I’ll confess: I’ve always wanted to play, or GM, a Sinbad-inspired game of trading on the high seas, but I hate bookkeeping. Now, Hari Ragat is patterned after a setting that was on the Maritime Silk Road, so there will definitely be trading opportunities for the PCs. In game terms, trading is a way to gain Renown, Wealth, and the ceremonially important treasures that make up Bahandi.
To boil it down even further, trading in Hari Ragat is really about having to take a dangerous journey somewhere, then dickering for a good deal. Wealth and Bahandi gain are really just extra carrots; the experience of the journey’s the thing.
Like I said, I hate bookkeeping. Nor do I want players to constantly be looking up tables of items and prices. Instead, trade is handled simply by offering a ratio of Wealth or Bahandi return for Wealth or Bahandi invested when you trade X item for Y item in location Z.
For example, I could say ‘Pearls are 3:2 Wealth in Penjan.’ this means for every 2 Wealth invested into pearls, you’ll get back 3 Wealth.
To go trading, you must first identify what to trade in and where to take it. There are both traditional markets, such as the northern ports for southern products like pearls, and markets of opportunity such as rice for an island that recently suffered a locust infestation or a town that’s about to throw a huge feast and is short on supplies for it.
Then determine how much Wealth to invest; this buys you a certain amount of the trade goods, or represents that amount of goods you’ve produced and will trade instead of using yourself.
At the location you can bargain with buyers for a more favorable exchange ratio.
Trading for Bahandi
What if you want Bahandi instead? Bahandi goods like porcelain are worth varying amounts of Wealth depending on their quality, history, and where you’re buying and from whom. Bahandi goods are usually imported, so they’re cheaper the closer you are to the original source.
Each unit of Bahandi is worth 1d3 Wealth at the source nearest to origin; for example porcelain would be cheapest from a Wulong merchant in one of the northern ports, which are the closest ones to Wulong.
GMs can offer a straight Bahandi-for-Wealth-invested ratio, like 1:2 for pearls – 1 Bahandi point for every 2 Wealth in pearls.
Trade routes are either inter-island or intra-island. Intra-island trade may be between coastal communities, but the most lucrative is between coastal communities and highland communities.
Highlanders produce, or rather extract from their environment, things like gold, exotic woods, wax, honey, and highland crops specially rice. In return, they want coastal products and imports from overseas: dried and smoked fish, iron both in worked form and ingots, salt, and imported Bahandi items. Coast-to-highland trade usually travels by river as far inland as possible before making the final leg overland. The overland trek is usually made with porters carrying the goods; horses are rare.
Inter-island routes serve both local needs and the grand trade routes spanning the ocean. Porcelains, silks, brassware, weapons, iron, and even horses are imported for redistribution throughout the Janggalan Isles. The interisland routes in turn funnel Janggalan exports such as exotic woods, incense, camphor, musk, pearls, trepang, and gold to the northern ports, whence they are taken either north to Wulong or west to the Mahanagaran or Sabaean kingdoms.
Renown for Trading Expeditions
I’m leaning toward a simpler per-adventure award of Renown, based on the difficulty of the adventure. For trading expeditions, the base Renown award is determined mainly by the distance to be traveled. After all, the farther you have to sail or trek the more chances there are for challenging encounters, plus the sheer buzz value of having gone farther than most would dare.