Even in my Chult campaign, exploration-oriented as it is, I want politics and intrigue to play a part. At the very least, even if my players decide not to care, it will provide some interesting side-quests. The main quest-givers, the « Merchant Princes », as described in Tomb of Annihilation, are more like simple shopkeepers than powerful merchant rulers.
They all are filthy rich and apparently, in Port Nyanzaru, it’s all it takes. How they managed to obtain so much wealth, despite their city being under Amnian (fantasy spanish) control only nine years ago is superfluous I guess. What we know is that they each have a monopoly on something that is supposed to bring them a really high income.
So let’s see how fares Port Nyanzaru’s economy as decribed in ToA (of course we can homebrew away any of this!):
- Port Nyanzaru is a small city.
- There’s a Dragon Turtle demanding a « tax » from passing boats
- Pirates plague the Seas
- There’s virtually no one in Chult to trade with
- And, you know, undead and dinosaurs aplenty
As for the monopolies of the Merchant Princes:
- Ex-gladiator Ekene-Afa got very rich, we’re to believe, selling spears, leather shields and travelling gears. That’s shopkeeper level, really.
- Ifan Talro’a deals in dinosaurs and dinosaur training. Okay, why not.
- Jessamine deals in plants, poison and assassination. And she got rich, somehow.
- Jobal deals in (lousy) guides and (deathwishing) sellswords. We do know he came out of the jungle alone with treasure, so there’s that (that’s actually interesting, I can work with that).
- Kwayothé sells fruits, wine, tej, ale, perfume and insect repellent (!).
- Wakanga deals in magic and, uh, lore? Yeah… A magic shop, how cute…
- Zhanti deals in gems, jewelry, clothes and armors. I mean, gems and jewelry, that’s fine. Clothes and armors? Less so.
The whole concept of richest guys in town are ruling doesn’t hold water. Why would the people tolerate the monopolies of the Merchant Princes? It would have to be by strength of arms but they don’t seem to have any. In fact, we know they can’t even chase a few dozens unimpressive Flaming Fist mercenaries that are encroaching in Chultan territory.
Okay, let’s reframe this a little:
Each have a sphere of influence and none, at the moment, can hope to rule without cooperating with some of the others. They exchange favors all the time in order to have the votes of their peers when it counts.
Already popular when she was a gladiator, she became the de facto leader of the rebels when Port Nyanzaru shook off the Amnians. She would have the support of the people if she made a bid to rule the city by herself, but she doesn’t have that kind of ambition.
- taxes from Inner City’s merchants, in exchange her labor force clear the rivers’ channels
- fishing trade
- city watch (captain Soshen is her son)
- beloved by the people
- Prevent Tyranny
- Extend safety to all parts of Port Nyanzaru, not only Walled City
Talro’a betrayed his Amnian masters, and profited greatly from it. He now has some kind of alliance with the Flaming Fist mercenaries. A man of great ambition, a populist too, he won’t stop at anything to amass more power.
- meat market
- dinosaur herding
- ivory trade
- allied with Flaming Fist
- Redhooks (butchers turned enforcers)
- Grand Coliseum games
- Become King of Chult
The least avant-scène of the Princes, Jessamine’s influence is felt more in hushed tones than in clamorous displays. Her extensive spy network goes far beyond Port Nyanzaru.
- pottery trade, valuable, handmade craft by the gripplis
- dye trade
- spice trade
- kola nuts
- The Purple Hand (assassins)
- Spy Network
- Prevent strong rule from happening in Port Nyanzaru
- Eliminate underworld rival Jobal
Since he got out of the jungle alone, with considerable treasure in his possession, Jobal proceeded to buy the allegiance of one of Old City’s gang of thugs. He soon ruled over almost all the other gangs of Old City and Malar’s Throat.
- local extortion
- The Gauntlet (informal justice)
- Gangs: Sons of Malar, Bridgerunners, the Dirty Talons
- Advance the agenda of his unknown benefactors
Kwayothé was barely a teen when she catched the eye of a rich foreigner. She endured many humiliations before she finally freed herself of her master’s yoke. Now a rich merchant herself, she strives so that nobody would gain dominance over her ever again.
- gems mining
- Temple of the Everburning
- Topple Chultan aristocracy
- Drive away or kill the Flaming Fist mercenaries
- Chase off the greedy Dwarves of the Pick&Axe co
A moderate in all things, except maybe in his passion for women, Wakanga helped the rebellion only because Amn persecuted magic-users such as him. A powerful wizard, he comes from a long tradition that teaches that magic must be restricted to a few who pledged to use it with strict rules.
- cloth manufacturing (the bright clothes of Port Nyanzaru are renowned worldwide)
- He’s a wise and powerful wizard and many seek his counsel
- Prevent Tyranny.
- Stop strangers from stirring dark forces in the jungle
A rich merchant with royal blood, Zhanti is the consummate diplomat. Her long-term plans are ambitious but she knows she’s not getting any younger.
- salt making
- Prestigious family
- foreign interests
- Civilize a large chunk of Chult
- Put her son Shago as ruler of Port Nyanzaru
- Help bring back the Chultan diaspora
- Transform the city into true regional power