Deterministic Land Revenue Values?

You have found an ideal area in the wilderness, fought for your right to rule it, gathered the money to build your stronghold …

But obviously forgot to survey the local area properly.

Somehow you rolled a 4 on 3d3, the wonderful kingdom you desired and worked so hard to get is sub-par. On the map it is lovely meadows and bubbling brooks, it should be prime settlement land, but it just isn’t.

The wizard you hang around with decided on a swamp as the home for his sanctum and apparently he seems to have incredibly valuable land worth at least twice as much as yours!

One of the most interesting parts of ACKS, seems to hinge on rolling three little dice. Yes, as a DM I can make “adjustments”, “add bonuses”, etc.

But would it not be interesting instead to actually have some kind of understanding of the Land Revenue value as a DM?

Quite obviously, we place cities and towns on rivers or sea coasts as those places can give us a ready source of food and help trade. So we are following some kind of settlement pattern already without codifying or measuring it.

My thought is that we could minimise the random portion of the Land Revenue value as I do not believe it should be an entirely deterministic value. With the underlying terrain, weather, resources etc generating a value we can add to with a minor random roll.

Does anyone do anything like this?

Other ideas could be some form of initial survey to reduce the random element?

One benefit of understanding the Land Value for every hex based on rules would be as a determinant for the location of settlements, taking the guesswork out of placement?

I have done some minor preliminary work on this, but wondered if I was alone with this problem?

I haven’t put together formal rules for it yet, but I think I argued in another thread that an Explorer + a Venturer ought to be able to work together to pre-survey: the Explorer needs to explore the hex (for some fraction of the time it’d take to clear the hex), the Venturer needs to have visited every market that is within range.

To get rid of class dependencies, come up with relevant proficiencies and perhaps require checks / extra time. Bargaining ought to work for assessing markets, but studying the land is harder to pin down - Survival? Mapping? Naturalism?

I think I’d generally give the players some sense of the quality of the hex before they settled, probably at the latest once they had cleared it out. But land value can mean a lot of things in ACKS, right? Maybe that swamp has a really valuable mine in it. Maybe the rolling hills are infested with stink beetles.

Since my campaign takes place in the desert, I’ve been fooling around with modifying the Land Value rolls. I’m looking at something like the following: In “bad” areas, such as un-irrigated desert, you roll 2d3+1 instead of 3d3. In “good” areas, like an oasis, you roll 2d3+3. That provides a reason to fight over the hexes with water while still allowing for a wide variance between hexes of the same type. Of course, we haven’t yet reached the conqueror level, so this hasn’t been tested at all.

Indeed … Its not that I cannot think of ways to justify what is rolled … I can think of lots of them, but perhaps the real answer lies in understanding the properties of the hex enough to know to a good degree what likely Land Revenue values should result.

Its just that the appeal of ACKS for me is the way it feels like a coherent system. I want to know the values of all the hexes on the map, hopefully using a simple system to tell me. Having this information leads to emergent properties, understanding WHY people want those hexes, why they are so heavily defended by the humanoid inhabitants etc.

Something that might take into account all the terrain / climate classifications used by the merchandise system to generate values? Then the values derived for the land revenue determination can be for merchandise also.

When the player goes to settle his new lands, the swamps look bad and basically mostly are (apart from perhaps unknown resources) and the lovely meadows and bubbling brooks are generally good for settlements. The choices of location would then rely on logic and understanding rather than a random roll.

When the evil Baron gives you a dark forbidding marsh as a fiefdom, you know you are not getting a 9 value piece of land. When you defeat the defenders of the Lost Oasis and claim it as your own, you know its got to be worth more than the surrounding desert lands?

I suppose it is about making sense … like so many things in ACKS do already.

brennall, it doesn’t do you much good for domains, but when it comes to settlements, they’re influenced greatly by their surrounding terrain and the land value. Additionally, you’re encouraged to take however many adjustments are dictated by your land value and apply them such that they create bigger swings. Of course, this ends up being a bigger benefit to merchants operating out of the city, but you get the idea.

I think the key is to consider the order in which the roll and the description of the land is delivered. It’s sort of like if you describe the way your opponent’s jugular spurts blood before you even roll the d20, you can’t know if the region seems promising until you make the roll. If that doesn’t tickle your fancy, then you could either declare the result or come up with die rolls that are more lopsided one way or the other. Either way, that isn’t expressly described by the rules.

You might also try and reverse engineer the “Environmental Adjustments to Demand” table on page 234 of the ACKS core. If you can figure out the lowest and highest sum of modifiers for what a city in that environment would be like, you could map that to a range from 6gp to 1gp (since negative demand means a surplus) and then keep 1d3 for a little randomness.

If I read the rules correctly, you get to roll land income after you clear monsters out of the area, but BEFORE you build your stronghold. While you are out the cost of the mercenaries for the clear-out, you can abandon the hex if it is worthless and hope the next hex is better. True, this doesn’t help much if you find that all the hexes near your starting hex are worthless, unless you clear out and hold multiple hexes to check out the land (a costly and dangerous endeavor, indeed).

As for rule changes: There should be a limit to how much you can learn about the land before you clear out the monsters. You can’t really do a thorough land soil survey, resource analysis, etc. with monsters around. Also: logically, if it is obvious at a glance that a plot of land is exceedingly valuable, then someone else would probably try to settle it. I’d say that, with an appropriate proficiency or two, a character can do a preliminary survey if they spend [set minimum amount of time] in the hex, allowing them to pre-roll one or two of the dice, thus learning part of the land’s value.

Rolling land value after securing seems really silly to me; I always rolled or assigned well before my players cleared it, so I could give them an idea of how valuable it was and they could base decisions off of it. As far as information availability goes, 3 points of land value are the universal baseline. The next three points above the baseline (4-6) I’d probably call ‘obvious’ - PCs should notice them during the course of clearing the hex. In a forest, this is lush vegetation and abundant game; in a desert, it’s agave cactuses or an oasis. The last three points (7-9) are ‘hidden’, and aren’t apparent until the hex is settled (or unless the party has an explorer with Land Surveying and spends a while searching; I’d probably handle finding hidden resources much like finding monster lairs, with a chance per day of searching of finding evidence of a point over 6). This is stuff like mineral wealth, once-a-season wildebeast migrations, and so forth.

Alternatively, you could split up the 3d3 along thematic lines. Get three d6 - one blue, one green, and one red. The blue die is water availability (including rain frequency, soil water retention, shallow aquifers, presence of consistent water sources), green is vegetation and wildlife, and red is mineral wealth. Then you can start doing stuff based on land type; maybe deserts only roll a d2 for water, or hills and forests roll a d2+1 for minerals and vegetation respectively. You could also start assigning a scale; maybe a 1 water score is either ‘desert’ or ‘perpetual monsoon’ (too much is just as bad as too little), 2 is ‘seasonal droughts and floods’, and 3 is ‘reliably perfect water levels for crop growth’ (think Seattle). Likewise for animals and plants, 1 is ‘hostile, inedible, or scarce; poor soil’, 2 is ‘trees present, edible animals, decent soil’, and 3 is ‘lush, fruit falls off of trees, rich loamy soil, presence of unusual resource like poisonous or medicinal plants’. Mineral wealth might be 1 - "no mineral wealth to speak of; clay and sand’, 2 “presence of useful or aesthetically pleasing building stones (ex: marble)”, and 3 “metal ores or semiprecious stones readily available near the surface”. So for example the floodplains of the Nile might be 2 water (seasonal floods), 3 plant (excellent soil as a result of seasonal Nile flooding), and anywhere from 1 to 3 mineral based on location or rolled randomly.

Obviously I was having an obsessive moment last night, as I spent most of the evening trying to make a system that would represent the concepts I was espousing and still remain relatively simple to administer. I decided on using the 6 mile hex as the base size (also the minimum domain realm size)

Initially I decided that the type of agricultural subsistence and available water were the most important things for settlement patterns and came up with the following types.

Hunting / Gathering (the minimal survival default)
Grazing / Herding (Sheep / Cattle etc)
Light Agriculture (orchards, low yield grains, slash/burn)
Heavy Agriculture (intensive agricultural application)

For the benefits of local water I went with

Major River (Within 24 miles) (Equivalent to the River Nile, River Danube)
Significant River (Within 6 miles) (Equivalent to the River Thames or River Seine)
Lake (Within 6 miles) (occupying the majority of at least a 6 mile hex or bigger)
Sea Coast (Within 6 miles)

It seemed logical to factor in climate zone as that directly affects plant growth and ACKS use of Climate classifications on the demand modifier table meant precipitation was also built in from the get go: -

Arctic [Tundra]
Sub-Arctic [Taiga]
Temperate [Deciduous Forest, Grasslands, Savanna]
Sub-Tropical [Desert, Rainforest, Scrub, Steppe, Grasslands, Savanna]
Tropical [Rainforest, Savanna]

Obviously the same chart helped me to decide on the topography of the region, although I decided to become slightly more granular to take into account grades of hills and mountains.

Plains or other Flatlands (0-2000ft)
Rolling Hills (2001-3000ft)
Foot Hills (3001-4000ft)
Low Mountains (4001-7000ft)
Medium Mountains (7001-15000ft)
High Mountains (15000 +)

I then moved onto resources as they could have a significant effect on revenue value: -

Common Mining (1% plains, 5% rolling hills, 10% foothills, 20% Low Mtns, 30% med or high Mtns)
High Value Mining (1% foothills, 2% Low Mtns, 3% Medium Mountains, 4% high Mtns)
Resource Industry (2% chance) check the resources types on the demand chart for examples, -2 demand mod in that hex?)
Forestry (if in a Medium or Heavy Forest Hex [Taiga/Deciduous Forest High Precipitation/Vegetation])

That pretty much covered the effect of the land potential, however for generating NPC lands I thought the potential or optional use of the following might be helpful.

Alignment, Race, Ruler Int or Wis.

Now came the tough part … all of this had to generate a value between 3-9 for most habitable lands and cover the extremes of a typical world. In addition some degree of random effect still needed to be kept to represent chance or luck.

I decided initially to keep 1d3 for the luck aspect and roll for land usage based upon climate to generate a type of subsistence. This kept some aspect of random generation, which was plausible for the location, climate and terrain.

Here are a couple of the tables I generated for subsistence type: -

Deciduous Forest (Low Precipitation/Vegetation) 1d8
1-4 Light Agriculture
5-6 Grazing / Herding
7-8 Hunting / Gathering

Grassland (Low Precipitation/Vegetation) 1d8
1-5 Light Agriculture
6-7 Grazing / Herding
8 Hunting / Gathering

So the above two tables will determine the type of subsistence for a lot of European countryside. Most of which will result in Light Agriculture or Grazing/Herding. Occasionally in some poor areas of land (rocky etc) Hunting/Gathering still might take place.

That gave me the subsistence type, to which I then tentatively added a value (I kept the values simple and low as I only had a range of 2-6 + 1d3 to play with. I also added a category of Non-Sufficient land to handle barrens etc.

-3 Non-Sufficient
+0 Hunting / Gathering (the minimal survival default)
+1 Grazing / Herding (Sheep / Cattle etc)
+1 Light Agriculture (orchards, low yield grains, slash/burn)
+2 Heavy Agriculture (intensive agricultural application)

I then addressed Water usage and derived the following: -

+2 Major River (Within 24 miles) (Only 1 water modifier allowed) (Equivalent to the River Nile, River Danube)
+1 Significant River (Within 6 miles) (Only 1 water modifier allowed) (Equivalent to the River Thames or the River Seine)
+1 Lake (Within 6 miles) (Only 1 water modifier allowed) (occupying the majority of at least a 6 mile hex or bigger)
+1 Sea Coast (Within 6 miles) (Only 1 water modifier allowed)

I decided to limit the water modifier to only allowing a single greatest modifier, as initially it increased the testing values too much.

I continued to follow this process all the way through adding values to the categories above and tweaking things till I got the ranges I wanted. All the derived information would be too much for this post, but I wanted to show the process above so you could see how I got to final values.

I generated the subsistence type charts of ALL terrain types used in ACKS (but noticed a lack of demand modifiers for Swamps / Marshes (wetlands), must address that later). I also got carried away and created some example racial modifiers to help generate realistic results for humanoids and demi-humans. It would be a simple process to generate more as required.

You can see all the values and charts I worked on here: -

The Terrain charts and further examples are available on the other Tabs

They generate these example values …

Paris [France], London [England], Rome [Italy]
Temperate +1
Plains [Grassland] +1
Light Agriculture +1
Significant River +1
Total 4+1d3 = 5 to 7 Revenue Value

Athens [Greece]
Temperate +1
Rolling Hills [Grassland] +1
Light Agriculture +1
Seacoast +1
Total 4+1d3 = 5 to 7 Revenue Value

Braemar [Scotland]
Sub-arctic +0
Rolling Hills +1
Taiga [high precipitation] +0
Forestry +1
Hunter Gatherers +0
Total 2+1d3 = 3 to 5 Revenue Value

Husavik [Iceland]
Arctic -1
Plains +1
Tundra -1
Sea Coast +1
Hunter Gatherers +0
Total 0+1d3 = 1 to 3 Revenue Value
(So basically only 1/3 of all hexes on the coastline would be inhabitable)

Himalayan Mountains
Arctic -1
High Mountains -2
Tundra -1
Hunter Gatherers 0
Total -4+1d3 = -3 to -1 Revenue Value
(People rarely live here and the population density would be very low, it would be a rare monastery etc)

Please remember these values contain none of the optional values for culture etc, so Rome for instance might gain a +1 for lawful and +1 for high wis/int ruler … taking its value to 7-9 at its peak, decaying as the alignment alters or less capable rulers come into power.

With this information it is possible to quickly derive the land value of a hex (few variables involved) and use the information to determine the likely places for population settlement while preparing a sandbox or campaign environment.

I hope I am on the right track, I did some preliminary testing on my maps to check the results, they seemed to work ok, but as I am sure you know, if you look at anything for long enough you see what you want to see.

Please take a look and see if you can see any problems or issues or if you can think of anything to add!

A brief skim on your spreadsheet and my instinct says that Dwarves will tend to end up shafted due to being largely based in mountains and thereby ending up with Tundra based dice rolls. Meanwhile Elves get a boost out of being in Woods and Woods almost always being in a Climate Zone that gives a bonus.

I’d posit that in some campaigns (ones that take a leaf out of Dwarf Fortress for example) Dwarven ‘farming’ happens underground and thus the negative modifiers from Tundra/High Mountain are obviated somewhat.

The potential maximum for Dwarves and Elves should be the same, and imo be about as common.

(Bear in mind this was a brief read through, so your numbers might actually be solid in this regard)

Furthermore, Dwarven wealth probably comes more from mining than farming, which seems to be overlooked in the equations.

Dwarves get a +2 bonus in hills which are orientated to the local climate. So can that would make hills the most likely place to find them. The bonus in mountains allows them to survive in mountains where other races cannot easily, especially if they find a high value mine. Basically the major Dwarven cities will be in the hills with outpost settlements in the mountains for the best mining where the concept of underground fields is what gives them a +3 and a chance of survival,

The elves can end up in taiga (boreal forest) where the weather is cold … But basically do not survive well outside forests or general temperate areas. Possibly in jungles though. Obviously other types of elf might have different bonuses.

@ Nerdnumber1 @ that’s why they get survival bonuses in mountains … The only race to do so… Given the increased chances of high value mine resources in mountains they are the only race easily capable to get to them and build at the location. This should enable dwarves a much better chance of gold mines than anyone else.

I really like the simplicity and elegance of your system here, and hope to make use of it in my campaign. Thanks!