Venturer Questions

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Alex
The Autarch
Joined: 2011-06-30 18:10

1) LMAO Cash 4 Gold
2) Great analysis
3) When contemplating mercantile ventures, it is worthwhile to factor in the additional revenue you can make from passengers and shipping contracts. Even in markets where arbitrage opportunities don't exist, there's money to be made from shipping passengers and goods. These systems provide a steady revenue stream for venturers.

susan_brindle
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Could you elaborate on that? I've glanced at the passenger rules several times and they just don't seem worthwhile from my Venturer's perspective.

Hypothetical: The Passenger Gods bless me, and I roll max on everything. My two stops in class 4 (3 with mercantile network!) towns each yield 4 passengers, 8 shipping contracts, and 12 loads per contract. 164gp maximum. Since I only stayed for one week in each place and thus only picked up half of them, I get half of that. Since I visited two places, I double it. 164 gp anyway. If I want to travel quickly, that means half-capacity wagons, which means I'd need 10 wagons to transport that many people. (I'm assuming that the "Free Passage for Merchant Representative" means another 200-stone passenger, but the 164 gp is the real point.) Ten wagons and 40 horses that'd cost well over 3k, meaning that in order for these month-long trips (1 week in each location, plus travel time) to pay for themselves, I'd have to spend over a year doing this.

Of course, that assumes I'm going hardcore passengers, but the fewer I take, the less money I have. If I only own one wagon, I can pick up a maximum of one passenger to fill up my extra space, but he only generates 20 gp. Given that my main mercantile adventures tend to generate a few thousand (5000 this run and like 6000 on my last one, I think. I've only done two so far, with the first being an incredible success where I bought armor from dwarves for 30% and sold for 100% and tripled my money, and the second being a more boring success where I bought rubies for 80% and sold for 110%.)

Adding on less than 200 gp to a trip that generates thousands on a reasonable, low-profit day doesn't seem worth the extra bookkeeping, even at only 5th level.

koewn
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Passengers only work out better than cargo when they're paying for a specific destination, as near as I can tell, since they each pay for your entire cargo space, irregardless of them taking up no more than 200 stone. (so that you can then still fill the space with cargo, and get paid twice or more for the same space)

Rare as hen's teeth, though.

And I've managed to gloss over that "free passage for rep" clause everytime I've read that paragraph. Thanks for bringing it up. That does complicate things, doesn't it?

koewn
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And, to elaborate upon myself, passenger and cargo transport, as it's static income, really relies on your ability to get where you're going quickly.

It's 1 GP per 10 stone in either case, on any distance land or sea that is under the maximum distance for the associated Class I trade route. Functionally, you only profit if you get to your destination before your costs overwhelm your contract price - if your costs for the length of your journey are under 1GP/10 stone, you're good.

Given that restriction, then, the shipping of cargo or passengers is essentially insurance against the vagarities of the arbitrage rolls. Or as just a fill-up for crappy rolls on merchants/load available when you're picking up cargo, perhaps.

susan_brindle
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I guess it's less that I can't see how it makes a profit and more that I can't see how it makes a *meaningful* profit.

Like, I already said that at 5th level I've made several thousand GP on each mercantile adventure, so at present I'm tempted to disregard the opportunity for an extra 20 gp per adventure as not worth the bookkeeping. I can thus only imagine that as my wealth grows exponentially when I reinvest the thousands I've made that the static revenue of passengers will become even less significant.

koewn
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What have your costs been, compared to your income? Wagons, drivers, guards, (ships, sailors, captains) or whatever?

I've been mussing around with deconstructing the Merchant Ships & Caravans table and the wages for the guards, sergeants, and leaders is killing the numbers - none of that seems to be accounted for in the "costs" column - unless those guys are all working at much less than they'd expect for their hit dice.

susan_brindle
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I've only done two runs so far- On one of them, I was moving goods between two port cities, so I just paid the shipping fee of 1 gp per 10 stone to have someone else haul the cargo and give me free passage, so my costs for that run came to something like 80 gp for a 6000 gp profit. (I bought armor at 30% and sold at 110%, just about tripling my 3000 gp investment after taxes)

On the other, I just bought a big sack of gems, put them on my horse, and rode with a handful of loyal mercenaries that I borrowed from a PC's garrison, since he didn't need them at the moment and he was getting a share of the profits. With investments from everyone else, the party as a whole managed to turn roughly 16k into something like 22k, for a 47% profit. My personal slice of that was 6k that turned into 11k.

So in answer to your question, so far *my* costs have been near zero, and I've made around 5k both times.

susan_brindle
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But even once I buy that light saililng ship and am paying ~400 a month in wages and supplies, 400 is still far, far less than the 5000+ I've been making. (A number which will go up even more as a ship opens new possibilities, and I accumulate wealth to reinvest)

Alex
The Autarch
Joined: 2011-06-30 18:10

Well, you don't need to deconstruct it. I can just email it to you...

koewn
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Ha!

That would be great, actually. This one in particular is eluding me somehow.

Thanks!

susan_brindle
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Additional questions:

-What constitutes "Joining" a mercantile venture? Is it being physically present (IE: A PC travelling with the caravan) or contributing capital or both or either?

-What happens if multiple PCs (Or one PC and his henches) attempt to search the same market for merchants?

Alex
The Autarch
Joined: 2011-06-30 18:10

1. What constitutes "Joining" a mercantile venture? Is it being physically present (IE: A PC travelling with the caravan) or contributing capital or both or either?

For what purpose are you asking? I don't think I understand the question.

2. What happens if multiple PCs (Or one PC and his henches) attempt to search the same market for merchants?

Each adventurer may independently search the market for merchants. Each adventurer must pay the toll separately. Each merchant transacts with the adventurer who found them. The Reaction Rolls to persuade a merchant to buy or sell a particular type of merchandise use the CHA and proficiency of the adventurer who found them. (This prevents a character with CHA 18 and Bargaining from dominating the trade of an entire town.) There are approximately 20 times as many merchants total in any given market as the number listed, so in actual play a typical adventuring party is unlikely to "use up" all the merchants. That is, no one adventurer can corner more than 5% of the market personally.

THAT SAID, I've always felt these rules are incomplete. One thing I regret not putting in the rules is some sort of minimum threshold of cash or cargo capacity that a character has to own in order to qualify as a merchant in the eyes of those he would transact with.

As an optional rule, you could append the following to the ARBITRAGE TRADING section, following the sentence "This represents harbor fees paid to the harbormaster of a port, guild tolls at the city gate for caravans, etc." 

"An adventurer is considered to have entered a market to buy or sell goods only if he arrives with either enough wealth and cargo capacity to be taken seriously by the merchants within the market. The Minimum Wealth and Cargo table, below, shows the minimum holdings of wealth and the minimum caravan or ship cargo capacity that an adventurer must hold to enter a market of each class. (Note that wealth can be in the form of inventory for sale)."

"If an adventurer does not meet these minimums, but still wishes to buy or sell in the market, he can do so, but many fewer merchants will be interested in transacting with him. When determining the number of merchants and loads of merchandise available to him, roll on the Market and Merchants table as if he were in a market of minimum size for the character's actual wealth and cargo capacity."

"EXAMPLE: Marcus arrives at Aura with a small sailing  ship (10,000st cargo capacity) carrying a full cargo of common metals (100 loads, total value 20,000gp). He has an additional 25,000gp in gold coin. Aura is a Class I market, so normally an adventurer can transact with 2d6+2 merchants, interested in 6d8 loads each. However, Class I markets have a minimum wealth of 45,000gp and minimum cargo capacity of 20,000st. Marcus has the wealth but not the cargo capacity. Since Marcus only has a cargo capacity of 10,000st, he instead will roll on the Market and Merchants table as if he were in a Class II market. Had Marcus arrived with two small sailing ships he'd be able to exploit Aura's Class I market fully."

Market

Class

Minimum
Wealth

Minimum

Cargo

I

45,000gp

20,000st

II

15,000gp

6,750st

III

6,750gp

3,000st

IV

2,250gp

1,000st

V

675gp

300st

VI

270gp

120st

 

koewn
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Interesting. What's the genesis of those numbers?

Antiquities
Joined: 2013-07-05 19:55

Except for Class II, it's 2.25 GP per stone (or 1 stone per 2.25 GP). Class II is 2.31 GP per stone (2.25 would be 6,667 stone, so it's rounded to the nearest 250).

I thought at first that it might be based off the Total Investment required to create that size of a market. Class VI requires 10k GP, which is 37.037 (repeating) times the GP requirement to effectively use the market. Class V is also 37.037 times, but then it goes to 33.33 times for Class IV, 29.63 for Class III, 41.67 for Class II, and 55.56 for Class I, so the required investment becomes a bit steeper when going from V to IV and from IV to III, but once a venturer is able to effectively trade at Class III, it becomes easier to grow to Class II and I.

Using the 37.037 ratio between infrastructure and liquidity and the 2.25 ratio between liquidity and cargo space, it would shift slightly to:
Class VI - 270 GP, 120 stone
Class V - 675 GP, 300 stone
Class IV - 2025 GP, 900 stone
Class III - 5400 GP, 2400 stone
Class II - 16875 GP, 7500 stone
Class I - 67500 GP, 30000 stone

Compared to the official table, this one's a bit easier to get up to Class III, gets a little harder at Class II, and requires 50% more investment to effectively handle Class I markets.

Alex
The Autarch
Joined: 2011-06-30 18:10

It's based on the average number of merchants x average number of loads per merchant x average value of a load, then rounded off to a pleasantly round value.

Avg. Merch.Avg. LoadsAvg. ValueAvg. Cargo
927$43,74019440
614$15,1206720
57.5$6,7503000
2.55$2,2501000
1.52.5$675300
11.5$270120

 

SaruSama
Joined: 2013-09-11 23:43

Does this apply when looking for mercenaries too? I mean you could be looking to hire cargo capacity. Shouldn't only the wealth side matter when looking to hire mercs?

SaruSama
Joined: 2013-09-11 23:43

To further expand on this. Say a venturer arrives in a class 2 with no real carrying capacity but 100,000 gold and says he wants to hire an army. Would he treat the market as a class 1? Than say he wants to buy some goods while hes there too. Would he than treat it as a Class 2?

susan_brindle
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I would assume that these market limits only apply for ventures, and you don't need to bring 20k and a sailing ship to Tidewater just to find someone that'll cast Stone to Flesh.

It is worth re-asking whether the "One guy can only find 5%" also applies to non-ventures though. Can me and my eight henches descend on a class I market and hire 36d100 light infantry?

Also while we're at it, *can* one multitask and, say, look for interested merchants for a mercantile venture while recruiting henches, trying to sell a magic sword, and trying to buy a boat?

Alex
The Autarch
Joined: 2011-06-30 18:10

I would assume that these market limits only apply for ventures, and you don't need to bring 20k and a sailing ship to Tidewater just to find someone that'll cast Stone to Flesh.

APM: Sure, that's correct, although we're dealing with a rule I wrote up here in the forum so I'm certainly open to being persuaded otherwise.

My thinking is that no one is likely to solicit for equipment, mercenaries, and spells that they don't intend to hire, whereas people (both PCs and in-world NPCs) presumably do attempt to suss out the market, negotiate, and so on without necessarily buying. Also wholesales/middlemen/distributors tend to be much harder to gain access to than retailers.

But this is just based on my own experiences in real-world business: When I post a job ad, I get hundreds of applications; if I ask for bids on new PCs in the office, I get dozens of bids; but if I try to buy or sell advertising space it's a huge painful process!

2. It is worth re-asking whether the "One guy can only find 5%" also applies to non-ventures though. Can me and my eight henches descend on a class I market and hire 36d100 light infantry?

APM: No, it does not. No, they cannot. Those are the maximum available in the market.

While the Availability tables DO have some "slack" in them, this slack is addressed through the Commissioning system. That is, I assume (as was historically the case) that most equipment is made on commission rather than created in advance and sold at retail. (For mercenaries or specialists, commissioning actually means that the mercenaries or specialists travels to the market from other markets based on notice received from, e.g., a guild).

Please see this forum post for some update rules on commissioning: http://www.autarch.co/forum/specialists-and-commissioning-0

3. Also while we're at it, *can* one multitask and, say, look for interested merchants for a mercantile venture while recruiting henches, trying to sell a magic sword, and trying to buy a boat?

Unless the Judge has reason to rule otherwise, I would say "yes".

susan_brindle
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Re: Commissioning System:

How does the commissioning system work with mercenaries, then? That is, normally the commissioning system treats equipment as one row higher on the price chart, but mercs don't follow that price chart, so I'm not sure how many more mercs I could commission then normal.

Then there's the GP/day 'construction' rate; if mercs follow the same rule as animals (??) then 1gp/day means it'll take twelve days per crossbowman I want to hire, so if I need 240 crossbowmen (eight units at platoon scale) it'll take 2880 days, or about eight years? That seems high.

(In case it's relevant, my group found out there's a 700 goblin force approaching a small outlying domain we'd like to protect. I'm not sure how many weeks we have. Hopefully more than two. Thus we need to raise as many troops as possible as fast as possible. I'm interested in the best way to do this)

Greatnate
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Isn't "Constructing Mercenaries" just like training conscripts? I suppose you could hire a bunch of normal men, train, and equip them if you can't conscript.

Jard
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I believe training particular troops of a kind is covered in great detail in domains at war: campaigns. there are percentages of normal men who qualify for certain roles and then you need to spend a certain number of months training them.

susan_brindle
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Well, Alex mentioned that "Commissioning" mercenaries would actually represent putting out enough advertisements to attract mercs from the surrounding area rather than raising them from scratch

Aryxymaraki
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I think I would be inclined to make this an or, rather than an and.

I have trouble believing that I would not be taken seriously as a merchant if I showed up in a class 1 market with 100 loads each of gems, precious metals, spices, and ivory (total value: 520,000 gp, total weight: 1400 stone), regardless of whether or not I have enough empty wagons/ship space to carry the full 20,000 stone.

With that kind of money, I could clearly buy or build the space if I needed it.

That last sentence made me think of another way. Perhaps it is normally an and requirement. However, if you have double or more the requirement for money, you can ignore the cargo space requirement. (I don't think this works in the other direction because you're not going to pay them in cargo space.)

A simpler method might be to simply remind us that the Judge is free to use their own discretion and that the table is a guideline. That's probably better. So in the end I talked myself out of actually thinking the rule should be changed at all. Corner cases will be corner cases and that's why we have a human running the game.

Jard
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I suspect the judge is best served ignoring this rule until they sense the would-be merchant prince PC is looking to abuse the system. As long as the PC is generally working in markets appropriate to the size of their mercantile empire, it's easier to just ignore. Only if a PC with a single wagon to their name and a +3 charisma is going around spamming requests to buy cheap gems would I think a judge should need to pull this requirement out.

susan_brindle
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Re: "Joining." I'm asking for the purposes of XP division. My party tends to be pretty busy, so sometimes players offer to invest their extra money in my Venturer, but not actually go on the road trip. Other times, characters are interested in traveling with the caravan and working together against random encounters, but are not otherwise interested in the mercantile adventure. Should "Investors" and "Bodyguards" collect a full share of mercantile XP as though they were equal partners in the endeavor?

Re: Multiple characters searching.
Does that apply to henches, too? Can I bring my eight henches into a city with me and buy/sell nine times as many goods? (Of course, none of my henches has bargaining yet, so that'll cut into profits)

Weight Limits:
Actually, combined with the above, that would really nicely solve my issue of "Why would I ever trade in not-diamonds?" If I *have* to have cargo capacity, but I can use my minion swarm to fill that cargo capacity, then grain becomes something I might conceivably buy.

How would the weight limits interact with a Venturer's special market-class-enhancing class feature?

Alex
The Autarch
Joined: 2011-06-30 18:10

Joining: In order to earn XP for mercantile ventures, you must both go on the venture AND get a fiscal return. A passive investor can earn a return, but not XP. An adventurer who serves as a caravan guard can earn XP from wandering encounters and whatnot, but not from the venture.

You can feel free to change that for your campaign of course, but it has to function that way in-world or things will not make sense. (E.g. caravan guards level up faster than soldiers; passive investors level up without any real risk; etc.)

Searching: Yes, henchmen can search. But the henchmen would be responsible for the interactions, etc. If I were the GM and a henchmen was put in charge of inventory or wealth that was disproportionate to his level I might throw some Loyalty rolls in there, too to see if he demands a cut of the deal or whatnot.

Weight Limits: Yes, it does solve that problem. As I said, it's something I really regret not including in the rules.

The Venturer's market-class feature would improve the market class by 1 level. If he has sufficient wealth and cargo capacity to utilize the market's full class, it improves that class. Otherwise, it improves the class of market he can utilize based on his wealth and cargo capacity. (E.g. if Marcus had been a Venturer in my earlier example, he could have traded at Class I instead of Class II).

susan_brindle
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Also can I just apologize for continually nitpicking, mention that I'm really amazed that my posts keep getting long, well thought out responses from the developer, and say how much I love ACKS?

Alex
The Autarch
Joined: 2011-06-30 18:10

It's not nitpicking, its exploring issues that rise up in actual play! This is how ACKS got developed in the first place, through interaction with players. It's great and it makes the game better. Thank you for asking the tough questions!

Lord Crimson
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And this is one of the MANY reasons I love ACKS and Autarch as much as I do. Instead of getting the "you're over-thinking it" or "you're playing my game wrong" response, we get these really well-considered and thought-through responses that maintain an internal consistency.

Alex
The Autarch
Joined: 2011-06-30 18:10

Thanks!

Amusingly, over the weekend I read a book on Interior Decoration in Ancient Rome so that the furnishings in the Auran forts of an upcoming ACKS module would be appropriately furnished and decorated. As I was paging through the 1st c AD equivalent of Better Housekeeping I did have an "am I over-thinking this?" moment.

Fortunately it passed quickly and I was able to get back to taking notes on the size of wall-paintings typically found in peristyle galleries.

koewn
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I spent 4 hours this weekend looking at average river speeds to find out what works best for against-the-current boat trade, and when you'd be better off just running wagons during inundation season.

There's nothing I like better than a system that supports one wanting to learn about something completely random in order to play bigger.

Antiquities
Joined: 2013-07-05 19:55

Yep. I've been looking into rates of cargo transfer in pre-industrial societies (i.e. how fast cargo can be loaded/unloaded), as well as information on how ancient ports functioned. I live fairly close to a modern port, but containerization changed how all of that works, so I want to know more about ancient shipping.

Alex
The Autarch
Joined: 2011-06-30 18:10

Awesome stuff, both of you!

An ACKS freelancer once said that what he loved about ACKS was that it was fractal. You could go as deep as you wanted in any sub-system and create yet more sub-systems.

Antiquities
Joined: 2013-07-05 19:55

Actually, I'm really appreciating your questions (and Alex's answers), because they're given me things to think about for my own games. The value/weight chart for mercantile ventures suggests what size ships would be seen in the various ports, since anyone who can will want to bring in a ship of with at least that much cargo capacity, in order to be taken seriously. Merchants going to smaller markets will want to be as close to the minimum as possible to reduce costs (so a merchant sailing between a class III and class IV market will want to be right at 3k stone), while one sailing between two markets of the same size will want whatever is most efficient within that range (a merchant sailing between a pair of class III markets will want to be somewhere between 3k and 6750, depending on what sort of ship they can afford to crew).

Alex
The Autarch
Joined: 2011-06-30 18:10

Yes. I actually made that assumption in building some of the background economics - that you'd have 40-wagon caravans and large ships in Class I/II routes, but smaller boats and caravans plying the smaller routes.

susan_brindle
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Since we've already got a thread for my explorations in mercantalism I guess I'll just post here.

 

I've been thinking about how I want to run ventures in ACKS, and I think one of the biggest things the book leaves undefined is how demand modifiers and prices are learned. On one hand, it seems like a certain amount of it should be common knowledge- Anyone passing through my hometown can see the vineyards and apple orchards and be aware that we make a lot of fruit and wine. On the other hand, giving PCs access to all demand modifiers for free gives them a really powerful wealth of information!

Same sort of logic goes for current prices.

I'll post my thoughts on how *I* will run it later.

 

---

Proposed Rules:

DEMAND:

Any demand modifier of +3- is automatically known and should be part of the town's core description. ("You enter swinewich! The town boasts a large saltworks and is famous for its hams. You've met traders carrying spices and grain to swinewich, since the salty earth is poor for crops, and seasoned hams can be sold at a premium.") Characters with bargaining do not even need to visit a town to know its threes, barring special circumstances, they either already know, or can make reliable guesses. A forest town by the ocean probably exports timber and game.

Demand modifiers of  +-1 or 2 can be found by a character with bargaining who stays in town for a week. 

MARKET PRICES:

I'm currently leaning towards current prices being a little trickier- PCs are only aware of the prices being offered by the merchants they meet, because the particular circumstances of every town make it impossible to derive the current wholesale price based solely on the current retail price. They can, of course, try to persuade a merchant to change his proffered goods, but that involves a reaction roll and the risk of alienating him.

 

---

Is this something you could ask a Sage? It seems reasonable to assume there'd be money for a man who just sat around keeping track of prices and import/export ratios so he'd be an expert on demand modifiers and current market fluctations. How much would he charge? I guess if he charged a sufficiently low amount, the above rules would be pointless, since you'd just throw gold at him immediately. 

Aryxymaraki
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I think I generally agree with you on demand modifiers; I'd like the PCs to know the obvious, major ones, but anything small should be relatively hidden and/or discovered in play.

As far as current market prices, I've always assumed that the time involved in finding a buyer also included traveling through the market and talking to a number of merchants, figuring out what things were being sold for and what they could get away with. I don't think it's valuable to make players struggle to learn the current price, unless you actually want to have significant price variances (that is, different rolls) for different merchants or parts of town.

As far as a sage doing it, well, this is a real job in reality, so it would probably exist in-world. It's a fairly well-paid job, so I'd want to balance the price such that it's not worth doing for small transactions but valuable for major ones. Perhaps
1,000 gold a month for access to his data, or something in that general vicinity.

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