Saturday, March 18, 2017

ACKS Estates - Burghers

The burghers represent townsfolk, skilled craftsmen, guild members, merchants, and thieves.  Peasant families supporting burgher families are mostly farmers who bring their products to market in a village, town, or city, but might also be fishermen.  Burghers provide Market Class, as well as tax money.  They also hire and manage their own town watch/garrison (but are loath to provide it to the oligarchy for offensive use), and maintain the urban infrastructure.  In warfare, the burghers provide logistical support and transport via ships and caravans, as well as intelligence assets.  While the oligarchs of the noble estate style themselves barons, counts, dukes, and so forth, burgher oligarchs have titles ranging from hetman to burgomeister to most serene doge.

Every burgher family pays 6gp/season in taxes.  In addition, every 125 burgher families provides one point of Fleet Support.  Naval, logistical, and intelligence units have their support costs shown below:

Purchase price and support cost are fairly straightforward; the number of GP you must pay to construct the unit, and the number of points of Fleet Support required to sustain it.  Logistical units can be allocated to three tasks: trade, transport, and supply.  Trading generates income for the oligarchy.  Transport allows ships to transport ground units (cavalry platoons and foot platoons take up the same amount of space, as cavalry platoons are half as large).  Ships with marines have their marines levied, paid, and supplied by the burghers.  Units conducting supply missions carry supplies to land units in the field; their ability to conduct supply operations is expressed in a range and a capacity, which is the number of companies that they can keep in supply at that range.  You can double the range by halving the capacity, and visa versa, to a maximum of two doublings (so a 40-wagon caravan could supply 12 companies at a range of 60 miles or 6 companies at 120 miles, but not 3 companies at 240 miles).  Only riverboats and longships can carry supplies up most rivers, while only caravans can carry supplies overland, and large ships may require a good harbor to unload efficiently.  Further, cavalry requires four times as much supply as infantry, and siege weapons and special units may require more.  This nicely models the strong historical preference for conducting operations along coastlines without introducing too much additional complexity - most domains are going to already want to have logistical units during peacetime for the trade income.  If dealing with detailed supply is too much work, just reallocate sailing ships to cover the number of units you have in the field and don't worry about rivers, caravans, or supply distance; the important thing is that supplying troops reduces trade income (a lot).

Goon Squads, Spies, and Assassins are intelligence units.  A goon squad is a gang of 1st-level thieves and assassins, suitable for petty mischief, breaking kneecaps, and kidnapping the children of influential persons.  What they lack in subtlety and ability, they make up for in comic relief and expendability.  A spy is a 4th-level thief who can infiltrate other estates, domains, and armies, provide intelligence to the burgomeister, and conduct sabotage.  An assassin is a 4th-level assassin who can be used to off people.  These units use the hijinks rules to accomplish effects instead of to make money.  Details TBD.

While the burgh does support its own garrison, at a rate of 2gp/family/month, they're mostly constables and watchmen, not soldiers.  One bowman per ten families mans the walls and can be called to arms, but the greater part of the fighting men of the city are the marines of the fleet.  Depending on culture, marines might be a mix of hoplite-style heavy infantry and bowmen, reavers, or something else entirely.  If the city finds itself under siege, constables and thieves may be pressed into service.  Two constables can be mustered per ten families, and they are armed with clubs and shields and armored in leather.  They're basically slightly-better militia.  One first-level thief per ten families is willing to fight if circumstances are sufficiently dire (the other first-level thief per ten families has already skipped town).  Thief units are expensive and fragile, but sneaky, and may be useful for sallying out against siege camps.

Constables: 2/4/6 Irregular Foot, AC3, HD 1-1, UHP 6, ML -1, 2 club 11+.  Wages 3gp/mo.
Thieves: 2/4/6 Loose Foot, AC2, HD 1-2, UHP 4, ML 0, 2 short sword 10+, 2 javelin 10+.  Wages 25gp/mo, can hide in shadows (deploy hidden at night or in cover), backstab for +2 to hit and +1 damage on a successful hit against disordered enemies or to flank or rear.

Finally, the total burgher population of the domain determines the class of its main market:

  • <1000 families: Class VI
  • 1000 families: Class V
  • 2500 families: Class IV
  • 10,000 families: Class III
  • 25,000 families: Class II
  • 150,000 families: Class I

Burgher events are probably mostly about money, markets, and hijinks.  A merchant needs sponsorship to fund an expedition to a distant land, promising to share profits with his patrons.  A sailor bears news of internal affairs in a nearby domain.  A prominent nobleman borrowed money from the burghers but the harvest was poor, so he can't repay them, and the case is brought before the oligarchs (there's probably a whole slew of worthwhile "inter-estate conflict brought before the oligarchs" dilemma events, where favoring one side over the other influences loyalty).  The city is unsanitary and there's a plague outbreak, killing some and sending others fleeing to the countryside (strengthening the other estates but weakening the burghers), or there's an economic boom or bad harvest and peasants migrate to the city from the countryside.  A fire breaks out and ravages the city.  Hurricane threatens navy.  Vessel sunk in storm with hold full of gold.  Prices of raw materials fluctuate, changing the prices or availability of goods.  Trade shifts and trade income rises or falls for a season.  Pirates begin attacking shipping.  A famous bard, assassin, or thief moves to the city; could be a hench, could be a thorn in your side.  A guild member is recognized as a master of his craft, providing an opportunity to recruit a skilled specialist.  Weak burghers mean you have low-tier markets, which is penalty enough.  Disloyal burghers evade taxes, burgle the treasury, burgle other estates, raise prices on all goods via predatory monopolies, provide intelligence to other domains, turn their ships to piracy or steal / "lose" their cargos, and try to have PCs assassinated.

Strategic locations relevant to the burghers might include areas with rich fishing (increased taxes or natural population growth), natural trade chokepoints like the mouths of major river systems (passive trade income as long as there's a sufficiently large burgher population there to control trade through the straights, pass, or river mouth), sources for rare trade goods (increased trade income), or sources of naval stores like pitch and timber (reduced shipbuilding costs).


Urban family surplus is only around 4gp/mo after garrison, urban upkeep, and all that stuff.  We'll allocate 2gp/mo/family to taxes, and the other 2gp/mo to supporting fleet units.  This yields 250gp/mo per 125 families.  The amount of support that units need is based on the Merchant Ships and Caravans table on page 145, rounded a little.  The trade income is also based off of that table, but it turns out to be about 100gp/mo of revenue per thousand stone of transport capacity.  I did reduce this trade income by about 20%, with the assumption that the lost fraction is being taken by burgher captains and merchants and being ploughed into urban investment and their own private ships.  Transport capacity is based on 200st per man, and marine capacity is likewise rounded a little.  Supply is based on the value and volume of grain, assuming that food will be the primary requirement of an army on campaign ("An army moves on its stomach").  Grain is 1gp/8st, so if a unit requires 60gp/week in supplies, that's 240gp/month, is ~2000st of grain per month.  A large sailing ship carries 30kst of cargo, so it can keep 15 companies of infantry in supply if it's making one delivery per month.  Instead I've worked these numbers to reflect one trip per week, assuming that supply depots cannot be maintained by a mobile army.  In a week, a large sailing ship with a navigator can move 720 miles (assuming a day to load and unload at each end and five days under sail).  Since we're assuming round trips, that gives us a supply distance of 360 miles, and means it can keep 60 companies in supply (since it's carrying 15 company*months of grain on each weekly trip).  Cavalry costs 4x as much supply, since most cavalry units have a supply cost of 240gp/wk instead of 60gp/wk.

The families for the various market classes have been reduced somewhat from ACKS' nominal figures, as a result of assumed-centralization and also to account for the shift of certain types of markets out to the other estates (church controls the market for divine spellcasting, tower controls the market for arcane spellcasting and sages).

Design notes:

This addresses some of my historical complaints about the thief domain game [1][2][3].  Thieves retain their status as a "support" domain - they generate money, supply and transport armies, and gather intelligence, none of which are "primary strike" functions but all of which are necessary.  Thieves win wars, and they do it without fighting.  Pretty sneaky, eh?  The thing here is that I have separated thief domain income from hijinks and crime.  This opens up a broader range of playstyles for thief-domain PCs; a venturer can focus on trade and ignore hijinks altogether, while an assassin might only dabble in trade and keep a bunch of assassins on the payroll.  It introduces real tradeoffs.

It also helps with suspension of disbelief.  If trade generates a ton of money, that's reasonable and believable (maybe should add a chance of sinking for each vessel trading for each season, but meh).  If thieves generate the same amount of money per unit time by blackmailing people, that's a little less believable.

Finally, by making ships easier for players to acquire and maintain (and by having Fleet Supply go to relative waste without them), hopefully ships would see more use, both for mid-level travel for adventure sites and for high-level naval battles.  Since we want PCs to use ships for transport, we'd probably also want a rule that a ship performing Trade can carry a small number of characters without interfering with its trade mission - otherwise PCs will be loathe to use them, for fear of disrupting their cashflow.

Establishing burghers as the naval power also sets up the nice historical dichotomy between Athens and Sparta, Britain and France (and later Germany), and the US and Russia, of sea powers and land powers, depending on how you allocate your population.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

ACKS Estates - Nobility

When most people think "fantasy kingdom / domain", they think nobility, with a warrior elite supported by farming peasants.  Here I'm running with High Medieval-style heavy cavalry nobles, but I'll leave enough of the math in to make it easy to switch it to old-school horse-archer samurai, berserkers, or whatever.

Executive summary: Every ten families under Feudal administration provide 60gp/season in taxes, 30gp/season in labor and materials for construction, and labor to maintain up to 1000gp in fortifications or roads.  Additionally, every ten families provides the services of a knight (2nd-level elite heavy cavalryman), his squire (1st-level veteran heavy cavalryman), and two men-at-arms (heavy infantry) for one season per year (typically summer).  All of their expenses (wages, supply, armorers) are paid by the hamlet for those three months per year.  For every knight or squire lost on campaign, two families move from the Feudal estate to the Border estate at the end of the campaign season.

Feudal heavy cavalry (mixed units of knights and squires) have the following Domains at War stats:
3/6/9 Formed Mounted, AC 6, Unit HD 1+2, UHP 12, Morale +3, 3 lance and shield 9+, charge 3 hooves 8+.

So you have three numbers to keep track of: number of families (changes rarely), total fortification value controlled by nobles (increases slowly over time; feel free to track it in actual fortresses with floorplans, or not), and estate loyalty.  I'm still thinking about how I want to handle estate loyalty; I think a common set of modifiers based on representation in the council of oligarchs, population change, strength relative to other factions, and unreasonable demands from the oligarchs should cover most of the cases, but I haven't worked them out yet.

Likewise, I'm not sure how I want to do random events yet.  I liked 1e Oriental Adventures' approach, with a yearly "big event" and monthly small events related to it, but that's a lot of work to build.  A more reasonable approach might be to build a table of templates, like Crawford's mad-libs.

In terms of seasonal random events, nobles like to fight, feast, and build castles.  So some ideas there would be feud between noble families, hold tournament, raiding across the border, knight slays dragon and appears as nth-level NPC for hire as henchman, PC receives marriage offer from major noble family, and so forth.  A drought, poor harvest, or widespread feuding could weaken the nobility.  A weak nobility (below a certain percentage of total realm population) might lead to random events with bandits or monsters encroaching on the countryside.  A disloyal nobility might raise an army against the oligarchy, hold a feast and slaughter any of the PCs or their henchmen in attendance, or have an NPC noble leader challenge its current oligarch for leadership (by single combat, of course).

Strategic locations relevant to the nobility might include areas of particularly fertile farmland (bonus taxes or natural population growth), particularly fortifiable locations like mountaintops and peninsulas (which boost the effective gold piece value of fortresses built on them and make it harder to besiege them), and locations which can restrict troop movement like river-fords.


Assuming average land, a family of peasants in ACKS produces 12gp/mo in goods and services and spends ~2.5gp/mo in festivals and tithes, leaving us with a pre-tax pre-garrison surplus of about 9.5gp/mo/family.  We also know, from the Demographics of Heroism, that for every 50 people (ten families), there is one 2nd-level character, and for every 20 people (four families), there is a first-level character.  So we're going to take a ten-family hamlet as our basic unit of organization here - it can support a 2nd-level knight, a 1st-level squire, and probably a 1st-level priest, wise woman, hedge wizard, or retired veteran mercenary, who we're not going to worry about.

A ten-family hamlet has an annual surplus of 9.5gp/family/mo * 12 months * 10 families = 1140gp.
A 2nd-level knight costs 115.5 gp/mo (60 in heavy cav wages, 38 in 2nd-level veteran wages, 1.5 in specialist wages, and 16 in supplies), while his 1st-level squire costs 99.5gp/mo (60 in heavy cav wages, 12 in 1st-level veteran wages, 1.5 in specialist, and 16 in supplies), so the pair of them together is 215gp/mo.  Obviously, this hamlet cannot afford to keep them in the field year-round (that would be 2580gp, more than twice its annual surplus).  Instead, they owe the state three months per year of service, typically exercised during the summer campaign season, consuming 645gp/year of the hamlet's surplus.  Additionally, when called to arms, they bring two heavy infantrymen with them for an additional 72gp, bringing our remaining annual surplus to 423gp.  The expenditures to support these guys more than covers the hamlet's garrison requirements (at 3gp/family/mo, 360 gp/year), and they spend the part of the year during which they are not serving the state at the hamlet, where they can take care of trouble as it arises.

Thus, in wartime, 150 families of peasants under noble / feudal rule can raise two platoons of feudal heavy cavalry (a mixed unit of 1st and 2nd-level fighters) and a platoon of heavy infantry.  Feudal heavy cavalry, as a mixed unit of 1st and 2nd-level fighters, has 12UHP (twice that of mercenary heavy cavalry), and makes 3 lance attacks at 9+.  It is otherwise identical to mercenary veteran heavy cavalry.  150 families is a decent borderlands six-mile hex; a population-dense civilized hex of 600 families would be able to raise two companies of cavalry.

ACKS notes that a reasonable tax rate is 2gp/family/month (60 gp/hamlet/season), which would consume an additional 240gp of the surplus and deliver it to the oligarchy's coffers, leaving a remaining annual surplus of 183 gp.

If this were used for fortress construction and upkeep, it would come to about 1.5gp/family/month.  We could use this is a simple construction rate, where each hamlet yields 18gp/mo of free construction.  This is...  not very much, though, at 44gp/hamlet/season.  Still, it adds up with many hamlets.  If we take that 44gp/season and split it into 30gp/season of construction and 14gp/season of maintenance, then each hamlet can maintain about 1000gp worth of fortifications.  This works OK with ACKS' assumptions about how big a fortification you need to hold enough land to protect so many families (in the borderlands case, 22500gp of fortress protects 25 hamlets, they maintain it, and also produce another 750gp/season in unmaintained defensive fieldworks on the eve of battle).  You could try to balance between construction and maintenance automatically, but I've looked at the math and you end up with a differential equation analogous to the charging of a capacitor.  Neat, but not worth the hassle for a game.  Where does the extra construction go if it's not spent?  The peasants put up new barns, redo their roofs, whatever.  They are obligated to provide 30gp/hamlet/season in construction and 14gp/hamlet/season in fortress maintenance to the oligarchy, and if the oligarchy doesn't exercise those obligations, they go to waste.  This is the nature of the social contract.

Saturday, March 11, 2017

The Fifth Character

I recall that the cast-commentary on Serenity described the ship as "another character", and we see this reflected sometimes in Traveller.  There was also a saying, back in Tribes 1 (I swear I'm not actually this old), that the missile turret on Raindance was the 11th man on a 10-man team.

Got to thinking, maybe we ought to treat domains more like we treat ships in Traveller.

In Traveller, the party as a whole has a ship.  Sure, there is one guy who, practically-speaking, is in charge of managing most of the paperwork.  You can get by with just a pilot, but in practice you want a pilot, an engineer, an astrogator, and a gunner or two for the whole thing to work.

What if domains were like that?

The party as a whole has a domain.  The player with the highest paperwork tolerance is probably in charge of dealing with most of the numbers, and you can get away with just one character running it, but in practice you really want a full party, fighter-wizard-thief-cleric team to run a single domain.

This approach is somewhat internally-consistent with ACKS' assumptions; if you assume that most domains come into being via adventurers clearing territory, then you'd expect to see that enshrined in their origin myths and the structure of their institutions.  The normal way for things to be run in this world is a council of oligarchs, one from each of the Four Estates (nobility, burghers, church, and wizard's tower - yes, I am absolutely stealing from EU4's Cossacks DLC.  It's a good idea.).  Moreover, each estate expects its representative to be independent, not a henchman of some other estate's representative.  Per The Art of Not Being Governed, a fifth "hill tribes" estate willing to follow explorers, barbarians, and shamans might be worth adding.  A domain's dwarven population might want a dwarven oligarch; likewise elves.

Estates have morale/loyalty scores instead of the domain as a whole having a morale score.  Loyal estates give you good stuff, mostly usable by the classtype that is supposed to lead them (eg, divine power, arcane research stuff, troops, offensive hijink capability / reach), while disloyal estates cause trouble (the church foments peasant uprising against reprobate leaders, the burghers hire assassins, &c).  You also need multiple estates cooperating to keep things running smoothly - nobles for garrison, burghers for cash+market, and divine for disaster-resistance, at a minimum.  As a result, having a party split up into many tiny personal domains means that each will have a great deal of trouble, while uniting as a single domain reaps rewards.

Might also be worth assigning estates a strength score, affecting their ability to cause trouble as well as their ability to provide benefits; the priests cannot foment a rebellion if that have all been killed, but likewise there will be nobody to buy a Restore Life and Limb from (market class for divine spellcasting reduced to VI).  Strong, loyal burghers pay lots of taxes, but strong, disloyal burghers have lots of money to hire assassins (per-season per-estate random event rolls, modified by estate loyalty, anyone?).

The ACKSiest approach would be to track estate strength numerically with families.  I recall reading that historically, about 90% of the population farmed, supporting the remaining 10% who specialized.  This is reflected in the default assumptions about the urban population fraction in ACKS (though there it's actually 90.9% and 9.09%, which is a pain in the ass).  Taking the "no land area, only families" simplified domain approach I postulated here, when you gain families, you place them under the administration of one of the estates, which is then responsible for extracting labor, taxes, and such from them and yielding some benefits to its oligarch and the realm as a whole.

The noble / feudal estate provides a knight and his retinue for every 10 families under its administration (the ACKS-math works, with demographics of heroism providing 1 2nd-level character per 50 people, which is 10 families), as well as providing garrison for the realm and labor and materials to build and maintain strongholds.  The burgher population determines market class, as well as providing labor and maintenance for a navy, which generates trade income in peacetime and can transport and supply military units during wartime.  Families laboring for the church generate divine power, which can be used for realm-scale blessings, averting disasters like plague, and personal research.  They also support paladins, although at a lower rate than feudal families support knights.  Wizards are trickier; we want to both provide a benefit to the domain as a whole, as well as to the mage-oligarch personally.  Monsters and magic items are hideously expensive and not super effective, but if ever there were a time and place to train wizards in mass-combat quantities, it would be a prince-wizardric (existing within a larger domain, like the prince-bishropics of the Holy Roman Empire).  Such an organized enclave would also maintain libraries and labs, and possibly a repository of spells.  The hillfolk are unruly and pay very little tribute to the realm, instead redirecting their economic surplus into population growth.  They're a good source of light/skirmish mercenary units, though.  There are a lot of things dwarves could provide, including siege weaponry, heavy infantry, fortress maintenance, high-quality nonmagical equipment (gunpowder?), and loans from the vaults.  Elves have mass-combat spellswords and top-tier archers (possibly spellsword archers?), and are a source for monstrous mounts (giant eagles, gryphons).

I guess one of the goals of this, in addition to bringing the party together on one domain by design and eliminating the need for hex-mapping, is to make domains give you tools, weapons, stuff-you-can-use, rather than just cash.  All too often in previous domain play, players had cash but needed mercs.  Having families provide less cash, but also obligated troops, helps address this problem.  Also, cash is boring, troops are fun.  Eliminating hexmapping also opens up more possibilities for the low-level domain game, because you no longer have such strict requirements for clearing hexes and claiming land.  If you're third level and you have ten families in your 30-acre "domain", you can start getting troops out of them very early.  Further, switching to just tracking families under nebulous governing institutions removes the need for deep NPC-trees.  It's absolutely unrealistic for modeling Medieval Europe, where governance was intensely personal, but man it would make life easier for me (provided a decent spreadsheet to manage all the stuff that domains provide - then it's just "they're a very militaristic realm of 10k families with medium priests, weak burghers, and no wizards, call it a 50% feudal, 30% church, 20% city split on population, so that gives 500 knights, 500 squires, and a thousand pikemen led by an 8th-level fighter, 150 paladins led by a 7th-level cleric, and a class IV small city market run by a 7th-level thief, with a fleet of one small galley and three large sailing ships.  Boom done, go invade it already, and take their families for yourself.").  It is also a better fit psychologically for my players (and possibly non-historian players more generally), who typically expect impersonal states with a couple of figureheads at the top and aren't huge on the courtier game.

Saturday, March 4, 2017

Simple Fumble, Mortal Wounds, and Resurrection Tables

I mentioned before that fumbles are a very normal part of real-life combat.  So here is a very simple fumble ruleset:

On a natural 1 on an attack roll, save vs paralysis.  On a failure, roll a d6 on the following table:

  1. Fall prone
  2. Off-balance, flat-footed until your next action
  3. Drop weapon
  4. Injure self for half of attack's damage 
  5. Attack another, randomly-determined nearby target
  6. Roll twice, ignoring identical results
While I'm at it, may as well address a few complaints with ACKS' tables...

Simpler Mortal Wounds:
  1. Very dead, -1 to resurrection roll if your compatriots bother hauling your parts out in a bag
  2. Pretty dead
  3. Only mostly dead, +1 bonus to resurrection roll
  4. Minor permanent injuries; some big scars, some teeth, a couple fingers, probably a penalty to reaction rolls.  Pick a result from the actual table that you find amusing.  Also in shock (as 5).
  5. Mission-killed, in shock or severe concussion, 1HP but not fit to fight or cast and probably needs a minder to get out of the dungeon, but going to be OK.
  6. KO / minor concussion, get back up with 1HP.
Roll 1d4+1.  Add 1 if Con 18, subtract 1 if Con 3.  Add 1 if checked by a medic within one combat round, subtract 1 if receive no medical treatment within a day.  Add 1 if 0 or more HP after magical healing, subtract 1 if negative HP >= half of normal max HP.  Treat results >6 as 6, <1 as 1.  Optionally, you can take one non-spellcasting action after being struck down at the cost of a -1 penalty on your eventual mortal wounds roll.

Simpler Restore Life and Limb:
  1. No return, not even miracle.
  2. Restless Spirit - You don't make it back, but at any point in the future your ghost can appear to do something important during play (with stats as they were when you died, but max HP and full spells).  You can only come back for one session, and then you're done and out permanently.  Make it count.
  3. Eurydice - Somebody's going to have to go to hell and drag you out.  Since your friends couldn't keep you from dying on the prime material, they're probably not up for storming the brimstone gates, and you might just have to make a deal with a devil instead.
  4. Quest - The resurrecting deity demands that you undertake a quest in return for being allowed to return to life.  Failure to complete it (or at least convince said deity that you're making progress) within a year and a day will result in your prompt and thorough unresurrection.
  5. Something goes weird.  Pick a result from the RL&L table that you and/or the DM find amusing and not totally crippling.
  6. Scott-Free, except for a little memory loss around the time of death (hence no earned XP from the expedition).
Roll 1d4+1.  Add 1 if Wis 18, subtract 1 if Wis 3.  Add 1 if performed by 12th+ level cleric, subtract 1 if not performed in a sanctified place.  Treat results >6 as 6, <1 as 1.