20 Things to See in a Busy Marketplace

Once the PCs have crushed their enemies and returned to town to sell their ill-gotten gains, their minds often turn to shopping…

By Harry Theaker

By Harry Theaker


Marketplaces are bustling, busy places—they are often the throbbing mercantile heart of a village, town or city. As such, the PCs will inevitably visit such places in pursuit of the things they desire. Use the table below, to add minor events of interest to the PCs’ shopping trip:

  1. A small boy quickly slips through the throng, dextrously squeezing between the shoppers and browsers. The PCs may assume the boy is a cutpurse, but in reality he is merely running an errand for his master.
  2. A massively muscled man, longsword at his hip, staggers through the marketplace with a large rolled up rug over one shoulder. Unsurprisingly, everyone gets out of the man’s way. If asked why he is carrying a rug, he replies it is for a bet. This may—or may not—be the truth. Perhaps the rug bulges suspiciously and an unconscious, tied-up kidnap victim lies within.
  3. An obviously wealthy woman strolls among the stalls examining the goods. Two servants—carry various packages and bags—and a mail-clad bodyguard trail after her.
  4. Several beggars raise their bowls to passersby, desperate for even the smallest gift.
  5. A bard—employed by a nearby stall holder who has recently taken delivery of a consignment of rare spices—strolls through the throng loudly singing the praises of Master Arman and his amazing spices. If stopped—or if the PCs show any interest in his song—he eagerly directs the PCs to Master Arman’s stall.
  6. A crowd of people have gathered around a small, nondescript stall. The owner is apparently trying to off-load a consignment of damaged cloth and is selling it at knock-down prices. He could be genuinely trying to get rid of his damaged stock, or he could be a distraction for several pick pockets slipping unseen through the throng.
  7. A pair of women stand conspiratorially gossiping in the shade of a tent. They stop suddenly, if approached.
  8. A peddler—selling vegetables from a hand cart—trundles by the party calling out his prices. He stumbles and falls, tipping over his cart. Almost instantly beggars and urchins appear and start grabbing up his produce as he desperately tries to both shovel it back into his cart and fight off the swarm of scavengers.
  9. A man argues with a store holder, loudly accusing him of selling crap. He waves an axe in the air while doing so. PCs taking any interest in the argument notice the axe head wobbles on its haft as it is waved about.
  10. A near-feral dog sniffs its way through the crowd searching for dropped titbits. He follows anyone feeding him.
  11. A cat lounges on the awning above a stall, keeping a wary eye on all who pass.
  12. Two young urchins caper through the crowd laughing and joking with each other. Their youthful exuberance annoys a trader who suspects they are clearly up to no good and he shouts at them to “be off”.
  13. Two guardsmen patrol the marketplace, keeping an eye out for arguments and cutpurses. They appear bored, though, and are easily distracted.
  14. A dishevelled man—clearly unwell, his tunic stained with vomit—staggers through the crowd (which parts before him). Eventually, he slumps against a wall, muttering to himself. (The man is not ill; he is merely suffering an epic hangover).
  15. Two traders argue—and look like they may come to blows; it seems they both paid for the same pitch and neither is inclined to give up his claim.
  16. A sudden heavy squall sends everyone running for cover. Stalls with awnings or those within tents, are suddenly very popular and the merchants therein mercilessly press their temporary advantage.
  17. One of the PCs—perhaps distracted by the market’s sights and sounds—stands in a large pile of horse manure. Unless he fastidiously cleans his shoe, the smell follows him for the rest of the day.
  18. The smell of freshly cooked meat wafts over the crowd. Nearby, a merchant selling a hog roast is doing a roaring trade.
  19. A carter tries to force his way through the throng, but almost no-one seems inclined to get out of his cart’s way. The man is clearly getting more and more frustrated and shouts loudly at anyone wandering in front of his cart.
  20. Three finely dress old ladies browse amongst the stalls while chatting loudly. Each is attended by a servant, but perceptive PCs may spot four ruffians intently watching the group.

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This article will appear in GM’s Miscellany: 20 Things II, available in March 2017.

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4 thoughts on “20 Things to See in a Busy Marketplace

  1. I think I did one better so to speak :)… I used to live in Morocco and we would go to some of the older cities and towns there to sight see and buy things. One of the first things you see when you would turn down a street would be rugs, leather drying and a bunch of other stuff hanging over the street. And then of course you would have various street vendors selling their wares. I took that idea and incorporated it into my scenarios…I have people selling chickens holding them upside down, I have cobblers making shoes, and various other foot wear. I even have tanneries, with the offending odors to boot. Some of my players told me that with that kind of descriptions and all, they feel like they are going down that street. Made me feel good:)