Strongholds and Domains: A Revised Approach

As a refresher, here are the mechanics for occupation:

To determine whether a domain is occupied, calculate the value (in wages/month) of the occupying troops in the domain, and subtract the value (in wages/month) of any of the owner’s troops remaining in the domain after any battles have been fought.  Divide the difference by the number of peasant families to calculate the net gp value of occupying troops per peasant. If the net gp value of occupying troops per peasant is greater than the domain’s garrison cost (2-4gp), the domain is occupied. Effectively, if the enemy troops, less any friendly troops, would be enough to garrison the domain, the domain is occupied.

So the new rules do not in any way impact the ability of a new ruler to occupy a domain. It's still (your army - owner's army) / (number of families) > (garrison cost).

What they do make much harder is maintaining control over a demoralized domain. Once it goes into the -2 to -4 range, and peasants start revolting, there's no apparent means of solving the problem except lowering taxes and spending money on liturgies. And that is a problem. There needs to be some mechanism by which a rebellious or turbulent domain can be pacified or repressed! It took Justinian slaughtering30,000 people in Constantinople to do it, but that just shows that sometimes violence can be the answer...


1.5 mile hex "small domain" - The more-or-less 16 hexes contained in a 6 mile hex coexist peacefully with the maximum number of lairs findable in the same hex (2d8 wilderness jungle) - one could theoretically invert the L&E lair tables to generate random domain holdings?

I appreciate the clarification on starting domain type.

A 1.5 mile hex domain purchase (1,506 acres I think?) would be 52,800 gold. The 1.5 mile hex at 1,056 acres would hold about 35 30-acre farms, or 35 families/175 people - ~560 families in a 6 mile hex, very well civilized. If you could fill it up day 1, you'd get about 2800 gp/mo income (civilized plus tribute), returning your investment in about 19 months.

The 30-acre farm is a hex of 1,228 feet in height; 600 feet shy (about 1.5x less) of the height (1,822 ft) of the 1/16th subhex of a 1.5 mile hex. 

Territorial Control: This goes really well with the Demographics of Leveled Characters table on pg 235, and might help one make certain assumptions about how people in the world think of themselves.

If a L2 character can rule a Hamlet, one might think that anyone in the surrounding four 1.5 mile hexes identify themselves with that hamlet or that authority figure there - or the City (L8) has the surrounding four 6 mile hexes considered as it's "suburbs", to use a modern idea, or perhaps the primary destination for the goods and services exported from those lands.

Tribute/Liturgies: Festivals were previously 5gp/fam/quarter, or 20gp/fam/yr, or 1.6 gp/fam/mo. Taxes were 20%, tithes were 10%. 

3 GP is 20% of 15 GP: Maximum per-family income in a domain is 15 gp (9 LV+4+2), so except for the 3.7% of hex land values that were already 9, the value you take out of your vassals is much greater.

This encourages vassalization for the PCs, which is good - interaction with the game world. Some light math tells me the percentage of one's income that would come from one's vassals doubles in most cases, given 4 vassals of about half your personal domain size or so.

You can still gain at least an extra full 1 GP per directly vassaled family for non-henchman vassals even if you spend 1-2GP of the 3GP/family income back at the non-henchman domain (in effect reducing tribute, if allowed) to increase it's current morale score (offsetting the -2 by half or full - 1GP for 2d6-1 increases current 16% of the time and holds 58%, 2 GP for 2d6 increases ~27%, holds 72% of the time)  or let it fly and takes your chances. The thoughtful Judge, however, would nix that by having one's henchmen, as a group in a dark room, ask why Bob from Jersey's getting special treatment and they ain't.

Land Value Matters More With Lieges: On the other hand, if you have a liege lord, you really want a higher land value. The 3.7% of wilderness hexes with LV 3 are zero-profit with this change, as the garrison costs + tribute eats all the income - you pay your lord tribute as if your LV was always 9. You save a little on the backend from the lower Tithe and Liturgy costs, however, tithing was 1 GP at LV 4, so, again, LV 3 is penalized, with LV 5+ saves a couple percentage points of income, 1 SP per family per value above LV 4.

Ignoring garrison costs for domain types, the difference per family per LV for festivals/taxes/liturgies/tributes:

With Liege Taxes/Tribute due, if I didn't screw the math up:

LV Festival>Liturgy Tax>Tribute Tithe Difference/Fam
3 0.6 -1.2 -0.1 -0.7
4 0.6 -1 0 -0.4
5 0.6 -0.8 0.1 -0.1
6 0.6 -0.6 0.2 0.2
7 0.6 -0.4 0.3 0.5
8 0.6 -0.2 0.4 0.8
9 0.6 0 0.5 1.1

Without a Liege:

LV Festival>Liturgy Tithe Difference/Fam
3 0.6 -0.1 0.5
4 0.6 0 0.6
5 0.6 0.1 0.7
6 0.6 0.2 0.8
7 0.6 0.3 0.9
8 0.6 0.4 1
9 0.6 0.5 1.1

In general, then, this change nets the domain ruler more income except in the case of envassaled, low land value domains - the 62% of hexes with LV 6+ see some increase no matter their vassalage status. Nobody's ever even implied domain income might be too high, so. It does indicate that "hex shopping" for the elusive 8+ LV is still worth it.

Ignoring the fact that most players will not settle a below-average value hex without an overriding strategic reason to do so anyway, then, the change encourages either "going it alone", out in the wilderness or whatever, or encourages future conflict when the adventuring PC outlevels their liege lord, or the PC pisses off mutliple vassals and they ally against her. That's also good.

It also tends to make me think that, in general, higher land value areas are less turbulent, as there's "enough to go around" that every petty lord can have a good piece of the pie, whereas crappy parts of the world will tend to have a lot of folks squabbling over who rules who. Largely, then, ACKS models the human condition here.

Lastly, Tribute and Liturgy are cooler terms than Tax and Festival. 

Tribute implies that armies back your request, Tax implies Accountant Specialists. Liturgy implies serious works of art and entertainment and professionally staffed orgies, Festival implies Ren-Faire with greasy turkey legs and underengineered corsets.

So...yea. The simplicification is well worth it for the Judge, as, in general, a player gets more out of it, except in a corner case that players would intend to avoid anyway.





Domain hijinks maybe?

Something where some "hijink value vs market class" of success in carousing or assassination or whatever (redirecting goods to the poor populace via theft?) can increase morale up to +0/Apathetic but no further, and hijink failure risks further morale drop (or instant morale rechecks?) - you've either suppressed or encouraged the vocal rabble-rousers in any given group?

The reverse would work as well to reduce domain morale, I suppose, taking it down to a floor of +0/Apathetic.

One could work it so that garrison increases only really work in concert with domain hijinks - either a garrison increase is a type of hijink, or a garrison increase gives a bonus to domain hijinks succeeding, which sounds plausible.



You are correct, I misremembered how a domain goes from occupied to conquered! (I had thought it was based on the domain morale rolls for occupier and ruler, when in fact it’s based on capturing all strongholds and settlements within the domain.)

I was close enough to right to have a point at least, even if it wasn’t entirely the point I was trying to make >.>

This looks great Alex!  Much easier than the old rules... though would need to do some in practice.

That said, with all the other sort of great discussion on the forums and refining of rules with new suggesstions on your part, does this mean we may see a ACKS 2nd Edition at some point?

I enjoy that these rules are simpler, and better support low-level characters acquiring domains, given that my primary beef with ACKS is that too many games start at A and fizzle before C gets going properly, let alone K. 

My only concern is that this seems like a big hit to the personal income of Emperors. I have no idea what kind of reprecussions that'd have though. 

It at the very least, makes them much more beholden to the whims of their vassals - it severely curtails their autonomy in rushing off to make war, etc. That's probably more realistic?

The only class I feel it may really adversely effect is Mages, depending on if they're utilizing the realm as a gold fountain for researching putting new tentacles in new places, rather than playing political games.

Having read them twice, I’m left ambivalent. There are some nice things here: clarification on domain rulership for low-level characters, a clearer process for domain expansion, elimination of stronghold maintenance, elimination of high-garrison morale bonus. But, it’s still spreadsheet-complex, with time-varying per-hex population values, the (+1d10-1d10)/1000 rule (my least favorite rule), fiddly morale rules, and the expectation of multiple levels of vassals. As a lazy DM with lazy players, this doesn’t really address any of the fundamental complexity/abstraction/focus-on-adventure issues with the old version of the domain system, as best as I can tell. I readily admit that I am no longer the target audience for ACKS’ domain rules, however.

Getting rid of percentages hardly matters if you still need a spreadsheet.

You sound like you might be better served by the domain rules described in "An Echo Resounding" from Sine Nomine.  It's much simpler and focuses tightly on the seam between domain rulership and the effect that adventurers can have on a domain.

For my part, I like elements from it, but find myself more drawn to ACKs, spreadsheets and all.  It definitely doesn't appeal to some people though.

John - I read your blog regularly and always enjoy your work there, so please help me understand your cricitisms better. 

The +1d10/-1d10 system is trivial to dispense with or change. It's just a mechanic intended to keep a fairly steady state in domain size for most domains. If it's your least favorite mechanic it seems like the easiest one in the world to ignore. Let's put it aside.

I don't think I understand why the morale rules are "fiddly" - it's one value, rolled once per month, that tends to keep morale at its base morale state. What would be an example of a less fiddly rules? 

As far as multiple levels of vassals - that seems like a feature, not a bug? Any historical or fantasy setting I've ever encountered or imagined has had multiple levels of vassals, so the rules need to model that. But if you didn't want to use them, you could just...not use them. What am I missing?

Finally, I don't see why you'd need a spreadsheet to run this system, unless you'd WANT to - you could run each domain on a domain record and update it once per month.

In any case you posted a detailed assessment of the math of fighting value trade-offs and suggested it should be a different trade-off for every weapon so you don't seem averse to "fiddly" in general, or of "math", nor to really be lazy.

Which leads me to think that there is a larger "complexity/abstraction/focus on adventure" issue that you want to see addressed that I'm not understanding. I've read all your posts and still don't get what it is you want.  

Is that you simply do not want the system to be a simulation? (Your blog is called Wandering Gamist, maybe as a reference to gamist v. simulationist?)  

I do think it makes vassals more important.

At least in the test realms I've built, it hasn't dramatically impacted income except at the highest tiers of play - and at those levels the cash flow is so much that the difference won't make much difference to one's personal magic research.


Maybe one day. It's hard to work on a 2nd edition when I haven't even finished the 1st edition, in a sense...

By the way, on your blog you said you'd never gotten the sneak preview of Lairs & Encounters. But in my update of June 7 I made it available to ALL backers. Have you not seen it still? 

Thanks for the in-depth assessment and analysis! 

This encourages vassalization for the PCs, which is good - interaction with the game world. Some light math tells me the percentage of one's income that would come from one's vassals doubles in most cases, given 4 vassals of about half your personal domain size or so.

It's balanced out by the fact that you do not get income from one's sub-vassals. Assume you're a count with 800 families with 4 vassals of 400 families, each of whom has 4 vassals of 200 families.

Old System: 4 barons of 200 families at 12gp revenue each contribute (200 x 12 x .2 x 4) 1,920gp to their marquis. 4 marquis of 400 families at 12gp revenue each contribute [(400 x 12 x .2) + (1920 x .2] x 4] = (960 + 3840) x 4 = 5,376gp to their count.  

New System: 4 barons of 200 families contribute (200 x 3) x4 = 1,200gp to their marquis. 4 marquis of 400 families contribute (400 x 3 x 4) 4,800gp to their count.  


My impression is that at this point the various revenue and expense categories have become more cosmetic than functionally different. For example, there doesn't seem to be any morale difference between having a tax of 2 gp/family and liturgies of 1, relative to a tax of 3 and liturgies of 2 (or for that matter, 102 and 101!) Tithes are now slightly distinguished by having a -2 penalty for being 1 gp/family short, but that just means that there's now never any incentive to not pay tithes (especially considerating that, beyond the morale effect, it's an invitation for the judge to invent horrible additional custom effects to punish such impiety!)

If the goal is simplicity, then it might be even simpler to just fold liturgies into taxes entirely and reduce record-keeping by one box (i.e., set base taxes to 1 and omit liturgies from the record). That's effectively the net result of the new system here, unless I'm missing something.

Admittedly, there's some RP benefit in letter some realms self-identify as high tax and high luxury while others are low tax and low luxury. But it still seems oversimplified to say that only the difference between taxes and discretionary spending is what matters to public opinion. Historically, what were reasons why a kingdom or empire would prefer the high tax and high spending model over the low tax and low spending model? I assume there were some even in antiquity -- certainly those competing options provoke some sharp disagreements in modern politics!

Understood, and taken in good faith.

I agree that it is a trivial rule to drop, but it perplexes me that it is still there. If you want to approximate steady state, it is easier to just not add noise by default, no?

There are nine distinct morale values, all of which modify slightly different facets of the domain, and then there’s a table of 12 modifiers to the roll. Me, I’d be pretty happy with domains having two morale states (“tolerates ruler” and “open revolt”), with a d20 roll triggering a revolt on a 1+ (or 5+ or 9+ if the ruler has done something egregious lately) and revolts persisting until either egregious ruler behavior has been addressed / peasant demands are met, or they are put down by force. That’s about the level of complexity I’m in the market for.

At the end of the day, my players only want to deal with one layer of henchmen. As a consequence, PC domains are practically limited to one layer deep (if they weren’t already by other factors). Likewise, I have a limited amount of prep-time and interest for NPC realms, which is best served by paying attention to the count/duke layers of the chain (who make reasonable patrons or villains; not too high that the players are irrelevant, not so low that the players can kill them trivially). I don’t care if there are marquis or whatever below them or not, and my players sure aren’t willing to manage a multi-layered domain structure, so any actual rules for low-tier (or very-high tier) vassal rulers are wasted space as far as I’m concernd. It’s not that I can’t ignore them - it’s just one more thing I have to houserule around, particularly given shrinking maximum personal domain size. Houserules are expensive; in a complex system, the number of unexpected possible interactions between parts grows superlinearly with the number of parts.

Lacking a printer, our options are pretty much spreadsheets, wiki pages, or text files. Or proper databases, I guess. Updating hex populations over time, and then generating income for each month given varying population and morale, is a very natural spreadsheet operation, and doing it manually per-hex (possibly 1.5mi hex) sounds like an awful lot of unnecessary work.

There’s a bit of a difference between the expense of designing a class, which is undertaken but once, and the recurring expense of a complex domain system, which requires work every month of game time (which might be twice a session or more). If anything, that post’s conclusion on fighting value 1 is a simplification and generalization of the current rules. I have very little trouble with math in principle; it is repetitive math, compulsory math, and math that comes up during play, which are best eliminated. Automation is a band-aid, a crutch. If my players were hot-to-trot and wanted to design Traveller starships with Fire, Fusion, and Steel and run domains with population detailed down to 1.5-mile hexes, I’d be grateful for having complex options. But they don’t, which is why I’m doing all the math once and building standardized domains, so just like with standardized Traveller deckplans, there’s an option on a table that works closely enough and has all the actionable stats in one place. So what if the population is off by 5%? The players don’t have an accurate census in-world, and any discrepancy in income can be handwaved as either particularly aggressive or lax tax collection. I’m not willing to worry about it. As far as my players are concerned, a domain is a thing that gives you gold and XP every month, and helps offset the cost of the mercenary army you wanted. Broadly, the point of the game for us is killing things and taking their stuff (because these give you XP). Everything of interest is one of: threat, weapon, loot, simultaneously weapon and loot, or Not Sure Yet. The value in a domain is measured in how much better it makes you at killing things, and how much stuff it gives you, and we measure its cost in paperwork against its value in those terms.

Simulation is good in that a good simulation avoids breaking suspension of disbelief, but if simulation were my end, I would be programming, not sitting around a table with dice and friends. Having a properly-balanced game is good in that overcoming true challenges is deeply rewarding, but if that sort of satisfaction were my end, I would be playing RTSs. Narrativism is good, in that a well-executed story can tap symbols and trigger emotional response, strengthening the game-ritual, but if telling stories were my aim, I’d be writing novels rather than playing. Simulation is the groundwork on which the other two can build towards emotionally satisfying conclusions without being interrupted by confusion and WTF. But, like most infrastructure, it seems best to me if it is simple, robust, and hidden.

i really didint mind the use of spreadsheets, hell i will keep using them anyway, but there are some changes that i really like, speacialy the no morale bonus for large army, max taxing and maxing army was the only logical thing to do in the old system.

I haven't read the domain rules in ACKS for a while (and never used them since we haven't gotten high enough level), but from memory, these appear easier to understand and I think they are an improvement.

I can see where Jedavis is coming from. I'm personally somewhere between:

"Yeah, these are great, new, and improved!"


"I wish they were simpler to use at the table."

I don't mind all the details I see here, but my players will not be at all interested in them. I'm interested to see if these rules can be distilled into a few easy steps that they would be interested in using personally (as opposed to me doing it all). More input later.

No, I have, I guess as of that date? Feels more recent than that, but time’s been compressed lately. I recall posting typos and feedback here.

How would a proficiency like Leadership (or overloading Leadership more) work out, perhaps, for increasing one's maximum controlled territory?

Take a page from the caster profs and do "as if +2 level"?

If L15 was 14 hexes, and L16 16 hexes?

One still has to have a proper stronghold size, and do the work of clearing/claiming the hex, defending the hex, etc. - there's a lot of variables in establishing the real value of the extra part-or-whole hex.