I'm playing with a relatively new group. For their fifth session they finally made it back to town and were ready to spend their hard-earned gold on local merchandise.
I had drawn up the tiny settlement already, populated it with characters they were sure to run into, added some story hooks and atmospheric touches (Wanted posters, upcoming festivals, local customs), but I felt like the place still felt a little static.
So I had a look at the market and realised it felt too stale.
Here was a settlement that it took people days to get to (there's barely any houses ; most merchants come from the surrounding farms), yet the same people were peddling their wares there every day.
So I made a list of what sort of carts would typically appear at the market and put each name on a tiny card.
Wool farmers, eel-fishers and cotton pickers were heavily represented, with a few more exciting salesmen put into the mix (potion salesman, metal tools, herbs). In addition I added a few RARE merchants like a traveling wizard, a dwarven gem transport, etc.
Then I had the players draw a number of carts each morning to see what merchants appeared at the market.
It made them way more engaged in the experience of 'going to market' and even had them roleplay more with the characters prsent. Eg; When an older, traveling druid appeared one morning, the groups druid decided to spend her entire day with him; learning about his travels, other druidic circles and even a few rumors that will help with my plot. He went from just being "Potion Salesman A' to 'Goladon - Former Warden of the Eastern Woods'.
It also gave the players a sense of urgency; eg; "We better buy some potions now while the merchant is in town!"
Do you ever do similar tricks to make your settings come alive more?
In short: I had luck engaging my players with a daily randomized card draw that represented visiting merchants to the local market.
--Original post made by Dustdown on Reddit