Trader Novice Guide (book)
Compiled and recorded by Therae, Trader
Chapter 1 -- About the Trader's Guild
Imaar tells you, "The life of a Trader is spent keeping abreast of the ever-changing world in which we live. Our function is vital - for without traders, much of the economy as we know it would cease to function properly. And as we all know, this world is constantly on the move. We must engage ourselves in updating our contacts, seeking out new trends and gathering information, for if we don't continue to learn, we will cease to be useful in our purpose.
"The Trader does not have the luxury of putting down roots, but then, very rarely do you find a Trader who can sit still for any length of time. The need to travel, to explore new possibilities, is in their blood."
The guild leader Imaar takes a moment to brush invisible dirt off of his tunic and then says, "This does not mean we cannot marry or raise a brood. Many Traders run family businesses, operating their caravans with their children and spouse as an able substitute for hired hands, and many of their children grow up to be traders as well."
"The family," he adds in a soft undertone, "often extends to more than those of the blood relation. No matter how fierce we may have to barter with another Trader, we always remember that personal life is separate from the life of the trade, and we never let business interfere with our sense of family within the guild. To compete in commerce does not preclude friendship at a personal level. Always remember," he adds, "that the only other person in this world who understands what motivates and excites a Trader is another Trader."
Chapter 2 -- Getting Started
When you join the guild, Imaar will tell you to get a ledger and talk to the minister. The minister will give you a contract and send you to the clerk. The clerk will fill your order and you'll walk out of the guild with a contract in hand and a crate on an animal. It can all be a bit much. Slow down. Take Imaar's advice and get the ledger. Read it carefully. Remember about the minister, but don't rush to get that first contract.
Start by taking some time to do some exploring. Get some maps. Outfit yourself with some armor and a weapon. Make sure the armor covers the chest, abdomen, back, head, and hands. Get something cheap because you'll need money for trading and you'll soon be able to afford better. Get a backpack. Get a weapon. Don't worry much what it is. Find your way to the shipyard and learn to fight rats enough to retreat. Do some scouting - locate a couple of the outposts before you get that first contract. Trading can be pretty confusing for the first few contracts. Best to get some of the other confusion of Elanthia out of the way first.
Chapter 3 -- The Ledger
Your ledger is very important to you. Carry it when you trade. When you start out, read your ledger every time you do something. Get a contract. Read your ledger. Give the contract to the clerk. Read your ledger. Deliver your contract. Read your ledger. You'll learn very quickly what the ledger tells you and how to use it to your best advantage.
Chapter 4 - Contracts
When you start out as a trader, you'll deliver contracts. The operation is really pretty simple.
Ask the Minister for a contract. The minister will hand you a contract. You may have one contract per guild or outpost at a time. The minister will not give you a contract if you have outstanding debt to that guild or an undelivered contract from that guild. If you have lost a crate for the guild or outpost in question, you'll simply need to wait for that contract to expire to get another one.
Give the contract to the shipping clerk. The shipping clerk will put the goods in a crate for you and put the crate on your animal or caravan. If you have rented a caravan, the goods will be put on your caravan. If you have not rented a caravan, the clerk will rent an animal for you and put your goods on it.
Pay the shipping clerk. Always pay the shipping clerk. Guild fees. Shipping costs. Caravan rental. When in doubt, pay the shipping clerk. Whenever possible, pay the clerk as soon as you get your contract. You will have to owe a debt at times, but try to keep the debt minimal and the time short. The clerks do talk to each other and you don't want a reputation as a slow payer.
Take the goods to the destination guild or outpost. Hand the contract to the shipping clerk. The shipping clerk will pay you for the goods and unload the crate from your caravan.
Chapter 5 - Routes
At very low levels, all your contracts will allow plenty of time for delivery. It is advisable, then, to trade a circuit. Stop at a guild, get a contract. Go to the next guild in your circuit, deliver any contracts to that guild, and get one for somewhere else. If you plan well, you should be able to carry 2-4 crates at all times. This efficiency in the number of crates carried will make up, somewhat, for the small size and smaller profit margins of the contracts. As your deadlines get shorter, you will learn to watch your ledger and plan your routes better. You'll trade fewer circuits and make more direct runs.
Local contracts are from one outpost or guild to another outpost or guild within the same province. You get local contracts from the minister and the minister only gives out local contracts. As a novice, you may trade local contracts in any province, but you may trade only local contracts.
Once you have attained fifth level, you may begin to trade interprovincial contracts. Interprovincial contracts are available from the broker (not the minister) in the guild in the principle city of each of the provinces. Interprovincial contracts are delivered to the guild in the principle city of a different province. Interprovincial contracts generally pay better than local contracts, but they take more time to deliver because of the greater distances.
Chapter 6 - The Paper Shuffle
Every novice trader will at some point be frustrated trying to figure out which contract goes to which clerk. There are two general strategies for dealing with contract confusion.
One strategy is the many container strategy. Get one container for every guild you are trading with. Put all contracts for that guild in that container - you'll probably have to fold the contracts to make them fit - contracts in the boot are for Wolf Clan, socks are for Tiger, etc.
The second strategy relies on a bit more record keeping, but requires fewer containers. When you put an item in a container, it becomes the first item in the container and everything else pushes up the stack. Assume you get a contract in Dirge, put it in your backpack, get a contract from Stone Clan, put it in your backpack, then get a contract from Arthe Dale and put it in your backpack. The first contract in your backpack is the one from Arthe Dale, the second contract is from Stone Clan and the third contract is from Dirge. Now, track those contracts by destination.
Each time, you get a contract, write the destination at the bottom of your list. When you deliver a contract, cross that destination off the list. The contracts in your container should be in the same order as the contracts on your list that you haven't crossed off yet. When you arrive to make a delivery, simply count from the bottom of your list and get that contract (first, second, third, fourth, fifth, etc.) from your container.
Chapter 7 - Making Money
As a novice trader, your contracts will be very small and the profit margins narrow. Animal or caravan rental may cost you more than your profit in some cases. In fact, traders have been known to forage branches and sell them for firewood just like poor novices of every other guild. However, as a trader advances in the guild, two things happen. First the size of the largest contracts get gradually larger and the average size of the contract also increases. Second, the profit margin on the contract improves as well. A fifth level trader will make a few more copper profit on a five silver contract than a first level trader will. Don't expect to become wealthy overnight. It takes a lot of work to become a wealthy trader.
Commodity trading pits can be found in the Crossing, Arthe Dale, and Leth Deriel trade guilds. Trading commodities entails greater risk than trading contracts, and offers opportunities for greater reward.
To trade commodities, go into the trading pit and read the board. Select the commodity you wish to purchase. Quantities are limited by your standing in the guild, so choose wisely. Once you have selected the commodity, you can buy it if the guild has sufficient stock. You order from the commodity clerk and pay the shipping clerk.
Once you have purchased a commodity, you need to sell it. There are two options. You can either store the commodity a while and sell it back to the guild you purchased it from, or you can sell it to a different guild. Ulven's Warehouse in The Crossing will store commodities for a fee. The other guilds won't purchase commodities if they already have a surplus.
The wise trader will spend several weeks watching commodity prices without actually making any purchases. In this time, the trader will learn the high and low prices for a commodity, and where to buy and sell for the best price. Only after watching the system to learn it, should a trader begin to risk money on commodities.
Chapter 8 - Animals and Caravans
Animals and caravans carry goods for traders. They get hungry and even starve to death. They get lost. You really have to take care of them.
Novice traders will start with mules, yaks, and donkeys. If you tell them to follow, they'll follow you rather slowly. They need to see you to follow you. Always make sure they arrive at your present location before you move to the next location. If you get too far ahead, they'll stop and wait for you.
If you lose your animal, backtrack on your path until you find it. If you can't find it, go back to the last guild or outpost you visited. Most animal loss happens within two or three steps of a trade guild.
Caravans have slightly more capability than animals and they move slightly faster. They come with drunkards ... er ... um ... drivers who even follow simple instructions from time to time. Caravans can lead you along parts of the Northern Trade Route. Basic instructions are in your ledger. In general, caravans lead from the guild to your destination, but they stop at the city gate, not in front of your guild.
Animals and caravans must be fed. Generally, they eat grass. Don't worry about that overpriced grain in the crossing guild. Go forage for some grass. You'll start by foraging tufts of grass. As your foraging skill improves, you'll find other kinds as well. There is lots of grass out the west gate. The Road to Leth Deriel is rich in Georin Grass. Fodder is pretty sparse between Stone Clan and Riverhaven.
Once you forage for the grass, hold it in your right hand and give it to the caravan. For some reason, they won't eat from your left hand and they insist you give them the grass, not feed them.
Caravans and Animals starve to death if they're not fed. They're living beasts and they need attention. Caravans and animals don't leave Elanthia when you do. Be sure to return your animal or caravan to the shipping clerk before you leave Elanthia or go off to do something else.
Chapter 9 - Combat
The Trader's Guild is not a combat guild. You may choose to hunt and some traders hunt quite successfully. Many traders choose to hunt almost not at all and give up hunting completely when they are no longer required to learn evasion.
There is no one best weapon or hunting style for traders. However, traders need a lot of charisma and mental skills. Development of physical attributes tends to suffer. Therefore, weapons and armor that require extreme strength or agility are not advised. Leather armor is generally adequate for traders and medium weight weapons serve quite nicely.