Domain Economic Question for ACKS Grognards

ACKS’s domain management system simulates land-based states such as medieval England, thematic Byzantium, and feudal Japan. It does not simulate tax-based states such as Ancient Rome or Han China as well. In a land-based state, governance and land ownership go hand-in-hand, and rent and tax are effectively additive and local. In a tax-based state, governance and land ownership are distinct, and land owners collect rent separately from government collecting tax. (Most real-world states combine both).

ACKS assumes that all of the economic surplus of the peasantry (approximately 12gp/month/family or between 50-75% of total production) is extracted by the landlord-ruler and spent locally (with a small sum, ~ 20%, passed upward as gifts/tribute/taxes). In a tax-based government, you would instead see something like 6-10gp extracted in rent by local landowner(s), and spent locally, and 2-6gp extracted in tax by the overall government. The land owners might or might not be the rulers.

If you were running a campaign set in a tax-based government, as Judge what would your preference be:

  1. Use current ACKS mechanics. The assumption that rulers are the landowners is probably still de facto true and not worth complicating things to address.
  2. Use current ACKS mechanics, with some minor adjustments (e.g. lower land values, higher percentage taxed at each level of the domain)
  3. Use new mechanics specifically created to simulate tax-based realms
  4. Something else

Thanks for your input!


It specifically enables all sorts of interesting governance types, historical, and into the anachronistic or fantasy-trope-specific (cabals of mages or whatever).

While we could handwave into #1 or #2, if there’s one thing I’ve found is that the interface points into the ACKS rules have a lot of potential, and more potential is always what we want.

Plus I just now fell in love with the idea of the players obtaining a domain via inciting a tax rebellion. Between that and the upcoming Guns of War the fantasy-alt-history American Revolution just wrote itself.

I’d just been setting up a cabal-of-mages sort of thing for the largest market on the campaign map for my upcoming campaign and was going to be hand-waving the divorce of their realm income from the actual ownership of the land (in fact, given the reclusive and/or dangerous nature of wizards, I’d expect they’d often go for tax-based realms)…I’ll have to putter with my spreadsheets and see what happens.

I’m not sure I understand why this would require any new mechanics.

Perhaps I’m missing something? As far as I can tell, this would be entirely covered simply by charging an additional amount to the landowner (who is the person who actually extracts the money from the peasantry), similar to a garrison expense or a tax.

Some nations might simply have more or less taxes that the central government requests from the landowner. There might be a difference in how it’s extracted, but in the end, 12 gp is extracted from the peasants and is split somehow between all of those who have a claim on it.

I mean, the default 20% tax is 2.4 gp/family, and fits into the 2-6 gp passed upwards range already. I don’t know why simulating different taxation schemes would require anything other than simply altering the taxation rate.

Sure; but you’re left with that much less money to provide the services you were previously responsible for, and the system has to take that into account. As of now just asking for more tax revenue will impact realm morale.

I’m (wild ass) guessing that there’s going to be some additional changes alongside say, who provides the garrison and such - with more tax revenue going up to a central government, some of that’s going to have to come back down as services, and the garrison (in the form of a standing ‘national’ army) would be the most visible.

And that will greatly change D@W’s vassal troops recruitment, for example.

Festival costs too, I bet; bread + circuses are efficiently centralized, perhaps; leaving a smaller cost for the local populace with local traditions.

And then there’d be changes in the expected income from domains, which effects Domain XP Thresholds, which may have to be lowered, as profits at all levels will be down - the folks on the bottom are sending more money up; the folks at the top are spending downward.

On taxes: Raising the taxes in a manner to affect domain morale alters the amount of money extracted from peasants, which is different from what I’m talking about.

I’m talking about altering expenses, not altering income.

On garrisons: I don’t see why it would need to be different. If the total garrison size, expressed in terms of gp/family, is too small, there would be penalties. If it’s large enough, there would be bonuses.

Peasants don’t care whether the horsemen belong to the landowner and the infantry belong to the central government, they just care that there is a large enough military to keep them safe. The specifics of who provides it aren’t important to them.

On vassal troop recruitment: It probably would alter that somewhat, since the expected income would be different.

I don’t see why festival costs would change. That seems like an excessively specific assumption to make; centralization doesn’t necessarily make anything more efficient. It might be more efficient, less efficient, or the same; it strikes me as the sort of thing that would need to be adjusted on a nation-by-nation basis, and not as a whole.

On expected domain income: It might end up different, but then again, it might not. The peasants are providing the same amount of gold. The same amount of gold is being spent on festivals and garrisons. Different people might end up with different amounts of gold in their pockets at the end of it, but the overall income available to the entire domain doesn’t change significantly.

I could see new tables and new examples and new implementations of the existing rules. Extensions. That sort of thing, I understand the need. I just don’t see why actual new rules would be needed for what is basically a reallocation of the same funds.

I’m tending at this point to agree with Aryxymaraki - I don’t see why this would call for anything more than changing the amount passed up the hierarchy in taxes and possibly having some of the local expenses (such as garrison troops and/or festivals) paid for by the higher-level lords rather than the immediate local ruler.

Alex, could you perhaps expand on what you would expect the practical differences in play to be between land-based and tax-based domains?

I’m not even entirely sure what an ancient tax-centered government would look like. I just lack the background in economics!

I’m very interested in what kinds of differences there would be, and if rules for a tax-based government were posted, I’d probably convert one of Rylia’s kingdoms to be tax-based, just for fun.

#1 for me. I think this is one of those areas where I’m willing to sacrifice accuracy of simulation in favor of reduced (er, unincreased) rules complexity.

I used #1 for a late antiquity campaign and it worked OK. However what it lacked was the ability to use taxes from one region to defend another. I ended up basically centralizing half of every garrison into standing armies, but the current rules make this a very dangerous practice.

I would like to see #3 so that you can use Egyptian taxes to defend the Balkans without making your whole society very brittle.

I’m not even sure I’d consider Rome (at least BCE Rome) a tax-based economy. There was a very nice article in Ancient Warfare Volume IV, Issue 6 that covered the Third Macedonian War (172 BCE) and the Roman economy at the time. Out of an annual revenue of 3,275 talents, only 170 of it came from taxes. The same amount came from harbor dues and import taxes, around 470 from leasing public land, and the rest from tribute from various nations. Even excluding the tribute, that would mean that only 20% of the revenues raised by Roman economic activity came from direct taxation of citizens, the rest coming from tariffs or rents.

While I would like to see rules for centralized governments, I think it needs to be integrated into the existing system, so that a nation can form or disintegrate over time. But that’s just my opinion.

Before deciding if I use tax-based domains I would want to know how it actually impacts are. Does it help in having more diverse realms?
Whats the impact on the military?
Will the differences be noticable for my players?
Is it more,less or the same work for me as the GM?

I was thinking a bit more on my own comment, and one of the ways to possibly do it is to reduce the garrison requirements for hexes that are completely surrounded by friendly hexes. The marches have to be heavily guarded, the inside of the Empire (Kingdom, Republic, whatever) pays the taxes that support that guard. It would add bookkeeping, but the reduced garrison would free up the funds for a campaigning army or for improvements to the realm (or to line a corrupt ruler’s coinpurse).

Great thoughts. The way this community hashes through the issues is really valuable.

Here are the underlying simplifying assumptions of ACKS:

  1. Each domain has 1 ruler.
  2. The domain ruler’s subordinates are his personal henchmen. He is the henchman of his own political superiors.
  3. The domain’s ruler extracts the entire surplus from the rural populace through a combination of rent and tax.
  4. The domain ruler receives 20% of the income of his direct subordinates, and pays 20% of his own income to his direct superiors.
  5. Money extracted locally is spent locally.

These assumptions are by-and-large true of land-based feudal governments. They would not necessarily be true in other cases. Examples:

  1. A domain might be ruled by a senate, triumvir, or co-consuls.
  2. A domain ruler might have henchmen who are not his legal political subordinates. A domain ruler might be the henchman of someone who is not his legal political superior. Consider a Roman proconsul who has “clients” (henchmen) spread throughout the realm.
  3. A domain ruler might have other large or influential landowners holding property in his domain who claim some or all of the land rents, leaving him with less gp. He might himself own land in other ruler’s domains.
  4. The domain ruler might receive or pay a greater or lesser percentage.
  5. The domain ruler might pay a flat-fee per family that is passed up or down the chain. (E.g. paying for a standing army instead of a garrison).

Rules Required:

  1. How are rulers selected? How are votes and disagreements within senates handled? How is income distributed among co-rulers? How is GP? How are costs distributed? Who makes which decisions? Is there a meta-system for systemitizing this? (“Constitution of the Government” rules)
  2. What are the effects of having a non-henchman vassal? What are the effects of having a henchman as someone else’s vassal?
  3. How is income distributed between the ruler and other landholders? How does this distribution affect the ruler’s XP? How does it affect the landholder’s XP? How are costs distributed?
  4. What effect does the tax percentage have on vassals? Does a higher tax count as a duty? Does a lower tax count as a favor?
  5. How do standing armies interact with domain morale from garrison? Does the existence of the standing army count, or does it have to be stationed in the domain? Does stationing an army in a domain count as a favor or a duty?

Alex, have you read the articles from Dragon #125 from Thomas Kane (“Meanwhile, Back at the Fief…”) and James Yates (“Armies From the Ground Up”)? Combined, they suggest morale bonuses/penalties based on taxation and freedom, immigration and population growth adjustments based on taxation, and how taxation and policy can affect militia turnout. They’re heavily percentage-based, but could provide a stepping-off point for ideas.

I have not, but I certainly will do so on your recommendation!

It seems to me that the various taxes, harbor fees, agricultural production, etc are abstracted reasonably well in the way that peasant families provide value to the land owner. The question is just how do we break the money up on its way up the chain to whoever is in charge? I can only see such rules being relevant to campaigns in 2 ways. One of these is that the government itself isn’t feudal but is say, perhaps a more centralized state like the Roman Republic. Simply exchanging a government body for the feudal ruler, however, seems like it should account for such situations quite well, and even allows for a mixed system (like the Roman Republic) where great land-owners extract value from their (essentially peasant and/or slave) workforces and pay their taxes to the Republic (rather than their king or duke or what-not).

The second situation I can forsee is when you try to account for divisions of land that are smaller than a 1-hex barony. These would be the land-holdings of knights, yeomen, etc, and I imagine that the rules as written abstract their cut of the value extracted from the peasantry before the Baron actually sees it. Likewise, you could also just assume that cost of mercenaries is in fact the cut for such smaller estates. This latter model would be completely suitable for abstracting the land = military service requirements fitting to the value of the land requirements that were present starting in the late Roman period and continuing through to at least the 11th century.