The Lithospheric League – Trading with the OSR Underdark 

The Lithospheric League is a loose confederation of cities and merchant guilds from across the known world who engage in trade with the beings and civilizations in the Undergloom – the vast network of tunnels & caverns that honeycomb the world.

It’s loosely based on the real world Hanseatic League of the Middle Ages.

i_0475aThe league funds caravans of goods to and from various underground civilizations. Some of the caravans are on a regular schedule, others are on an ad-hoc basis.

I’ve been using it as a background for my occasional Black Hack games. It works as a tool to get the players to head into the underground world for reasons other than just finding treasure.

Mounts

Surface livestock don’t always do well in the caves. When available, the caravans use native creatures like Giant Spiders, or Riding Lizards to carry loads or pull carts. Some routes need to travel through narrow tunnels or across narrow ledges, so the League uses humanoid load-bearers instead.

Trade Goods

The league is mostly interested in obtaining the rare minerals found deep in the earth. They’ve also imported drugs and foodstuffs from the great mushroom forests.
The usually sell surface commodities not readily available in the Undergloom. Wood, in particular, is a rare and prized commodity in the underground kingdoms.

Who are they trading with?

The Gloom Elves: Horrifically corrupt, and rumored to traffic with demons. However, they do keep the trade routes well patrolled. (Note – The Gloom Elves consider the tern drow to be an archaic slur. Never use the D-word to their faces unless you’re looking for a fight)
Troglodyte Clans: The brutish troglodyte clans often control access to some of the better mushroom forests.
Deep Gnome City-states: Their mines are the Undergloom’s best source of gems and precious minerals.

Roles

Caravans vary in size, but there are always a few types of people that the League hires as part of a trade expedition. Many of these are good roles for PCs.
Guards: Even on a well traveled route, the Undergloom is a dangerous place. League guards are trained to protect the cargo at all costs.
Traders: They do all of the actual buying and selling. They’re chosen for their bargaining and social skills.
Masters of Coin: The most trusted member of the caravans deal with all financial matters. They carry the money to pay tolls, buy supplies, bribe Night Elf guards, etc.
Load-bearers: If mounts aren’t used, humanoid creatures have to carry the cargo. The load-bearers are often ogres, or other incredibly strong humanoids.
Navigators: Often dwarves, they help caravans stay on course, or create new trails.
Sailors: Some trade routes involve underground rivers or seas.
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Adventure Seeds

Something is happening to our caravans
Someone or something is attacking caravans. The league has a bounty on the bandits.

Blaze a new trail
The league is always looking for new, faster routes through the Undergloom. They will often propose prizes to anyone who can find a faster route to a known trading location.

Making Friends & Fortunes
The most profitable thing a League member can do is establish a new trading relationship, whether discovering a new trading partner or location, or establishing a trade relationship with a society previous thought an enemy. If the new route is profitable enough, the League may consider granting a piece of trade exclusively to the PC who founded it.

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