Merchant (3.5e Class)
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Note to DMs
The Merchant class relies heavily on the economy of your world, and as such, it is, in a sense, highly DM-dependent. In a high arcana world with plenty of magic items, the Merchant might become too powerful a class despite the fact that at first glance, many of its abilities seem innocent or heavily underpowered. In an extreme low arcana setting, the merchant will probably struggle, playing the role of half a bard (a good negotiator but completely lacking in the combat department, because of the likelihood of less income). Alas, the abilities you must keep a closer eye on are Uncanny Barter and Bribery. The first one, because it stands to reason that it should depend directly on your economy, the latter because it depends on the former. For more details on the evolution of this base class, please check out the discussion page.
Merchants are as complex in their actions as they are straightforward in their objectives, namely, to turn a profit. Merchants represent prosperity and civility, while their thirst for wealth caters to a more adventurous life style, always in search of the perfect product or to establish a more profitable trade route. They excel at gathering information, bartering and negotiating their way out of all but the most dire of situations. Usually, they resort to bribery should it further their agenda, and have an uncanny ability to make even the most strict individuals take these "gifts" (often without their knowing it).
Adventure: A merchant adventures for the possibility of obtaining wealth, which in turn may be used to establish his business empire. Merchants have no shame in admitting to this, and while they would never willingly risk their lives for the usual "causes", their lust for gold tends to make them take more risks than they should. For a merchant it is never a bad idea to check out the red dragon's lair to see if there's an interesting bargain to be had.
Characteristics: Roguish in their approach, bardish in their demeanor, and with a penchant to outshine most clerics with their fervent belief in the power of money, merchants are at the same time generalists and experts. They are heavily focused on bartering and negotiating, making them the ideal face of the party. In combat, they tend to be lacking at first, but their ability to "throw money" at problems means they will be better equipped (armor and weapon-wise) than the average character of the same level, and will surely have mercenaries in their pay roll to give him that extra muscle he is lacking. He also has a limited number of spells to aid him in his endeavors.
Alignment: Money has no preferred alignment, nor does the merchant. While they tend to favor neutrality (for it broadens their customer base), it is not unheard of of good merchants that act as patrons of the arts or benefactors to their towns or cities.
Religion: They favor travel, wealth and trade deities above all others.
Background: Merchants have the most diverse backgrounds. Sometimes the inherited their family business, sometimes they come from poverty and have the will to overcome their disadvantageous starts. They usually learn the principles of the craft by two means. Specialized merchants (such as jewelers, magic wand dealers, etc) are more likely to have been trained under the watchful eye of a fellow expert in the field, while the more generalist merchants learn the trade directly from the streets.
Races: While all races have merchants, their sociability and flexibility makes humans and half-elves the most likely races to take up the merchant career path. The money loving Ikasus take an easy knack to the merchant career as well, given their high charisma and intelligence.
Other Classes: Merchants make a purpose in and of itself to get along with anyone they encounter, even if it is just for the sake of making a new contact that may open new business opportunities. They get along perfectly with rogues, who share their outlook on life. They also relate well to bards, understanding their sociability and their need for attention. Paladins and good aligned clerics tend to distrust merchants, regarding them as nothing more than money grubbing trouble mongers. The monk isolationist and self sufficient demeanor means he has no common ground with a merchant, and they tend to ignore each other (a monk really is not a good customer prospect). Barbarians and warriors tend to see eye-to-eye with merchants, especially when they are in their pay roll. Wizards and Sorcerers contact merchants for spell components or rare items, and tolerate their jolly behavior to the best of their ability.
Role: The best role of the merchant is as face of the group. He will obtain information, pull some strings and call in some favors to get to his objective. In combat, the merchant is somewhat lacking. He makes up for this with his ability to amass rather quickly a small army and to have equipment that far surpasses that of the other classes.
Game Rule Information
Merchants have the following game statistics:
Abilities: Charisma is the most important attribute for a merchant. Getting along well with people is his first business, and his limited spell selection is Charisma based. Intelligence is a close second: a stupid merchant is a broke merchant. Constitution and dexterity may be of importance to improve his durability in battle.
Starting Money: 300gp
|Special||Spells per Day|
|1st||+0||+0||+2||+2||Skill Focus, Equipped, Trade Knowledge||2||—||—||—||—||—||—|
|2nd||+1||+0||+3||+3||Contacts +1, Bribery, Uncanny Barter +1||3||0||—||—||—||—||—|
|6th||+4||+2||+5||+5||Leadership, Uncanny Barter +2||3||3||1||—||—||—||—|
|13th||+9/+4||+4||+8||+8||Uncanny Barter +3||4||3||3||3||2||—||—|
|18th||+13/+8/+3||+6||+11||+11||Control trade route||4||4||4||3||3||3||1|
Class Skills (6+ Int modifier per level; ×4 at 1st level)
All of the following are class features of the merchant:
Weapon and Armor Proficiency: The merchant is proficient with all simple weapons. He is proficient with light armor and shields. However, armor of any type interferes with the casting of his arcane magic.
Spells: A merchant casts arcane spells, which are drawn from the merchant spell list. A Merchant must choose and prepare his spells in advance. To learn, prepare, or cast a spell, the merchant must have a Charisma score equal to at least 10 + the spell level (Cha 10 for 0-level spells, Cha 11 for 1st-level spells, and so forth). The Difficulty Class for a saving throw against a merchant’s spell is 10 + the spell level + the merchant’s Charisma modifier. Like other spellcasters, a merchant can cast only a certain number of spells of each spell level per day. His base daily spell allotment is given on the Table above. In addition, he receives bonus spells per day if he has a high Charisma score.
Merchant register: A merchant keeps his spells in a Merchant register which resembles a spellbook. He begins play with 2 level 0 spells. The merchant does not automatically gain new spells as he gains levels. He may instead add any number of extra spells from the merchant spell list to his register by other means, such as copying a scroll.
Skill Focus: A level 1 merchant gains the Skill Focus feat. Selectable skills are: Appraise, Bluff, Diplomacy, Decipher Script, Forgery, Gather information, Handle Animal, Sense Motive, Profession (any), Craft (any).
Equipped: The Merchant starts his adventures with 300 gp and a Masterwork weapon of his choice.
Trade Knowledge: Like a bard, you have a knack for picking up odds and ends of knowledge. This ability works like the bardic knowledge class feature. If you have bard levels, your merchant levels and bard levels stack for the purpose of using bardic knowledge or trade knowledge.
Contacts: Once per week per bonus point of the ability you have the chance to pull some strings in order to gain some advantage or obtain some information. You make a contact roll, 1d20+Cha+Contact bonus. The DC to beat depends on the kind of favor you are requesting, as follows:
DC 10 – Simple request: Obtain information regarding matters not known to the common public.
DC 15 – Average request: Obtain secret information (for example, a secret entrance to the castle), obtain simple aid (for example, obtain lodging for one night).
DC 20 – Difficult request: Obtain information that risks the life of the informer, obtain more complex aid (for example, a loan).
DC 25 – Illegal request: Obtain information that is forbidden and may attract the interest of powerful individuals, obtain a forbidden item, request aid to assassinate, etc.
The DM should determine the DC according to the request, and must take into account the availability of contacts (for example, finding a contact in a desert is close to impossible and the DM might disallow it). The contacts ability may in no way enable a player to circumvent adventuring. At lvl 1 you get a +1 Contacts bonus, and then at lvl 11 and 17 you get a +2 and +3 respectively.
Bribery: The merchant can use his wealth to sway others into doing his bidding. Whenever the Merchant makes a Diplomacy check to change the attitude of others, he may spend gold pieces or items to improve the effect of his Diplomacy check. He may invest 100 gp per HD of the creature per level of attitude to improve, while still keeping the DC of the next attitude level. For example, a hostile 2 HD creature may be bribed with 600 GP to improve his attitude to Friendly, while keeping the DC at 20 (that would originally improve the attitude one level, up to Unfriendly). You cannot improve the attitude beyond Helpful with this ability, even with further uses of Diplomacy. This abilty does not work on non-intelligent creatures, undeads, constructs, or creatures that are otherwise unable to comprehend the merchant (this includes creatures unable to speak). The merchant is very skilled in making this bribery look like it is no such thing, therefore the attitude of no creature of intelligence lower than 18 may be lowered as a result of this roll. You may used Bribery while rushed with half the normal penalty for a rushed Diplomacy check (that is, a -5 penalty).
Uncanny Barter: Beginning at level 2, the merchant sells his items at a minimun price of 75% the market price value instead of 50%, provided that he has successfully identified and appraised the item. In addition to this, he may also attempt a Diplomacy roll when bartering to increase his selling price, adding his Uncanny Barter bonus to this roll. The bonus is +1 at lvl 2, +2 at lvl 6 and +3 at lvl 13. He makes an opposed Diplomacy check against the potential buyer. If the merchant beats the check, the buyer purchases the item at full market price. If he beats the opposed check by 15 or more, he sells the item at 125% market price.
Connoisseur: Upon reaching level 3, the merchant has become an expert when it comes to appraising the items of his trade. He automatically and successfully appraises common or well known items. He may also take 10 in his appraise rolls for rare or magic items.
Trade routes: At fourth level the Merchant designates a trade route. This route may comprise up to 5 cities of his choice. He adds a +2 bonus to his Knowledge (History), Knowledge (Local), Knowledge (Geography) and Trade Knowledge rolls regarding lore from this cities and surrounding areas. He may make the Knowledge rolls even if he has no ranks in them. Once every year, you must visit these cities (to oversee your business and generally keep up to date with current affairs) or lose the bonus for Knowledge (Local) and Trade Knowledge rolls.
Identify(Sp): Starting at level 5 he may attempt an appraise roll to identify an item, as per the identify spell. The DC is 20 + 1 for every 1000 gp in the base price. Only one attempt per item allowed.
Leadership: At level 6 the merchant gains Leadership as a bonus feat.
Find Treasure(Sp): From level 8 onwards, the merchant may make a Trade Knowledge roll vs. DC 25 to determine the general direction of an item, as per the Locate Object spell, up to three times per day.
Trading expertise: A merchant of level 15 with trading expertise may once per month sell a rare item of his choice for twice the market value. This is automatic and needs no Diplomacy roll. It represents the sale of a specific item to a wealthy customer.
Control trade route: Through guile or hard work, the merchant has become the most prominent trader in a specific trade route, controlling most caravans and collecting taxes for the protection of other caravans. The merchant chooses two cities among those chosen from his Trade Routes ability. Each month the DM determines the profit and maintenance costs of the trade route as indicated in the table. If the merchant turns a loss, he must make up for it or lose control of the trade route forever.
|Base profit||Base cost|
|500 or less||3d100+100||1d100+100|
|1000 or less||5d100+200||3d100+200|
|5000 or less||8d100+400||5d100+400|
|More than 5000||15d100+800||8d100+800|
|Distance||Profit multiplier||Cost multiplier|
|Close (less than 100 miles)||x2||x1|
|Medium (less than 500 miles)||x3||x2|
|Far (more than 500 miles)||x5||x2|
|Items traded||Profit multiplier||Cost multiplier|
|Route type||Profit multiplier||Cost multiplier|
|Without adequate roads||x2||x2|
Example: Albion, a 18th level Merchant, gains control of the Trade route of Phylias and Threcia. These cities sum 3500 inhabitants, are separated 350 miles by a route without adequate roads, and trade in Manufactured items. Thus, earnings from this Trade route may be around 5760 to 14400 gp any given month. The cost of maintaining this route is between 3600 and 7200.
Master trader: The merchant adds his Intelligence modifier to all trade related skills as specified in the bonus Skill Focus feat gained at first level. If the key ability of the skill is Intelligence, he adds it again. Furthermore, he can now take 20 in any Appraise or Diplomacy check.
0 level spells
1 level spells
Alarm, Animate Rope, Comprehend Languages, Detect Secret Doors, Detect Snares and Pits, Disguise Self, Endure Elements, Erase, Expeditious Retreat, Feather Fall, Floating Disk, Grease, Hold Portal, Identify, Mount, Undetectable Alignment, Ventriloquism
2 level spells
Alter Self, Animal Messenger, Arcane Lock, Augury, Darkvision, Detect Thoughts, Find Traps, Illusory Script, Invisibility, Knock, Locate Object, Make Whole, Protection from Arrows, Rope Trick, Shatter, Tongues, Whispering Wind,
3 level spells
4 level spells
5 level spells
6 level spells
Analyze Dweomer, Animate Objects, Contingency, Find the Path, Greater Dispel Magic, Greater Glyph of Warding, Greater Scrying, Guards and Wards, Heroes' Feast, Legend Lore, Repulsion, Transformation, True Seeing
Upon Reaching Epic Level the merchant gains the following abilities.
Skill points: (6 + Int modifier per level)
Contacts: Every 9 levels starting at level 22 the Epic Merchant's contact bonus goes up another point.
Uncanny Barter: Starting at level 21 and every 7 levels after, the Epic Merchant gains another point to his uncanny barter ability.
Bonus Feat : One every 3 levels about 21.