Saturday, October 22, 2022

Sourcebook Review: Trade Winds: An Items and Services Compendium

Trade Winds: An Items & Services 
. Art by David L. McLees;
©️2021 Faulty-Wire Games
: David L. McLees
Publisher: Faulty-Wire
System: Low Fantasy Gaming
Marketplace: DriveThruRPG

Trade Winds: An Items and Services Compendium is a source book for Low Fantasy Gaming written by David L. McLees It takes the concept of variable values for objects and expands on it to make those variable item values make some level of sense.

Trade Winds starts this by breaking down the currency in Low Fantasy Gaming into a more traditional set of coinages. Instead of the very basic copper, silver, gold, and platinum, we have copper pence, silver shillings, larger silver florins, gold crowns, and larger gold pounds

Objects are valued at a number of dice in particular currency.  For example, a battle axe might cost 4d8 florins. An object exceptional quality might add to dice, while one of poor quality subtract one or two dice. Exotic materials add a number of dice to the appropriate currency when used to make the object. Of you exceptional materials or enchantments increase the kind of currency expended, so a mythril  or adamantine dagger would be upgraded from 2d10 shillings to 2d10 florins.

On top of pricing, objects are given a rarity that determines how hard they are to find or have made. This can serve to modify charisma checks to locate the objects and to determine what size of settlement one needs to visit to find them.

There's also a section with sets of predetermined gear based on a character's social status in the medieval period. For high status characters, such as vassals, nobles, and royalty, it lists a regular income, and gives a minimum lifestyle that the character must maintain in order to keep their social standing.

The book has an amazingly generous set of equipment options. The armor and weapon sections are large, lavishly illustrated, and cover most of the equipment from the 14th and 15th century the player character would find in a standard D&D game.  And in s9me cases, more options,

The mundane equipment section is massive, with five pages of equipment tables, and over 30 pages of item descriptions.

The mundane equipment section put some emphasis on historical authenticity, often discussing the availability, laws, and time period of the different items. In some cases, it also offers suggestions on its use.

After the mundane equipment chapter, the book offers a highly detailed d100 trinket table that captures the spirit of what I love about item tables in Low Fantasy Gaming. They include everything from references to children's songs to pulp fiction, and do a great deal of world building.

The potion section includes 33 types of potions, complete with a rarity, difficulty to brew, and an exotic ingredient recommended, plus it's own rules for crafting potions. This is somewhere detailed than the version in the Low Fantasy Gaming Companion. Any of these potions have lesser and greater versions, as well. Each potion is given loving detail, including who typically makes it, it's flavor, and something about its process of being created. It also includes a fairly elaborate potion toxicity table, that imitates the potion miscability table from the AD&D Dungeon Master's Guide, with a twist, and an increasing probability that mirrors LFG's Dark and Dangerous Magic system, 

After the generous potion section, Trade Winds include the section on establishing and maintaining lifestyle for a character. Characters with extremely low lifestyles develop special endurances against spoiled food and tainted water. Characters maintaining a rich lifestyle have certain legal and social advantages spelled out in the book. It also affects how much rest is required for a long rest.

This is followed by sections on food, drink, and alcohol that includes real life, historical food and drink, and some fantastical options that would not look out of place in The Midlands Campaign Setting. (The default setting for Low Fantasy Gaming.) The quality of food and drink for a PC can grant advantage or disadvantage to the Willpower rolls to recover hit points and abilities during the LFG version of a Short Rest. The Alcoholic Beverage section includes very simple rules for overindulging. Rations include variant rations for the three common fantasy races, as well as various qualities of ration that has an effect similar to eating meals in the regular food section.

Fr. Trade Winds: An Items & Services 
. Art by David L. McLees;
©️2021 Faulty-Wire Games
The Animals section, like the food sections includes a mix of historical and fantastical mounts, including not just camels, horses, elephants, and donkeys, but giant lizards, griffons, hippogriffs, and giant hamsters (a nod to Spelljammer), wooly rhinos, giant squirrels, and giant yellow flightless birds (a tip of the hat to the chocobo riding birds in the Final Fantasy series.) Likewise the domestic animals section includes the pseudodragon and strange "ferrous sheep", along with the real, but exotic capybara.  It includes streamlined mounted combat and animal training rules.

The paid travel section is far more straightforward, covering the cost of transport by land and sea. While the vehicle section is mostly prosaic, but includes hot air balloons and airships (dirigibles, not flying magical boats.) Both are made to work with the vehicle rules presented in LFG: Deluxe, but will work fine with LFG, Lamentations of the Flame Princess, or other B/X derived vehicle rules sets.

The Services section describes a broad range of services and specialist NPCs for hire and their rates. Many of these make a fairly large twist or reimagining of the material in older D&D editions.

At the end of the book there are a set of Item Population Charts designed to allow a GM to quickly populate areas and enemeies with lists of mundane equipment, and random magic item charts.

What I loved

Fr. Trade Winds: An Items
 & Services Compendium
Art by David L. McLees;

©️2021 Faulty-Wire Games
Visual Design

Tradewinds is a beautiful book. Is lavishly illustrated by the author, and elegantly laid out. Weapons and armor illustrations are almost to be expected in a book like this, but illustrations of clothing, how chemical items, and mounts are a beautiful touch to a high quality product.

Trinkets Table

The trinkets table in tradewinds is packed with an incredible collection of mysterious, strange, and inspiring items. About half of them our father for their own adventure hooks. Others are excellent World building or just fun. There's nothing in there that feels like complete filler.

Food and Lifestyle Mechanics

The mechanics for getting rest and recovery based on lifestyle and the quality of recently eaten meals is both smart, and a very elegant design that integrates well into Low Fantasy Gaming as written. It doesn't give you so much to track that you have to ask yourself if you want to had more hassle to running the game.

The Mixture of Historical and Fantastical

I do not personally aim for historical authenticity in 90% of my games. I took enough courses on medieval history to know I wouldn't want to live in it. And any well thought-out world with the level of magic you see and even a low fantasy role-playing game would make that world look nothing like middle ages.

That said, the places where Trade Winds aims to be medieval authentic role-playing, it does a fine job. It's clear that a great deal of thought and research went into it. And where it incorporates the fantastic, such as describing the field rations used by dwarves, or how to raise a giant riding chicken, it does so with the same thoroughness.

If you are looking for a game with a little bit of historical authenticity, you can't go wrong with the mundane equipment in this book.

Random Pricing

I love the random price rolling In Low Fantasy Gaming. I think it adds a certain amount of flair to the game. And, it has, in the World of Weirth game created a number of interesting business opportunities. Random rolls have let our PCS observe that certain things like lamp oil are high in demand in one town and high in availability in another. We've been able to use some of our downtime to make a fortune as merchants of oil, chalk, and raw bronze. It adds a dimension of life to the campaign that it wouldn't have otherwise had.

Low Fantasy Gaming's keeping to Dungeons & Dragons base coin types made it difficult for that to really make sense. Having a bundle of iron spikes cost six gold pieces anywhere because of an unlucky roll was strange. Likewise, it was complicated to figure out what it meant when we rolled five gold pieces for chalk. How much chalk did that constitute? And could we buy hidden something other than an absurd amount of bulk at that price? It started creating unnecessary calculations for the GM.

By creating different rolls for a spread of revised currencies, tradewinds fixes this. Although, is not too difficult to substitute electrum pieces for florins and platinum pieces for pounds and use average die rolls to still get something very similar to a set price list if the randomness doesn't appeal to you.

Growth Points

Include Price in Description.

The descriptions of items is well formatted, easy to read, and usually thorough. It includes the rarity of the item and often the weight in the description. However, the prices remain listed only on the tables at the beginning of the chapter. I don't see why that couldn't have been included on the same line as the rarity to save me some needless page flipping.

Blood Treant Coffee

Most of the strange and fantastical items included in the book make perfect sense. They aren't so fantastic that they wouldn't feel out of place in the Midlands, which is a relatively low-magic setting. One exception is the blood tree and coffee or Wumpti, which is just plain disturbing.  Creating it involves taking the seeds of a monstrous tree that can only germinate in corpses. These seeds are tiny things with human infant-like faces and Tony limbs... which are roasted off as they scream and twist permanently into a hideous expression before being ground and brewed. As I read this, I couldn't help but wonder what kind of deranged psychopath would want to drink such a thing?! It is a mix of dark Alice in Wonderland and a Dennis Leary sketch. Maybe for a particularly villainous noble as a vice? It is a bizarre piece of excess that begs some context.

Missed Opportunity for Merchantile Rules

I suspect that rarity could have been used as a guide to how much a PC might be able to sell items, making it possible to sell rare items for higher prices than just half. And that transporting rare items to remote locations might yield exceptional prices. This could have made Merchantile enterprises into excellent hooks for PCs.

Burden Needs Some Expansion 

Trade Winds includes an alternative encumbrance system, "burden." This system is a simple, abstract system reminiscent of LotFP or Castles & Crusades' abstract encumbrance systems.  I feel that the version pressure is given too little space to get the attention it deserved.  It feels underdeveloped,  which is a pity, because I think there is a good system there. It just needed a rethinking of how satchel space is presented, in particular, to go from "okay" to excellent. 


I have often found a good equipment book, while not strictly necessary, is worth having. Especially once novice players have a few sessions under their belts: descriptions not just of items, but of how to use your equipment to best advantage helps players move into a more creative way of thinking. AD&D2e's Arms and Equipment Guide was excellent ant both giving me fuel for the imagination and helping my players up their games when I was a teen. Today, I often encourage new players I have gotten over the basics to check out the Equipment Emporium from Basic Fantasy RPG to help them step up the game.

Of course, because it is a frippery, you want to make sure that the one you have is of high quality and varied content. 

Trade Winds, sets an incredibly high new bar for equipment  books: with rules that can be hacked into your game for food quality,  social standing, encumbrance,  animal training, starting equipment,  trade, and market fluctuations that are all simple, and easy to use, combined with an attention to history and detail that is staggering.  Most of which is self-contained enough to be worked into other OSR games quite easily. 

If you are looking for a solid, well-researched equipment book for your OSR game table,  this is a next-level item. It is a luxury product, with art and layout to match. (And it does have a price point that reflects this.) The Art and information are at the highest level I have seen for a book of this type. Definitely worth considering.  Especially if you are try to class up your shelf.  

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