This random generator is based on D&D 5e rules (PHB 155 to 157) with the trade good collection expanded based on medieval European research.
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Merchant wagons are both a thorny issue and a gotcha. They’re a thorny issue because D&D 5e rules favour abstraction to improve the storytelling experience and therefore don’t convert well to spreadsheet-style inventory management. D&D’s default economy is also calculated for gameplay which results in some oddness. We’ve already looked at how a Conestoga wagon (a large wagon) filled with silk is worth 1.5 million gold pieces.
What is this merchant carrying?
Wagons are a ‘gotcha’ because if your players are guarding – or raiding! – then they’ll likely want to know what it carries. With so many random encounters involving merchants and wagons, this can catch busy DMs out.
The goal of this random merchant wagon (or large cart) generator is to help out when you need rough details of what’s being carried, how heavy it is and what it is all worth. Wagons tend to be heavily loaded, rarely filled although the carts can sometimes be over packed.
If you want to simulate a wagon that’s had some of its goods stolen or ruined, then it is left to you to discount line items as you see fit.
The large cart carries 200 pounds, the middle wagon/prairie schooner carries 2,000 pounds and the impressive Conestoga 12,000.
A wagon laden with riches is also likely to be well protected, but NPC guards are out of scope for this project. What I have done, though, is make sure that even silk wagons are carrying other cloth and this helps avoid putting players in contact with millions of gold worth of loot!
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