Welcome to Sandralene's Master Class in Economy. As in all Master Classes the input from the students are essential, but please take the entire class before trying to add anything. Any good input will be published and added to this page, with full credit to the contributor. Let's begin to discuss what is *not* good input however. Opinions alone will *never* be considered, opinions are a dime a dozen, only ideas backed with thorough analysis are acceptable on Master Level. Too difficult for you? Well, I always have a basic advice page, an advanced class in tailoring and more to choose from. Please note, as in all Master Classes, the subjects discussed will all be abstract with very little down-to-earth directly applicable methods. Getting acquainted with the underlying theory is, however, essential if you want to make the big-time bucks in UO. Oh I will be as sarcastic as I always am, don't let that disturb you, please :) Let's start with some definitions shall we?
Now, first of all we have to distinguish between a number of different personalities in playing the game. Basically, when it comes down to economics there are three different modus operandi that one may encounter. The first is the pioneers. You know the type, the first person on the shard who is able scribe 8th circle scrolls, the first person to get a virtue guard shield, the first person to mark Wind on a rune, and so on. These guys and gals are tremendous, and earn my deep respect, even if I don't belong to them. You see these persons open new markets. Now they are usually restless and move on to new frontiers when the rest of us eventually catch up with them, but without them there would be no markets at all. Due to their nature, they rarely have the stamina necessary to run a long-term operation, and we should all be thankful for that, they would crush us by their inventiveness if they did.
Then we have the lamers, the stupid and the clueless. This type is very easy to recognize, they hear about the exploits of some pioneer and goes "me too". Then they copy the pioneer exactly and keep on doing the same thing over and over and over mindlessly, not seeing that they are screwing themselves, everybody else and the entire UO economy up by their moronic behavior. I bet they would urinate on their own living room carpet too in real life if they got relieved for the time being. Don't belong to this group, it's not only very stupid, it's actually counterproductive. I will give you an example of this type of behavior just to show you what to avoid. A person in Vesper had a house and vendor like I have. Now this person had seen me selling very well from my Lingerie Shoppe and asked me how I went about doing this. I explained some parts of how I behave, and what do you think he does next? He recalls around every tanner in Sosaria buying up every piece of hide he can find, manufacturing nothing but female plate armor and try selling them at 95 gold pieces each at his vendor (undercutting me by 55). Now why is this stupidity? Well first of all he should get his production costs straight, how much does it cost in reagents recalling around until you find a spawn - just use a pen and paper to find out, and if he is good enough mage already he will not even improve his magery doing that. Secondly doing nothing but plate armor may look good on paper but each NPC will buy only 4 or 5, forcing him to recall or run around even more trying to sell off what he produced, and remember - time IS money, don't waste it like that, it's loosing proposition in reality. Thirdly buying up an entire spawn and flooding NPCs with useless items does nothing but annoy other players, and if it's one thing you need in UO - it is friends, not enemies. Lastly putting out 25 female plate armor on his vendor is downright nonsense, no matter what price he demands. Very, very few females can actually use a female plate armor, unless you're Xena's sister you probably want studded leather anyway. So the stock will just sit with the vendor leeching away money by the minute. Quadruple stupidity - do I have to say any more? I haven't even mentioned the fact that these fellows don't even try to role-play...
Now to mention the third type, the type I belong to, the analytic persons. We are the type who see what those marvelous pioneers do and go "I can do that, *but* if I tweak it in *this* manner it would be even better". We take other persons ideas and improve on them, trying to maintain balance and keeping other players happy in the process, adapting to changes as we go along. Yes, this option does require some thinking for yourself, not as much as being a pioneer though, you do not have to be Einstein, but if you believe you can take a Master Class in the first place, I assume that you actually are a thinking human being. To truly fit into this category, you also must like to deal with other people in a friendly manner. If your favorite greeting phrase to another person is "Vas Flam" then maybe you should go "Dread-Ladying" and play "Queen-of-the-hill" in Covetous Treasure Room all night instead. Nothing wrong with that option when it comes to playing UO, I admit that, but it will *not* make you a successful businesswoman, I assure you. To connect to the example I gave previously, when I hit a major spawn I only purchase maybe one-third of it, leaving the rest to others. And I do not manufacture more than say 5-6 female plate armors, putting maybe three of them into my shops, selling the other three to NPCs for some cash. Instead I try to create those items I sold out preciously with my vendors, gorgets and studded leather armor mainly, sometimes gloves, as you know I *never* make male armor - that is *not* my business. Also I do not go chasing hides recalling around. If I really, really need those hides I stay put in one place scribing scrolls while waiting, using my time sensibly.
Now selling straight from your pocket (or in reality out of your bank-vault) in the town-square is not a very smart thing to do in the long run. It might be a great way to start up your business in the first place, but eventually you will get fed up with the lag, the thieves and the morons that hang out there. You should go with a vendor as soon as possible. We will be talking vendors next. The following issues are essential when you set up your first vendor.
Let's talk about these issues one by one. Location is *the* most essential thing to think about. The placement of your shop is directly related to how much you are going to sell. One thing to realize is that players are much more likely to take a closer look at your vendor's inventory if it is located within a protected area, being killed by a monster or PK while busy looking through a vendor is not fun at all to most players. You should also select a placement along a well-traveled route. A vendor in the middle of nowhere might not see a customer for days and days, as might a vendor placed on an island. Going mainland in or near a major city are the best spots. Now we all know that many of those good locations are already taken by other players; that should come as no surprise. Be very thorough when you scout for a position to place your house and vendor, take your time, examine, and look around. Your house or tent does *not* have to come up the very same minute you buy the deed. If you look around you might find a great empty spot making you ten times the cash a site in another lesser area might, you will get back your time spent, in hard gold pieces, if you just stay patient and play it "cool" for a little while. (Note - even though I hate using the much abused word "cool" - I *do* know how to spell it correctly - "kewl" or other truly lame variants are just too abhorrent).
Next, limit what you put out with your vendor. First of all, limit the quantities, be advised that you vendor demands a percentage of your stock value and having a lot of unsold expensive items just sitting there is not good money management. Furthermore you might just like to have a stock reserve in your bank-vault to re-supply from time to time without having to put in the work there and then - but I will get back to this issue later. Secondly, make a trademark. Sure you could go around being a supermarket selling everything that came your way, problem is though too many people does precisely that, nobody remembers you if you do that. You *have* to stand out from the crowd in some manner if you want your customers to take any notice and maybe even come back for a second shopping trip. Trademarks are very much underrated in UO, but they are important and can spell the difference between a mediocre and a tremendously successful vendor. Also go "supermarketing" do make you look a bit like a "clueless lamer" and we wouldn't want that, now would we? Style is extremely important, I cannot repeat this too often. Think about it for a second, what kind of shops do *you* remember when you go shopping around yourself?
Then we have the issue of selecting useful articles. Now female plate armor is *not* a bulk article, if you specialize in lingerie like myself, you might like to have two or three in store just for completeness sake, but you will soon find out that studded leather and normal leather is what sells in quantities. Why? Figure that out for yourself, I already told you previously if you read close enough. The same principle goes if you are a blacksmith instead of tailor - don't do only plate armor! Players want other items to actually wear and use in much greater quantities. But there are other articles to mention here, scrolls are always very good of course, complete scroll sets will sell out the minute you put them out usually. Runes can be lucrative, as can shields, bows and x-bows if your prices are good enough. Very specialized and rarely sold articles like furniture should be manufactured on demand only. Magical items are a sure seller; just get your own item id and arms lore working first before trying out that market. Do *not* try to cheat on other players when selling magical things - they might just know those skills themselves, and they will get mighty angry if they see you are trying to trick them and then they just walk away. If you are selling complete spell books for instance - sell it in separate components - empty book plus 64 scrolls in a box. We have all seen that "empty spell-book sold as a full one" trick performed in the city square, haven't we? Very few players will trust you, or even take their time to identify it, if you announce a complete, already scribed, book for sale at your vendor. A non-useful and counterproductive line of articles are reagents. There are few things that pisses another player off as much as recalling around ten empty magic shops in search of pearls, mandrake or blood moss only to find them eventually with a vendor at triply marked-up prices. This is not a useful item at all, remember what I said about friends and enemies. If you sell reagents like that, you will probably take the blame for any shortage even if it's not your fault at all.
Next we come to a fun part, advertising. Those of you residing on Catskills who like to go on sightseeing occasionally, like me (no, I do not work all the time), might have come across a book in an odd place with an advertisement for my shop lying around some bookshelf. Yes I do that, inscribe small messages in books left by other players, sometimes I even carry around promotion books to hand out to people. I also sometimes carry around a few runes leading straight to one of my vendors to give away as promotion items. Giving away a rune like that is one sure way to get a customer to at least look at your things. Even if the player you gave it to loses it by some tragic accident, the looter or PK:er might be a curios individual as well. Preparing a virtual shopping page, like the one I have, is also a way of telling your clients that you mean serious business, since most people know that a web-page do take some time to put together. If you show that you care about your business, most customers will get a positive image of you. The way you appear to others is very important - as I said you *must* like working with other people. You might even want to prepare an official player event, such as a scavenger hunt or charity event, when you open a shop. But, mind you, this is probably going to cost you many thousands of gold-pieces in gifts or prizes to get peoples' interest high enough. Plan such an event very carefully and long in advance, and asking for aid from GMs, counselors or other players might be necessary.
The best advertisement, however, is you yourself. Standing outside your shop greeting your customers is a very, very good way of doing business. When you do, don't just stand there without anything to do, tailor, scribe scrolls, practice magic or whatever's useful to do meanwhile. Ask a potential customer if you can aid her, maybe she wants an item which is not with your vendor but in your bank-vault. Now you might understand why I recommended your first shop to be within a guard-protected area, it's much safer. If you perform this in a non-protected spot, be prepared to recall away the same split-second a threat, real or perceived, appears on your screen. A whole hide is better than having it nicked by some nasty PK:er, especially if you like me spend a fortune on researching that Remove Cellulites spell for my delicate skin. Appearance is everything, I know I repeat myself here, but it *is* important. Now speaking about appearance, create an outfit so that you are easily recognized, the ability of being recognizable one screen away in a city can make you a lot of money making your customers come to you instead of you having to search for them. You should take your time creating that outfit and once you're satisfied - stick with it - always. Now, orc masks or bone helmets are *not* a good thing to wear in this case. Stay away from bone armor as much as possible, people wearing it can be very untrustworthy in my experience. All long-time players know why this is the case. Oh, there are exceptions even to this rule, now just take a look at one of my young top-models, Freja, how beautifully and stylishly she combines those bone leggings with the sandals and studded leather armor, but as I said this is an exception. An orc helmet and a robe does not constitute a good business dress, no matter how nice you color it. Now that you understand how important it is to be unique and stylish in the world of business, run down to my shop and buy one of my city outfits immediately, you are going to look so lovely wearing it, I assure you.
Now that you start selling, keep track of just what you sell - this is called market analysis. It is almost impossible to do a good solid analysis beforehand, you will have to use educated guesses and information from other players, but you can surely see after a while which articles in your inventory that are selling well. Plan for manufacture of those items beforehand, otherwise you might end up being away from UO for several days and then coming back finding your vendor sold out on certain things. At this moment you might go "Oh, no, I just don't want to manufacture that right now - I planned for hunting drakes (or whatever)". But if you already have a backup supply in your bank-vault, it's a matter of minutes to replace all items sold and put your vendor back into working order. Then you can go off on that drake-hunting tour or however you usually spend your free time away from business. Oh yes, I agree, free time is important, I wouldn't enjoy the wealth I earned from my business if I couldn't just recline from time to time in my throne within my large main office. And while doing so, looking out on the clueless sod who try to open my front doors in vain, hoping that I might have left them unlocked...
There are very good reasons for not letting your vendor go empty. Not only is it impossible for anybody to do business with an empty vendor, there are few things so pathetically looking than a sold-out vendor that never restocks. Actually the only thing I can think about that even come close are the lamers hanging out in the town square spurting "intelligent" sentences like "kewl d00d" to each other. Also note that a vendor will cost you even if he doesn't have anything to sell, and if the vendor runs out of money he will self-destruct, and what do you think will happen to any remaining things that vendor is holding then? Correct answer - they fall on the ground for other players to pick up for free. Now how long do you think it would take for other players to loot and steal everything that have fallen on the ground? My guess is 0.3 seconds, but I might be off by 0.1 second or so...
The last thing we will cover with a single vendor operation is the ability to adapt to changes. This is the area where the analytic mind scores 10-0 over the clueless. If you have other vendors nearby who sells similar items, go look at *their* prices from time to time. If you are being hopelessly outclassed in a price war - rather leave that line of items altogether instead of trying to compete in a game where you will loose money. As I said, use a pen and paper (or maybe Excel if you are computer-freak) to really get a grip on you costs. Also some items, like runes have a saturation point, since every rune bought usually gets to be duplicated a couple of times by their buyer. Be prepared for a market to go baisse. Now I told you keep a stock in your bank-vault as a back-up, common sense will tell you not to make that stock too large. If you find out about a new interesting market a pioneer has discovered, figure out how to tweak it in a unique way as soon as possible and go systematic into it, the sooner you enter a particular market the better. Just remember to pace yourself and think ahead. It avails you not having 50 runes to Wind with your vendor or in your bank-vault, when everybody and her sister already have one of those, no matter what price you charge. Even reality might change, OSI might decide that recalling into Wind is forbidden in their next patch, and what are you going to do then? Putting up your biggest "Caveat Emptor" smile is surely not a good way to make friends. But some markets are perpetually good - selling Recall scrolls for example - be sure to identify and exploit these markets to their fullest extent and as soon as you are able to.
Now that we know all about the basics of running one vendor, we will talk about going from one to multiple vendors. At one point you will realize that you are making so much cash that you can open a second (or even third or forth) operation. There are two ways, which are *not* mutually exclusive, going about doing this. You either adapt each vendor to each particular market or set up a global chain of identical shops, or combine both ideas in some manner. The first choice has several beneficial things to it. First of all, you will always stay tuned to each and every market, and make an optimum amount of cash from each and every vendor. The downside of this is that you have to be able to handle and remember a tremendous amount of information, which can make you confused. But you have understand that for instance the market in Minoc is *very* different from say that in Vesper. Now you can have a shop like mine in Vesper, and set up a similar one in Minoc. Then the first customer comes along and you ask him to look at your fine selection of scrolls. When he replies "no thanks, I've already eaten today", don't be surprised, he might actually never have seen a scroll, even less know what they are good for - no - I'm not joking with you here. But that same person who imagined scrolls to be edibles could very well be a Grand Master smith. Now wouldn't he be just the person to ask to repair and touch-up all those magical weapons you're selling in Vesper - hmm? He also probably knows everything there is to know about non-female armor, maybe that could be the market here if you just could get his cooperation? Just don't sell him any earthquake scrolls or the like for everybody's well-being.
The other method, setting up identical shops, has the advantage that it saves you time and thinking. If a market on one item in one city drops below zero, then you can just move the items to a different vendor in a different city. This method also increases your trademark recognition factor, having multiple shops all named the same thing, is not a bad marketing idea - sort of like "McDonalds" if you like. (And what a terrible comparison that was you might think - but it works in real life - now, doesn't it?) Your particular method should be adapted to whatever *you* feel like being the easiest way, handling multiple shops is tricky enough anyway. Always, no matter how you plan to design your shops, create a business route you can easily Recall around checking out each and every vendor in turn, refreshing your houses if necessary. You *must* have that recall spell available to oversee more than one shop, you will loose too much valuable time on the road otherwise. Now you could of course rent the shops to other players, this is a method which relies on mutual trust so it's a tricky concept in UO unfortunately, but it can be done.
Now I've spoken volumes about how to go about these things alone, and some students may ask, "Wouldn't all this be much easier to do if you belonged to a guild co-operating?" My reply to this is naturally "Heavens, no! Guilds commonly require you to wear guild colors, and I'd rather die than be seen wearing a dress just like the woman next to me". It's as easy as that. And besides, it's wealth is much more fun if it is *not* shared with others too much. Finally I would like to supply you with a few sayings. Unfortunately there are very few old sayings really applicable to UO so I had to construct a couple of new ones myself from my own experience - enjoy.
"To succeed in business in Vesper, you have to be quick with five things. Your abacus, your tongue, your needles, your quill and your hand extended in friendship to the person who helps you selflessly"
"Even in the eyes of a Dread Lady, gold glitters more than blood"
"Just because an ettin has two heads, it doesn't mean it's twice as smart as a troll"
I'm a lamer who like to be stupid and clueless... take me back to the Main Page.