Thanks Strolen, that was my first submission to your excellent site, here is my second :) Yet more cons...
37. Bait and switch An item of quality is shown to the PCs, the price is quite reasonable or even dirt cheap (seller needs money badly for gambling debts, mafia, or whatever reason if even asked). The GM could pretend to roll to see what price the fellow is asking and then look disgustedly at the roll result, reflecting the merchants seeming lack of desire to sell at such a fire sale price. The PCs will naturally be suspicious (well, some will) and want to test the item. “But of course”, says the merchant, and it will indeed perform as advertised. However, once price is agreed upon the merchant will switch it for a fake item under the guise of packaging it, refilling the charges, tuning it, removing the curse that activates on theft etc.
38. Guaranteed return A product is sold that appears to have merit but once examined is found in fact to have none. Perhaps it’s a fake magical item. The one the PC’s examined was real enough but a switch is made (see #37) when packaged up. Ahhh, not to worry it's "guaranteed or your money back". And with the town seal of assurance, you know they will! Alas, there is only one slight problem, it appears return address differs from the sales address, it is in a frightful place in town where you hardly dare enter in broad daylight(maybe only those of a certain faction live there). They are conveniently open on particularly bad days of the week(riot or sewer overflow days) from 2 am to 5 am :) By now you would think my father was a con artist. Hmmm, do mathematicians count? Anyway, this and the next con are come from him as well. In the case of the actual con it was a mail order product targeted to the elderly or the devout. A check was always promptly sent out for all requested refunds of the worthless product. The registered name of the company was something on the order of “I worship Satan with a big …. in my mouth”. Folks were too embarrassed to go to their local town bank to cash the modest refund checks.
39. Works as advertised A full refund was presumably offered if this product sold during the great depression failed to perform as advertised. This was yet another mail order product, “guaranteed to kill roaches if used as advertised or your money back”. The expectant buyer would open his package to find two small scraps of wood marked ‘A’, and ‘B’, and some simple instructions: Place board ‘A’ on the floor, place roach on board ‘A’. Place board ‘B’ on roach over board ‘A’. Step on board ‘B’. In the PCs case perhaps it’s a magic wand that is guaranteed to kill monster XXX. Instructions read: “Strike monster XXX repeatedly in the head until death ensues, always works, never fails”. Well, someone’s going to die, true enough. Or it’s advertised as having a, “Powerful spell of XXX. Contains 50 charges!”. No falsehood there as it contains 3 charges of spell XXX(good for a test or two) and 47 of some 1st level spell. Perhaps the item does function as advertised, however the curse or side effects have slipped the purveyors mind (or he was unaware). The fancier the (paste?)gemstones and engravings the less the PCs will question the quality of the product. If the vendor seems wavering whether to even sell his prize the PCs will be in a greater rush to buy it.
40. 5 star seller How many pieces of the true cross were sold in the middle ages by ‘clerics’? Enough to make dozens. How many eBay venders pumped up their rating selling cheap wares and then bailed after getting paid for(but not shipping) an excess of expensive items all offered on the same day? If the seller has been around forever, is vouched for by someone trusted, or is convincing(but he had a guild badge) that does not mean that they will be there tomorrow when you find out that “orb of dragon disintegration” fails to perform. Obviously, this is only true if you are being sold something of notable value, making it worthwhile for the merchant to pack up and leave town. Similarly, if the PCs are flouting their connections to a noble that uses their services, a group of cons might take advantage of this. Dressing as guards they tell the PCs that that the noble requests their immediate audience for a ‘job’. They might as well leave their weapons behind as they are not to be brought within the nobles grounds. Guards will stay behind to make sure none enter their place of stay. The guards may even enter the lords grounds turning the PCs over to confused resident guards (are they on the take as well?) for the nobles audience. Admittedly, this is an elaborate scam, simpler ones are fake or real servants who case their property, someone disguised as someone they trust, or a ruse that splits up the PCs so they are easier to attack.
41. Dead end A thief steals something from one of the PCs (or fakes it, running off with something that cursorily appears like it may have come from the PCs pack). The thief seemingly has bungled the job alerting the PC. He runs off, hopefully with the PCs in hot pursuit. The thief ducks into a hole or through a door quickly locked behind. Now the PCs are trapped in a dead end alley!
42. Uncanny resemblance Thieves having spotted an item in the PCs possession commission a replica to be made. Using one of the con methods above a switch of items is effected. Servants can quickly make impressions in clay of PCs keys for casting. The servant when alone can repeatedly test and refine the key key until it works properly. The actual robbery happens later, usually by someone else entirely, the trusted servant seemingly having no connection to the crime.
Other notes: Once a con always a con. If a con is caught they are probably going to try to con again to get out of it. They will state that they were conned too!
He will put up half the money if the PCs will put up the other half to hire someone (an accomplice) to correct this wrong.
Oh his reputation, you must tell no one! Oh dear, that Orb of Dragon disintegration didn't work, that can't be!! Tell me what you said to trigger it. No, no that's "Rabbracadabra", not "Abracadabra". It will work for sure if said properly.
So sorry for your losses, but less loot to split next time you travel to "Dragons Maw" I suppose. (a diversion).
OK, say it again, lets make sure! Perfect! You know, I lined up a seller a month ago for that Palantier, he really wants it and was going to pay XXX!! (a diversion) He will be very angry at me for not producing it, but I'll manage somehow. (sympathy)
You know what he told me! That very same dragon might have the "Extenze loincloth", a gift that was being couriered to King Petite in 1247(details indicate authenticity).
Entire party never arrived, presumed lost. He showed me on some old scroll of his, couldn't read it myself, seemed kind of excited about it.(more diversion more details)
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Kings would empty their treasure chambers and give their first borne for such a thing!(greed overcomes PCs anger, builds more trust)
Um, by the way, you know I have this cloak of dragon fire protection you may be interested in...(can't resist another con).
It’s easier to shoot, trap, or mind control the PC's horse to buck and run away with stored gear than the PC directly. Consider the PCs actions as seen from the locals point of view, and consider what opportunities are afforded the thieves guild, street urchins, whores, hirelings, friends, lovers, local merchants, nobility, kings, evil observers, enemies, minions and others.
Do you have coexisting planes with creatures that can sense a powerful item, passing along someday the information to those that seek it? Who might want to teach them a lesson? What items have they brandished about? What businesses have they damaged? Do I see gems sewn in those fine robes, on the hilt of that sword?
In Westerns, gunslingers are always being tested by some upstart trying to make a name for themselves, or take their loot. However, the enemies should only know what is witnessed (or scryed) and so may be unprepared for what the PCs can counter with. High end items are usually very ornate, even the scabbard, with embedded gems, etchings, leather work (all subcontracted out to experts) as they were made for someone in power, (for themselves or often as gifts to curry favor) who usually wants to project that power.
Perhaps the scabbard is required as it charges or maintains the item, no hiding in a plain scabbard. Do powerful items emit a strong aura that PCs have to spend a lot of money or manna or concentration to dampen? Are these items are easily identified as being of valuable on sight(maybe identifiable as an item of legend due to poem or song). Valuable information in the right ears indeed.
Often an ancient item will have parts that have rotted away, broken, cracked, gems pried out, rusted, drained of all charges or whatnot. All this needs repair, probably from more than one craftsman who will tell other craftsmen, etc. Perhaps the item was discarded due to damage, it's repairable at least in part, but at a high cost and only a particular fellow can do it, finding out who is an adventure in itself, getting to that craftsman is another. A master craftsman is proud of his work, and wants his wares to impress the buyer.
Of course items found and bought could be forgeries or flawed. Art forgery is quite common, anything of value is usually forged, magical items would be no exception. Failed magical items and potions should be common as well. The failure might be subtle and unrealized at the time. What is the failure rate of magical item creation? %
That will give you an idea of the ratio of failed items out in the world. A failed item need not be be an utter failure and so may still have worth and be sold in the marketplace for what it is or as a con, these items might be stripped of gems as would damaged or seemingly spent items that might still be salvageable.
Perhaps it appears salvageable but after much money spent and months of waiting for the repairs it still does not function (say a 15% chance of successful repair each attempt, although PCs should not be told the risk in percentages, the repairmans estimate would never be spot on anyway, perhaps he is overconfident and eager to get the work). The repair could be only partially successful (only takes 2 charges others are wasted, leaks charges over time, backfires 20%, heats up possibly shattering, applies effect to wielder sometimes, fails to work half the time, internal crack widens with each use), not that the craftsman or PCs may know of the new or preexisting flaw(s).
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