This is my answer to a Secret Santicore request.
Lack of interesting rules for trading with ships or caravans makes me cry myself to sleep every night. So I’d like them. If you’re out of them I could use with some quirky villages, or a village generator.
Thanks Santicore, you’re the best
This turned out to be quite the challenge, mostly because of my lack of medieval maritime customs. Caravans are easy, we still have caravans today and wikipedia is eager to tell you all about them.
Trading with ships or caravans
Items carried by caravans and merchant ships are always considered exotic, and thus cost 100% more than similar local items, even when no actual benefits are given. However, most items come from an area specialised in the making or growing of the merchandise, and thus some give a mechanical bonus compared to local items (so an exotic sword might add +1 to hit OR damage, but no both). These exceptional items will cost up to 400% more, but haggling is encouraged.
Roll 1d12 once and read the buys/sells pair, or roll twice. Add up to 4 for each country (or equivalent distance) the caravan travelled.
If you have the same result for buys, sells or both, specify two different types of the same thing. For example, one of the lumber could be mahogany, the other ebony. They might be selling swords and buying crossbows.
Each roll represents 50 tons, but if you want to, you can roll for smaller quantities.
Caravans moved at the speed of people. For each cargo load (the amount one camel carries, about 200kg), add 30% as camel fodder (so 100 loads of cargo will mean an additional 30 load of fodder).
Roll once for each 13 file of camels or every 50 tons of cargo.
About 18 camels in one file, with a handler leading each file. An elder handler in charge of the camels. A cook or two, and the caravan master. Caravan owners not present will send a representative to unload and sell the cargo at the destination, who had no authority during the trip.
Handlers earned 2 silver a month, free room and food on the trip and a camel’s load of space to fill as they pleased. Some rich handlers own all the camels in their file and would pay 20 silver for joining the caravan, but not get paid.
Most info is based on the Beyond the Black Gate blog and Seafarers, Merchants And Pirates in the Middle Ages By Dirk Meier. Speed is about 8 mph (120′ per round).
Roll once for each mast or every 50 tons of cargo.
Most rpg books have this info. In a pinch, count 15 crew-members per mast. Captain and first mate lead the ship, an experienced seaman was in charge of daily operations and a navigator read the maps and stars.
Pirate ships had an equal share in profits. Hired seamen will cost about 10gp monthly. High ranking professionals will cost much more.
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