Belder slouched atop the driver's box of his wagon, the reins of his three-yoke team of oxen clutched firmly between the fingers of his left hand. His right hand rested atop his ample potbelly, occasionally rising to his chin to scratch at the three-day growth of flame-red hair sprouting there. It itched incessantly, which put him in a bad temper, and he wanted to finish the run so he could have a hot bath and a cool mug of ale in Riverguard. The rest of his caravan followed close on his heels in good order. At least he wouldn't have to shout at the damned tenderfeet again. The idiot stragglers were practically asking for bandits to pick them off, when he'd led them out of Port Hope.
Up ahead, he heard a little noise in the underbrush alongside a narrow cut where the trail led between two low but steep hills, and he snorted. Highwaymen, of course. Twenty years on the road, and still they kept trying to use the same spot for ambushes. And it wasn't even a good spot. Sighing, he slapped his belly, and drew his team to a stop, holding up his hand for the others to rein in as well. The bandits ahead had to be new to the business, he reflected. They hadn't posted a lookout in the right place, and might not know that he'd noticed them yet. Wistfully, wishing that he had a basin of hot water and a few minutes to scrape the blasted stubble off his chin, he pulled his crossbow out of the holder next to his seat, sucked down a huge lungful of air, and roared, "Bandits ahead! Circle the wagons and form up to repel raiders, lads! We've got bandits!"
In the aftermath of his bellowing, birds no longer sang, and the squirrels in the trees along the road went into hiding. For a moment the only sound was the startled cursing of the outlaws behind the ridge, and then his caravan began to follow his orders.
Most mercantile shipping that can't be done by riverboat or ocean-going vessel is relegated by default to wagon-train. While the average teamster is a simple man with simple pleasures and little acumen for any pursuit other than making sure that a team of oxen, horses, or other draft animals pulls well and steadily for the space of a journey, such men are seldom well-suited to deal with the perils of really lengthy trips through difficult or hostile territory. For such leadership, one needs the services of a man with the calculating eye of a merchant, the wilderness know-how of a ranger, and the tactical sense of a trained soldier.
In other words, one needs the services of a caravan master.
Most caravan masters are fighters, rangers, or rogues. A few bards also find the lifestyle pleasant, as do a handful of clerics, particularly those dedicated to gods of travel or trade. Few druids have the taste for civilization required for a successful career as a caravan master, and most sorcerers and wizards find themselves too delicate for the rough, rootless existence that is his lot in life.
Caravan masters are commonly found as NPCs in the hire of merchants whose business interests demand the movement of large quantities of valuable goods through dangerous territory. A number of them also find steady, lucrative employment in military formations, because of their ability to slip supply trains through enemy lines to reinforce beleaguered units.
Hit Die: d8
Alignment: Any non-lawful
Base Attack Bonus: +3
Skills: Appraise 4 ranks, Handle Animal 8 ranks, Knowledge (geography) 8 ranks, Profession (driver) 4 ranks, Ride 4 ranks, Survival 4 ranks.
Feats: Animal Affinity, Track
Special: Must have made an overland trade excursion between the same two cities at least three times, and survived a bandit raid on at least three occasions during these trips.
Class Skills: The caravan master's class skills (and the key ability for each skill) are Appraise (Int), Bluff (Cha), Climb (Str), Craft (Int), Diplomacy (Cha), Gather Information (Cha), Handle Animal (Cha), Knowledge (local) (Int), Knowledge (geography) (Int), Listen (Wis), Profession (Wis), Sense Motive (Wis), Spot (Wis), Survival (Wis), and Swim (Str). See Chapter 4 in the Player's Handbook for skill descriptions.
Skill Points at Each Level: 6 + Int Modifier
|1||+1||+2||+0||+0||"Bandit scum!" +2, "YAH, mule!!" I|
|2||+2||+3||+0||+0||Circle the wagons, bonus feat|
|3||+3||+3||+1||+1||"Bandit scum!" +4, "I'll fix yer wagon!"|
|4||+4||+4||+1||+1||"Giddy up, brute!", bonus feat|
|5||+5||+4||+1||+1||"Bandit scum!" +6, "YAH, mule!" II|
|6||+6/+1||+5||+2||+2||"Aye, but it'll cost ya . . ."|
All the following are class features of the caravan master prestige class.
Weapon and Armor Proficiency: Caravan masters gain proficiency with the whip. They gain proficiency with light armor, but not with shields.
"Bandit Scum!" (Ex): At 1st level, the caravan master develops a special hatred for and efficiency against his natural enemies -- bandits. He gains a +2 bonus to damage rolls and to Bluff, Listen, Sense Motive, Spot, and Survival checks against bandits, highway robbers, and other criminals who make their livings by armed robbery. At level 3, this bonus increases to +4. At level 5, it rises to +6.
"YAH, Mule!!" (Ex): At 1st level, a caravan master learns to coax the greatest possible effort out of the dray creatures he uses to pull his wagon or cart. As a full-round action once per day per level, he can urge any dray creature or team of dray creatures (for example, a heavy horse, an ox, a mule or donkey, or an elephant) to greater effort in shifting a load. This affords the creature or creatures a +4 enhancement bonus to Strength for purposes of determining the maximum load it is capable of dragging. At level 5, the caravan master can encourage the dray animals even more vigorously, inflicting 2d6 non-lethal damage as he prods them but spurring them onward to such efforts that they gain a +8 enhancement bonus to Strength to determine the maximum load they are capable of dragging. The bonuses gained from this ability last for ten rounds.
Circle the Wagons (Ex): Ever prepared for danger along the road, at 2nd level a caravan master has learned to marshal his wagon train for defensive action. Once per day as a standard action, he can direct all allies within 20 ft. per class level to form up in a defensive position to repel attackers. Affected allies gain a +2 insight bonus to AC, and enjoy a +2 morale bonus to Reflex saves for a number of rounds equal to the caravan master's class level + his Charisma bonus. This is a sonic, mind-affecting ability.
Bonus Feat: At 2nd and 4th level, the caravan master may select a bonus feat from the fighter list. As usual, he must meet all the usual prerequisites for a feat in order to select it.
"I'll Fix Yer Wagon!" (Ex): At 3rd level, a caravan master's vast experience of life on the road has left him adept at performing emergency repairs on his wagons and carts. He gains a competence bonus equal to his class level on all Craft (carpentry) checks made to repair a wagon, cart, or other wheeled conveyance.
"Giddy up, Brute!" (Ex): At 4th level, a caravan master has become so adept in the care and maintenance of his dray creatures that he can extend their staying power for hauling jobs that would leave a lesser teamster's beasts of burden dead in the traces. Any beast of burden driven by him gains DR 3/- versus non-lethal damage from a forced march, and only suffers non-lethal damage from a forced march, even when heavily burdened or ridden. For more information on forced marches, see page 164 in the Player’s Handbook v.3.5. See especially the section headed “Mounted Movement.”
"Aye, But It'll Cost Ya . . ." (Ex): By 6th level, a caravan master has reached nearly legendary status in his line of business. He is the go-to man for the most demanding journeys and the most valuable cargoes. As an old hand at the business, he gains a +6 competence bonus to Appraise, Gather Information, and Diplomacy checks. This bonus represents the benefits of long experience in procuring supplies, information, and labor for his caravan; years on the road have taught the caravan master where to go, whom to talk to, and what to ask for when he wants to talk business.