Integrating a Stock Market into Your Role-Playing Campaign

My loyal readers are well aware of my eternal quest for greater realism in my games. I believe touches of realism can add to the underlying structure of a game campaign, making it more tangible and enjoyable for both the players and the DM.

One aspect of most RPG campaigns I find truly annoying is the juvenile approach they take to economics. DMs spend hours on the politics, religion and demographics of the world, but forget all about the economy.  Today, I will offer some ideas for integrating a functioning stock market into your world.
The first step is to define terms.  A “stock market ” or “bourse”  is a organization for groups of investors to collectively invest in various money-making operations. Historically, these included companies, commodities or other high-risk investments that no one investor could afford to purchase.  A stock market is a boon to the economy by maintaining a flow of cash throughout the economy and providing a place to seek investment for new endeavors.

Yes, this is an incredibly simplistic definition of a stock market. I want to add some realism to a campaign, not turn it into a CNBC trading game .

If you have hard-core stock market junkies at your table, then the bourse (stock market is so dull, bourse sounds better) can be the center of your campaign. Get the PC in on the ground floor as traders and go to town. If you can run a campaign like this, more power to you. Most campaigns are far more likely to use the bourse as a jumping off point for more standard adventuring scenarios.

If you still cannot see the value of a bourse in your campaign, think about the beating heart of a bourse and what drives it. The answer  is money and money is power. Men will kill, steal, lie and hire adventurers in pursuit of power.

Here are a few ideas to utilitze the bourse as an adventure generator.

Business Intelligence:

A successful bourse trader needs information to make informed investments.  Perhaps the trader in question desires to purchase  corn futures from in a distant province, betting that corn will have a high price this year. Many traders would leave it at that, praying to his favority god that the corn crop is good bad.  Successful traders send a PC party out mid-year to check on the harvest.  Bad news today ( in this case a bumper crop)  is more valuable than bad news tomorrow, when it is too late to abandon your investment and minimize losses.

PC need to travel quickly, gather the intelligence, investigate a mysterious  blight on the corn, fend off some orcs and then return to their employer, knowledge in hand. For some extra fun, have another team from a competing broker have the same information. Turn it into a cross-country race, with the victor saving his investment and the loser takes a financial bath. No teleporting!

Insider Trading:

The military is looking for a new arms supplier. Many companies submitted bids for the project. The announcement is to be made next week and the winning company’s stock is sure to rise.   It would certainly help to know the winning bidder’s name today rather than next week.  They keep the list in the “Citadel of Doom.” Perhaps someone might like to walk in and find out the winning name…

Performing/Preventing Industrial Saboetage:

A trader buys large quantities of a company’s stock, with the understanding that their main competitor will “have an industrial accident,” guaranteeing his holdings will sore.  Evil PC groups can plot the demise of a company while good PC parties are hired to protect the company under threat.

Trade Mission:

A group of investors finances a trading vessel to a distant and profitable land. It is potentially  profitable because the distant land is awash in rare spices. Most ships fall victim to pirates and natives, so the PCs are hired on as guards. This is a long-term campaign idea, in fact it might be the entire campaign by itself.

Corner the Market:

PCs are hired to purchase, steal or destroy every piece of a commodity they can find. Their employer has a large stockpile, currently worthless that will become valuable once the item is sufficiently scarce. This is more oriented to a neutral/evil party, but even good PCs can run about trying to prevent products from reaching the market.

I hope some of these ideas inspire you to introduce a bourse into your campaign. Not only is it a literal fountain of adventure hooks, it gives your world that sense of realism and depth that all players crave.

Trask, The Last Tyromancer



Trask is a long-time gamer, world traveler and history buff. He hopes that his scribblings will both inform and advance gaming as a hobby.