Let’s say you own a home. A modest one, but a valuable commodity nonetheless. Now, if I offered you a million forks for it, you would probably reply with laughter, then derision, followed by more laughter combined with hurtful pointing, and when you were finished laughing and chiding and posting videos of me to YouTube you would pick up the phone and promptly call the authorities. It wouldn’t matter that the cumulative value of the forks exceeds the value of your place. It’s like trading 101 pennies for a dollar. At some point, the math doesn’t apply. I’m not selling forks. I’m selling junk.
Now imagine the same scenario, only the homeowner happens to run a successful dinnerware business. She not only owns the stores to sell the forks, but has the distribution infrastructure to deliver them to shelves across the country. For her, I’m not selling forks. I’m selling treasure.
You might say the success of Eldar‘s business plan depends on a variety of factors. The location is important, as are the overencumbered adventurers who stock his wares. However, the hoarding of items isn’t nearly as critical as Belethor’s ability to move them. And move them he can. Every 48 hours he will spin brooms into gold and be back for more. In fact, no matter what you throw at the old Breton, he will not only purchase it, but he will boast about his ability to sell it. For him, none of it is ever, ever junk.
Some might say this is a gameplay device, and like the 7000 steps to High Hrothgar, not something you take literally. Others will contend the dialogue for Belethor, where he repeatedly talks about the value of trash, is there specifically to imply the goods are being moved. And whether you believe one or the other will dictate whether Eldar thrives, or starves.
In this sense, the economics of the world are often determined by player choices. If you are the kind of person who chooses to play realistically, you might withhold selling Belethor piles of junk, effectively turning him into an ordinary merchant. However, if you take advantage of the loopholes in the gameplay, raising your speechcraft and stocking his store every week with hundreds of dirty bowls and brooms, then you are essentially creating a world where Belethor has the ability to sell them. A world where he is more than happy to sell his home for twice the value in junk.
Eldar talks about playing the market, and how it can affect what kind of junk Belethor is willing to buy. What Eldar doesn’t realize is the market, for all its whims and vagaries, is ultimately determined by one person, and one person alone. You.