So let me tell you how I’ve been wasting my spare time. I say wasting, because I don’t think it will ever result in publishable material, however, I truly believe that by knowing my world better, I will better be able to develop plots and sub-plots that will factor into both my active campaigns and could serve at least as background for Fletnern and Fletnern based material.
Much of what I have worked on over the last twenty years is centered around the Barony and City of Forsbury. The current list of merchant cartels in Forsbury shows 25, though some of them might not truly reach the definition of “cartel” as it is used in Forsbury. In any case, this is a different list than the one I used when we first started basing adventures and campaigns out of Forsbury. Why? Because things change. A stagnant game world is, well, stagnant, dull, boring, keep going with the negativity.
So the thought occurred to me - If things have change in the last 7-10 years of game world time, how much they have changed over the last 70-100 years of game time? In a lot of cases, I had a decent idea of how the cartel started, but had never fleshed out the people and events surrounding these data points. So that’s what I’m doing - I am bulking up the history of Forsbury in order to better lay out how things were over the last generations.
Why? Is this as I just said - all about knowing my world better? Well yes and no. What I am really looking to do is to fill out my already excessive cast of characters. Phase one of you seeing this extensive list is to check out Royalty which will give you a 10,000’ view of the nobility. What I am talking about now is basically the same type of thing for the merchants. Is that why? Because I want to be able to publish 100 Merchants? No. Mainly the reason I want to do this is because I want to figure out who the losers were. I know which cartels closed their doors over the last six years of game time. If I knew which cartels closed their doors over the last 60 years of game time, I would have a fantastic list of families that had been beaten or cheated out of their fortunes. I would have lists of disgruntled folks looking at the cartels, caravans and warehouses of Forsbury and burning with a desire for revenge. And many of these people would still have some things of value that just might make it worth someone else’s time to carry out their vindictive ideas. That’s what I need - passionate losers bent on revenge, or maybe just survival.
It’s not as tough to do as you think. Step one: flesh out the cartels that are in existence: when did they start, how did they start, who started them. Step two: create or flesh out the families that link the cartel founders to the current cartel big wigs. Step three: Once I know when cartels started, it should be obvious that they would not have been able to start if they were not filling a hole in the consumer demands, so figure out who did it before them and why they aren’t doing it any more. For instance, Freddy Frumpt runs slaves in and out of Forsbury, very profitably I might add. But he’s a first generation slaver. Admittedly he is sort of a branch of his father’s business in Garnock, but he has certainly expanded his revenues in Forsbury. Someone must have been running slaves before he came to town. Who, and why aren’t they in business any more. A big part of Freddy’s rise was the hits the Dawinstrovstat cartel took during and after the Merchant War of 647. Now they moved Dharvic slaves, while Freddy is moving slaves out of Garnock. So did the racial make-up of slaves in Forsbury change over the last few years?
But I don’t want to forget the history of the world and how it fits into this. During periods of war, were the weapons merchants scoring record profits? Could they maintain those once the wars ended? If one city-state took over another’s region, would that have caused a collapse of the merchants who were dealing with the now occupied region? If there had been a drought in one part of the world, could a merchant have risen to supply them, and then what happened after their own crops started coming back strongly?
I get it - I am probably the role-player most fascinated by trade and economics in the world. But knowing who has the money and how they got it, knowing who is angry, but probably has a sizeable piggy bank, and knowing how fortunes have changed over the years tells me where the money is. Remember the famous saying, “Follow the money”. If you think mercenaries and adventurers don’t follow the money, then you’re not paying attention to your player characters.