Where Have All the Hamlets Gone?

So the “10% urban population; Hamlet is an urban settlement of up to 74 families (390 people)” on page 231 of the rules doesn’t quite sit right with me.

It feels to me as if scattered farmsteads is more a American pioneer trope than a Medieval Europe or Antiquity pattern, and that most of the population ought to be in hamlets. What I’ve skimmed of scholarly articles on the net suggests that ACKS is perhaps appropriate for some areas in antiquity and that my reflex is more Medieval - or mid-/late-Roman (villas?).

So, what caused Autarch to construct the rules the way you did?

Settlement patterns as well as village plans in England fall into two great categories: scattered farms and homesteads in upland and woodland Britain, nucleated villages across a swathe of central England. The chronology of nucleated villages is much debated and not yet clear. Yet there is strong evidence to support the view that nucleation occurred in the tenth century or perhaps the ninth, and was a development parallel to the growth of towns.
(The following paragraphs of the article are a really interesting discussion.)
How and why the dispersed settlement pattern of the Roman period changes to one of nucleated villages by the 9th or 10th century is poorly understood in the North Midlands and southern Yorkshire and yet is fundamental to understanding the character of the landscape we see today. There are several deserted and shrunken medieval villages in the study area and we will continue with our investigations of some of these. Another focus of the project is the development of the formal, designed landscapes around the many country houses in the area (including Brodsworth, Hickleton, and Hooton Pagnell Halls). The transition from medieval village to post-medieval country house estate is not understood and here we have an excellent opportunity to explore the origins and impacts of this process.
In Villa to Village Riccardo Francovich and Richard Hodges challenge the historical view that hilltop villages in Italy were first founded in the tenth century. Drawing upon evidence from recent excavations, the authors show that the making of the medieval village lie earlier, in the demise of the Roman villa in late antiquity.
...the patterns of village morphology and the diversity of material culture characteristic of the half millennium until the Renaissance are highly variegated.
This makes me want to read http://www.boydellandbrewer.com/store/viewItem.asp?idProduct=13419 and http://ukcatalogue.oup.com/product/9780199602353.do#.UK9U2odah9Y and http://oxrep.classics.ox.ac.uk/oxrep/index.php?t=17&pg=94 and ... What a horrible, horrible hobby this is.

Edit: format fix.

I’m curious about this too, especially since the domain rules state that you can’t found an urban settlement with less than 75 families in it (“To found an urban settlement, the adventurer makes an initial investment of 10,000gp and then moves between 75 to 250 peasant families into the urban settlement.” ACKS pg 133). That would imply that all hamlets are failed villages that have dwindled from their initial population of 75 or more families. That seems odd to me, so I’ve been assuming the non-urban population of a domain lives clustered in hamlets. Technically, even an isolated homestead is a 1 family hamlet, right?

Hi guys! This is a great question, but one with a complex answer.

Historical Settlement Patterns: You are correct that the default setting for ACKS is closer to Late Antiquity rather than English Middle Ages. Late Antiquity had a more dispersed settlement pattern.

(Why Late Antiquity? It allows us to have 5 important tropes: (1) an age of warring states with adventurers seizing power, (2) recognizably feudal power structures (e.g. Roman manorialism, Byzantine themes, and barbarian warrior clans), (3) pagan religion, (4) coin-based economics, and (5) a large network of trade, in a semi-plausible historical setting. None of the other time periods commonly used for fantasy RPGs have all 5 tropes. Classical Antiquity doesn’t have 1-2, the Middle Ages doesn’t have 3-5, and the Renaissance doesn’t have 2 or 3.)

Therefore, if you want to simulate Middle Ages England, definitely clump your homesteads together to form little clusters, rather than assume they are sprinkled about as independent homesteads (Although, leaving aside historicity, there is much to be said for sprinkling your region with isolated homesteads from an adventuring-utility perspective. D&D has much in common with a “Fantasy Western”.)

Game Mechanics of Hamlets: In game terms, the difference between “hamlet” and “set of homesteads” is just that a hamlet has a Class VI market, equipment for purchase, and/or specialists, while a set of homesteads, even if clumped close together, will not.

At this point, of course, one must note that the Village, Town, and City table on p.134 of ACKS remarks that a Class VI market only exists at the stronghold of a hamlet. Perusing the settlement patterns implied by the game, you’ll note that most hamlets won’t have a stronghold, and as such hamlets do not materially differ from homesteads. So what gives?

The answer requires digging back to the earliest playtest drafts of ACKS. Up until just before publish, ACKS assumed an entire layer of domains below the baronial level (patrician/knight types), which were sprinkled about at a ratio of 4-6 per barony. These domains each had a small “Villa/Manor House” stronghold and more or less corresponded to the presence of hamlets. In playtesting, though, I found that tracking these less-than-1-hex sized domains was awful and time-consuming, so I ultimately abstracted the game at one level above them.

Yay for history of the text.

I’d been looking at the recently released 10 free unkeyed Harn manors, and estimating that none of them were large enough to hold a 6-mile hex, even in civilization.

Right. If you're interested in a Harn-like manorial breakdown for ACKS, email me at alex@autarch.co. As a test during design, I built a simple excel model of medieval England using 10,000 domains, starting with 1-mile manors and building up from there. Happy to share it with you if it's helpful.


10000 domains… :open_mouth:
How much data have you added to each?

Ok, so… are Hamlets not really a thing then, in the game? Are they essentially tiny villages with no market and no specialists and nobody worth hiring? A non-urban urban settlement?

That's right. I usually don't even put them on my maps. Instead I make a note like "there is usually one hamlet every XXX miles with YYY people". 

Oh, very little - it was designed to test whether the system could yield an economy/government that resembled that of Medieval England. 

Each tier of domains has a population size, stronghold value, garrison cost, etc. - just the math.