Some Specific Domain Design Questions

I, like many, am struggling with designing a map according to the guidelines in the book.  Here is what I have done:

1. I made the map using Hexographer.

2. I put a border around the empire that encompassed about half the total map.

3. I took that empire and divided it into 4 kingdoms; I assumed the largest of the 4 kingdoms was the "empire proper."

4. Based on the number of hexes for each kingdom, I placed cities, but nothing smaller.

5. I drew highways and major rivers.

Question 1: Is there anything else that should go on the 24-mile per hex map?

Question 2: I want to do trade modifiers, but should that just between major cities at this level? Or are trade modifiers only determined at the smaller 6-mile scale?

Question 3: Once I choose which kingdom will be the starting point, should I make smaller divisions than "kingdom" for that location BEFORE making the small scale map?

Question 4: Looking WAY down the road, if PCs wanted to conquer a land of their own without going to war or being a vassal state, they would need to travel beyond the empire's borders, right?

Just trying to make sense of all this.  Thanks in advance for your help.

With respect to #2, I’m pretty sure large markets “push” their trade modifiers down onto small markets near them, so you should be OK to just do the cities and their effects on each other at this point. Later when you’re adding small markets you can figure out their trade modifiers without modifying the cities’ modifiers.

For #4, yeah, typically you’d have to go outside for unclaimed land.

I have no input on 1 and 3; I never map at scales that large.

Looks good to me! I'd throw some major landmarks on the 24 mile map. Stuff like the Oracle of Delphi or the Mountain of the Gods. Makes the world feel worldy.  You could roll trade modifiers for every major city if you wanted. 


I wouldn't say that you should or shouldn't divide the kingdom into principalities before you map it. I think you can do it either way. It'd probably make more sense to do the terrain for the small map first, because borders are often influenced by terrain. 

Thanks for the help.

Last night, I added things:

First, I blocked off a section of the map 7.5 hexes wide and 10 hexes tall, encompassing one of the border kingdoms.  This was the scale for the local map.

Then I built that map and tweaked the terrain so it wasn't quite so uniform on the small scale.

I then banged my head against the book for awhile trying to figure out how to determine the number of settlements, failed to figure it out (especially because I didn't want to divide the smaller map into smaller and smaller government units, and then used population density to estimate a number of cities, towns, and villages.  I sprinkled these about the local map, trying to not put them too close to one another.  That was about 15-20 settlements.

Then I placed 25-30 dungeons, monster lairs, and other points of interest, mostly in the unexplored section, but with enough lingering in the explored section as well.  I placed one dungeon very close to the town I chose as the starting town.  Dynamic lairs can fill in the rest.

I'm going to skip trade modifiers on the large-scale map.  There are only major cities on that map, and they're literally hundreds of miles apart, which means my characters won't see them for literally years in real-time.  Instead, I'm going to produce trade modifiers for the cities and towns on my small-scale map (I haven't decided if I need to do it for the villages - thoughts?)

My approach has become more art than science, but in trying to do it just as the book suggests, I realized that slavish attention to numerical detail would be lost on the players.  I conceded that what I had done was already far more "realistic" than any world I had devised previously.

Any other thoughts or comments would be most welcome. :)

Sounds like you are handling things in an effective way. As you've noted, ACKS will provide you with a level of detail far in excess of what you need, if you want it to. You're doing it right to simply use it all as guidelines and fill it in as you need  and want later.

I typically do NOT create demand modifiers for Class VI markets (villages). I instead use the demand modifiers of the nearest Class V, maybe with a -1 on grain or something.



New question: based on the demographics for different level characters, is the presumption that the king/emperor will be the highest level character in the area? If not, who would that highest level character be and why aren't they ruler?

I would say typically, yes, but you as Judge may come up with any number of reasons why not. Perhaps the highest level NPC is of a class that typically doesn't start that type of dynasty? Shadowy master of the Thieves' Guild, Supreme Matriarch of the dominant religion, or cloistered Arch-Magus without peer...any one of these might actually be the highest level NPC, but not the ruler. Similarly, one might have two Fighters, with the lower level one being in charge with higher Charisma, but the higher-level one planning civil war with fewer followers...

I typically structure it so that the de facto ruler is of the appropriate level. It doesn't necessarily have to be the titular ruler.

A great example would be Toyotomi Hideyoshi, who was the effective ruler of Japan despite the fact that the Emperor was the legal ruler and that Hideyoshi never even managed to claim the title of Shogun or military ruler.

Another great example would be Stilicho, who was de facto ruler of the Western Roman Empire for the weak Emperor Honorius, though he did not have any particular title that made him such. (Other generals before and after him held similar titles without being rulers).   


But even in these alternate scenarios, it seems likely that the Emperor would be "name level," at least.

How would you construct an empire in which the emperor is a weakling who inherited the title? If the emperor was, for example, 0th level, would the highest level character likely be his general?

(I'm thinking of using an ex-adventurer as emperor in my game, but I wondered how you would do a dynasty.)

Personally, if a 0-level character had inherited an empire, I’d think about it this way; if that character was a child, who would have been regent?

The potential regent is one of the most likely options for the highest-level character there, in my opinion.

As far as dynasties in general, potential heirs are often given lesser domains to rule, both as a test and to get them experience (both the meaning of the word and XP), so an heir who was groomed for the throne is very unlikely to be zero-level unless they’re still a child.

Yes, and in ACKS, gold is XP. Or, put another way, earned wealth is real power. A 0th level heir who gains actual control of the throne is either: deposed/assassinated/replaced or what have you, or isn't 0th level for very long.

Excellent; this is very helpful.  I think this (the importance of gp=XP and that earning gold "in office" is also worth XP) is a distinctive presumption of ACKS, not only in comparison to D&D 3 and beyond, but also some of the assumptions of older D&D (at least in my memory).

Yes, it is a key "innovation" of ACKS. What makes it work is the GP Threshold concept, which caps the amount of experience that a ruler can gain from any given sized realm. This three beneficial results:

1. It incentivizes adventurers to expand their realms.

2. It explains why NPC rulers, in general, seek to expand their realms.

3. It makes rulership XP a scarce commodity as there is only a certain amount of land and people available to rule. That in turn allows level to be modeled in an economic pattern based on wealth distributions of land.



So how might you model a senate? Does a senate require a king or emperor?

Domains at War: Campaigns has rules for an XP split based on the amount of troops commanded, I think you could use that to get a relative idea of an XP split for a council or senate.

(The senator from California gets a lot more XP than the senator from Rhode Island, apparently!)

As Ary suggests, you more-or-less would just divide the XP across the various senators.

There's nothing official beyond that. A forum search will show that I've posted a few more detailed ideas from time to time. I do intend to write up official rules for variant domain rulership configurations at some point.


There's a good discussion here on some variances; mostly centered around a city-state:


If I follow the advice in the core rules, I don't put Class VI settlements on the 6-mile hex map.  So when the party starts travelling, how do I know when to place such a settlement? Is it a case that, since their size is basically inconsequential to the area economics, I can place them more or less wherever I want as befits the needs of the story at the moment?

Looking at medieval demographics, should it be an expectation that many 6-mile hexes along a road would have such settlements in them, making them safer to travel, while cross-wilderness trekking would be without settlement (aside from the wayward homesteader)?

While they're smaller than even Class VI settlements, in ancient Israel, villages of 75-150 persons were typically 1 or 2 miles apart.


According to "The Urbanisation of Rome and Latium Vetus," the average distance between "primary centers" (which were 20-25 hectares or larger, which would make them Class V or Class IV) was 13 kilometers. Even back in the Bronze Age, a village in latium vetus typically controlled a radius of 5-7 kilometers, which would place one village per 6-mile hex on average. They may be smaller than Class VI urban settlements, but there would be some concentration of persons in almost every hex of a Civilized domain.