Playing a smuggler in D&D

scrollstrash asked: Do you have any good resources (books or websites, i don’t mind) for smuggler characters? I tried playing a smuggler a couple of years back, but didn’t really know what I was doing

I think I can guess why this happened. You can play a thief anywhere, but to play a smuggler you need to know a few things about the setting (or be allowed to invent them). Either way, you have to cooperate with your DM, because smuggling doesn’t happen in a void.

For smugglers to exist, there need to be laws that ban or restrict the trade of certain goods. So there are several worldbuilding questions that need to be addressed: what are these laws? which goods are banned altogether, which are heavily taxed, which are controlled by a monopoly? where can these goods be acquired, and who would want to buy them in the black market?


Depending on the campaign, you can be vague about these things, or very very specific. But it helps to have some idea about the society (and economy, and geography) you’re operating in, such as “there’s a state monopoly on bat guano and/or only registered spellcasters can legally buy it”, or “merchant ships dock and get searched/taxed in the Big Harbour, but there are coves where you can bypass the whole procedure”, or “that stupid King just outlawed erotic literature, we’re gonna get RICH”.

Once you figure out what’s illicit, where you can get it, and who you can sell it to, the rest will fall into place, and you’ll know exactly what to do. 🙂

A very good book is Michael Kwass’s Contraband: Louis Mandrin and the Making of a Global Underground (Harvard University Press, 2015). It’s about a famous smuggler in 18th century France — I say “famous” and not “notorious” because he was kind of a folk hero — and it explains how the smuggling networks worked, and how they came to be. I’ve posted an excerpt here.

See also:


Smuggler by anotherwanderer

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