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- Markshire PCs:
In regards to the traveling merchants, here are some thoughts…
The countryside should be filled with merchant caravans heading from West to East, restocking the defenses of Foothold, sending supplies to refugees, and equipping adventurers. Raiding parties of bandits and hard-hearted refugees from the Gate should operate on the main road leading between Foothold and Stonemark, preying on poorly-defended caravans; this of course leads to the establishment of smaller, more effective, more mobile courier groups (i.e. the PCs) that take longer but less-traveled routes (heading into the forest to avoid the main roads, for example). The area between Spinehold and Stonemark would be a popular raiding route, as well, with supplies heading northward to the capitol city.
All these bandits will have strongholds out in the wilderness that will periodically need to be wiped out and cleaned up. Sending in some PCs with a group of NPC town guards versus a fortified bandit stronghold seems like an awesome idea.
Turf wars will spring up between rival gangs and bandits, as their numbers have swelled and their muscle improved. This goes for within Stonemark as well as across the countryside. I can imagine a lot of action surrounding Cona in terms of lawlessness, or people taking the law in their own hands to defend their gains.
In fact, if I ever come back online–outside of the day job, that is–I’d like to re-open the mining company (I worked with a few dwarf PCs on this in the past), as creating more weapons seems like a logical–and profitable–enterprise for any adventurer with the initiative and physical strength.