the scene was intended to be viewed. This view is fixed for the duration of the scrying. Common expected scenery includes floors, ceilings and the inside of walls.
Sold for 30,750gp.
Deck of Delusions: Anyone who interacts with this item believes it to be a deck of illusions until it is used. Upon drawing a card and throwing it up to 30ft. away it spawns an illusion of a monster (as determined by a standard deck of illusions) that only the user can see. The user then immediately forgets they ever used the deck, believing the illusion to be real. Their actions responding to the illusion can be determined as follows:
d10 | Result
1-2 | Flee as fast as possible in the opposite direction for 1 minute.
3-6 | Attack the illusion (dispelling it if the attack is successful).
7-8 | Paralyzed by fear for 1d4 rounds then roll again.
9-10 | Behave as the Player sees fit.
Sold for 6,000gp.
Dust of Appearance: This pink dust claims to dispel invisibility. In truth it is just sticky and very bright. One bag of dust hold enough to coat 20 cubic feet of objects. Anyone who is convinced to buy this deserves to be out of pocket.
Sold for 200gp.
Earmuffs of Sonic Rebuttal: These stylish earmuffs not only grant the wearer unparalleled warmth for their ears in cold climates; they make the wearer immune to any sonic-based enchantments and grant resistance to sonic damage of 10. The earmuffs achieve this by simply casting a permanent deafness on the wearer as soon as they are put on (the action of willingly putting the item on removes any chance to save against this effect).
Sold for 6,000gp.
Eyes of the Dog: Eagles are great and all, but here's an item a little closer to home; something that'll help you bond with Man's best friend as you see the world as they do. Putting on these hazel contact lenses renders the wearer completely colourblind as they fuse with the wearer's eyes. Remove blindness will subdue this effect for 24 hours but nothing short of a remove curse will restore the wearer's sight to normal.
Sold for 1,500gp.
Figurines of Questionable Power: These figurines animate like their more famous counterpart but unfortunately fail to get any bigger when activated. They are small enough that they are incapable of inflicting any more damage than blunt caltrop but at least they're kind of adorable.
Sold for 75% of the standard market value of each figurine of wondrous power.
Hand of Obscenity: This necklace bears the mummified remains of an abusive sorcerer's hand. Age and neglect have withered away all but one prominent finger which remains stubbornly stiff. The wearer of the hand may gain the benefit of an additional ring by using the remaining finger. In addition to this the hand can be used to summon a spectral version of itself by casting mage hand, the one downside being it is incapable of managing any task that requires dexterity beyond a single finger.
Sold for 6,000gp.
Ion Stones: These floating lumps of metal have a strange aversion to electricity. While orbiting the user's head, they provide electricity resistance of 5.
Sold for 5,000gp.
Irongrip Gloves: These iron-banded gauntlets of Strength +2 boast the ability to render the wearer immune to disarming attempts without the need of any awkward locking mechanisms. They accomplish this is by secreting a thin layer of magical adhesive that permanently binds to the first object the gauntlets touch. Nothing short of a universal solvent will separate them.
Sold for 3,000gp.
Lantern of the Underdark: Although it failed it's intended purpose, this item item isn't strictly speaking broken. The lantern was supposed to help people explore the Underdark but has become very popular with Underdark natives on account of when the candle is lit, the lantern emits an aura of darkness, like the spell, in a 20ft. radius. This item has enabled many Undertourists to visit the surface without being blinded by our merciless sun.
Sold for 2,000gp.
Old Mama Modwick's Home Special Cure Moderate Wounds: This potion smells faintly of rhubarb and ginger. Functionally it is a potion of cure moderate wounds (CL 5) albeit with a particularly potent taste. Unfortunately the texture is so awful, any character drinking one must succeed a Fortitude save (DC 15) or immediately become nauseated for one round and sicked for the next. Nauseated characters immediately regurgitate the potion, removing any healing effects it granted.
Sold for 200gp each.
Ring of Spontaneous Casting level 2: This ring feigns to allow the user to spontaneously convert prepared spells to a known spell of a desired school of magic of the appropriate level the way a cleric can spontaneously cast healing/inflict magic (e.g. a wizard selects evocation and knowing the spell lightning bolt, can convert any prepared level 3 spell to lightning bolt on the fly). However, this cursed version actually has a 50% chance to spontaneously convert any spell the character casts to the declared spell. The ring can only be removed once a remove curse has been cast upon it.
Sold for 6,000gp each.
Rod of Whimsy: This attempt at a rod of wonder is the result of a lack of creativity and a short attention span. Activating the rod is a standard action, allowing the wielder to roll on the following table:
d100 | Result
1-100 | A stream of 600 large butterflies pours forth and flutters around for 2 rounds, blinding everyone within a 25ft. radius.
Sold for 4,500gp.
Rope of Untanglement: Tired of your rope always getting tangled? Spending too much of your valuable time fiddling with knots? This rope has been enchanted to unravel from any tangle it's tied in, no matter how complex. It's completely impossible to knot it at all...
Sold for 1,200gp.
Scroll of Tenser’s Floating Disco: This scroll has more to it than a humble spelling error. Instead of summoning a floating disc of force, it summons a float luminescent orb that showers the nearby area in a spectrum of dancing lights, granting visibility in a 30ft. radius. It follows the caster emitting gentle rhythmic bassy thumps for 180 minutes before dissipating. The caster cannot manually dismiss the spell prematurely either; you can't stop the rhythm.
Sold for 15gp each.
Scrollcase of Proof Against Water: Never worry about your scrolls getting water damaged ever again! This scroll case completely decimated any water that creeps into it. It does this so thoroughly however, that any scroll placed within it generally lasts 1d12 days before it becomes so brittle it crumbles to dust.
Sold for 500gp.
Staff of Potential: Doctor Modwick understands the basics of staff-making. You get a long stick and fill it with magical potential. What he forgot about was the outlet. So the staff has 50 charges... Cool.
Sold for 20,000gp.
Sword of Wonder (...Swonder?): This +2 bastard sword was born when Doctor Modwick was early in the planning stage for the rod of whimsy. He was inspired/distracted by the idea of incorporating the rod of wonder he was using as a blueprint into the hilt of a sword. Surprisingly he melded the items successfully and the first time the sword strikes a target each round it automatically triggers an effect from the following table:
d100 | Result
01—05 | Target affected by slow for 10 rounds (Will DC 15 negates).
06—10 | Faerie fire surrounds the target.
11—15 | Deludes the wielder for 1 round into believing the sword functions as indicated by a second die roll (no save).
16—20 | Gust of wind, but at windstorm force from the tip of the blade (Fortitude DC 14 negates).
21—25 | Wielder learns the target’s surface thoughts (as with detect thoughts) for 1d4 rounds (no save).
26—30 | Stinking cloud appears centered on the target (Fortitude DC 15 negates).
31—33 | Heavy rain falls for 1 round in 60ft. radius centered on the sword wielder.
34—36 | Summons an animal: a rhino (01—25 on d%), elephant (26—50), or mouse (51—100) to appear in the closest available space.
37—46 | Lightning bolt (70ft. long, 5ft. wide, from the tip of the blade), 6d6 points of damage (Reflex DC 15 half).
47—49 | A stream of 600 large butterflies pours forth and flutters around for 2 rounds, blinding everyone within a 25ft. radius.
50—53 | Target is affected by enlarge person (Fortitude DC 13 negates).
54—58 | Darkness, 30ft. diameter hemisphere, centered on the target.
59—62 | Grass grows in 160-square-foot area before the sword, or grass existing there grows to 10 times its normal size.
63—65 | Any nonliving object of up to 1,000 pounds of mass and up to 30 cubic feet in size turns ethereal.
66—69 | Reduce wielder two size categories (no save) for 1 day.
70—79 | Fireball centered on the target, 6d6 points of damage (Reflex DC 15 half).
80—84 | Invisibility covers the sword's wielder.
85—87 | Leaves grow from the target. These last 24 hours.
88—90 | 10—40 gems, value 1 gp each, shoot forth in a 30ft. long stream. Each gem deals 1 point of damage to any creature in its path: roll 5d4 for the number of hits and divide them among the available targets.
91—95 | Shimmering colors dance and play over a 40 x 30ft. area in front of sword. Creatures therein are blinded for 1d6 rounds (Fortitude DC 15 negates).
96—97 | Wielder (50% chance) or the target (50% chance) turns permanently blue, green, or purple (no save).
98—100 | Flesh to stone (or stone to flesh if the target is stone already) on the target (Fortitude DC 18 negates).
Sold for 10,000gp.
Talisman of Moral Apathy: The wearer of this amulet is bestowed a unique kind of protection, or at least dampening. Any damage inflicted against the wearer based on their alignment is halved as well as the potency of any alignment-based effects (e.g. protection from evil only grants a +1 bonus to AC but the nausea effects from unholy blight last half as long). The wearer also finds themselves demoralised by a sheer lack of purpose in life, receiving a -5 penalty to Charisma checks. Part of this effect convinces the wearer that it is their disillusionment to the emotional and moral integrity of the multiverse that makes them apathetic, not the talisman itself and they will not willingly take it off.
Sold for 15,000gp.
Wand of Frog: What was supposed to be a wand of polymorph somehow ended up being a wand of summon monster where the only option is "Frog." The frog is unintelligent, cannot follow orders or inflict damage to anything larger than a blowfly. It lasts for 1 minute but will likely have fled by then.
Sold for 5,000gp.