Trading Across Borders

Overview

Recently I have been thinking about the way my campaign rules deal with trade and merchants.  Up until recently, they have worked well –  BUT all the developments have been internal, with traders and merchant houses developing internal and local trade routes.  As soon as they started moving outside of the Midmarch/Tusk area and into cities ruled by NPCs  (With their own agendas)  the cracks started to show.

I was expecting to use an ‘Influence’ metric to manage external relationships, BUT that got to be very complicated to maintain.  I was spending as long calculating influence, as I was on the rest of the system put together.  I have played briefly with simpler systems, but have never quite managed to work out how I was going to use it in trade relationships, or even in general relationships.  After all, the NPCs who run the external towns and cities have their own philosophies and agendas.

The two main settlements, available for external trade, are Restov and Mivon – both of which are CN, according to the city stats, but there are huge differences between them.

Mivon

Mivon is controlled by nine major Aldori Houses, who vie for influence and control – they believe that they are the most important people in the city and that everything should revolve around them.  The poorer parts of the city is run by three gangs, each worse than the last, and the Aldori don’t really care what goes on down there, so long as it doesn’t affect them.  There are a couple of well established independent traders / trade houses –  but not all that many.  To deal with Mivon you have to find a way that benefits one of the major Aldori Houses and doesn’t upset the gangs or independents, or you bribe your way in.

V&A have managed that twice –  once by cutting a deal with House Yitis – exchanging a Shallop for a Jetty in Tusk.  House Yitis are not a Major house, nor are they associated with one.  That only worked because no one needed authority from anybody to buy or sell a shallop.  V&A negotiated the permissions in Tusk on behalf of House Yitis.   (But Tusk is a very different kettle of fish, and is pretty much run by a LN cleric of Abdar).

The second time, V&A hired an ‘agent’ in Mivon, who managed the bribes, backhanders and authorities for them –  which allowed them to buy a jetty on the Mivon waterfront, but it cost them a lot of money.

However, V&A still don’t have an agreement or any formal status with the city authorities or rulers.

Restov

Restov is heavily influenced by the Aldori, although they don’t control it.  Restov has an active council –   that represent (at least) three major faction and various minor factions – for example: the Duellist Faction has Aldori, Taldan and Modern Duellist representatives. But there are also Merchants and  Priests (Abadar and Erastil) on the council, and the Lord Mayor is a merchant.  The political outlook and philosophies are very different to Mivon.

There has been one development in Restov and that was for Lord Henry’s DELEM trading – but that is limited.  While Restov is a city, DELEM only have permission to build a Town Base – even then they have been paying a higher rate to develop there than in Tusk/Midmarch.

It is worth noting that there are two senior council members who are associated with Merchant Houses of their own, so there is some resistance to other Merchant Houses building trade bases in the city.

Others

There are a couple of other examples, BUT in each case there has been an advantage for the Town as well as for the Merchant House.

V&A have started to develop a base in Jovvox – but they got that by swapping a development in Tusk for a Jetty.  Even then, they have been restricted to developing in a Hamlet outside the town walls (Jovvox is a small town with no plans to expand) and must ‘balance’ their investments.  At best, V&A will be able to develop a Local Base.

DELEM have also expanded into Sway and Brundeston, both of which are developing settlements, and both want to be a stopping places on the main trade route between New Stetven and Restov.  In both cases DELEM still paid a higher price for their developments and in both cases DELEM are restricted to how much they can build. 

So Far

  • Each time a Merchant House has moved into a new settlement, there has been a negotiation of some sort.
  • Many settlements have protected their own interests with development (Restov, Jovvox, Sway and Brundeston).
  • Settlements who see some advantage for themselves have been charging about double and/or protecting their own interests.  (Restov, Sway and Brundeston).
  • Settlements that don’t see an advantage for their rulers, make it even more difficult to develop there.

The rules

The only rules I have to define cost for building in external settlements are Taxes and the BP Exchange Rate.

Taxes & Profitability

Taxes are built into the system, and represent the overall ‘take’ generated by a business. Tax isn’t just collected from the business, but from all the associated businesses that are associated with the main development.  For example a Leather Workshop supports Hunters & Farmers (skins), Foragers (collect tanning materials), Woodworkers (make frames/tubs) and all the other knock-on people supported by the main business. In the rules that is set at 0.2bp per campaign round tax income for the city administration.  However, there is provision to vary the tax rate, which has a knock on effect for a business’s profitability.

I have already decided that Mivon has a higher tax rate, and profitability is reduced to 0.45bp per campaign round (instead of the 0.5bp in Tusk/Midmarch).  A small difference, but one that has an effect on the rate a business can grow.

So the tax rate could be increased for other areas, and thus reduce profitability for a business.  TBH, there is no reason why that rate has to be the same for every business in a city either.  Although that needs some careful thought.

BP Exchange Rate.

The BP Exchange Rate defines the GP value of a development according to the size of settlement – property in a city is worth more than property in a small village.  It also defines three types of business/investor – Outsider, Standard and Preferred, however those aren’t well-defined. See this table

Preferred Investors are the people who have influence in the settlement, or are favoured for some other reason – and they get a discount on all the fees and charges that are associated with gaining permission to develop.  In Tusk/Midmarch that was defined as everyone who is a member of the Southern Chapter (originally The Midmarch Chapter), and the same concepts can be applied elsewhere.  In Mivon, for example, that would be members of the major Aldori families and, perhaps, the lesser houses associated with them.  In Restov, that might be councillors and their associates.

Standard investors are the guys who are well established in the settlement – such as the established trade houses, minor Aldori families and the Magic Merchant in Mivon.  In Tusk, it might well be House Yitis or The Roths.  In Restov it will be the lesser nobles or long-term traders who are already resident/committed to the settlement.  OR – it might be outside investors where the settlement sees some benefit   eg: DELEM in Brundeston and Sway.

Outsider, is literally anyone or any money that comes from outside the settlement, and doesn’t have an agreement with the Ruler/Council.

And this is where the new stuff starts  …

So far I have reviewed what has happened and how I have interpreted the rules,

Not all developments are equal.

DELEM have had an agreement to build a Town Base in Sway – so they could make those investments at Standard Rate – BUT they have completed that build and their agreement has expired.  Anything else they build there will be charged at outsider rate, if they were even allowed to go ahead with it.  TBH, permission will probably be refused – except, perhaps, for some housing.

The same is true of Brundeston.  DELEM had an agreement to build a Town Base, that has been completed.  Separately they negotiated permission to build a Mercenary Barracks and a Mansion for the DELEM managers (Henry’s sister and her husband).  Anything more than that will be in  direct competition from the other permitted ‘Outsider’ development (inns for humans)– and the Dwarves themselves.

Brundeston likes to encourage humans through their town, particularly for trade, BUT  they don’t want lots of them settling there.  They want the town to stay Dwarf dominated.

But how to turn that into BP? Let’s say …

  • Preferred investors pay 0.5bp social development contribution per point of Economy.
  • Standard investors pay 1bp social development contribution per point of Economy.
  • Outside investors pay 1.5bp social development contribution per point of Economy.

Regardless of any other benefits the development brings. 

Outside Investors are unlikely to get permission to build anything with defence points.  Standard investors will have to make a case.

So, if I make a rule that profits can be moved between settlements at the published exchange rate.

Example:

  • V&A make a 1bp profit in Jovvox and moves it to Mivon.
  • Selling 1bp in Jovvox is worth  2250gp,
  • Buying in 1bp Mivon (at outsider rates) is 6875bp.
  • V&A can move approximately 1/3 of a BP from Jovvox to Mivon.

That means that V&A probably won’t want to invest too much into Jovvox –  but will probably settle for a Local Base with a couple of fishing boats.

However, 1bp generated in Mivon is still worth 1bp – in Mivon.  However, the business is less profitable (0.45 instead of 0.5) and boats are taxed (unlike Tusk/Midmarch).  V&A’s growth in Mivon is going to be slow and steady, rather than meteoric.

NOTE:  I am not trying to pick in V&A –  just that it is the best example that I have to work through.  The same rules will apply to everybody –  including DELEM when they are developing abroad and foreigners investing in Midmarch.  Tusk, of course, can set its own rules.

Portable resources.

Some resources are portable, and can be moved between settlements (with permission) at no cost.  Portable resources include Mercenary Soldiers, Mule Trains, Ox Trains, Caravan and all Vessels. However, there must be a ranch to train the animals or a Boatyard to build vessels.

Example: A shallop, brought in Tusk, costs 2bp –  and can be sailed to Mivon –  although there will still be a licence fee to pay when it arrives.  However, that is a cheaper way to move resources between locations.  (Note a shallop can be built in Tusk because Tusk has a boatyard.  Jovvox does not build boats).

Soldiers are a special case.  If you build a Mercenary Barracks in Newgate, you could move the troops anywhere else and be let with an empty building.  You can either use the empty building as a tenement OR you can sell it as a tenement.

If you move troops to an existing building that can host troops (an empty watch tower in good condition) then that is free.  If you move them to a completely new building, you get a 1bp discount for each Defence Point of troops you move.

Posted in House Rules, World Building.

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