Population density by terrain type?

Just picked up the existing ACKS books. Very pleased - especially with the system’s utility as a world-building tool. Obviously a lot of thought went into causing the “original RPG” meta-setting to make sense.

One thing I have noticed that’s nagging at me: there doesn’t seem to be any tie between a domain’s possible population density and its terrain type. It looks as if any 6-mile small hex or any 24-mile big hex is assumed to be able to reach the same population density of peasants. The domain just gets upgraded to borderlands and then to civilized status as peasants take up residence. Doesn’t seem to matter if the domain is in fertile, well-watered flatlands or in the middle of an alpine range.

Am I missing something?

Sharrukin, you're not missing anything. Some limitations in that regard were present in early drafts, but they added a level of complexity that made some standardization of domain sizes, realm sizes, and so on impossible. It also led to some criticisms as applied to various historical societies. It turns out that no matter how bad the terrain, you can always find an ancient culture that managed to achieve a high population density in it! As a result I nixed it.

In general, the easiest way to handle it is to assign low Land Values to bad terrain and higher Land Values to good terrain. So for example, give the well-watered flatlands an 8 GP land value and the alpine range a 3 GP land value. If you then plot your regional domains in such a way as to fill the high value areas first, it will result, emergently, in all the good land get settled heavily well before anyone starts to want to settle the crappy stuff.


So one occasionally sees dungeon-stocking guides that say “draw your map, roll your level’s worth of room contents, and then manually assign room contents to rooms in reasonable patterns.”

It feels like you need to do something a little more like that to make this work, but it’s going to lack a bit of verisimilitude if you look at it too closely.

(Whether the domain is predominantly mountain or plains, if I roll 3d3 50x I’m going to get a similar distribution of land values, and so we’ll see really valuable flatlands along the edges of the mountain ranges, while in the broad plains some parts of the plain will be as unsubstainable as the worst mountains. To make sense of this you almost have to do your land value rolls as you’re creating your terrain, and put in special features to explain the variation?)

I think the easiest answer is to simply assume that your low-value grasslands are full of rocks and (normal) scorpion nests and hard clay or are just plain unlucky and won’t produce.

Similarly, if the jagged cliffs have a high land-value, then there must be abundant natural springs, gold mines, edible cliff-plants and otherwise enough stuff to make living there worthwhile, even if they have to import whatever else they need.

I mean, valuable stuff can be anywhere, and people can live nearly anywhere, and if there’s valuable stuff there, they usually do.

. . . Hmm. Interesting.

I can certainly see the merits of reducing complexity here - the way the rules read there’s never any reason to (e.g.) laboriously count up how many hexes of each terrain type are in a given domain.

I haven’t thought through the implications of having the Judge apply fiat to the land value of different domains, but it certainly sounds as if it could work. Consider that the land value income - expressed in terms of gold pieces in the rules - probably represents a lot of in-kind payments from the peasantry. Then peasants who are having a really hard time feeding themselves for lack of arable land just aren’t going to have as much surplus for the lord to extract, even if the area has other useful resources. The lord won’t have as much income to spend on agricultural investments or expanding any urban settlements, either.

Have to read the setting design rules again. For my own purposes it might be sufficient to toss in a house rule that adjusts the 3d3 roll for land value based on the dominant terrain type in the region.

Thanks, Alex!

No problem. Good luck!

One result of the abstraction is that the land value stays the same even as the domain expands. It's not quite that the fertility of the land is the fertility of the King, but it does seem that the future productivity is established by where the first hex is settled. How have others handled cases where the players want to know whether they should expand into this hex or that as it becomes possibile to do so? It seems like people would wish to annex territory with a high land value and avoid incorporating hexes with a low value.

Since my campaign seems to be all about the brutally harsh terrain I tweaked around with different ways to model the difficulty of having domains in those places. I’ve kind of settled on imposing a -1 penalty on base morale in harsh areas, and halving the max population in really extreme territory. Unless it’s a Chaotic domain, of course.

I track the land value for each hex in the domain. Is that not how it’s supposed to work? It’s easy enough to do with a spreadsheet, and frankly I can’t imagine running ACKS by hand.