Trade fuels the majority of interactions between The Known Lands. The rapidly developing North hungers for the mineral wealth to pay for its standing armies and scientific development. The post-apocalyptic South craves the knowledge and tools necessary to retake their lost glory. The warped West desires weapons to put down the never-ending marches of nightmarish monsters that plague it. The slowly crumbling East has a voracious appetite for luxury and the food and drink that keep its effete nobility in a sybaritic haze. These lands, which have wildly divergent levels of technological development and magical prowess are inclined to trade rather than conquer thanks to the nigh-unstoppable Xoc who rule the seas, and make staggering demands that make fielding armadas a difficult prospect. Even those lands that share the mighty southern continent are inclined to commerce over conquest thanks to the plentiful bandits and monsters, and the presence of jealous gods that can make the prospect of sending an army away from one's homeland a risky proposition.
The image of a lone trader with a single, laden wagon or mule and perhaps a stout guard is a romantic and largely inaccurate image of how goods are moved. While these smallest of small-time operators do exist, the margins are too tight and the dangers are too great for such activity to sustain the economy. More typical are small groups of merchants employing a dozen guards, porters, handlers, and possibly teamsters to care for a dozen or more pack and draft animals and wagons. Mighty caravans featuring hundreds or even thousands of animals and many dozens of workers, guards, merchants, and following travelers are great, seasonal events, and are often the highlight of the year for smaller towns, where their arrival coincides with great civic and religious fairs.
The travelers and their animals must have food and water. Proper grazing forage is not always available, and even where it is, the process is time consuming and works against the deadlines merchants strive to meet. Other than riverside routes and the most densely civilized areas, water supplies are not always reliable and an oasis that was safe last season could be inhabited by bandits or dangerous beasts this season. For these reasons, caravans must bring along water and food that detracts from cargo space. Animals must be selected with the terrain to be passed in mind: some routes offer easygoing terrain and plentiful water, and the strong backs of horses are enough, others require hardy camels, sure-footed llamas, or nigh-fearless donkeys. They must be groomed, special care must be lavished on their feet and signs of possible ailments looked out for.
- 2-3 Gallons of water per person, per day. 5-20 Gallons of water per animal, per day (highly dependent on species, terrain, and climate).
- 2-10 Pounds of concentrated feed (or seedcakes, or equivalent) per animal, per day; plus 10-22 pounds of hay and/or straw (dependent on species, terrain, and climate). Some animals require 6-8 hours to properly graze.
- 1-2 Animal handler per 3-5 animals. 1 Teamster per wagon.
- Stops every 10-30 miles (terrain dependent, even terrain allows for greater distance between stops) to feed and water animals.