Preview: Denizens of the Plex, the Merchant

A quick note, I’m writing this while enduring a tooth ache. I’m posting so that I can keep my bi-weekly schedule, but I can only pray that it makes sense and reads well. If it doesn’t, please leave me a comment so I can fix it once my jaw stops throbbing.

That said…

This is the 22nd installment in a series of previews designed to introduce newcomers to Chronoplex. In this, the seventh in a series about typical characters found in the Plex, we take stock of one of the Plex’s most silver-tongued characters.

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The Merchant

Description: There are some items tempors simply can’t get from their local street corner vendor. Extratemporal goods are hot commodities in most GTLs, and where there is demand, there is always someone willing to supply. Merchants fill this need by buying and selling their way across the Plex. They pick up hot deals in one GTL and sell them (at significantly marked up prices) in another. Most, though not all, merchants tend to fall in one of two basic groups: entrepreneurs and hucksters.

Merchants who have been in business long enough understand the need for building relationships with suppliers and customers. These merchants, or entrepreneurs, live and die by their carefully cultivated reputations and benefit from a large network of contacts. If they don’t have an item, they usually know a guy who knows a guy that can get it. If they need to move some product, they usually know the best place to push it and who to contact for the space. If they need to acquire more goods, they usually know the best local suppliers and have already negotiated the best possible prices. Contacts are easily an entrepreneur’s greatest asset.

Conversely, less reputable, shortsighted merchants, or hucksters, are quick, slick and deceitful. They operate within the bounds of the law, but just barely. They’ll take any product they can obtain and will sell it for the highest possible price to anyone they can quick-talk into it. This practice earns hucksters a lot of unsatisfied customers, so they are seldom able to stay in one place for too long. However, having to ’start fresh’ in new locations so frequently sharpens a huckster’s ability to quickly plug in to local connections (albeit somewhat seedy ones). Hucksters may not always know the right person, but they can usually locate a serviceable one.

Relationships: Since their livelihood depends on their people-skills, merchants are almost always ‘on’ and looking for the best angle to approach prospective clients. Some people find this charming or engaging, but more jaded individuals see it as fake or off-putting. Regardless of perceptions, it is usually difficult to truly get to know a merchant because few can tell where their sales pitch ends and their true personality begins.

Spanning: All merchants travel, but entrepreneurs and hucksters tend to follow different paths. Entrepreneurs tend to span the same circuit, hitting as many large GTLs as they can in the shortest distance. Hucksters set up operations in a GTL until things get too hot, then they pack up and head for the next town, preferring to avoid any town they’ve already worked.

Talent Focus: Merchants benefit most from an emphasis on charm and savvy with a secondary focus on awareness and intelligence. Merchants are naturally gifted conversationalists and know how to manipulate people, but they also need to know how to find and/or negotiate the best deals and, in some cases, know when it’s time to leave.

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Thanks for following my progress on Chronoplex. Check back in two weeks when we uncover a rather clandestine character: The Smuggler

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