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Author Topic: trade, smuggling, travel in the last age  (Read 1537 times)
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smeagol
Bane of Legates
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Spell Energy / Taint +9/-2
Gender: Male
Posts: 635


Hiding from Shadow


« on: August 09, 2006, 03:33:29 PM »

This is taken from an old thread and condensed.

A manorial system is nice and all, but practically, I don't think that anyone could survive for very long without some measure of goods exchange. And Izrador certainly would not like to hamper his own forces' supply if no "merchants" are allowed free passage. Add to that the fact that self-reliance (for farmers) has its own limits. One common sight should be to see the farmers regularly come to the "cities" in order to exchange their products against wares produced by the city's artisans (who themselves have to feed themselves).

So there have to be "merchants" who travel from town to town to trade their wares, exchanging one item that is badly needed in a region against one that is produced locally, which he'll be able to exchange against another in another place... You have to make a living if you're neither a farmer nor an artisan (of which there must not remain a lot, given the scarcity of raw materials). Those few rare individuals, coming from farm to small hamlet to town in a limited area, are most often spies acting for the local legate, who make sure "everything is in order", and increase their masters' welfare with their "trade" operations. And they make sure everyone is given basic food sustenance, in order to avoid rebellions (even the dumbest legate knows that starved people will be quicker to rebel in a violent outburst, especially if they have no hope).

Most likely, the manorial system also has brought with it its logical consequence; the beginning of a feudal society, with many farmers or artisans pledging their lives in the service of the local traitor prince or even legate. Since they place themselves under his protection, they effectively become his slaves, but OTOH they are granted minimal security and food in exchange of their freedom. One of the biggest mistakes a group of PCs might make would be to assume that such people will want to be freed...

There is also a flourishing slave trade, which makes some Orcish tribes all the richer. Some even specialized in capturing halflings, as those are on high demand as slaves. But isolated human communities, especially those who did not choose to become the local tyrant's serfs, are prime targets for Orcish raids, capture and being sold as *real* (ie, with no rights at all) slaves. After all, any orcish regiment or legate will need _free_ manpower for various duties, thus sparing the more important servants their time and efforts for more important matters.

Of course, being the local "lords", occupation troops and legates are still free to help themselves for whatever ware they need or simply catches their eye. But trade still subsists, in a very limited way, for other people.

And don't forget that there MUST be a very developed Black Market across all of Eredane, like in any occupied country whose "normal" economy cannot provide enough goods to everyone.

Ideas, comments, criticisms?

I agree that communities wouldn't last very long without somsort of extra-community trade. But in midnight I feel thats where the gnomes come in, they have been given the fredom of trade up and down the erden river, providing they do 'thier part' for the forces of izrador. Much like the feudal system, they're essentially slaves to the shadow, but do have a limited amount of freedom, which allows them to subtley aid the resistance. Now this comes with it's own problems, obviously the gnomes can't openly advertise rebellion, so most people see the gnomes as allies of the shadow, and therefore will treat them accordingly. rebellious towns would boycot their trade, and loyal, through fear or otherwise, towns would activley trade with the gnomes, keeping the shadows economy running.

With this in mind we can assume that most trade is focused around the waterways, and thus whole towns would sprout up around riverside markets. These towns would be the middle men, kind of like a midnight mall.
I get the image of farmers and craftsmen from all over come to these towns once a month to sell there wares and buy what they need.

On the other hand, Eredane is a rather vast place, and there are bound to be towns and villages that are to far from a river to actively trade regularly.
This puts them in an isolated state, these towns on the most part would have to be self sufficent, or rely heavley on the communties around them for reasources. This creates a very anarchic place to be, trust is only really extended to people in the community that have somehting to offer. News is sparse so rumours of the 'outside' world are wild and misleading, this brooks fear toward outsiders, espiecally those who could upset the balance of the fragile communtiy. In a place like this moral would be low and resistance to the shadow minimal, as people try to get on with thier lives in thier situation.
Think the post apocalyptic towns of fallout and madmax, and then throw the fear of a stalin like dictatorship to the background.

So this brings us back to the merchants, I think that merchants traveling overland would be very rare. and hardly employed at all by the shadow. If the trade is consentrated along the river, it's much easier to control controband.

So therefore black market items would be best found away from the main trade routes and nearer the more anarchic communties.

I agree with most of what you've written and agree that the waterways are the best way to ensure you get basica commodities. That being said, all the major waterways are probably under the Shadow's control. Those wishing to live free of the Shadow have probably moved as far away as they can from the waterways and old trade roads. Isolated communities, as you said, would probably have to be self sufficient or they may band loosely together without vilalges within a two to three day walk/ride. For example, there may only be one village with a competant smith/forge and the other local villages come to the smith to get what they need/can't produce. Smeagol, your manorial system may come to play here, as several isoalted villages may band together under a strong warrior or skilled channeler for protection against slavers and other nasty things coming from the north.

I think that, in the countryside, anyone is free to go "trade" within a 10 mile-radius around them (because, in case of control, the local soldiers or legates all know that it's only old Joe trying to sell his eggs to the village).

Beyond that range, a special authorization is given, only to those who swear allegiance to the Dark Lord. If they do, they are given a token that is proof enough that they are reliable persons. Of course, such tokens are often coveted by resistance groups to provide them a "cover story". However, only important figures (legates, etc.) are ever given the "magical tokens" described in MN01. Written documents are to be avoided, as literacy is a rare privilege in the Last Age. Many troops (human or orcish) stationed at checkpoints could not read them anyway, so what's the point?

Recently, as the Shadow realized that some merchants were actually traitors, the allegiance ceremony involves a "geas" spell cast on any who looks even remotely suspicious - they will be obedient to any member of the Order of Shadow, who will frequently ask them to report. Many small resistance communities were betrayed in this way.

Kane wrote:
Those wishing to live free of the Shadow have probably moved as far away as they can from the waterways and old trade roads. Isolated communities, as you said, would probably have to be self sufficient or they may band loosely together without vilalges within a two to three day walk/ride. For example, there may only be one village with a competant smith/forge and the other local villages come to the smith to get what they need/can't produce. Smeagol, your manorial system may come to play here, as several isoalted villages may band together under a strong warrior or skilled channeler for protection against slavers and other nasty things coming from the north.


Kane,

The system you describe would really fit some small, isolated resistance community.

But let's face it, I think many isolated communities still have "token" garrisons as far as 10 miles from each (to make sure any rebellion is properly crushed), and are populated with one low-level legate (who acts much like a countryside clergyman - except he's evil and his job is to make sure everything is all right) who "covers" approximately a 10 mile-radius. This system allows him to know all inhabitants and immediately spot outsiders (who will then become suspicious).

Wielding such temporal power, such local legates or their "village hetman" deputies could very easily impose a feudal system like the one I described, effectively turning villagers into their (willing) slaves.

Quote:
On the other hand, Eredane is a rather vast place, and there are bound to be towns and villages that are to far from a river to actively trade regularly. This puts them in an isolated state, these towns on the most part would have to be self sufficent, or rely heavley on the communties around them for reasources. This creates a very anarchic place to be, trust is only really extended to people in the community that have somehting to offer. News is sparse so rumours of the 'outside' world are wild and misleading, this brooks fear toward outsiders, espiecally those who could upset the balance of the fragile communtiy. In a place like this moral would be low and resistance to the shadow minimal, as people try to get on with thier lives in thier situation. Think the post apocalyptic towns of fallout and madmax, and then throw the fear of a stalin like dictatorship to the background.


Hmm, you mean to place something like Fallout's "the Hub" in Midnight? Not very likely IMHO, although I can picture a whole "ghost market" (ie, a caravan always on the run) standing in the wilderness of the Erenland Horse plains, selling black market wares to any freeriders it meets.

More than "anarchy meets stalin", I think most remote communities would rather feel like "border towns" (those shown in most cowboy movies). People are isolated in the wilderness, and more likely to help each other if they want to simply survive. Of course, there can rise a local tyrant with his gang (the Quick & the Dead, anyone?), but it's not that often. Traders, who rarely come to such places, would be greeted with open arms. Such good opportunities for a Shadow spy to hear rumors and make people talk...
Quote:
So this brings us back to the merchants, I think that merchants traveling overland would be very rare. and hardly employed at all by the shadow. If the trade is consentrated along the river, it's much easier to control controband.


I don't agree with you here. Sure, merchants would be much more rare on the roads than on waterways, but don't forget that most gnome barges don't trade, they just supply the orc troops and nothing else.
Quote:
So therefore black market items would be best found away from the main trade routes and nearer the more anarchic communties.


Quite the opposite IMHO. If you read any book about occupied countries during WWII, you will discover that any big occupied city (Paris, for example) had HUGE black market. Why? Because urban citizens could not produce food, which they traded against goods they were producing (clothes, shoes, etc.) with the farmers. Black market rarely involves selling "forbidden" things like weapons & such, but just allows people access to restricted or difficult to find items, for a very high price.

I agree with the token idea that merchants or any traveller that wants to get through Shadow controlled territory would have to have a token of some form that's recognized by the orcs and inspires enough fear/dread in them that they let the holder pass. They may rough him up a bit, but nothing that will cause retribution from the issuer of the token. One the isolated villages always being within 10 miles of a garrison, I disagree. Eredane is huge and there will always be areas off the beaten path that may have seen orcs at some point but aren't worth the effort to garrison. A garrison requires food, housing and some degree of control. Some areas are probably left on their own and are free game for hunting/slave raids. As long as there's no resistance attacks from the area, there's no need to rout out every little human village. The focus should be the fight against the fey and the occupation of the populated regions. I expect they have fairly good control over 85% of the population and the rest is either too widely scattered or in areas that simply aren't important/desirable to the Shadow.

A couple of things to consider. There are people who collaborate with the Shadow and have fairly major positions. The Traitor Princes, Vildar Esben and Gregor Chander, both control their own territory (with help) and have extensive clans that have free movement in clan territory. In the south, there are probably similar important collaborators in the south. Families with connections to the Dark Tower or the Night Kings should be able to travel freely and safely. For the collaborating clans/families to survive and for the government (what there is) to function, there has to be some movement of goods and services. The gnomes probably do the lion share along the Eren but do not leave or rarely leave the protection of their boats. There has to be some overland trade. The legal trade is probably limited to established and patrolled roads and the traders and their wagons would need some token/marking to show they're under the protection of some Shadow leader. Forge of Shadows (should be published this fall) will have some information on how the economy works in a city controlled by a Traitor Prince.

Concerning the traitor princes, if they had no clan support there would be no reason to keep them in power. Of the three, Aushav (Steel Hill) probably has the least support. While not canon, Paka's story hour on the Esbens shows that some of the clans remain strong through their deals with the Shadow. I do agree that any trade would be very localized except for certain luxuries like alcohol (mentioned in Crown of Shadow), specialized/high quality weapons, special breads of horses, etc. are transported out of the local area. Self sufficiency is definately the key but there are some things that simply aren't available. Small, easily transportable items like rare herbs are wonderful items to trade.

There's trade and then there's trade. Regular trade with established routes and deliveries does not exist in Midnight. Smugglers and people who move critical items through the wilderness, well off the beaten path probably still exists. Eredane is dangerous, but good woodland skills and the sense to stay off the roads will help. Orcs and Legates ccan be avoided if you're not carrying magic. I think the greatest threat has to be Fell. The books allude to trade still flowing past the orc armies into the Erethor and the recent thread from Smeagol on the southern alliance and smuggling/trade suggests that there may be more in the south than in the north. Smuggling of skilled people (channelers, halflings) is also ongoing. Tribute also has to flow to where the Shadow can use it. There shoudl be wagons of produce, timber, ore to the Shadow garrisons/strongholds so there will be supply caravans on the road. The large garrisons at Erenhead, Fallport, Eisen, etc. needs a constant flow of suplies to keep them fed and equipped.

Tribute and supply caravans are not trade, but they do offer opportunities to a resourceful party to obtain supplies, gather information, or if they're wildly successful and probably suicidal, to infiltrate a Shadow garrison/stronghold. I think you're putting too much pressure on the gnomes. There are garrisons well clear of the rivers that need to be resupplied. In the main book, the vast majority of the gnomes stay on the Eren River. That means most of the north has to be supplied by other means. Other than the gnomes, I think we're pretty close in our opinions on trade/movement of goods.

I can see hobgoblin caravans of boro's and mules dragging timber, weapons, cockingpots and what-have-you to large fortifications. But orcs as a race are largely self-sufficient (+2 survival) in any climate. They hardly need fire for survival, and can eat raw flesh without any problems. I think they take pride in this too, and wouldn't stoop to trade unless very, very desperate. A tribe that has to rely on another tribe to survive is a dead tribe.

smeagol wrote:
Recently, as the Shadow realized that some merchants were actually traitors, the allegiance ceremony involves a "geas" spell cast on any who looks even remotely suspicious - they will be obedient to any member of the Order of Shadow, who will frequently ask them to report. Many small resistance communities were betrayed in this way.
This is the only problem I have with your structure thus far. Reasons: 1. I doubt that Legates powerful enough to create a geas or similar effect would be spending much time doing so... there are much more pressing matters for them to attend to. 2. No Legate would trust an effect like you describe, given how paranoid and backstabbing the Order is. If you were a Legate would you want just anybody ordering your serfs around? Massive potential for a rival to undercut your efforts here. 3. This makes smuggling, especially by gnomes, effectively impossible. It is also impossible to cultivate traitors to the Resistance with this policy in force as everybody will know merchants can't be trusted.



Survival works on an individual basis, but can 20,000+ orcs survive in a single spot without effectively eating an area dry of food? There has to be someone who supplies the established garrisons. In the north they can hunt or keep vast herds of boro for fresh meat.

Ghola, I agree with your point on Geas. Spies, torture, and intimidate are much easier; maybe not as reliable, but easier. After a hundred years, the Shadow has to know that some of the gnomes are involved in smuggling. Eliminating the gnomes would seriorusly hamper the movement of supplies and would probably hurt the Shadow more than the resistance. The Human resistance is a pinprick compared with the fey and the gnomes are important in supplying the Shadow's war effort. Intimidation, setting the occassional example by killing a gnome trading family, and stationing orcs at the ports limits the effectiveness of the smuggling.

Kane, I think you clearly summed up the problem when you wrote: "There's trade and then there's trade. Regular trade with established routes and deliveries does not exist in Midnight. Smugglers and people who move critical items through the wilderness, well off the beaten path probably still exists. Eredane is dangerous, but good woodland skills and the sense to stay off the roads will help. Orcs and Legates ccan be avoided if you're not carrying magic. I think the greatest threat has to be Fell. The books allude to trade still flowing past the orc armies into the Erethor and the recent thread from Smeagol on the southern alliance and smuggling/trade suggests that there may be more in the south than in the north. Smuggling of skilled people (channelers, halflings) is also ongoing. Tribute also has to flow to where the Shadow can use it. There shoudl be wagons of produce, timber, ore to the Shadow garrisons/strongholds so there will be supply caravans on the road. The large garrisons at Erenhead, Fallport, Eisen, etc. needs a constant flow of suplies to keep them fed and equipped. "


The way I see things IMC, you have:
- remote areas, where the Shadow's pressure is lighter because the inhabitants have a hard time surviving. Those places are of difficult access, and only "lesser" legates (probably those of Neutral alignment) are sent there, thus their rule is less harsh than one might expect. Hence the "old Joe" who can go and trade his eggs to the "next village", walking across the wilderness for one day or two without meeting anyone (if he's lucky). And I don't see the interest to slay such communities, even for Orcs. Remember that they can be the *only* place where the Shadow troops can resupply while in the wilderness, and you will understand that even Orcs will think twice before destroying such settlements. That and the fact that they might arouse the anger of the Order of Shadow by destroying the local legate's toy.
- traveled roads: only used for wagons carrying tribute to the Shadow or by legates or other powerful minions of the Shadow (such as members of the corrupted Dorn families you were mentioning).
- accessible vilages: those ones are heavily "tolled", and are just left with barely enough food to sustain the farmers, so they can keep producing food/whatever for the Shadow's armies.

I agree that there is no "regular" trade per se. But sure, you have such heavy demand for items in urban areas, that there is bound to be lots of people somehow involved in black market. Either resistance groups, people who act out of a selfish desire to make a profit from such an activity (and can then be dubbed "traders"), or simply criminals who smuggle alcohol, prostitutes, etc. into the towns for their own filthy profit.

I got to put my 2 cents into this one.....Most villages are likely eaking out a marginal existence. They probably share limited resources, depending on the whim of the local Shadow reps, some, if the legate has a touch of mercy may have the surplus to barter for goods outside of the community. I am handling this way, one way is a permit is issued, in the form of a brass chit, a patrol "may" honor it, the other is the use of shadow forces themselves, like caravan masters doing a little "blackmarket" work. What good that may be traded for are probably small goods to make life easier, such as tools, or more pleasant such as liquor and tobacco.
As for more formal trade it really does not exist, Izrador does not care for trade, trade after all brings about the exchange of ideas. However caravans of goods for the war effort do move about and it is from these that illicit trade occurs. Where there is waterways, the gnomes fill this role. There are a merchant class, they are people that long ago traded for a life of ease by collaborating with the occupiers. There maybe some small scale tinkers who sneak about, some maybe spies for either side or both.

Hi people, interesting ideas there i must say.
i'll tell you how i see it.
When almost everybody has gone back to the bare necesities, the world has returned to an almost total Subsistance Economy and Barter is the only way of life. The villages and towns are self-suficient, they have to be, in a society where most are farmers and artisans, it is not to hard to imagine. long distance trade does not exsist for the common people do not travel long distances... and a day travel IS long distance. The most i see Old Joe doing to sell his eggs for some tomatoes and maybe to get some nails to fix his hen-house, is travel half a day to the next village and hurry back home before nightfall. Surplus?? whats that?? eveybody has just enough to make a meager existance. Artisans will usually not create more than what is needed of them, they will not spend their raw material; as for farmers.... they usually produce just enough to barter into something else they need.
So i guess i do not see traders walking around much if at all. black market is another story, and i will say only exists in larger towns and cities.
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