I am DMing true D&D for the first time. So far it has been one of the most fun experiences in my life. However, I have found myself in a bit of a pickle. Starting off I was very liberal in what I allowed my players to create and do, and now am seeing the problems of this break out in my world. So, now I am tightening the leash a little bit. One player in particular has a very powerful Rakshasa sorcerer and recently has started using the Mage's Magnificent Mansion spell to create a restaurant and sell the food from inside. He is trying to weave a network of mansions from different points together to create a instantaneous fast travel system. The player states that the rules are genuine, but I'm not so sure it I agree. Are there any limits to the this spell in the rules? Can he have more than one mansion at one time and can his servants leave the mansion to act as staff in an eatery?
The short answer is "Your player is definitely running some sort of con job on you". But here's the specifics for Revised 3rd, with some background from the other editions.
Restaurant: The salient points read as follows.
By the RAW you could certainly create a restaurant "atmosphere" in the mansion. Though a savvy GM might require the wizard to produce an actual blueprint (or understand someone else's) first to do something so specific. After all, not every PC is an architect.
At the minimum caster level of 13, he could produce enough food to serve 156 people a quite impressive meal. And although the Focus cost of the spell is 15gp, the cost of a banquet per person is 10gp. That means that, if the caster can find an average of 6 people an hour willing to pay 10gp per person for the meal (a big if), the first use would net the caster a healthy 1545gp profit with a steady income of 1560gp per casting thereafter. On the other hand, the same spell cast at the same level by an NPC has a cost of 925gp.
There are likely some ways to dissuade this behavior (if you want to), including making it a full-time job for the PC. After all, a 13th level party earns roughly 13,000 gp per encounter. Even split 6 ways, that's a lot more money in a lot less time. But really, such a thing deserves a question in it's own right.
However, it should be noted that the developers of other editions were well aware of the bugs in the spell that the developers of 3rd edition either decided to ignore or thought of as a "feature". In 2nd edition, any food the players eat loses it's effects as soon as they leave so at 10gp a plate you can bet he'd have some pretty upset customers. In 4th, the food is no longer illusory, however the "mansion" only has enough room and food for 50 people, period. Any (presumably uneaten) food disappears if removed from the mansion, nor does it contain qualifiers that indicate the food to be anything other than "satisfying".
Emphasis mine, obviously. The spell rather clearly defines where the unseen servants are allowed to operate and thus by exclusion, where they are not. The unseen servant spell specifies that "if you attempt to send it beyond the spell's range [which, being produced as part of the mansion spell, is presumably the mansion], the servant ceases to exist." In addition, the servants wait upon all who enter, not just the caster which, as I read it, means they wouldn't be particularly suited for most of the tasks a restaurant requires. In fact, the unseen servant spell contains a whole host of other restrictions that are probably well worth your looking up.
Fast Travel Network:
You can cast as many Mansion spells as you have spell slots for each day, however Mordenkainen's Magnificent Mansion is temporary, meaning if this could work it would be very short-lived. Specifically, each mansion lasts only 2 hours per level.
Each spell creates an extradimensional space. D&D is riddled with extradimensional spaces (rope trick, portable hole) and none of them are inherently connected. Trying to use this as a fast travel network would be rather like saying you put your MacGuffin into one Bag of Holding and pull it out of another.
The spell entry itself actually has a great deal to say on the matter as well. Again, emphasis mine.
I'm pretty sure there's no ambiguity there to wiggle through.
I'm sorry to say that its seems that you gave your players an amount of freedom that most of us could only dream of getting, but this particular player has decided to abuse the privilege. Worse, he's attempted to cover for it by trying to keep you misinformed on the actual nature of the rules. I suppose if one were being generous they could assume that the player misunderstood, but they certainly bear close watching in the future.