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How can I created a regulated marketplace for brewing potions?

Discussion in 'World Building' started by Erebus, Aug 7, 2021.

  1. Erebus

    Erebus Minstrel

    Brewing potions have been a staple for witches for hundreds of years. These potions are cooked up within cauldrons, large pots specifically built to hold the magic from these concoctions. Older cauldrons are specifically prized, as they contain leftover mana from previous concoctions, and are able to make the resulting potion stronger. However, they have led to some danger within society. This market for potion making is unregulated, as they can be brewed by any aspiring witch, some of whom are unscrupulous. Any witch willing to make a quick buck may sell a potion that does not do as advertised. Some can be potentially dangerous, being made in an improper way, or made with ingredients that were hidden from the buyer. Customers may not know if they are purchasing the intended item, or snake oil.

    To combat this, certain individuals intend to put a central guild together, which will regulate the market for potions. Customers will buy from this guild, which will create a set of standard requirements that would be used for brewing. However, there are several issues with the plan. Witches are independent creatures, and would resent any attempt to exert control over their affairs, as many of them are rivals and compete with each other. In addition, this guild is fairly new, unable to project any real force on independent witches who resist, as society is decentralized. Also, many of the supplies meant for brewing are relatively mundane, and can be easily obtained. This central government would lack control of supply or production, making any attempt to regulate this market useless.

    How can this guild come together under these conditions?
  2. CupofJoe

    CupofJoe Myth Weaver

    I'd think of it more like Prohibition in the USA. If you can't be certain of containing production, then I'd go for the users. You need some central authority to enforce it [or the sanction to enforce it given to the Guild] and make the penalty for use/consumption of an unlicenced potion a serious crime. A few broken bones, fines and the like and those black market potions may not look so good. And people will come back to the official Guild Approved products. Stopping this from becoming its own Organised Crime Organisation might be the tricky thing as it can control both ends of the needs and production cycle.
  3. Queshire

    Queshire Auror

    Of course there's going to be witches who break the law. There's always going to be criminals, however various tactics remain.

    1) Have the government source all their potions from the guild. (A steady source of income and work for guild witches while removing the same from wild witches)
    2) Provide benefits to Witches that sign up early and willingly. (Gives them an edge over their witch rivals.)
    3) Provide teaching and apprenticeships to young witches (Hook them early)
    4) Outlaw potions sourced from wild witches (work legally or risk getting your livelihood smashed and hauled to the dungeons. Make your choice.)
    5) Potentially offer wild witches captured parole if they work for the guild.
    6) Spread horror stories about side effects from potions sourced from wild witches and compare them with good stories for potions sourced from the guild. (Yay, propaganda.)

    Short of that, they'd simply have to accept their limited power and focus on affecting public opinion until things sway enough for them to gain the power they need. For example, the FDA might never have come about were it not for a book detailing the truly horrible conditions of American slaughterhouses published previously.
  4. Saigonnus

    Saigonnus Auror

    The other aspect to consider is that the guild could control the flow of materials needed to make the potions in the first place. No supply? The wild witches would have to do far more work sourcing the materials. This would have the effect of driving up the price of wild witch potions compared to the relatively low-priced guild alternative.
  5. Chasejxyz

    Chasejxyz Inkling

    Look at the FDA and USDA.
    • Create PR campaigns saying that Guild Certified potions are superior. "Give your children potions with the ease of mind that its made with only natural and wholesome ingredients!" People like modern slaughterhouses because they're inspected and "clean," compared to some guy butchering a pig in his back yard. People assume everyone knows what they're doing and are taking sanitaiton into account, so they don't need to form a relationship with their local butcher and can be comfortable buying shrink-wrapped meat at Walmart.
    • Tug on the heart strings of some other issue people care about. "No endangered newts used in the brewing of this potion!" Child labor, conservation, fair wages etc.
    • Create a law that makes non-certified potions illegal or impossible to sell. Like you CAN buy raw milk in the US....you just can't go to Safeway and buy it there. You CAN buy/eat horse meat...but there's nowhere that can slaughter it. So the town square where everyone sets up shop every day has to pay a nominal fee for the spot, that's normal, but they can only sell potions there that are Guild Certified. Or maybe you set up a Cork Tax, so all bottled things need to have a cork to be legally sold, and the one guy who makes/sells corks only sells to Guild Certified witches.
    • Make Guild Certified potions way easier/cheaper to buy than the alternative. States that legalize cannabis see a huge spike in usage BECAUSE it is easier to get. You go to the weed store and buy it there, like you would buy alcohol or an M rated video game, instead of asking a friend who knows a guy and you meet them in a parking lot somewhere. Drug dealing is just a multi-level marketing scheme like Cutco knives; you buy a bunch, you sell to your downline, and they sell to their own guys, too. You only make a lot of money if you're on the top of the pyramid, but weed stores simplify the supply chain, which means lower costs to the consumer, even if there is really high taxes on the product.
      • Also legal weed is tested, so you know for sure that gummy has 10 MG CBD, compared to the random crap you buy on Amazon that you have no idea what's in it, or if its even effective. Your Guild Certified potions can be tested for safety/efficacy.
      • There are still individuals who illegally grow/sell weed, of course, and sometimes they are cheaper than weed stores, but their product isn't tested and also it's illegal. Is it really worth getting in trouble for slightly cheaper weed/potions? For most people, it's not.
    Now that I think about this, what you're positing is just "how do I make a regulated marketplace for drugs?" which is a question that has a lot of different answers based on different cultures and norms. How difficult is it to make potions? Alcohol can be made by anyone really easily (you probably have accidentally done it leaving some juice in your fridge too long), but alcohol made by professionals comes in a bunch of different varieties/flavors and a much higher quality than you can (I could never hope to make sour blue raspberry vodka). You can go out and buy alcohol with a meal or at an event, which you can't do with the stuff you made yourself. The Guild can set up some deal with the military/the hospitals/the school system/whatever to buy a bunch of Guild Certified potions for whatever use (think government cheese) for the public good. That's a lot of orders, steady work, and people are going to want to sign up for that.
  6. Prince of Spires

    Prince of Spires Maester

    There are 3 ways to approach it, and ideally you go for all 3

    1. make it worth it for the buyer
    2. make it worth it for the seller
    3. make it worth it for the authorities.

    1. propaganda will only get you so far. If guild potions turn out to be only as good or even worse than independent potions then people will learn that quick enough. However, if the quality is higher and more consistent then buyers will start to favor guild potions.
    2. A guild is not just a state approved monopoly, it's also an entity which protects its members. It can have its own legal system which keeps its members away from authorities for all be the worst crimes. It can prevent witchhunts. It can stop local politicians from meddling in the afairs of a single witch. If witches are independent people, then it can also prevent other witches from setting up shop nearby. It alows people to set prices and control supply. There are a lot of benefits from being part of a guild and you can have the guild mainly be an outward looking organisation which lets its members pretty much do as they please.
    3. Taxes and bribes are wonderful things. If a mayor or local magistrate gets a cut of all guild sales on the weekly market then you can be sure that he'll keep all other witches away. If they pay their taxes or donate to the local orphanage or whatever then the town will favor them over the independent witches.

    A side note, it will depend on how common guilds are in your setting. If they are rare then you'll have a hard time convincing people to join something new. If they are everywhere then it will feel natural to form a guild and people will tend to gravitate to businesses run by guilds. Just as an example of how common guilds can be in a medieval setting, just this weekend I visited a small Dutch city. And there they used to have a guild which controlled the baking of a certain type of gingerbread used in long distance travel.

    I don't think the centralization of your society plays a role in it. Guilds tend to be local affairs mainly, even if there is a central governing body. Unless long distance travel is very common in your setting, most people would not venture more than a few days from home.
  7. skip.knox

    skip.knox toujours gai, archie Moderator

    Given the conditions, it can't happen.

    Guilds don't regulate without a strong governmental authority, and the conditions state there is no such. That authority doesn't have to be universal; medieval guilds leaned on the authority of the city council. Even then, guilds had endless problems trying to regulate, but at least there was some success.

    Production of anything has a supply chain. There are growers, transport, manufacture, distribution. The conditions as stated put some or all of these out of reach of any authority. There's a reason why you almost never find rural guilds.

    Of course, in a fantasy world, one can ignore economics as readily as one ignores physics or sociology. So the other answer is: go ahead and create it and don't worry about it.
  8. Almyrigan Hero

    Almyrigan Hero Minstrel

    Maybe instead of strictly being regulators, they somehow make it easier for 'good witches' to do business?

    For example, brewing ingredients might already be easily obtained, but the 'guild' could make them obtainable in bulk through largescale farming. Since they don't need to spend time growing - or even harvesting - their own ingredients, guild-certified witches could outproduce their wild competitors without sacrificing quality or value. To that end the guilds could also help with the manufacturing process by providing cheap firewood, tool repair, maybe even jumbo cauldrons for brewing those bulk ingredients in bulk batches.
  9. Miles Lacey

    Miles Lacey Inkling

    One thing that could be done could be to introduce indirect control by the Guild. That way, the witches don't feel as if they're losing their independence but the regulations the Guild does introduce are seen as helpful or progressive.

    For example, the guild could standardize weights and measurements for potions, ingredients and containers (or bottles). They could also introduce a quality control standard that would assure customers that the potions that are endorsed by the Guild contain the highest quality ingredients and will do what they promise.

    This would allow the witches to remain independent but provide their customers piece of mind when it comes to the potions they purchase.

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