- Items made from wood, it seems, would be prized as luxuries. Particularly carved statuettes and other decorative objects. But weapons with wooden shafts would be valued highly too: wood is light, flexible and strong like no other material is. Spears, bows (and arrows) and the like would fetch considerably higher prices below than above.
- Dungeon dwellers with sweet-tooths would relish the opportunity to get their hands on fresh fruit, although this obviously has a very limited shelf life. Better is dried fruit, but honey would be best of all. I could imagine duergar chieftains handing over considerable amounts of gemstones for a pot of honey, just as the wealthy in our world will pay through the nose for rare cheeses, truffles, or caviar. Just to get a taste of something truly sweet for once in their lives.
- In our own world's history, trade in spices was of huge importance in linking the East with the West. All that fungus which dungeon dwelling races eat is pretty tasteless without a bit of pepper, ginger or turmeric, and we all know that you when it comes to mushrooms you can't beat a bit of tarragon, ideally with roasted garlic...
- By the same token, while you don't imagine dungeon dwellers being particularly interested in dyes, they'll certainly like a bit of incense. People in Europe would brave death, disease and dismemberment for the chance to ship incense from the shores of the Red Sea in ancient times, and I see no reason to believe the same wouldn't be true of dungeons.
Friday, 9 September 2011
The propensity to truck, barter and exchange one thing for another is common to all men, and to be found in no other race of animals
I've been thinking some more about this idea of trade between dungeon dwellers and "topsiders". It's an element of the whole dungeon ecology subgenre that I find fascinating; it's also great shorthand for showing the players, look, this is a living, breathing environment that doesn't really care about you and would be going on very nicely indeed even if your characters had never existed.
What do dungeon dwellers have to trade? The answer to that is easy: precious metals and gemstones, which they have in relative abundance. They have more mundane and useful materials like iron too, but this is a society without the technology to transport large amounts of iron out of the depths of a dungeon and all the way back to civilization, and iron can be mined relatively easily anyway. No, outsiders are going to want to get their hands on stuff that is relatively light and unbulky and gives a lot of bang for buck in terms of weight. Gold, silver, rubies, diamonds.
But what do the dungeon dwellers want? What do they lack? This is a more interesting question and also more relevant, for two reasons: a) our focus is adventuring parties, who are going from top to bottom, so it were; and b) most dungeon-dwelling races have difficulties operating on the surface, so it strikes me that trade would most be one way, with peddlers venturing downwards from the surface rather than the other way round.
The obvious answer to this question is plant life and plant products. There are fungi in dungeons, this we know, but without sunlight there is no photosynthesis: most derro have probably never even seen a tree. So what deep dwellers will want are the kind of things that you can get growing on the surface but nowhere else. When you stop to think, the list of such goods is pretty extensive: