Mark S. Cookman
The Build-A-Caravan Workshop
It would be extremely foolish to take thousands of gold pieces worth of trade goods out into the desert and lose them. We must assume therefore that caravan masters know their job and how to accomplish it. In today's blog post, we will examine some of the different elements that the GM must consider when creating a desert caravan. Specifically, we will examine the five major questions that must be answered and review some possible answers to those questions. Let's start with the question who is involved in the caravan?
Who is Involved with the Caravan?
Who is the caravan master working for? In other words, who is a part of this trade caravan? Is it only the goods of the Sultan in the caravan, or goods from a number of different merchants in the city? Is it a specific type of caravan that maybe has nothing to do with trade? (i.e. a religious pilgrimage, a scientific study, refugees fleeing their ravaged homes, a group of adventurers heading to/returning from a delve, a group of bandits pretending to be a "lost" trade caravan, etc.) Are guards a part of the caravan service or are merchants expected to provide their own?
When does the Caravan Travel?
Does the caravan travel only at night or does it travel during the day, just not during the heat of it? Does the caravan travel on a certain day of the month or at regular intervals during the year? If the caravan does travel completely at night, how do they manage without light? Is there a time of the year when the caravans can't travel for some reason (dust storms, summer heat, religious festivals, etc.)?
Where does the Caravan Travel?
Does the caravan have a single destination or multiple stops? Does the caravan travel through foreign lands? Does the caravan have to make one or more stops at a border? How do the border guards treat the caravan? How is the caravan received by the people at the destination(s)? If the caravan is NOT for trade, what is the destination? Are there any people there?
Why does the Caravan Travel?
The desert is a dangerous place on the best of days. It doesn't suffer fools for long. So perhaps the most important questions to consider is why. Why travel with men, beasts, and goods into the desert? What is out there that is so valuable? Does the trade route of the caravan keep it in the desert or does it take the caravan beyond the desert to more hospitable climates?
What makes up the Caravan?
A caravan is comprised of a number of different elements. Below is a list that will allow you to roll or pick some elements for your caravan. Just remember to answer all of the questions listed above when building your caravan. Oh and be sure to have fun!
Cook / Cookwagon
Bards / Travelling Entertainers
Camels with Burdens
Mules with Burdens
Slaves with Burdens
Clerics of the Desert Gods
Open Wagons Loaded with Goods
Covered Wagons Loaded with Goods
Caravan Wagons Loaded with Goods
Mages (1-Guards, 2-Scouts, 3-Advisors, 4-Patrons)
The Caravan Master's Wagon / Tent
Flying Carpet (1-2 A Mage, 3-4 The Caravan Master, 5-6 The Eye of the Sultan)