One-Way Boat
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Basic Information

A One-Way Boat is a boat intended to only be used once. In most cases this is a simple flatboat or raft built inland to "go with the flow" down a river to a port city. You load it up with trade goods, ride the river to a major city, sell the goods there, and then disassemble the boat and sell the timber it was made from. Even absent any trade goods, rafting timber downriver was the normal way of moving it in many places - the receiving centre would likely have a water powered sawmill and collect the logs in the pond behind the dam that drove it.

If you need to go home again, you take the profits from the sales to buy a horse or book a ride with a caravan heading back. This was apparently a pretty common practice for inland communities and intrepid merchants in pre-industrial eras, because it was easier than building a better boat capable of fighting against the current to get back upstream. Taking advantage of the "free power" of a river flowing downstream is also a great, affordable way to transport large quantities of goods that would require many animals to carry overland for an extended distance.


Game and Story Use

  • A little touch like this can help with the verisimilitude of your setting, good for world-building. It may explain how all those little villages get supplied and "stay afloat" financially… by literally sending their goods afloat.
  • Seems like a natural option for player-characters, who are often going off on quests with no real need to return to places they've previously visited. You pull a big stash of treasure out of the dungeon, and need to get it to a major city where you can sell the choice bits for good money? Too much weight for your horse or backpack? A simple one-use boat can save the day (and also let the GM break out a few of the aquatic encounters in their monster manual that might otherwise go unused).
  • Presumably could be recycled-in-space with temporary craft being assembled from materials mined and refined in an asteroid-belt and then pitched cross system to a receiver around one of the settled planets or at a habitat. You probably wouldn't want to travel on it, but on the other hand, it might be the normal way for a miner to return from the belt after a tour of duty.
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