Merging the Mundane and the Fantastic: Mack's Magic Shack, a Magical Walmart for D&D Campaigns

Speculative fiction commonly wraps the familiar in trappings of the fantastic for multiple reasons: to provide a foundation of understanding and accessibility for the reader, to implement ready-made logic for how aspects of the world work, and to support exploration of real-world phenomena as part of the work's artistic goals.  Inserting analogues of trappings from the real world can achieve similar effects for game masters looking to introduce a bit of the familiar for their players.  The key is figuring out how to properly map the salient aspects of the mundane world into the fantasy settings of the game.

Mack's Magic Shack was something I invented far too many years ago during a campaign I was running in 3rd Edition.  It came into being when I started wondering what chain stores like Wal-Mart or Target would look like in a D&D world.  To be honest, I was looking for a way to shortcut some of the world building exercises I would leave far too last minute when preparing that week's settings for my players.  Chain stores like Walmart remove a lot of the thinking for consumers because each store across the country is more or less the same.  There's a limited variability to the store's stock and organization, and most stores within the chain look nearly identical to each other.  A D&D Walmart would reduce some of the work I'd have to do planning and laying out stores in each town my players would visit.  But how would a chain work in a D&D setting without getting into the dull details of supply-chain management and predatory pricing?  How do you achieve that degree of uniformity in a way that meshes nicely with a fantasy world?

I realized that with magic, you could have just a single store with portals to it located throughout the land.  Overhead would be extremely low, allowing for highly competitive prices that would explain the lack of competition in most towns.  And with a single stock to track, it removed some of the drudgery players sometimes fall into when they decide to comparison shop and spend an entire gaming session tirelessly wandering from vendor to vendor.

That conceit established an interesting quirk to the world I was developing, and soon my players would check to see if there was a Mack's in every town, village, and hamlet they visited.  It really took off as a concept with the addition of the remaindered table, modeled after the "Discount Books" section at Barnes and Noble, which allowed me to insert fun little magic items that entertained me (and usually entertained the players) and encourage the party to pick them up by establishing ludicrously low prices for them.  Mack's proved popular enough that my friend John adopted it for his campaign and another friend, Mike, worked out the code to make Mack's function properly in Neverwinter Nights, something we sadly never took advantage of since we never did much with our module building.

Description: Mack is a retired, highly successful adventurer (class is never that clear, but assume some extremely high level of fighter-mage -- any party members foolish enough to attack him would be dead almost immediately).  He started the shop when trying to figure out what to do with the mountain of loot he'd built up over years of adventuring and now lives a happily quiet life selling off his old stock and enjoying the camaraderie of the adventurers who make their way through his store.  Mack is a tall, gregarious, balding man with a ring of gray hair and a pot belly who speaks with a deep voice inflected with a Brooklyn accent.  His usual greeting is, "Heya kid!  What can I do for yuz today?"

I admit that in my mind I was picturing Mr. Hooper, except if Mr. Hooper had been a Level 20 fighter-mage.
Mack has traveled throughout the land and set up storefronts in many cities and towns.  He'll buy a vacant building or build a simple structure, then set about putting the proper enchantments in place to effectively seal the building with the exception of the doorway.  The doorway is enchanted with a customized memory portal spell that leads to the front door of Mack's shop -- wherever it is.  The portal remembers where the entrant came from, so that leaving back through the door exits the original portal.  At the same time, while this is in use, the portals at all other stores are disabled, a state signified by a sign appearing on the door reading, "Back in a few minutes", which disappears once the door becomes active again.  This allows Mack to deal with just one set of customers at a time while also preventing entrants from using Mack's and a shortcut across the world.

Mack has warded his shop to prevent spells from being cast inside the store, mostly to prevent a cascade effect across all the magic items he has stored.  Signs are posted throughout the store that read "No Magic Allowed Inside Store", and he immediately interrupts anyone attempting to cast a spell or try a magic item.  Habitual offenders are asked to leave, and anyone actually invoking magic within the store are ejected forcefully by Mack's wards.  Similarly, Mack avoids use of magic himself within the store.  However, Mack does make two exceptions.

First, Mack uses an enchanted jeweler's monocle that casts Identify on any item examined.  For this service, he charges a regular fee (DM determined, but default is 100gp per item identified).

Second, Mack uses a magical record book to keep track of the accounts of his customers.  Mack will purchase magic items from customers at a steep discount from what he'd sell it for in his shop (rule of thumb: half of what he'll sell it for), and is willing to track store credit for customers not wanting to walk out of the store with large amounts of coin.  Similarly, for adventurers who are regular, reliable customers, Mack might be willing to offer a modest line of credit (read: at DM's discretion).  In each case, updates to the adventurer's page in the record book is sealed and unsealed by the adventurer placing his or her hand on the page to signify access.

Mack's typically stocks all the most common magical items, as well as a certain amount (read: DM-determined) of more exotic items.  Items not in stock may be back-ordered and will be set aside for the purchaser when available.   In addition, Mack will create common magic items for customers for 125% the cost of the material cost.  Mack also sells the spell components and alchemical solutions required for casting most spells, or creating most magic items and potions.

Perhaps most popular among adventurers (in particular, lower level adventurers) is the Remaindered Table, a collection of magic items that Mack has had trouble selling and has marked down steeply.  Mack will characteristically refuse to explain the items on the table, referring instead to their names repeatedly when queried, any that come with a specific activation command have that command written on a card attached to the item.  DMs should look to create their own items to add to the table, which should be refreshed throughout the campaign with new items, but several pre-defined ones are listed below.

Sword of Dancing. When unsheathed, the sword emits music very reminiscent to "Staying Alive" by the Bee Gees (note: DMs should have music on hand to play). As long as the sword is unsheathed and playing its music, the wielder will dance as if possessed. The wielder cannot stop this dancing except by resheathing the sword, although she can influence the direction in which she moves. All attacks made by the wielder receive a -5 penalty. If the wielder attempts to cast a spell or use a skill while dancing, she receives a -5 penalty to her skill checks. In addition, the wielder receives a +5 to Armor Class (via the same mechanism as the Dodge skill) and +5 to all Reflex saving throws.

Bee Gees, swords: they're a natural fit.
Portable Belfry. When the bell within this miniature is rung, 2d6 bats appear and attack a randomly selected target in the area. This ability can be used once per hour.

Zelnar's Aphrodisiac. The wearer of this ointment causes nearby members of the opposite sex to become strongly attracted to other nearby members of the wearer's sex (but never to the wearer). This attraction requires a DC 15 Will save to counter.

Rod of Giant Growth. When invoked, the rod grows to 10 feet long, 1 foot diameter.

Wand of Misplacement. Can be invoked 3 times per day. The rod causes the target object to be misplaced for 1d100 minutes. The wand is not particularly accurate. The DM should select two nearby items and roll 1d20 for each of the items and the target. The item receiving the highest roll (ties rerolled) is the one misplaced.

Navigator's Compass. The needle of this compass always points toward the owner of the compass. The needle spins wildly if on a different plane than the owner. Ownership is passed by a simple declaration in the presence of the compass.

Mordencainen's Lubrication. When spread across a substance, this oil creates an effect identical to the Grease spell.

Kestrel's Fountain Pen. This quill, when invoked, produces a stream of water for 1d6 minutes.

Stone of Rolling. This bowling ball-sized rock, when thrown, rolls in a straight line at a constant, relatively slow velocity until stopped by something solid.

Pet Rock.  This rock is an actual living organism and can be used in the same way as other animals with respect to spells, animal companions, and familiars.  The rock is unable to move on its own (and since it typically is relatively flat on one side, does not roll) and the only sound it makes is a slight purring sound.  It is fed by rubbing mud on it -- failure to feed it at least once daily results in its death.

Cursed Word Dictionary.  Opening this book up to a random page reveals a word that cues a curse on the reader with Will saving throw DC 20.  The DM should use a basic dictionary for this purpose and craft the curse to fit a word selected from the random page.  For example, seeing the word scarlet may change the reader's hair color to red.  The exact word and resulting curse are left to DM discretion.

Balthazar's Sack of Holding.  Works like a bag of holding, but without the interior pockets to keep everything organized.  Instead, someone reaching into the sack will pull something stored within it at random.

JL Franke is a fan of both hard science fiction and hard fantasy.  He has been collecting comics for over 40 years and has been an on-and-off active member of online fandom for 25.  Those interested can find other writings at his personal blog,  When not geeking out, you may find him at a baseball park or cheering on his favorite college and pro football teams.  In his spare time, he is chief scientist for a research and development laboratory somewhere in the Washington, DC greater metropolitan area.
Merging the Mundane and the Fantastic: Mack's Magic Shack, a Magical Walmart for D&D Campaigns Merging the Mundane and the Fantastic: Mack's Magic Shack, a Magical Walmart for D&D Campaigns Reviewed by JL Franke on Tuesday, January 23, 2018 Rating: 5
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