Content of the article: "Advanced Business Mechanics 1/3 – Mercantile: A set of original mechanics for enriching a session’s downtime through rewarding and flavorful businesses."
Here at Cosmic Stew, we’ve been working on an improvement to the 5e business system that would allow for players to enhance a personalized business both actively and passively. This mechanics supplement is intended to spruce up a campaign’s downtime and contribute to a character’s identity while greatly bolstering their wealth.
Our Advanced Businesses Mechanics Supplement will eventually contain three advanced business types, each with a specific set of specializations (specs) which grant players more active control of the depth and flavor of their business. This release is the first of the three and will focus on the Business Type: Mercantile, along with three potential Mercantile specs: Blacksmith, Cosmetics, and Racketeer.
Establishing any advanced business requires that the following qualifications be met:
- A player has acquired a base of operations that satisfies the GM.
- A player has appointed an NPC that they trust to be their business manager. This manager will attend to business affairs while the player is away adventuring.
- A player has submitted the necessary down payment.
- A player has recruited a courier, acquired a Bag of Business, or come into some other means of receiving business dividends remotely. It is recommended that you make one of these options readily available to your players or develop another method of remotely transporting business dividends.
Blundle’s Bag of Business
Wondrous Item, Uncommon
Description: You may attune to this item without consuming one of your attunement slots. When you attune to this item, designate another bag as its “sister” bag. Once per day, an infinite amount of currency or up to 4 items whose combined weight is 10 lbs may be transported from the bag of business to its sister bag and/or vice versa.
For Currency (Gold Default): The effect works the very first time currency is sent from the B.o.B. to the sister bag. From this point forward, a player may only send currency from the B.o.B. to the sister bag if the value of the currency they’re attempting to send exceeds the value of currency that they sent the previous time. A player may choose to pay 1000 gold and reset the B.o.B.’s memory, at which point the cycle will repeat itself. There are no restrictions on the amount of currency that can be sent from a sister bag to the B.o.B.
All businesses start at 1st level, can be advanced to 5th level, and belong to a Business Type (just Type for short). The way businesses level depends on their Type. As a business levels up, it becomes more profitable and may specialize.
In general, a business is a downtime activity that players may choose to invest in at the end of each session. End-session- frequency is, unfortunately, an optimistic ideal, and we acknowledge that the length of between-session-gaps may vary considerably (some sessions resume the instant they left off, and some resume weeks after the fact). As such, we understand that plausible implementation may be a concern to both GM’s and players alike. If this is the case, we suggest setting the business dividends interval to 1 in-game-week, rather than “in between sessions.” The details of this process are explained in the following section, “Mercantile”.
NOTE: Because this is a sister project to our Fortune Mechanics Supplement, we often reference what we call a “fortune roll.” Fortune rolls are used to determine the outcome of some currency based risk. While we default to gold in our system, you can easily replace currencies with copper, silver, or electrum, depending on the economy in your campaign setting – just remember to be consistent! If you do not wish to use the Fortune Mechanics Supplement, simply replace every instance of “fortune roll” with “1d100 roll,” and ignore anything having to do with “fortune modifiers.”
In the case that you choose to use the supplement, recall that:
Fortune roll = 1d100 + fortune modifiers.
Risk vs Reward: Medium
Down Payment: 5,000 gp
The Mercantile business allows players to earn gold passively between sessions via a courier or Blundle’s Bag of Business. In a Mercantile business, “experience” is gained through profit; this is to say that, as a player earns profit, their business levels up (therefore players should keep track of the amount of total profit generated by their business). With a 2nd level Mercantile business, a player may choose to have their business specialize, allowing them to enhance their business actively.
Concept, 1st Level
At the end of each session, a player with a Mercantile business has the option to invest any or all of the gold they possess into their business. At the beginning of the next session that player attends, they make a fortune roll. A roll of 10 or less results in failure; the player loses their invested money. Otherwise, the invested money increases by a percentage equal to the player’s fortune roll. For example: If a player invested 1000 gold and rolled a 64, they would receive 1000 * 1.64 = 1640 gold, a 64% profit. A natural roll of 100 will always result in an auto-level-up regardless of other factors or active requirements (read on to learn what exactly a level-up means). A natural roll of 1 will always result in failure, regardless of any applicable fortune modifiers. A natural roll of 1 also results in the death of a player’s manager and the temporary disbandment of their business. The player will have to make another down payment and find another trustworthy manager in order to collect any further dividends or reputation.
To ascend to 2nd level (assuming a natural 100 is not achieved), a player must:
- Earn a net total of 10k in profit from their Mercantile business.
- A player receives +1 to their fortune modifier.
- A player gains the option to specialize their business. See Mercantile specialization.
To ascend to 3rd level (assuming a natural 100 is not achieved), a player must:
- Earn a net total of 50k profit from their Mercantile business.
- Complete the active requirement for their Mercantile specialization.
- A player receives an additional +1 to their fortune modifier. (Cumulative 2)
- A player has the option to convert the fortune roll that determines their profit 1-to-1 for reputation for their Mercantile Specialization. In this case, the player breaks even (making back the money that they put in) and earns reputation equal to their fortune roll. A player must choose to convert their entire fortune roll and cannot choose to receive profit for some and reputation for the rest.
- On failure, instead of losing all invested gold, a player receives gold equal to: ((Fortune Roll / 10) x Investment) with the exception of a natural 1, which remains as detrimental. A failure cannot be converted into reputation.
To ascend to 4th level (assuming a natural 100 is not achieved), a player must:
- Earn a net total of 100k profit from their Mercantile business.
- Complete the active requirement for their Mercantile specialization.
- A player receives an additional +1 to their fortune modifier. (3)
- A 4th level business cannot be disbanded and it’s manager is protected (unless extreme circumstances result in their death). A natural roll of 1 will still always result in failure.
To ascend to 5th (max) level (assuming a natural 100 is not achieved), a player must:
- Earn a net total of 250k profit from their Mercantile business.
- Complete the active requirement for their Mercantile specialization.
- A player receives an additional +2 to their fortune modifier. (5)
- A player can now perform Mercantile investments at the beginning of sessions as well (or double whatever frequency your campaign abides by). When a player exercises this ability, they will make the fortune roll to determine their profits at the end of the same session. (Note that a player cannot access this gold in any way during the session once they’ve made the decision to invest it. Remember that if a player is using a gold pouch (found in Fortune Mechanics) this gold is also removed from a player’s gold pouch when invested, all gold pouch level reductions apply and a player’s fortune modifier may be affected.)
Mercantile specialization is intended to allow players to more actively manage their Mercantile businesses. With a second level Mercantile business, a player may choose to pay 2,500 gold to have their business specialize. Once specialized, a Mercantile business has additional “active requirements” that need to be fulfilled in order to level up. However, specializations also provide additional rewards in the form of fortune modifier bonuses and perks that pertain to each specialization. The acquisition of these perks requires a player to “rank up” their business in terms of reputation. Each business starts with 100 reputation. Falling below 0 reputation results in the loss of a business’s specialization and, as such, the reversion of a business back to level 2. A player will need to select a new specialization in order to begin gaining reputation again.
Additionally, dropping below the threshold of a reputation tier results in the loss of all perks from the lost tier. A player will need to regain reputation and pass the threshold to regain the perks from the higher tier. A player’s business can earn reputation in two ways: from a converted fortune roll, or a contested fortune roll.
|Rep LVL||Reputation Required||Fortune Modifier Bonus|
Converted Fortune Roll
Instead of receiving gold profit from Mercantile dividends, a player may instead choose to convert their entire fortune roll 1-to-1 for reputation; this can only happen on success. A player earns back 100% (and no more) of the money they invested when converting their fortune roll.
Contested Fortune Roll
When a player actively does something related to their business, they may state that the action is being done in the name of their business as well as the intention of their action. When they do, the GM determines how in line the player’s intentions are relative to the alignment of their business on a scale from 0 to 5, 0 being the most in line and 5 being the least in line. The player and the GM then contest rolls; the player makes a fortune roll and the GM rolls a number of d20’s equal to their prescribed “0 to 5 rating”. If the player wins the contest, the outcome of their action is favorable, and their business reputation increases by a number equal to the difference of the contest rolls. If the GM wins, the outcome is unfavorable, and the player’s reputation decreases equal to the difference. The GM then justifies what made the action favorable or unfavorable through creative storytelling. Observe the following example:
A rogue with a blacksmith specialization chooses to donate a dagger to a bullied vagabond in the name of his business. The GM determines the rogue’s intentions to be relatively consistent with the True Neutral alignment of the blacksmith specialization and decides to roll just 2d20 to contest the rogue’s fortune roll. While this would generally yield a favorable outcome for the rogue, in our example case, the rogue rolls a 26 and the GM a 37. The contest results in a -11 deduction from the rogue’s blacksmith reputation. The GM justifies the result by explaining that while the rogue’s actions were noble, the vagabond took the dagger and stabbed the local inkeep. Therefore the business reputation must suffer. Additionally, if a player is committing a particularly heinous act, the GM can, at any time, demand that the player answer for their actions, and undergo a contest. A player can still gain reputation from a GM-called contest.
Each business specialization comes with an associated alignment (unless otherwise stated). A player may only choose a business specialization that is either the same alignment as their character, or adjacent to their alignment (diagonals included), according to the Alignment Reference Table below. For example, a Lawful Evil (LE) player character can only take a LE, LN, NE, or TN specialization, while a CN character could choose between CE, CG, CN, NE, NG, or TN.
Alignment Reference Table:
|Lawful Good||Neutral Good||Chaotic Good|
|Lawful Neutral||True Neutral||Chaotic Neutral|
|Lawful Evil||Neutral Evil||Chaotic Evil|
At any point in time a player may choose to “rebrand” their business and change its specialization by selling it to a rival industry. To complete this transaction, receive gold equal to the profit required to have attained the level of your business (e.g. 100k for 4th level). If a player chooses to rebrand, their Mercantile business reverts back to Level 2 and they may choose another specialization.
Additionally, when a player reaches Rep 5, they continue to keep track of any additional reputation they receive. A player may redeem 10 reputation to increase a fortune roll of their choosing by 1, this can be done without inhibition so long as it does not reduce a business below 2000 reputation.
Q: Can I level a business up multiple times in a single investment?
A: Yes, the rules simply state, “A player must earn X net profit.”
Q: Can multiple players go in on the same business?
A: At your discretion, however, if multiple players go in on the same business, it is recommended that you limit them to one fortune roll, or that you double the net profit required to level-up their business.
Q: What if I fulfill an active requirement before I am otherwise eligible to level up?
A: You may preemptively fulfill an active requirement and check it off for the future. For example, a player with a blacksmith business could throw an item of legendary rarity into the fire at 1st level, which would fulfill their active requirement for attaining fifth level.
Alignment: True Neutral. The quality of your work is a reflection of you.
Rep 1 (inherent perk)
You hire a weaponsmith and an armorsmith capable of producing items of superior quality. If you supply the necessary materials, you may have your craftsmen produce +1 AC armor and +1 weapons.
Your business is recognized by the elite craftsmen of the realm. You have earned the privilege of having access to rare metals for a fee. When your craftsmen smith an item in your business you may choose to have the item made of mithril for 1,000 gold or adamantine for 2,000 gold.
Your business has earned the favor of the local mage guilds and you have access to their most skilled enchanters. When your craftsmen forge an item, you may spend 1,000 gold. If you do so, the item created is considered magical and does not degrade by natural means. You and your craftsmen also gain the ability to repair broken magical equipment at the place of your business if an item still retains its magical properties.
Word of your business has spread across the realm; so much so that specialists regularly visit your business with techniques to help fine tune your products. The improvement bonus from Rep 1 increases from +1 to +2. Additionally, you can now choose to spend an additional 500 gold to apply just one of the following effects to items each time you or your craftsmen create an item in your business:
- Armor you forge is resistant to 1 damage type of your choosing.
- A weapon you create may now deal an extra damage die on a critical hit.
- 30 arrows gain bonus fire, ice, or lightning damage equal to your proficiency.
The items smithed in your workshop are among the most revered in all the realm. You may now choose to spend 100,000 gold when your craftsmen create an item. This item is considered a legendary magic weapon or armor piece with a +3 bonus. The item also possesses 3 major benefits or 1 legendary boon of your choosing in addition to 1 flaw with the potential to destroy the item.
Have someone other than yourself defeat a creature of Challenge Rating 5 or greater using weapons and armor that have been crafted in your business. A crafted weapon must have damaged the creature; a crafted armor piece must have contributed to an attack from the creature missing the wearer.
Have a weapon created in your business score a critical hit on a creature of Challenge Rating 10 or greater.
Throw an item of legendary rarity into your forge; this process destroys the item. This does not need to be repeated when regaining rep level 5.
Alignment: Chaotic Good. To revitalize a weary soul, one must begin from without.
Rep 1 (inherent perk)
- You form connections that can get you enhanced cosmetics, which you can use to gain a +3 bonus on any check you make to use a disguise kit.
- If you or other players purchase enhanced cosmetics through your business, the cost is as much as a disguise kit (usually 25 gp).
- Your connections trust you enough to share their production process and you regularly receive shipments to test your products’ quality. Once per day, you may freely collect 1d4 enhanced cosmetics, through your Bag of Business.
- Your products are sold in neighboring cities or settlements, though the exact extent is at your GM’s discretion.
- Your business has become known for its daring cosmetics ventures and attracts bright minds in the field. For a flat rate of 3,000 gold you can hire a team of alchemists to produce the following items:
- Rejuvenating Salts (1500 gp): If you spend 1 hour bathing in these salts during a rest, you gain the benefits of the rest in half the time.
- Fractal Highlight (1900 gp): If you use fractal highlight in conjunction with a disguise kit, creatures have disadvantage when they attempt to see through your disguise. (stacks with enhanced cosmetics, lasts the duration of the disguise kit)
- Deviant Perfume (1900 gp): This perfume lasts for 8 hours. While wearing this perfume, when a creature moves within 5 feet of you, they must make a DC 9 Wisdom saving throw. If the creature fails, they are charmed by you for 1 minute. The creature does not know they were charmed by you when the charmed effect wears off. Creatures can only be charmed this way once per day. If the creature succeeds, they cannot be charmed this way for 24 hours, and they know you attempted to charm them.
- Your products are sold in most major cities, though the exact extent is at your GM’s discretion.
- When you roll to collect your free enhanced cosmetics, you can roll an additional 1d4. You may collect any item produced by your business using the second roll.
- Your cosmetics are the most advanced in the realm. If you spend 6,000 gold to fund alchemical research, your business can produce the following items:
- Jadepool Salts (3700 gp): If you spend 1 hour of any rest bathing with these bath salts, you gain the benefits of the rest in one fourth the time. Additionally, for 8 hours after your bath, you gain a +3 bonus to your Dexterity score and have advantage in one skill of your choice.
- Dragon Bristle (5300): +1 wand, requires attunement. When you use this brush to apply cosmetics, you can use a single disguise kit on up to three players, making a separate check for each player. You may use enhanced cosmetics and fractal highlight in conjunction with this brush.
- A Pleasant Odor (8000): This perfume lasts 8 hours. The scent is so universally attractive that it overcomes immunity to the charmed condition, but affected creatures must have a sense of smell. While wearing this perfume, when a creature moves within 5 feet of you, they must make a DC 13 Wisdom saving throw. If the creature fails, they are charmed by you for 10 minutes. The creature does not know they were charmed by you when the charmed effect wears off. Creatures can only be charmed this way once per day. If the creature succeeds, they cannot be charmed this way for 24 hours, but they are unaware of your attempt to charm.
Use a disguise kit to successfully deceive or persuade a creature that would otherwise be hostile.
Charm two different creatures using Deviant Perfume.
Treat another character to a spa day. First, draw them a bath using Rejuvinating or Jadepool Salts. Next do their makeup (apply a disguise kit) using both Enhanced Cosmetics and Fractal Highlight. Finally, apply to them a dose of a Deviant Perfume.
Alignment: Neutral Evil. It’s free real estate.
Rep 1 (inherent perk)
- (When a player owns a Landlord business, it is the responsibility of the GM to designate each applicable building the player encounters with a square footage. This figure can be arbitrary, but would benefit from being rooted in reason.) You may purchase any vacant building you encounter. To do so, pay currency equal to its square footage * 10. After you have purchased a building, you must convince a tenant to sign a contract to occupy the space and pay you rent (it’s recommended that this is done via Charisma-based skill check). If a building is currently under contract with a tenant, you may add its square footage to your property value. Your property value is equal to the summative square footage of all inhabited buildings you own. Whenever you roll for Mercantile dividends, receive additional property value dividends equal to 1d4 * your property value.
- When you lose a contested fortune roll, you suffer double the reputation penalty.
- When you fail a passive Mercantile investment, revert back to the low threshold of your current Rep Lvl. (e.g. if you fail a passive Mercantile investment with 1,284 reputation at Rep 4, a failure results in your reverting back to 1,000 reputation, Rep 4’s low threshold)
- During downtime, if you provide the materials and organize the labor, you may choose to actively improve any one of your properties. When you do so, increase your quality modifier by 1d4.
- You may add your quality modifier to contested fortune rolls.
- Whenever you increase your quality modifier, gain reputation equal to your new quality modifier.
- The 1d4 that you roll for calculating additional property value dividends increases to 1d6.
- You may add your quality modifier to all Charisma-based skill checks when attempting to sell a space to a tenant.
- When you win a contested fortune roll, permanently increase your property value by the margin of your victory (which should equal the reputation gained).
- You have advantage on attack rolls, spell saves and ability checks in any building that is contributing to your property value.
- The 1d6 that you roll for calculating additional property value dividends increases to 1d8.
- If you own a building, its square footage is added to your property value regardless of if it is inhabited by a tenant.
- You gain limited access to the Teleport spell, and may use it to travel to one of your owned buildings once per day. Your familiarity with these destinations is “Very Familiar”.
Ruin a tenant’s aspirations by sending them plummeting into debt.
Win a contested fortune roll that would have been lost without your quality modifier.
Own buildings with a combined square footage exceeding 10,000.
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