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Creating a map and trading table ala 50 Fathoms

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  • Creating a map and trading table ala 50 Fathoms

    I'm running a game and I want to set up a system like trading in 50 Fathoms. I was wondering if anyone out there had some guidelines or advice on how to do that?
    Are there any rules of thumb or maybe formulas on placing and spacing your trading centers?
    Same for determining trade values at locations?
    Balancing travel times and costs with earnings would also seem key, any ideas how to do that?

  • #2
    Welcome to the new forums. Nice topic.

    The way I see that will give the best results is to build the economy from the ground up.
    What's the technology level? What resources and goods are needed by that tech level? What about resources and good for the society? Where are the trade centers? (Usually near natural convergence points or stopover points to refresh some resource along a longer route - this is why so many cities are near river junctions, mountain passes, fords or bridges, and natural harbors.) What resources and goods are readily available at a give trade center? How distant, and difficult to procure, are the resources and goods that a given trade center wants but doesn't have?

    Answer those and you'll have a general relationship of availability, desire, and need. Apply some value numbers and you'll get a trading table.

    Example: Tech level is Age of Sail. Requires wood for ships, canvas for sails, iron for fittings and armaments, coal or charcoal for forges, gunpowder for armaments, various tools for construction, repair, and operations, and food and water to survive. The society wants fabrics, luxury foods, artwork, various tools, and most of the things the ships industry wants. Place cities on the world map; some have iron, others have sulfur or saltpeter, some have food surpluses, others have fabric sources, a few have crafting guilds, and the rest have facilities for repair. Travel is dangerous and can be lengthy (a few weeks one way), so prices can vary from 1/2 to 4 depending upon distance from nearest source and necessity of trade good.

    Example: Tech level is pre-atomic industrial (WW2 equivalent). Requires iron and steel for vehicles, refined fossil fuels, electricity, gunpowder for armaments, chemicals and filter materials for industrial processes and chemical weapons, heavy machinery and factories, and large amounts of basic supplies. Society wants fabrics, exotic foods, artwork, information, tools, electricity, and large food supplies. Society is semi-mountainous (dwarf-based?), so settlements will be concentrated around mineral deposits (raw materials), mountain passes (old land-based trade routes), and near waterfalls or cataracts (trade impediment, later useful for water-powered machinery). If we give them a decent infrastructure then trade values will depend upon international borders and distance traveled, and should range from 1 to 3; if they never did much for infrastructure then trade values will generally be really high for non-local things, like 2 to 5.

    I hope that was helpful.
    I hope you find the above post useful. And not insulting, because I was trying to be helpful, not insulting; being a pedantic jerk, that isn't always clear.


    • #3
      Thanks for the welcome! I'm a bit sad to lose my old account with it's legacy join date and some of my thread comment history (I had some good conversations bookmarked there), but I've grown out of the old name so the change should be good!

      So what I'm gathering from your suggestions is that there really isn't some secret formula to it, you just build your supply and demand and your routes kind of plan themselves. I also didn't really pick up what your trade values are referring to; are the multipliers or a rating or something?

      Looking at the 50F tables and map, and the routes I've plotted for trade values, it seems pretty evenly balanced. By that, I mean I couldn't really find any trade route to make a fortune, which suggests it was laid out in a way to prevent that from happening (I may have missed something, or may not be using big enough ships) The amount you can make trading isn't so much that you never want to go adventuring, but is not so little that it is impossible. That seems more than serendipitous and I'm wondering how to decide on prices. Or is this what your example trade values were referring to ala 50F is the rating x100? Am I looking for more than is there?

      I think it was helpful, but I feel like it may not be connecting properly in my head.


      • #4
        My point was that if you build trade routes into your setting then they'll often feel artificial to players. But there are trade routes that make sense in your setting, you just have to think about them and you'll begin to recognize them. And when you see those routes, you'll find the holes in them - the unfilled needs - and you can find the "hidden" settlements that fill those holes; put a town or trading camp near the resource, or add the good to an existing manufacturer.

        Trade values, in my post, were mostly used as multipliers, but that's because multipliers are easy to present (though often hard to balance).

        50 Fathoms has a few triangles that make money, but it's less than you can make as a privateer, pirate hunter, treasure hunter, pirate, or adventurer. However, merchant shipping is generally safer than all of those, and certainly more reliable. Which explains why some characters are merchants and some are player characters.
        I hope you find the above post useful. And not insulting, because I was trying to be helpful, not insulting; being a pedantic jerk, that isn't always clear.


        • #5
          Though presented sort of off handed Valhalla brings up an important point: The Trade Triangle. A trade route going back and forth between two locations will almost never turn as strong a profit as one that includes at least three stops, often more. Unless you have a central location that does almost all the manufacturing and all the supplies need to go there.

          For example, you may need to take food to the mining location because it is hard to get decent crops in that terrain. But the ore will need to go to the foundry location, not the farms. Then the iron works (plows, hoes, etc.) will need to be taken to the farms to help their production.

          This is a very basic example but I have seen chains as long as seven stops to go full circle. It was only marginal profit at each step, 3-5%, but by the end it was a nice haul, almost a 30% increase over what they started with. This was after the expense of transport and fighting of a raiding party.

          And that is one thing to remember, just because a location is paying a lot more for something than another place is selling it, there is the expense of transporting it to take into consideration. Safe, short routes may not have much increase but longer or more dangerous will have an appropriate markup. I may make $15 per unit by selling it there but if it costs $12 per unit to transport it I may be better off looking at other routes. This is why you usually see larger ventures on the more dangerous routes because they can afford the up front cost of guards and are not crippled if a shipment is lost.
          I have way too much time but do not always edit myself properly. Please do not take offense.