Reason for the Caravan?

Jade Regent


Hi there,
We just started Jade regent and got our first two weeks of caravan travel done.
And I have to say I have a BIG problem with it.

First would be the question: Why do our characters need a caravan in the first place? If I take a look at the map, a travel by ship would be far more logical. And even if we have to go by land, why not like every other group travel by foot or horse? So far I saw no logical ingame reason to use a caravan.

Second: Did I miss something or are the Caravan rules really un-embedded/un-engaging? The skills and abilities of the players didn't count for anything. The "caravan combat" (I even hesitate to call it this way) is a simple "DM rolls - one player rolls - DM rolls - one player rolls...."

So far the caravan managment/rules were a one-player show at our table, simply because the rules don't give options to engage in it for more then one player.

Silver Crusade

Are you the GM?

You don't have to use the Caravan subsystem, it was something different they wanted to try.

As for thematics, you can't really cross the artic carrying your supplies with just horse or foot.

As for ship? Ships are very easy to sink and the people after you have the resources to make that happen.

If I remember the first book, the caravan started up so the group could make their way to the destroyed community of Brinewall. You'd need to commission a ship to get there. Ameiko Kaijitsu didn't exactly have all the resources to just commission a ship and have it just sitting around for them. Usually ships carry cargo for trade.

The AP itself states outright: By recruiting Sandru and his caravan, Ameiko hopes to find safety in numbers—a trip to Brinewall isn’t an idle journey, after all. Ameiko's last foray adventuring resulted in the death of her entire adventuring party, one of whom was her lover if I'm remembering correctly. So... yeah. The caravan makes more sense.

But really, craft the story however you want. You don't need to use caravan rules, you can use the caravan as a source of roleplaying and avoid any caravan-specific encounters. Ultimately it is a device to get the party from Location A to Locations B, C, D, and E.

Edit: Also from the first book: Before Sandru’s caravan leaves Sandpoint, though, a few last-minute bits of preparation are required. Provisions and supplies must be purchased, and additional travelers such as guards, drivers, cooks, wainwrights, and the like need to be hired. The PCs can certainly fill some of these roles, but if the caravan is to be successful, numerous improvements to the three wagons Sandru already owns should be addressed. If the PCs suggest taking a boat to Brinewall instead, Ameiko points out that not only would that be more expensive (considering she’s already got allies who own a caravan), but they’re unlikely to find anyone willing to set sail for the notorious ruin anyway.

Silver Crusade

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Pathfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

Here's why travelling via Caravan is a good idea from a gameplay perspective:

Lets you take a Village with you: When you are on a long journey often times players don't end up connecting with NPCs in any meaningful capacity because they get left behind. In this game players can recruit interesting NPCs as they go and continue developing relationships with them.

Resource Management Game: Managing the caravan resources to keep people fed, warm, safe and happy is actually pretty rewarding, and can drive action, if resources start dwindling characters might make riskier choices when it comes to pushing forward, or exploring strange dungeons or side-content you want to introduce.

It Makes Sense: You as a player do not feel the pain of saddleburn, or sore feet from marching 8-12 miles a day, but the characters sure would. Even the mild comfort of being able to take a load off while the landscape scrolls past is nice.

It provides adventure hooks: Sandru wants to get in good with an NPC in a town the player's visit because for him this journey is a lucrative trading opportunity for him to set up a tradeway from Varisia to Tian-Xia. Koya wants to see what's over that hill that's off the beaten path, go escort her so she doesn't get into trouble. Shalelu spots hobgoblin tracks on the road, is there an ambush ahead? Ameiko hears some strangers singing a song she doesn't know and wants to meet them and learn this new song. These are the moments players remember in a game, beyond just following the AP plot.

Counterpoint, the Caravan Combat subsystem is unengaging and was completely bad from a game math perspective. However there are tons of threads here that fix the math. The way I handled caravan combat is that I would put a "player level" fight, and then at the bottom of the round I'd run a "caravan combat round", that takes place in the background and off the edges of the map so I could narrate how the NPCs were faring and make the players feel like the NPCs were contributing to their safety as much as the inverse.


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First I'm a player in this campaign.
I think my biggest problem is the "caravan combat" but my group already had some ideas to make it more interesting (similar to what DM_aka_Dudemeister said).

I think the player/DM have to lean a little more into the Caravan/group interaction/play to make it really count.

Thanks a lot for your points-of-view, they really helped me to get another view on this.


And now it happened. Thanks to the "awesome" caravan rules, our caravan was destroyed (just a week before Aaminuit).

The DM allows us to carry on, but most of the group are now in the "why a caravan? It will hinder us even more if we get further north (because of all the snow, ice etc.)"-camp.

In the frozen North you're supposed to be able to switch your wheels for sled runners and your horses for yaks.

What map do you have that made it look like a good idea to travel by ship? The adventurers are basically travelling from fantasy Northern Europe to fantasy East Asia. That means either a sea blocked by ice, or going all the way around fantasy Africa, probably getting attacked by krakens along the way.

Fan-made map

And travelling overland without the caravan would just mean having less supplies with you.


The ship idea is out of question (simply as it would break the AP^^).

And suuplies?
In a world where food and water can be summoned by appropriate level casters, supplies aren't really a reason for a "travelling with a caravan".

For example: Our group consists of a summoner, cleric and druid, two already have magic items which provide a permanent "endure elements", as well as one has a ring of sustenance.
If we would only take Ameiko and a guide with us (maybe Shalelu too), we could easily support everyone with daily endure elements, faster travel via Longstrider etc. as well as unlimited food and water (goodberry, grove of respite, create food & water etc.).

So what is the point in the caravan at this point?

OK a couple of things here.

First, your GM should drop caravan combat RTF now because it is absurdly broken. Point them at this thread. Or this board.

The caravan is your mobile base camp. It's where you put your stuff when you loot a dungeon. It's where you eat and sleep. It's where you keep your food and water. It's your shelter in bad weather.

As for Endure Elements, I have bad news for you: it's not enough. Endure Elements only protects you to -50 degrees Farenheit. The temperature at the Crown of the World during winter can be much colder than that once you are on the high ice. It ranges from -40 to -94 F, so Endure Elements only gets you so far. Which means, even with Endure Elements you are making Fortitude checks. But, the book for this part of the AP says that, as long as you are with the caravan and under Endure Elements, you are protected. This is an AP-specific rule. No caravan == continual saving throws against the cold.

As for travel speed, a caravan's base speed is 32 miles/day, assuming a 12 hour travel day with a break for lunch. A character's walking speed (assuming you all have 30' base movement rate) is 24 miles/day. Longstrider will get you to 40 feet/32 miles per day, but it only lasts 1 hour/level. And a caravan can use an enhanced undercarriage to add 8 miles/day to its travel speed. It's a cheap, one-time investment at 500/wagon that pays off indefinitely. You simply cannot travel as fast on foot even committing every spell in your arsenal, every day, as you can if you invest in the caravan instead. But even then, this walking speed assumes you are traveling unencumbered. If I were your GM and you said to me you were walking 3,000 miles, half of which is across the north pole (at 6,000 feet of altitude, in winter time) with all your gear, the encumbrance rules would make a sudden appearance.

And that is assuming your guide would even agree to such a thing. Which they would not.

As for food, you can get away with no food if everyone has a ring of sustenance, or you have enough castings of Create Food and Water to cover everyone.

So yeah, you could do it, if your GM bent the rules and so on, but...this is one of those zero margin things. If you lose a character in the caravan, you have the resources of the caravan to go back to. If you lose a character while you are walking, you could be royally F'd.


John Mechalas wrote:

Thanks a lot for this insight. There are so many points I didn't consider here, especially the AP specific rules (As my DM never mentioned them...).

Peg'giz wrote:
Thanks a lot for this insight. There are so many points I didn't consider here, especially the AP specific rules (As my DM never mentioned them...).

I loved this AP, but its handling of the caravan rules was a significant strike against it. The rules about weather, travel, and so on are kept from you until book 3, and you need to know this stuff in book 2. It's not like it's some huge secret, either. It just boggles me that it was done in this manner.

Worse, those tidbits are scattered throughout book 3, which doesn't help. If your GM isn't reading ahead and taking notes, these little details get lost. And that just causes more problems for players.

I feel for you. While your GM does have some responsibility here, the bulk of the blame lies with how the material is organized and presented.

Peg'giz wrote:
The ship idea is out of question (simply as it would break the AP^^).

GM: "The sea voyage is uneventful. I'll skip you guys straight to book 5. Wow, you guys are going to be really under-levelled for this material..."

...but also because it makes no sense geographically.

Peg'giz wrote:
In a world where food and water can be summoned by appropriate level casters, supplies aren't really a reason for a "travelling with a caravan".

No, but the AP can't assume you have those casters. With enough magic you could theoretically walk all the way, but it doesn't sound very comfortable.

Peg'giz wrote:
faster travel via Longstrider etc.

Are you aware that's a Personal spell that you can't cast on allies?

PC: "Hey, I just got hold of a magic item that give us unlimited protection from cold. What's the point in the caravan at this point?"

Ameiko: "Because it helps us to look like humble traders rather than revolutionaries? What's the point of leaving it (and half of my friends) behind?"

PC: "Because then we won't have to use the cruddy caravan subsystems any more!"

Peg'giz wrote:

The ship idea is out of question (simply as it would break the AP^^).

This is an option my group thought about, but the cost itself was very high, in addition to travel during winter period. Anyway, it was an option and, in this case, they would have probably suffer some attack from a lesser oni or a blizzard that would have push them to berth close to Aamniut.

Peg'giz wrote:

And suuplies?
In a world where food and water can be summoned by appropriate level casters, supplies aren't really a reason for a "travelling with a caravan".

Food and drink is not the only issue they can face during travel. They can be stuck during days in a blizzard, for example and eating same magic food during months is not that great and you need also to change and clean clothes from time to time, as wearing wet clothes is clearly not good for your health. Last point, traveling with a caravan also provide some security from wild enemies, as it is more risky to attack a larger group than only 5 to 6 humans...

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