Starting from the Ground Up…Literally

Unlike many contemporary fantasy RPGs, the Adventurer Conqueror King System has been designed with the view that many gamemasters want to be able to simulate an ancient and/or medieval world in such a way that their campaign world makes sense. The income of peasants makes sense in relation to the income of kings. The cost of swords and the income of the swordsmiths who make them has some relation. Treasure exists in more forms than simply gold, gems, and magic.  The easiest and best way to achieve a world with versimilitude is to start with historical assumptions. Let’s start with some of the assumptions I used in developing the economic systems for ACKS. Since virtually every fantasy world is pseudo-medieval or pseudo-classical, and those economies are always agrarian, I started by creating some simple, but historical, assumptions for the rural communities of ACKS. Start with the core assumption that 1 medieval English penny  = 1 D&D sp; 1 English shilling = 12 pennies = 12sp; and 1 English pound = 20 shillings = 240sp = 24gp. 1 penny / silver piece could historically buy:

  • A chicken
  • 3 dozen eggs
  • 3 gallons of beer
  • ½ gallon of wine
  • A night’s stay at a decent
  • A loaf of bread
    • Wastel Loaf: 1 penny = 4 pounds (wealthy eat white bread)
    • Maslin (“Coarse”) Loaf: 1 penny = 8 pounds (whole grain wheat and rye)
    • Horsebread: (rye, barley, oat, pea, bean): 1 penny = 12 pounds

A “quarter of wheat” is equal to 8 bushels of wheat, or 480lbs (because 1 bushel = 60lbs) According to the Assize of Bread and Ale, when 3 gallons of beer sell for 1 penny, a quarter of wheat sells for 3 shillings 4 pence. Given that 1sp=3 gallons of beer, 4gp=1 quarter of wheat. (The math: 3×12+4sp, or 40sp, or 4gp). So 1 quarter of wheat is 4gp. 1 square mile has 640 acres. Historically, a man could plow about an acre in a day, and there are 2 months for plowing & sowing (March and October), so one man can plow 10 acres (1 acre/day x 4 weeks x 5 days) each month, twice, or 20 acres. If each man is allotted 30 acres, he leaves one-third fallow, and farms the other 20, 10 in each growing month. Therefore, 1 man can farm 20 acres, and manage 30 acres. Historically, a medieval farmer would plant 2 bushels of wheat in each acre. From this he would hope to yield about 5 bushels of wheat for every bushel sown, or 10 bushels of wheat per 2 sown. But if each acre sown would yield 10 bushels, the farmer had to set aside aside 2 for seed, for next year. SO his final consumable yield would be 8 bushels per acre. 8 bushels equals 1 quarter of wheat. So 1 acre of land yields 1 quarter of wehat. 20 acres at 8 bushels yields 160 bushels of wheat, or 20 quarters of wheat. Remember that 1 bushel = 60lbs; 1 quarter = 480lbs (approximately quarter of a ton). As established above, 1 quarter of wheat sold for 4gp. So at the market, 20 quarters of wheat yielded 80gp. So 1 man = 20 acres = 20 quarters = 80gp. Each man thus produces 80gp of wheat. (remember 1 acre=1 quarter = 4gp; 1 man = 20 acres). Each man has a household, including a wife and 3 kids. A historical peasant ate 3lbs of bread per day (1 loaf). 3 pound loaves of horsebread cost 2.5cp. Assume a total of 1,000 loaves per year. That’s enough to provide about 1 loaf for the man, 1 loaf for the woman, and .33 loaves for each of 3 children, per day. The cost is 25gp per year. In addition to bread, each day the man eats 2 whole eggs (1cp) and 3 pints of ale (1cp), for 2cp per day. The wife eats 1.25cp per day of food and the kids .75cp per day each, for a total of 5.5 per day. 5.5cp x 365 days = 20gp per year. Each household’s woman produces 80gp per year in domestic production (equal to the able-bodied male), and each of the children produces 10gp in value (1/12th the able-bodied male), collectively 110gp per year. Thus, each family of 5 produces 190gp of economic value while consuming 45gp of economic value. Most peasants lived at subsistence level, with excess money ending up in their lord’s hands through various taxes, fees, and rents. Leaving aside the 45gp each family subsists on, then, each family is worth 145gp per year to the lord, or about 12gp per month, or about 12gp per 20 acres per month, or 7.2gp per acre per year. Thus in ACKS a peasant family produces around 12gp of economic value per month to their lord, and each peasant family has a subsistence income of around 3.75gper month.

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