The traveling caravan is one of the fundamental components of The Banner Saga, the other two being tactical turn-based combat and role-playing.
A caravan is made up of the following 'ingredients':
- Heroes, who are seen leading the caravan. One of them, usually the POV character of the current chapter, is the leader of the caravan whose role you assume. All decisions that he/she takes weigh on the entire caravan as well as on the other heroes.
- The Banner is the most prominent feature of the caravan, seen streaming on the cold winds. On the Banner are woven the stories and adventures of the caravan and all its people. It is the duty of the caravan's leader to hold and expand the Banner. As the story progresses and the caravan grows, so does the length of the Banner. Apart from symbolism, there is no gameplay feature related to it.
- Population measures the number of people following the heroes' caravan. It is divided into three categories: Clansmen, Fighters and Varl. The sum of the two latter categories is your caravan's fighting force, the Combatants. The first category includes the peasants, women and children that are not trained in warfare.
- Supplies are necessary to keep your caravan's population well fed and provisioned. The game's UI shows the number of days that the caravan can survive with the current supplies and population, before going into Starvation; this counter is reduced by one point for each day that passes, either in camp or while traveling. When the supplies run out, the caravan's population will start to starve and die. Heroes cannot die from starvation.
- Renown is the in-game currency and is generally proportional to your prowess along the game. Renown is earned from quests or from defeating enemies in combat and it can be 'spent' to purchase supplies and items from marketplaces or to promote your heroes.
- Morale is representative of your caravan's resolve in the face of the hardships that arise along the journey. Morale is affected by quests, story events, traveling, camping, battle outcomes and starvation. Having high morale affects the Willpower of your heroes, helping you in battles.
- Items are also part of a caravan, especially those that are not equipped by any of your heroes. They can be seen in the 'Heroes Tent', accessible when camped or when visiting villages and cities.
- Day Count that shows how much time has passed since the start of your journey. Time is of the essence!
These three caravan components are interrelated and they thus affect the Morale, which, in its turn, affects the battles' difficulty. As a rule of thumb, each unit of Supplies can sustain approximately 100 caravan members for 1 day. For example, 30 units of supplies can sustain a caravan of 300 for 10 days, or a caravan of 600 for 5 days. Varl, fighters and clansmen require the same relative amount of supplies per day.
You can only see your caravan's supplies units while at a market, where you can also exchange some of your Renown for supplies, at a varying rate. Exchange rates are in the form of '1:X', meaning that 1 Renown gets your X units of Supplies. Evidently, the higher the X, the better the exchange rate. Markets usually have a limited number of supplies units.
In the framework of the game's lore, sea travel and horseback riding are not options for long distance traveling. So, the only means of transportation is on foot. Supplies, weapons and other goods are typically carried in yox-hauled wagons.