- Along a main street, stalling traffic
- An intricate maze of back alleys
- The rooftops of private homes
- Hundreds of small wooden boats
- A bridge crossing the river
- A sandbar, gone at high tide
- A cemetery, still in use
- A temple, before the god’s altar
- A natural system of caves
- The ruins of a crumbling palace
- All hours
Each market contains a number of submarkets. I'm calling these 'streets' - I don't have a better name for them.
Each street sells either mundane goods or luxury goods. A small market will have one mundane street, a medium-sized one will have 1d3 mundane streets and one luxury street, a large market will have 1d3 mundane streets and 1d3 luxury streets.
For mundane streets, roll 1d20 on the goods table. For luxury streets, roll 1d20+10. This basically gives you two tables with an overlapping set of entries.
- Rice (red, purple, black)
- Fruit (durian, rambutan, dragonfruit)
- Vegetables (bok choy, amaranth stems, bamboo shoots)
- Mushrooms (cloud-ear, inkcap, lion’s-mane)
- Mammals (goat, monkey, water buffalo)
- Birds (duck, finch, edible-nest swiftlet)
- Reptiles (gharial, tortoise, tree frog)
- Bugs (scorpion, centipede, honey ant)
- Fish (barramundi, eel, seahorse)
- Crustaceans (crab, lobster, prawn)
- Molluscs (octopus, oyster, nudibranch)
- Echinoderms (starfish, urchin, sea cucumber)
- Tea (white, green, black)
- Spices (galangal, coriander, mouse-dropping chili)
- Opium (paste, powder, tincture)
- Liquor (soju, snake wine, deer-penis wine)
- Candy (grass jelly, dragon’s-beard, red bean mooncake)
- Kitchenware (woks, spatulas, steampots)
- Clothing (robes, shoes, hats)
- Books (poetry, philosophy, pornography)
- Silk (silkworm, spider, mussel)
- Dyes (saffron, indigo, madder)
- Lacquerware (tables, chests, coffins)
- Porcelain (bowls, vases, sculptures)
- Jewelry (jade lockets, pearl earrings, red coral hairpins)
- Religious supplies (incense, icons, amulets)
- Musical instruments (xylophones, gu zhengs, bamboo flutes)
- Weapons (daggers, maces, caltrops)
- Medicines (rhino horn, bat dung, dried placenta)
- Slaves (scribes, stevedores, palanquin bearers)
Each street has 1d3 encounters on it. For mundane streets, roll 1d20 on the encounter table. For luxury streets, roll 1d20 + 10. The treasure table, which is referenced in some of the encounters, is below the encounter table. You can also find excellent OSR treasures here and here.
- Pickpocket working the jostling crowd in front of extremely popular hot-food stall
- Purportedly blind man begging alms with wooden bucket, picks people’s pockets while ‘accidentally’ bumping up against them
- Filthy, plague-ridden opium addicts passed out in centre of public thoroughfare
- Aggressive homeless guys begging for scraps and heaping insults on anyone who doesn’t give them something
- Homeless child working up the courage to snatch something from a stall while the owner’s back is turned
- Dealer in livestock chasing escaped, panicky animal, hoping to wrestle it back into pen or cage
- Street preacher ranting about the need to achieve enlightenment before the apocalypse
- Naked fakir performing some incredible feat of self-mortification in exchange for a few petty scraps of food
- Clean-cut, patronising missionaries offering food and magical healing to the desperately poor on the condition that they accept God into their heart
- Over-eager cockroach clansmen feeding their roaches on market garbage, to the annoyance of stallkeepers who’d prefer they wait until closing time
- Street magician performing remarkable feats of illusion as distraction for pickpocket
- Street musician playing jangly, discordant versions of popular songs
- Enforcer for local criminal syndicate shaking stallkeepers down for protection money
- Rampaging tribe of urban monkeys, stealing food, knocking things over and generally causing havoc
- Wealthy mandarin with no concept of value paying way too much for everything and goggling at how quaint it all is
- Gamblers around impromptu fighting ring. Roll for fighters - roosters, centipedes, dogs, children, adults, crabmen.
- Stallkeepers squabbling over possession of a valuable item which has somehow turned up among their goods (roll once on treasure table)
- Destitute junk merchant with a single valuable item glittering among the scraps on their filthy blanket (roll once on treasure table)
- Poor junk merchant with a couple of valuable items gleaming among the scraps piled high in their rickety barrow (roll 1d3 times on treasure table)
- Shifty junk merchant with a couple of valuable items glimmering in the folds of their voluminous dark cloak (roll 1d3 times on treasure table). All prices are halved, but all items are stolen and someone will want them back.
- Fancy junk merchant with an array of valuable items spread before them on a silk tablecloth, labelled and polished (roll 1d6 times on treasure table). All prices are doubled, but each item comes complete with pedigree and explanation of how to use it.
- Old curiosity shop hidden in a corner of the market, away from the crowds. Only the PCs are capable of noticing it. Every surface inside is covered with dust. The proprietor, who is secretly a demon, will offer each PC a single treasure (roll on treasure table) in exchange for a favour to be called in later (see demon generator for horrible things demons want you to do).
- Junk auctioneer taking bids on the last few lots of the day (roll 1d3 on treasure table). Bidding for each starts at half price, but an eager collector will drive them higher unless silenced.
- Stallkeepers competing for the attention of a rich connoisseur, who wants only the finest examples of whatever the market is selling.
- Street poet composing vicious impromptu verse satires at the expense of anyone who passes them by without giving them money
- Street philosopher collaring passers-by and aggressively demanding their opinion on some complex metaphysical question
- Mercenary guard, new on the job and eager to crack down on anyone suspicious-looking
- Mercenary guard covertly accepting a bribe from a well-dressed pickpocket to look the other way
- Efficient and brutal band of criminals with an intelligent plan to steal the most valuable thing in the market.
- Cleverly disguised assassin stalking their target through the crowds, waiting for the chance to strike.
- Paw of monkey demon. Three fingers standing up. Grants three wishes, but they are all guaranteed to go hideously wrong. 50 gp
- Leather waterskin containing a hungry ghost. Anything put into the waterskin will be eaten by the ghost. The neck is only wide enough to admit a finger. If not fed regularly the ghost will get thin enough to escape. 50 gp.
- Small blue stone. If you eat the stone, three days later it will come out of the mouth of the person you will marry. 50 gp.
- Three paper butterflies. Attract real butterflies when burnt. If the paper is unfolded and expertly refolded into the shape of something else, burning it will attract that instead. 100 gp.
- Cloth satchel of ash from the burning of a sacred tree. Smearing the ash across someone’s forehead makes them incapable of performing an evil act until the ash is cleaned off, which is pretty easy to do. Three doses. 100 gp.
- Long cigar wrapped in a white leaf. Inscribed with poetry. Incredibly harsh. Makes you invisible for as long as you can tolerate smoking it - Con check to avoid a coughing fit. 150 gp.
- Map printed on silk. Resembles no known location, but anyone who falls asleep using the silk as a blanket will have the map with them in their dreams and be able to find their way around the dreamlands. 150 gp.
- Belt made of tanned human skin. Gives +1 armour. It is impossible for anyone to feel any positive emotions toward anyone who wears this belt, or who has worn it in the course of the last day. 200 gp.
- Bird stomach on a piece of string. Anything eaten or drunk by the wearer goes through the bird stomach, which removes all poisons over the course of a day, before arriving in the wearer’s usual stomach. If the bird stomach is removed during this time the food vanishes forever. 200 gp.
- Skull of a horned jackal. In gambling, grants luck and incites jealousy. 200 gp.
- Polished bronze mirror that repels reptiles, amphibians and dragons, though more dangerous ones get to make saves. 200 gp.
- Length of bamboo, capped with gum at both ends, with swarm of carnivorous beetles inside. If the bamboo is cut or smashed open (which is fairly hard to do) the beetles will emerge and start devouring everything in the vicinity. 250 gp.
- String of 108 rudrakshas - seeds used as prayer beads. While you stand still and do nothing but count the beads and chant the names of God, no animal will willingly attack you. 250 gp
- Terracotta figurine of a toad. If you would die with the toad in your possession, it breaks and a freakish stroke of luck extricates you from trouble. However, you will then be cursed with bad luck for the rest of your days. 300 gp.
- Shrunken head. If you feed it blood and sleep with it beside your ear it will whisper a spell to you and you will be able to use that spell the next day. If you do this too many times you will enter into its thrall and it will use you to work vengeance on the one who cut it off. 300 gp.
- Etched tooth of a crocodile. Any ship that carries it will sink unless the captain makes a saving throw. 350 gp.
- Fetus that has been dry-roasted, painted with lacquer and gold leaf. If fed milk and fawned over exactly as if it were a real baby, will come to life and serve its ‘mother’ to the best of its ability. Leaps and scuttles with disturbing speed, scratches at eyes with golden claws. 500 gp.
- Long tube containing disks of some sort of transparent stone. When put to the eye, makes far things seem as if they were near. Manufactured in a distant land and probably has a demon in it. 500 gp.
- Brass disc inscribed with twelve cryptic marks, arranged in a circle. Two arrows with to the disc’s centre rotate at an even pace, pointing to each of the twelve discs in turn. For this to continue happening, a tiny key in the side must be regularly turned. Manufactured in a distant land and therefore valuable. 500 gp.
- Mask (see d10 masks). 500 gp.
I want to design a large market. I roll that it's in a cemetery at night, which is spooky.
I roll 1d3 and find it has two mundane streets. I roll d20 for each and determine they sell clothing and vegetables. I roll 1d3 and find it has one luxury street. I roll d20+10 and determine that it sells tea.
I roll 1d3 for the number of encounters on the clothing street and find it has three. I roll 1d20 for each of them and get a street preacher and two shifty junk merchants. The first junk merchant is selling the skull of a horned jackal, a terracotta toad and a demagogic mask named Gosper. The second junk merchant is selling a leather waterskin containing a hungry ghost. These items are all cheap, but stolen - I assume the two merchants robbed the same house and fell out over splitting the take.
The vegetable street has one encounter. It's a wealthy mandarin paying far too much for ordinary vegetables. Possibly it's their house which got robbed.
The tea street has three encounters. I roll 1d20+10 for each of them, since it's a luxury street. I could also have gotten a mundane street that sold tea, in which case I would have rolled 1d20. This system is slightly unintuitive but w/e, it's just a blog post. I get stallkeepers squabbling over the possession of an inscribed brass disc which has somehow turned up in a shipment of tea, more stallkeepers competing for a connoisseur's attention and a band of criminals with a plan to steal something valuable. I am going to say that a prominent tea merchant is using the brass disc as a medallion, word of this has gotten around and a criminal has disguised herself as a wealthy tea expert in order to steal it.