Dark Sun for Sword of Cepheus: Part VI – Merchants of Athas – Trade Rules

As part of my conversion of the AD&D Dark Sun setting to the Sword of Cepheus rules, I recently made a merchant career. It sort of inspired me to take the Cepheus Engine trading rules and modify them to be used in the Dark Sun setting. The idea being that the players could make money through speculative trading between the city-states and villages of Athas.

Note: This is an initial, alpha version of the Dark Sun/SoC trade rules. I haven’t playtested any of it yet, and will certainly tweak it over time. The Athasian Trade Goods table still needs a bit of work. I’m open to any suggestions or corrections anyone might have.

Concerning the Slave Trade: Those of you familiar with the Dark Sun setting will know that slavery is a big part of the setting. I have deliberately not included rules for the slave trade. Honestly, I find the whole subject a little too unpleasant to gamify into a rule system. The slave trade is not something I’d want my players to have any involvement in, except to overthrow it.

Speculative Trade Rules

Here are the steps needed to carry out a trade:

  1. Find a supplier
  2. Determine goods available
  3. Determine purchase price
  4. Take goods to new world or market
  5. Find a buyer
  6. Determine sales price

Find a supplier

Make an Average (0+) Broker roll to find a supplier. It will take 1d6 days.

If the players are part of a merchant house that has an emporium in the location, no roll is necessary.

In a city state +3 DM, Village -1 DM, Tribe -2 DM

Determine goods available

The GM can choose what goods are available or can decide there are 1d6 randomly determined goods available to buy. The GM can roll D66 on the Athasian Trade Goods table below.

Trade Code

Each kind of location has trade code, listed on the Trade Codes table below. Some goods are easier to buy or sell in different locations. For example, it’s harder to buy finished goods in villages or tribes. Each item of the Athasian Trade Goods table will list various DMs to purchase and sale rolls for different trade code types.

Determine purchase price

To determine the actual purchase price for each item, roll 2d6 on the Modified Price Table. Add the Broker skill to the roll. Also add any purchase DMs if there’s an entry in the Purchase DMs column for that location. The final price will be the item price modified by the purchase column. If the buyer declines this deal, they cannot deal with that supplier for one week.

Transporting goods to new market

It’s assumed the players have access to a wagon and mounts. The trip across Athas to the new market is presumably when all of the actual adventuring happens.

Find a buyer

When the players arrive at the new location, they can try and find a buyer. This uses the same rules as finding a supplier. If the players are trading multiple items, the GM may optionally ask them to make a separate buyer roll for each type of item.

Determine sales price

This uses the same rules as determining a purchase price, except you use the Sale column on the Modified Price Table, and you use the Sales DMs column on the Athasian Trade Goods table.

Trade Codes

Trade CodeLocation
CSCity State
CVClient Village
SVSlave Village
DVDwarf Village
HVHalfling Village
NTNomad Tribe
ETElven Tribe
GTGiant Tribe
TTThri-kreen Tribe

Athasian Trade Goods

D66Trade GoodsBase Price (cp)Trade AmountAmountPurchase DMsSale DMs
11Aarakocra Eggs480dozen1d6NT+2
13Ceramics10lb1d6CS+1, Balic+3NT+1, SV+1
NT+1, SV+1
16Erdlu Eggs360dozen1d6NT+2
21Granite Blocks5000ton1d6GT+3DV+2
22Kank Honey10lb1d6NT+2
NT+2, SV+2
24Armor, Chitin250lb1d6NT+2
25Leather goods5lb1d6NT+2
26Kola Nuts10lb1d6
31Iron10lb1d6Tyr+3CS+2, DV+1
34Fruit, Dried3lb1d6
NT+1, CS+2, SV+1

36Steel goods2000lb1d6
SV+1, DV+1

42Obsidian20lb1d6HV+1DV+1, CS+2
45Musical Instruments50lb1d6SV+2NT+2
46Tools10lb2d6CS+1NT+2, SV+1, DV+1

52Spell Components*

53Magic Items*



56Faro needles5lb4d6
NT-2, ET-2, TT-2

63Mekillot Eggs600dozen1d6NT+2CS+1


66Unusual Cargo*

*Magical or unusual items may be illegal in some areas. GMs will need to work out the prices and details for these. Cargo such as these are usually the basis for an adventure.

Modified Price Table: 2d6 + Broker + Purchase/Sale DMs


4 thoughts on “Dark Sun for Sword of Cepheus: Part VI – Merchants of Athas – Trade Rules

  1. Hi,

    there are a couple of old Traveller-based games that you might like to check, if you don’t know these already.

    One is Mercator – a very old (free) game which models the Roman Empire using Traveller rules: file:///C:/Users/401111/AppData/Local/Microsoft/Windows/INetCache/IE/NL1OB7RF/mercator2.pdf

    The other is Worlds Apart (free version – no pictures – here: https://www.drivethrurpg.com/product/105341/Worlds-Apart–Free-Version) which just moves the concept of “spaceships hyperjumping to new systems” to “semi-magical sail ships moving across vast archipelagos… were each Island replaces a Traveller “Planet”.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for these. I had a copy of Mercator in my library, but had no idea it had any trading rules until now. Worlds Apart, I had never heard of before now. Nice find.

      I suspect I’ll be pulling some ideas from both of them..


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