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I am exploring the forbidden example cave of doom. I find, among squillions of baddies, a shopkeeper, who just happens to sell stuff inside a deadly cave where nobody goes. Weird. I accidentally cause him to be angry, and he turns out to be more powerful than literally every monster in the game. Messed up.

So here's two questions for you: How can you justify a shopkeeper in the example cave of doom just happening to be there waiting for random adventurers to buy stuff,

and,

Is there a better way to discourage stealing stuff or killing the shop-keep' than just making them pummel you with ridiculous power?

Side note: Bonus points for linking these, explain both why and how he would be down there, in the example cave of doom, surviving without a monster sword or magic to pwn things with, and why it would be a bad idea without him possessing those things, to fight him.

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    \$\begingroup\$ This is an idea generation question more suitable for worldbuilding. \$\endgroup\$ – congusbongus Dec 16 '15 at 23:06
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    \$\begingroup\$ Are you talking about Spelunky? \$\endgroup\$ – Anko Dec 16 '15 at 23:28
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    \$\begingroup\$ worldbuilding.stackexchange.com \$\endgroup\$ – Hackworth Dec 16 '15 at 23:31
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    \$\begingroup\$ I think a better question is how you justify a "Cave of Doom" to begin with. If you're just going to throw a random cave at the player and say "go beat this", then sticking an equally random traveling merchant isn't going to raise that much more of an eyebrow. \$\endgroup\$ – Nicol Bolas Dec 17 '15 at 1:09
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Anko It's a trope of Roguelikes \$\endgroup\$ – Willy Goat Dec 17 '15 at 14:31
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  1. The cave is where the player is in the game. If we want the player to have access to a shopkeeper, we either have to put the shopkeeper right there, or else we have to build somewhere else for the shopkeeper to be, and building that somewhere else will probably be expensive (in terms of new art required, etc). Additionally, making the player go somewhere else just to find a shopkeeper probably doesn't make the game better; it just adds a bunch of backtracking, or requires that we create Scrolls of Town Portal or something. (If you were asking for an in-game-world reason to justify why a shopkeeper is in the cave, I'll point out that we're talking about "caves of doom", and so a realistic world with internally-consistent lore which will stand up to any trivial amount of scrutiny is pretty much off the table to begin with)
  2. If the goal is to stop the player from killing the shopkeeper or stealing shop contents, then make the shopkeeper not be a valid combat target and not allow the player to pick up his shop's contents without paying for them. This seems a little obvious -- almost tautological, in fact. But you asked.

Bonus points: He's down here because (according to point #1) he has to be here in order for the player to meet him, and it's presumably important for the game that the player meet him. And he's survived down here for the same reason: because he has to have survived in order for the player to meet him, and it's important for the player to meet him because if it wasn't important, we wouldn't have gone to the bother and expense of creating artwork for him.

Within the game fiction, he's survived because our world's mechanics are so thin that characters don't age, don't exercise, don't play Scrabble, don't sleep, and mostly don't eat (except occasionally in order to instantly repair themselves after being hit by a sword too often, often while the combat is still in progress). Characters don't require companionship to avoid becoming lonely, they don't require an occasional vacation, and they're happy standing stock-still on a single tile for eternity. Additionally, characters other than monsters and the player (and sometimes the player's companions) never even die, except in expensively-produced cutscenes with orchestral music.

And there's no space for an orchestra down here in the caves of doom.

Which, when you come to think of it, is actually a pretty good reason for the shopkeeper to want to live down here.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ This might work in a tongue-in-cheek parody game, but not elsewhere. In a fictional world, the rule is usually "it's like reality unless noted". This means that in a medieval-ish fantasy world the NPCs should have similar motivations as real life humans had in that time period, unless we can find a good justification or backstory to make it different. \$\endgroup\$ – vsz Dec 17 '15 at 7:13
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    \$\begingroup\$ "And there's no space for an orchestra down here in the caves of doom.", how could your answer be more perfect ? \$\endgroup\$ – Alexandre Beaudet Dec 17 '15 at 10:11
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    \$\begingroup\$ @vsz The original question didn't specify that it wanted realistic motivations. It also didn't specify a medieval-ish fantasy world (not sure where you got that from). It actually didn't specify much of anything, so my answer here was entirely mechanical in nature, apart from the silly quip in the last two sentences, which I just thought was funny and didn't think anyone would take seriously. \$\endgroup\$ – Trevor Powell Dec 17 '15 at 11:46
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Make the shopkeep a monster too

Being a freebooter, he holds no particular allegiance to one side (the cave dwelling monsters) or the other (you, the player). But for a bit of coin, he'll sell you whatever he's got. He's been hawking his wares to the other monsters in the cave for years, but you're nothing more than a walking coin pouch to him. He knows that no matter how many of his 'compatriots' you kill, more will show up eventually and his business will continue.

Or maybe monsters don't respawn in your game, in which case, after the player leaves (the cave devoid of monsters), he despawns too: he closed up shop and went off to find somewhere else to pawn his goods. Maybe you'll run across him again later somewhere else...

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    \$\begingroup\$ I have seen exactly this in fallout 3, smiling jack is a raider but isn't hostile to the player (even when the player is shooting at all the other raiders) because cash is king... or caps anyway \$\endgroup\$ – Richard Tingle Dec 17 '15 at 21:17

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