Abstracting Domains

In principle, I really like the amount of detail in the ACKS domain rules. The biggest “Yes!” moment from my players in the last session is when they were approached by the head of the Funerary Guild, who asked if they could provide excavation and stoneworking jobs for members who no longer have steady work now that the town’s plague had passed. They loved it because it provides them with a huge boost to the rate they can expand their fortifications (from 3gp/day to 13gp/day - it’s an isolated settlement of 130 families, so there’s no way they’re going to get access to the 3,000 workers assumed by the standard 500gp/day construction rate). I loved it because it arose directly out of the economics rules (between a bunch of dead bodies already present from a previous failed settlement and people dying from the plague, they needed to have been burying 3 people a day to keep up; at 5gp per funeral (to ensure a Sinkhole of Evil won’t develop), that’s 15gp/day of funerary production). I loved it even more from the anticipation of future campaign flavor, as new players join and ask about why all the roads are named “Gravedigger’s Way” or “Headstone Plaza” and there’s an actual, organic, in-game reason for it rather than it simply being because the GM is a weirdo.

However, fully statting out a domain is a substantial amount of work. Decide on the territory it holds. Buy an appropriate stronghold. Work up some population figures. Calculate tax income. Determine how much of that income to spend on military. Buy units. Etc. Keeping that up-to-date for the PCs’ domain takes me about an hour, hour and a half per in-game month, which is acceptable to me, but I’ve also got half a dozen other factions in the campaign area which I would like to be able to interact with the PCs’ settlement (and each other) on the domain level. I finally got around to creating one of them yesterday and realized that building them all in detail will just plain be too much work to be worth it, even taking into account that, without the “actively adventuring” growth bonus, they probably won’t change much from month to month.

It’s enough that I’m seriously considering dropping the ACKS domain rules in favor of those in An Echo, Resounding, although that brings in all kinds of issues with compatibility (several of ACKS’ non-domain rules would need retrofitting to deal with a domain system which abstracts population and territory control away completely) and balance (what happens to the fighter endgame when there’s no mechanical reason to build a stronghold? how do you determine divine power from a cleric’s congregants when you don’t even know how many people are present? no population numbers means no tax collection means no domain XP. etc.).

How do others handle this, such that NPC domains are detailed enough to interact fairly and consistently with PC domains, without having to spend more time managing domain stats than you do on prep for things that will appear directly in the game?

I believe the standard practice is to decide “This NPC realm is a barony/duchy/kingdom” and then use the pre-provided stats for that size of a realm provided in the back of the core rulebook (with extra details in D@W campaigns if you need to then raise armies out of said domains).

It is as Jard said! Chapter 10: Secrets of ACKS and Chapter 1: Armies of D@W Campaigns should allow you to handle any domains you’d like abstractly.

Another alternative is to create the NPC domain but then leave it static. Since most NPC rulers are not actively adventuring and are at fairly average levels of morale, populations will remain stationary.

For quick reference:
Civilized Domain Income = # of Families x 4.73
Borderlands Domain Income = # of Families x 3.73
Wilderness Domain Income = # of Families x 2.73

This assumes 6gp land value, 20% taxes, 10% tithes, 2/3/4gp garrison cost, 5gp in festivals every 3 months, and disregards stronghold value.

I personally only create domains for NPCs when the players swear fealty to, ally with, or go to war with the domain. Otherwise, the only thing you really need to know is “approximately how large is this domain” “approximately how much money does its ruler have” and “approximately how big is its army”.

Just because you CAN zoom in to the level of the individual barony, doesn’t mean you have to…

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I personally only create domains for NPCs when the players swear fealty to, ally with, or go to war with the domain.

Perhaps my political situation is just too complex, then. The three domains of immediate interest (an orc village, a group of Hell cultists from a distant domain who are occupying an ancient temple, and a mutant cult) are already at war with each other and the PCs’ domain could end up at war with any of them on very short notice - or with all three, if they’re not careful. In my mind, this makes it important to know what forces all three of them have and where those forces are located.

Plus I’m used to faction systems which are simple enough for every faction to develop and take action every month (or however often faction turns are handled), even if they’re on the far side of the world. Even if the PCs don’t interact directly with a remote faction, it can still influence the actions of other, closer factions that they do interact with. While I can certainly see that the ACKS rules are set up such that most domains with average morale and non-adventuring rulers don’t change much from month to month, I don’t like the feeling of “this part of the world is locked away in a stasis bubble until the PCs come along and disturb it”. That works fine for monster lairs and other minor populations like that, but factions/domains are the major players in the regional power game, so they shouldn’t just be sitting on the sidelines.

Just because you CAN zoom in to the level of the individual barony, doesn't mean you have to...

In this case, yes, I do, because individual barony-sized domains ruled by autonomous warlords are all the area has. The largest is an orc “kingdom” of around 1200 families and, even at wilderness population densities, that’s easily within the capacity of a single domain without needing to appoint vassals. Most of the domains are a couple hundred families and some aren’t even a full hundred.

it sounds like you already have a good deal of details about these kingdoms nailed down. Number of families, at least, could allow you to fill in the domain “as you go”. Assume the number of families is true, and then work out the other parts on that assumption as you need those parts.

What I would do, then, is to flesh out the domains at the level of whatever NPC ruler is making the decisions for them, abstracting the domains below them. Then each game-month you simply update the domain. Initial set-up for each domain should take about 30 minutes to 1 hour. Every session it should take about 15 minutes to update the domains total.

You can use the Vagaries tables to generate events for your NPC domain rulers to deal with. If the NPC domain rulers fight each other, use the Campaigns rules with Battle Ratings (use BR for high level NPCs rather than forays).

I haven’t delved far enough into either ACKS or AER to have a meaningfully developed response to your query, but the one element AER has is a fairly dynamic but simple system for domain turns. There should be some way to map the level of detail you want for your game in ACKS terms to an abstract domain management system built on the AER system.

It’s a project worth working on, IMO.

“approximately how much money does its ruler have”

This is the only part where I often struggle a bit. What would be a good way to abstract this a bit? A certain number of month of expected income?