Trade In the Swordfish Islands
|mmmmm outdoor meat markets!|
'Course we're gonna cut up the body. What'd you think we came out here for? A picnic? All the parts are worth something to somebody.
In the end, everything is just so much meat and useful parts. For Hot Springs Island (one of the Swordfish Islands) we've roughed out six different intelligent factions, a bunch of beasts and monsters and a bunch of plants. I just finished up the first coherent, searchable, sortable draft of things each of these factions want.
Most non-intelligent creatures out there don't have loot. They're not collectors, and they don't care about swords and armor and whatnot. I want the islands to feel very rugged and natural meaning there's going to be a much higher likelyhood of coming across giant bugs and animals than you'll have of coming across something "with loot". Instead of forcing the GM to jump through reward hoops ("uhh... ummm... there's a corpse in the bushes!" or "uhh... err... that rat happened to swallow a gem!") I think it's important to call out the parts of these creatures that are useful in some way.
On top of it, we're going to make all the data available to the players. Remember, the Swordfish Islands are a sandbox and players have to give themselves goals if you really want it to work, so the more variant play opportunities there are the better.
Think of it this way, if your party wants to get in good with the Night Axe, and they know the types of goods the Night Axe like, then they're more likely to come up with an idea like "Ok guys, they're not talking to us, but that's not the end of it. We know they use bones for magic, and the Field Guide we got from the adventurer's guild says they're known to trade for Dire Boar bones. Dire Boars aren't easy, but I think we can take one, and Felthion thought he saw a trail made by one about a day back. Let's go hunt it down, butcher it, and try to use its bones to parley with the Night Axe for more information on this Svarku fellow."
Generate emergent story by encouraging variant play. Or that's the dream. Why make them roll some sort of knowledge check when you can just give them all the knowledge normal adventurers have collected about the area and let them put the pieces together however they want?