Hexagonal Law

So my setting: Oceana.

One setting premise is that—assuming you have cleared sufficient space—cities bind the land (in hexagonal fashion) within a certain radius via natural Law magic. Without this binding, the land is actively hostile to human presence. The maximum rural density is poor, the land value is poor, the required garrison to ensure safety is high.

With the binding, the land is more normal and Earth-like. Rarely awesome, but usually quite passable, it can support relatively normal population densities and land values, and the garrison requirements can be relaxed. Over a certain size of city, and Spirits of Law begin showing up, the land value improves, the land can begin supporting ahistorical population densities, and Chaos begins to take notice, requiring larger garrisons again.

My current plan looks like this, and I would love any gaping holes pointed out, additional ideas, or thoughts.

  1. Founding a domain works as normal. In Wilderness, land value is –2; Borderlands, –1.

  2. When population density hits the maximum, it does not transition to the next higher category (wild to border, border to civ). That’s as much as the land can support until an urban settlement binds it!

  3. The maximum size of the central urban settlement is equal to 1 urban family per 50 rural families. There can be additional smaller settlements—handle as vassals of the next smaller maximum size and ignore rural population as long as the central settlement is supported. The central urban settlement must be in the center, usually with the stronghold.

  4. Urban settlements fall into the following classes:


Ruler Level: 3 (Head of House). Urban: 1. Garrison: As wilderness. Civilized: Single one-mile hex (0.866 mi.2). Borderlands: None. Market: XI (10% up to 1 gp).

Very rare outside the borderlands of larger settlements—the bound land is too small to support the settlement!

A typical homestead has a longhouse (with a room for rent and a community worship room), a tiny watchtower, and a cleared space for the local farmer’s market. The family living in the longhouse provides special order services, and usually guards a well. A well-off homestead may maintain a dirt road leading toward nearby settlements.

Sitting on the front porch of the longhouse, the wilderness is usually a thousand yards away or less.


Ruler Level: 4 (Manor Lord). Urban: up to 5. Garrison: As wilderness. Civilized: 7 one-mile hexes (6 mi.², central + 1 adjacent row). Borderlands: All adjacent one-mile hexes (10 mi.²). Market: X (30% up to 1 gp; 2% up to 10 gp).

Manors are the backbone of most major trade routes—a proper trade route is protected by a long series of manors connected by dirt roads, whose business is primarily travelers.

A typical manor has a small round tower, attached manor house, a small inn (often attached to the manor house), a shrine, and one or two small businesses (tiny general store, farmer’s market stall, blacksmith, and similar). One or more dirt roads pass through to other settlements. The shrine’s priest is usually level 2–3.

In flat terrain, from a cottage porch, the horizon marks the passage into wilderness; even in hilly or forested terrain, the wild is easily visible from the top of the tower, a modest hill, or a tree.


Ruler Level: 5 (Speaker). Urban: up to 10. Garrison: As borderlands. Civilized: 19 one-mile hexes (16 mi.², central + 2 adjacent rows). Borderlands: All adjacent one-mile hexes (16 mi.²). Market: IX (one of up to 1 gp; 5% up to 10 gp).

Communities are occasionally found along trade routes (particularly at natural stopover points or crossroads).

A typical community as a proper guard tower, stone mansion, a small castle wall surrounding a courtyard, and one or more dirt roads. Within the courtyard will be 3–4 large wooden buildings with one or two businesses in each (one is usually a dedicated inn), and a corner dedicated to the local shrin (with a level 3–4 priest).

In flat terrain, the borderlands are just visible from a central porch; the wilderness is only ever visible from a height.


Ruler Level: 6 (Sheriff). Urban: up to 30. Garrison: As borderlands. Civilized: 61 one-mile hexes (50 mi.², central + 4 adjacent rows). Borderlands: Two steps out in one-mile hexes (60 mi.²). Market: VIII (2× up to 1gp; 10% up to 10 gp; 2% up to 100 gp; 1% up to 1,000 gp).

Shires are found at the crossroads of major trade routes, sizable rivers, and occasionally in good, defensible locations with little else to recommend them.

A typical shire has substantial castle walls broken by towers and a gatehouse, with a large courtyard dotted with multi-story buildings and businesses; some opt instead for a full keep, with businesses renting space in the keep. The usual shrine may be replaced with a proper church, headed by a priest of level 4–5 and assisted by lower level clerics. It is not uncommon for a shire to have a paved path for some distance.

A tall tower or a keep is sufficient to see from the center to the boundaries of the shire, but in general the shire’s lands are too large to have a single watch point, and regular patrols are a must.


Ruler Level: 7 (Magistrate). Urban: up to 80. Garrison: As civilized. Civilized: 217 one-mile hexes (188 mi.², central + 8 adjacent rows or 6 six-mile hexes). Borderlands: Four steps out in one-mile hexes (220 mi.²). Market: VII (6× up to 1 gp; 35% up to 10 gp; 6% up to 100 gp; 3% up to 1,000 gp).

Hamlets cluster around villages and at major waystations along powerful trade routes.

A typical hamlet has an impressive stronghold bolstered by watchtowers scattered about the domain, with a few dozen buildings clustered around two or three actual streets.

The borders are not visible from the center, and many urban citizens live out their lives without seeing the wilderness!


Ruler Level: 8 (Mayor). Urban: Up to 250. Garrison: As civilized. Civilized: 19 six-mile hexes (600 mi.², central + 2 adjacent rows). Borderlands: Adjacent six-mile hexes (560 mi.²). Market: VI.

Villages are the majority trade centers of Oceana (although by no means the most powerful). Most are found at either end of small trade routes.

A typical village has multiple strongholds and watchtowers, a well-maintained highway, and four or more streets lined with bustling businesses. Well-off villages often have ostentatious displays of wealth, and may have one or two members of a more esoteric profession, such as a physician.

The wild borders are a distant thought at best.


Ruler Level: 9 (Lord Mayor). Urban: Up to 600. Garrison: As civilized. Civilized: 61 six-mile hexes (1,900 mi.², central + 4 adjacent rows). Borderlands: Two rows of adjacent six-mile hexes (2,000 mi.²). Market: V.

Townships resemble diverse and busier villages, surrounded by a small cluster of vassal villages. A township binds a larger domain than it can defend itself—two or three village vassals are a must.

A typical township domain has two rings of strongholds, its own and its vassals’, a dozen streets lined with businesses (and one or two streets may even be highly specialized), and a well-maintained highway.


Ruler Level: 10 (Governor). Urban: Up to 2,000. Garrison: As civilized. Civilized: 217 six-mile hexes (6,500 mi.², central + 8 adjacent rows or 6 36-mile hexes). Borderlands: Four steps out in six-mile hexes (8,000 mi.²). Market: IV.

Towns often cluster, as the burgeoning success of one point of light along a highway helps its neighbors; and alliances (and wars) are common. Towns are more common along coastlines than not. A town cannot maintain its lands without vassals—at least three townships.

A typical town has an immense and powerful castle or palace, plus the defenses of its township vassals (and their village vassals), and a thousand or so families (it is no longer possible to know everyone personally) separated into a Main Street and multiple districts.

A wealthy town is often beautiful enough to forget that a Chaotic wilderness exists, miles and miles over the horizon.


Ruler Level: 11 (Princep). Urban: Up to 5,000. Garrison: As civilized. Civilized: Single 36-mile hexes (21,000 mi.², central + 2 adjacent rows). Borderlands: Adjacent 36-mile hexes (50,000 mi.²). Market: III.

Cities are rare, but are most often found at the center of a cluster of colony towns, at the delta of a mighty river or the most important pass through a mountain highway. A city must have at least three town vassals to maintain its lands.

A typical city has a central, walled district too large to be considered a castle. The lands of a city are immense: it is possible to travel for several days from one side to the other. The people sport an urbane attitude uncommon elsewhere, and minor magical items are often available for sale.

All cities tend to be well-off, but the wealthiest have public works (libraries, parks, and the like), powerful guilds, and signs of ritual magic.

Princeps are blessed by the land. They gain a +1 bonus on all saves and are immune to disease. Any ritual magic targeting an unwilling Princep suffers a –1 penalty on the research throw.


Ruler Level: 12 (King). Urban: Up to 20,000. Garrison: As borderlands. Chaos has noticed! Blessed: Single 36-mile hex at center (1,000 mi.²) Civilized: 60 adjacent 36-mile hexes (69,000 mi.², 8 adjacent rows). Borderlands: Two rows of adjacent 36-mile hexes (75,000 mi.²). Market: II.

Blessed land can support 30 rural families per square mile, and has a land value +1.

A metropolis is a mighty and powerful city, the center of all trade for hundreds of miles. They are exceptionally rare—few cities ever grow so large or powerful—but a few exist at major coastal ports. A metropolis requires four city vassals to maintain its lands.

A typical metropolis takes up a square mile by itself, and is densely packed with multistory buildings and claustrophobic streets. It is a rare metropolis that lacks some measure of ritual magic; and even quite expensive magic can be found for purchase with some patience.

Unfortunately, the wealth and might of the metropolis attracts the attention of the creatures of Chaos. Incursions, even within the walls of the settlement itself, require a heavier garrison to defend it . . . or substantial bread and circuses to help the people forget.

All metropolises are well-off, but the wealthiest have vast guilds, nested layers of bureaucracy, and (it is said) streets paved in gold.

Kings are blessed by the land. They gain a +2 bonus on all saves and are immune to disease. Within the blessed portion of their realm, they can speak with animals at will. Any ritual magic targeting an unwilling King suffers a –2 penalty on the research throw, and a failure results in a minor mishap.


Ruler Level: 13 (High King or Emperor). Urban: Up to 100,000. Garrison: As wilderness. Chaos is intent on destroying you. Blessed: Seven 36-mile hexes at center (8,000 mi.², central + 1 adjacent row). Civilized: 210 adjacent 36-mile hexes (235,000 mi.², 7 adjacent rows). Borderlands: Four rows of adjacent 36-mile hexes (285,000 mi.²). Market: I.

Blessed land can support 30 rural families per square mile, and has a land value of +2.

There is one megalopolis in the Known World of Oceana: the Thrice Built City, Naffir. It is the largest urban center in the world, covering a hex 1.5 miles across, with five miles of walls surrounding it. Naffir is located on the shores of a distant coastline, and is the center of all trade for the known world. Surrounded by vassal metropolises and colony cities, its reach extends a breath-taking thousand miles from end to end.

Naffir has many metropolis vassals, but a megalopolis must have at least four.

Within the central region, crops resist disease and grow more quickly, animals of the forest are often helpful, and spirits of Law make their presence known in the centers of power.

Ritual magic is almost common. The truly wealthy have been known to buy wish spells, and Naffir is known for using harvest spells for limited districts.

The Lords of Chaos—powerful entities from uncivilized regions—take a direct interest in the doings of Naffir, and incursions are so frequent that an exceptional garrison is required to keep the empire safe.

High Kings are blessed by the land. They gain a +2 bonus on all saves and are immune to disease, and charm, ESP, hold, and sleep effects. Within the blessed portion of their realm, they can speak with animals at will and cast tongues once per day. Any ritual magic targeting an unwilling High King suffers a –4 penalty on the research throw, and a failure results in a major mishap.

World Jewel

Ruler Level: 14 (Holy Emperor). Urban: Unknown. Garrison: 6 gp/family. The Lords of Chaos are waging war. Blessed: Single 216-mile hex (40,000 mi.²). Civilized: Two rows of adjacent 216-mile hexes (720,000 mi.²). Borderlands: Two rows of adjacent 216-mile hexes (1.6 million square miles). Market: O.
up to 1 gp: 6,000. up to 10 gp: 300. up to 100 gp: 60. up to 1,000 gp: 25. up to 10,000 gp: 5. up to 100,000 gp: 50%. up to 1 million gp: 2%.

Blessed land can support 30 rural families per square mile, and has a land value of +3.

No world jewel exists within the Known World of Oceana, although there are those who claim the Blue Maze is such a place. In theory, a world jewel would need four megalopolis vassals to maintain its lands—an almost unimaginable achievment.

Such an urban wonder would take up as much land as the entire civilized rural region of a manor, and the scale of such a city would be almost unimaginable. The blessed central region, it is said, would be a place of daily miracles, and watched over directly by the Spirits of Law.

And sadly, Chaos will be desperate to destroy this jewel and the threat it represents. Incursions would not just be frequent—they would frequently be the worst of incursions. Military preparedness of an almost tyrannical degree would be required just to survive.

Holy Emperors are blessed by the land. They gain a +2 bonus on all saves and are immune to disease, and charm, ESP, hold, and sleep effects. Within the blessed portion of their realm, they can speak with animals at will and cast tongues once per day. Any ritual magic targeting an unwilling High King suffers a –6 penalty on the research throw, and a failure results in a catastrophic mishap.

Once per year, the Holy Emperor can grant a miracle to a single individual (who cannot be the Holy Emperor). The individual must be declared at the start, and then requires one season of work by laborers and crafters (costing 45,000 gp) to produce an icon of the emperor’s favor.

At the end of the month, a ten-minute ceremony grants the recipient the miracle and then invokes a quest of the holy emperor’s choice.

I really like the way you make the premises concrete - "the borderlands are just visible from the porch" is pure gaming fuel.

In my White Sandbox I have the premise that dungeons are typically in 10' increments and oriented N/S/E/W because this is how the ley lines run. Trying to excavate against this cosmic grain is more difficult, and a dungeon like Blackmoor's where everything is askew is not just a mapping annoyance but a source of horror to the pious and evidence of having been built in a more chaotic era of creation to scholars. However I don't do nearly as much with that premise except for minor cosmetic things like saying that holy symbols are right crosses 10" long that function as compasses; you've taken a similar idea much further.

Nice! I’m still thinking about dungeons for my setting.

So far: an arcanist of a certain sort creates an underground space and deliberately shields it against the effects of Law, so that they can harvest the results of Chaos—because while an arcanist can produce the essences required for certain types of research directly, Chaos-harvest is faster and easier.

I may have to steal the ley lines, idea, though, as a way of explaining the shielding method.


  1. Where the hex size is “1,296 miles”, read as “216 miles”. I skipped a step in the math. The square miles is still correct.

  2. World jewel borderlands should only be one layer of adjacent hexes (~730,000 square miles).

Additional Notes on Markets:

Since I plan to do things by seasons rather than by months, that lets me handle market income in a special way: income per family is equal to 26 gp/season, minus the market class. So a Class I market generates 25 gp/season, while a Class XI market generates 15 gp/season. This comes close to the original numbers (and doesn’t go too high or too low) while differentiating the wide “middle” just a tiny bit.

Interesting stuff! (from both Thomas and Tavis)

I’d rewatched Excalibur for the first time in 10-15 years just this weekend.

I was sitting there thinking how to map the “health of the land” to the “health of the ruler” - how the ruler of the domain’s own public (and private, in the case of Arthur vs Morgana, and Arthur vs Guinevere/Lancelot) conflicts against Chaotic elements would affect the value or even size of the domain.

Thomas’s system above captures the visualization of the movie pretty well - Camelot’s silver walls, the impossible sheen of the knight’s armor, the “Have we won against evil?” conversation at the Table, contrasted with the “realistic” dirtiness of Cornwall/Morgan’s castle, and the scenes where the peasants are struggling in scrublands as the power of Camelot collapses as Arthur himself collapses after G&L’s affair, etc.

It’d be interesting to see as a fully-realized system, like a sort of better version of 2E’s Birthright laid over ACKS’ domain rules.

The stock rules allow a beastman domain, and at least in theory allow it to be competitive with a lawful civilized domain.

I’d be more tempted to just model the late-Excalibur problems as a domain morale-type penalty to land revenue when the domain leadership has a crisis of alignment.

(In a cleric’s lands a collapse of domain morale would lead to a collapse of divine power available, and if you were using magic to boost land revenue you’d see a revenue collapse.)

What else would you want from Birthright? I’m not familiar with it.

Note: A beastman domain grows faster if its ruler adventures, but otherwise has the same growth rate, a lower maximum population, and significantly reduced income per population. They can have better mercenaries, but the mercenaries are more expensive, and the ruler’s income is - as mentioned - significantly reduced.

Neither am I (familiar with Birthright) - I just recall there being some rules that related the ruler of a domain to the domain itself.

There’s a 3E conversion at birthright.net, I scrolled through that a bit and evidently what I’m thinking of is a bit more than Birthright did - if that’s at all faithful, BR seemed to put the power to the PC, whereas I was looking at some sort of system that would allow for a variably-sized (in hexes) domain depending on the “state” of the ruler, which would probably be the hardest part to define.

Say you’ve got a domain of 10 hexes. There’d be a border of 2 or 3 hexes of “borderlands” beyond that, then the rest all Chaotic wilderness.

As whatever this nebulous concept of the ruler’s “virtue” or “power” or whatever waxes and wanes, those borderland hexes would automagically push out into the wilderness, and the civilized hex area would grow into that.

Actually, all you’d really have to do is duplicate the Divine Power/Domain Worship table. Let that store up into a “Domain Power” bank, and then the PC can “spend” that to automatically convert hexes from wilderness>borderlands>civilized.

The issue may be when you’d want to kingdom to be assailed, and start automatically shrinking. I’d think you’d need to keep track of morale almost on a hex-by-hex basis, so that when beastmen or what-have-you are acting up in the north, if something isn’t done, the kingdom “shrinks” out of that hex, perhaps affecting morale in adjoining hexes.

Alternatively, if the ruler suffers some personal setback, that can drop morale from the center, which would flow out to the borders, affecting hex morale that way - suffered a defeat (lost battle, level drain, etc.) or personal crisis (perhaps brought about by hijinks or NPC schemes).

Dunno. That’s all off the cuff, I may be overcomplicating.

I noticed that most of the middle range of urban sizes correspond very close to the market classes in the core books. If I filed off the premise, could I use just the settlement sizes in bog-standard ACKS without breaking anything?

I don’t usually like the Tao of D&D blog, but he had a post recently that resonates with this. Without looking up his exact vocabulary, it goes something like:

  • Each urban center has a civilization value, based on population.
  • That value radiates outwards and drops off exponentially (50% per hex into passable terrain, faster into forests/hills/mountains).
  • Civilization values from different urban centers add.

You can determine the level of infrastructure present in a hex - size of hamlets, quality of roads, bridges at rivers, etc - by comparing the civilization value to arbitrary thresholds you decide.

I’d thought of using something like this to estimate borderland and wilderness transitions around domains which I’m developing more-or-less top down. (OK, 20k families with a capital here and small towns there and there. What’s the shape of the land? Where do I put the villages?) Tying it into domain morale, and then letting it vary with events, would be an interesting way of systematizing a lot of what you were talking about.

But, yes, it feels to me like overcomplicating, playing simulations rather than playing rpgs.

You should be able to, yes. Just ignore the land areas, blessings, and land value modifiers. The demographics were based entirely on core ACKS numbers.

One small tweak is needed where ruler level is concerned, which is that lower-level rulers are possible in core ACKS for independent settlements:

Homestead: 1 (3).
Manor: 1 (4).
Community: 1 (5).
Shire: 2 (6).
Hamlet: 2 (7).
Village: 3 (8).
Township: 5 (9).
Town: 7 (10).
City: 8 (11) (compromise at the edge between city and large city).
Metropolis: 9 (12).
Megalopolis: 10 (13*).
World Jewel: 10 (14).

  • This is actually listed as 10 (14) for a settlement of this size in core ACKS, but the implied population of 5.1 million individuals has no 14th level characters (there is only 1 in 10 million individuals).

Yep. We’ll keep all this in mind when the ACKS PC game comes around. You’d need to write it to keep track of all that was proposed anyway :slight_smile:

ACKS PC game...I like it!

Back in the storied past, I once wrote a generator for a large sector of space by the GURPS Space rules - a 3D array, went down to the planetary level. Took care of nebulas and all that multi-sector jazz.

In GW BASIC, no less.

I’m awful tempted to make a time machine and go back and give myself the ACKS rules and do that instead for a random hex generation with markets/etc.