Category Archives: Caravans

Trade Goods


I’m always thinking about specifics of what might be on a caravan. The town that is the main focus in my AD&D campaign has frequent caravans, and as yet, I have not needed to know what is in them. In case it every comes up, I wanted ideas. I put together the following list to give me ideas for general categories for developing tables.

WATER: In general, this would be a local resource, but in a desert scenario, water could be worth its weight in gold. Merchants will carry enough water to get to the next known source of water.

Adventurer/Explorer: Some merchants will be adventurer merchants seeking to expand the trade routes, or find something new to trade. Think Marco Polo.

SALT: Whether mined from a salt flats, a salt mine, or recovered by evaporation from the ocean. It is a key preservative in pre-industrial societies. Salt does not go bad. Roman soldiers were paid in salt.

Spices: All various kinds. More exotic spices from more distant lands cost more per pound or ounce than local spices. Most spices have a long shelf life if kept dry.

Produce: Fruits and vegetables. Only fresh would be available locally within about 100 miles or so. Beyond that only dried fruits and vegetables, or pickled. Dates, grapes, and figs were common dried fruit that formed into blocks for easy transport and had a relatively long shelf life in a dry climate.
NOTE: Preservation methods for transport are the same methods used to help people make it through the winter or whatever time is between growing seasons.

Meat: As with produce, fresh meat, including fish would usually only be transported about 100 miles or so. Beyond that, dried, salted, pickled or otherwise preserved meats could easily be transported over longer distances. “On the hoof” is the best way to transport fresh meat the farthest, such as with the cattle drives of the American west.
NOTE: Preservation methods for transport are the same methods used to help people make it through the winter or whatever time is between growing seasons.

Honey: It does not spoil and it has anti-bacterial properties. If it crystallizes, heating returns it to liquid. Honey from ancient tombs has been liquefied and was still good.
Gaming Hooks: Supply will be limited by the supply of various bees, bumblebees, wasps, etc. and flowering plants. A hive of giant bees, etc. could be used by some society of humans that had special tools or magic to allow it. Perhaps some giants could be beekeepers and there be some form of trade with other races.

Raw Materials: In general, raw materials are first shipped to where they are made into an intermediate or final product. An example of an intermediate product is ore processed into ingots, wool spun into yarn, or logs processed into lumber. Sometimes two or more raw materials are combined to form an intermediate material, such as charcoal or coal and iron ore to make iron ingots. Some craftsmen/tradesmen, such as blacksmiths might process their own ore for further use, or be specialized in processing ore for others.

Intermediate Products: Materials in a state that further products can be made from them. Iron ingots are made into weapons and armor, yarn from wool is spun into cloth, etc. Some intermediate products, may be made into further intermediate products. Rough cut lumber may be formed into various sizes and quality of boards for specific uses. Spun cloth may be died and cut to make clothes or other items.

Textiles: Raw materials include wool or bundles of harvested plants. Clothing, rugs, tapestries, table clothes, napkins, towels, rope, armor, paper, etc.
NOTE: Related to textiles will be the raw materials.

  • Plant based: Cotton, linen, flax, jute, hemp, bamboo, straw, grass, rush, sisal
  • Animal based: Wool, silk (cocoons of silkworms)

Plant textiles: SOURCE:
Grass, rush, hemp, and sisal are all used in making rope. In the first two, the entire plant is used for this purpose, while in the last two, only fibers from the plant are utilized. Coir (coconut fiber) is used in making twine, and also in floor mats, doormats, brushes, mattresses, floor tiles, and sacking.

Textiles involve some form of spinning into thread and weaving and/or braiding.

Straw and bamboo are both used to make hats. Straw, a dried form of grass, is also used for stuffing, as is kapok.
Fibers from pulpwood trees, cotton, rice, hemp, and nettle are used in making paper.

Cotton, flax, jute, hemp, modal and even bamboo fiber are all used in clothing. Piña (pineapple fiber) and ramie are also fibers used in clothing, generally with a blend of other fibers such as cotton.

Nettles have also been used to make a fiber and fabric very similar to hemp or flax. The use of milkweed stalk fiber has also been reported, but it tends to be somewhat weaker than other fibers like hemp or flax.

Acetate is used to increase the shininess of certain fabrics such as silks, velvets, and taffetas.

Seaweed is used in the production of textiles: a water-soluble fiber known as alginate is produced and is used as a holding fibre; when the cloth is finished, the alginate is dissolved, leaving an open area.

Lyocell is a man-made fabric derived from wood pulp. It is often described as a man-made silk equivalent; it is a tough fabric that is often blended with other fabrics – cotton, for example.
Fibers from the stalks of plants, such as hemp, flax, and nettles, are also known as ‘bast’ fibers.

Wooden goods: Raw timber, i.e. logs, and lumber are the simplest. Finished products include tables, chairs, plates, mugs, shields, hafts for spears and javelins, staves for bows, barrels, arrows, lumber (planks, beams, etc.), carvings. Types of wood, from the common to the rare and exotic. Wooden trinkets, like lacquered necklaces, tableware, handles, spinning wheels, looms, etc.

Metal goods: Unprocessed ore and ingots are the base goods. Finished goods include arms and armor, copper goods, tin goods, bronze goods, tableware (of various quality from copper, tin, bronze, pewter, silver, gold, perhaps electrum or platinum), coinage (ancient coinage bound to a collector(s), or coinage for a payroll for troops, workers (miners, lumbermen, builders, etc.), tribute, etc.), Jewelry of all sorts. idols, icons, craft goods, collectibles, etc.
NOTE: Coins can be counterfeited using base metals. Wizards can use fool’s gold and the surprise comes when the spell expires….

Antiques: From all the dungeons and ancient battlefields and ruins, there can be all kinds of antiquities. These would be many of the same things that are recognizable for what they are, or items that no one living knows what it is. Go to a flea market or estate sale at an old farm and look at the strange gizmos. It is amazing what kinds of hand tools our forebears used and to look at them, it is not always obvious what they are. Get an old timer to explain some of it.
NOTE: Forgery will be an issue. Adventure hook, trader is swindled, or trader is the swindler of his clients, etc.

Art: This can be antiques or current carvings, statues, monuments, paintings, tapestries, rugs, etc.

Stone: Statuary, construction blocks. Usually construction blocks are not hauled very far. Some prince or wealthy patron wanting a rare marble might ship it overland in a long line of wagons running miles. What an adventure hook. Slate for chalkboards, roofing tiles, etc. Chalk for writing or building, etc.

Gems, jewelry, precious stones: These can all be transported by a single poorly dressed man as he moves between venues. A fortune for trade could be had. How does he pull the switcheroo to his respectable clothing to make a legitimate trade is another hook. Counterfeits and forgeries would also be a possibility.

Slaves: If you have slaves among the humans, elves, dwarves, etc. There can be long caravans of them. Humanoids, such as orcs, like slaves to do the jobs they hate. Humans could make slaves of war captives of other humans, or orcs, etc.

Exotica: Rare items, ingredients, metals, wood, animals, etc.

Circus/Sideshow/Carnival: Group of performers travelling town to town on their own or as part of a larger caravan.

Anything you use on a daily basis had to come from somewhere. In the ancient and medieval world people made due with what was available locally, within about 20 miles. Trade developed as a means of acquiring something that is needed, useful, or desired from AWAY, i.e. non-local. Most food was local. Most building materials were local. Only large or special construction projects were not local.

Any list of professions will suggest products. If you create a town or city, the occupations of the inhabitants will indicate what they have to trade and suggest items they import.

Only very small towns or cities can be self sufficient. After a certain size, neighboring towns, villages, farms and herds are needed to support it. Rome imported grain from Egypt, etc.

In the ancient world of pre-history, there is a lot of evidence of the tin trade over many thousands of miles. As the easily accessible tin petered out, bronze became scarce. I read an article online that says some theorize that the iron age was helped along by necessity. That is, the scarcity of tin to mix with copper to make bronze was the necessity to figure out how to efficiently heat iron ore enough to separate it from the rest of the material so that it could be worked.

Type of Materials/Goods in a Caravan or on a Ship

  • Raw Materials
  • Intermediate Materials
  • Finished Goods

Raw Materials

  • Food
    • Livestock – Sheep, goats, pigs, cattle, fowl (chickens, ducks, geese, etc.) Driven by drovers/herders.
    • Fresh Food – Fruits, Vegetables, Meat, Fish, Eggs of various fowl., honey. Carried in crates or baskets, or perhaps jars.
    • Dried Food – Fruits, Vegetables, Meat (jerky/pemican), Fish. Can be wrapped in paper or cloth or stored as is in kegs, barrels, or crates.
    • Grain – Oats, Wheat, Rye, Rice. Usually transported in sacks or barrels. Can be used for seed or eating.
    • Processed Food – Flour of various grains, bread, crackers, pickles, pickled meat or fish
  • Logs
  • Stone/Rock
  • Ore
    • Tin
    • Copper
    • Iron
    • Silver
    • Gold
    • etc.
  • Fibers
    • Wool/Silk
    • Plant fibers for spinning/weaving (Hemp, sissal, etc.)
  • Animal By Products
    • Ivory
    • Bone
    • Hides (From butchered or trapped animals, i.e. cows or beaver, for ex.)
    • Horn

Intermediate Goods

  • Rough cut lumber
  • Ingots of various ores
  • Spun fibers
  • Woven cloth – undied and uncut

Finished Goods

  • Wood – Furniture, Weapons, Tools, Shields, Musical Instruments, cups, mugs, plates, etc.
  • Fibers – Rope, Yarn, String, Thread, Bolts of colored cloth, clothes, rugs, tapestries, curtains, etc.
  • Metal – Needles, weapons, armor, utensils, tools, hinges, locks, chains, coins, ingots, cups, mugs, plates, eating utensils, etc.
  • Ivory – Carved items. As inlay in other items, such as a table top.
  • Bone – Needles, corsets, inlay in wooden items.
  • Horn – Bows, drinking horns, musical/hunting/war horns.
  • Glass – Windows, containers, lab equipment. (What level of glass technology is in your fantasy campaign?)
  • Ceramic/Clay – glasses, mugs, plates, jars, etc.


  • Keg – Dry or liquid storage.
  • Barrel – Dry or liquid storage.
  • Sack – 50 pounds
  • Basket – Bushel
  • Crate – 20 – 50 pounds
  • Jars
  • Amphorae – Large jars for transporting olive oil or wine in the ancient world.
  • Chests
  • Coffers
  • Bags

See my article on Caravans & Pack Animals and Loot Carriers for more ideas on how goods might be transported.


Related to caravans are convoys. Convoys are used as a way to protect merchant shipping from submarine warfare. They can be used in a modern setting, from the Victorian/Edwardian era to  the present, and beyond in science fiction or apocalyptic settings.

Convoys are basically naval caravans, but rather than being in a line and limited to the available space of the road or terrains, convoys can spread out more, yet remain close enough to provide support to the other ships nearby. There are still “choke points”, like the English Channel, or other narrow straits that require the ships to go single file.  Such places would be avoided unless it was absolutely necessary.

The idea of convoys and navies is often applied to space travel, and convoys of merchant craft might be a way to deal with cloaked ships.

Unlike planet bound surface navies, the areas where things narrow would tend to be an unavoidable asteroid or debris belt. Approaching a space dock, planetary orbit, or landing planet side would be the choke points that an enemy or pirate ship(s) would exploit. Only the most advanced of planetary defense systems that include planetary shields and heavy weapons both in orbit and planet based.

Convoys also apply to motor vehicles, like a convoy of supply trucks with gear, food, fuel, etc. It is also the name of a popular song from the “trucker era” of music from the late 70’s and early 80’s. The song was later made into a movie with Kris Kristofferson and Ali MacGraw.

Convoys of motor vehicles will be limited to roads and passable surfaces if they have wheels or tracks. Hovercraft will have more flexibility of terrain. If the water transport variety, they are limited to relatively flat surfaces on land. Anti-gravity hovercraft will be limited based on the altitude they can maintain. If they are limited to a meter off the surface, they cannot cross the Grand Canyon directly, but must make the descent as any other traveler. However, if they can basically fly, there is no practical limit to the terrain they can cover.

Convoys can be used to transport the same or similar goods, or a variety of goods. Troop convoys can be used to move armies and their supplies and equipment across the sea or the stars.

See my articles on See my article on Caravans & Pack AnimalsLoot Carriers, and Trade Goods.

Loot Carriers Table

Loot can be carried by an individual or group, or be carried by a pack animal, or a conveyance, like a wagon.

Table or Tables for how a monster is carrying it’s loot. This set of tables will focus on individual monsters & NPC’s and how they carry their stuff.

Let’s call anything that is used to carry something, mean that the contents are loot, at least valuable to the one carrying it, or valuable to the one they got it from.

I was reading the Grand DM‘s Belt Pouch Table post, and then it struck me. I don’t recall a table or other tool to define what kinds of things different monsters use to carry their loot.

The classic, you’ve killed the goblins and loot their bodies, is easy to gloss over what their paltry few coppers and silvers are carried in.

It occurred to me, perhaps different groups of humanoids will carry their loot in different containers. Perhaps certain kinds of loot might be carried differently than other loot.

One idea I had was what if goblin tribes had a medicine pouch that they carried around their necks, and it included things like the tooth or other body part of those they have killed? Such a pouch might also contain the most valuable thing that they own that an adventurer might consider treasure, like a small gem, gold coin, or other small but valuable trinket. Different tribes could carry different body parts. Different humanoids might have similar pouches, but their size, material, and craftsmanship could vary.

Sizes: 1d8

  • Really Tiny
  • Tiny
  • Small
  • Medium
  • Large
  • Extra large
  • Enormous
  • Gigantic

Loot Carriers Type: d18

  • pouch/purse/medicine bag (not the same as a belt pouch)
  • Belt Pouch (My interpretation of a belt pouch has always been that is fastens securely to a belt, with loops, hooks, ties or a combination.)
  • Sacks
  • Baskets
  • Coffer
  • Chest
  • Cask
  • Urn
  • Vase
  • Vial
  • Scrollcase
  • Amphorae
  • Wheelbarrow
  • Blanket/Sheet/Quilt/Curtain
  • Skull
  • Femur
  • Backpack
  • Saddlebags (over one or both shoulders)

Material: 1d14

  • Leather
  • Wood
  • Hide
  • Skin
  • Hair
  • Felt (pressed hair – For example the Mongolian people make their felt for their tents from horse hair.)
  • Flax
  • Burlap
  • Cotton
  • Silk
  • Bone
  • Gems
  • Other “normal”
  • Other “exotic”

Quality:  1d6

  • Crude
  • Poor
  • Functional
  • Sturdy
  • Overbuilt
  • Excellent

Condition: 1d6

  • Rotted/Falling Apart
  • Holes/Tears/Threadbare/Runs – One more bit of damage or piece of loot, and it will start to fail without immediate repair.
  • Used but Functional
  • Used really good condition
  • Nearly new
  • New & unused

Decoration: 1d6

  • None
  • Missing/Damaged
  • Simple
  • Standard
  • Fancy/Ornate
  • Ostentatious

Construction: 1d5

  • Make-shift – (Like a classic trop of a burglar grabbing a sheet or tablecloth to make a bag.)
  • Self-made (Whether out of necessity, a point of pride, or a right of passage.)
  • Special Made (All Medicine Pouches are made by the tribal shaman, or a special craftsman, of with a special process.)
  • Standard (Made by standard craftsman or process.)
  • Custom (Made by a craftsman either to special order, or by the best known craftsman, or with special materials, like dragon hide.)


  • 1-80% Non-Magical
  • 81-00 Magical

If Magical What Qualities?:

  • Does it glow?
  • Does it give off heat, cold, mist, smoke, or something else?
  • Does it present these, or other characteristics, when in the presence of a certain type of creature or substance. For example cold in the presence of copper, warmth in the presence of silver, heat for gold, and hotter for platinum, adamantium, or mithril? Something made by dwarves or other mining races to find veins of metal.
  • Is glowing its only effect? Is it some party favor that glows different colors in different patterns at randome or non-specific intervals? (This is begging for another table.)

Extra space – Like a bag of holding, but specifics could differ.
Bonus – Adds +1 to +5 for saves (can vary to have different saves for different things.)
Detection – Standard detections, evil/good/alignment, invisibility, magic, truth/lies, etc.
Protection – Evil/Good, undead (all or specific types), demons, devils, other planar, etc.
Control – Humans, demi-humans, humanoids, dragons, giants, elementals, etc.
Communication – For example, speak a specific language, tongues, comprehend lang., telepathy, esp, speak with animals, etc.
Cursed – Can look like any other item, but have an opposite or corrupting affect. For example, a protection dweomer is evident, but it actually attracts undead. Perhaps only zombies, and gives clerics in the area a -1 on their roll to turn/control, or -2 if the cleric attempting the turn is the one in possession of the object.
Duplication – Items left in the container for 24 hours are duplicated. This only works for the specific type of item a device was designed to duplicate. Dor example, a scroll case might only duplicate maps, or only message. It cannot duplicate magical scrolls. A cursed or evil item might “bite” the user for 1-2 hp for blood to power it. A purse might duplicate coins, but they would be illusory, or fool’s gold as the spell and only last for the minimum caster level. A special wand case might re-charge the wand at 1-3 charges per day of the minimum caster level in the want. An uncharged wand would either not be charged, or roll to see if its magic is drained away, or it turns to dust, or explodes.
Abundance – Food, water, or whatever the container is designed for never seems to run out.
Containment – Geni, Djinn, Demon, Devil, Angel, or other powerful creature. Could work like a magic lamp and give conrol and wishes, or could only appear to be so and rubbing it frees the creature for good, or only a few rounds to wreak havoc. Perhaps it will try to capture the bearer to trade places.
Travel – Dimension door/teleport/fly/jump/spider climb

Team Carry:

Monsters/Bearers/Porters can carry stuff in bags, packs, or baskets on an individual basis, but larger items require two or more to carry. Such as elephant tusks, a caged live animal, a dead trophy animal, large chest, etc. Such means of carry can be simple carry and manhandling, to using a pole, poles, or other device. Long trains of such bearers can make up a caravan for a merchant, adventurer, or tribute taken from the defeated, or tribute offered to avoid the devastation of war.

Team Carry Methods/Devices: 1d7

  • Two or more carrying/manhandling a large item. (Think of moving an upright grand piano up and/or down stairs, without equipment, and you get the idea. If you’ve ever done it, you know what I mean.)
  • Two Using a Pole to carry something.
  • Two using two poles to carry something. This could be a litter or other heavy object.
  • Four or more carrying something with two large poles. This could be a caged live animal, or something like a palanquin bearing someone, or an idol.
  • One or more pulling something with a travois.
  • One pushing a wheelbarrow.
  • One pushing a pushcart.

Animal Transport: 1d4

  • Any pack animal
  • Any riding animal that can carry something in addition to it’s rider, or
  • Any animal, monster, etc. that can carry a container, or pull a conveyance.
  • NPC/Slave (This would be anyone forced to carry the loot of another. It’s not their loot, and in the case of slaves, for the newly enslaved, it might have previously been their loot.)

*NOTE: Most pack animals have specialized pack saddles designed to maximize the amount that can be carried and distribute it in a way that it allows the animal to carry the largest load the farthest distance without injury. Those that don’t see the pack animal as more than a means to the end of getting their loot where they want it, and don’t see the animal as loot, may not treat it well.

Conveyances: Any device used for transport.

Land Based: 1d7

  • Carts
  • Wagons
  • Sleds
  • Sledges
  • Travois
  • Coach
  • Other (Includes any type I don’t know about, and magical, or cars or land speeders from other dimensions.)

Water Based: 1d6

  • Raft
  • Canoe
  • Boat
  • Ship
  • Canal boat (either pulled by a mule team and driver, or poled by the crew.)
  • Barge

Air Travel: (This will be limited by the weight limit. Only used for the most critical, priceless, or time sensitive transport.)

  • Magic Devices/Spells
  • Flying Creatures

Magical Travel: (Travel that is not obvious to non-wizards. Even more weight restricted than flying. Usually by device or spell.)

  • Teleportation, etc.

 Who might be carrying loot? 1d5

  • Individual
  • Small Group
  • Medium Group
  • Large Group
  • Horde

Type of Group/Reasons for Hauling or Moving Loot: 1d4

  • Expedition (Adventurer(s)/Explorer(s)/Knowledge Seeker(s))
  • Raid (Bandits/Monsters/War)
  • War (Hauling spoils of war as campaign continues, or after victory and returning home.)
  • Trade (Caravan/Local, Regional, or Small Merchant)

Caravans and Pack Animals

CARAVAN: A group of travelers, as merchants or pilgrims, journeying together for safety in passing through deserts, hostile territory, etc.

A caravan could be just a group of merchants, or just a group or pilgrims, or just a group of travelers/settlers/colonists; or a combination. While researching an article on slavery, I learned the term “coffle” – a line of slaves or animals fastened together.

Travelers could be like the wagon trains of the old west. Think of reasons people went west: gold, farm land, open land for cattle ranching, lumber and other resources, etc. Or they could be like in ancient and medieval times, religious pilgrims, explorers, an embassy from one great king to another, etc.

The AD&D Monster Manual details merchant only caravans (but not specifics of goods carried) and pilgrim only caravans.
In the real world caravans would often be a combined group of merchants, pilgrims, and travelers going to a certain common destination.

In less wild areas or with good roads/trails, it makes sense to have merchant only or pilgrim only caravans. But where raiders/bandits are at large, groups would band together to outnumber the bandits and war bands.

Prior to trains and long-haul trucks, trade goods were moved overland via wagons, but only when the road, trail, or terrain allowed it, or via pack animal. Even today, the modern U.S. military used horses and mules in the mountains of Afghanistan.

Pulled Vehicles: Wagon, cart, sledge, carriage, trolley, plow, travois (blanket over two sticks) – pulled by dog or horse; canal boat
“The dog travois of pre-European times was small, capable of pulling not more than 20 to 30 kg.” SOURCE

There have also been humans used to haul freight, like a line of bearers/porters through the jungle, or carrying the ruler on a palanquin/litter.

Howdahs were used on the backs of camels and elephants. Some were used for people transport and some elephant howdahs were designed for use in war.

There have been lots of pack animals in a variety of world cultures:
Horses, mules, oxen, donkeys in Europe, Asia, and Africa.

Camels usually in Africa, the Middle East and Asia, whether domedary or bactrian.

Elephants usually in Asia.

Llamas and alpacas in South America.

Some tribes used dogs to pull travois.

Add goats, reindeer, and yaks to the list.

A healthy and fit pack goat can carry up to 25 percent of its weight and walk up to about 12 miles per day depending on its load weight, the terrain, and the animal’s conditioning.[3] They are generally less expensive to own and operate than other pack animals since they are natural browsing animals and can feed themselves along the way.[3][4]

Homing pigeons transport material, usually messages on small pieces of paper, by air.

OX/plural OXEN: A bovine trained as a draft animal. Oxen are commonly castrated adult male cattle; castration makes the animals easier to control. Cows (adult females) or bulls (intact males) may also be used in some areas.

Oxen are used for plowing, for transport (pulling carts, hauling wagons and even riding), for threshing grain by trampling, and for powering machines that grind grain or supply irrigation among other purposes. Oxen may be also used to skid logs in forests, particularly in low-impact, select-cut logging.

Oxen are usually yoked in pairs. Light work such as carting household items on good roads might require just one pair, while for heavier work, further pairs would be added as necessary. A team used for a heavy load over difficult ground might exceed nine or ten pairs.


Working oxen usually require shoes,[6] although in England not all working oxen were shod.[7] Since their hooves are cloven, two shoes or ox cues are required for each hoof, unlike the single shoe of a horse.

Uses and comparison to other draught animals
Riding an ox in Hova, Sweden.

Oxen can pull heavier loads, and pull for a longer period of time than horses depending on weather conditions.[17] On the other hand, they are also slower than horses, which has both advantages and disadvantages; their pulling style is steadier, but they cannot cover as much ground in a given period of time. For agricultural purposes, oxen are more suitable for heavy tasks such as breaking sod or ploughing in wet, heavy, or clay-filled soil. When hauling freight, oxen can move very heavy loads in a slow and steady fashion. They are at a disadvantage compared to horses when it is necessary to pull a plow or load of freight relatively quickly.

For millennia, oxen also could pull heavier loads because of the use of the yoke, which was designed to work best with the neck and shoulder anatomy of cattle. Until the invention of the horse collar, which allowed the horse to engage the pushing power of its hindquarters in moving a load, horses could not pull with their full strength because the yoke was incompatible with their anatomy.[2]

Well-trained oxen are also considered less excitable than horses.

Harness animals
Mule used to pull a wheeled vehicle in Morocco

An intermediate use is to harness animals, singly or in teams, to pull (or haul) sleds, wheeled vehicles or plow.

Oxen are slow but strong, and have been used in a yoke since ancient times: the earliest surviving vehicle, Puabi’s Sumerian sledge, was ox-drawn; an acre was originally defined as the area a span of oxen could plow in a day. The Water buffalo and Carabao, domesticated water buffalo, pull wagons and ploughs in Southeast Asia and the Philippines.

Draught or Draft horses are commonly used in harness for heavy work. Several breeds of medium-weight horses are used to pull lighter wheeled carts, carriages and buggies when a certain amount of speed or style is desirable.

Mules are considered to be very tough and strong, with harness capacity dependent on the type of horse mare used to produce the mule foal. Because they are a hybrid animal and usually are infertile, separate breeding programs must also be maintained.

Ponies and donkeys are often used to pull carts and small wagons, historically, ponies were commonly used in mining to pull ore carts.

Dogs are used for pulling light carts or, particularly, sleds. (e.g. sled dogs such as Huskies) for both recreation and working purposes. [Note: The dog carts mentioned in the Sherlock Holmes stories is a type of horse drawn vehicle. I did find a picture of a dog pulling a milk cart with big milk cans on it from the late 1800’s. There are modern makers of carts for dog to pull loads or people.]

Goats also can perform light harness work in front of carts

Reindeer are used in the Arctic and sub-Arctic Nordic countries and Siberia.

Elephants are still used for logging in South-east Asia.

Less often, camels and llamas have been trained to harness.
According to Juan Ignacio Molina the Dutch captain Joris van Spilbergen observed the use of chiliquenes (a llama type) by native Mapuches of Mocha Island as plough animals in 1614.[1]

Assorted wild animals have, on occasion, been tamed and trained to harness, including zebras and even moose. SOURCE

A war elephant was an elephant trained and guided by humans for combat. Their main use was to charge the enemy, trampling them and breaking their ranks and instilling terror. An elephantry is a cavalry unit containing elephant-mounted troops.[1]

It is commonly thought that all war elephants were male because of males’ greater aggression, but it is rather because a female elephant in battle will run from a male; therefore only males could be used in war, whereas female elephants were more commonly used for logistics.[4] SOURCE

Dogs used for herding herd animals, sheep, goats, cattle, etc.

Dogs used for guard duty.

Ostriches are raised for food, leather, and feathers (for decoration or feather dusters. They are also been raced by riding, or pulling carts. This gives them the potential to haul goods, but it may not be practical.

The List

The full list of animals that I have identified that have been or could be used for transport of people or goods are:

  • Dogs
  • Carrier Pigeon
  • Bovines: Oxen, Water Buffalo, Yaks, Carabao
  • Goats
  • Ponies
  • Horses
  • Mules
  • Donkeys
  • Zebra (Zebroids)
  • Camels: Dromedary & Bactrian
  • Llamas & Alpacas & Chiliquenes
  • Reindeer
  • Ostriches
  • Elephants

Animals from Myth, Legend, and Fiction

Giant birds, lizards, and any other creature could be devised for riding, plowing, pushing, or pulling wagons.

Uses of Pack Animals:

  • Bear a Load of goods
  • Bear a Rider
  • Pull a plow
  • Pull a conveyance
  • Entertainment – Racing – Ridden or pulling racing carts or chariots. Also riderless, as with dog racing.

See my articles on See my article on Loot CarriersTrade Goods, and Convoys.

Google Search Term: caravan trade

Various Sources:

Google Search Term: caravan goods

a group of travelers, as merchants or pilgrims, journeying together for safety in passing through deserts, hostile territory, etc.

Vikings Season 3 Finale

I just watched the Vikings season 3 finale. I like how they pack so much into seasons of just a few episodes.

It is interesting how they take historical and semi-historical figures and weave a story among known historical events.

I won’t post any spoilers here, but I will say there are multiple surprises of how they wrapped up a few loose ends, but left a twisted trail of many more things to come in the next season.

I wonder how many years they will skip when it comes to the next season.

I like how they have portrayed vikings as more than bloodthirsty plunderers. They show social divisions among the vikings and what we know about them from their own stories, first hand accounts, and archaeological finds. Of course, with fiction, they take many liberties and insert things the writers made up that are very fantastic.

There seems to have been a revival of interest in vikings in various RPGs or RPG add ons, like adventures and campaign settings, in recent years.

This is a big change to how vikings influenced my original experience of their influence on AD&D. That is, the berserker, under Men in the Monster Manual. This single narrow aspect of some viking warriors is all that some knew of them, beyond their raiding coastal towns and villages.

The vikings were great explorers, who sought new lands and new goods for trade. Their influence via trade was perhaps greater than that of their raids. However, it is the dreaded viking raid that made the biggest impression on most of Western Europe. Of course, the survivors of many of these raids were the monks who were able to write about their experiences and preserve their side of these encounters. I am not aware of any direct connections to the viking side of these raids. Do the sagas that we have today hold such information?

What I do know is that a population growth lead to seeking new lands and new wealth. When money is based on gold and silver, of which there is a finite supply, one has to find it through either mining or taking it from someone else. Thus, a common motivation throughout history. This same motivation will exist in RPG’s, like D&D, whose economies are based on coins of precious metals. Land and certain other items that don’t decay will also hold value.

So as the vikings were motivated by an expanding population and so forth, other groups of men and humanoids will have similar motivations for their raids and efforts at expansion. Other motivations might be doing the bidding of their deity or being manipulated by someone on a quest for power, whether it is political or magical. A shortage of females might prompt gathering brides, or for a female dominated society, it might prompt gathering grooms.

Concentrations of wealth, such as cities will be attractive. Only walls that are well defended will provide the most protection. Even that might not be enough for a determined and motivated force. Caravans or convoys of merchant ships might also be targets.

Bribes, threats, tricks, and other things might be used to get inside the walls of a city to allow a large force of raiders inside to get what they are after.

Some ruler or other type of power broker or power seeker might seek to manipulate a viking like group into going after his enemy or some other target to facilitate his own plans. A powerful wizard seeking a specific item, might use a raid to distract all the guards to defend the walls, to make it easier to pop in and take what she is after. An evil cleric might do something similar to gain an item, desecrate a good temple, of establish a foothold of evil in a city.

Related to my A to Z series on cities, this fits in nicely as a second article on V. Who wants what is in the city? Who are the enemies of the city? Who or what is the reason the city has walls and gates? As with anything, there are two types of threats to a city, known and unknown.

Obviously, it is much easier to plan for known threats. Unknown threats can only be guarded against based on how similar they are to known threats. For example, in a world without known magic, how would one guard against it? In a fantasy setting with magic, one can only guard against the types of magic one knows about. Invisibility, illusions, and disguises are all general categories, but some specific magic items, or unique spells would present a threat to undermine all defenses.

For physical threats that are unknown, it can be a new tribe or group of humans or a resurgence of humanoids whose population has recovered after their last beat down.

Vigilance against a threat is hard to maintain all the time without discipline and a very regimented dedication. It always happens that in time, people tend to forget the bad times, and don’t see the connections in events that lead to some “sudden” occurrence that in hindsight was building towards its outcome.


Slavery In RPGs

Slavery is often referred to in fantasy role playing games, FRPG’s, as evil. However, the scale of good/evil and how each game nation or culture views slavery would vary, as it did from ancient to modern times. Usually, on nine point alignment systems, chaotic good is viewed as opposed to slavery, while lawful good might be accepting of it, provided the methods of slavery and treatment of slaves falls within what is culturally and legally acceptable. This topic is touchy and some people see the word and might choose to think I am saying that I am in favor of slavery. I am merely discussing it from a gaming perspective. It is generally understood that the bad guys, such as orcs, keep slaves. Some human groups might keep slaves. I begin with some questions,  a brief historical and cultural review, and conclude with some thoughts for informing slavery. This article was spurred by the directions of my thoughts on this post. This is not a high scholarly article, only the briefest of overviews that touches on some general ideas. [For the record, in the real world, I think slavery is an evil, nasty practice, that should end. Many think that slavery ended over a century ago, but there are still people suffering in slavery today. If you have a problem with simulated slavery in the imagination, and don’t have a problem with all the imaginary killing, you have a logical disconnect. If you want to end slavery, go track down the jerks who BUY the slaves, thus making a market for the product. If there is no demand for slaves, it will end.]

Does or did slavery exist in your world? Is slavery more akin to some aspects of antiquity, where some or all slaves had certain rights and could somehow expect to return to or gain their freedom? Or is it more like more recent examples of slavery, where slaves are absolutely property to the point that their descendants are slaves, and their treatment varies by who their masters and overseers are? Would there be state slaves doing the work projects of the state? Would slaves be limited to conquered peoples, i.e. war prisoners, or criminals? What kinds of crimes would relegate one to slavery? Would all nations keep slaves, or only the most “primitive”, “evil”, or some such? Would slavery be such that even predominately good nations have slaves?

In the Bible, the Old Testament version of slavery was a form debt relief, or could be voluntary. Slavery was to be limited to six years, and then they were to be free, unless the master provided a wife during that time, then the male slave could opt to stay with his family and become a slave forever. The slave then was to have his ear pierced with an awl as a mark of his status. Women were not able to become free after six years, like men. Fathers could sell their daughters, but the master had to deal fairly with her. The only exception to this, was the year of Jubilee, every 50 years all slaves were to be set free and all debts forgiven. That was the law, but so far as we know, the ancient Israelites never did this. Those who were not Hebrews, however, were treated as we usually understand slaves. One can see how this informed the English concept of indentured servitude in colonial America.

Debt slavery is a way for one to get out of a hole by giving their labor for a set term in exchange for the master paying off their debts. This is related to voluntary slavery where someone becomes a slave so that someone else has to worry about where their food, clothing, and shelter comes from. This might be common in times of Indentured servitude, like was used by many young men from England and the German states to pay for passage to the English colonies in North America. It is estimated that between one third and one half of white males who came to the American colonies between about 1630 and the American Revolution were indentured servants. Indentured servants and their bond holders each had responsibilities to uphold. If an indentured servant ran off, they were found and sent back to finish out their term. Some bonds were re-sold, mid term, and the servant was stuck in perpetual indenturement, thus becoming a slave for life. Colonial apprenticeship programs where a master craftsman took on someone as an apprentice was much like indentured servitude, and could be initiated to bring the person to the colonies or for someone already in the colonies to get into a trade. This system could, of course, be abused, and apprentices ran away, much like other indentured servants. I did not find information on this with a quick google search, just going from memory from past history classes.

The first Africans brought to the American colonies in 1619 were indentured servants, because they had been baptized and were Christian, English law forbade enslaving Christians. So until 1640, African brought to the British Colonies were indentured servants, and not chattel slaves. Early on, slaves in North America could save up and buy their freedom, but that soon changed.

In antiquity, there was all variation of slavery. Slaves could be very well educated and entrusted with the education of the master’s children. Slaves could also be the ones doing dangerous and difficult jobs, such as mining underground.

Often, the largest supplies of slaves in antiquity were prisoners of war, that is, soldiers captured in battle after their defeat by the Roman Legions. At times, the Romans enslaved entire populations. Such slaves were sold to bring money into the state coffers. The needs of the state were maintained by keeping a portion of the slaves for government jobs. Famous examples of roman slaves are gladiators, who could win their freedom, such as Spartacus, famous for leading a slave revolt. See the movie with Kirk Douglas, or if you have cable, the TV series Spartacus.

In feudal Europe, there were varying levels or grades of serfs. In England, for example, there were four types of serfs, the lowest of which were actually slaves. Serfdom faded in Western Europe between the 14th and 16th centuries, and lasted in the Russian Empire until 1866.

The behavior and attitude of slaves is dependent upon their treatment. Underfed, poorly clothed and sheltered slaves who are mistreated become a powder keg and are ripe for revolt against their masters at the provocation that becomes the last straw. Some slave revolts, like that of Spartacus, come very near to reaching their goal of freedom, but usually, they end in a lot of death for the slaves, and sever punishments for those left behind to knock them back into compliance.

In my the online AD&D game I play in on Wednesday nights, the players discovered a conspiracy between powerful factions in two cities on the island, and we managed to expose it and end it, or at least drive off the slavers or send them underground. Obviously, this means in this case, that slavery is a no no. This need not be the default case in all games.

In my AD&D campaign, slavery only exists among the bad guys, however, I can see that it could be a normal part of life in another part of my world, if it even got developed.

If you have slavery in your world, here are some things to consider. NOTE: This assumes a human-centric world and a human government, from my interpretation. If you have a game where another race is in charge, the same questions need to be considered.

How does one become a slave?

  1. Losing side of battle or war
  2. Born into slavery
  3. Debt/Indentured/Voluntary
  4. Punishment for Crime(s)

Who can own slaves?

  1. King/State/Government
  2. Approved groups, like temples, military, certain types of industry, etc.
  3. Anyone who can afford it?

What form does slavery take?

  1. Temporary/Indentured for a set time.
  2. Permanent, but with possibility to save up and buy freedom, AKA redemption.
  3. Permanent, for life and descendants are born into slavery.
    1. This can take the form of no one can free a slave.
    2. A master can free, manumit, a slave.
    3. A slave can do something heroic and earn freedom.
    4. Perhaps a ruler or a deity could decree that it ends.

Who can become a slave?

  1. Anyone
  2. Only those born to a lowly caste/social class.
  3. Only prisoners of war.
  4. Criminals (types of crimes eligible would vary from any crime, to only the most severe, like murder)
  5. Only non humans
  6. Only those who don’t worship deity X

Who/What can end the institution of slavery?

  1. Nothing – That’s just the way it is
  2. Decree by ruler or representative of the main deity of the area.
  3. War
  4. Divine intervention – not likely, put possible.

Questions to consider:

Who is going to pay for this? Owners of slaves don’t want to just give up their property rights and inherent economic power, capital, tied up in their slaves.

Can the ones making the decree back it up with enforcement?

What jobs do slaves perform?

  1. Any job
  2. Any job designated as a slave job – Varies by nation/culture
    1. Skilled craftsmen
    2. Soldiers (sailors)
    3. Teachers of children
    4. Entertainers
  3. Only manual/menial labor
    1. Mining
    2. Galley Slaves (rowers)
    3. Farming
    4. Working with dangerous substances (poisonous, explosive, corrosive, etc.)

Social Strata

  1. Social Class, Loose – Possibility of moving up or down the ladder: money, valor, honor, connections, etc.
  2. Social Class, Rigid – Remote possibility of moving up or down the ladder: something exceptional, saving the king, defeating a powerful enemy, etc.
  3. Caste System – One is born into one’s station and there is no chance of movement, barring overthrow of that system. Becoming a slave in this system is a big deal, you upset the apple cart.
    1. If one does something to become a slave, they are the lowest of the low.
    2. OR, slaves stay in their caste, but no longer have the same rights and freedoms of others.

How does a slave become free?

  1. Never, or completion of contract if indentured.
  2. Manumission by master.
  3. Save up and buy freedom – Redemption.
  4. Earn it by deed(s).
  5. Freed by victorious army, ruler, etc.
  6. Run away and get clear of the slave chasers.
  7. Slave revolt

 Trivia: I came across a term in the Midkemia Press, Cities book, “coffle” – a line of slaves or animals fastened together. This gives me the image of old pictures and movies about processions through the jungle. Coffle is from the Arabic word for caravan.

Resources and Their Source

I have a BA (Bachelor of Arts) degree in History. I like the ancient and medieval period, Meopatamia, Egypt, Greece, Rome, etc. I like following different websites and one of those is the archaeology page on

Last week they had an article about Roman aqueducts.

That article got me to thinking about other types of construction, like Roman roads, buildings, city walls, etc. I have ancient cities that I will need to plan at some point in my campaign. Large cities need things like water and food, which mean ancient wells, cisterns, canals, irrigation, aqueducts, etc. and ancient fields and farms. Farms for simplicity sake would include cropland, grazing land for herds, fishing banks along the coast or a lake or river.

Huge stone structures require quarries for the source material. Abandoned quarries and still used quarries would be places an adventure might turn. Granite, marble, sandstone, etc.

Large building project of wood, whether a temple, fort, fleet of ships, or housing for the masses will require access to a large amount of forest. Were ancient forests depleted, are they restored to their former bounds after a thousand years? Stone building projects usually rely on wood for bracing and scaffolding. Without fast growing wood or woody plants, like bamboo, a large city would quickly deforest a huge area. How do sylvan creatures, elves, and druids react to this?

Metals require mines for coinage, armor, weapons, tools, etc. Copper, silver, tin, gold, platinum, iron, mithril, adamantite, etc. FYI – Copper and tin make bronze, copper and zinc make brass. The working of metals will require either large forests to supply wood for making charcoal, or coal mines for coal.

The above mentioned herds for food would also supply the leather for armor, belts, pouches, saddles, etc. Exotic herds could be culled for exotic leather items.

Other types of materials used in civilization are bricks, from simple mud dried bricks of earth, straw, and water, to fired bricks of clay. Again back to using wood for charcoal or mining coal to handle a large number of brick buildings and walls.

Glass is not a necessity, but does require sand and other ingredients, plus wood for charcoal or coal from coal mines to fire it.

Add to that the bakers in a huge city and all their ovens for bread.

One does not need to stat out or write up every little detail of an ancient city. However, keep these things in mind when there is a city or town adventure in a living town or the remains of such things in and ancient ruin of a town or city. For example, the fountains of Rome were the pressure release for the aqueduct system and were the source of fresh water for those who could not afford to have water piped to their homes. Will there be ancient fountains that are silted in, but contain coins from wishes? Or fountains filled with rainwater, but stagnant and smelly, but also have coins, or a monster and coins?

Roads are needed to connect cities and towns, to tie an ancient empire together. Roads, walls, and buildings can all be constructed using mud to rock, for sandstone; or wall of stone, for granite. Yes, they can be dispelled, but in AD&D you have to be a high enough level to do it. If an ancient empire was magic rich and had lots of high-level friendly wizards making buildings, it would explain a lack of or fewer quarries than is otherwise needed. Was a temple devoted to creating food for the masses, and the cities thus needed fewer farms and herds? I can see a very lawful civilization doing such things. Would there be ancient magical fountains that never ran out of water? Magic bread ovens that never ran out of bread?

What problems and challenges of modern civilization would a high magic society be able to solve using magic as their technology?

  • Sanitation: Sewers send it all to a pit of a permanent disintegration to avoid stink and disease. Or if they didn’t have that level of magic available, would use carrion crawlers and otyughs.
  • Construction/Infrastructure: Magic to assist with building roads, walls, forts, castles, etc.
  • Ships and wooden construction: Cooperation and trade with sylvan creatures, elves, or druids would provide all the needed wood while preserving the bounds of the forests.
  • Food and Water: Can be created magically, as suggested above.
  • Communication: Crystal balls, palantirs, mirrors, or other devices could facilitate communication between an emperor/king and his governors, nobles, and generals.
  • Travel:  Magically created roads for the less well to do and caravans. Teleportation rooms/chambers/stations for travel between cities, or across cities, or to neighboring kingdoms.
  • Trade: By the use of superior and coordinated magic in the running of an empire, it could simplify trade due to superior communication and travel capabilities.
  • Health: Sanitation as described above. Health care by clerics of temples.
  • Education: There would be great centers of learning, colleges and universities for the study of magic for the benefit of all. Great temples and seminaries for the study of divine magic.
  • Light: Donations to temples or commerce with wizards would mean everyone has a bulls eye lantern with continual light. Streetlights would have continual light. There would be less need for candles and lamp oil, other than for the poor or ritual use.

A strongly lawful society learning to good with a high level of magic would have a tendency to have these things. War would be far off and the orcs and goblins would be far away, just a story to most people. But if something happened like a strange disease that spread rapidly via the teleport system faster than it could be cured, chaos would ensue. The chaos caused could bring down the whole system. Wizards who survive try to keep things going and end up fighting for turf, thus accelerating the collapse. Troops are needed to keep order, generals who are lawful, but not good would be tempted to pay orcs and goblins to help fill their depleted ranks. Soon wizards are mistrusted and on the run. Civilization as we know it is gone, cities are abandoned as the masses flea disease and civil war. All the neat things that the ancients knew are mostly lost to the knowledge of all but a few after a thousand years. This is the scenario of my campaign. The players don’t know or need to know any of this, just that centuries ago, there was a lot of magic and many wonderful things that a brave and successful adventurer can find.

In a way, my campaign is a “post apocalyptic” world, but there is no radiation and mutants. Although there might be strange creatures brought about by ancient wizards and their experiments. There are powerful ancient artifacts and devices that require study to use without destroying one’s self.