Sunday, January 29, 2023

Caravans

You are a band of itinerant traders; hungry, destitute, and unwelcome in Society. Your wagons are battered, your beasts are crotchety, and your reputation is foul. To escape these unacceptable conditions and claim the riches that are your right, you will do anything: lie, steal, kill, and worst of all – arbitrage.

CARAVAN STATS

Wagons. Each point of wagons allows you to carry 6 cargo.
Beasts determine the speed at which your caravan travels.
Reputation determines how you are received by locals. You learn reputation rumors per week in town.

Each stat starts at 1. To improve the caravan’s stats, see Caravan Upgrades. Your caravan also begins with 3d4 crowns (♛) and a partial map of the region.

art by yoggurt

TOWNS

Start in town. Each week you spend in town costs 1♛for basic lodging, food, and board. Better lodgings cost more ♛. You must spend at least one week in town to sell off your wares and acquire new goods or supplies.

Supplies (☒) cost 1♛ each. A unit of supplies will sustain your caravan for one caravan turn.
Commodities are either scarce or common in a location. Common commodities can be bought for
d3♛ per unit. Scarce commodities can be sold for d3+3♛ per unit. All other commodities can be sold for d4♛ per unit. Only common commodities are available for wholesale, unless a rumor says otherwise.

You may also take on Passengers. Fares are based on destination and are paid half up front and half on arrival.
➢ Some passengers are rich and will pay d6 times the normal fare. Such passengers include unapparent heirs, incognito diplomats, eccentric wizards, wealthy merchants, notable scholars, or successful adventurers. Taking on rich passengers is a great way to improve your reputation, but requires status to attract them.
➢ Passengers need to be protected along the journey. Each lost passenger decreases your reputation by 1.
➢ You may carry 1 passenger per full wagon, or 3 passengers per wagon with no commodities. Rich
passengers refuse to travel with cargo or passengers of a lower social strata.

Villages have 1 common and 2 scarce commodities, appear along trade routes or around keeps; local lord demands tithes from traders. Passenger fare 20 nibs (⇃). 100⇃ is 1♛.
Keeps have 2 common, 3 scarce, d3 trade routes linking them to other locations. Traders must give lord first pick of wares. Passenger fare 20⇃.
Towns have 3 common, 6 scarce, d3+1 trade routes. Local nobles’ guards enforce taboos and confiscate contraband. Passenger fare 50⇃.
Cities have 6 common, 3 scarce, d3+3 trade routes. Requires trading license (10♛, halved if reputation 3+) for access to market stalls. City watch checks cargo for contraband. Passenger fare 100⇃.

CARAVAN UPGRADES

Increases in stats are tied to specific material changes in your circumstances, and so can be lost in similar ways. You may gain beasts through more, faster, or hardier mounts, wagons through more, larger, or sturdier wagons and pack animals, and reputation through positive relations with important individuals and colorful characters.

Special Upgrades
1. Banners. Visible far and wide; you're a traveling spectacle with wares to ply. Raises your reputation with locals, people will approach more often (whether for good or ill).
2. Beasts of burden. -1 tick of distance on all journeys (minimum 2).
3. Exploration gear. Good for exploration, weathering storms, fording rivers. Takes up an entire wagon.
4. Dire beasts. Eat live prey, not supplies. Double your beasts.
5. Hidden compartments. Deep enough to conceal 1 contraband per wagon from careful scrutiny.
6. Hired guards. Will defend your caravan; fee of 1♛ per guard per trip (may vary based on guard level). May abandon or turn on you if it appears they won’t be paid on time.
7. Passenger carriage. Rich passengers won’t grumble (as much). Counts as an extra wagon for purposes of route length.
8. Quality saddlebags. Carry 2 additional cargo per point of beasts.
9. Well-kept books. Keep meticulous records of prices and goods available. Can hide shady transactions in clever accounting. Raises reputation with bureaucrats and honest merchants.
10. Writ of Passage. Immunity from tax collectors and guards while engaging in lawful commerce. Authority figures grudgingly respect this writ, though they will try to make your life hell through any remaining avenues.

art by Tooth Wu

RUMORS

Each week in town, roll reputation times on the rumor table. You may buy another round for 50⇃ to hear an additional rumor, as many times as you want (up to the level of
your accommodations). Rumors will help you fill out your map, warn you about hazards, provide
deals on cargo, and more.

1. A local common commodity is scarce elsewhere, and the reason why.
2. A local scarce commodity is common elsewhere.
3. A commodity you’re carrying is scarce here! What luck!
4. A deal on supplies! 1☒ costs 75⇃.
5. Danger or characteristic of a nearby trade route.
6. Opportunity on a nearby trade route.
7. Local common commodity available for 1♛ per unit!
8. A commodity is available for wholesale at common prices!
9. Rich passenger needs transport.
10. Learn of a local opportunity to upgrade your caravan for only 2d3♛!
11. Learn of a new trade route from this location.
12. +1 reputation, roll again, and remember nothing else from the night.

ROUTES

Once you've loaded up your wagons and are too broke for another night at the inn, choose a route to a destination.

➢ Routes have a danger level from 1 to 5, representing the number of slots on their d6 encounter table that are filled with random encounters. Slot 6 is always an opportunity. Other results are neutral, or may be modified by the route’s characteristics.
➢ Routes also have a distance to their destination, measured in ticks. A tick is an abstract unit of distance that represents the distance your caravan can travel, comfortably, on one unit of supplies. If you have more beasts than wagons, subtract the difference from the distance. If you have more wagons than beasts, add the difference to the distance. Minimum distance 1.
➢ If you’re insane or well-prepared, you can set off on your own into the wilds. Treat this as a route with danger equal to its distance. Your stats cannot decrease this distance. 

art by Boris Martsev

Travel proceeds in Caravan Turns. Each caravan turn, do the following in order.
1. Move 1 tick closer to your destination.
2. Roll for an encounter.
Danger. Encounter occurs.
Opportunity. Choose to either take the opportunity or move 1 tick closer to your destination.
3. Take a Caravan Action.
4. Consume ☒.

CARAVAN ACTIONS

Speed up. Move 1 tick closer to your destination.
Pursue a specific danger or opportunity that you've heard of or encountered on this route. You may replace non-Danger results with that danger or opportunity until you successfully encounter it.
Stop for rest and repairs. All characters may take a long rest. You may consume 1☒ to repair any damage that your caravan has sustained this journey.
Forage for local supplies. Make an appropriate skill check. On a success, gain 1☒.
Something else.

d20 route characteristics

1. Heavily traveled.
2. Long and winding. +2 distance.
3. Poorly mapped.
4. Pilgrimage route.
5. Highly populated.
6. Smuggler’s route.
7. Wet, swampy. -1 tick per wagon.
8. Sparse. No foraging en route.
9. Dense foliage. Can't speed up.
10. Tight paths. At max 2 beasts.
11. Underground.
12. Heavily patrolled.
13. Rampant beasts.
14. Storm-wracked.
15. Plagued.
16. Embattled.
17. Cursed, according to locals.
18. Monster hunting ground.
19. Ruined route, from a past era.
20. Doesn’t go where marked.

art by Piotr Dura

d20 random route encounters

1. Highwaymen, demanding toll.
2. Bandits, demanding your cargo.
3. Lawmen, checking contraband.
4. Tax collectors.
5. Rival caravan.
6. Mercenary company, disgruntled.
7. Traveling preachers and flock.
8. Adventurers, looting.
9. Storm!
10. River. Must be forded.
11. Plague! -1 beasts until cured.
12. Wolves or other pack hunters.
13. Bear or similar megafauna.
14. Dragon or similar gigafauna.
15. Bridge troll, bridge optional.
16. Goblins or similar nuisance.
17. Ghosts.
18. A battle!
19. A stowaway!
20. Roll twice; both at once.

d20 opportunities en route

1. Village, not on map.
2. Crossroads and trading post.
3. Campsite & travelers. d4 rumors.
4. High vantage; expand map.
5. Wrecked caravan, unlooted.
6. Rich passenger, needs ride to city.
7. Pilgrims, need ride to sacred site.
8. Monster nest, seems unguarded.
9. Fork in road, leads to new route.
10. Standing stones, magical.
11. Local commodity for harvest.
12. Shortcut! -2 ticks of distance.
13. Supply cache. +d4☒.
14. Adventurers, questing.
15. Abandoned keep.
16. Ancient ruins.
17. Lost temple.
18. Noble mansion, taking visitors.
19. Wizard tower.
20. Buried treasure (likely cursed).

➢ Don’t put every encounter on every trade route.
➢ Some encounters are best addressed without violence, but none can be avoided.
➢ Create new entries or tables for your setting.

COMMODITIES

When buying or selling commodities, a price is given up front. In response, you may haggle. If you are successful, you may roll another price and take whichever result is more advantageous. If you fail, roll another price and take whichever result is less advantageous.

art by Ilia12345
d20 commodities
1. Grain.
2. Iron, copper, tin, etc.
3. Gold, silver, other precious metals.
4. Foodstuffs. Can be eaten as supplies in a pinch.
5. Booze.
6. Salt.
7. Spices.
8. Weapons, armor, & ammunition
9. Tools & manufactured goods.
10. Ceramics.
11. Fabric.
12. Fauna, alive.
13. Livestock. Does not count towards beasts.
14. Narcotics
15. Relics.
16. Books, whether holy, rare, or magical.
17. Art.
18. Magical reagents.
19. Trinkets.
20. Roll twice, it’s both.

d20 reasons why it’s scarce
1. Brand name.
2. High quality.
3. Subject of recent fad among wealthy.
4. Impossibly rare.
5. Magical.
6. Contraband in major polities.
7. Other traders bought it all out.
8. Dangerous or difficult to carry.
9. Recent shortage.
10. Easily disguised as something more valuable.
11. Eccentric aristocrat wants lots of it for "reasons".
12. Recently proscribed by clerical decree.
13. Bandits raiding caravans along common routes.
14. Necessary for recent innovation.
15. Monopolized by cartel, syndicate, or guild.
16. Supply shortage due to recent disaster.
17. Difficult or dangerous to harvest.
18. Royally-imposed punitive taxes.
19. Recently discovered; subject of gold rush.
20. No one knows – profit by finding out why!

1 comment:

  1. This is... very cool!! It inhabits the crossroads between TTRPG and board game while leaving enough open elements as to constitute an interesting, generative game experience. I somehow envision the players drawing their own map on a piece of folded paper while discovering routes and keeps. Once the edge is reached, or once the map expands (d20 Opportunities, 4. High Vantage) the sheet is unfolded and new, previously undiscovered territory becomes available. I've been toying with a similar wilderness travel concept for a long while now and I think this is the direction it should take.

    Thanks for the post!

    ReplyDelete

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