The Nomad Caravans

Copyright Rebecca J. B. Avery © 2006

Edited by Mario Butter for The Guild Companion

"The settled people look on these traders as odd and exotic."

The Northern lands are rolling plains to the west and highland steppes to the east. The known world is bound to the east and west by rugged mountains, to the south by the ocean, and to the north by icy wastelands. The population is mainly widely scattered farmers and fishermen. The artisans and the ruling class concentrate in the three great city-states and six major towns. Beyond the eastern mountains are barbarian tribes. Beyond the western mountains is a hostile foreign kingdom.

There is some trade by sea, but the lifeblood of the kingdom flows along the caravan roads. Centuries ago, one group of families who lived against the edges of the northern wastes voted to take their horse herds to the city to sell to earn cash. This venture was successful enough that the entire culture gradually expanded into carrying goods for other people.

The original stockade towns in the wastelands are maintained as horse breeding operations, warehouses, and for those "of the blood" who chose to become artisans and caregivers. Some families send their children home to be raised in the root culture. Other families are pure nomadic with elders and infants traveling with the family caravan.

Common skills for members of a caravan: Appraisal-2
Lore: (Local)-2

Each caravan (depending on size) consists of:
Caravan Master- Final authority. Selected from one of the three Master positions based on general knowledge and reasoning.
Runners- Courier riders who carry news from one caravan to another. Answer to the Caravan Master.
Master Trader- Conducts all trade negotiations, bookkeeping, and trade goods inventory. May have up to six assistants in a large caravan
Wagon Master- Responsible for the condition of all equipment and supplies used by the caravan. Responsible for comfort and safety of any passengers traveling with the caravan.
Drovers- Assigned to a specific wagon and answers to the Wagon Master
Cook- Responsible for food preparation and supplies. Answers to the Wagon Master.
Supers- These are the elders and children who do not have assigned duties
Horse Master- Responsible for all animals used by the caravan.
Herders- Assigned to a specific group of animals and answers to the Horse Master.
Guard Capa- Commander of the caravan guards. Responsible for training, equipment, and assignment of guards. Tactician.
Guard- Rotating assignments and answers to the Guard Capa.
Outrider- Scouts responsible for road conditions, camping places, and finding trouble before it finds the caravan.

"Tots" are feeder caravans that take the less profitable side trips and meet back up with the main caravan to deliver and receive goods.

"Parents" are the large clan caravans that slowly travel the main circuit.

"Teens" are bachelor caravans that do not have families with them and take the more hazardous trade missions. Usually the Caravan Master is the Master Trader, the Wagon Master is also the Horse Master, and a Leit rather than a full Capa command the double compliment of Guards.

Trade Poles are stone pillars set up in the barbarian lands. There is a Trade Pole in each major clan's territory. The custom is that once blood touches the Trade Pole it is neutral ground until the dawn touches the Trade Pole six times. This gives a Teen caravan time to do business and get back out of the barbarian lands without being attacked, if they are quick.

The settled people look on these traders as odd and exotic. The ruling class tend to leave them alone for fear of a trade embargo. The barbarians see them as a source of goods that cannot be manufactured locally. The bandits see them as a source of income, although more risky than raiding farms and villages.

It takes a full two years for a Parent to complete a circuit that includes all the city-states and major towns. The families that are not fully nomadic have Tots that are based in the major towns and meet the Parent along the road between the city-states. This enables the family to complete the circuit in one trading season and return to the stockade towns for the fall harvest through the spring planting. Their Tots leave before the planting to reach their base towns early enough to trade and still rejoin the Parent as it passes.

Every city-state and major town has a "Caravan Quarter" which is an area of twenty to fifty acres with clean water, latrines, animal pens, and campsites.