Patrick E. McLean : Just what it says on the tin.

Boltac’s Guide to Haggling

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The main character in my latest book is a formidable negotiator. I’ve assembled his wisdom for your benefit.


I wrote a book called the Merchant Adventurer. It’s a loving satire of fantasy stories. The idea that started it was, what does the fantasy world look like for the guy who runs the store? You know, the guy in the town that watches a steady stream of Adventures come and go. Most of getting killed in their attempt to raid a dungeon, or rid the world of an evil wizard or dragon, or whatever.

To that’s guy, adventurers probably don’t look all that heroic, y’know. Always draggin’ ass back to town, trying to pawn of some bit of junk as treasure.

A guy like that would have develop a pretty thick skin. And a pretty formidable ability to haggle.

I named this character Boltac, after the merchant in one of the seminal, groundbreaking cRPG’s of all time. Wizardry. The book is, like all good books, about more than one thing. But a goodly portion of it is about what conditions it takes for this ordinary merchant to overcome real adversity and become a hero to save someone he loves. Real heroism, rather than fake heroism.

To encourage people to join my mailing list, I made a list of Boltac’s best haggling tips, Called Better Living though Sharp Trading. And even thought I read the entire book (which is available ad-free, high quality on audible and ad-supported, podcasted on I never voiced this list of haggling tips.

And I love this thing. So this week, I give you Boltac’s Guide Better Living through Sharp Trading.

This may be the only time in your life a funny, fictional character can save you a coupla bucks.

It is prefaced,

Remember: Keep your head down and make a buck. It’s almost always the right thing to do.

1 Remember, Everything is for sale

Absolutely everything. Maybe you can’t afford it, but everything has a price tag.

2 If you don’t ask, you don’t get.

Ask for it. What’s the worst they can say? No? Then you ask again. Or you ask somebody else.

3 Don’t look a gift dragon in the mouth

It’s a hard enough getting what you want in this world. Don’t waste time with things you don’t want.

When somebody tries to give you something you don’t want, don’t waste your time trying to figure out if it’s any good or not. YOU DON’T WANT IT. If it’s a weapon, it’s gonna be cursed. If it’s a horse, it’s gonna go lame. And if it’s a Dragon, don’t check it’s teeth — it will melt your face off for sure.

4 Don’t be intimidated by a title.

Everybody grunts when they shit. And if you imagine this fact about the person you are dealing with, they will be a lot less intimidating. Take it from your digestively challenged Uncle Boltac. Everybody grunts when they shit.

5 Learn the sweet smell of fear.

When a seller is anxious, it’s time to go for blood. Don’t take a pound of flesh, go for the whole heart.

6 Know when to shattup.

Shuttin’ up puts all the pressure where it should be. On the other guy. He’ll start talking. He’ll give something away. Guaranteed. His weakness is your profit.

7 If you can’t shattup, then grunt.

No matter what they tell you, nobody knows what a grunt means. If they tell you it’s the steal of the century, even if it is, you just grunt of say something like, “en-henh.” They’ll have no idea what it means, so t

8 Always sweeten the deal.

No matter what it is if you throw in something you’d be happy to give away for free anyway, they’ll think the deal is sweetened. “You buy these boots and I’ll throw in the laces for free,” gets ’em almost every time.

9 Go for the extra

If a guy wants you to buy a sword, say, you’ll do it if he collects a debt for you. After all, that’s the only way you’ll know if that sword is truly strong and terrifying enough to be used in actual battle.

10 Never buy a horse

Seriously, this is not complicated. Don’t buy a friggin’ horse. See a horse is just something you have to take care of. If you live in a civilized place, you can just rent a horse. Then, if it bucks you off and runs away, you can sue for damages and you’re not out a horse.

Or just take a carriage, it’s better anyway.

11 Always complain about the Orc spit.

What’s an Orc? Do they even have spit? Doesn’t matter. Look for small defects that don’t really bother you (or don’t even exist) and point them out repeatedly. “I love this breastplate, but what is this? Is it covered in Troll spit?”

Conversely, you’ve got

12 Always sell the Troll spit.

Nicks and dings are character. If a sword is covered in blood, that’s how you know it works. Don’t ever apologize for a defect. It’s a feature, get it?

13 Never pay for a magic potion

Never pay a doctor until after you are healed. Sure, You can’t take it with you, but if you die, you don’t want some quack doctor taking yours with him.

And finally.

14 Know when to waddle away.

This works better for a fat person than a thin person. The point is, don’t ever look hungry. You don’t need to buy. You don’t even need to eat. You’ve got plenty. So if the price isn’t good enough… just waddle away.

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