Author: Phil Scadden <>
Length: Long
Genre: Any
Type: Any, Guarding, Exploration
Setting: Any

The Plot

In my experience, PCs will guard a hundred caravans before it occurs to them that trading on their own account could be more fun and lucrative. Part of this is I guess a lack of interest in the "tie-downs" that trading could imply and in the boring detail of buying and selling. There are however some good advantages. It encourages a sense of group identity - all partners of Fast and Risky Quality Merchant Co. - and can have some great "plot lines". It also changes the world outlook when strangers are first thought of as "Hey CUSTOMERS!" rather then "Arm up, enemy approaching". If you ever need to lure your players in a particular direction then a rumour of profit should be easy to manage.

PCs can be tempted into the business a bit at a time. For example: At conclusion of other business a friendly tribesman notes "Your people make good iron. If you are back this way, bring us one of your fine steel blades and I'll trade two snow leopard skins for it". $$$$ in characters eyes! The trick is to avoid the boring bits.

  1. Give them good NPC warehouse men etc that they really can trust except perhaps once, later rather than sooner, for a plot. If they feel they can safely leave a load in trusted hands for a fling then so much the better.
  2. Have NPC's offer to retail so they are doing the wholesale transit stuff and dont get lost in selling detail. "Hey, I'll take all of this stuff you can get here at xxxx - leave you free to get another load moving eh?". Failing that declare, "after 2 hours you are sold out for xxxx reward". Forget detailing trading except for casual encounters with a train.
  3. Forget the unwieldy caravan bit - encourage them into the small mule train style. They'll have more fun. "Yup, de mules certainly de way. You see dat caravan train - takes 2 month to move dat round de Gap. Sheez dat costs! I ken move dis stuff over Hawk Pass on mules in meebe tree weeks on a good run."
  4. Emphasize the exploratory opening up of new country rather then the big-haul routes. If they start into going back and forth on the same lucrative route too often, send in a big merchant with a massive caravan to drop the prices. They'll thank you for it in terms of game interest.

Some typical sorts of plots.

One potential problem is the possibilty of too much coin. Relax. Early in their career get them used to the idea that high profits come from real high risks and sometimes its better alive poor then rich and dead. ("You are surrounded by 20 young mounted warrior louts looking for trouble. They request 'presents' with broad grins. All are bow armed (and they've been training since 3 years old)". Remember that elaborate trading has high overheads in paying NPCs etc. If there is somehow got a money excess then introduce credit offered by bankers - on risky routes they will sooner or later lose a train bought on borrowed money and the overheads will put them on the back foot!

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Email: Alexander Forst-Rakoczy