Gearing up to try ACKS again, have misc. questions

This isn’t really a question per se, but I’m kinda proud of my worldbuilding from today:

I’ve always been sort of weirded out by Nightblades. Elves are mostly all in-tune with nature, but then there’s a whole subclass of elves who’re basically murderers and thieves? They even found hideouts, (which I assume don’t follow the rule about Fastnesses having to be a certain distance away from different races?) which means it’s very possible to have elves performing the whole range of normal crimes.

As such, I decided my Nightblades would be Drow in all but name, with the explanation that there was once a nation of ancestor-worshipping elves, until a few centuries ago when a cataclysmic event caused the dead to rise vengefully. Because their society was lead by their priests, and the priests’ proximity to the tombs of the revered correlated with rank, this meant that when the Year of Night hit they lost everyone in charge right at the start. With no leadership, and undead monsters everywhere, society crumbled, and the Nightblades of today were forged from the Ancient Elven Mad Max anarchy. During this time, much of the forest burned, and via their Elven connection with the land, they came to resemble their ashy surroundings.

Why didn’t the other races get messed up by this event? Simple:
The main human kingdom in the setting is Viking flavored; they were big on sea burials. The human empire across the sea was destroyed, and has only just gotten back on its feet. Most elves other than that one offshoot grok their dead, of course.

I’m particularly proud of my thought for dwarves: They dump their dead into magma, so they can become one with the unborn stone. The exception to this rule is that the paragons of their society are mixed into the giant vats of molten iron that all dwarven forges have, allowing them to literally strengthen the tools of the next generation. (I’m particularly proud of this because it works from both a magical perspective (Heroes are a component of +1 weapons!) and from an amateur chemistry perspective (Bodies are carbon, and adding carbon to iron makes steel, which is better, right?)

Really cool ideas! I love your night blade explanation and the dwarven burial ideas are inspired. Awesome.

Super cool!

Very cool ideas!

Clarification: The rules linking settlement size to realm size are primarily guidelines for world generation, right? So theoretically you could have a Vatican-City type situation where even a very small realm could sustain a large city?

Are there any rules for things like needing a certain amount of land to feed the populace? (I’m assuming Domains at War lets you do things like total war where you starve nations via destroying farmland, but that’s not here yet)

They are generally guidelines, but I think you can also create a Vatican-situation within the guidelines.

Page 231 has the Desired Urban Demographics table, and page 232 has the example of using it to create a city-state. (Maxing out the table, the example Judge ended up with a city of 10,000 families in a duchy of 40,000; 25% of the realm’s population lives within this one city.)

of course you can deviate from what’s in the book if it doesn’t make sense in your world (especially if your world is pervasively affected by forces that would be completely alien in the ancient world), but if you want a vatican or other city-state like situation, check out “Adjusting Urban Demographics” on page 231. That will give you a brief overview of how to make realms that are highly concentrated in a few places while having it still be mostly believable.

An Advanced, Urban Realm with a centralized settlement pattern would be a 4 row downward shift if you’re starting with a realm’s population and figuring out the largest settlement. If you wanted to start with the size of a city and figure out how many people it would take to support it in the rest of the realm, you would shift up instead. And of course, if you want even more unique situations you could shift more than 4.

Vatican City also isn’t self-supporting in that sense (agriculture). It’s a relatively modern creation in its present state as an independent country.

Yeah, for a good 1100 years (until 1870), the Pope ruled directly over personal domains in Italy (the Papal States), which at their largest took up roughly a fifth of the territory of modern Italy. The modern Vatican is predicated on modern trade, economy, agriculture (orders of magnitude more efficient than ancient or medieval agriculture), and special status.

Sorry, poor choice of example.

I guess a better way of wording my question was:

“What happens if a lord with a small, elite force manages to capture a city and secure the immediate surroundings, assuming that the former owners don’t immediately reclaim it?”

I’m afraid I don’t understand the significance of your question other than the lord controls it.

If by small force you meant to imply the lord is lower level than the size of the region he conquered, he would presumably begin to gain enough income from the large city in excess of his GP threshold and start gaining XP. Given enough time, he would rise to a level that reflected the size of the territories beneath him, which would likely be the same as the lord he ousted. In this way, the chart is showing you what the level of a lord of a particular size realm would be on a long enough timeline.

Sorry; let me reword it to place more emphasis on my point of concern:

At the start of the game, the Principality of Realm1 has 150,000 families within it. According to the chart on page 231, this means that the largest settlement in the realm will be a City. I pick an appropriate spot on the map, mark it as the Prince’s personal domain, and add a City.

Later on in the game, somehow, an enemy force captures the City and declare their independence from the Principality. Thus, the City now exists not within a Principality of 150,000 families, but within a much smaller realm, perhaps as small as just the six-mile hex containing the city. What effect does this have on the city, assuming that it is never recaptured or integrated into a larger realm?

This may require an answer from Alex to draw the link between real-world historics and the rules that govern ACKs, but there’s nothing requiring a particular city to exist in a particular sized realm, it’s just an emergent occurrence.

Essentially, each realm is made up of domains, a domain being a region governed by one and only one leader and being no larger than a 24-mile hex. when a ruler is ready to grow beyond this, he must have vassals underneath him, each with their own domains, and that collection of domains is the ruler’s realm. In addition, each of those vassals can have subvassals yadda-yadda all the way down, and that’s one of two ways that a ruler secures domain income, which in turn influences the level they can reach.

The second way is to make an urban settlement (a city). Each ruler can have 1 city in their personal domain, and they increase the size that it can grow two through urban investment, which becomes exorbitantly expensive as the city grows larger. The end result is that MAKING a big city tends to be so expensive that it is only done by someone with a large realm to fund the process.

However, the situation you are describing is that someone rolls in and conquers that city. What this means in game terms is that someone else is now benefitting from the massive investment the previous ruler made. The likely outcome is that the previous owner has resources to mount a recapturing effort, but perhaps they had previously over-reached and that blow led to a cascade of failures and loss of power.

However in terms of effects of the city, there are none. Each city effectively exists in nothing larger than a 24-mile personal domain, and each adjacent 24-mile hex could likewise have another urban settlement. Thus the city can continue to operate as it was. One thing that might model a sudden being “cut off” from a larger realm is that, if the previous lord of a large realm was pouring resources into growing the city, obviously this lesser lord with much smaller holdings can’t do so, and thus the city’s development would become arrested and it would cease to grow.

That’s about the extent of my understanding of the rules. Alex may be able to add more insight.

Hi Susan! Jard gave a very thorough response. Let me add a few thoughts with mechanics from Domains at War.

  • A city likely exists within a domain which is 8 to 16 6-mile hexes.
  • An army has occupied a domain when the number of invading troops is sufficiently large enough to constitute an effective garrison.
  • An occupied Domain is conquered when all strongholds and settlements within it have been captured. A stronghold or settlement is captured when no opposing units are present within.
  • When a leader conquers a Domain, he may be able to add it to his personal domain. In order to be eligible to assimilate the conquest into his personal domain, the newly conquered domain must be adjacent to his personal domain, and his personal domain must not yet be at maximum size. Otherwise, the newly conquered domain may simply be added to the conqueror’s realm

In the case you have described, the city has been captured. It is therefore likely that the city’s domain has been conquered, assuming enough troops are present to garrison.

There is no particular effect on the city. Nothing in the rules requires that a city exist within a particular sized domain.

Note that the enemy who captured the city and conquered its domain can assign the domain to a vassal and make it part of its realm. There is no rule that requires that domains within a realm be contiguous or adjacent.

Ah, excellent. That is what I was hoping the rules would be, but intuition made me want to doublecheck because it’s always very awkward when you players point out that an established part of your setting is completely nonviable.

I think I’m almost done with the broad structure of the realms now; enough that I’ll soon be able to give my players a map and basic information on the major kingdoms so they can start working on their backstories!

To make sure I understand how clearing a domain works:

  1. Hegurow the Magnificent, a 9th level Explorer, decides that his days of wandering the land as a mercenary are over, and that he’d like to have a permanent home.

  2. He then travels far into the wilderness, because Hegurow has no desire to be anyone’s vassal. If he did, he might found his new domain in borderlands territory and then ask for integration into the kingdom.

  3. He then “Secures” the hex by fighting all the lairs within it. (How do I know how many lairs are within it, how long it takes to find them all, and such? I can’t find a page that mentions this.)

  4. Now that he’s got a large, relatively safe 6 mile hex, he finds out how much money it is worth, and can choose whether to settle it. In this example, we’ll say he rolls all 3s, so every family in the domain will get him 9 gp per month.

  5. He then builds his stronghold, which attracts peasants. As the number of peasants in his realm increases, it will gradually transform from Wilderness into Borderlands, and then into Civilized. (Since Explorers can’t create Civilized domains, does this mean he’d be struck by wanderlust and forced out of his own land if it became too developed?)

  6. He also continues clearing out lairs and improving his stronghold. Once his domain reaches the maximum size of 16 six-mile hexes, he decides to parcel it out. He picks his three favorite henchmen and assigns each of them a domain of five hexes, thus dividing Grand Empire of Hegurow into North, South, and Central provinces. (Question: Does each Domain need a stronghold, meaning that he’ll have to build a few more forts in order to subdivide, or is all the land secured by his original hold?)

  7. Hegurow can now expand his land some more. In addition, he can (presumably? This isn’t on the list of favors) ask his three new barons to expand their own domains (is it just assumed they have the money to do this?)

  8. Time passes, and now each baron controls sixteen hexes, and since the realm needs to continue growing, it’s time to subdivide again. Does he simply keep issuing the order to expand and granting them new land, and the barons make their own decisions about when and how to create their own vassals, or can Hegurow order them to give half their land to a new vassal?

  9. As the barons-turned Marquis continue to expand, Hegurow decides that the map of his grand realm looks awful and lumpy because he didn’t take much care when assigning land initially, so it’s grown in odd ways. Is he stuck with it? I imagine taking land away from one lord and giving it to another would cause considerable upset within the lord-community.

  10. For the first time, Hegurow decides to ask a tax from one of his vassals as a favor. Since that tax is dependent on the population of that vassal’s realm, that vassal presumably needs to ask for the same thing from the sub-vassals, and they the same thing, all the way down the chain. If anyone didn’t have an extra favor, this could cause issues for them.

  1. The “how many lairs per hex” thing is a known issue; I think there’s some solutions on the forums but can’t recall off-hand.

  2. The gp investment into the stronghold limits how “secure” the domain can become: to go from Wilderness to Borderland, you need to have enough gp worth of stronghold/fortification. If you never build enough to push it over into Civilized, it will never be Civilized.

  3. Each Domain needs a stronghold, yes. Domains have strongholds, and Realms are made up of Domains; Realms aren’t secured by strongholds, but rather the component Domains are.

  4. If your henchmen are your vassals, certainly you’re tracking their income and XP, so you’d know exactly how much gp they have for expanding their domains?
    Don’t get hung up on the favor mechanics or anything. The mechanics don’t tell you what you can do - it’s obvious that a liege can go to a vassal and say “Hey, you should expand your realm. I can help maybe.” The Judge just has to figure out what happens then, and some rules may provide a framework.

  5. Vassals would probably have to subinfeudate on their own, but the liege of the Realm can definitely sponsor new domains to be cleared at the borders and subinfeudate those domains to the liege’s own vassals (your Hegurow’s barons). Trying to force a noble to give any lands to someone else would, by historical evidence, mostly lead to rebellion and probably wholesale civil war. A noble’s lands were probably almost more important than their own lives to most of them, because those lands were the entirety of their legacy to their descendants.

  6. Yes, again, trying to make your lords give away lands (or even vassals) would be a terrible idea. See below for some ideas, though. However, with such unrealistic and ultimately artificial realms (I don’t think anyone ever cleared out wilderness and established a whole kingdom in it in the space of 5-10 years in real life!), you’re probably going to see some weirdness in the political geography. The main issue, of course, will be that real historical realms were composed of very small units (manor villages of a few square miles) combined into larger units (baronies and counties) combined into larger units (duchies).

  7. Yep. Extra taxes causing issues is, I think, a feature, and either intended or a happy coincidence - because extra feudal taxes were one of the big reasons for discontent and conflict within a realm. The king needs a temporary tax hike to fund a war, and that means his vassals either have to dig into their treasury (note that that is an option - a thrifty lord can avoid upsetting his vassals by drawing on his own funds) or risk upsetting their own sub-vassals.

Note that in all of stages 6, 7, and 8, you’re going to run into physical problems: domains have to be continguous (realms don’t; you could model a Vatican-type Realm that’s composed of Bishopric Domains inside the borders of other Realms). Those split domains won’t be able to expand eventually, because they’re butting up against other domains on all sides.

I personally wouldn’t parcel out my 16-hex personal domain at all; rather, when dealing with realms carved out of the wilderness, the ruler of the Realm-to-be would permit, endorse, and possibly support the henchmen in carving out their own domains at the borders of the original 16-hex domain. Of course, that may need to wait until the henchmen are 9th level, too, or they’ll have slight problems running their domains.

You can get your sub-vassals started by giving them, say, 1-hex domains from the open borders of your domain. Then they start clearing out hexes on the edges of their

Only once the realm can’t expand outside of its borders would you start sub-dividing existing domains. This would be an ongoing process within established realms (that, historically, slowly leads to problems for the nobility as their domains splinter again and again; especially bad for gavelkind succession, and prominently caused issues for ji-samurai in feudal Japan, IIRC).

“Historical” realms could have been composed by a few means…

  • From small (not 16-hex, more like 1-2 hex) domains being conquered one-by-one, assimilated into a single domain, with the conqueror steadily expanding his personal stronghold to secure this combined realm.
  • As above, but sub-infeudating the conquered rulers instead, bypassing the need to expand the stronghold (although obviously a larger stronghold is more secure).
  • A combination of the above.

Most “historical” realms wouldn’t have been carved out of the wilderness, after all; they’d have been composed of pre-existing settlements unified under a leader or system, and would probably have existed in some form or another for hundreds or thousands of years.

Incidentally, if you want to have fun while getting a good working idea about feudal division and sub-division and administrative units, check out Crusader Kings 2. That game is awesome fodder for thinking up and conceptualizing ACKS domain level play…

Can you tell I love domain level play and rules?

Ugh, had an interrupted thought.

"You can get your sub-vassals started by giving them, say, 1-hex domains from the open borders of your domain. Then they start clearing out hexes on the edges of their "

… edges of their own domains, expanding them, while you clear out enough hexes on your own open borders to recoup what you gave away.

  1. Alex posted how many expected lairs you could find in a thread a while back. I don’t know what thread that is, but I copied it onto my computer for my own games!

“Based on the average frequency of encounters, the average spotting distances of encounters, the average percentage chance of an encounter being in a lair, and the average distance traversed per encounter throw, I worked up the expected number of lairs per hex.

You can use the following table to determine how many lairs will appear in each hex:”

Terrain Lairs Per Hex
Inhabited 1D4
Clear, Grass, Scrub 1D4
Hills 2D4+1
Woods 2D4+1
Desert 2D4+1
Jungle 2D6+1
Mountains 2D6+1
Swamp 2D6+1

“Each day of searching, allow one encounter throw to find a lair.”

  1. I wouldn’t subdivide my own domain and give parts of it to vassals. I’d give them newly cleared hexes in which to build their own domains. How those get cleared is up to you. And remember, their domain does not have to be adjacent to yours, though that is usually a desirable thing.

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