Merchant, Venturer, Mogul

This is an ongoing attempt to work up a special stronghold type for Venturers, who really deserve one.

A lot of this right now is a braindump, and there’s still a lot of work to do with the math to make sure that this stronghold type compares favorably with the default Hideout type.

Let me know how things strike you.

So, as a start, this:

will allow you to calculate average monthly profits for any given market class for any given distance. That’s in a relatively raw state, and I’m going to work on entabulating it as a range of options, rather than as a raw calculation.

It’s an interesting equation that follows a curve with a vertex at the first “shipping interval” mark, but isn’t a parabola or anything regular. I’m gonna make a half-assed attempt to find an equation to describe it…but I ain’t hopeful.

At 9th level, Venturers may establish a Company.

Venturers must first build an Office to begin regular trade in a market.

To establish an Office in a market, you start by building offices and warehousing to the values below:

Market Class…Minimum Facilities Value…Trade Volume (Stone)
Class VI…300…240
Class VI…700…600
Class IV…2500…2000
Class III…7000…6000
Class III…16000…13500
Class I…48000…40000

This is based off of Alex’s post here:

The offices are worth the Minimum Wealth from that table (as ostentation equates to success and success equates to trust and trust equates to business), and the remainder of the facilities value is the warehousing:

Market Class…Warehousing Value…Warehousing Cu Ft
Class VI…5…150
Class VI…13…375
Class IV…42…1250
Class III…125…3750
Class III…281…8437
Class I…833…25000

Trade Volume In Stone is based on double the minimum cargo from that table, representing in/out movement of trade. I’ve calculated (and this is subject to change) that the volume of the “average common cargo load” is about 50 cu. ft.

The warehousing costs are based on the cost for the wooden cottage. A venturer may expand her trade volume by spending 4 GP for every 100 stone of additional trade she’d like to support, to expand her warehousing.

To begin trade, the venturer then invests in a caravan type. Once complete, that caravan begins trade from the current market to whichever remote market the Venturer wishes, gaining an average monthly profit as calculated above. Note that all trade is calculated at the levels of the smallest market in the route.

The venturer must hire (most likely another venturer) to do this trade on her behalf.

Each month, the hireling or follower rolls a Hear Noise check, modified by the inverse of the market class:

Market Class…Hear Noise Modifier
Class VI…-1
Class V…-2
Class IV…-3
Class III…-4
Class III…-5
Class I…-6

On a successful check, the trade route gains the calculated monthly profit. (perhaps Bargaining proficiency adds some percentage?)

If the check fails by 14 or more, or is a natural 1, things Go Awry.

Going Awry: TODO, but once I’ve entabulated/enformulated the trade route profits, I’ll have a 2d6 roll determine What Happened.

That will be things like:

All hands and cargo lost
Caravan attacked, cargo lost, pay ransom for half the crew
Bribes required, reduce profit by %%
Inclement weather, warfare, other slowdown, reduce profit by %%
Market crash, reduce profit by %%
Lucked out, increase profit by %%

and I’ll set it up so that you can either roll this stuff, or I’ll precalculate everything like was done for the default Hijink income table.

Monthly Upkeep - the Venturer pays both upkeep for her offices and for her caravans; 0.5% of the value of each per month (the ships, wagons, etc.)

Staff (TODO) - For a given market size, the Venturer must hire a number of trade managers and assorted professionals to manage the business. These will be Professionals (as the proficiency).


A Monopoly is established when a Venturer is trading from two markets that have an Office of her company in.

The efficiencies gained allow the monthly profits of the shipping route to increase by (10% or more, TODO). In addition, an established monopoly gives a +1 on trade route rolls to avoid something Going Awry.


Unlike other criminal guilds, corporations often have established competition. When investing in a new route (by buying a ship or wagon train and crewing it up) the venturer or hireling must succeed on a reaction roll to first establish the route, which represents making deals and signing contracts with local merchants to move their wares.

This will work much like the Change In Management rules under Hijinks. The purpose of this is to generate conflict, essentially, as a very successful Venturer taking NPC’s business suddenly having the occassional assassination attempt (Judge’s discretion) sounds like a Good Time.


Depending on how the math works out on the trading, I may allow the Venturer to still do Stealing, Smuggling, other maybe one other Hijink as a supplement.


Alex has posted theoretical trade limits elsewhere that I’ll take into account, though I’d be surprised if it comes into play.


At this iteration, the only established rules are building an Office and buying the caravan. To start:

  1. Decide which markets you wish to serve.
  2. Choose the most profitable caravan type to serve those markets.
  3. Build an Office and the caravan
  4. Profit

Hokay, let’s play a pretendsies game!

I’d like to establish a trade route between Riverfall and Nobridge, which are 7 hexes apart and connected by river. (I’m assuming that the distance values are all in 6 mile hexes?)

They’re both Class IVs, so I pay 2500 gp at each location to set up an office. 250 of that goes towards building a warehouse capable of housing 2000 stone, and the rest goes towards potted plants and attractive workers, because you need RESPECT.

Now that I’m 5000 gp poorer, I set up a 5 wagon caravan, since my PC actually already owns six wagons.

I assign a 1st level Venturer to the trade route. After consulting your megachart, I conclude that 1 week per market is the best result. It should yield a profit of 694 per month.

Now, since it’s a class 4, there’s a -3 penalty, but since I double officed it, there’s a +1 bonus.

So he needs a 16+. Something will Go Awry on a 1 or 2. So, with this setup, 10% of the time catastrophe will strike, 25% of the time he’ll make a profit, and the remaining 65% of the time, he will fail uninteresting.

So this guy will make no money eight months out of the year, and wreck my caravan once a year. Setting aside catastrophes for a moment, that’s 1,860 in costs per year, versus 2,082, for an average of 222 gp earned per year.

But maybe that’s just because he’s a scrub! What if he’s level 4?

Then he’s going against a 13+, and the numbers work out to 7 months of costs 5 months of profits, or 1,085 versus 3,470 for 2385 per year expected from that caravan.

For reference, if I’d invested in a 4th level Spy, he’d be earning
8d12*100 (avg 5200) per month, minus the failure rate… succeeds on a 16+ means 25% success rate means expected value 1300 per month, total yearly income of 15600. So 4th level venturer way, way less profitable than a thief hideout. (Of course, there have already been threads about how thief hideouts are wildly more profitable than any other kind of endgame. Still! Some of the other PCs have domains that’re generating revenue in excess of that right now.)

I’m curious about the 5% arbitrage rate. That’s wildly out of sync with what the arbitrage rules have actually generated for me. (I mean, rolling 4d4 for prices, roughly one merchant in six is going to be offering 70% or lower for their prices, which means even if the next place is only buying at 100%, you’re running a 42% profit. Heck, even if you lose your roll for bargaining at both ends, that’s 80 to 90, which is 11% profit. I guess the above fails to take into account taxes, but still.

Are we assuming that the prices PCs encounter are surreal, and don’t represent the realities for most venturers?

Thanks for the feedback. I am just this morning modelling a hideout so I can figure out how far off I am from the (expected by the book) thief income.

So, firstly, I realized my mistake when copypasta’ing the Hijink text. Though the mental image of a guy running a caravan off the same cliff once a year has me giggling.

What I wantedto say reads:

If the roll is successful, a combination of canny tradesmanship and market forces allow the caravan master to gain an extra 10% on the average profits of the route. A roll that is not successful, but is not a natural 1 or a failure of 14 or more, gains the average profits. A failure of 14 or more, or a natural 1, means something has gone awry.

So you always gain profit, on average.

To speak to your specific example:

Riverfall and Nobridge are Class IV markets, 7 hexes apart, at 6 miles/hex, that’s 42 miles apart.

Entering 42 at the Distance cell, I scroll down to 1 Week, Class IV, 5-wagon.

I get 136gp/month. (let me know what you put in the Distance cell?)

A level 1 Venturer rolls HN at 14+, at a -3 penalty, so he needs a 17+ for “success”. To fail by 14 or more, he needs to roll a 1 through 3.

Success is 20% of the time, completion 65% of the time, various failure 15%.

Upon various failure, 2d6 is rolled.

On a:

2-: He does, indeed, drive the caravan over a cliff. Full loss, meaning you lose the startup cost of the caravan plus the value of the arbitrage cargo it held. (-2,925 gp in this case)
3-5: Various calamities incur - right now it’s set at half the caravan cost and arbitrage value, plus ransoming half the crew. (-852 gp)
6-8: The market was sad. -20% profit.
9-11: Nothing happened.
12+: Market was happy. +20%.

If we set that out the way Hijinks were, we get this, in Venturer Level: Profit

1st: 87
2nd: 105
3rd: 123
4th: 124
5th: 124
6th: 125
7th: 126
8th: 126

per month. Taking into effect the +1 for the Monopoly Route, it’s

1st: 88
2nd: 106
3rd: 124
4th: 124
5th: 125
6th: 126
7th: 126
8th: 127

not a lot of difference. Clearly, moving that bonus to the 2d6 roll for calamities would be more effective. In fact, if I do that:

1st: 110
2nd: 120
3rd: 131
4th: 131
5th: 132
6th: 133
7th: 133
8th: 134

If we compare that to the Monthly Hijink Income on pg141, calculated essentially the same way:

1st: 5
2nd: 30
3rd: 200
4th: 425
5th: 650
6th: 835
7th: 1500
8th: 2000

The income of the venturer being somewhat limited by the realities of the trade route, rather than the more nebulous definition of a ‘hijink’ means that, in general, you’re not going to be hiring a lot of high-level guys. The ‘gold standard’ of a Large Sailing Ship sailing twixt Class Is nets 2591 a month.

A 1st level venturer, who’ll sink a ship faster than Gilligan, still nets 2209 gp (2527 monopoly). The 8th level is 2589/2695 - not worth his salary. In fact, across the board, the level of venturer running the route is less impactful on success than it is on hijinks.

…and salaries of the venturers running the caravans are something I haven’t taken into account yet.

I don’t necessarily want to get too far off topic, but:

Here’s the thing that bugs me about that. The roll for price is 4d4, averages 10%, without demand modifier alteration. Customs duty is 2d10 -averages 11%. On average, you’re only breaking even as long as you’ve got a +1 demand modifier in your favor - am I reading that right?

In the example in the book, Farlaghn sold his dyes for 5,500 GP, and paid 605 gp in tax. That’s a net of 4895 gp. 20 loads, that’s 244 gp per load. He would have had to buy those dyes at a maximum modified result of a 9 (90% base price) at 4500 gp total, so his profits are 395 gp, or, 8%.

Three (?) rolls happened there. A 4d4 at the source, a 4d4 and a 2d10 at the destination. If we needed a 9 or less at the source, then got at least a (4d4=)9 and at least (2d10=)11 at the destination, that’s

74% * 74% * 55% = 30% chance of at least 8%, if I did that right - so a 70% of less than 8.

In theory, knowing the full set of demand modifiers for the two markets, you could approximate a percentage bonus to profits to reflect the fact that some part of your usual haul will be more valuable than average.

Something else interesting here is the assumption that by turning the Venturer’s domain into a mercantile one, we’re short-circuiting the limitations on mercantile income, in that you have to go along with the expedition, to gain XP.

They are one in the same thing for the Venturer in this system. If we make a specialist class “Merchant”, and the Venturer can establish an office before 9th level, a handful of these routes might get a low-level Venturer some domain XP.

I’ll have to add the chances of success for a 0-level “merchant” at the 18+ Hear Noise level of normal men.

And to answer my own question, the 0-level merchant makes 15GP on a regular route, and 75GP on a monopoly route - mainly due to eliminating the ‘total loss’ result from the 2d6 table with the +1 bonus.

I may have to see what hoops I’d have to jump through to get the ‘calamity’ table to allow a 0-level merchant to make the full 136GP, as the previous assumption would have been.


If I put a floating modifier on the profits so that a 0-level ‘merchant’ can achieve the profits expected via derivation from the Merchant Ships & Caravan Table assuming those merchants always have the +1 bonus from a monopoly route, this works out like so:

0th: 136 gp
1st: 191 gp
2nd: 205 gp
3rd: 218 gp
4th: 220 gp
5th: 221 gp
6th: 222 gp
7th: 223 gp
8th: 224 gp

(I also removed the cost to ransom crew from the calamity table, to simplify the math)

If we then note that a thief hiring ruffians is paying a bit less than henchmen costs at the top end (a spy, a 4th level thief, makes 125 GP rather than the expected 200) we might be able to work out the costs for non-adventuring merchant-venturers as:

1st: 25
2nd: 50
3rd: 80
4th: 125
5th: 200
6th: 325
7th: 500
8th: 1000

in which case our actual profits including the cost of a merchant-specialist is:

1st: 166
2nd: 155
3rd: 138
4th: 95
5th: 21
6th: -103
7th: -277
8th: -526

So, for the smaller routes, you’re not getting a lot out of the better merchant. For larger routes, that’s also the case - profit is maximized on the Class I/500m/LargeShip route at a 3rd level merchant.


So, thinking about this, I have indeed successfully treated Venturers as common traders, as the MS&C table operates.

But, Venturers are PCs, and should be better than that.

What if the average cargo they were picking up was not coming from a 3rd party merchant, but from their own business dealings, straight from the source? After all, I’d assumed we were buying all this warehouse space; may as well use it more efficiently.

Given that, what if we treat that cargo that was shipping cargo as a second class of arbitrage cargo? In this case, to represent the deals made on both the buying and selling side of the equation (make it up in volume!) we’ll simply double the assumed arbitrage profit percentage - 10% on most routes, 20% on long land routes. (regular arbitrage cargo stays at the same rates).

We’re still taking the average number of passengers along with us as well, just cause.

Let’s look back at Class IVs Riverfall and Nobridge, 42 miles apart.

Ignoring the calamity table, our 3-week market time profit is 401 GP. Or 2-week is 413 GP, and our 1-week is 441 GP.

Taking our 1 week profit rate and reapplying the calamity table and MS&C compatibility multiplier, and assuming the +1 calamity bonus from having an office on each end of the route:

0: 441
1: 488
2: 500
3: 513
4: 515
5: 518
6: 520
7: 523
8: 525

and including the wages of that same level merchant to run the route:

0: 429
1: 463
2: 450
3: 433
4: 390
5: 318
6: 195
7: 23
8: -475

Which is not only more palatable, it is also a good deal closer to what you’re seeing on your own merchant ventures.

This is updated on the previously shared spreadsheet. On the “RouteTable” tab, enter in the Profit on Route, Market Class, Arbitrage Cargo Value, and Shipping Weight from the ProfitTable tab on the route you’re wanting to run.

The profit value for treating the shipping cargo as arbitrage+ is the “Profits (C=A)” column.

Let me know how that strikes you.