Level Demographics and Realm Rulership.

So this is something I’ve been trying to get my head around while I was working out the details of my campaign realm with all it’s little sub-realms and domain rulers. Let me see if I’m thinking about this correctly.
Working on the realm from the top down, we have the high-level emperors and kings ruling large areas while smaller domains are managed by progressively lower-level rulers. Looking at the “Demographics of Leveled Characters” table on p.235, by the time we get down to, say, a county, we’re looking at a level 7 ruler, someone who’s not even eligible to build a stronghold or attract followers yet.
Now, are we to assume that the vast majority of the campaign world works this way–that it works top-down and sub-realms are ruled by henchmen of higher-level lords, even working down to henchmen-of-henchmen, to where we get a 4th-level character ruling a barony?
Are PCs the oddballs–working bottom-up with a 9th-level character starting a barony then working his way up and out?
Just trying to get things straight in my head. Thanks in advance!

That’s exactly correct. Let me off some explanation as to why this is the case.

  1. The domain of a baron or march is fairly small. A barony will cover 1 6-mile hex, a march 3-4 6-mile hexes. A baron’s troops are likely to number 10-16 men, a marquis’s troops 80 to 100. A band of 5th level adventurers probably is as powerful as the average lord of a 6-mile hex.
  2. When a character reaches 9th level, he is powerful enough that he automatically attracts troops to his banner. A fighter will get on average 25 men, a cleric around 120. These are already more than an average baron and may be more than an average marquis. These troops show up even if the character has carved out a fortress in a dangerous wilderness, or has illegitimately declared himself a baron, duke, or whatever. That’s a profound statement of how important the character has become, because these men are potentially placing themselves at great risk in declaring themselves for the character.
  3. A character can always claim a stronghold before 9th level. He doesn’t automatically get followers but he can certainly hire people to work for him. The question is “why would you want to do that”? If you are bold and brave, the benefit of adventuring is likely to exceeds the benefit of managing a small domain. The only reason for an adventure to get a small domain is either to retire, or to use it as the basis of conquering a larger domain. But if you are going to play conqueror, you want to be tough enough that you can hold your domain if the big guns show up.
    So, essentially, ACKS assumes that ther are two tracks to power:
  4. The conventional path, wherein a king grants lands to a duke, who grants lands to a baron, and these lords gain experience over time from running their realms and eventually top out at the level of experience appropriate to rule of such a realm, with the occasional military duties, monster-fighting, and so on that are requisite to the role.
  5. The adventurous path, wherein an adventurer does great and glorious deeds, accumulates wealth, and then turns his attention towards conquest.
    There’s no reason your PCs couldn’t take path #1, but path #2 is generally more fun.

That’s cool. Thanks for theclarification!
I can easily see a high level fighter saying “I’m tired of taking orders from this incompetent sixth-level marquis! Enough! I’m gonna start my OWN barony! That’ll show 'em!”