One of the things I’m often at a loss to provide my players on the spot would be a description of the various members of a merchant train or caravan, either being met by a party of adventurers on the road or a stock one the adventurers can hitch a ride with.
Having let this task go unresolved for too long, I grabbed my iPad and keyboard, a few reference books (fantastic and mundane) and found a shady spot in my yard. With my daughter along to help brainstorm, we came up with this random generator for occupants of a wagon train.
The beauty of an exercise like this is it gets you thinking about your campaign world, thinking about what kinds of nonplayer characters you’d like the adventuring party to meet, and perhaps the adventures they could go on next.
About half of the caravan entries are the sorts of things you’d expect to run into — pretty basic stuff — but the other half are the sorts of odd or compelling characters that should either surprise, delight or, at least, pique your players’ interest.
(Certainly, if a 99 or 100 is rolled up, PCs with animal companions should be mindful of this entry.)
Enjoy. And if you are so inclined, I welcome your suggestions on what to add to the caravan.
Only half the d100 spots are taken up. Go ahead and offer them up. As they say, there’s always room for one more!
- 01-19 1d4+4 entries
- 20-39 1d6+4 entries
- 40-59 1d8+4 entries
- 60-79 1d10+4 entries
- 80-99 1d12+4 entries
- 100 1d20+4 entries
* All caravans, regardless of size, have a caravan master’s wagon, 1d6+3 teamsters (drivers), 1 animal handler, and a supply wagon with enough foodstuffs (equal to rations for each member of caravan master’s team) to carry them through to the next leg of the journey plus 2 days. A prudent caravan master will hire guards at least equal to 1 mercenary for every five sections of train.
Caravan section random generator (d100)
- 01-02 Bejeweled merchant and servants on camels carrying bolts of silk.
- 03-04 Merchant: Covered wagon filled with canvas bags containing exotic spices and extracts.
- 05-06 Pardoner on a mule packed with religious “artifacts”.
- 07-08 Dwarven laborers with cart filled with picks and axes.
- 09-10 Settlers: Human family of two adults, three children and 1 adult hireling.
- 11-12 Artisans: Wagon filled with stone-cutting tools for building a cathedral.
- 13-14 Alchemist with brightly colored wagon that serves as a chemical laboratory.
- 15-16 Banker’s wagon with several chained lock boxes with mounted and armed escort.
- 17-18 Cage with an exotic animal accompanied by handler, assistants and feed wagon.
- 19-20 Merchant: Brewer’s flatbed wagon carrying casks and barrels of ale.
- 21-22 Merchant: Canvas covered wagon loaded with rugs and carpets.
- 23-24 Horse-riding fur-trapper leading mules carrying skins.
- 25-26 Settlers: Two brothers with wagon of cotton seed looking to start a farm.
- 27-28 Merchant: Wagon carrying crates stuffed with straw holding filled wine bottles.
- 29-30 Rainmaker/Dowser driving enclosed wagon adorned with pictures of lighting and clouds.
- 31-32 Scroll scribe’s cart containing blank spellbooks, sheaf of paper and magical components.
- 33-34 Gently used “antiques” Dealer with wagon loaded down and clanking along with an assortment of gently used “antiques.”
- 35-36 Troupe of players between performances and their stage wagon.
- 37-38 Religious pilgrims on foot traveling to a shrine.
- 39-40 Agent for a merchant prince leading a half-dozen loaded carts guarded by mercenaries.
- 41-42 Ambassador’s carriage and entourage, including baggage wagon, armed guards.
- 43-44 Clerical sisterhood making journey to a new convent home.
- 45-46 Elf merchant and fletcher selling an assortment of arrows, bows and quivers, some magical.
- 47-48 Knight on horseback returning from a crusade, accompanied by squires and servants, pack animals loaded with loot from his adventures.
- 49-50 Old soothsayer driving a small faded wagon containing occult items.
- 51-52 Sage bookseller driving enclosed wagon filled with books and manuscripts.
- 53-54 Settlers: Family of pewter-smiths looking to set up shop, carrying tools in bundles on their backs.
- 55-56 Dye merchant driving cart filled with barrels.
- 57-58 Cobbler’s wagon filled with shoes and shoe forms, accompanied by a leatherworker.
- 59-60 Merchant: Blade-maker’s small cart filled with an assortment from table knives to short swords.
- 61-62 Settlers: Band of domestic servants traveling together for protection, seeking jobs in another city.
- 63-64 Merchant: Train of small carts belonging to gnome who creates fine instruments, including stargazing glasses and gear-driven mechanisms.
- 65-66 Team of half-orc engineers with flatbed wagons hauling shovels, axes and other earthworks construction tools.
- 67-68 Halfling fruit sellers with carts laden with bushel baskets filled with apples, pears and peaches.
- 69-70 Wheelwright driving support wagon with spare wheels, apprentices carrying woodworking tools.
- 71-72 Merchant: Half-elf tent-maker with pack animals hauling canvas canopies and tents.
- 73-74 Cage wagon containing gladiatorial slaves guarded by armsmen.
- 75-76 Settlers: Immigrant families from a foreign land seeking a fresh start away from the “evils” of the big city.
- 77-78 An order of monks carrying a treasured artifact between monasteries.
- 79-80 A gaggle of aspiring wizards being escorted to a magical academy by two griffon-riding wizard chaperones.
- 81-82 Funeral cart with 1d6 cloaked and hooded attendees, all of whom have taken vows of silence.
- 83-84 Peddler of textiles and dressmaker-spouse driving custom-made wagon that unfolds to display outfits in a marketplace.
- 85-86 Veteran scout attached to a group of fellow tribesmen hauling worked leather goods to market.
- 87-88 Dwarven merchant selling from a cart an assortment of edible treasures and exotic hand-crafted goods gained from trading with an underground city.
- 89-90 Drovers hoping to stock a ranching enterprise with their sheep/goats/cattle or other herd animals.
- 91-92 Settlers: Four families devoted to the “old ways” striking out hoping to establish their own community.
- 93-94 An elven member of a lesser noble house, his/her retainers and an escort of centaurs.
- 95-96 Gnome fireworks sellers.
- 97-98 An apprentice blacksmith striking out on his own with only a mule, a cart of metal rods, a few tools and an anvil.
- 99-100 A chuck wagon driven by a belligerent half-orc cook.