Trading Costers of Waterdeep

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Though in existence for two hundred years or so, the time of the trading coster is nigh. These are powerful mercantile organizations who are coming to challenge the old merchant houses and individual caravaneers of generations past.

Typically, merchant caravans are one-off endeavors: operated by someone who was likely the owner, who purchased wagons, animals, and provisions, and hired guards. The caravan's owner purchased trade goods and then depended on the caravan to sell them at stopping points along its route, hopefully unloading them all and simultaneously finding more inexpensive local goods to sell on the route back. Such independent caravans tend to operate within a small range, meaning that goods from far-away often went through successive stages of different caravaneers, each of whom paid a bit more than the one before them did, leading to a significant mark-up by the time the goods reached their final destination.

In contrast, the costers operate on a larger scale. The largest of the costers is, of course, the Zhentarim: for all their sinister reputation, they also know how to run a business, and have all but developed the model to which others aspire. A coster maintains multiple caravans, all usually traveling under their banner. They frequently hire on caravan-hands and guards on an ongoing rather than by-the-trip basis, which means that the best of both sorts of workers strive for the more dependable coster work. Caravan-masters are effectively middle management within the coster, so that those who do well can find themselves advanced to positions where they are in charge of (and thus receiving a cut of) multiple caravans. These usually form long chains of goods-transition without the need to buy and sell at each stage; thus, the coster buys low in one area, and by the time the goods reach a much further away area, they can afford to sell lower than the independent trader while still making a healthier profit than anyone along the independent chain.

Many costers even set up caravan-grounds within or just outside major trading hubs along their networks, coster-affiliated caravanserai with warehousing and accommodations that ensure the coster doesn't lose any profit to expensive inns or goods to the sort of thievery that usually happens at such places. Of course, these locations are very bare-bones but that is how you make a copper go further in a coster.

The following are a number of trading costers who make Waterdeep a point in their trade route. As such, they can't help exert influence of some kind on the City of Splendors: the fact that they deal in coin ensures it.

[edit] Aurora's Emporium

  • Headquarters: Waterdeep, the North

During the Wailing Years, it looked like Aurora's Emporium – which relied so heavily on magical transport of goods – might go wholly out of business. Aurora's leadership and creativity helped them to survive those dark days, and by the time she died in the mid 1400s, her business was back on its feet and booming once more. The central warehouse of the business has moved to Waterdeep, and the Emporium has developed an impressive set of cabinets used to transport things around their networks, as well as a variety of other useful, unique magics, such as the Grand Inventory, a set of magically-connected books whose contents copy themselves into one another, allowing each shop to know what is in possession by other nodes in the Emporium network, and in what quantities.

With the modern profusion of broadsheet printing, Aurora's releases seasonal catalogues that highlight what is current, in demand, and discontinued. These catalogues are given away to anyone who comes to the door of the shop and asks for one, and slipped into the parcels purchased by customers as well. In Waterdeep and a few other places, the local shops have even arranged to compile a list of households who want one delivered to them when they are released, with Aurora's Emporium-tabarded messengers coming 'round promptly with them to homes.

Today, Aurora's model of business – a shop where one can stop in, peruse catalogues and a few choice display items, and order things from across Faerûn is still charming and unique enough to guarantee the business model is viable. Of course, Aurora's is still very much considered to be a specialty shop: no one gets regular supplies or provisions from Aurora's. Instead, they are a place to go when looking for something rare and exotic, or for a special gift.

[edit] Dragoneye Dealing Coster

  • Headquarters: Iriaebor, Western Heartlands & Elturel, Western Heartlands

This merchant company was originally founded by two brothers who did not want to ship overland to avoid pirates only to loose their goods to roadside bandits. Owned by two brothers, Iltravan and Chethar, formerly of the Vilhon Reach, now operating mainly out of Iriaebor and Elturel. Some of their caravan guards are still recruited from antipirate ships, good with scimitars but not much use with missile weapons. They're a well-run outfit, but they relax when they near their headquarters in Iriaebor and in Elturel, trusting to the Hellriders or the merchant houses to guard 'em. Ripe for a Hellrider impersonation trick.

[edit] Highmoon Trading Coster

  • Headquarters: Waterdeep, the North & Scornubel, Western Heartlands

Waterdeep to Scornubel The Highmoon Trading Coster was a dominant trading organization that controled much of the overland trade in the Sword Coast. It was led by Duldelph Maremmon. The Highmoon Coster had exclusive rights to kaorph (a blue wine) and certain spices such as arispeg, marka and delph.

The big target out of Waterdeep and Scornubel: a white crescent on a black, star-studded oval. Big because they control so much trade along the Sword Coast. Rich because they carry spices from the south that no one else can get hold of. Dangerous because they nearly always have guards or agents who are at least familiar with magic. Swords alone don't work well against Highmoon.

[edit] The Iron Throne

  • Headquarters: xxx

Our sometimes allies, but they control too much of the weapons' trade. Best to take their toys away when possible. Instead of fighting them directly, might be best just to spread word of their presence and hope that they will soon be as hated as we are, but not as feared, since that way our enemies will attack them instead of us.

The Iron Throne was a mysterious merchant organization. Little was known of its history or the identity of its backers. It apparently operated independently of any government. The Iron Throne operated through agents, mostly thugs and brigands. Their turnover rate was high with agents being replaced often. The Iron Throne had quite a bad public image. They were charged with attempted assassinations, extortion, thuggery, trading weapons to hostile nonhuman tribes and trafficking in smoke powder, poisons and drugs.

[edit] The Red Shields

  • Headquarters: Scornubel, Western Heartlands

Neverwinter, the North & xxx, Amn Mercenary company turned trading company, turning both trades to its advantage from Neverwinter to Amn. All things considered, too much trouble to confront directly. If possible, lead them into terrain we've seeded with deepspawn. Their police duty in Scornubel seems lax, but they kill our agents when possible.

The Red Shields was a strong merchant organization, previously a strong mercenary company, that protected caravans leaving Scornubel[1] as well as serving as the city's army.[2] The Shields made regular trading operations to Amn, Neverwinter and Waterdeep.[1]

[edit] Sharpsword Coster

  • Headquarters: Baldur's Gate, Sword Coast & Suzail, Cormyr

Sad potatoes. Hard to say if the effort it takes to run off their feeble guards is worth the poor take from their caravans. Can't always ignore them because sometimes people cut corners and send rich loads with them -- though not often.

Originally the Seven Suns Coster, taken over by Zhentarim, who then broke away to form their own group shortly thereafter. Founded by Rand Sharpsword, a notorious caravan leader and anti-caravan agent of the Zhents to turned his skill into staggering profit.

[edit] Six Coffers Market Priakos

  • Headquarters: Berdusk, xxx & Waterdeep, the North

Not an easy target. Well organized, home bases throughout Faerûn. Approach with caution This merchant company had bases of operation in Berdusk, Waterdeep, Silverymoon, Priapurl, and Selgaunt.[1]

[edit] Thousandheads Trading Coster

  • Headquarters: Riatavin, Amn

Waterdeep to Hillsfar, through Scornubel, Berdusk, Arabel, and Essembra A hard case named Bharavan Bhaerkantos runs his wagons in groups of one to a dozen on the route from Waterdeep to Hillsfar, through Scornubel, Berdusk, Arabel, and Essembra. The Thousandheads want to fight. Bunch of old adventurers as caravan guards, often as not, some of them working for low rates just for the pleasure of killing bandits. This lot may require heavy magic to take out. They don't take any prisoners, but they don't go in for torture and ritual sacrifice, so they're not quite in our league.

Bharavan Bhaerkantos, a former adventurer, founded this merchant company. The Thousandheads Trading Coster only operated on trade routes from Waterdeep to Hillsfar via Scornubel, Berdusk, Iriaebor, Priapurl, Arabel, and Essembra. Bharavan's personal stronghold, located just east of Riatavin, served as the base of operations for this company.

[edit] Windriders Trading Coster

  • Headquarters: Scornubel, Western Heartlands

A pack of wannabe heroes carrying shields blazoned with a white pegasus. More errand boys than traders. Worthwhile targets only because you can assume that the messages they're carrying are messages we would rather possess than see delivered. Fewer than 70 members, though we've whittled their numbers down some. Probably a front for the Harpers, or at least friendly with them.

The Windriders were around sixty anonymous members represented through their leader Torshilm Firetel of Westgate. They were known for their fierce competition, hard traveling, and hi-jinks

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