Starting Cities and Market Class

One thing I’m working through with a new ACKS campaign is the implications of a nearby large dungeon that supports an influx of adventurers and dungeon gold. The idea I’m suggesting is that a steady stream of revenue from salvage taxes on dungeon gold would shift a realm’s income without a corresponding population increase. I’m shifting the market class up as well and treating it like a similarly larger realm for calculating the size of the thieves’ guild and demographics of leveled characters.

A 10 level dungeon that supports the player characters starting at level 1 and progressing all the way through name level is going to divulge somewhere around 4 million gold pieces over the characters’ careers using the 4-to-1 gold XP to monster XP ratio (assuming a party of 5-6 characters is leveling up over the course of the dungeon campaign). The dungeon has significantly more gold in its depths than 4 million if it’s a true megadungeon (supporting multiple adventuring parties in there at a time). Adventurer activities are going to returns tens of thousands of gold pieces to the town annually, if not more. I think ACKS is silent on recommendations around taxation or salvage, but even a modest 10% levy against dungeon gold by the local ruler is going to shift a frontier village to ‘March’ or ‘County’ on the revenue by realm table.

(I do assume there’s a high attrition rate for NPC adventurers - otherwise someone else would have successfully ‘cleared’ much of the dungeon - but before they disappear in the depths entirely, they’ll likely have a number of successful excursions and retrieve quite a bit of gold).

My questions are around the starting cities and criminal guilds tables. Alex suggests a few times using a two row or two column shift when evaluating campaign specific demographics, so moving a small village down to village and then large village for purposes of determining the market class and demographics of a gold rush town seems fine. That brings the market up one size to Class V (making it a little easier to find adventurer-themed goods and hirelings, who would be drawn to the frontier anyway). The minimum ruler and boss levels are both 4 (which seems low to me) although the parenthetical values are 8 and 7 respectively for bosses of a realm. I certainly think the rowdy nature of a frontier gold rush settlement warrants the higher level presence.

Just curious if other folks have tackled similar issues, and if there’s something that addresses the affect of dungeons on the economy that’s already in ACKS that I missed. We’re tested the rules a bit but this is my first foray into a long term committed campaign - I’m sure I’ll be getting intimately familiar with the core book as we progress. I’m actually running two groups through the same setting, so I’ll get double the drive time with the rules.

One thing that jumps to mind are the interesting implications to domain rulership because of a giant dungeon nearby. Sure, the marauding monsters are a problem for the peasants, but the additional income provided by salvage operations (either state-taxed or state-sponsored) would seem to make the frontier settlements attractive to would-be conquerors, like having extremely rich resources, creating a lot of opportunities for turbulent politics.

The domain and city growth rate makes specific to “Actively adventuring at least once a month” and provides a bonus percent to growth of the domain/city. I think this pretty closely models what you’re going for, in particular because it’s a bigger bonus for smaller domains (when the influx of gold will have a bigger impact). Technically this is supposed to apply to the domain ruler themselves, but I don’t see why it couldn’t also apply to adventurers that make a huge score, and I did this for my campaign when the parties were sticking to mostly just one small town (once they started jumping around the world, it became too much trouble to track the ebb and flow of each city they visited while they were there).

As for the impact on the town, don’t be so sure it’s as warping as you think. In theory, the most direct contribution to the growth of a city is urban investment, which turns 1000gp into 1d10 families for one month and gradually increases the maximum population of the city. So say you blow your 4 million gold pieces specifically on growing the city, you would be adding 4000d10 over the course of several months, providing a best-case scenario of (ignoring the exploding dice for a moment) 40k new people. While this is certainly enough to build a class I market up from the ground, anything less than urban investment implicitly has a smaller effect. If the PCs buy goods, those goods still have to be replaced even if they were sold at a profit.

I was working out of the campaign setting section and considering the effects of dungeon exploration on the economy of a local settlement. A village has a monthly income of 25-60gp per month (using the urban settlement placement table on 231) but tax income from adventurers puts the frontier settlement at a much higher income than a village with equivalent population somewhere on the interior. (For instance, if tens of thousands of gold pieces are entering the town from the dungeon, and the ruler is skimming 10-25%, the monthly income shifts a few places down the settlement chart).

Your post helped me clarify my thinking, though - for frontier settlements with a large adventurer population, market class and demographics should be derived from the settlement’s income rather than peasant population. It’d explain why there’s a greater density of higher level rulers and NPC’s in frontier settlements adjacent to dungeons. It also presumes the place only stays as a higher level market for as long as it’s a boom town.

I found the section you were looking at - growth of domains in the section on establishing a PC’s domain. It raises a good question - if a frontier settlement has a high level of income and investment, would it still follow normal growth if there’s a big scary dungeon nearby?

personally I think a dungeon big enough to take someone from 1st to 9th level should be an anomoly. it would have to be absolutely massive. Moreover, it stands to reason it would be impossible to settle that hex until it was secured. Most hex securing involves clearing out somewhere between 2 and 12 monster lairs, depending on the terrain (Alex has done the math somewhere else on these forums), and with the exception of beastmen villages, these are fairly “shallow” dungeons that ought to be able to be cleared out in less than a single game session.

Another thing to consider is that, while the PCs may gain XP from taking it to the class VI market that’s closest, if they’re making obscene amounts of money they might need to travel to a bigger market to buy the more expensive things they want, thus meaning less money for the small village and more money going into a market for which it would be a smaller impact.

It’s fairly common in the OSR blogosphere for campaigns to be built around a megadungeon. Everybody wants to be like Gary. Even the Dwimmermount is getting close to daylight (the progress has been impressive). The amount of wealth in a megadungeon is staggering. Most campaigns don’t seem to care about the underlying economics or demographics, so how the dungeon wealth affects the local settlement doesn’t come up much.

Most references to tax and toll in the ACKS book are about collecting from your domain, but in the mercantile rules:

p. 143: Each time adventurers enter a market to buy or sell goods, they
must pay a toll (unless they sneak in).

This is 1-21 gp/load depending on market size. For precious goods, there are anywhere from 1-30 st/load, but we could go with the generic precious goods guidelines and say it’s 1-21 gp per 1000 gp value. (p. 146)

Then there’s customs duty of 2d10%. (p. 144)

So if you use the mercantile rules to model the market for dungeon loot, yeah, tax is going to average out to around 12%, but be marginally lower in villages, marginally higher in metropoli, and 10x more determined by the ruler’s attitude than the market size.

I took some notes on pre-Norman trade practices in England (?), which read:
historical practice for tolls looks like 10% at national borders, 2-5% internally
crossing from port into town was crossing a jurisdictional boundary
foreigners have to wait 3 days between arriving in town and selling goods
stay during that time at an approved hostel where their goods are inspected
tax is assessed during this time, split between hostelkeeper and king
foreigners can’t stay more than 40 days
Unfortunately I can’t find the source quickly.

Where I dropped Stonehell into an ACKS setting I made both of the nearby settlements, particularly the closest, sufficiently dysfunctional that money won’t fix their problems so that I could exercise a brake on the dungeon inflation if need be, although the first couple of levels of Stonehell seem treasure-poor by ACKS megadungeon standards.

I think with ACKS 1st to 5th or 6th would constitute the upper bound on a dungeon I’d run; by the time the MU is at that level, you’re well equipped for wilderness advanturers and I’d expect folks to be hungry for a break from dungeoneering. Granted, it’d make sense to oversize it a bit as an insurance policy for lost GP/XP due to casualties and such.