Professions: The Rune Seller

The Rune Seller, by Buzz Aldridge, Runeland West of Lake Superior

I sell runes. A lot of runes. In the past 59 months I've sold over 251,000 runes and have grossed just over 200 million in gold just from runes. I sell about 152 runes a day, every day, and the average rune sells for 794 gold. And that doesn't even cover the runes I sold for about 13 months where I wasn't keeping track. Have I got your attention?

Many shops "dabble" in rune sales (i.e., one vendor selling some city runes or with five or six locations inconsistently stocked) and there are some notable rune libraries (some of which have my name on the runebooks) around Lake Superior but you have to recall to the library and then to the location you're heading to, thus wasting a set of recall reagents. In my mind, it's always been better to have the runes available to you wherever you are. And now with runebooks staying with you when, God forbid, you die, there is no reason to leave those frequently used runes in the bank. However, in speaking with other shop owners, I often hear the misconception voiced that a shop, which primarily sells runes, won't make any gold. As you can see from the above numbers, nothing is further from the truth.

My purposes in writing this article are to update the information from the original article (there have been tons of changes since the original article was written over two years ago), to describe my shop, Runeland (tm) West, and to pass on some tips on how others can be successful at setting up similar businesses.

How I Got Started

I got into the travel business by accident. I, like many other fledgling mages, struggled to hone my craft through the normal steps:

  1. Hunt to earn gold to buy reagents.
  2. Use the reagents to practice magery.
  3. Repeat.

Oftentimes, the shop in Trinsic (where I started) ran out of reagents. So I had to make the Trinsic-to-Britain run (literally) a few times a week. As you can imagine, for a relatively young mage, this trek was not only fairly tedious (moongate travel was much less predictable in the early days so overland travel seemed to be almost as fast and certainly more interesting) but was also treacherous as both hostile creatures and those who preyed on weaker people were in abundance (Trammel had not been discovered yet).

When I was finally able to build my magery skill high enough, I began to experiment with the Mark spell, casting it very inconsistently at first, but with more accuracy through practice. I, as many before me, marveled at the ease with which marked runes aided in travel.

I then set out to explore Sosaria. I got into the habit of marking a rune at each city that I encountered and was eventually able to get all 14 cities plus the entrance to Wind marked (the Lost Lands had not been discovered at this time). I also moved from Trinsic to Moonglow, where reagents were more plentiful (due in no small part to the presence of six mage shops). It was around this time that I began to see and hear people congregate around the bank to sell their wares. After mentioning my collection of runes, which now also included the seven dungeon entrances and the nine shrines, I was asked by friends to make sets for them. After doing this a few times (and after NOT hearing others selling similar items) I decided to try to sell runes at the bank. The idea quickly caught on and I was almost immediately swamped with orders. Not only was I earning gold at a very good rate but my skill in magery (by now at an adept level) was also improving on a consistent rate. It was a win-win situation. The gold I earned allowed me to purchase a tent (yes, I've been around THAT long), which was placed outside of the west gate of Moonglow (the shop's original location), and to hire the services of a vendor, once they became available, to sell runes and rune sets for me. This endeavor was successful enough to eventually lead to the replacement of the tent with a shop and the addition of six more rune vendors. Finally the shop became so successful that I was able to open a second shop (Runeland (tm) West) in Trammel.

How Do I Sell So Many Runes?

It's actually quite easy but is a lot of work in practice..

I no longer sell runes individually (I'll explain why in a bit) but I have sold a considerable number of individual runes (around 21,000) so, for those that would like to do so, I'll discuss how I used to do it...

When the original shop in Felucca was working at peak capacity, I had 6 rune vendors. Four of these sold individual runes while the other 2 sold sets. The individual rune vendors were organized in the following manner:

  1. Each vendor had a book (designated as "not-for-sale") that was labeled with the types of runes being sold - "Felucca Cities," for example.
  2. I used rows of single coins as "place markers." These were labeled with the name of the rune that was for sale (which was placed below the coin) and with the price for that rune. Not only did this give me an easy way to determine what was selling (and what to restock), it also let the potential buyer know what was available, even if I was out of a particular rune at the time. As an interesting aside, I occasionally found that careless people would buy the placeholder coins for the price of a rune (oops!).
  3. I placed the runes on the vendor in alphabetical order. This made finding the right rune easier for the customer.

On the set vendors, I again used the book to indicate whether the sets are for Felucca or Trammel. However, I didn't use coins as place markers. Since I was never sure from day-to-day what sets would be sold, I would just group the same sets together. In addition, I used a pack bag to hold sets that include 2 or more books (like Mage and Armor Shop sets). I also dyed the bags that contain the same sets the same color (i.e., Felucca Mage Shop set bags were dyed purple while the Trammel Mage Shop set bags were dyed green, etc.). Since I do still sell multiple sets to guilds fairly regularly, they and others come to associate the color with a certain set so it makes it easy for them to locate the set they want. With the introduction of rune/runebook dye tubs, I continue the practice of using a consistent dying scheme for runebooks.

The day-to-day operation of the shop was fairly routine once the organization of the vendors was set up. Each day, I would check the individual rune vendors and restock runes that were out of stock. Then I would work on special orders (if I had any). Once those were caught up, I would work on sets that I thought would sell.

As noted above, I no longer sell individual runes except under special circumstances, such as getting a request for an especially interesting location that I don't sell otherwise (i.e., as part of some sort of set). The primary reasons for this are pretty simple - space, convenience, and profit. With the discovery of the "recipe" for runebooks, I could place a full city set on a vendor and only take up one item slot instead of 16 item slots for individual city runes. Plus, my experience has been that most people prefer buying a full set of something with one click versus piecing that same set together through 16 clicks (human factors as a science works well in this setting). Finally, once runebooks were introduced, the volume of sales (and profit) increased exponentially. It's just basic math - if, on a vendor, I sell individual runes for the 16 traditional Trammel cities (the 14 Sosarian cities plus the two Lost Land cities), I gross 2950 gold (175 x 14 plus 250 x 2). However, if I sell 16 Trammel City runebooks (which include these same 16 runes) at 4250 per book (my current price), I gross 68000 gold. Thus, the decision regarding continuing to sell individual runes or selling only runesets in runebooks quickly becomes a "no-brainer."

A Sample Marking Session

The process of marking is simple to the point of being automatic. I break everything down into 6's and 8's (rows and columns of blank runes, respectively, within a pack bag). The reason for this is more practical than mystical. I currently have an intelligence of 120, a magery skill of 120, and a meditation skill of 100. I can mark six runes and still have about 25 mana left (this is important in the event that you're marking a dangerous spot and need to either fight or flee quickly). Eight columns are used because it's a real trick to neatly get 9 or more in one of those bags. It takes some practice to quickly line up the runes but it makes keeping them organized (a CRITICALLY important issue) so much easier. Here's how it looks with 96 runes:

In addition, runebooks carry 16 runes so lining up the runes in 8 columns means 2 rounds of blank rune buying for a run of 6 full books. So, prior to going on a marking run, I make 6 runebooks, usually buy at least 48 blank runes, and carry 75 of each of the recall reagents (black pearl, blood moss, and mandrake root, which, coincidentally, are also the 3 mark reagents - This does not take into account the use of armor with lower reagent cost properties. I'll talk about this later). I take about 5-8 minutes to get the runes organized and then I'm off to mark.

During a "rune run" (a marking session), I recall to the location I'm marking, move away from the landing area one or two steps in some direction (except for ore location sets or treasure map location sets - more on these later). I then mark (usually) six runes. Never, never, never mark where you first land (other than the exceptions noted above) as you don't want your master rune blocked. I try hard to mark in a slightly different place on each "run" that I make to decrease the chances that the buyer will be blocked but it's not practical from a time perspective to change the location each individual time you mark. The odds of someone recalling to the same spot at the same time within a lot of 6 marked runes are fairly remote and I have not had complaints of this happening. I then relabel each rune using UO Curse (thank you Xena!). A friend suggested this to me and it has cut my marking time by 30 percent (I actually timed it once when I was bored). I then actively meditate (my mana has usually passively regenerated to about 65-70). When I hit full mana capacity, I recall to the next spot and repeat the process. Using the above steps, I can mark 6 full Trammel City sets (96 runes) in about 35-40 minutes. For the treasure map location sets, I mark them one-step south (or east if south is blocked by terrain) of the actual location of the chest in order to avoid blocking by the chest. I also make sure the customer knows this. For the ore location sets, I mark the rune at the place where my miner found the vein. There is a chance of blocking but customers are paying for the exact location so blocking is tolerated a bit more.

Why Does the Shop Work So Well?

I am convinced that there are five reasons the shop is as successful as it is.

The first reason is location. Runeland (tm) was located outside the west gate of Felucca Moonglow for over the 3 years. It's on the way to great animal hunting and to the Lycaeum. It's close to the city gate and is relatively pk-free. I've also been very firm about antisocial activity in the shop. If I, or any of the other vendor owners, observe any attempts to harm or harass customers, the offending individual is banned, period - no warnings, no exceptions. Given the relative uniqueness of the shop, this threat (followed through with on several occasions) has been a very effective deterrent. So most of the time, the customers mind their manners. In the original shop, the customer make up could be very interesting with both reds and blues intermingling. The Trammel shop, Runeland (tm) West, is located due west of the Moonglow moongate along the coast. As with the original shop, the woods of southern Moonglow are full of resources (both wildlife and trees) and the shop is also near some other popular shops. Pks are, of course, not an issue. The shop has now been open for about 3 years and I have yet to ban anyone.

Second, the shop usually offers a good selection of merchandise: In addition to the rune vendors, the shop has several general item vendors, a scroll vendor, an add-on vendor, and a bowcrafting vendor. I often also have the services of a potion vendor but the turnover has been high - I think I've had 5 during the 6 years the shop has been in operation. I've never really understood why this is. I should note that others run the scroll and potion vendors. When I've had six rune vendors running at the same time, they've been organized in the following way: Two individual city rune vendors (one each for Felucca and Trammel); two individual dungeon and shrine rune vendors (again one each for Felucca and Trammel); and two set vendors (one each for Felucca and Trammel, yet again). In the past, I have also had a vendor set up solely for the Lost Land entrances and locations and a vendor for Specialty Areas, such as islands or other landmarks of note. Currently, I have two vendors selling runes: one vendor selling Felucca runesets and one vendor selling Trammel runesets (I place the one regular Malas runeset that I sell on the Trammel vendor).

Third, for the most part, the shops have been stocked on a pretty consistent basis. Note: an inconsistently stocked shop will kill a business! I'm not the first to say this but the concept applies to the travel business just as it does in any other business. Now, every shop owner has had times when he or she has had to be away for extended periods of time and the vendors have sold out. If this happens every once in a while there's usually not a problem. However, if you have empty vendors for long periods of time, kiss any regular clientele goodbye. You not only lose out on immediate sales but there's a ripple effect in that a customer coming for a runeset you're out of is less likely to return in the future. I work hard to keep the vendors stocked with the "basic" runesets (described below) at least. If I'm not going to be in game for a bit due to RL work, vacation, etc. then I leave a message to that effect at the shop.

Fourth, my customers know that they can trust my runes. This is going to sound obvious but it's important enough to warrant mentioning directly: complete and accurate labeling is critical! I like to know where I'm going to land when I recall and I assume that customers are the same. So, here's how to label a rune: double-left click on the already marked rune, which then leads to a prompt for a new label. I use several naming conventions depending on the set I'm marking. Most runes are labeled using the following format: "<name of location> - <specific area within the location>". For instance, a typical city set rune might be labeled, "Moonglow - Center of Town." A rune in a mage shop set might be labeled, "Britain - The Sorcerer's Delight." When the Lost Lands were opened, I started using the prefix "[T2A]:" for any rune marked within the Lost Lands so that the buyer knew that he or she couldn't recall to it from a regular Sosarian location. Now that direct recall is possible in Trammel, I've dropped this convention. I've also used the "[T]:" prefix for Trammel runes but my customers are now pretty familiar with the Felucca/Trammel/Malas color schemes in runebooks (green, purple, and gray, respectively), so I have stopped this practice.

An additional, but no less important, aspect of this issue is to make sure that the rune is labeled correctly!!! I have a good friend who told me that, before he discovered Runeland (tm), he bought a rune to the entrance to Hythloth (he thought). The first (and only) time he recalled off the rune, he ended up in Hythloth just as the rune said. However, instead of the entrance, he recalled to the 4th level. Now, I don't know how many of you have been to the 4th level of Hythloth but I was there once for about 15 seconds before I was killed by a daemon and I went there knowing where I was heading... To say my friend was surprised would most likely be an understatement. Runes aren't like GM armor where you can see a maker's mark, so you're really asking your customers to trust that the rune goes where you say it does. Now, runes are imprinted with the facet they were marked in which helps but there are still a lot of places to land within each facet. To my knowledge, I have sold 15 runes that were mislabeled. I apparently wasn't paying attention while marking (I think South Park was on at the time) and I replaced those as fast as I could (luckily, 12 of those were to the same location). Everyone makes mistakes now and then but mistakes on a regular basis are a disaster for any shop.

This issue is especially critical if you choose to sell high-end (i.e., expensive) runesets, such as ore location or treasure map runesets. I used the Treasure Hunters of Britannia's maps for setting up my treasure map set. These are placed in the runebooks in the order that the THB has them but are labeled with coordinates of the chest. For the ore location sets, the labels are the abbreviation of the ore plus my location number, as in "A #13," "Ve 3," or "B #22."

Finally, I try to add new sets on a regular basis. Right now, I can sell about 30 different sets for either Felucca or Trammel. I don't have the time to keep all 30 stocked at all times so what I do is keep some sets in stock regularly. These usually include city and dungeon entrance sets, mage shop sets, and bank sets. I'll mark other types of sets when someone requests them or when I have some idle time. I get ideas for new sets when a customer asks me to mark a set that I don't presently carry or when a situation arises that makes sense for a new set. The most recent set I've added was one for Trammel that includes locations for the seven static quests (i.e., the Solen Quests, the Collector's Quest, and the Hag's Quest). The set is a 48-rune, 3-book set that sells for 35k. I've sold about 200 sets so far. I'll also experiment with sets to see what sells. FYI, on Lake Superior, Bank sets sell very well while Bowyer sets don't (well, they do sell, just not as fast as other sets). This experimentation is also attractive to regular customers, especially those looking to build rune libraries. Anything new is "another book for the library!"

Pricing Issues (Warning: Technical!)

Pricing sets has represented an evolutionary process. Here are the issues I have considered when pricing runes and runesets:

Runes currently cost about 28 gold each to make - 1 blank rune (average cost: 15 gold), 1 black pearl (average cost: 5 gold), 1 blood moss (average cost: 5 gold), and 1 mandrake root (average cost: 3 gold). Runebooks cost about 89 gold to make - 8 blank scrolls (average cost: 40 gold), 1 blank rune (average cost: 15 gold), 1 gate travel scroll (average cost to make: 16 gold), and 1 recall scroll (average cost to make: 18 gold). I'm aware that the above doesn't take into account the cost to recall to the location prior to marking (but I do include that in my Excel spreadsheet). Factoring in the cost of the runebook and the recalling to and marking of a location results in a cost per rune in a runebook of just a tad over 39 gold. I don't completely fill every runebook I sell - some full sets have only six runes in them whereas some two-book sets have only one rune in the second book (the Trammel Bank set for instance) so those of you who make of point of filling books completely should expect a slightly lower cost per rune in a runebook result.

My pricing policy has evolved over the past six years as follows:

Initial Rune Pricing

When I started selling runes in Felucca, the pricing of individual runes was originally fairly straightforward. Cities were 100 gold (Delucia, Papua, and the entrance to Wind were 150); Shrines were 125 if on the mainland and 150 if on an island; and Dungeon entrances were 175. Sets for these were calculated by adding up the individual runes that made up the sets and adding 750 for the runebook. For example, a Felucca Dungeon set sold for 1975 (175 x 7 + 750), which led to a rough profit of 1655 (1975 - 320). Not a bad way to make a living (and I couldn't keep them in stock)! A last constant that I used was 150 for islands.

When the Lost Lands were discovered, I continued to use the above as a base but added another factor: dangerousness. So, when selling a rune to Cyclops (or Titan) Valley, the price jumped to 300; and a rune to the Terathan Temple cost 350 (the same price as a rune to the butte near the Ophidian Stronghold). The other locations were variants of the prices.

The above prices form the basis from which the other Felucca rune sets were derived. When selling a new rune, I considered already established prices for a comparable rune. For instance, when a specialty set was created (bowyer or tinker shops, for example), I used the formula 125 times the # of locations in the set + 750 per runebook included. I chose 125 for the price of an "in-city" specialty rune since it goes to a very specific location. In this example, Felucca Tinker shop sets sold for 1875 (125 x 9 + 750). The Felucca Mage Shop set (the very first specialty set I sold) was set up in a slightly different fashion. I initially made this set up for my own use (to purchase reagents primarily) and eventually started selling them at the shop. I assumed that others would pay reasonably well for the convenience of going straight to the shop they're heading to and simply picked a price that I felt was fair - 6000 gold per set in this case.

The Trammel Variations

All of the above applied until Trammel was introduced. You may recall the amazing prices being charged for runesets right after Trammel opened. For instance, I remember seeing someone actually charging 10000 gold for a set of Trammel cities (and keeping a straight face)! I chose not to charge triple (or even quadruple, in some cases) the prices of my Felucca sets for Trammel sets. Instead, I assumed the demand would be higher for these new sets and felt it was reasonable to charge more as a result. So, I chose to multiply the price of the corresponding Felucca set by a factor of 1.75 to arrive at the Trammel price. So the Felucca City set that I sold for 2425 gold became the Trammel City set that I sold for 4250 (2425 x 1.75 = a rounded-up price of 4250). I have no idea where I came up with that multiplier but it's worked well to this day and sales of Trammel sets have outpaced Felucca every year except the first.

Ouch! I've Been Pk'd...Again!

The last major pricing policy occurred about two years ago, following an especially difficult week during which I was killed by reds on several occasions while marking Felucca runesets. After the last death, I started questioning my decision to have different prices for Felucca and Trammel, especially when I was charging about 40% less for the more dangerous facet! So, I decided to increase the Felucca set prices to "Trammel-level." It's worked out fine - sales are still better for Trammel but now, if I'm killed while marking in Felucca, I'm consoled somewhat by the fact that I'm paid pretty well to take the risk.

High-End Runesets

The final pricing issue is the pricing of high-end runesets. By high-end, I'm referring to any set that I sell for over 25k. Currently I sell seven such sets: In Trammel, I sell the aforementioned Quest Set (35k), a Lockpicking Set (75k), an ore location set (300k), and a Treasure Map Locator set (500k); in Felucca, I sell an ore location set (400k) and a Treasure Map Locator set (600k); and in Malas, I sell an ore location set (350k).

When I initially decide to sell a set in these price ranges, I frankly research the heck out of the locations included. The first set I sold was the Felucca ore set. This was constructed in the following fashion: 1) I did an initial survey of the mining areas with a miner (duh!) while working his skills up to GM-level; 2) I mapped the sites using UO Automap, making special note of those sites that yielded at least 6 large ore; and 3) Once at GM-level, I revisited each site with a colored ore that initially yielded at least 6 large ore and those sites that seemed low in their yield (i.e., a site that only yielded 7 large iron piles) as these seemed to be likely locations of Agapite, Verite or Valorite veins. If the site yielded at least 6 large ore a second time, a rune was marked at the spot, numbered (e.g., Ve #1, for Verite #1), and placed in a runebook. I was able to fill two books for each color up through Agapite and more than one book each of Verite and Valorite. This process took about 2 months of fairly concentrated effort per facet to complete. I was then able to start advertising the set. The "gimmick" to this set is that I use random number tables to assign individual sites to the set so the likelihood of two people getting the exact same locations is astronomical. People, myself included, like to know that they're receiving a "one of a kind" item. One factor that also helps with this "uniqueness" notion is that I do not sell individual ore books (i.e., a single book with just Valorite in it) although I get asked pretty routinely. My reasoning is that it's not fair to those who have shelled out 300k or 400k for a full set of books. People have gotten "cranky" with me on this but I've been pretty firm on the issue.

To be honest, I can't remember exactly how I came to the original price of the Felucca Ore set (300k) but I do recall getting the notion that around 2000 gold per site sounded about right, especially when considering the research time involved. Rounding that up to 300k worked pretty well. After Felucca resources were doubled, I increased the price to 400k and have since sold about 50 sets.

Finally, the other high-end sets (t-map, quest, and lockpicking) were priced based on the amount of time it took to set them up, the amount of time it takes to mark a set, the number of books/runes included (13/200, 3/48, and 2/32, respectively), and the dangerousness of the locations included. The Felucca T-Map set is somewhat unique in that I hate making the set, so I set the price at 600k thinking that no one would pay such a crazy price and I wouldn't have to mark a set... Shows what I know - I've sold about 30 sets :).

General Tips

Here are some general tips/issues to consider if you're thinking about becoming a "travel agent":

  1. I strongly recommend that you GM Inscription. If you are a mage, you get a bonus to some spells. In addition, you fail much less when making the components for runebooks, especially the 7th circle spell, gate travel. Finally, as a GM Scribe, you have a chance to affix a maker's mark on each exceptional runebook you make. This maker's mark (i.e., my name) acts as an ad for those who see it. I can't tell you the number of times that people have walked up to me and said, "I have a runebook with your name on it."
  2. When deciding what runesets to sell, I suggest you start off with the two basic sets: Cities and Dungeon Entrances. You will sell these night and day, all day long. While a slight exaggeration, I probably do sell anywhere from 12-18 of each per week per facet. Once you've sold these for a while and built up some funds, I recommend selling Banks and Mage Shops next. Then it's up to you (or to your regular customers who will tell you what they want). The choice is really broad and I cannot overemphasize this point: I have NEVER made a set that didn't sell. I don't mean that to sound as arrogant as it may come across but my point is that even 6 Grocer Shop sets will sell eventually, just not anywhere near as fast as 6 City sets.
  3. People like owning runesets to dangerous locations. Whether they actually recall to the spots is another issue... I use a couple of strategies for marking dangerous areas. First, if I'm marking Felucca areas that are outside guard zones, I find that marking during off-hours, especially early in the day (relative to the time zone of the server, of course) leads to less problems with aggressive players. Second, if I'm marking Trammel or Malas dungeon areas, making the sets during the evening seems to make most areas less dangerous due to the increased likelihood of there being other players around your marking areas who are attending to the spawn. The one exception to this is that I run into treasure hunts in progress pretty routinely in the evening. The strategies for dealing with this is simple - run and hide! Then apologize :). Additionally, I've developed a Stealth Mage that I use to mark deadly areas such as Hythloth Level 4 or Destard Level 3. He can recall to a relatively safe area, walk to the dangerous section, and mark when it's safe.
  4. Get a copy of UO Curse and load your rune labels in to use when marking. You can also use it to set the price and labels for runesets on your vendor. As I noted above, using UO Curse to label runes has cut about 30% of the time it used to take to mark runesets. I'll further the argument for its use by saying that when marking Treasure Hunting Location sets, I've cut about 50% of the time it used to take by using UO Curse. Imagine having to manually key in 200 different coordinates per set in an accurate fashion! It gets the old carpal tunnel acting up just thinking about it...
  5. As you would probably guess from this essay, I like writing creative ads to describe high-end sets. My belief is that when people see the detail that you put into the ad, they'll recognize that you put the same effort into making sure your sets are as promised. I lay out the pluses, such as ore yield data, and minuses (if any), such as dangerousness of the sites or the changes to the ore spawn that occurred with publish 14. I try to set up the ad so that people have all the information they need to decide if the set is for them at the, usually high, price that I set. You can see examples of my ads on the Lake Superior section of Tradespot.
  6. Once you get some gold in the bank, strongly consider investing in a 100% Lower Reagent Cost suit of armor. While it doesn't have any effect on your use of reagents while you scribe, it does mean that you don't need to carry ANY reagents when you mark. Soon after AoS was released, I purchased two sets for 2 million each. I see them for sale now on Lake Superior for anywhere from 600k to 1 million per set, depending on the other modifiers. On a related note, if you're not yet at a point where you can buy one of these beauties, you may be able to purchase reagents at a lower price than the mage shops sell them for. Go to any of the faction towns in Felucca and check the faction reagent sellers (on Lake Superior, they tend to be around banks). Many of them sell reagents pretty cheaply (for example, 3 gold per Black Pearl instead of 5 gold per at the regular mage shops).
  7. I like creating high-end runesets that give the buyer the opportunity for making his/her gold back. For instance, I've been told by several purchasers of the ore sets that you can make your investment back (300k to 400k depending on the facet) within a week or two if you're motivated. I've personally tried out the quest set and found that even casually completing the Hag's Quest two to three times a day can lead you to recoup your 35k investment within about a week (plus it gets you close to the first level of Sacrifice and self-resurrections).
  8. Last tip is to make sure you know your rune locations! I'll start by speaking about the high-end sets. I (via my miner) personally found every one of the ore locations that are included. I can't say the same for the t-map sets but I have confirmed about 75% of the sites (i.e., I've seen the chest and either confirmed the coordinates or updated them). I've also tested the chests in the Lockpicking sets (my stealth mage is also a high master in Lockpicking). The point is that if you sell someone a high-end runeset and you've not personally confirmed the sites, you run the risk of having cranky customers who just spent a ton of gold on one of your runesets and found that the runes didn't lead to the locations you said they did. This leads to damaged credibility and to very poor word of mouth. If I get a set in mind, I'll work on developing a character with the skills needed in order to set up the rune locations. I've been asked to develop a tamer's skill development set. I don't presently have a high-level tamer to check out the sites but I will eventually :). As for regular sets, I encourage you to spend a little time observing the NPC traffic around the site you're marking. For example, on Lake Superior, the Minoc and Jhelom Banks have many NPCs inside. This means that there's a better chance of being blocked by the random movements of an NPC at these two banks then at most of the others. Therefore, I mark these runes just outside the doors of the building. I get some customer complaints for this since the mark isn't actually in the bank but I know I'd get even more for a consistently blocked rune.

Finally, I have two additional issues for you to consider:

  1. Do you require a deposit on either large orders or high-end runesets? I don't have a warehouse that I use for storing runesets. The sets I sell are either on a vendor or they aren't made yet. Therefore, if someone either places a large order or orders a high-end runeset, they will have to wait until the sets they're ordering are made. This could mean that they find the set(s) they want somewhere else before you have it (them) made and you could lose out on a sale. My policy has always been that payment is due upon delivery. I don't require a deposit either. However, once the order is made, I expect to conduct the transaction within a week. In the rare event that I have someone either disappear off the face of the earth or tell me they purchased the set(s) I made for them elsewhere, they get moved to a section labeled "Bad Orders" on ICQ and I no longer accept orders from them, period. Since I usually have a list of orders for the same set, I simply sell the "bad orders'" set(s) to the next person. The bottom line: I don't think this issue matters as long as you are consistent. A side note, I strongly recommend confirming the price of the set being ordered before you agree to make the set. I've had about 7-10 people who have initially placed an order for a high-end set only to immediately cancel it once I ask if they're aware of the price. Sometimes people only read the subject line on Tradespot and don't actually read the ad (which is where I list the price).
  2. Do you or do you not accept library orders? Library orders are orders for "everything you sell," which include regular sets (cities, dungeon entrances, banks, provisioners, etc.) and high-end sets. I sell 26 regular Trammel sets, 24 regular Felucca sets, 1 regular Malas set, 4 high-end Trammel sets, 2 high-end Felucca sets, and 1 high-end Malas set. I estimate that I've completed about 15 full library sets consisting of every set I sell. I hate them. They take forever to do and invariably the customer gets cranky about the time it takes to complete the order (I usually estimate 4-6 weeks to complete a full library). The payment is never really adequate compensation for the time you spend (the 26 regular Trammel sets sell on the vendor for 146800 and take about 1-2 weeks to make depending on whether you want to try to fill your vendor at the same time, i.e. making 5 additional sets while you're at it, as compared to a Trammel Ore set which sells for 300000 and takes about an hour to make). Plus, many people want a "volume discount" which I have chosen not to offer, again due to the effort involved (I expect full payment for my time). On the other hand, library orders are a great way to get very positive word-of-mouth referrals, as long as the customer is happy, as most people enjoy bragging a bit about their rune library (I don't blame them a bit). The bottom line: If you choose to accept library orders, get a price set up front and make sure the customer agrees to an estimated time of delivery - then keep them updated as you go along. The alternative that I use is to explain that I no longer accept orders for regular sets but that I try to mark each regular set that I sell and place them on the vendor during a month's time. I, of course, always accept orders for high-end sets :).

In Closing...

Hopefully, those of you who aspire to help your fellow men and women travel across the globe will find this essay useful (and not just long :)). The main message I hope you take from this is that a travel business can be as successful as you want it to be based mostly on how much effort you want to put in it. I wish you great luck!

Oh, and In case you're interested, the current listing of the regular sets that I sell are as follows: Armourers, Banks, Bowyers, Carpenters, Cartographers, Cities, Cemetaries, Cultural Locations, Dungeon Entrances, Grocers, Inns, Islands, Jewelers, Lost Land Areas (Trammel only), Lost Land Entrances, Mage Shops, Moongates, Provisioners, Sand Areas (Trammel only), Shrines, Specialty Areas, Stables, Tailors, Tanners, Taverns, and Tinkers.

Be well!!!