Domain creation for humanities majors?

I'm working through the 'Secrets' chapter in ACKS core, and I've got a couple of hex maps started for the setting I'm inventing.  I'm excited to get to the 'sprinkling the adventure area with dungeons' part, but I'm hitting a wall around the part where I'm supposed to fill in towns & cities.  

So I have a rough idea of where the settled realm is located (a 'principality' - part of a larger empire), but I just can't see a smooth way of putting the towns in place.  Are there guidelines on how many hexes each urban area should take up?  How far apart each town should be from other towns?  

The text seems to suggest that I can (and should?) figure out all the political subdivisions, from Empire down to village level, of the starting realm(s).  But man, that seems like a lot of work that'll never see the light of day - and I say this as someone who enjoys the process of worldbuilding and really wants to create something realistic/reasonable.  

Are there any tips out there for those of us who aren't wizzes at systematization?  How do you stat up your starting regions in preparation for an ACKS hexcrawl?    

IANAA, but each urban area is contained within one 6 mile hex. If a realm is at least 80 families per square mile all non-class I settlements should be connected in a land trade network. If the density is lower than 80 but higher than 40 all the urban settlements above class IV should be connected by water trade routes and below class IV land trade routes. These are just recommendation that arise from the area of a trade route sized hexagon and the minimum population to sustain the market. You can adjust to your heart's content, but this should make for a good starting place.

You can go all the way down to village level, but you don't really need anything below class IV markets unless you really want a lot of detail. For a Principality that's just the one level of subdivision.

I usually build realms by:

  1. picking the population density from historical data or the desired feel of a location
  2. picking the number of hexes either from historical maps, desired capital size, or desired realm size
  3. picking the number of subdivisions based (4-6) on either desired subdivision capital size or appropriate subdivision realm sizes
  4. deciding if you want to tweak any numbers or want a non-standard realm
  5. placing the capitals based on a historical map or trade ranges
  6. calculating demand modifiers if there's an interest in trading
  7. calculating ruler level for the realm and the first rank of subdivisions
  8. calculating starting city thieves guild
  9. calculating army given culture and realm size if D@W is to be used

You can give each step as much or as little thought as you want and after than you can move onto placing lairs and dungeons.

When thinking about domains, there's two approaches. You COULD model everything and do a completely procedural world governed by some mixture of chance and logic, and pretend that you're manually running Dwarf Fortress. 

The alternate route is to emulate Marge Simpson teaching piano without knowing how to play "I only have to stay one lesson ahead of the kid." Just pick out a handful of hotspots like "They're often going to visit Portsville, the Port Village. Portsville is Class 5, so it's ruled by a Jarl. I'll name him Jarl Jjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjj, and write a bit of backstory about him and work out how many soldiers and gold coins he has, because it's quite likely the players will fight him, sell him something, ask him to help them fight, or something. I'm sure it'll come up. I'll also quick use the excel spreadsheet or that really cool demand modifier roller that someone on the forums made. If players want to do trading, that'll be helpful, but more likely, I'm just going to skim the list of modifiers and add a line about how Portsville is well known for its cheap... *rolls dice* elephants???

Finally, it's also probably worth giving a name and a sentence of description to each of Jjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjj's neighbors on the feudal pyramid, so we'll say that he's in charge of Baron Jiffo, Baron Yubbo, and Baron Banon, and he's ruled by Count Rude. Count Rude is unkind and demanding and puts pressure on the realm that Jjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjj tries to resist. Yubbo is incompetant and Jiffo is his favorite. Banon is reliable and boring.

Let's go.. let's go a little bit further and also say that there's a neighboring Jarl named Carl and he's Jjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjj's rival. Someday we'll write about his superiors and minions, but he isn't in this session so no worries"

Now you're all set to run adventures in that town for a bit. You don't have to stat out the king, or the princes, although it might be worth drawing the borders between principalities just so you know if you're on a border or not. (And because 'This half of the country all belongs to Prince Pffarrgh' is going to be common knowledge') You'll generally know in advance what the PCs are doing, so you can do the same thing again if they wind up moving to another town. You'll want to gradually introduce more and more nobles as the PCs move up just to introduce complications and allies and whatnot, but, you know. Whatever. 

it might be heresy to mention it in these forums, but Dungeon World has some pretty good guidelines for building your world as you go, and it uses similary ideas: at the time you create a town, you need to know to where the town owes loyalty and from whom they recieve loyalty, and you don't need to figure out those for the places you just made up until the party tries to go to them.

I think part of the reasons dungeons are so popular is because you have a good grasp on what the party can get to in a session based on exits/entrances to rooms and how they're likely to interact.  But you can take those same principles and use them for the greater world as well. the party can only talk to NPCs and go to towns they're aware of, and the act of going to one gives them "exits" to other NPCs and towns by virtue of making them aware.

As for all the math, if you're not big on prep and building a wholly functional world, just like susan says it's best to fudge it.  Use the ACKs guidelines to make sense and fill in the blanks based on the things you've already decided.  If you find out too late something doesn't make sense, trust yourself to either make up an explanation of why it's that way or that the party THOUGHT that was the case, or make up an event that happens which gets you to the state recommended by the ACKsonomics.


make up an event that happens which gets you to the state recommended by the ACKsonomics.



90% of meteors are caused by economics delving too deep

I definitely concur with the sentiments above. The mathematics are there if you want them, but you shouldn't feel obligated to use them.