No peasant could possibly generate income for his ruler in monthly fistfuls of gold (not counting his own food and upkeep). At that rate, he wouldn’t remain a peasant for very long! If you wanted to put together a system allowing your dominion to become financially independent, you’d have to examine what is a realistic monetary base for commoners: the population could generate monthly taxes at the rate of a few silver coins per “statistical” inhabitant. Here’s a chart that could help you estimate how much taxes inhabitants can generate:
Average tax income
5 sp a month per inhabitant
3 sp a month per inhabitant
1 sp a month per inhabitant
5 cp a month per inhabitant
0 cp a month per inhabitant
Dominions in rich, settled areas are infinitely more attractive than those in inhospitable borderlands or in the wilderness. With the latter don’t bother with taxes—go after the local dragon instead. It’s quick, lucrative, and more entertaining! Note that you have to provide native soldiers with all their equipment and train them. Mercenaries are already equipped and most are seasoned warriors. With the above, you should now realize two important facts:
These are abstract statistics, implying that a typical borderland family of five generates as an average 25 cp in taxes each month. That’s okay since, essentially, we’re dealing only with demographics. Based upon that, let’s assume it takes about 10 people to support one average, 1st-level light foot soldier. Further, assume that equivalent mercenaries are paid twice that amount. So, should you decide your typical peasant can get you 1 sp a month in taxes, then a native, human light footman would be paid 1 gp a month, and an equivalent mercenary would earn 2 gp per month.
As population increases, so does your overhead! Now that you have all those nice people to rule, you need many more retainers to help you run the nation and maintain a lifestyle that is appropriate to your status. Both are expensive. This has the effect of diverting a growing amount of tax income that you used to spend on troops, to be spent instead on a sheriff and magistrates, a reeve and his provosts, wardens and spies, and a stronghold that befits your rank. This is realistic and historical. As the land grows more civilized, law and order become easier to enforce, so there will be a lesser need for military force.
Obviously, the salaries of other specialists would have to remain in line with that monetary system. A 500-gp-per-month animal trainer is impractical. In a minor dominion, he’d earn no more than 5 gp a month. All these figures should be adapted to local realities. Remember these numbers were used in the rules to handle PC rulers coming back from their epic adventures with gold and jewels by the cartful.
Here’s a sample chart of “lesser salaries” (see the original chart in the Rules Cyclopedia, page 133). It assumes your native footman is paid 1 gp a month:
“Cheapened” retainer costs
Mage & magist
Sage & seneschal
50 gp per month (+cost of potion work)
5 gp +1 gp per skill level above 9
25 gp +5 gp per skill level above 9
(INT x 5) per level
(INT + WIS + CHA) x 10 gp
1 sp (or nil if convict)
1 gp (if native; 2 gp if mercenary)
25 gp + 5 gp per skill level above 9
(INT + WIS + CHA) x 10 gp
INT per level & per mission
* Includes animal trainer, artillerist, bailiff chamberlain, equerry, herald, lesser magistrate, marshal, provost, sheriff, and warden.
** Includes castellan, chaplain, guard captain, magistrate, reeve, and chief steward.
The salaries listed above are for Level-0 stronghold retainers. The military are a different story (refer to the Mercenary Table on page 133). Mercenaries are 1st-level troops. At 2nd level and higher, a mercenary’s pay becomes: Base Pay x level x 5. For example, a 2nd-level elven mercenary archer would cost 10 x 2 x 5 = 100 gp (half that for a non-mercenary native). Level-0 military should get one-quarter the mercenary rates, and peasant levies no more than 2-3 sp a month (cheap maybe, but, look at the bright side—troops do not pay taxes!) Should stronghold retainers also have a character class with specific levels, use instead the following rates, whichever is more expensive:
INT per level (or HD)
(INT x 2) per level
(INT x 3) per level
(INT x 4) per level
(INT x 5) per level
(INT x 6) per level
* Includes goblin types and lizardkin.
** Includes dwarves, halflings, lupins, rakastas, tortles.
*** Includes araneas.
The salaries listed for stronghold retainers are those of a petty baron. To be thorough, remember that civilian salaries and the pay of high-ranking army officers might have to go up as the dominion ruler gains in rank, land, and wealth. Use the following formula: Viscount +10%, Count +20%, Marquis +40%, Duke +60%, Archduke x 2, minor King (or up to 500,000 subjects) x 4, greater King (or up to 3 million subjects) x 6, Emperor (or over 3 million subjects) x 10, etc. Now the trick is to have enough population per hex in order to pay those hateful taxes. So your next job is to find out a realistic level of population based upon the terrain, vegetation, climate, and whether the land is suburban (near a town), rural, borderland, or wilderness. Check your local atlas for comparable population densities per square mile. For simplicity’s sake, assume medieval population to be a tenth of modern-day populations (and I am being optimistic there!) Knowing that your standard 8-mile hex covers approximately 56 sq. miles, and a basic family includes about five people, you can now figure how many families there are to a hex. Another important factor should be kept in mind when planning for urban development: Always try to keep a balance between urban and rural population. You need a minimum 80% rural population to support urban centers and other populations that do not produce food (like armies). Should you end up with more than 20% nonrural population, food prices will catapult sky-high, people will starve in your towns, riots and revolts might occur, and finally those people who are still around will eventually leave for better lands. So, if urban populations mushroom in your kingdom, you may need more fertile land very soon. That’s probably a good sign that the time for conquests has come! Finally, find out what other resources not linked to peasants and feudal service might produce cash (like bridge and gate tolls, merchant taxes on imports, port duties, salt taxes, taxes on money-lenders, fines charged by dutiful magistrates, returns on mineral and precious stone mines, war booty, taxes on adventurers’ booty, etc.). To keep that simple, assume this adds another 30% to your total dominion income. This is, of course, not a comprehensive system, but it should put you on the track to establishing mechanics that you find more suitable to your style of gaming.
Population and food
The first thing to do is to divide the land into general categories—Suburban, Rural, Borderland, and Wilderness. Simply mark which hexes belong to which categories on your map, using the guidelines below (remember, this system is based on 8-mile hexes). The actual population figures for urban centers (villages, small towns, large towns, and cities) are those given in the Rules Cyclopedia, and are repeated here for your convenience. Note that population in a hex is always in addition to people living inside villages, forts, towns, or cities in that hex. People living inside these urban centers are considered “urban” population. Those living outside urban centers are considered “agricultural” population (food-producing, farming communities).
Suburban: A hex containing a large town or a city should belong to the “suburban” category. For a city of 100,000 inhabitants or more, the six adjacent hexes should be suburban hexes as well, provided they are inhab—ignore , desert, lake, or sea hexes, for example. If a city covers the entire surface of its hex, then don’t count that hex for suburban population.
Rural: These are settled areas supporting farming families, loggers, hunters, and possibly villages, fortifications, and small towns. Rural areas should separate urban areas from borderland or wilderness territories.
Borderland: These areas are in the process of being settled. Laws are often poorly enforced there, and the local population is low. Borderland hexes may support villages, keeps, or fortifications.
Wilderness: These areas are uninhabited for the most part. Very few people may be found there. Wilderness can support the villages of primitive hunter-gatherer tribes only. Medieval military garrisons and other nonagricultural settlers would need to receive regular food supplies from agricultural areas.
Basic population per hex: Once the various land categories have been defined on the dominion’s map, it is possible to assign a Basic Population, as follows (with 1 hex = 56 sq. miles).
Agricultural population often gathers in typical families of five people, small farming communities, and minor hamlets (fewer than 50 people) too small to appear on a Gazetteer-style map. In regions with low agricultural potential (desert, steppes), population may consist of nomads (in Ethengar, for example). Although national population densities still hold true, a large portion of the population may travel in tribes or caravans rather than spread out evenly throughout the land. Local populations thus may vary with seasons and regional events.
Population varies with its hex’s topography and vegetation. The terrain modifiers given below affect the basic population in each hex. Terrain modifiers themselves vary with other factors such as vegetation, the presence of water, and roads.
*Include marshes, swamps, bogs, grasslands and broken lands. steppes
River or oasis
-3 to terrain modifier
-2 to terrain modifier
- 1 to terrain modifier
+ 1 to terrain modifier
+ 1 to terrain modifier
+2 to terrain modifier
+2 to terrain modifier
+2 to terrain modifier
Trail and Road modifiers are not cumulative. If both are present, use the Road modifier. Likewise for vegetation; it’s one or the other. Volcanoes often cause surrounding lands to be very fertile. If a combination of terrain types yield a modifier equal to zero or a negative modifier, as with swampy jungle for example, assume the final population to be 1 inhabitant per hex (wilderness).
Example: We have a borderland oasis (two hexes), with a fort of 50 soldiers. The terrain is borderland (basic pop. = 50). It is in the desert, so the terrain modifiers starts at X 1. The oasis adds + 2 to the terrain modifier, which then becomes X 3. The local population should be: 50 X 3 X 2 hexes =300, plus the 50 soldiers. The total population of the two oasis hexes adds up to 350 people. If there had been a trail crossing both hexes, the total population would have then reached 450 people instead.
There are limitations on some terrain types as to what basic population categories they can support. Heavy forest, jungle, forested hills, mountains, badlands, and desert hexes should be limited to wilderness or borderlands. Suburbs should be either on flat or hilly terrain (no forests, no swamps, etc.). Finally, forested hills are considered “heavily forested” (Gazetteer map symbols do not differentiate lightly forested hills from heavily forested hills.) Note that wood elves ignore limitations imposed on forested areas, and dwarves ignore limitations on mountains.
To give some comparative insight to population levels, we could compare these numbers to current standards. Today, the real-world Netherlands support 910 inhabitants per square mile, compared to 36 people per square mile in Zaire, or 13 people per square mile in Saudi Arabia. Nowadays, it is common to see 80% or more of a nation’s population concentrated in urban areas. In medieval times, it is likely to be just the opposite, with a least 80% living outside urban centers. For simplicity’s sake, let’s assume medieval population is a mere tenth of our modern population levels. In other words, “medieval” Netherlands—a highly populated, mostly urban area—would show a population of 91 people per square mile. Zaire, largely jungle, would have a population of about four people per square mile. Ancient Saudi Arabia, a vast desert, ends up with a mere one person per square mile. Although this may not be historically correct, it is conceivable in game terms. In the oasis example above, the total population reached 350 people in the oasis, which breaks down to about three people per square mile (350/112 = 3, rounded down). Throw in 10 extra hexes of true, wilderness desert without trails, and we end up close to ancient Arabia’s population. Feel free to tweak these numbers to get desired results. Although this system may not cover all eventualities, it should get you on the track to establishing predictable population levels. Now you can start collecting those dominion taxes and build your armies!
Assuming a provost can collect taxes from 100 people a day and there are 28 days in a Mystaran month, you’ll need one provost and his armed guards for each 2,800 people in the dominion to collect all the monthly taxes. These are handy, average statistics for the game, which should be applied to the entire population (agricultural and urban put together) and not to specific segments of the population.
We know at least 80% of the total population lives outside urban centers. These are the people producing food. Urban and other nonfood-producing population relies on services for its survival (commerce, military, manual trades, etc.) and purchases the food it needs from nearby farmland. Any kind of serious mining also wipes out farming in that hex. Note that wilderness population should not be counted as an agricultural force in this context since the infrastructure does not exist to collect and transport any “surplus” food from wilderness to settled regions. Wilderness population only produces what it needs to sustain itself. For the same reasons, wilderness population cannot be taxed. In the case of the borderland oasis mentioned earlier, its entire civilian population, 300 people, qualify as agricultural (farmers). They can produce food for up to 75 people in addition to themselves (300/4 = 75). This is more than enough to supply the 50 soldiers inside the fort. Had the oasis covered only one hex, the civilian population would have included only 150 farmers—enough to support no more than 37 soldiers (150/4 = 37 rounded down). As a result, food supplies would have to be regularly carted in from other regions of the dominion to feed the remainder of the oasis’s military garrison (13 soldiers). This little detail implies either that this garrison’s military strength should be reduced to become self-sufficient, or that a trail be built to consolidate the fort’s supply lines. This is an example of how economic considerations can affect military strategy.
Ports, either on a lake or a sea, may change the 80/20 urban to agricultural balance. Part of the urban population could count on maritime resources, such as fishing, as way to feed itself and generate extra revenue. The number of fishermen in an urban area varies with the region’s traditions and naval skills. The name table provides guidelines on how much of an urban population may rely on fish to feed itself, as opposed to food drawn from the land.
Land-oriented: This would be people relying mostly on agriculture, either because of their culture or poor navigational and shipbuilding skills. This would include desert raiders, mountain dwarves, wood elves, orcs, Ethengarians, Darokinians, etc.
Average: Twouldbe people with reasonable navigational and shipbuilding skills (Karameikos, Five Shires). The majority of human cultures living on mainland coastal areas belong to this category.
Sea-oriented: This would be people with generally good maritime skills, or a tradition of reliance upon produce of the sea or of the lakes. These would include civilizations native to islands and such notorious seafaring people as Ostlanders, Ierendians, Minrothadians, or Pearl Islanders.
If agriculture is abundant, the surplus could be traded to another region lacking these resources. This, in turn, fuels urban commerce as well as the politics. Make a list of the urban centers that can draw upon fishing resources. Apply the percentages listed in the chart below to find out more exactly how many people rely on fishing. Treat that part of the population as “agricultural” rather than “urban” when dealing with the food factor. The same kind of reasoning applies for entire nations. If the agricultural population of a nation is unable to provide enough food for its urban dwellers, several things could happen. Either townspeople starve (with riots and revolts ensuing), or they import food from a neighboring kingdom. This can happen only if their neighbors have a sufficient food surplus (they have more than 80% of their own population living outside urban centers.) Otherwise, it may be time to invade the neighbors’ farmland.
Urban population relying on maritime resources
up to 40%
up to 30%
up to 20%
up to 10%
up to 65%
up to 50%
up to 35%
up to 20%
up to 90%
up to 70%
up to 50%
up to 30%
Every year, a dominion’s population should grow, barring disasters like wars, plagues, or natural catastrophes. Add up the present population for each of the land categories in the dominion (wilderness, borderland, rural, suburban, and urban). Then figure out the growth statistics for each type of area, based on the Confidence Level of the dominion (see the Rules Cyclopedia, page 141):
Growth per Year
Rural & Village
Towns & Suburbs
Growth figures above include routine population migrations as well as births. All is fine when the population grows. When the population falls, entire families head for other dominions or nations, seeking a better life. The oddity here is that fewer people are likely to settle in wilderness areas when settled lands are prosperous. Likewise, when things go bad, more people are likely to run away into the wilderness and lay low!
Example: In the two-hex oasis mentioned in the previous issue, we had 350 people (300 farmers and 50 soldiers in a fort). Since this is borderland, the population here could grow 8% in a year. Although soldiers are technically considered “urban,” military strength simply doesn’t “grow” (sorry, army regulations do not allow fraternization with the natives) unless you are dealing with a barbarian or a tribal setting instead of a professional military unit. Only the farmers would show a population growth in the oasis— and outsiders (newcomers) in the oasis.
Catastrophes: The percentages listed in the growth chart can be modified to 24 extra people. This includes children represent upheavals. For example, in the case of a plague or epidemic, subtract 3d6 from nonurban growth percentages on the chart (-6d6 for urban). In the case of widespread invasions, subtract 6d6 from nonurban growth percentages (-3d6 for urban), etc. For an earthquake or volcanic eruption, roll 1d4. A roll of 1 indicates one hex is affected. A roll of 2 affects the source hex and the six surrounding hexes. On a roll of 3, add the next 12 hexes, and on a roll of 4, add the next 18 hexes (in concentric circles spreading out from the volcano or the epicenter of the earthquake). On a roll of 1, the earthquake/eruption destroys 2d6 + 1% of the population. On a roll of 2, the outside ring suffers a 2d6 + 1% loss, the epicenter/volcano hex 4d6+2%. On a 3, the outside ring suffers a 2d6+1% loss, the center ring 4d6+2%, and the epicenter/volcano hex 8d6+3%. On a 4, the epicenter/volcano hex suffers a 16d6+4% loss (etc). On an 8d6+3% effect scale, nonmagical stone and wood structure suffer 50% damage. On a 16d6+4% effect scale, all nonmagical structures are destroyed, etc. See the next section of this article for population movements. Great catastrophes should have no more than a 1% chance to occur per year. Feel free to modify percentages as dictated by historical events and common sense.
Migrations: After years of population growth, what used to be wilderness becomes borderland, what was known as borderland becomes rural, etc. Remember, some areas cannot grow beyond borderland levels (desert, badlands, mountains). Excess population packs up and moves out to other areas of the dominion (better lands, villages, etc.). In this case, the affected terrain remains at its maximum population ceiling. The excess population spreads out into three groups (rounded down). The first third mixes with rural population. The second third mixes with urban population. The last third leaves the dominion or the kingdom. Average out these numbers, dropping fractions. Whenever events such as migrations due to overpopulation, calamities, or resettlement (see next entry) affect a limited area, it is best to average out the numbers over the whole population of the affected terrain type. Separate population accounting for the same type of terrain is to be avoided, for simplicity’s sake. For example, if an earthquake wipes out most of the population in a hex of farmland (200 people die), it would be best to reduce the dominion’s total farmland population by 200 rather than that single hex. Assume that within weeks or months, the population spreads out to fill the vacuum. But if a particular village is hit by catastrophe, it stays that way!
Resettlement: It is possible to pay people to settle wilderness areas, above and beyond normal population growth. A 5-gp grant per person should be enough to get some people to move. If the dominion is prosperous, a 10-gp grant would be better, since the inhabitants are less likely to seek a harder life. The cost includes town criers announcing the offer, and the provosts registering and paying the new settlers. Roll 1d20 once for each population category targeted with the resettlement offer (a town, a group of villages, a rural or borderland area, etc.). The result is the percentage of the targeted people who accept the grant and move out. But beware: if the majority of settlers are urban people, 10-100% (roll 1d10x10) of them may perish, give up, or otherwise disappear within a year of resettlement (sorry, no refund!). If the majority of the settlers are suburban, roll 1d8x10 instead. Roll
1d6x10 if the settlers are from a rural area, 1d4x10 if they are borderlanders.
Creation: Part of the agricultural population may create new villages. Roll 2d20; the result is the percentage of the total new growth among the agricultural population that wants to create new villages. Always round down the number of people moving to new villages. If it is at least 50, a new village is created. If more, the newly created villages should have no more than 200 people each. Finally, cross off the new villagers from the present agricultural population total and add them to the urban population total.
Placement: Place the new village(s) in borderland or rural areas, preferably on solid, flat terrain near a river (especially at a river junction); by a sea or lake shore (especially in a natural cove or near an estuary); along roads (especially crossroads), near a fortification (castle, fort, keep), or at a bridge. In a warlike setting, a higher elevation facilitating the village’s defense may be desirable. A forest in an adjacent hex might also be helpful, since the wood could be used to build the village’s houses. Target first those sitesbenefiting from severaof these features. Limits: In order to avoid an excessive number of villages after years of growth, it may be a good idea to limit the total number of villages to one per 5,000 agricultural people, or 1d6+2 new villages per year, whichever occurs first. Large kingdoms can grow out of control very quickly otherwise. The unhappy would-be villagers in excess of those limits will have to stay home until next year.
Example: The oasis mentioned earlier should be part of a larger dominion. Let’s assume the total growth of the dominion’s farming population that year to be 250 people. You rolled a 20 on 2d20, meaning 20% of these farmers—50 people in all— seek to create a new village. Pick an area in the dominion where you want a village, following the placement guidelines above. As the dominion ruler, your PC may help in the construction of the new village by lending or donating gold for a mill or a chapel dedicated to the PC’s Immortal patron. Perhaps a small guardhouse would keep the desert raiders away. The villagers will thank your PC for such generosity and name the village in the dominion lord’s honor.
Cause & effect: Woods are both an obstacle and a boon to the development of rural areas. Trees take up valuable land on which farmers could grow crops, but they provide essential construction material and a fuel source to heat the villagers’ homes and feed the blacksmith’s furnace. The result: Woods get cut down as local population grows. In general, forest population simply does not grow beyond borderland level. The excess population moves to other parts of the dominion (as explained under
“Migrations” earlier in this article). Meanwhile, the forest is gradually cut down to make way for civilization. The edges of the woods are deforested first, and the destruction continues inward.
Method: Your PC, as the dominion’s ruler, has two choices:
1. Divide the total population of all the dominion’s forested areas by 150. The result, rounded down, gives the number of heavy forest hexes that are reduced to light forest, or
2. Divide the total by 400. The result, rounded down, gives the number of light forest hexes that are completely deforested.
Changing the status of a forest, or removing it entirely, alters the limits on the number of people who can dwell in that area.
Logging sites: The hexes that should be deforested first are (in order of preference) those wooded hexes: 1) closest to urban areas, 2) closest to rivers, 3) to road and trails, and 4) to farmland (unforested plains) or to easily accessible regions. If there is an alternative, wooded hills should be the last to be deforested.
Risks & limits: As the ruler of a dominion, your PC has a duty to protect the dominion’s subjects. Deforestation is a dangerous task. Monsters and forest bandits could decimate the population. Druids may not see this population encroachment with a kind eye, nor do they condone logging. If the forest population is mostly elves, no logging should take place at all. There is also the question of Royal Hunting Grounds that by decree remain free of inhabitants and logging. These forests can become very tempting to poor peasants and poachers. Once all the forests of a dominion are gone, it is necessary to import wood for construction and heating.
Mineral resources could already exist in a hex at the time all the details of the dominion are first created. For the sake of atmosphere, we can assume that mining is more likely in mountain areas than elsewhere:
Hills &broken lands
Chance for mine
1Includes badlands, deserts, clear terrain, etc
Procedure: Add up the number of hexes for each type of terrain in the dominion. Multiply these results by the listed percentages. The result is the chance that a mine is already being operated in each of the given terrain types.
Example: A dominion has 120 mountain hexes, 40 hill hexes, and 20 hexes of clear terrain. With a total of 120%, there is automatically one mine in the mountains, plus a 20% chance for another. There is a 20% chance for a mine in the hills, and a 2% chance for a mine in the plains.
Placement: There is no easy way of actually placing a mine on a map. If randomness is desired, find the approximate center of the largest stretch of the desired terrain type in the dominion. First, roll
1d6. The result indicates a direction (1-North, 2-Northeast, etc., moving clockwise). Then pick a die that comes close to the average number of hexes separating the center hex from the edge of the terrain type. The second die’s result -1 indicates the mine’s distance in hexes away from the center hex. If the second die indicate a spot outside the given terrain type, place the mine in the closest hex of the appropriate terrain type. A mine hex cannot contain a city or a large town.
Size & income: Once a mine is identified and placed, roll percentile dice twice and check below for the mine’s nature and size:
Iron mine, marble
1In a feudal system, the local ruler often owns the mine. The figures listed in this column refer to net profits, after supply and operational cost. The figures do not include the upkeep of armed forces.
2Roll again twice on this column, ignoring results of 00.
Effects: For a mine to be fully operational, some miners must work in the quarries, and others must transport the ore and run the mine. These people will need to draw food supplies from neighboring areas, because they do not generate any of their own food, and mining wipes out farming in its hex. For more simplicity, assume the income from the mine also includes all tax income from that hex. Mining wipes out farming and taxation in the hex for wilderness and borderland areas.
Depleting an active mine: Roll percentile dice each year. On a roll of 1-10, the mine is empty and abandoned (it may become a lair for monsters, humanoids, or bandits). On a roll of 11-20, the mine drops one category in size (a small mine is depleted). On a roll of 00, a new ore deposit is found; the mine should be upgraded to the next larger size. However, if this result is rolled for a major mine, a catastrophic collapse takes place; no income is generated for the next 1d12 months. When a mine is depleted, roll percentile dice again, The result indicates the percentage of the population in that hex that leaves the dominion altogether. Those who remain become part of the nearby farming population. If a village exists in a mining hex and its population falls below 50, it becomes a ghost town (it is abandoned and possibly becomes haunted or a monster lair). The remaining villagers become part of the local agricultural population
New mines: Professionals can be hired to search for mineral deposits. Use the salary rates given above, plus a reward of 500 gp per reported deposit. Any NPC with a skill in geology can prospect for mineral deposits. A prospector can search one eight-mile hex per week. As time passes, write down which terrain types were searched, and their locations. The controlling PC can check for the presence of mineral deposits at any time. The DM then makes a secret skill check for each terrain type that has been searched. Add up the number of searched hexes for those terrain types for which the skill check was successful. The DM then rolls separately for each terrain type as shown in the “Method” entry earlier. The prospector must make it back to the PC’s headquarters before the DM can reveal the nature and location of the mine to the player. If a skill check fails, the prospector does not find any deposit in that terrain type. If the prospector is a dwarf, add a .5% chance per searched hex to the chaa mine will be found (hills or only). For example, if a dwarf searches 20 mountain hexes and succeeds in his skill check for that terrain type, he has a 30% chance (1.5%×20 mountain hexes) of locating a mineral deposit (instead of a 20% chance). The DM should check secretly once per month (1d10% chancel to see if the prospector (and his armed escort, if any) run into trouble from monsters, bandits, disease, or accidents. When a deposit is discovered, a prospector may be tempted to exploit the discovery himself without telling his PC boss, especially if not escorted by guards loyal to the PC. The chance of a prospector turning rogue are 6% for silver deposits, 12% for gold, and 24% for precious stones. (Add to the total another 12% chance for dwarven prospectors.) If an escort is present, halve these chances (the escort may be bribed to betray the PC!) Once a deposit is discovered, the PC should invest 4d6×100 gp to begin exploiting it. The DM should wait until the end of the first month’s exploitation before revealing the actual size of the deposit and generating regular income. If the deposit is depleted at the end of the year, better luck next time!
There are two things to look at when designing a castle. First, you need to know what era this castle takes its inspiration from: Early or late medieval times? Second, how sophisticated is the castle: A simple keep for a baron just starting in the ruling business, or the elaborate castle of powerful duke or king? This leads to the question: How many people is the place intended to house? Early in medieval European history, castles were of the motte and bailey type, basically a hill surrounded by a ditch, with wooden building surrounded by a palisade at the top. Fairly simple in design, the center building stood a few stories high, with storage on the ground level, a great hall on the next level (where the lord and his family lived), and an attic above. Just about everything else had to remain in the bailey, in lean-tos or separate buildings. The open area inside the palisade contained the military barracks, kitchen, smithy, stable, etc. In the later medieval period, castles were constructed as fortresses with stone walls, corner towers, a gatehouse with a drawbridge, and a massive keep. These were far more complicated and housed many more people than the older motte-and-bailey strongholds. The Rules Cyclopedia does a good job of listing all kinds of people dwelling in a large fortress. Their tasks are many and varied, which the design of the castle should reflect. Here is a list of the residents and areas commonly found in a castle, with guidelines for their uses and their sizes in relation to each other.
Lord and lady: Their bedchamber is located on one of the upper floors of the keep, for safety and privacy. This is one of the nicer chambers, around 400-500 square feet. It probably has a fireplace, an adjoining wardrobe or anteroom, and in later castles, an oriel overlooking the inner bailey. The ceiling is 9’-10’ high. The bed, with its heavy wooden frame and canopy, can be curtained for privacy and warmth, especially if the room has no fireplace. In earlier times, the lord and lady slept in the great hall of the stronghold rather than in private quarters. If your castle is based on those of this earlier period, be sure to check the description of the great hall a few paragraphs down.
Guests: These bedchambers house castle officials working for the lord or the lady, other adult members of the lord’s family, and favored guests. In castles of the later period, these rooms can be located in the keep’s upper floors or in the towers. For example, the chief steward might live in one of the towers, while the captain of the guard bunks in the upper gatehouse. One of the keep’s guestrooms can also be used as the lady’s solar, where she enjoys her privacy and spends time quilting or reading poetry. Each of the guestrooms is about 200-300 square feet.
Children: For their safety, the lord’s children live on the highest floor of the keep. A total of 30 square feet per child should be enough room. The rest of this floor is partitioned into a servant’s room and a guardroom for watchmen assigned to the keep’s top battlements. Simple wooden panels separate the rooms. The stairs spiral up through the thickness of the keep’s outer walls.
Common quarters: Dormitories for the servants and soldiers are cramped and offer little comfort. When furnished with three-tier bunk beds, each room should allow approximately 20 square feet per person. The common servants usually live in a separate building (servery) inside the castle walls. A few favored servants have small rooms in the keep. Some sleep in their master’s chamber or on straw mats in the great hall. Soldiers are quartered in the gatehouse and towers, or even in a basement beneath the keep or under a main tower.
Great hall: It wouldn’t be a castle without a great hall! This central area is where the lord, lady, and their guests eat their meals. In earlier castles, the great hall was on the ground floor of the keep. In many castles of the later period, it was moved to the second floor for added safety. The lord and lady originally slept in this room. Their sleeping area was located opposite the entrance, behind a curtain or a wooden panel. The main area of the great hall might have a U-shaped table, at the center of which the lord and lady sat on massive chairs sometimes topped with a canopy. Guests sat on benches, the less favored ones farthest from the lord. The great hall should be one of the largest chambers in the keep, with enough room for a sleeping area (if necessary), the table, the lord and lady’s chairs, wooden benches, an open area for a troubadour or a jester, perhaps a large fireplace, and plenty of space for servants to come and go in an orderly fashion. The ceiling is fairly high, arching up 14'-20', sometimes with wooden or stone pillars supporting the vault. The castles of wealthy lords often contain an elevated wooden musicians’ gallery. A staircase leads to a wooden balcony or an oriel connecting with the lord or lady’s chambers (if located above the hall). The lady of the castle and her retinue can use the oriel as a private vantage point overlooking the great hall. In determining a size for the great hall, allow 500 square feet and add 50 square feet per person, based on the minimum number of guests the great hall is expected to accommodate. The lord’s children and all people of status living in the castle should be counted. A minimum of ten people is not far-fetched here, requiring 1,000 square feet of space (500+[50x10]=1,000).
Chapel: A private chapel may be no bigger than a guest room, but a chapel that can accommodate all the household members can take up a space half the size of the great hall. If the vaulted ceiling is high enough, a balcony can connect the chapel to an anteroom on the second floor, allowing the lord and lady to attend services while the common folk worship on the nave’s main floor. The chapel can be part of the keep or a building added to the side of the keep as a separate wing. A large chapel may contain a sacristy, a small study, and the chaplain’s personal quarters.
Commoners’ halls: Guardrooms are located near the top of the keep and beside its main entrance, in each tower, near prisons, and in the gatehouse. The soldiers’ mess hall may be in the gatehouse or in one of the main towers. The servants’ hall adjoins the commoners’ kitchen or the servants’ quarters. Other common areas are the administrative offices found in the castle of a powerful ruler. These rooms can be as large as 50 square feet plus 20 square feet per person. For example, a small guardroom furnished with a coal brazier intended to warm three watchmen would require no more than 110 square feet. A mess hall needs over 650 square feet to seat 30 troops at a meal.
Kitchen: There should be a kitchen near the great hall, inside the keep. A larger castle may need another kitchen near the soldiers’ and servants’ quarters. The latter can be a separate building against the castle’inside wa. A kitchen usually has an adjoining scullery. The size needed for the cook and his assistants comes to 150 square feet plus another square foot per person served. If the cook in the keep prepares meals for 10 people each day, the kitchen should take up 160 square feet. A soldier’s kitchen for a garrison of 100 troops, however, would need 250 square feet. The areas given here include space for an open hearth, a large table, some furniture, shelves, and a sink (serviced by a lead pipe connected to a cistern located near the top of the castle walls). If separate from the keep, the kitchen building may be made of stone or wood. The second floor is used for storage, or as a dwelling for the cook and his family. Sometimes the cooks sleep in the kitchen, on straw mats or benches.
Blacksmith: With all these soldiers, you’ll need a smithy! This can be a very busy place, between production and repair of implements of war and the care of horses. The smithy is always adjacent to the stable, along the inside of the castle walls. The size of this workshop reaches 150 square feet plus five square feet per soldier. This includes enough space for a furnace, bellows, anvils, working surfaces, tool racks, etc. For a garrison of a hundred troops, the blacksmith and his assistants will need 650 square feet for their workshop. The upper floor of the building can be used as a dwelling for the blacksmith and his family.
Armory: This is where extra armor and weapons are stored and sometimes repaired. The armory can be inside the gatehouse or the keep, and takes up an area equivalent to a third of the blacksmith’s workshop.
Buttery: This room is located near the great hall in the keep. Here, servants prepare beverages and fill jugs of beer or wine before bringing them to the great hall. The buttery is about a third the size of the great hall’s kitchen. It may have a sink with running water from a cistern.
Cellar: Castles are expected to protect their inhabitants, sometimes for long periods of time, so the lord stockpiles large amounts of supplies against famine or siege (sometimes enough for an entire year). The cool cellar is used to store perishable foods, like salted meat and fish, cheese, honey, dried fruits (figs, nuts, etc.), and barrels of ale and wine. To insure a supply of fresh meat, livestock is corralled into the castle’s bailey before a siege. Food stored in the cellar supplements the soldiers’ common diet of bread and water, or more likely, the meals of the lord and his guests. The cellar, located under the keep, needs about 40 cubic feet per person for a six-month supply. For example, a castle with 150 inhabitants (people of status, soldiers, and servants) would need a cellar of about 6,000 cubic feet (a room 20’x30’x10’). Granary: Sections of towers or attics (or any dry area) can be filled with sacks of grain and flour. Again, the more people staying in the castle, the greater the food supplies. For example, a six-month supply requires 20 cubic feet of storage per person (eight 20-pound sacks of flour per person). To establish granary size, count all people living at the castle, including soldiers, servants, gentry, and guests. A small castle with 150 people would need a storage facility of 3,000 cubic feet (a room 10’x10’x30’).
Pantry: This room stores bread, tableware, linen, and other items that might be needed to serve meals in the adjacent great hall. The pantry is about half the size of the great hall’s kitchen. Some castles also have a separate larder near the pantry, where game is left to hang instead of in the cellar.
Stable: This building is likely be made of wood, with its fourth side formed by castle’s inner wall. Horses are stabled on the ground floor; the upper level is hay storage. The stable requires 100 square feet per horse, including stalls, mangers, alleyways, racks, etc.
Storehouse: This small wooden lean-to outside the keep is where household tools and other items are kept. It can also be used as a repair shop for household objects. The storehouse is about half the size of the smithy.
Other design concerns
Other areas of the castle not covered here should conform to the castle’s overall design. The room that houses the portcullis and drawbridge mechanisms, for example, must be as wide as the castle’s main entrance. The number of dungeons depends on the personal style of the builder, but prisons and guardrooms are normally located under one of the towers. Certain parts of the castle may have individual portcullises, separate baileys, or concentric walls. Battlements may be open to the air or, as with later castles, enclosed under roofs. The castle may also have small gardens (for the lady’s comfort or to grow food), an orchard, a fishpond, a mill, livestock pens, kennels, and a mews for the lord’s falcons. Jousting usually takes place outside the castle. Think about the original purpose of the stronghold. What strategic element is it defending (road, bridge, mountain pass, port, or town)? How does this purpose affect the stronghold’s position and layout? If the castle is near a river, it can have docks. Castles usually follow the shape of the terrain upon which they are built, using rocky formations to the best advantage. Cliffs and steep rocky crags can be used just as effectively as moats. If the castle is located in the middle of a town, it may need extra walls and towers to protect it. Part of the town can be enclosed in the citadel also, with the townspeople providing necessary troop levies to man the battlements. Use your imagination and try to come up with unusual layouts and setups that will make your castles distinctive. Remember, too, that you’re designing a castle for a fantasy world. Think about the particular inhabitants of the D&D game. The lord of the castle might also be a cleric, a wizard, or a monster! A wizard needs a laboratory, a library, and perhaps even an observation point high up in a tower, for astronomy. A scriptorium might be useful for a cleric. And who knows what a monster might demand?
Hallways and stairs: Remember to create the hallways, corridors, and stairways allowing everyone to go about their business without entering someone else’s private quarters. Simple screens, curtains, or wooden panels rather than thick stone walls can separate hallways from main rooms, or subdivide a large chamber into smaller quarters. Corridors, stairways, and secret passages can be built within the thickness of the castle’s outer walls, sometimes even within those of the keep. Extra stairs can be added inside smaller turrets corbelled alongside the walls of a keep, to allow private access to one or more rooms. Think about how the inhabitants of the keep can get around without disturbing each other, and how defenders can move quickly and safely to defend the stronghold. To these mundane considerations, you should add features that take advantage of the fantasy element of the D&D game. Teleport areas, shifting walls, and magical doors add flavor to an otherwise humdrum castle.
Sanitation: Trivial and yet unavoidable, garderobes (latrines) have to be positioned so they either drain into the moat or into an underground cesspool. Garderobes can be inside the keep, in the towers, on the battlements (a simple turret corbelled within machicolation, hanging over the moat), or near military barracks and serveries. Rainwater can be channeled through the garderobes’ drainpipes and into the moat. One garderobe per 20 people is customary for the commoners (several garderobes can be clustered in the same chamber). In addition to the ubiquitous chamberpots, one garderobe per five people is more acceptable for the lord’s family and the guests (usually, one near the great hall and another near the lord’s living quarters). If a cesspool is needed, keep it away from kitchen and food storage areas. Cesspools also require some access so they can be regularly cleaned. Of course, fantasy peoples might rely on a charmed black pudding for sanitation!
Cisterns and wells: Water is essential to castle survival. One well should be located in the bailey, for everyone’s acces. A second can be placed inside the keep, with a single vertical shaft connecting with all upper floors. If there is no indoor well, servants must be sent to fetch water from the courtyard.
Should the well fail, cisterns become critical. These holding vats are usually positioned high up near the top of the walls, where runoff from rainfall can be collected. Cistern water can then be channeled to butteries, kitchens, sculleries, and even to actual washrooms in more modern, royal castles. Near the entrance of the great hall, consider placing a small basin recessed in a wall. Equip it with a drainpipe and a metal faucet to release cistern water. Contrary to most beliefs, late medieval plumbing compared favorably to that of 17th-century Versailles. And of course, the inhabitants of your D&D world have magic, too! A 30-cubic-foot cistern can hold about 250 gallons of water. In a temperate climate, a physically active person (especially one who works outdoors) needs up to three quarts of water a day. That cistern can thus serve 100 people for three days before drying up completely. Several cisterns and reasonable rainfall should see your castle’s population through until a new well can be dug to replace one that has failed. A castle near a river can sometimes rely on an underground conduit to channel water to the castle. Secrecy is of the essence here, to prevent enemies from discovering the conduit and cutting off the castle’s water supply during a siege. The single most precious magical asset in siege warfare is probably a magical source of water or a lot of clerics.
Fireplaces: Early castles have no fireplaces. Instead, the inhabitants most likely use coal braziers. These castles are cold, drafty places. They have no glass windows, relying instead on wooden shutters and tapestries. If the great hall is on the ground floor, it can safely have an open hearth. Smoke rises to the ceiling and exits through a roof vent. When it became customary to locate the great hall and private quarters on the upper floors, chimneys became a necessity. In these castles, fires cannot be lit directly on the floor (which is made of timber) but require stone-walled fireplaces with permanent chimneys.
A castle with fireplaces will often also have thick greenish glass in the windows. Castles of the later medieval period may have stained glass or glazed windows. In the D&D game, judicious use of control temperature 10’ radius and climate spells or magical devices can also heat a fantasy castle.
Machiavellian measures: There are many ways to make the lives of castle intruders very difficult, especially for inventive dungeon designers. The best protection makes use of separate portcullises, strategically placed murder holes (arrow slits), and machicolations through which to pour boiling oil or pitch. Don’t leave any blind spots around the castle when positioning towers. Try to create bottlenecks to force attackers through before they reach the keep entrance. Invaders trapped in such narrow areas are easy pickings for crossfire from strategically placed archers. Spiral stairs should rise clockwise, so the center post gets in the way of an attacker’s sword (assuming he’s right-handed). Use trap doors to drop victims into oubliettes (remote dungeon cells where victims are forgotten) or worse, into monster-infested pits. Think about the location of the chute if it goes through several floors. Now is the time to use magical spells and some of the tricks and traps in the D&D game to leave in the way of attackers.
As described in the Rules Cyclopedia, many people dwell in a castle. There were often many more servants in the castle than the people they served. Peasant servants take care of the menial tasks, but they do not live at the castle. Their service is temporary. Household servants must be paid, fed, and given shelter. Here’s a way to find out how many servants there should be. If this method provides fewer servants than those listed in the Rules Cyclopedia, assume that some servants perform several different functions. First, find out how many people of status live in the castle (the lord and lady, their children, castle officials, guests, etc). Then multiply that total by three for a king or a duke, or by two for a marquis or a count. Use the number as is for a baron, or divide it by two (rounding up) for a simple knight in a manor house. The result gives rough total of the servants attending to the needs of lord and his guests throughout the castle. Decide how many soldiers make up the castle’s garrison. Divide the number of soldiers by 20 (rounding up). This gives the number of people needed for the smithy’s forge and stable. Now add up all the inhabitants so far. Divide that total by 20 (rounding up) to find out how many more people work in kitchens.
For example: Let’s assume we have 10 people of status in a baron’s keep, plus three children, and a garrison of 100 troops. The baron would require 13 servants. The stable and smithy require five more people (100/20=5). That gives us 131 people so far. The kitchens need an additional seven people (131/20=6). Of these, it would be safe to assume at least two work in the baron’s kitchen, and the other five in the commoners’ kitchen. The grand total of people living at the castle now comes to 138. The salary noted in the Rules Cyclopedia for servants is far too high (5 gp a month plus room and board). A single piece of silver should be more than enough, in most cases, for common domestic servants. Fortunately, that’s not a concern if using the cost overhead system. Servants are normally part of the dominion ruler’s normal cost overhead.
How the place looks
Motte-and-bailey strongholds are constructed of timber and earth. Later castles, constructed almost entirely of stone, are whitewashed inside and out. The inside of the keep can be plastered or covered with wooden panels. The lord’s dwelling areas might feature painted decorations on the walls, displaying flowers, busts of kings and queens, heraldic arms, fantastic animals, medieval world maps, etc. Tapestries of wool or silk are also very common, and square banners can be hung from the ceiling of the great hall. Straw covers the floor, often concealing old food remains and other debris. Occasionally, the soiled straw and refuse are swept away, and fresh straw with fragrant herbs is brought in. Unlike oriental abodes, carpets aren’t used as floor coverings in European medieval fortresses. The floor at ground level may be hardened earth or stone, while upper floors are almost invariably made of timber supported by wooden pillars or stone vaults. Light comes from candles, rushlights, and oil lamps. Wall brackets, iron candelabra, and table candlesticks hold candles, and large oil lamps can be hung from the ceilings or mounted on stands. Of course, in the D&D game, one might find permanent light spells far more effective and safer to use.
Aside from being symbols of local authority, castles are a critical factor in the medieval military and political equation. Close to 90% of historical battles involved a besieged fortified town or stronghold. Castellans appointed to administer a castle in the name of their proprietors may abuse their vested powers over the surrounding lands. They may betray their lieges in favor of rivals in hopes of gaining nobility and ownership their castles and surrounding lands. Dominion rulers, beware! Strongholds are generally defensive. Few troops can hold out for a very long time against large armies, sometimes at odds worse than 10:1. If a castle can hold out long enough, it is then the besiegers who face a major logistical problem. There are many more of them to feed, and they do not benefit from a stronghold’s protection against weather, disease, and relief forces coming to help the besieged castle. Attackers cannot ignore castles and bypass them, because then the castle garrisons can cut the attackers’ supply lines. In most wars, castles must be dealt with before moving on, usually at great cost to the attacker. A strong dislike of pitched battles between two forces in an open area persisted among medicommanders because ofthe likelihood of high casualties on both sides. In contrast this, siege warfare was considerably more bearable, which also explains why strongholds were built. The key factors of siege warfare lie in the supply of money, equipment, provisions, and time, rather than a brutal, bloody confrontation. If the castle runs out of water or supplies, its garrison can always surrender with the hope of being spared. One problem came up in the Rules Cyclopedia, however, about the way strongholds can be breached. In truth, it isn’t necessary inflict the whole amount of a structure’s hit points to breach it. If you are not using the abstract Siege Machine rules, here’s a suggestion on how to handle breaches. To create a 10'-wide breach, divide the structure’s hp value by its frontage. If it’s building (keep, gatehouse, etc.), use that number directly. If it’s a two-dimensional structure (such as a wall), multiply by 4. Example A: A 60’-wide keep has 2,500 hp. 2,500/60=42. A breach requires only 42 points of damage applied to the same general area of the keep. Example B: A 100’-long wall section has 500 hp. A breach requires (500/100)x4=20 points of damage. More damage must be inflicted on thicker structures to create a breach. The numbers given above are for 5'-thick structures. For a 10’-thick structure, multiply the required hit points by 2; for a 15’ structure, multiply by 3; for a 20’ structure times 4, etc. So in example B, above, breaching a 10’-thick wall requires 40 hp instead of 20 hp.
Field repair: Defenders get to repair their walls at the rate of 1 hp per person per day. Repair crews cannot participate in the defense of their stronghold, however. No more than 30 people can work the same breach simultaneously. Damage to structures cannot be reduced by more than 75%. Field repair is free but temporary. When normal repair takes place after the conflict, the breach must be repaired from scratch, at full cost. All this being said, you now should be able to build your own castle with a bit more flavor and realism, and then, of course, seize those of your foes with equal know-how!
A fundamental difference separates the military backgrounds of the Known World and the Savage Coast. The former relates more to real-world Renaissance Europe (sans gunpowder), in that its kingdoms have permanent national armies of professional soldiers, while the majority of common civilians often remains unarmed. The Savage Coast has more of a medieval flavor, with feudal armies centered around dominion rulers and their lieges, while weapons remain fairly common in all the layers of society. A monarch’s standing army in medieval times is much more likely to be a patchwork of vassals’ troop contingents, mercenaries, and royal guards than an army with a strong national identity.
In an early feudal setting, monarchs distributed land from their royal demesnes to key supporters (like dukes), in exchange for their loyalty, services, taxes, and military support. The monarchs owned all the land, their supporters being mere temporary tenants of the fiefs entrusted to them. The land could consist of small pieces scattered in different regions. These tenants then sub-let part of their fiefs to lesser followers (counts, barons, etc.). Simple knights and sergeants were at the bottom of this hierarchy. The knights usually had a manor and some surrounding lands. The sergeants were those of lesser status who were given smaller estates to administrate. Knights, sergeants (or thanes), and demesne lords were required to provide troops to their lieges, who in torn added their own and sent them to their suzerains, and so forth all the way back up the feudal ladder. In times of war, a ruler could order peasants and freemen living on his lands to arms under his banner. Likewise, lieges required their vassals to send troops and leaders. This was a feudal obligation that did not require payment. This system historically yielded somewhat lackadaisical results. The number of troops that could be levied, their nature, and the time frame involved in mobilizing them were often unpredictable. Most troops, especially peasants, expected to return to their lands within 40 days of being called, precluding long-lasting wars. Up to two-thirds of summoned troops often did not show up at all, sometimes sending money instead (scutage tax), enabling the liege to hire mercenaries in their place. All this made feudal warfare impractical. In the D&D game, the setting was modified to reflect the later medieval era (one must pay for all troops, for example) to simplify and balance the game.
Before recruiting troops, it is necessary to figure out how much money a ruler may spend. Of all the income a dominion makes, an increasingly larger part should be devoted to the upkeep of the dominion and the ruler’s retainers and servants. Whatever the ruler’s overhead doesn’t cover, donations from landed gentry, townships, or the theocracy will. One could spend a great deal of time researching all the costs involved and creating a morass of accounting details, but it would be simpler to give a general number, then let the players “play” with the leftovers. These “leftovers” include military costs and special tasks (building or repairing of castles, ships, roads, etc.), or it can be saved for harder times. Note that investing funds with the intent of making a profit was generally frowned upon in medieval times, but not so in the Renaissance. The solution to determining a ruler’s available monthly money supply consists in finding out how much total tax income is available. Then, subtract the liege’s 20% salt tax and the 10% tithe for the clerical establishment to find the net income. Finally, subtract the dominion’s overhead from that net income, as given in the Overhead Chart, to find how much available money that dominion can count on each month.
Net monthly income
up to 500 gp
up to 750 gp
up to 1,000 gp
up to 2,000 gp
up to 5,000 gp
up to 15,000 gp
up to 50,000 gp
Up to 150,000 gp
up to 500,000 gp
Over 500,000 gp
Example: If a ruler controls a dominion that generates the equivalent of 10,000 gp a month in total tax income, 3,000 gp go toward the tithe and salt tax, then a minimum of 4,200 gp (60% of the net 7,000) go toward the upkeep of the stronghold and its retainers. The remainder, 2,800 gp is the available cash the ruler gets to “play” with every month.
Should it become necessary to find out how much of the overhead goes toward retainers vs. materials, assume that 60% of the overhead is budgeted for salaries. The rest is spent on food and general daily upkeep. This budget determines who can be hired for each job in the stronghold and at what price. Daily upkeep does not cover special occasions like visits from nobles, festivals, jousts, and other unusual events. Money for these comes from the ruler’s available cash. So, it is wise to save some gold every month. A dominion’s treasury may also become very handy in any case, especially in the event of unexpected wars—several months worth of net income might not be a bad idea if one can afford it.
Bankruptcy: Unfavorable historical events (changes in population, hostilities, etc.) cause income to drop, but the overhead does not. The actual cost (in gp) to run a dominion or a kingdom remains at its highest point, regardless of ensuing income variations. Presumably, one could dismiss some of the dominion retainers for lack of funds, but material upkeep cannot be reduced without causing progressive deterioration of the stronghold or palace, as well as other structures under the ruler’s control. Trying to reduce overhead becomes, in part, a role-playing consideration.
Mercenary rates are given above. To simplify the problem of figuring what each military commander gets paid, simply add 25% to the overall cost of troops. This assumes that approximately one of every ten troops is a leader making twice the troops’ base pay, and one of every 100 troops is a commander making 10 times the troop’ base pay. Native trogenerally get half the mercenary rates, but the dominion ruler must equip and train them in a Renaissance-style setting. In a medieval setting, native soldiers usually owned their own equipment. The problem is that the more demanding a ruler is about his troops’ equipment, the harder it becomes to find new troops among the native population who can afford the required equipment (see later). The cost of equipment (arms, armor, mounts, chariots, war machines, etc.) could be lower, at the DM’s option, than the inflated prices adventurers usually pay (three-quarters for a dominion whose population is mostly borderland, one-half if mostly rural, or one-quarter if a city exists within the dominion). This should require ordering at least 100 of the same items, or purchases of at least 2,000 gp of the same items, whichever is lowest.
Should you decide to ignore the feudal way of acquiring troops (40 days free service from the common citizenry, then everyone goes home), troops must then be levied directly from the population and paid on a monthly basis. Once the setup of a dominion is completed, the ruler should decide which layer of the population military recruitment will primarily target (all layers of population averaged out, or perhaps just borderland farmers, forest elves, or only the town of such-and-such, etc.). The appropriate groups of population are then shifted to the military. This obviously will have an impact on population and farming, and on local economies (especially when many soldiers are suddenly needed in an all-out war). This is another way for a ruler to have some degree of control over the balance of population.
Levying troops: Assume that light footmen can be levied without too much trouble, as long as at least a month’s salary is paid as a recruitment bonus. Figure up to 10% of the entire civilian population in the dominion could be levied this way, as long as the ruler can pay for them all. This is based upon payment of 1 gp per month per native footman. For more expensive troops and officers, drop the 10% base levy by 1% for every extra gp of pay. So, finding 20-gp heavy cavalry would, so far, incur a -19% penalty on levy rates!
Administrative ability: However, the base levy increases with the dominion’s administrative ability. This could be based upon the ruler’s overhead—supposedly, the higher the overhead, the greater the administrative ability. In support of this, each 5% increment spent above the bottom-line 35% overhead (the lowest percentage in the Overhead chart) increases the dominion’s base levy by 2%. Here’s a short-cut: Subtract 35 from the overhead, divide the result by 2%, and then add 10 to find the adjusted levy rate. Example: The dominion of Mooria has an overhead of 55% which yields a base levy of 18% (55-35=20; 20/2.5= 8; 8+10 = 18). If the ruler decided to deliberately spend 60% of the net income instead, the base levy would then be 20%. Mooria could thus levy up to 20% of its civilian population as light infantry. The following month, it could levy a maximum of 1% (20-19=1) of its civilian population as heavy cavalry.
Mercenaries: Whenever a ruler cannot levy a particular type of troops, the solution lies in hiring mercenaries. Assume they are always available. This was not always true in history—it was often necessary to contact potential mercenary troops many leagues away and make them an offer. It also may be possible to bribe enemy mercenaries either to leave or to switch camps. Spies can help with this, but that’s a role-playing issue!
Regional circumstances: Circumstances also affect recruitment success. For example, a region that has been attacked or is at imminent danger of being attacked would be easier to recruit from, with many of its people volunteering for service in their lord’s army. In this case, roll 1d4+ 1 and divide the amount to pay in recruitment bonuses by that result. Likewise, urban folks living a comfortable life away from threatened areas might require a greater reward. Roll 1d100; the result indicates how much more should be offered in recruitment bonuses as a percentage. Every unpaid percentage point below the indicated recruitment bonus (after regional circumstances are taken into account) should otherwise apply as a -2% penalty when levying troops. In other words, if a ruler offered recruitment bonuses 10% lower than the expected amount, the levy rate would then drop 20%. When more money is offered, the levy rate goes up as well but at a much slower rate. Each extra 10% offered on the recruitment bonus causes the levy rate to gain 1%. So, if a ruler offered a double reward, the levy rate then would go up 10% (This approach is generally cheaper than increasing the overhead when the population pays an average 1 sp or more per person in taxes). Peasant levies: Peasant levies can be mustered (10-20%, as explained in the Rules Cyclopedia, page 142). The Mercenaries Table on page 133 of that book also lists “peasants” for 1 gp per month; it should really list “unarmored spearmen” or “unarmored pikemen” instead—peasants just aren’t mercenaries. A sheriff usually commands these troops. Peasants fight with farming implements mounted on shafts (flails, scythes, etc.), and are unable to fight for very long in any kind of a military formation. For the sake of flavor, it may be better to preserve the original feudal system when levying peasants. In effect, their involvement is free, but only for 40 days. After that, a 2 sp bonus per peasant per month should be offered as an attempt to keep them in an army. Each month this offer is made, the leader must succeed at a Charisma check; otherwise the peasants decide to return home to tend their land. Finally, peasant levies never fight outside the borders of their nation.
Press gangs: A ruler could resort to press gangs, but only untrained troops fit to be unarmored spearmen, rowers, or sailors could be “levied” that way. No recruitment bonus is needed. The levy rate is a flat 1% per month (or 20 single individuals of 1 HD or less). A Confidence check is also required each month this practice takes place.
Convicts: There were occasional episodes in history when common criminals fought in an army. For example, upon a promise of freedom, convicted criminals could accept to join in on a dangerous campaign—the classic “Dirty Dozen” scenario. Although risky, it is the cheapest way to acquire troops (though troop quality is totally random). It is also a way to use a rather unproductive and potentially dangerous segment of a dominion’s population—yes, war prisoners and other common criminals should be counted as a part of the population (perhaps miners or galley rowers)
Medieval troops weren’t organized like modern armies, with rank and pay based on professional ability. Instead, they centered around the men-at-arms, basically knights and nobles paying for their own troops, with social status being the main factor for authority. In effect, we could have the following structure:
Army: The most powerful dominion ruler or the monarch would be at its head.
Battalions: These are separate army groups (usually a vanguard, a main battle, and a rear-guard). Each is under the command of a prince, an important noble, or a dominion ruler.
Lines: These are the rows of soldiers forming each battalion. Nobles usually command the lines.
Banners: These are units of 25-50 soldiers gathered around the banners of the men-at-arms who command them.
Lances: These are small, tactical units of 5-10 troops, either infantry or cavalry, within each banner. Lances remain under the command of lesser knights or sergeants. (Individual “glaives” also existed, being 2-4 troops, usually a horseman of some type, an archer, and some light infantry with pole arms.)
Feudal ranks: In the Savage Coast especially, men-at-arms could fall into three categories: “the knight banneret”, with a square banner, usually reserved for dominion rulers and upper nobility; “the knight bachelier”, with a forked pennant, usually a lesser member of a dominion ruler’s family or of a noble’s family, commanding up to 25 ; and “the squire”, a simple knight (knight, pala, defender, or avenger as per the standard Fighter class, or someone learning to become a knight), or a bourgeois (a burgher) rich enough to own cavalry equipment and have servants. All knights and squires are expected to have at least two servants (a page or valet who doesn’t fight, and an armed guard), proper weaponry, complete armor and barding, and four horses (one for each of the servants, and a spare horse). The “sergeant” was also available to command small bodies of infantry, or to hold the lord’s banner. Sergeants wear less armor than knights, ride unarmored horses, and usually fight on foot. (Do not confuse sergeants with “sergeants-at- arms,” who were part of a monarch’s elite personal guard).
Setting up for battle: Usually, troops of the various dominions meet at a certain point before a battle. The troops are then reorganized in tactical units that are more practical. For example, a monarch joins a number of his vassals. They all have various retinues of infantry, archers, and cavalry following their respective leaders’ banners. A duke and the monarch’s son, a prince, are assigned the vanguard and the rear guard. The monarch takes the main battle with three-quarters of all troops available. The infantry from all dominions forms lines A, B, and C in the main battle, the archers form lines X, Y, and Z, and the cavalry musters around the monarch’s banner. The remainder of the troops is organized in the same fashion in both the vanguard and the rearguard. Each line would fall under the command of counts and barons. So far, the prince, the duke, the counts, and the barons all qualify as knights banneret. Within each line, troops remain close to the banners of the remaining knights banneret (possibly other barons and landed knights) or to the pennants of the knights bachelier assigned to command them. Lesser knights (household or landless knights) and sergeants can then command individual lances, using colored pennons to rally the troops. Of course, in a true medieval setting, a lot of arguing would occur between the barons and the knights about who gets to command what, next to whom, or before whom (who might be a hated rival)! This could affect the outcome of a battle if totally ignored. Finally, it may be a good idea to send a herald to meet the opposing army and set a time and place for the battle. Maps and communication being what they were in medieval times, this approach wasn’t unheard of in history.
Modern ranks: Unlike the Savage Coast, armies of the Known World tend to be organized on a more professional basis, “sergeants” replacing squires and feudal sergeants, “lieutenants” replacing knights bachelier, and “captains” replacing knights banneret. Although they all keep their nobility titles, if any, these officers are all paid according to their military ranks. As usual, either a monarch, a prince, or a powerful noble would command a battle or a whole army, or a military “marshal” could be appointed for the task. The more organized mercenary companies would tend to use this setup too, possibly calling their leader a “condottiere” rather than a captain or a marshal. (Condottieri were members of wealthy families who would use their reputations to raise money or to guarantee payment to their troops even in times of unemployment).
Combat troops usually come with nonfighting auxiliaries, like a knight banneret’s page, an artillerist’s mason and carpenter, etc. Auxiliaries also can be ill-armed peasant levies who drive the baggage train of a marching army. A whole slew of civilians could also tag along, such as cooks, surgeons, clerics, blacksmiths, soothsayers, grave-robbers (and other persons of ill-repute), spies, merchants peddling their goods, even the families of some of the soldiers! Some fine role-playing could really frustrate the plans of a would-be conqueror with these people getting themselves in trouble at every opportunity. They could number up to as much as 20% of the whole army they follow. Assume that all the auxiliaries form an integral part of the army. So, when one hires 10 swordsmen, assume the “tenth” person is some kind of auxiliary—likewise with their pay. Of course, the ratio should be much lower with common infantry, but it all averages out when mounted knights and high-level warriors have two or three servants each. This explains why the latter are so expensive. For simplicity, assume everything averages out, including actual number of people in the military, their pay, and odds during a battle (all forces present are presumed to have some nonfighting auxiliaries among them). So, no mechanical or accounting changes are needed here—just remember the auxiliaries for the sake of role-playing and background flavor!
It sometimes happened that towns or cities would become independent from local nobility For example, the monarch may grant such autonomy to towns inside the royal demesne to insure they are properly administered and defended. The monarch could grant a new vassal the lands surrounding a town, then allow the town to become autonomous, thus avoiding the risk of making that vassal a bit too powerful (causing jealousy among other vassals) or of tempting an unruly vassal to seize the wealthy town, Adventurous dominion rulers could give up unproductive lands to become traders in a wealthy city, allowing the town to gain control over the surrounding lands. The town becomes a dominion of its own, paying salt tax and tithe like other dominions. Its overhead should be higher (+15%) because of all the buildings, streets, and other structures that require upkeep. The town levies permanent troops to act as a police force and garrison the town’s walls and fortifications. Its troops can be counted on during a call to arms, but only in defense of the nation. Militias can be every bit as good or even better than conventional dominion troops because of the wealth that their towns can use for better pay, training, and equipment. Town militias use the more modern ranking system.
Remember that armed forces do not work in the fields, thus they do not grow food. Troops must draw food supplies from the agricultural community. In a medieval setting, troops were expected to feed themselves. In game terms, we can conveniently assume that the cost of feeding troops is part of their pay. However, this implies certain risks. During peace, armies are scattered throughout the kingdom, buying food from their local neighborhoods. This is especially important for permanent garrisons guarding borderland or rural territories. The local agricultural base should be sufficient for these troops to find food. Using the guidelines on economics provided above, find out how much agricultural population lives within one or two day’s ox-ride (12-20 miles) from the troops’ position, and whether it can accommodate these troops. Hunting is an option. Here are some rough guidelines: In a wilderness area with ample wildlife and water resources, figure that up to 100 troops can generate food for 80 people (80%). The remaining 20% represents essentials like grain or salt that must be provided either by local farming or brought in from elsewhere. For each of the following, decrease the top hunting rate (80%) as indicated: Each extra 50 troops (-10%), borderland (-20%), rural (-40%), moderate wildlife or less than 10% missile weapons among troops (-30% for either), little wildlife or no missile weapons among troops (-60% for either). Troops cannot hunt in suburban or urban areas; otherwise the hunting rate should never be less than 10%. If the balance is still insufficient, then food supplies must be transported to the troops, at the ruler’s cost (1 sp per month and per person). Planning should prevent this from happening. When garrisoning an oasis, for example, make sure the number of troops there matches what the oasis can support. This will prevent the garrison from depending on regular caravan supplies. In suburban or urban areas, assume that the military forces there are supplied like the rest of the urban population (e.g., regular arrivals offoodstuffs from the rural lands, caravans, local farming); thiis all averaged out in the guidelines on economics. As usual, garrisons in wilderness must be supplied, since the wilderness agricultural base cannot figure in the food mechanics. Garrisons usually stockpile food and water, sometimes for up to a year in a warlike setting. Unsupplied troops might plunder and pillage the land to feed themselves. Plunder and pillaging wipes out all farming for a month in the affected hexes. If the ruler’s troops plunder their own land, a Confidence check should be made for each month of plundering.
Sending troops back home can be vastly amusing! After serving a liege, dominion rulers and the commanders of town militias usually return to their lands without making much trouble, but mercenaries might decide to roam the countryside instead, plundering and pillaging everything on the way, until they find another employer. This is almost inevitable if the mercenaries haven’t been paid or if a conflict hasn’t yielded much war-booty. Fortunately, it is sometimes possible to buy off unemployed mercenaries or arrange for them to obtain employment elsewhere. Native troops being dismissed, especially if they are several hundred who fought together long enough to establish a sense of community, might turn to banditry as well. Using one’s military experience to terrorize the countryside is a far more attractive option than returning to famine and utter poverty. This is particularly true if these individuals own their equipment, or if the ruler has been weakened by a conflict. Native renegades are usually the worst since they know the gibbet awaits them if they’re caught, compelling them to fight to the death when cornered. Widespread political chaos is generally favorable to organized banditry. For example, among predatory activities, renegade troops or unemployed mercenaries may resort to demanding exorbitant tributes from defenseless towns, when they aren’t simply plundering the land to feed themselves. Some renegade leaders might just try to claim land outright in an attempt to carve themselves their own dominions, with local rulers bowing to their military might—if one can’t beat them, one might just accept them as new vassals!
Running a monarchy
What do monarchs do with the salt-tax revenues? If the PC is running a kingdom, with dominions turning in their 20% salt tax, here’s what should be done. The monarch could have one or more family estates or dominions gained through marital alliances, generating tax income or troop levies like normal dominions. Likewise, the kingdom should have a royal demesne belonging to the throne. These are lands that the monarch occasionally carves up and gives away to new vassals. Lands conquered by the monarch become part of the royal demesne. Add up tax incomes from the family estates and the royal demesne, and subtract the 10% tithe. Then add all of the salt taxes from the vassal dominions, if paid in cash. The monarch does not pay the 10% tithe on salt tax received from the vassals. This determines the monarch’s net income. The monarch’s overhead is calculated from that net income.
A vassal’s salt tax paid in merchandise is considered part of the monarch’s total income as if it were cash, thus counting against the monarch’s overhead one way or the other. If the kingdom is part of a greater empire, then the monarch’s total income is subject to a salt tax, just like a dominion. There can be any number of vassal-liege, liege-monarch, and monarch-emperor layers. The overlord may require the adoption of the same coinage and laws among all vassals.
Military: If a monarch (or a liege in general) requests a vassal to pay the salt tax in troops, add them to the monarch’s army. If so, the vassal must provide troops whose pay amounts to 20% of the vassal’s total income. The troops must be appropriately equipped to fit the monarch’s most prevalent army requirements. Training must be at least as good as that of the vassal’s forces. The value of training and equipment does not otherwise count against the vassal’s 20% salt-tax figure. If a vassal is incapable of providing enough troops meeting the liege’s standards, the vassal must then pay the difference in cash (or the whole amount if the vassal couldn’t provide any of the required troops at all). Mercenaries are not an option in this case. The vassal had better make sure there was an overwhelming reason why these troops could not be provided, or else the liege might consider such a shortcoming willful treachery. A royal tip: Requesting vassals to send troops rather than cash is a cheap way of acquiring properly equipped and trained troops, and keeping vassals in check. It also helps the monarch keep the throne’s overhead substantially lower. On the other hand, the monarch has far less cash available this way. The best advice here would be to acquire whatever troops are needed to protect and further the monarchy, then collect the remainder in cash. This balancing act is a true test for a serious ruler.
Standing army: All of the troops sent by the vassals and the monarch’s own household troops constitute the kingdom’s standing army. In times of war, the monarch expects vassals and their retainers to join him, with up to 80% of their troops. Likewise, peasants can be mustered (see “Recruitment”), Up to 80% of the theocracy’s troops, military orders, and town militias also can be called upon to defend the nation (see “Theocracies”). If that doesn’t do it, then throw in a good measure of mercenaries!
The theocracy’s point of view
What do the clerics do with the tithe? The clerical establishment runs its various orders, builds temples, supports art and literature conforming to its precepts, feeds and caters for the poor (sometimes), maintains its own troops to defend the clerical estates (often), and meddles with local and global politics for various reasons (always). A theocracy’s income is subject to a cost overhead comparable to that of an autonomous town (+15%). A nation’s theocracy might have to send 10% of its own tithe income to some archclerist (or whatever potentate representing the theocracy’s highest authority) if outside the nation’s border. The theocracy’s overhead only includes the daily upkeep of existing temples, clerics, mystics, servants, and the support of art and literature. Everything else comes from the theocracy’s available cash. If a clerical order does not receive regular tithe income, it can instead generate a net 5 sp cash income per ordained cleric or mystic (including overhead). This income covers work clerics provide and their followers’ donations. Assume the clerical work force can always feed itself. Theocracies literally form autonomous “dominions” inside other nations. They initially control little land other than the hallowed grounds of their temples and the mystics’ domains. There could be cases when a monarch or a powerful dominion ruler may cede land to a theocracy as a reward for help or as a result of political pressure. A theocracy could also simply purchase land from a bankrupt dominion, with the liege’s permission. A theocracy, however, never pays any salt tax, since its only true liege is the Immortal it serves.
Military orders: Theocracies may also create military orders (of paladins, for example) that live off their members’ donations, A military order receives 10 gp per knight in addition to taxes levied on any land it controls. This income is subject to regular dominion overhead and tithe. Although they don’t pay the salt tax, they must answer their monarch’s call to arms. Military orders are otherwise fairly autonomous from either theocracy or monarchy. They raise their own troops, build castles, and undertake a variety of military or financial activities to further their own interests. Knights (landless knights, knights-errant, and paladins) join the order on a purely volunteer, unpaid basis. Other troops should be paid; they can be levied on the order’s lands or hired among mercenaries. Having knights join the order is a question of situation and role-playing (the leader’s Charisma, a need to vanqusome great evil, the order’s clout, etc.). Knights joining an order each may range from 1d4-1 knights in a very unfavorable situation, to 3d6 +2 knights in the best case. If the order is being founded, add to the die roll a number of knights equal to twice the leader’s maximum number of retainers (see Charisma). Very large orders may become the target of worried monarchs, so beware.
Rival theocracies: The situation can get complicated when several theocracies compete within a same nation. Usually, one theocracy dominates the field, representing one Immortal or a group of related Immortals. This “official” theocracy is the one collecting the tithe. Other unrelated orders make do with donations from their followers, be they commoners, rich merchants, or influential leaders. These minor theocracies, of course, compete for followers, struggling to force the “official” theocracy out of the big picture in order to become the one collecting the tithe.
Heretical crises: The monarch of a nation chooses which theocracy is the “official” one. It may based purely on the monarch’s personal convictions or on what philosophy is predominant in the realm. The latter choice is the safest path, but that can be a hard choice for a monarch with different ideals, especially if the monarch is on the path to Immortality. The former option could lead the population into rebellion, with both military and financial support from the deposed theocracy if the monarch ignores the people’s dominating philosophy. Along the same idea are regional theocracies deliberately splitting away from their higher authorities in an attempt to reform their own philosophy and keep more power and wealth in their own hands. Likewise, powerful military orders may break away from their original theocracies for the same reasons. The political and military consequences of such hostile schisms within a theocracy all become a matter of circumstances and role-playing, in other words, more trouble for the ruler, as it should be! It gets all the more entertaining when the ruler happens to be a cleric, too, but that’s the reward for power, glory, and yet another a chance for more adventures!
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