Instead of creating a new game, the server can load a savegame. The savegame doesn't have to be a multiplayer game and it doesn't need to be saved on all the computers.
Each player then just selects one of the traders from the savegame, which can even be a trader who was previously controlled by the computer.
The trader is chosen before you get to the lobby. The trader's name cannot be changed afterwards. Therefore, the player data need not be confirmed as usual.
As soon as the server has chosen his trader, he can adjust the number of players as usual. The number of player does not have to be equal to the number players in the savegame. Consequently, the number of players can be changed by loading a savegame.
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