Tuesday, February 2, 2016

How to Start a Trading Town V - Transforming Capital

By now in our trade town, we should be running out of capital.  If we're not, we've done something wrong.  We've bought up a lot of land, we've given free beer and food to as many people as we can induce into our settlement, we've been buying up whatever goods they're prepared to give us, we've got projects going like stables, corrals and a road inland, and we need to build a trading post, a chapel and probably some private residences for the party.  For the construction, we've been paying wages - high wages, as we want people to like our settlement and to stay.

If we've still got money at this point, then we're not building enough, we're not acquiring enough land and we're totally failing where it comes to getting the locals to bring us things to buy.  We need to step those things up.  Basically, we need to convert our gold into hard goods, land and people.

It will take time, but we then have to squeeze these things into making us gold again.  We have to get our wage earners onto parcels of land that they will then farm without us having to tell them.  Heck, they will want to farm, particularly if they have families to feel.  Families are our greatest resource!  People with families are stable, they won't rely on risky actions like theft or beggary and they will help defend the settlement if something goes awry.  That's why - even if this sticks a bit in our craw - when the families ask for things like a cleaner town and better governance, we have to give in.

But that's the point.  We've been giving out all this free stuff, being very generous with our money, but now that it's running out we need an excuse to start charging for stuff.  Morality is that excuse.  It's not us, it's the pressure from the upstanding members of the community.  We have to start closing the tavern, we have to start charging a toll on our road, we have to start charging rent on people who don't own property (i.e., those who were too lazy to accept a parcel of land from us).  It is time to take out the trash.  What we want left are those people who work hard, who want land, who see a future and who will take up whatever activity will make us money.

The most practical industrial operations are mining, stock rearing, farming, timber, fishing and simple foodstuffs:  brewing, cheese, salted meat, dried fish, flour and - if we're in the right part of the world - dried tobacco.  We need to settle with the DM what can be grown here and when it should be planted.  Whatever the time line, it's a good time to start earning money.

I came across this on Eloquent, Just and Mighty Death, something to wave in front of the DM's face.
Whatever the time of year, we can start working.

If people all around us are going to start sowing in a month or two, we need to buy as much seed as we can collect.  If it is spring and the lambs are going to be slaughtered, we need to be on the spot to buy that meat at a better price than in town, so that we can butcher it and sell it dear somewhere else.  If it is pruning and weeding season, we want to be using our magic to clear off some prime fields, make some friends, and then spend more time helping out wherever we can (when the magic runs out).  When shearing begins, we want to buy that wool (hopefully, we will have bought our own sheep if shearing will start in a few months).  By the time the harvest comes in, we need that mill and granary built - and then a bakery so we can transform that raw material into something that will bring in a better price.  Whatever the time of year, we have to find a way to make money from it - while planning for the next year, when our own crops will come in, when our own livestock will give birth to lambs, when our own fields will need the birds obliterated.

So the plan is to take advantage of whatever industry others are taking part in today while planning to be part of that process next year.  We always need to keep an eye on the future, stock up what we have and find ways to turn that collection of materials into better materials and ultimately cash.  That's our goal.  Real trade starts when we ourselves are manufacturing and moving the product out, not to the locals but to others far afield.  We need more capital than we've ever dreamed of having because eventually, those people far out there, across the water, across the mountains, are going to start showing up with caravans full of stuff for us to buy from them.  When we can channel that distant produce through our pockets, well, then we're set.


  1. Just wanted to add my props to this whole section. Although it'll be a long time before my party is capable of even considering starting a settlement, it's going to be instructive to draw on this information at some point--and it's nice to see that I've been able to provide something useful after all I've learned, and continue to learn, here.

  2. Very cool post. I would venture, though, that whoever filled in the work activity in December to February is not from the Canadian prairies. But I will accept that farmers in your world are much tougher than I am.

  3. That's very nice, seeing things develop like that. I'd like to run well enough for my players to try this kind of ideas ^^ (and to be interested by such :) .

    More, more !

  4. They might not be ploughing in February, but they could be tapping maples for sugaring season! This chart strikes me as useful in the same way as your descriptions of Tech levels: it takes something that we might view as monolithic (farming, medieval society) and adds details that open up more room for different interactions and adventures. I am always excited to see those kinds of posts!

  5. Thank you, Alexis. One of my groups just acquired a parcel of land, and this whole series has been helpful in my understanding of what is necessary for them to establish a sustainable presence there.


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