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Month Index: November, 1994

From:     Michael Sandy <mehawk@?????.?????.com>
Date:     Mon, 7 Nov 94 23:02 PST
Subject:  Re: Groundlings and Spelljammers
Details about role of luxuries in corrupting primitive peoples deleted:

Excellent points!  Actually, I lied about luxuries being the backbone of
trade, they are what makes trade a valuable concession, but aren't what
makes trade important to the welfare of the kingdom.  Bulk goods with
reliable markets are what pays for the infrastructure.

Cloth, china, woolens, grain.  Steel tools. Ideas.  These are the really
important cargos.  For all its expense, a Spelljammer _can_ actually
run bulk cargo profitably because of the speed in turnaround time.

There are several different types of trading expedition.
1)  Beads, whiskey for furs, gold, etc...  Raw materials.  Explore unknown
wilderness and find something neat you can get for nearly free.

2)  Marco Polo visits the Orient. All sorts of stuff to buy, the question is,
what do you have that they want!

3)  The Champagne Cloth fairs of the 12th-13th centuries.  You have a valuable
product, you advertise, and the buyers come to you.  If the route is
reasonably politically stable, which is why the fairs ended.

In cases 1 & 2you have to establish a base on site to gather the goods while
the ship is actually elsewhere.  This involves careful politics, although
sometimes the involvement of guaranteeing trade can explode into interfering
with dynastic succession or worse.

The problem of security for the Spelljammer is that you need to land to
load the cargo.  There are several ways of doing so, each with their own

1)  You openly sail or fly into port.  If you already have a trading treaty
with the port, fine, but sailing into a port on a different continent, where
they may not speak the language, or be at war with someone, is another matter.
Information about far off nations are likely to be out of date and unreliable
to the point of myth.

2)  Land in the back country.  Secretly buy the stuff you want, pretending to
be locals, transport the stuff to the boonies, where it disappears and is
mysteriously transmuted into goods that continent has never seen before.
Not a terribly secure concept after all, and the time and expense of secretly
transporting the stuff to the boonies and from the boonies reduces the
whole appeal of the Spelljammer.  Plus, an area outside the local power
view is _also_ outside their anti-brigand patrols.

3)  Land secretly, make secret deal with local ruler, and pretend to everybody
else that you are from some undiscovered island fairly close by.  Having a
powerful patron is great, as long as they _are_ actually as powerful as

Now, since tracking large quantities of valuable trade good is fairly easy
for local rulers, unless you develop an extensive smuggling network.  The
local Yakusa/Mafia could be either very useful, very dangerous, or useful
until they get you hung.  So, the local rulers can probably figure out
your landing site, maybe even the time.  Unless you control the cargo for
a long period of time before it is loaded you are vulnerable to Trojan Horse
strategems.   If you can buy enough land for a secure landing and loading
area, great!  If they won't allow you to buy land, don't trade there, I
mean it.  Make them beg you to come back.  Be a lawabiding foreigner in every
way, make yourself as nonthreatening as possible, and insist on absolute
control of the landing area.

Now, the Cresent continent sounds like most of its rivers aren't navigable
by sea going vessels.  That means the interior has little boat trade with
the rest of the continent.  A boat is much more efficient than a camel
caravan.  Every area has its comparative specialization.  It may be
embroidered cloth here, china there, furniture some other place, mithril
weaponry there, (not necessarily enchanted, but great blanks for it)
The New World had few domesticatable animals, and fewer domesticatable
grains.  Trade in agricultural products like potatoes, oranges, chocolate,
sugar, cotton could greatly broaden your nation's diet.  Likewise, fantastical
beasts that have been somehow domesticated would make an awesome profit.

Some magic items that are _impossible_ on one continent may be readally
available because the appropriate fantastic creatures are extinct here
but not there.

As to trading relations, remember that the locals you deal with will try
to get deals that are extremely profitable in their terms too.  They may not
consider the long term consequences of a trade system where they have no
control over who you trade with, or when or what.  Let them get a really
profitable deal and they may forget just how inferior their hand is, and
how easy it is for _you_ to renegotiate later.  Do _not_ try and cut out the
ruler unless you have a substitute handy.  If you make a deal with a local
who has a boss, find out how much autonomy they have.

Thus concludes this installment of my advice to groundling Spelljammers.  P
Profit as you may.  Following this advice should keep most of you in the

Michael Sandy

Previous Message: Re: Groundlings and Spelljammers
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Month Index: November, 1994

SubjectFromDate (UTC)
Groundlings and Spelljammers    RJPugh@???.com    07 Nov 1994 19:06:52
Re: Groundlings and Spelljammers    Michael Sandy    07 Nov 1994 21:10:00
Groundlings and Spelljammers    RJPugh@???.com    08 Nov 1994 01:16:08
Re: Groundlings and Spelljammers    Michael Bauser    08 Nov 1994 05:31:36
Re: Groundlings and Spelljammers    Michael Sandy    08 Nov 1994 07:02:00
Re: Groundlings and Spelljammers    Michael Sandy    09 Nov 1994 08:18:00

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