Domain income and henchmen

I’ve been perusing the relevant sections of the core book, but can’t find clear guidance on a particular question. Is a henchman entitled to a 15% cut of his employer’s domain, mercantile, or other campaign income? If so, is that before or after expenses? Does it still need to be paid if the henchmen in question has been granted a domain (and incomes of their own)?

I ask because in developing realms, I wanted an individual baron (or higher lord, for that matter) to be able to retain a knight or two in his service, but I’m unsure of how it should be structured and how much that knight should be paid.

Depends - is that the agreement the PC and henchman made? It’s certainly going to sweeten the pot, but I think it’d be pretty rare in the case of domain income. (I could see it in mercantile ventures where they play a large part, but then you’d think they’d also have to share in the investment.)

Generally, they should be making their own mercantile, domain, etc., income very shortly after the PCs start to - you make them your vassals, or have them run branches of your syndicate, etc.

In the case of vassal knights, absolutely not! They’re “paid” by being given their own land to manage (of which income they pay their baron); the average knight’s fee would be a 2-square-mile fief (but the range would be 1-4). A baron would probably have as many as 6-12 knights, of whom a fraction are henchmen (which means they’re unusually loyal and trustworthy, the first to answer a call to arms, etc.).

Those knights, incidentally, would probably be level 2-5 (mostly 3-4), and expected to have their own retinues (of squires, men-at-arms, yeomen), probably around their maximum number of henchmen in size (mostly 0-level men, maybe a squire or man-at-arms of up to one level below their level).

Our understanding and interpretation of the rules was that the percentage cut of henchman wages was only a share of profits from each expedition in which that henchman participated. Typically we did the division of the shares after certain party expenses (rations, ship upkeep, Restore Life and Limb for the fighter who died saving everyone else) that everyone could agree were the business of the party as a whole. My understanding of domained henchmen is that they cease to be henchmen and become vassals, who operate under different rules - you might be able to bring a vassal on an adventure if you have called him to court or are adventuring in his domains, in which case I’d expect him to enjoy a hench-share of treasure from the adventure, but otherwise I don’t think you’d need to allocate him a share.

We also interpret the 15% as a sixth of a share of loot at division, rather than 15% of the employer’s share of the loot. Ex: two PCs, one with two henchmen and the other with one, go on an adventure and recover 5000 GP. The way we interpret it, each henchman gets one-sixth of a share, so there are 2.5 total shares (2 PC shares + 3/6 henchmen shares). Each PC then gets 2000 GP and each henchman gets 333 GP. Under a divide-then-subtract interpretation, this would result in one PC receiving 2500 GP and then spending 375 on henchman-share, and the other spending 750 of his 2500 on henchman-share. Thus, hench-then-divide spreads the cost of henchmen evenly among the players, which encourages them to have more henchmen (henchmen are basically a party resource anyway, in my experience). With only one PC, or an equal number of henchmen per PC, the two methods are equivalent.

this is how i’ve done it as well, except that henchmen get pre-cost shares and it’s up to the PCs to pay for rations and other supplies.

Not only are henches not entitled to your domain income, if you make them vassals they have to pay YOU a tax.

Mercantile ventures are less clear, because you are supposed to divide the profits among those who personally participated in and are ultimately responsible for the voyage. It would seem possible, then, that a henchman could even get a full share of the profits, but i’m not totally sure.

For mercantile ventures, I would give the henchman a full share of profits if he contributed a significant amount to the investment. I would give the same share to any investor, PC or NPC, as long as they paid a 1/Nth share of the capital cost, N of course being the number of investors. Anyone who put in less than that, I would give only at best a part of a share, and more likely just a return on investment. (That is, if some guy invests 200 gp, and the caravan doubles its money, I would give him at most 400 gp, assuming of course that 200 gp is not a meaningful amount of investment.)

If he was just acting as an employee without having assumed a share of risk, I would only give him his wages.

right, that’s where things get a little squirrely. It’s clear that some people are just paid wages, such as the guards who escort a caravan, and their benefit is only their wage which is subtracted as a cost before profit can be calculated (and then profit is what has to exceed your GP threshold for you to get anything).

It’s also clear, if not in the book then from some of the things Alex has said on the forums, that there are some mercantile ventures that aren’t worth of experience. If you own a sailing ship and hire a captain and crew and have them go between two towns making money, the book says roughly how much they’ll make each month and it’s understood that is a “safe” return on investmenet that’s not worth any XP. To be worthy of XP you have to personally oversee a venture, and it’s got to be a big payout in a relatively short period of time.

If you were to permit subdividing into minor shares, things could get weird pretty quickly. If a bunch of people loan you 200gp so that you can pool that together and buy a ship, are they really personally overseeing the venture? Personally I’m not sure, and I think mercantile ventures could benefit from some extra discussion and deconstruction.

Okay, so if barons are parceling their domains into smaller subdomains for their knights, then by what mechanism do the knights compensate their own retained henchmen? Unless the knight is actively adventuring (and thus cutting the henchmen in for 15% shares), it would seem that a 1st or 2nd level henchman doesn’t even make as much as a 0-level mercenary with a horse and decent armor.

Additionally, a couple of the above answers make it seem that a vassal lord does not necessarily count as a henchman of his liege, which was not my understanding at all.

I suppose what it really comes down to a question of the mechanism by which the lord of a domain might employ a personal retinue which are neither full henchmen (thus counting against his limit) nor 0-level mercenaries. Obviously, the followers of a character of 9th level or above would serve, but most lesser lords won’t have access to them yet.

a knight would be modeled as the garrison to a domain, they don’t get smaller than baronies. You’d pay a knight a wage, likely the same as a heavy cavalry. If the knight were higher level than 1, which is a veteran, I believe you’d pay them the higher of the wage-per-level for their level and what a veteran with that kind of equipment would earn.

Re: party expenses…

I always encourage my players to create company contracts in the style of 17th/18th century pirate charters: detailing the shares everyone gets (default is 2 shares per “founding member,” 1 share per “lesser member” i.e. henchman), and defining how and to what degree injuries are healed (or compensated; e.g. extra share for losing a leg, etc.), how permanently crippled or disabled members are compensated, how decisions are made, and so on.

Incidentally, I’ve been going with half-shares of treasure and XP both for henchmen. It works best for us, and (excepting other sources of income and XP, which of course complicate things) keeps henchmen at one level below their employers (they’re always getting half the XP you are, so are always at least one level below you, until you hit 9th level and things get complicated anyway).

I guess once we actually get to 9th level and henchmen start to catch up we may find a need to change things some. My players prefer having their henchmen closer to their own level, because of the high likelihood of having to play your henchman after being killed…

But yeah, Alex has confirmed that the 15% means a 15/100th of a share from the total (i.e. each PC gets 100 shares to a henchman’s 15). Otherwise, a PC with 6 henchmen would be getting less (10%!) than the henchmen do.

Henchmen also get paid wages. Page 51, Henchmen Monthly Fee. Even a 0-level henchman gets 12 gp/month (heavy infantry wages), which is pretty cozy, especially since a knight’s retinue (non-yeomen anyway) probably get upkeep as well. So the knight is paying that.

And I disagree with Jard, above: I think you can totally model knights as vassals, and the numbers work out pretty perfectly; one of the first things I did with ACKS was run the numbers for fiefs 1-4 square miles in size. Mostly, it’s not worth doing that modelling, and using henchmen and garrisons is easier and faster and thus better, but vassal knights (as opposed to household knights, who are paid henchmen or garrison members) would definitely be domain-holding vassals.

Since I love those numbers, here they are!

  • A half-fee (1 square mile) can be fortified with a townhouse, and has a population of 41-125 people in civilized areas: your basic small manor village. This is basically the smallest administrative unit in most feudal-type societies: a single village clustered around a larger house. They probably won’t have knights, but bailiffs or even just a reeve, and just a few yeomen as military. With average income, they could produce a 2nd-level ruler at most (so, bailiffs are 1st or 2nd level fighters).

  • A knight’s fee (2 square miles) can be fortified with a townhouse or wood building and maybe a palisade, has a population of up to 250 people, and in civilized areas has a ruler of no more than 4th level (so knights are 3rd or 4th level fighters).

  • A large knight’s fee (3 square miles) requires a wood building and palisade, or a stone building - a typical fortified manor, basically. Population up to 375 people, maximum 4th level ruler still.

  • A double knight’s fee (4 square miles) would require a wood or stone building with a palisade (a bigger, better manor), has a population of up to 500 - a really big village, probably a bunch of surrounding farms - and has a ruler of up to 5th level. So, wealthy and famous knights are 5th-level fighters.

  • A small-average barony (32 square miles, 1 6-mile hex) requires a small, medium, or large tower to fortify, and has a ruler of up to 8th level (on average income in a maximum-sized civilized barony).

That all gets us some possibly useful numbers on non-adventuring nobility: knights are mostly 3rd or 4th level, maybe 5th, and barons are generally no more than 8th level.

Now, none of that is necessary, or necessarily even useful, to model, but it all works out well at that level. And if the spirit of N. Robin Crosby is with you, you will model all of that, for every realm, throughout an entire campaign setting, and make tables of it! … I love HârnMaster for its obsessive detail.

Heck, honestly, if I ran multiple campaigns focusing on the same single small kingdom (like my own original campaign setting is shaping up to be), I really might model individual knights’ manors for at least some duchies, maybe even the whole kingdom. Spreadsheets would make it all pretty manageable, after all… from base income and domain type you can derive average per-square-mile incomes… but for most campaigns, it’s not worth it.

Vassals & Henchmen

A vassal does not need to be a henchman. Not at all. In many cases, it’s not possible.

Let’s say you’re the heir to the kingdom your adventurer father carved out of the wilderness, but happen to only have Charisma 10, and your negligent father has only gotten you up to 4th level (not giving you a good enough domain, not taking you adventuring enough, etc.) and you don’t have Leadership (so, max 4 henchmen). Your father had Charisma 18 and Leadership, and his 8 henchmen were his dukes and direct vassals; they each had various amounts of vassals. Your father dies and you become the king, but you can only have 4 henchmen. What happens?

Well, you become king and those dukes are still your vassals… but none of them automatically become your henchmen at all. The ones who are lower level than you (maybe some of the duchies were inherited already) probably do, although recruitment rolls (probably with bonuses; maybe equal to the Loyalty modifier your father had with them, since you’re the legitimate heir) may be needed. The rest might, but at the very least, there’d be penalties to the rolls, and to their loyalty, I think.

Does that mean the non-henchman dukes become independent? No. Most likely they’ll swear fealty, and then act according to their personality, goals, etc. If they’re loyal to the kingdom itself, and to your father’s memory, they’ll probably try to help you succeed. If they’re not, they may betray you. In really bad cases (or with really bad rolls), they might rebel. You could even adapt the syndicate “succession” version of reaction rolls here, with some vassals going with the majority, some rebelling, some becoming loyal…

My interpretation of the differences between henchman vassals and non-henchmen vassals is that only henchman vassals give you a free duty each month; and that henchmen use Loyalty/Morale rolls (e.g. mostly roll for calamities, etc.), while non-henchmen make reaction rolls when you want them to do much of anything: in short, henchman vassals are easy to manage, others aren’t.

Most realms would consist of henchman and non-henchman vassals, which creates instability and leads to infighting; which is historically accurate of the periods the game is mostly based on. It’s especially appropriate to have a crisis during succession, where the vassals splinter off; after William I conquered England, there was no English reign free of internecine warfare or succession strife for something like 400 years!

Historically, kings often held well in excess of 6 direct vassals - far, far in excess, actually! In England, most barons were direct vassals of the King (AFAIK, to a degree the term baron meant at times a “count” who was vassal to the King rather than a Duke?). That would mean a lot of loyalty rolls at lot of the time, which would lead to a lot of barons not doing as they’re told (historically accurate!), and (once a plurality of barons are disloyal or rebellious) revolts, like John Lackland faced.

ACKS rules don’t limit you or act as a straightjacket; they’re tools that facilitate interesting play. I hope that I’ve shown above that the rules for henchmen and vassals can be used to facilitate historically plausible and, most importantly, interesting scenarios. Judges who prefer randomness (like me) can use these rules to organically create succession crisises, barons’/dukes’ revolts, and the like.

Of course, the real take-away from all that rambling is whatever you think will improve your campaign!

If you go back to our Kickstarter drafts, the earliest version of ACKS did model domains down to the level of knights with domains roughly 1/4 the size of baronial domains. Most of the playtesters felt it was a level of granularity that wasn’t necessary (multiple domains per 6-mile hex) so I abstracted it by one tier.

It’s cool to see how well it works at the even greater level of granularity you are using!!

I’m a big fan of HârnMaster, which has a whole rules supplement about modelling, in great detail, individual manors/villages (incidentally, the average family/household is 5 people) - whether held by knights or “viking” clans. And HârnWorld realm sourcebooks list all manors in a realm, which comes out to some hundreds, grouped by subinfeudation… applying similar ideas with the ACKS rules sort of came naturally to me.

I do agree, though, that the baron level is the smallest practical unit for most cases, but for very location-based campaigns, I could totally use manor/village-sized domains for, say, the “home barony,” if only to have a list of local personages of importance for war & politics.

I have never played or read HarnMaster, but I suspect I would rather like it.

Once I read it, I will finally be able to begin work on my ultimate game, featuring Traveller-style char gen, Warhammer-style career advancement, GURPS-style physics-based game mechanics, Ars Magica-style magic, and HarnMaster-style domain managmement with Domains at War miniature battles!

That will involve too much maths and too many spreadsheets even for me (says the person who currently is using five different spreadsheets to keep track of ships…).