Strongholds and Domains: A Revised Approach

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Alex
The Autarch
Joined: 2011-06-30 18:10
Strongholds and Domains: A Revised Approach

Today I am sharing a set of revised rules  that is intended to replace the Strongholds and Domains section found in ACKS Chapter 6, p. 125 to p. 134. You can find them here:

https://www.patreon.com/posts/strongholds-and-6107657

I offer these revised rules with no little trepidation. Domain rules lie at the heart of ACKS, and its mechanics have withstood some of the longest-running campaigns in the Old School Renaissance. But I would like to believe that my skill as a game designer has grown with each book I've produced, and increasingly I believe that the domain rules in ACKS could be improved in ways that retain their core functionality while eliminating some of their more unwelcome headaches. 

Here are the goals which I laid out for myself in drafting these revised rules (in order of priority):

1. The rules would retain the concrete, bottom-up approach that characterizes ACKS. I am no fan of the abstract, top-down approach that other systems have offered to handle domains, as I find them disassociated with the game world. (In any case Judges who seek an abstract, top-down approach already have several capable systems to choose from.)

2. The rules would be compatible with ACKS's existing assumptions on demographics, agricultural productivity, population density, and other economic issues. Moreover, they would need to be implementable "in play" without disrupting a campaign, and without imposing more than a small variance in the income of average or existing domains and realms.

3. The rules would eliminate the recursive nature of income calculation, wherein a lord earns 20'% of his vassal income, who earn 20% of their vassal's income, who earn 20% of THEIR vassal's income, and so on. It should not be necessary to build a spreadsheet calculating the revenue of a baron in farthest Opelenea in order to determine the income of the Emperor of Aura. 

4. The rules would eliminate any percentage-based calculations for domain revenue and expenses. All elements should be on a per-family basis, so that a player or Judge can quickly assess whether a domain is profitable and by how much. If *all* percentage-based mechanics could be eliminated, so much the better!

5. The rules would eliminate the "month/month/month with festival" cycle so that players and Judges do not need to re-calculate their domain income every third month. 

6. The rules would put morale rolls on the same timeline as other domain activities (monthly), and make morale a more integral part of the overall domain game.

7. The rules would answer important questions that had emerged over time, such as: "Is land value rolled per hex or per domain?" "do domains with a trained militia still need a garrison?" "how does a domain upgrade from wilderness to borderlands to civilized?" "why do we not track urban settlements of less than 75 families?" 

8. The rules would allow for domains of any size, and for noncontiguous domains. The default shape and structure of realms (with personal domains that increase in size with ruler level, and layers of vassals) should be encouraged by game mechanics, but not mandated in all cases.

9. The rules would take into account new mechanics that were introduced in Domains of War, such as military campaigns, militia, conscripts, and vagaries.

10. The rules would be written in such a way that new "modules" of rules could be easily added for Judges who sought more detailed mechanics. In particular, the rules should be easily expanded to cover future systems for (a) land value by terrain and technology, (b) different types of government (e.g. senatorial), (c) separating landownership from lordship, and (d) domain actions.

I hope you'll review these revised rules and let me know if you think I've succeeded!

Aryxymaraki
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In retrospect, I probably should have checked the forums and/or permissions on the file before posting my comments on it in the Axioms forum.

Reposting here!

I'm very excited about these. Overall I think this is great! I really like the idea of having everything based just directly off number of families.

But I do have questions and comments :p

-Not sure how I feel about the territorial control mechanic. I like the existing fact that low-level characters can have a large domain if they can manage to secure it, and the penalties seem pretty punitive to stop that. On the other hand, I like that there now exist mechanics for how much unrest occurs when a realm has a child-king.

-If hexes have different land values, how do you determine which families are in which hex to determine your income? Say a domain contains four hexes of value 6, one hex of value 3, and one hex of value 9. The domain grows by 25 families in a month. Which hex or hexes do those families move to? (My gut is to divide them evenly, but players will argue that they can invest specifically in the hex of value 9 to get them to move there.) If it is not always evenly spread, it also makes it harder to have the single number for families and the single number for value. (If it is always spread evenly, you can just average the values. Though that will almost certainly give you a non-integer value, at least it's a single number.)

-How does the Minimum Stronghold Value table work? If a 6-mile hex is 16 1.5 mile hexes and a 24-mile hex is 16 6-mile hexes, why aren't the values multiples of 16? (In some cases they're close to multiples of 16 and I can see it as merely being rounding, as with the Wilderness 1.5 - 6; 2,000 * 16 is 32,000 , 30k is pretty close to that. But 30,000 times 16 is 480,000, nowhere near the 720k for a 24 mile hex. Why would 16 6-mile hexes cost much less than a 24-mile hex, despite being the approximately the same square mileage? (and being called out as equal earlier)

-Attracting peasants and followers: There is no mention of a level requirement for peasant families and followers to show up in a domain that has a stronghold being constructed. Is this an intentional change? (I wouldn't be surprised by the peasants showing up at any level, but followers seem like they might wait till 9th? Could go either way, though!)

-Note: On page 4, the domain expenses table says domain revenue in the header.

-Page 5 seems to be missing an or, or have an extra either: "either to another vassal that he has sworn fealty to (usually the lord who granted him the land to build his domain)."

-Random favors and duties as events! Fantastic.

-Page 5: The text says the irrevocable favor offsets a duty for a year, but the example implies only a month. (Given that year is bolded and the example is straight out of the book which says month, I think the example just needs an updating for the change from month to year.)

-Page 6: I don't really understand why the loan and tax are both 1 gp. It makes sense from the PoV of a random generation, but from the perspective of a ruler, why would anyone ask for a loan when they could just make it a tax instead and never be expected to repay it? (I'd think the loan would be at 2 gp/family, it differentiates them more.)

-Reference is made to hijinks and vagaries but neither makes an appearance. Is the intent of the vagaries that the D@W ones be used and the modifiers just apply whenever you would normally roll them, or will there be new tables? (The hijink mention is less confusing, but it does bring up the question of which hijinks target the realm.)

Alex
The Autarch
Joined: 2011-06-30 18:10

-Not sure how I feel about the territorial control mechanic. I like the existing fact that low-level characters can have a large domain if they can manage to secure it, and the penalties seem pretty punitive to stop that. On the other hand, I like that there now exist mechanics for how much unrest occurs when a realm has a child-king.

APM: It's a necessary mechanic now that the restriction on domain size has been lifted. It also serves to explain why, e.g., a regent would be appointed for a child-king, and why a ruler will make sure his heir apparent gets some experience before taking over.

-If hexes have different land values, how do you determine which families are in which hex to determine your income? Say a domain contains four hexes of value 6, one hex of value 3, and one hex of value 9. The domain grows by 25 families in a month. Which hex or hexes do those families move to? (My gut is to divide them evenly, but players will argue that they can invest specifically in the hex of value 9 to get them to move there.) If it is not always evenly spread, it also makes it harder to have the single number for families and the single number for value. (If it is always spread evenly, you can just average the values. Though that will almost certainly give you a non-integer value, at least it's a single number.)

APM: Good question. My thought was that they'd be evenly distributed. I'll be curious what others think.

-How does the Minimum Stronghold Value table work? If a 6-mile hex is 16 1.5 mile hexes and a 24-mile hex is 16 6-mile hexes, why aren't the values multiples of 16? (In some cases they're close to multiples of 16 and I can see it as merely being rounding, as with the Wilderness 1.5 - 6; 2,000 * 16 is 32,000 , 30k is pretty close to that. But 30,000 times 16 is 480,000, nowhere near the 720k for a 24 mile hex. Why would 16 6-mile hexes cost much less than a 24-mile hex, despite being the approximately the same square mileage? (and being called out as equal earlier)

APM: Errors. It hsould be intervals of 16 - 512,000 for the 24-mile hex, 32,000 for the 6-mile hex.

-Attracting peasants and followers: There is no mention of a level requirement for peasant families and followers to show up in a domain that has a stronghold being constructed. Is this an intentional change? (I wouldn't be surprised by the peasants showing up at any level, but followers seem like they might wait till 9th? Could go either way, though!)

APM: It's just an oversight. I'll have to review the draft to see where I cut the text.

-Note: On page 4, the domain expenses table says domain revenue in the header.

APM: Thank you!

-Page 5 seems to be missing an or, or have an extra either: "either to another vassal that he has sworn fealty to (usually the lord who granted him the land to build his domain)."

APM: It's a surplus either.

-Page 5: The text says the irrevocable favor offsets a duty for a year, but the example implies only a month. (Given that year is bolded and the example is straight out of the book which says month, I think the example just needs an updating for the change from month to year.)

APM: Here's what it should be: During any month, each vassal can be safely asked to perform one ongoing duty, plus an additional ongoing duty for each ongoing favor given. If an adventurer demands duties in excess of this total, the vassal’s loyalty must be checked on the Henchman Loyalty table for each extra duty. Except for a marriage, an irrevocable favor only offsets a duty during the month it is first given (such gifts are quickly taken for granted…) A marriage counts as a favor for as long as the marriage lasts. Charters of monopoly count as one favor, even if granted to cover multiple types of merchandise.

-Page 6: I don't really understand why the loan and tax are both 1 gp. It makes sense from the PoV of a random generation, but from the perspective of a ruler, why would anyone ask for a loan when they could just make it a tax instead and never be expected to repay it? (I'd think the loan would be at 2 gp/family, it differentiates them more.)

APM: Good point. I think I'll adjust the Loan so that it's 2gp per family in the vassal's domain, while the tax wll be 1gp per family in the vassal's REALM. That'll make them more different.

-Reference is made to hijinks and vagaries but neither makes an appearance. Is the intent of the vagaries that the D@W ones be used and the modifiers just apply whenever you would normally roll them, or will there be new tables? (The hijink mention is less confusing, but it does bring up the question of which hijinks target the realm.)

APM: There will one day be additional vagaries tables, but for now it refers to the vagaries in D@W.

GMJoe
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-If hexes have different land values, how do you determine which families are in which hex to determine your income? Say a domain contains four hexes of value 6, one hex of value 3, and one hex of value 9. The domain grows by 25 families in a month. Which hex or hexes do those families move to? (My gut is to divide them evenly, but players will argue that they can invest specifically in the hex of value 9 to get them to move there.) If it is not always evenly spread, it also makes it harder to have the single number for families and the single number for value. (If it is always spread evenly, you can just average the values. Though that will almost certainly give you a non-integer value, at least it's a single number.)

APM: Good question. My thought was that they'd be evenly distributed. I'll be curious what others think.


-Alex

I think that my players would immediately ask if they could concentrate their peasant families in their most profitable hexes, and use the less-valuable ones for things like strongholds, dungeons, urban settlements, mines, and weird experiments. (One of my players is trying to build an interplanetary transport network. He's still working out the details of how to achieve it, but I imagine he'll need land for facilities.) If I said they couldn't, they'd expect some sort of explanation why - though they're forgiving guys, so it wouldn't have to be a great one.

I guess if peasants are evenly distributed throughhout a domain, you could just calculate the domain's average land revenue value, and use that for all domain revenue calculations rather than having to calculate each hex's revenue seperately. Hmm... It seems like that'd discourage players from expanding their domains, though. And it raises odd questions about how peasants are redistributed when a domain grows or shrinks in size.

By the way, this reminds me of a question I raised on RPG.SE ages ago. I got an answer that satisfied me then, but it might be an idea to put that answer into the rules to prevent confusion in future.

This also reminds me of a question about monopolies I've been meaning to ask. I should probably check whether it's been asked already before I pose it, though.

 

James K
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APM: Good question. My thought was that they'd be evenly distributed. I'll be curious what others think.

I've been doing land value by hex for my campaign. I track population by hex (I made a spreadsheet for it) and use the followign algorithm to determine where population goes:

  • The new population added when a hex is added to a domain starts in the new hex.
  • Hexes try to even out their populations - new population growth gets added to the hexes with the loest populations to even them out.
  • As a tiebreaker, families get added to high value hexes before low value ones.

This could be approximated by just averaging the population out, outside of a few edge cases.

Korean Kodiak a...
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I think population growth per hex would depend on the gp value of the hex.

If you have five hexes with a value of 3,4,4,6,9.

3+4+4+6+9 = 26

3/26, 4/26, 4/26, 6/26, 9/26

+12%, +15%, +15%, 23%, 35%

If 75 new familes move into a domain, they would be distubted as follows

9, 11, 11, 18, 26

 

 

 

 

Rhetorical Gamer
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Makes sense, but one of the explicit points APM makes above is that he's moving away from needing percentages as much as possible. This would take us right back to percentages and extra math.

witness
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My gut says that naturally attracted peasant families are preferentially drawn to more valuable hexes, but I think "evenly divided with uneven remainders preferentially targeting valuable hexes" is probably sufficient. So with 6 hexes, if 10 peasant families move in, the most valuable 4 hexes gain 2 families each and the other two hexes gain 1 each.

I also propose that when making agricultural investments, a ruler can choose to invest broadly (with new families spread as above) or narrowly.

A narrow investment attracts peasant families to a specific desired hex, but only half* the peasant families so attracted are new to the domain. The others are attracted evenly from the nearest hexes within the domain (with any uneven remainders drawing preferentially from poorer hexes).

*or some other ratio that produces reasonable results.

koewn
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Does the peasantry get anything out of the increased land value, though?

There's a qualitative difference between the gently rolling, tree-dappled glens, and the howling barren waste, but all else being equal, the quantitative experience of random family #7 is the same, in that they're scraping by as their parents did before and their offspring after them. The lord gets the extra value, or misses the lack thereof after they've managed to feed themselves.

I wonder if there's a cogent way to split inhabitance based on a "reaction roll" tied to the value of the hex to reflect a more qualitative decision based on the hex value.

witness
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Does the peasantry get anything out of the increased land value, though?

There's a qualitative difference between the gently rolling, tree-dappled glens, and the howling barren waste, but all else being equal, the quantitative experience of random family #7 is the same, in that they're scraping by as their parents did before and their offspring after them. The lord gets the extra value, or misses the lack thereof after they've managed to feed themselves.


-koewn

They get wealthier leaders who can provide larger garrisons and strongholds and better protect them from the dangers of the wilderness.

I also operate under the assumption that while the land value is a measure specifically of what the lord can extract, the populace is also better off. While their increase may be measured in cp instead of gp (and generally consumed, rather than saved), I assume it exists.

koewn
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Good points! One could presume then that the wealthier lords have, on average, better domain morale, which already includes attracting more peasantry, so my other conjecture's already included in the system. Voila, Q.E.D., etc.

Alex
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The discussion of land value versus hexes has been a good one!

Since the average land value is always going to trend towards 6, saying that peasants will tend to settle evenly dispersed across the territory will result in land value always averaging towards 6. That somewhat defeats the point of tracking separate land values.

Therefore I think I will make the official rule be that the ruler can allocate peasants throughout his domain as he prefers, subject to the limits of growth, but that by default peasants will settle in the available hex with the highest land value.

 

 

Alex
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LEAVING ASIDE the land value issue for a moment, I'd very much appreciate feedback as to whether you think these rules are an improvement on the current rules.

If they capture the support of the ACKS community then I will likely adopt them for the Auran Empire setting, future updates, etc. 

If they do not capture your support, I'd like to know why so I can perhaps make further updates.

 

Jard
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Having given them a quick once-over last night, I have to say overall I like them quite a bit.  They feel much more clear and easy to comprehend than the original rules, while still covering most of the important ground. They also seem better positioned to have additional rules plugged in to them.

 

I also really like the attempt to get away from complicated recurive calculations, though it does seem that, under the new rules, urban settlements will become extremely important because they'll be the only way to gain large amounts of domain income, with the possible exception of favoring more non-henchmen vassals. Under the new system, the maximum a ruler could earn from non-urban, henchmen vassals only income, regardless of how sprawling her realm was, would be 12,500*11gp + 7*(12,500*3gp) = 137,500 + 262,500 = 400,000gp.  This is probably fine since the XP threshold for level 13 is 150,000 and it's unlikely to be relevant that a level 14 couldn't level up from this since 14 is the maximum.  That being said, it does mean that once you get to the point of subhenching, consolodating your realm, growing urban settlements, and favoring non-vassal henchmen becomes incentivied through XP.

As I did out the math, I'm realizing it's probably not actually that big of a deal and the reduced complexity is a major boon so... good job Alex! 

Alex
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Thanks for doing that analysis. That's the same conclusion I came to. Moreover, since ACKS does often lean towards a more Late Antiquity setting, the encouragement of urban settlements is a good thing. 

A few other random thoughts that inspired this approach:

- About 66% of the Byzantine Empire's entire budget was spent on its military. In ACKS, this is reflected in the 2-4gp per family at every level of the realm. While in a feudal setting this represents feudal lords with private armies, one can just as easily view it as imperial officers authorized to collect local revenue to pay for their local garrisons. Another 25% was spent on the imperial bureacracy, which later was handled by granting the right to tax particular territories to the officers of the bureacracy. Again, this is well-represented by the tax revenue that vassals have over their domains (the land/service revenue is from land ownership). The rest of the Emperor's budget was spent on maintaining the household, gifts, etc. and more-or-less came from the imperial holdings themselves.

- In Medieval England, the king's revenues were derived from the crown lands (in ACKS, a personal domain) and from "special" taxes (in ACKS, favors extracted from vassals). And of course the system was feudal, with land allocated in exchange for the availability of troops. 

It feels like both can be well-modeled by the new rules, WITHOUT requiring recursive taxation. 

koewn
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I'm still puttering through my own math, but overall I think the simplicity is worth it. I'll post back with further thoughts later today-ish.

Stronghold Upkeep is missing from the Paying Expenses section. Is that an actual removal of the concept, or an oversight?

Alex
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I removed it from the system. Here were my thoughts:

1. In the Middle Ages, rulers often extracted "services" from their peasants. It seems likely that these could encompass stronghold upkeep without having to track it separately.

2. Under the Romans, stronghold upkeep was very much handled by the troops. Since the system already requires a large body of troops that scales in proportion to the stronghold, it seems like this, too, could allow one to assume stronghold upkeep is handled implicitly.

3. The Ancient Greeks handled the maintenance of public facilities through their use of liturgies - donations from their citizens. Since liturgies is already listed as an expense, this, too, could be a place where stronghold upkeep is taking place.

4. Removing stronghold upkeep makes tracking the domain revenues soooo much easier.

 

witness
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I like it so far. Did notice on the Domain morale modifier there was an error, as the chart appears to penalize the ruler for paying extra liturgy expenses and reward underpaying.

Alex
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Yes, good catch! I'll fix that and a few other glitches and release a new PDF soon.

Aryxymaraki
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A thought occurred to me; extra garrison expenses in this version do not affect domain morale. How does conquering invaded domains work, then, if you can't just march your army in and declare martial law?

(I do think it is probably a good thing to have garrison expenses not be the 'pay more for more morale' mechanic, since it no longer lets you double up on value, both having a large army and a happy domain.)

Alex
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As a refresher, here are the mechanics for occupation:

To determine whether a domain is occupied, calculate the value (in wages/month) of the occupying troops in the domain, and subtract the value (in wages/month) of any of the owner’s troops remaining in the domain after any battles have been fought.  Divide the difference by the number of peasant families to calculate the net gp value of occupying troops per peasant. If the net gp value of occupying troops per peasant is greater than the domain’s garrison cost (2-4gp), the domain is occupied. Effectively, if the enemy troops, less any friendly troops, would be enough to garrison the domain, the domain is occupied.

So the new rules do not in any way impact the ability of a new ruler to occupy a domain. It's still (your army - owner's army) / (number of families) > (garrison cost).

What they do make much harder is maintaining control over a demoralized domain. Once it goes into the -2 to -4 range, and peasants start revolting, there's no apparent means of solving the problem except lowering taxes and spending money on liturgies. And that is a problem. There needs to be some mechanism by which a rebellious or turbulent domain can be pacified or repressed! It took Justinian slaughtering30,000 people in Constantinople to do it, but that just shows that sometimes violence can be the answer...

koewn
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Domain hijinks maybe?

Something where some "hijink value vs market class" of success in carousing or assassination or whatever (redirecting goods to the poor populace via theft?) can increase morale up to +0/Apathetic but no further, and hijink failure risks further morale drop (or instant morale rechecks?) - you've either suppressed or encouraged the vocal rabble-rousers in any given group?

The reverse would work as well to reduce domain morale, I suppose, taking it down to a floor of +0/Apathetic.

One could work it so that garrison increases only really work in concert with domain hijinks - either a garrison increase is a type of hijink, or a garrison increase gives a bonus to domain hijinks succeeding, which sounds plausible.

 

 

Aryxymaraki
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You are correct, I misremembered how a domain goes from occupied to conquered! (I had thought it was based on the domain morale rolls for occupier and ruler, when in fact it's based on capturing all strongholds and settlements within the domain.)

I was close enough to right to have a point at least, even if it wasn't entirely the point I was trying to make >.>

koewn
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OK!:

1.5 mile hex "small domain" - The more-or-less 16 hexes contained in a 6 mile hex coexist peacefully with the maximum number of lairs findable in the same hex (2d8 wilderness jungle) - one could theoretically invert the L&E lair tables to generate random domain holdings?

I appreciate the clarification on starting domain type.

A 1.5 mile hex domain purchase (1,506 acres I think?) would be 52,800 gold. The 1.5 mile hex at 1,056 acres would hold about 35 30-acre farms, or 35 families/175 people - ~560 families in a 6 mile hex, very well civilized. If you could fill it up day 1, you'd get about 2800 gp/mo income (civilized plus tribute), returning your investment in about 19 months.

The 30-acre farm is a hex of 1,228 feet in height; 600 feet shy (about 1.5x less) of the height (1,822 ft) of the 1/16th subhex of a 1.5 mile hex. 

Territorial Control: This goes really well with the Demographics of Leveled Characters table on pg 235, and might help one make certain assumptions about how people in the world think of themselves.

If a L2 character can rule a Hamlet, one might think that anyone in the surrounding four 1.5 mile hexes identify themselves with that hamlet or that authority figure there - or the City (L8) has the surrounding four 6 mile hexes considered as it's "suburbs", to use a modern idea, or perhaps the primary destination for the goods and services exported from those lands.

Tribute/Liturgies: Festivals were previously 5gp/fam/quarter, or 20gp/fam/yr, or 1.6 gp/fam/mo. Taxes were 20%, tithes were 10%. 

3 GP is 20% of 15 GP: Maximum per-family income in a domain is 15 gp (9 LV+4+2), so except for the 3.7% of hex land values that were already 9, the value you take out of your vassals is much greater.

This encourages vassalization for the PCs, which is good - interaction with the game world. Some light math tells me the percentage of one's income that would come from one's vassals doubles in most cases, given 4 vassals of about half your personal domain size or so.

You can still gain at least an extra full 1 GP per directly vassaled family for non-henchman vassals even if you spend 1-2GP of the 3GP/family income back at the non-henchman domain (in effect reducing tribute, if allowed) to increase it's current morale score (offsetting the -2 by half or full - 1GP for 2d6-1 increases current 16% of the time and holds 58%, 2 GP for 2d6 increases ~27%, holds 72% of the time)  or let it fly and takes your chances. The thoughtful Judge, however, would nix that by having one's henchmen, as a group in a dark room, ask why Bob from Jersey's getting special treatment and they ain't.

Land Value Matters More With Lieges: On the other hand, if you have a liege lord, you really want a higher land value. The 3.7% of wilderness hexes with LV 3 are zero-profit with this change, as the garrison costs + tribute eats all the income - you pay your lord tribute as if your LV was always 9. You save a little on the backend from the lower Tithe and Liturgy costs, however, tithing was 1 GP at LV 4, so, again, LV 3 is penalized, with LV 5+ saves a couple percentage points of income, 1 SP per family per value above LV 4.

Ignoring garrison costs for domain types, the difference per family per LV for festivals/taxes/liturgies/tributes:

With Liege Taxes/Tribute due, if I didn't screw the math up:

LV Festival>Liturgy Tax>Tribute Tithe Difference/Fam
3 0.6 -1.2 -0.1 -0.7
4 0.6 -1 0 -0.4
5 0.6 -0.8 0.1 -0.1
6 0.6 -0.6 0.2 0.2
7 0.6 -0.4 0.3 0.5
8 0.6 -0.2 0.4 0.8
9 0.6 0 0.5 1.1

Without a Liege:

LV Festival>Liturgy Tithe Difference/Fam
3 0.6 -0.1 0.5
4 0.6 0 0.6
5 0.6 0.1 0.7
6 0.6 0.2 0.8
7 0.6 0.3 0.9
8 0.6 0.4 1
9 0.6 0.5 1.1

In general, then, this change nets the domain ruler more income except in the case of envassaled, low land value domains - the 62% of hexes with LV 6+ see some increase no matter their vassalage status. Nobody's ever even implied domain income might be too high, so. It does indicate that "hex shopping" for the elusive 8+ LV is still worth it.

Ignoring the fact that most players will not settle a below-average value hex without an overriding strategic reason to do so anyway, then, the change encourages either "going it alone", out in the wilderness or whatever, or encourages future conflict when the adventuring PC outlevels their liege lord, or the PC pisses off mutliple vassals and they ally against her. That's also good.

It also tends to make me think that, in general, higher land value areas are less turbulent, as there's "enough to go around" that every petty lord can have a good piece of the pie, whereas crappy parts of the world will tend to have a lot of folks squabbling over who rules who. Largely, then, ACKS models the human condition here.

Lastly, Tribute and Liturgy are cooler terms than Tax and Festival. 

Tribute implies that armies back your request, Tax implies Accountant Specialists. Liturgy implies serious works of art and entertainment and professionally staffed orgies, Festival implies Ren-Faire with greasy turkey legs and underengineered corsets.

So...yea. The simplicification is well worth it for the Judge, as, in general, a player gets more out of it, except in a corner case that players would intend to avoid anyway.

 

 

 

 

Alex
The Autarch
Joined: 2011-06-30 18:10

Thanks for the in-depth assessment and analysis! 

This encourages vassalization for the PCs, which is good - interaction with the game world. Some light math tells me the percentage of one's income that would come from one's vassals doubles in most cases, given 4 vassals of about half your personal domain size or so.

It's balanced out by the fact that you do not get income from one's sub-vassals. Assume you're a count with 800 families with 4 vassals of 400 families, each of whom has 4 vassals of 200 families.

Old System: 4 barons of 200 families at 12gp revenue each contribute (200 x 12 x .2 x 4) 1,920gp to their marquis. 4 marquis of 400 families at 12gp revenue each contribute [(400 x 12 x .2) + (1920 x .2] x 4] = (960 + 3840) x 4 = 5,376gp to their count.  

New System: 4 barons of 200 families contribute (200 x 3) x4 = 1,200gp to their marquis. 4 marquis of 400 families contribute (400 x 3 x 4) 4,800gp to their count.  

 

srd5090
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This looks great Alex!  Much easier than the old rules... though would need to do some in practice.

That said, with all the other sort of great discussion on the forums and refining of rules with new suggesstions on your part, does this mean we may see a ACKS 2nd Edition at some point?

Alex
The Autarch
Joined: 2011-06-30 18:10

Maybe one day. It's hard to work on a 2nd edition when I haven't even finished the 1st edition, in a sense...

susan_brindle
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I enjoy that these rules are simpler, and better support low-level characters acquiring domains, given that my primary beef with ACKS is that too many games start at A and fizzle before C gets going properly, let alone K. 

My only concern is that this seems like a big hit to the personal income of Emperors. I have no idea what kind of reprecussions that'd have though. 

koewn
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It at the very least, makes them much more beholden to the whims of their vassals - it severely curtails their autonomy in rushing off to make war, etc. That's probably more realistic?

The only class I feel it may really adversely effect is Mages, depending on if they're utilizing the realm as a gold fountain for researching putting new tentacles in new places, rather than playing political games.

Alex
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Joined: 2011-06-30 18:10

I do think it makes vassals more important.

At least in the test realms I've built, it hasn't dramatically impacted income except at the highest tiers of play - and at those levels the cash flow is so much that the difference won't make much difference to one's personal magic research.

 

jedavis
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Having read them twice, I'm left ambivalent. There are some nice things here: clarification on domain rulership for low-level characters, a clearer process for domain expansion, elimination of stronghold maintenance, elimination of high-garrison morale bonus. But, it's still spreadsheet-complex, with time-varying per-hex population values, the (+1d10-1d10)/1000 rule (my least favorite rule), fiddly morale rules, and the expectation of multiple levels of vassals. As a lazy DM with lazy players, this doesn't really address any of the fundamental complexity/abstraction/focus-on-adventure issues with the old version of the domain system, as best as I can tell. I readily admit that I am no longer the target audience for ACKS' domain rules, however.

Getting rid of percentages hardly matters if you still need a spreadsheet.

Jard
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You sound like you might be better served by the domain rules described in "An Echo Resounding" from Sine Nomine.  It's much simpler and focuses tightly on the seam between domain rulership and the effect that adventurers can have on a domain.

For my part, I like elements from it, but find myself more drawn to ACKs, spreadsheets and all.  It definitely doesn't appeal to some people though.

Alex
The Autarch
Joined: 2011-06-30 18:10

John - I read your blog regularly and always enjoy your work there, so please help me understand your cricitisms better. 

The +1d10/-1d10 system is trivial to dispense with or change. It's just a mechanic intended to keep a fairly steady state in domain size for most domains. If it's your least favorite mechanic it seems like the easiest one in the world to ignore. Let's put it aside.

I don't think I understand why the morale rules are "fiddly" - it's one value, rolled once per month, that tends to keep morale at its base morale state. What would be an example of a less fiddly rules? 

As far as multiple levels of vassals - that seems like a feature, not a bug? Any historical or fantasy setting I've ever encountered or imagined has had multiple levels of vassals, so the rules need to model that. But if you didn't want to use them, you could just...not use them. What am I missing?

Finally, I don't see why you'd need a spreadsheet to run this system, unless you'd WANT to - you could run each domain on a domain record and update it once per month.

In any case you posted a detailed assessment of the math of fighting value trade-offs and suggested it should be a different trade-off for every weapon so you don't seem averse to "fiddly" in general, or of "math", nor to really be lazy.

Which leads me to think that there is a larger "complexity/abstraction/focus on adventure" issue that you want to see addressed that I'm not understanding. I've read all your posts and still don't get what it is you want.  

Is that you simply do not want the system to be a simulation? (Your blog is called Wandering Gamist, maybe as a reference to gamist v. simulationist?)  

jedavis
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Understood, and taken in good faith.

I agree that it is a trivial rule to drop, but it perplexes me that it is still there. If you want to approximate steady state, it is easier to just not add noise by default, no?

There are nine distinct morale values, all of which modify slightly different facets of the domain, and then there's a table of 12 modifiers to the roll. Me, I'd be pretty happy with domains having two morale states ("tolerates ruler" and "open revolt"), with a d20 roll triggering a revolt on a 1+ (or 5+ or 9+ if the ruler has done something egregious lately) and revolts persisting until either egregious ruler behavior has been addressed / peasant demands are met, or they are put down by force. That's about the level of complexity I'm in the market for.

At the end of the day, my players only want to deal with one layer of henchmen. As a consequence, PC domains are practically limited to one layer deep (if they weren't already by other factors). Likewise, I have a limited amount of prep-time and interest for NPC realms, which is best served by paying attention to the count/duke layers of the chain (who make reasonable patrons or villains; not too high that the players are irrelevant, not so low that the players can kill them trivially). I don't care if there are marquis or whatever below them or not, and my players sure aren't willing to manage a multi-layered domain structure, so any actual rules for low-tier (or very-high tier) vassal rulers are wasted space as far as I'm concernd. It's not that I can't ignore them - it's just one more thing I have to houserule around, particularly given shrinking maximum personal domain size. Houserules are expensive; in a complex system, the number of unexpected possible interactions between parts grows superlinearly with the number of parts.

Lacking a printer, our options are pretty much spreadsheets, wiki pages, or text files. Or proper databases, I guess. Updating hex populations over time, and then generating income for each month given varying population and morale, is a very natural spreadsheet operation, and doing it manually per-hex (possibly 1.5mi hex) sounds like an awful lot of unnecessary work.

There's a bit of a difference between the expense of designing a class, which is undertaken but once, and the recurring expense of a complex domain system, which requires work every month of game time (which might be twice a session or more). If anything, that post's conclusion on fighting value 1 is a simplification and generalization of the current rules. I have very little trouble with math in principle; it is repetitive math, compulsory math, and math that comes up during play, which are best eliminated. Automation is a band-aid, a crutch. If my players were hot-to-trot and wanted to design Traveller starships with Fire, Fusion, and Steel and run domains with population detailed down to 1.5-mile hexes, I'd be grateful for having complex options. But they don't, which is why I'm doing all the math once and building standardized domains, so just like with standardized Traveller deckplans, there's an option on a table that works closely enough and has all the actionable stats in one place. So what if the population is off by 5%? The players don't have an accurate census in-world, and any discrepancy in income can be handwaved as either particularly aggressive or lax tax collection. I'm not willing to worry about it. As far as my players are concerned, a domain is a thing that gives you gold and XP every month, and helps offset the cost of the mercenary army you wanted. Broadly, the point of the game for us is killing things and taking their stuff (because these give you XP). Everything of interest is one of: threat, weapon, loot, simultaneously weapon and loot, or Not Sure Yet. The value in a domain is measured in how much better it makes you at killing things, and how much stuff it gives you, and we measure its cost in paperwork against its value in those terms.

Simulation is good in that a good simulation avoids breaking suspension of disbelief, but if simulation were my end, I would be programming, not sitting around a table with dice and friends. Having a properly-balanced game is good in that overcoming true challenges is deeply rewarding, but if that sort of satisfaction were my end, I would be playing RTSs. Narrativism is good, in that a well-executed story can tap symbols and trigger emotional response, strengthening the game-ritual, but if telling stories were my aim, I'd be writing novels rather than playing. Simulation is the groundwork on which the other two can build towards emotionally satisfying conclusions without being interrupted by confusion and WTF. But, like most infrastructure, it seems best to me if it is simple, robust, and hidden.

susan_brindle
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Re: At the end of the day, my players only want to deal with one layer of henchmen. As a consequence, PC domains are practically limited to one layer deep (if they weren't already by other factors). 

But that's exactly what these rules achieve? Now if you want to know how big the Count is, you just ask how many marquis he has, and then you're done! You don't need to know anything about the marquis's vassals. 

 

Re: There are nine distinct morale values, all of which modify slightly different facets of the domain, and then there's a table of 12 modifiers to the roll... Me, I'd be pretty happy with domains having two morale states... That's about the level of complexity I'm in the market for.

Fair enough. Personally, I think many levels of morale is great. In the game I ran, our Paladin was ecstatic every time he pushed his domain's morale up another notch.

Jard
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maybe the domain morale levels would benefit from a summary table to go with the text descriptions, and little dashes to indicate when certain effects haven't kicked in yet?

Alex
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Joined: 2011-06-30 18:10

They would - good idea!

jedavis
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Re: At the end of the day, my players only want to deal with one layer of henchmen. As a consequence, PC domains are practically limited to one layer deep (if they weren't already by other factors). 

But that's exactly what these rules achieve? Now if you want to know how big the Count is, you just ask how many marquis he has, and then you're done! You don't need to know anything about the marquis's vassals. 


-susan_brindle

Fair enough, I guess?  I should sleep more.  Still seems simpler to just cut them away entirely.

Re: There are nine distinct morale values, all of which modify slightly different facets of the domain, and then there's a table of 12 modifiers to the roll... Me, I'd be pretty happy with domains having two morale states... That's about the level of complexity I'm in the market for.

Fair enough. Personally, I think many levels of morale is great. In the game I ran, our Paladin was ecstatic every time he pushed his domain's morale up another notch.


-

I seem to recall that my players mathed out a setup that converged to +4, but I forget the details (probably relied on a high-cha ruler).  I guess it was sort of satisfying to see it operate as intended, but hardly exciting except inasmuch as their income went up.

Alex
The Autarch
Joined: 2011-06-30 18:10

Thanks for the detailed response!

Understood, and taken in good faith. I agree that it is a trivial rule to drop, but it perplexes me that it is still there. If you want to approximate steady state, it is easier to just not add noise by default, no?

-jedavis

It's there because when I ran the game, it felt like there needed to be some fluctuation in population for the player's domains that might model random events. At the same time I wanted a mechanic I could drop for NPC domains without impact. Hence the +/-d10 approach. (More on this later).

I suspect I run NPC domains how you run PC domains - how much gp does the NPC have to spend on his army to fight the PCs. 

There are nine distinct morale values, all of which modify slightly different facets of the domain, and then there's a table of 12 modifiers to the roll. Me, I'd be pretty happy with domains having two morale states ("tolerates ruler" and "open revolt"), with a d20 roll triggering a revolt on a 1+ (or 5+ or 9+ if the ruler has done something egregious lately) and revolts persisting until either egregious ruler behavior has been addressed / peasant demands are met, or they are put down by force. That's about the level of complexity I'm in the market for.

-jedavis

Got it. More on this later.

 At the end of the day, my players only want to deal with one layer of henchmen. As a consequence, PC domains are practically limited to one layer deep (if they weren't already by other factors). Likewise, I have a limited amount of prep-time and interest for NPC realms, which is best served by paying attention to the count/duke layers of the chain (who make reasonable patrons or villains; not too high that the players are irrelevant, not so low that the players can kill them trivially). I don't care if there are marquis or whatever below them or not, and my players sure aren't willing to manage a multi-layered domain structure, so any actual rules for low-tier (or very-high tier) vassal rulers are wasted space as far as I'm concernd.

-jedavis

Got it. My own experiences as a Judge have been very different. Each time I've run ACKS my players have assembled domains, then conquered other domains and ultimately ended up running realms at anywhere from prince to king tier. The campaign villains have been at king to emperor level.

 It's not that I can't ignore them - it's just one more thing I have to houserule around, particularly given shrinking maximum personal domain size. Houserules are expensive; in a complex system, the number of unexpected possible interactions between parts grows superlinearly with the number of parts. ...  I'm not willing to worry about it.

-jedavis

I do understand this approach. It's why I always try to offer standard or averaged outcomes for every area of the game - here's a standard caravan, here's a standard kingdom, here's an average treasure type value. At the same time, I've always felt that as a designer it's better to offer more detail, then to offer too little detail, thinking that it's easier to ignore what isn't needed than to create what isn't there. Or, put another way, unexpected results are more likely to occur when adding new rules than from simplifying and averaging existing rules.

 As far as my players are concerned, a domain is a thing that gives you gold and XP every month, and helps offset the cost of the mercenary army you wanted. Broadly, the point of the game for us is killing things and taking their stuff (because these give you XP). Everything of interest is one of: threat, weapon, loot, simultaneously weapon and loot, or Not Sure Yet. The value in a domain is measured in how much better it makes you at killing things, and how much stuff it gives you, and we measure its cost in paperwork against its value in those terms.

-jedavis

Ok. So I would say the point of ACKS for me as designer was to allow players to achieve and exercise power. Killing things and taking their stuff is a means of achieving and exercising power, and a fun one. But as a player and GM, I've always felt frustrated that in most RPGs, the dungeons and the characters get tougher hand-in-hand - the player is always fighting "level appropriate" challenges and as such is on a treadmill. So I wanted to offer an opportunity to achieve and exercise power in qualitatively different ways over time. 

Hence, rules for managing a domain, creating magic items, defeating enemies on the battlefield. It's certainly true that the domain game is over-designed if actual play stays focused on traditional adventuring throughout. One could simply say "for each hex you control you get XX gp per month to spend on troops" and that's that. 

To what end do your players use their mercenary armies? Do you do mass combat in your games? If so, what system do you use? 

Thanks for the feedback, again.

 

jedavis
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Frankly I'd be unsurprised if you ran NPC domains at a higher detail / higher level of interest than we run PC domains :P

I believe the highest level PC we've seen in my games was 9th (with most of the party around 7th), and the largest PC domain was 3-4 6mi borderlands hexes, in a campaign starting at 4kXP and running about 40 4-6 hour sessions (~2 years in-game). Conquering (or at least pillaging) other domains is something they're interested in, but the practical matter of amassing enough troops to actually do it, and then maneuvering the political situation to get away with it, have so far prevented it. Toppling kings seems a very distant prospect.

I suspect the history of the hobby will show that creating more rules is a much more common event than removing rules, for the typical DM. Given that, it would be very useful to have explicit documentation of things like "don't modify this, because if you do thief domains spiral out of control". Making assumptions explicit (as the Secrets chapter does) is great, but noting game-consequences of tweaking values would be even better.

I absolutely agree that dungeoncrawling gets old, and that challenges should change qualitatively with level. "I use my sword to kill this orc (and his family) and take his pie" and "I use my army to kill this count (and his army) and take his domain" are qualitatively different (enough for us, I guess), if analogous, and they share a comparable risk profile. Domain mismanagement, item creation, running thieves' guilds, and trading put PCs into emotionally-charged situations much less readily than combat; keeping or losing your life and holdings very rarely comes down to any given ruffian's hijink roll or a mercantile value roll or a magic research throw. To manage a domain into the ground and open revolt would typically require aggressively poor play. There's not enough risk involved for these activities to be exciting (notable exceptions: hijinks performed personally by PCs, magic research using experimentation rules with possibility of catastrophic failure). I suppose jedavis' corollary to "do not point the dice any anything you are not willing to destroy" is "do not bother pointing the dice at anything that they have no possibility of destroying." On reflection I don't think domain management and magic research are fundamentally unworthy or uninteresting; it's an implementation detail. However, high danger is not necessarily compatible with realism. Domains didn't rebel every 20 months in expectation, historically... but managing domains would be much more exciting if the Sword of Damocles hung a little nearer.

So far, mercenaries ("armies" might be overselling things) have been used for hunting monsters (massed crossbowmen and occasionally light ballistae vs dragons, chimeras, giant scorpions, skittering maws...), knocking over humanoid lairs / keeping massed humanoids off the PCs while they kill chieftains during hex-clearing, mass combat via DaW:B in defense of domains against beastmen at platoon-scale, and road construction. There was some discussion of taking the domain next door last campaign, but their forces were judged insufficient.

Alex
The Autarch
Joined: 2011-06-30 18:10

By the way, on your blog you said you'd never gotten the sneak preview of Lairs & Encounters. But in my update of June 7 I made it available to ALL backers. Have you not seen it still? 

jedavis
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No, I have, I guess as of that date? Feels more recent than that, but time's been compressed lately. I recall posting typos and feedback here.

Alex
The Autarch
Joined: 2011-06-30 18:10

OK, good! Yes I think you did.

EHamilton
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My impression is that at this point the various revenue and expense categories have become more cosmetic than functionally different. For example, there doesn't seem to be any morale difference between having a tax of 2 gp/family and liturgies of 1, relative to a tax of 3 and liturgies of 2 (or for that matter, 102 and 101!) Tithes are now slightly distinguished by having a -2 penalty for being 1 gp/family short, but that just means that there's now never any incentive to not pay tithes (especially considerating that, beyond the morale effect, it's an invitation for the judge to invent horrible additional custom effects to punish such impiety!)

If the goal is simplicity, then it might be even simpler to just fold liturgies into taxes entirely and reduce record-keeping by one box (i.e., set base taxes to 1 and omit liturgies from the record). That's effectively the net result of the new system here, unless I'm missing something.

Admittedly, there's some RP benefit in letter some realms self-identify as high tax and high luxury while others are low tax and low luxury. But it still seems oversimplified to say that only the difference between taxes and discretionary spending is what matters to public opinion. Historically, what were reasons why a kingdom or empire would prefer the high tax and high spending model over the low tax and low spending model? I assume there were some even in antiquity -- certainly those competing options provoke some sharp disagreements in modern politics!

Lucasdelsur
Joined: 2015-05-05 18:43

i really didint mind the use of spreadsheets, hell i will keep using them anyway, but there are some changes that i really like, speacialy the no morale bonus for large army, max taxing and maxing army was the only logical thing to do in the old system.

Beragon
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I haven't read the domain rules in ACKS for a while (and never used them since we haven't gotten high enough level), but from memory, these appear easier to understand and I think they are an improvement.

I can see where Jedavis is coming from. I'm personally somewhere between:

"Yeah, these are great, new, and improved!"

and...

"I wish they were simpler to use at the table."

I don't mind all the details I see here, but my players will not be at all interested in them. I'm interested to see if these rules can be distilled into a few easy steps that they would be interested in using personally (as opposed to me doing it all). More input later.

koewn
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How would a proficiency like Leadership (or overloading Leadership more) work out, perhaps, for increasing one's maximum controlled territory?

Take a page from the caster profs and do "as if +2 level"?

If L15 was 14 hexes, and L16 16 hexes?

One still has to have a proper stronghold size, and do the work of clearing/claiming the hex, defending the hex, etc. - there's a lot of variables in establishing the real value of the extra part-or-whole hex.

 

Alex
The Autarch
Joined: 2011-06-30 18:10

I've been thinking about this. I think there's opportunity for more detailed mechanics on how to control territory - new proficiencies, new specialists, etc. But for now I'll leave as is...

 

Jard
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It definitely sounds like something better left to a self-contained "module" of extra rules for people looking for increased complexity in domain play.  possibly something to go along with stuff for the people who, for example, want to care about where the roads in their domain are, or how many aqueducts and temples their city has.

susan_brindle
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The sooner ACKS can fulfill my Civ 5 cravings, the happier I'll be

Jard
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right there with you (/¯–‿・)/¯

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