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Circle the Wagons
Cartwrights are an often overlooked but essential part of most Dungeons & Dragons campaigns that rely on heavy or distant travel. These skilled craftspeople specialize in designing and constructing carts, wagons, or any other forms of transportation the GM might conceive. While their work may not be as flashy as a powerful wizard or as stealthy as a cunning rogue, cartwrights offer unique skills that make them a valuable resource to any adventuring party.
One of the primary reasons that cartwrights are important in D&D is their ability to provide vehicles for cargo and transportation. Moving goods and people efficiently is crucial in a world without the modern convenience of cars or trains. A well-built cart or wagon can differentiate between a successful and disastrous journey. Cartwrights can provide players with access to various transportation options, from simple hand-drawn carts to large, multi-horse wagons. They can also help players customize their transportation to meet their needs, such as adding extra storage space or reinforcing the frame to make it more durable.
Cartwrights can also be valuable for their crafting and repairing skills. An experienced wright can create far more than their namesake coaches. Though it may require a careful skills check, cartwrights technically have the base knowledge to craft other valuable items, such as harnesses, saddles, and even rudimentary weapons. Like many other tradespeople, they can also repair damaged equipment. Rather than discarding a wagon due to a busted wheel or broken axle, a cartwright can spend a few hours bringing an otherwise useless buggy back to life. A bit of mending can go a long way to allow parties with limited resources and wealth to save their hard-earned coins for more practical purchases.
Till the Wheels Fall Off
Another benefit of adding cartwrights into the world of D&D is the potential for unexpected intrigue and mystery. As a pseudo-hub for far travelers, cartwrights may gain access to secret, far-away knowledge or rare materials the party may not otherwise encounter. In a more sinister twist, their wide-ranging interactions with people could position the local, unassuming cartwright as the perfect fence, a critical smuggling ring member, or a trader of dark and unknown artifacts.
However, not all tradespeople need to be anonymous, unassuming artisans. Certain cartwrights could be celebrated for their skills, sought out by travelers from distant lands, or patronized by local nobility. GMs could craft side quests that require the players to seek out a particular cartwright with the skills necessary to outfit their vehicles for a strange or difficult journey. Players could find themselves on the hunt for a secret underground workshop or following rumors of a mad carpenter.
Players may also want to incorporate cart or wagon-making into their character's backstory. After all, having an expert within the party who can craft and repair vehicles could be particularly useful. While there isn't a specific class or background in Dungeons & Dragons, there may be ways for players to work around this. With enough imagination and the DM's approval, proficiency with Tinker's Tools or Carpenter's Tools might be grounds to grant a character the applicable implements and abilities. Artificers, too, could provide the appropriate resources to justify the skill necessary to become a serviceable wright.