Sunday, September 16, 2018

Pioneers and refugees

There's a better life out there on the frontier, but you have to go out and make it for yourself.
The apocalypse upended everything, destroying whole tribes and nations.  Once-great cities fell to starvation and disease, towns were abandoned, and alliances ended.  Survivors took refuge in a few crowded havens.

Now a new generation has been born, and they don't have to accept the hand their parents were dealt.  It's a big world, and there's bound to be somewhere better out there.  Pioneers are headed into the wilderness, migrants and refugees and wagon trains streaming across the land.

For this post, I'll mostly be talking about ways to make money (since it's useful for everyone) but migrations are important for more than just wealth.  If it's your group of people that are migrating, their success matters to you.  Helping or hindering a migration might factor into other plans.

Hired hands

Before a migration can get underway, they'll need a suitable destination, a new place to live and a way to get there.  Scouts and wilderness guides can help.  Guidebooks to the wilderness are traded and sold across the frontier, all of dubious quality.  If you find a better route through the wilds, you might make some good money leading people on it.

Humans are some of the most common migrants, usually fleeing from enemies and setting out for new farmland, hunting grounds, or fishing harbors.  If they don't already have a place in mind, they'll send out scouts and consult their prophets (a topic for a future post).

Elves can also be found seeking a new home in the wilderness.  Organized groups supported by a city are out establishing farming settlements, mines, forts, and trading posts.  They're willing to pay for porters to carry their things once they're in rugged terrain where ox carts won't help.  Religious pilgrims can also be found, exiled as heretics and looking to found a new home in the wilderness.  They're more likely to need guards if traveling through dangerous areas.

Tree goblins tend to migrate in small family groups, looking for dense forests to settle in.  They're likely to avoid other people if possible, but they might hire a guide if they don't know the way.

Individual giants migrate all the time, but they don't usually do so as a group.

Prices vary, but in general:
  • Scouts and porters earn 1 or 2 shillings/day.
  • A very knowledgable wilderness guide could earn 5 shillings/day.
  • Armed escorts in dangerous country might make 2 or 3 shillings/day.
  • Guidebooks about a wilderness country cost anywhere from 1 to 5 dollars.


The elves are all about protocol.  You don't head out to colonize the wilderness without a charter and a proper plan.  Imperial or city charters cost money (the more the better) and require the right connections.  New charters are hard enough to come by, so would-be colonists often buy up shares in a previously-chartered company.

Wherever settlers are going, they're likely to run into some kind of local rulers.  There's plenty of open land nowadays (after the starving time) but authorities tend to expand to fill the space available.  Anyone leading a migration needs bit of diplomacy, some well-placed bribes, and gifts from far-off lands.

So why would rulers let people settle on their lands?  Newcomers can bring plenty of trouble and use up resources, but they're also good for a few reasons:
  • They could join their hosts' group and provide extra labor or military might.
  • The hosts could trade the right to settle in exchange for something of value.
  • The newcomers could bring valuable knowledge and techniques.
  • Unoccupied land might be taken by enemies; new settlers help establish a claim to the land.
Passing through someone else's territory isn't always free.  If the locals are stronger than the migrants, they might demand gifts or a toll before allowing passage.

With all these travelers coming through, a few types of establishments are useful:
  • Trading posts to sell supplies.
  • Forts to provide defense for the region.
  • Ferries to carry people and cargo across a river.


Some people seize the opportunity to prey on pioneers.  Charging tolls isn't very friendly, but it's generally accepted.  Outright robbery (often accompanied by murder) is considered criminal just about everywhere.

Some human tribes are known for taking captives.  A group of unguarded refugees could easily disappear into the wilderness, taken for slave labor, without anyone else ever knowing their fate.

If the migration is a threat to your people, you'll probably try to get them to go elsewhere.  Just telling them to leave might be enough, but threats can easily escalate to warfare.  If enough migrants meet a grisly fate, the rest are likely to change their route, but that's also when they might call for military aid.  You don't want the army showing up, and you especially don't want a band of hired adventurers.

Coming soon: what happens when these pioneers get where they're going, an article about founding settlements and trying to get them through the winter.

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