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  1. #1
    Site Moderator AndrewTall's Avatar
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    Trade route actions

    I've been batting around ideas with various people and have 3 issues with the existing trade route rules:

    1.1. At present rulers, temples, even mages, often seek to take over guild holdings in order to set up a few trade routes and see the gold roll in. This makes playing a guilder quite difficult and poorly represents the situation - ruling or ministering to the faith was a full time job, extorting money from merchants is one thing, becoming one another.

    1.2. Trade often results in a lot of money sloshing around the system, which makes it ubiquitous in developed areas, by contrast it is almost entirely absent (seas aside) undeveloped areas, ideally it should be possible but just one of many strategies available to rulers.

    1.3. The BRCS rules also make it irrelevant what size the province is - only the guild holding size affects income (unlike 2e where guild size was irrelevant and province size dominant). I'd expect larger provinces to be more profitable - outgoing goods will be worked and thus more expensive, while incoming goods find a larger market helping them avoid low prices.


    How about the following alternative:

    2.1. Create trade route doesn't set up an automatic series of caravans, ships etc - it just builds the desire for trade, makes the necessary contacts, ensures that the road is passable / port tariffs are manageable, etc.
    2.2. To actually make money, the guild regent needs to spend an action - during which they are amassing the caravan, negotiating with town mayors, etc to allow passage trade, etc.
    2.3. Income is based on province size (volume of goods, quality of goods, size of market, etc), but the number of trade route actions is dependent on the guild holding size - since each action needs organising, the holding only has the manpower to run one route per holding level.
    2.4. Income could be capped at holding level unless the guilder succeeds well, is high level, or has the support of the ruler, law holders etc - that way the city of Anuire is not automatically a cornucopia.
    2.5. Trade can be between provinces which have a connecting road/river, or are on the coast or - to help undeveloped areas, simply share a border. Should trade be able to bounce between road/river/coast without needing a separate trade routes each time?

    Questions:
    3.1. court, realm, or personal action?
    3.2. how much income? Average of province level at each end? Terrain/resource dependent?
    3.3. should income from the route be deferred?
    3.4. should the action be automatically successful or need a roll, if a roll, should the outcome affect the income generated?
    3.5. would the need to spend actions deter non-guild regents from branching out? (They would only get the base income, not trade route income as they are busy elsewhere)
    3.6. Should the income include maintenance for roads, ships, ports etc?
    3.7. Does a trade route create income at both ends?
    3.8. Does the trade route take up a 'slot' at each end with each province only having goods/services for one trade route a month/season/year per level?
    3.9. Should trade be between regions/domains or provinces?
    3.10. If trade is between provinces, should it be simply different terrain/culture, or should each province be assigned produce and needs with trade possible wherever there is a match?

    Notes.
    Trade routes come in the following types:
    4.1. The basic route. Province A to province B, both fairly nearby
    4.2. A long or difficult route, but otherwise similar - but should the income, deferral of income, etc be different?
    4.3. A chain - Province A to B to C to D - each leg being individually a basic route / the whole chain being a route with unusual income.
    4.4. The grand caravan - multiple trade route actions between province A and B carried out as a single action.
    4.5. The wheel - multiple trade routes of caravans carrying similar goods from the same province to different provinces as a single action, or gathering similar goods from multiple provinces for a single province as a single action.
    4.6. A route 'to the far ocean' - no need for a friendly guild at the other end.

    I can see these either being different actions, different DC's, feats or open to higher level characters. Should the income be different?

    What do people think? Should we aim for income similar to 2e, BRCS, higher/lower? Will this leave guilders doing nothing but trade actions (boring) or still leave them scope for other actions?

  2. #2
    Birthright Developer irdeggman's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by AndrewTall View Post
    I
    1.3. The BRCS rules also make it irrelevant what size the province is - only the guild holding size affects income (unlike 2e where guild size was irrelevant and province size dominant). I'd expect larger provinces to be more profitable - outgoing goods will be worked and thus more expensive, while incoming goods find a larger market helping them avoid low prices.

    Except that the size of a province determines the max size of a guild and the number of guilds potentially present.

    So IMO it is not irrelevant at all - it is much more directly tied to province level and to the amount of effort that was put into the guild in the first place.

    A large province with undeveloped guild holding should not be able to produce a large amount of trade (like was done in 2nd ed). The guild holding size is a reflection of the infrastructure necessary for the guild workings (and thus those available to support trade).
    Duane Eggert

  3. #3
    Member Exile's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by irdeggman View Post
    A large province with undeveloped guild holding should not be able to produce a large amount of trade (like was done in 2nd ed). The guild holding size is a reflection of the infrastructure necessary for the guild workings (and thus those available to support trade).
    The original ruleset assumed that there was a great deal of activity not covered by "holdings" - the array of noble familes (some blooded) that aren't powerful enough to possess Law holdings are the equivalent of the lesser merchants and the low-level activities that permit the economy of a province to function even if it has no regency-granting Guild holdings. In terms of trade routes, there's even the little-known rule giving a default income for a seaport whether or not any Guild regent has opened a formal trade route to it: profitable trade carries on whether or not a blooded regent wills it or gains from it.

    The converse problem to the one you point out is that the Guild-only stance skews results against the creation of Renaissance-style "factories" / trade bases in major centres of trade. Exporting to a level 1 Guild in a level 1 province (with as few as 2000 people spread over 1500 square miles) becomes every bit as profitable as exporting to your level 1 holding in the greatest metropolis and trade entrepot in Cerilia, the City of Anuire... yet surely dominating the significant economic interactions of 10,000 residents of the greatest city on the continent has to offer more chance of making a good sale than controlling the internal trade of a couple of thousand rustics. Again, this idea was built into the original ruleset, with the increasing income granted by holdings in higher-level provinces.

    -----

    As a slight compromise between the two stances, I've seen DMs use a few closely related options:

    1) Average of the province levels, but there must be a guild holding (owned by the regent, or another regent's holding acting under formal agreement) to receive and handle the goods at each end of the route (and, if road-and-sea routes are permitted, at the port provinces as well).
    2) Average of the exporting Guild and the receiving province levels.
    3) Average of the exporting Guild and the receiving province levels, with the requirement of a "receiving holding" (as in option 1).

    Things swing back in the favour of Guild regents, thanks to the extra time and effort involved in setting up holdings or forging agreements - and the latter becomes more attractive thanks to the paranoia regents tend to have about other regents of the same type creating holdings in their territory.

    -----

    To turn to the original post....

    The overall feel looks a lot like the major long-distance trade expeditions of the Renaissance and early Modern periods - the fitting-out of a grand company of travellers and guards who will escort a single large shipment of goods over long distances.

    That's wholly appropriate to the "feel" of Cerilia, in my opinion... but it doesn't cover the shorter-distance networks of regular, sustained trade. Most in-game Trade Routes won't take months or years to traverse: even those by water are usually matters of connecting ports at most a few hundred miles apart - and often less (e.g. Endier to the Imperial City).

    Particularly if the unblooded, faceless NPC merchants can trade long-distance through seaports without taking RP- or court-based Actions (and do so in such numbers that they grant appreciable profits in customs and berthing fees to port regents), short-range trade routes ought to be possible to create and maintain for those with access to greater resources, without the need for a full action every round.

    Of course, if you're running with the BRCS, the various grades of action can greatly reduce that worry.... Perhaps the longer-distance the trade route, the more effort (in terms of number of court actions / a higher grade of action) it requires to keep things ticking over from season to season? After all, it should presumbly take less effort to monitor subordinates that make the round trip in a week than it does to monitor those gone for seasons at a time....

    As for linking land and sea into a single route (so that, say, a province in Eastern Ghoere can export by road and river to the Imperial City) - yes, definitely, but perhaps treat it like building a ley line in sections? You end up with one usable route linking source and ultimate destination, but opening up the overland portion requires one set of tests and actions, and setting up the river portion requires another... and each stage provides opportunities for other regents to get involved to support or oppose you.

    Whatever's done, I'd back making trade routes more involving for the guild regent's player - make them a matter of on-going diplomacy, something to monitor, something that can involve cutting deals with other regents of all types. Too many of the options I've seen either make trade routes prohibitively expensive and awkward to set up (even to an allied realm), or make them a dependable source of endless GB and RP for guild-rulers.

  4. #4
    Site Moderator AndrewTall's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by irdeggman View Post
    Except that the size of a province determines the max size of a guild and the number of guilds potentially present.

    So IMO it is not irrelevant at all - it is much more directly tied to province level and to the amount of effort that was put into the guild in the first place.

    A large province with undeveloped guild holding should not be able to produce a large amount of trade (like was done in 2nd ed). The guild holding size is a reflection of the infrastructure necessary for the guild workings (and thus those available to support trade).
    I see your point, but if I am trying to build a L1 guild in a L1 province, the law holder can't give much help, if I'm trying to build a L1 guild in a L5-6 province the law holder can make a major difference to the success by supporting the action. So it actually takes less effort (if possibly more diplomacy) to create a guild in a highly populated area as long as the law holder is supportive. Similarly, as exile noted, trade with L10 City ofAnuire, or L1 Bjondrig gives the same income - yet the City is a source of technological wonders, the greatest art, science, etc of all Anuire - while Bjondrig is proud mostly of its salted fish exports and unusually shaped vegetables.


    From my perspective guilds should actually reduce the income of a province by creating monopolies, cartels, and other anti-competitive practices. This would not seem the case to the perspective of the guilders involved (modern competition is good for the consumer, not so good for the producer and distributor) and similarly the nobility would see the focusing of the wealth by guilds as 'creating wealth' simply because wealth held by commoners tends to be invisible (if a peasant works half an hour more a day, does the lord notice? Probably not, but they will notice the cumulative impact on the tax take!).

    As such A L5 province with a L1 guild may actually be wealthier (measured across the whole society) than a L5 province with a L5 guild - certainly both must be producing significant quantities of goods and importing others in order to survive. The guild primarily concentrate wealth in the hands of key individuals (much as other holdings focus wealth and influence in a similar select group) so although they may provide some economies of scale, expand the market range, etc, I'd say it would not be reasonable given medieval organisation capabilities that guilds multiply wealth significantly - certainly a L5 province should be significantly wealthier than the L1 province even if it had no guild holdings - ignoring the impact of population on trade route income thus is in my view incorrect.


    My suggestion effectively makes the income for a province geometric rather than arithmetic - a large province can support many trade routes, each of which is more profitable than in a smaller province. That makes trade centres like the City of Anuire, Endier, etc very desirable for a guilder. It also however allows the guilder to be 'distracted' into not having sufficient actions to monopolise the trade possibilities.


    Exile. Again I agree with your point - there is much less effort in moving goods short distances, and I was looking mostly at the old guild caravan / trading fleet. I suppose you could adjust the DC by the distance, with short distances having very low DC's, mix that with the creation of trade routes for higher DC's and you get many nearby routes for the price of one long route. It would still need an action but given the income from trade routes a few court actions should not be an issue. I was thinking about court actions btw - in 2e you'd need to make the 'action' implicit in the guilders court somehow I guess.

    I also like the idea of a holding at each end - but would say it should only need to be an allied holding, not necessarily the guilders own holding - if they don't mind splitting the income. Of course the recipient gets income without spending an action, but they lose a 'slot' in their province - and high level provinces would also only really want to trade with other centres - assuming that they have complimentary goods.


    One problem is that with action = money, the court goes from a cost to a profit centre, and guilders would be strongly incentivised to have a court equal in size to the number of their trade routes, I'm not sure if that's a good thing - and it doesn't help 2e at all.

    The other problem is that a lot of guilder's actions could be eaten up by trade - indeed the consumption is a key 'design feature' - but does my method produce overkill where guilders spend 50%-75% of their time on such actions? And if so, is that a bad thing?

  5. #5
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    I prefer to keep things abstract (and therefore explainable in story terms in many different ways) and simple. To that end, I consider trade routes their own holding type, similar to guilds. Each level of trade route grants 0.5GB and possibly 1RP for the trade route regent--merchants/peddlers/caravaners. They are created an ruled as any other holding. Other non-source holdings can apply their levels to influence them, but they otherwise are fairly independent, using the same Create and Rule actions as any other holding. Multiple trade routes can therefore be created to each province, and even frontier provinces with no formal guilds can support trade routes, since the farmers trade their basic goods for the peddlers' wares.

    This separate system makes trade routes into a sort of sub-holding. Since, like other non-source holding types, they can be created by anyone, province/law regents may arrange them, as could temples and guilds. This creates more trade routes cris-crossing the land and encourages competition and contestation, but remember, they have to be ruled up like other holdings--which means slots don't fill up as fast.

    As alternative rules that I tend to like but aren't necessary, I don't consider Roads to be necessary for trade. They instead act as Fortifications for the trade routes that run on them, and for me, holding fortifications apply their level in any Contest and Agitate actions (for or against) and cost nothing to maintain (they permit the generation of bonus income sufficient to cover their own maintenance costs). Roads act as fortifications equal to the trade route level. Ships likewise act as fortifications for sea trade routes; if you don't own ships, you hire them, and hired ships are both more vulnerable to the effects of contestation (being hired away, captured or destroyed, warned away, whatever) and don't give you naval power.

    Also, I allow trade with no restrictions among provinces. Trade at least 3 provinces away across different terrains, however, generates an additional 50% GB; trade across cultures generates an additional 50%GB, with a max therefore of double income from trade routes across cultures linking provinces of different terrain.
    Last edited by Rowan; 09-02-2008 at 02:47 PM.

  6. #6
    Rowan,

    I like many of the ways you treat trade holdings.

    - Having to grow them like any other holding does certainly add to the competitive nature of trade. This might too much of a boost to landed regents money flow because I can't imagine them not forcing their will and trying to control all trade routes.

    - I would also think guilders should have some sort of bonus to creating and maintaining trade routes.

    -BB

  7. #7
    Administrator Green Knight's Avatar
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    I've made trade another holding type than can be ruled at half cost if you have a guild of equal or higher level in the same province. Trade holdings can't be protected by fortifications.

    This is different from the BR rules, but it is simple and works well enough.
    Cheers
    Bjørn
    DM of Ruins of Empire II PbeM

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    Beau, thanks. Green Knight, to take a cue from you, perhaps the benefit to Guilds is to make creating Trade Routes such a normal part of their function that it doesn't cost anything for them to do so. Beau, if you're afraid of the landed rulers forcing their will over trade, maybe only allow the law holdings to add their level to Contest actions, not to helping them Create or Rule Trade Routes. Perhaps that's only a bonus for the guilds.

    What I like about the system is that it makes trade and commerce a bit more prominent, recognizing that these make up the bulk of activity in any realm and are not so easily overshadowed by law, province, and temple holding concerns. It also provides a great way to let non-regent PCs grow into a regency role, as they take over or create a caravan company--fitting for their traveling adventures--and begin to grow their fortune.

    Green Knight, this may not matter to you, but my Trade Route system doesn't really have fortifications in the sense of the other holding levels. Highways primarily exist to make it harder to contest a trade route. Though due to the small fortifications along its route, I think it can act as a full holding fortification. Caravans and ships are, after all, moving targets; to destroy these holdings militarily would take some effort, akin to destroying a fortified holding (of course, Contesting them to prevent them from operating for a while and generating income is much easier, since the route may well not function with hostile troops along it, or hostile magistrates and other officials).

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    I haven't been following this too closely, but I think I like the idea that operating a Trade Route should take some effort (action) from the guilder, such as a Court Action.
    IMO, some trade is included in the operation of a guild holding.

    A second thought, would it be worthwhile to create a Caravan unit, which would function similarly to a ship, just overland? It could be moved into/through provinces that do not have roads, but not as many or as far.

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    Site Moderator AndrewTall's Avatar
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    Hmm, blending some ideas. Max income is the holding level, but you have to 'rule up' your potential to get there - so when you first start the trade route it only generates 1 GB - that would deter 'round one trade route' syndrome albeit at a book-keeping cost.

    A guild could start at the guild level instead of 0 reflecting the preexisting trade network's ability to readily locate customers/goods, arrange shipping, etc.

    If you don't want to use actions for routes, for every guild rank over (half the province level+1) the guild holding could do 1 free trade route a season (monopolies are a wonderful thing) - which could also encourage guilds to form cartels not just compete. I.e L2-3 could do 1 free route, L4-5 could do 2, L6-7 could do 3, etc.

    I like the idea of roads and ships protecting against contests by increasing the DC, but don't think they should protect against military romp and stomps - those are always terrible for trade. Romp and stomps should be punished by riots and rebellion, its a bit tense for anything else.

    If trade route was an action, rather than the local ruler being able to simply ban the route / not, would it make more sense for the law holding to affect the DC of the action?

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