No, it’s not about human trafficking. Albeit slave trading is an underused topics in both modern and fantasy RPGs compared to its prevalence in real-life, D&D has two campaigns about the topic: Scourge of the Slave Lord and its kinda-followup Slavers. They’re fun to play, and Slavers belongs to the Greyhawk renaissance of the very early 2000s, which made me hope WotC weren’t going to dump the setting like a corpse like they did later.
This post instead consists of a series of links about spice trading in the Mediterranean and middle east, and some related topics. I’ve been trying to focus on pre-Islamic topics for ease of adaptation to a more generic fantasy milieu (of course they’re valid also for
- The Periplus of the Erythraean Sea is a classical account of trading opportunities. I’d just redact it a little bit to make it conform to your campaign, print it and, when your players find a “treasure map” just throw the redacted hardcopy at them. Full text here.
- Frankincense is quite a thing. Also Myrrh. They were brought as gifts to an avatar about 2014 years ago by a party of three Magic Users so badass towers and dungeons were not enough for them, so they got themselves kingdoms, the myth sayeth. Also Blue Lotus. Make a list of magical effects for all the varieties.
- Of course there should be a trade route for incense and a list other such niceties.
- Iram of the Seven Pillars looks like an epic place to visit, possibly not only before (for trading), but also during (for emotional distress) and after the disaster (a plausible explanation for treasure hunting!).
- Petra is the most famous Nabatean city (featuring in the last Indiana Jones movie does that), with its weird-ass facades carved in stone. But I think that Hegra is even more weird. Did I mention the Qur’an reports it’s been cursed and destroyed by an earthquake and lightings raining all over the place? I wonder about all the riches hidden in the vaults under Nabatean ruins!
- Other notable cities are Shibam (skyscrapers made of mud!), Palmyra (the Bride of the Desert!) and, of course, Carthage.