Wednesday, November 27, 2013

More Conquering: The Town of Brindinford

It occurred to me just the other day that the surprising thing about this blog is not it's generally pedestrian and uninspired content, but the fact that I fell in love with Adventurer, Conqueror, King because of the end-game domain and economic rules - yet pretty much just blog about the Adventurer part.

Not that ACKS's interpretation of B/X isn't inspired, mind you - from the cleave mechanic to the OCDer's dream that is the custom class and spell content of the Player's Companion, there's all sorts of wonderful things in there for the player and DM who just want to trod the jeweled thrones of the earth beneath their sandaled feet.

I've never sat down and really consumed those rules. Chapters 1 through 6, 8 and 9, sure - really, anyone who would stop to read this blog can run a game of DND with nothing but a small sack and 20 numbered acorns, and those chapters are simply a different recipe for that same meal.

Chapters 7 and 10 are where the gold is - Campaigns and Secrets.

So! Let's see if I can do this without any glaring mistakes!

I'm going to avoid mapping anything out on this particular exercise, because that taps into my OCD, and I'll be up late nights reading about river flow and tectonics and weather patterns and new ways to randomly generate coastlines in GIMP and ain't nobody got time for that.

Back In The Day(tm), I ran a heavily modified Speaker In Dreams, a 3.5 adventure. I recall it being the first 3.5 'city' adventure, and there was a town originally called Brindinford, detailed out in 3.5's style.

Let's convert it into an ACKS domain!

Here's the 3.5 'settlement stat block', modified to eliminate module spoilers (Greetings from 2001!):

Brindinford (large town):Conventional; AL LG; 5,000 gp limit;
Assets 1,200,000 gp; Population 4,807;
Mixed (human 79%, halfling 9%, elf 5%, dwarf 3%, gnome 2%, half-elf 1%, half-orc 1%).
Authority Figures:Baron Euphemes II,male human Ari5, LG;

There were some economic guidelines in the 3.5 DMG, starting on page 137.

The 5,000 GP limit is apparently the price of "the most expensive item for sale" in town, which means, more or less, any mundane or magical item under that price ought to be available.

That limit also informs the town's assets (cash reserves) - multiply half that limit by 1/10th of the population (2500 * 480) - Brindinford has about 1,200,000 GP in cash reserves on hand to soak up what the party is selling.

This also means that there'a 1,200,000 GP limit on the market value of what's there to be sold - per item.

So the party can sell 1.2M of gems, then turn around and buy 1.2M in swords, if I'm grokking that right. That's an extreme example, obviously, and probably only comes into play in the small hamlets and such - there's a scale at which that calculated number is essentially out of reach, because it's patently ridiculous.

Finally, it notes the Baron is a 5th level Aristocrat, an NPC class.

I could dig into the 3.5 DMG and flesh out the rest of the NPC population via those rules, but we don't necessarily care about that.

The module doesn't say anything specific about trade in town, so I'll skip over demand modifers and such as well.


We'll be sticking with the by-the-book assumptions about population density and urban settlement patterns.

Brindinford is a "large town" of 4,807 people. That translates to 961 families (5 persons per family). Surprisingly, that's still a Large Town in ACKS (625-1249 families). I'm presuming here that the population number from 3.5E is including children and such - I can't find evidence either way - if we instead assume that's only adults, counting by family might bloom that city up to ~2,400 families. It'd be a small city, same market size.

If we look at Brindinford as the largest settlement in it's realm, the Villages, Towns, and Cities Placement table on page 231 means we have a realm of 31,250 - 62,499 families. I'm going to say 47,820.

To firm that number up, I'm going to skip ahead a bit.

Page 229 tells us it's in a Duchy, which means Euphemes gets to be a Duke. If we assume from page 230 that we're doing 300 families per 6 mile hex, our realm is about 140 of those, or about 9 24 mile hexes.

Since it's a Duchy, we know Euphemes has vassals. He has Brindinford in his realm, and, let's say 1,330 families in his personal domain outside that urban center. Informed by that, we start drilling down, through the Counts to the Marquis then the Barons at the bottom.

The reason I'm doing this extra step is to get a handle on vassal tax revenue - at a certain level, tax revenue far outstrips what you earn from your personal domain.

I constructed this table by first estimating a population for the realm (47,820), and splitting that into rural and urban families (taking 10% of the total for urban families). I then started dividing the population between each vassal level down, at each step taking the ruler's personal domain out of the totals, until I reached the bottom. After some adjustments here and there, I took my total populations at each level and re-added them up to get a correct population total at the top.

At the same time, I calculated taxes owed and revenue at each level, and propagate that upwards as well, giving me a direct connection from the income of a peasant in some remote barony back up to the domain ruler I'm concerned with.

I ended up with a domain population of 47,866, not far off from my first estimate; rounding fragments and making some adjustments for size in the lower domains added a few families here and there.

At the end of the task, there's 5 Counts, 20 Marquis, and 80 barons. That's 105 domains, which fits in with the 'Realms By Type' and the Political Divisions of Realms table on pg 229. We've simplified a lot here, obviously, every realm ruler has the same number of vassals, etc.; and we're taking the average land value.

The Domain of Brindinford

Revenue From Land

Page 125 tells us that a domain is civilized if it's within 50 miles of a large town. Our large town is inside our domain, so that certainly holds - Euphemes' domain is all civilized hexes. (note I've normalized the land value of all 5 of his hexes)

We know from pg 230 that Euphemes' stronghold value is at least 115,000 - his minimum required stronghold value for just his 5 hexes is 75,000, so he has no real reason to be higher than that.

Furthermore, we'll assume our Duke has his own liege lord, to whom he'll owe taxes. We've already calculated the vassal tree income underneath Euphemes, so we can see his tax revenue from that - it far outstrips his personal domain income. In fact, it's responsible for almost all of his profit.

It's good to be the duke.

Revenue From Brindinford

Let's see what Brindinford itself gets him. It has 961 families, and is therefore a Class IV market, providing Euphemes with 7.5 GP/mo/family.

The NPC that holds the position of 'mayor' for Brindinford, whether elected or appointed, is probably 6th level, from pg 235. 

Revenue From Trade

This isn't necessarily in the domain rules, but it's a fun addon.

Brindinford is on a river, so there's no way there's not a good amount of trade going on. It's a Class IV Market, so let's see what we can drag out of it.

There's an awesome thread on Autarch's boards, where someone brings up how to model a large city that exists mostly through trade. Using those guidelines, a Class IV market has 40 merchants, each moving 8 loads of cargo per month at an average of 300GP/load, at about a 10% margin - that's generating 9,600 GP of income per month from trade.

Let's assume that Euphemes can monopolize 5% of that, for 390GP/month. Technically he only gets XP for that if he's leading the trading expedition himself. Perhaps he does it as part of seasonal visitations to vassals or his own liege lord. Perhaps he has a trusted retainer do the work and just takes a piece of the profits which happens to equal 5% of the general total.

Total Revenue

All in all, Euphemes is pulling in 13,507 GP per month. That's above his 12,000GP XP threshold, since he's level 9, according to assumptions from the Demographics table. He should be put to level 10, if he's been at this for long enough.

In fact, let's say Euphemes is a hereditary ruler. If he was made Duke while still a minor, how long would it take him to get from 1st -> 10th on domain income alone? We know he's someone else's henchman, since he is some prince's vassal, so he earns 50% of that difference in XP. We also can't gain more than one level per month.

He'll gain 6,753 XP per month. Assume he's a fighter (or use Thomas Weigel's excellent Aristocrat class, same XP progression). He'll get to 7th level in 14 months, 7th in another 11 months, and levels 8 through 10 will take 19 months each. That's a total of 82 months, or, about 6 years and 10 months.

That's more than enough time for shenanigans with a less-than-loyal Regent. He can get there a little faster by going out and adventuring.

The Underground of Brindinford

In the criminal underground system, the people are impacted by two separate yet equally important groups: the ruffians, who perpetrate crime; and the adventurers who establish hideouts, and enable the offenders. These are their stories. (dun dun)

We can't have all this commerce going on without a bit of taking some back for the little people, no?

Somewhere in the same hex as our large town is a hideout. We know two things - it's worth at least 20,000GP, and it has a maximum membership of 100 ruffians, scoundrels, and other ne'er-do-wells.

We can figure from pg 237, the "Starting City Criminal Guilds" table, that there's a 7th level thief-type running the guild, and the syndicate based there is earning 7,350GP per month. 

It's not necessarily stated (not that I can find anyway), but I've added the same upkeep given to Strongholds to the Hideout here - it's a 20K GP Hideout, so it has 1,000 GP in upkeep.

I started a thread on rectifying the Monthly Hijink Income table on pg 141 with the Starting City Criminal Guilds - that's the genesis of the more complex table. I wanted to tease out how much is actually being spent on the legal system.

Our 7th level thief is pulling in a decent amount.

Syndicate Income from Settlements

We previously established there are 5 Villages scattered in the vassal realms, and each is a Class VI market. The estimated Guild Revenue from the table on pg. 237 doesn't quite jive with actually calculating out the sub-syndicate income level - however, if you count the boss's own hijink income, it can work out. I don't know if that holds going all the way back up the tree to wherever the kingpin is for the realm Brindinford is a vassal for.

When next we see Brindinford, we'll see it preparing for war with Autarch's Domains At War!

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Natural Ability vs. Experience - Ability Bonuses

Random Commentary

The pseudo-fortnightly production on this blog nearly ground to a halt; fortunately for you, dear reader, Kerbal Space Program will not work on my office computer, thus keeping my lunch hours free to cogitate on DND.

I love launching those little green idjits into space. I've gotten readings from orbit around both Mun and Minmus, and I'm working on getting some permanent probes up. It's odd that the tech tree allows me to send up men before machines; but I suppose the NASA program was also pretty close to simultaneous man/machine launches, though that was due to geopolitics more than anything.

In a more bloggish note, my post on Ovatic Spellcasting is a spam magnet - on the plus side, I've gathered several entertaining NPC names:
  • The Greatest Lord Wakaman
  • The Priest Oduma
  • The World Greatest Lord Zilialia
  • Doctor Zaza 
  • Priest-Doctor Ogbu
  • Doctor Guoguo
  • Doctor Ogunjimi
  • Doctor Agbalagba
Dr. Agbalagba actually posted twice; first time without the 'Doctor' honorific. I was more impressed with him when he wasn't a doctor; in a world of Priest-Doctors and World Greatest Lords a sorcerer without a title must be powerful indeed, yes?

I really don't get these though - cheap boner pills and random sex with stranger spam I understand, I mean, who doesn't, right? I had no idea there was a spam industry based on having spells cast to get back stray lovers. Doesn't the random-stranger-sex spam solve the lost-lover spam?

I'm marginally concerned that this post will cause a wizard fight to break out in my spam box.

Actual Content

Way back here I talked about ACKS' proficiency system, and how taking a proficiency essentially gives you a +4 bonus, then a "virtual 18" for an additional +3 in an ability related to that proficiency for purposes of using it.

That got me to cogitating on the difference between natural ability and experience - perhaps a kid who bats .800 against a pitching machine just on natural ability, but couldn't do squat against actual experienced pitchers.

So, what about allowing ability bonuses to modify more things by default, but they only last for a little while - once the character's class progression outstrips the bonus from the starting value, that bonus is lost.

Rather than it being a flat bonus, it's an overlay - a 1st level fighter with an attack throw of 10+ with a STR of 18 has an attack throw of 7+ - and that sticks until 7th level, when his unmodified attack throw passes his natural ability. A Mage with an 18 DEX will gain a benefit on ranged attacks until 13th level!

The table here illustrates this - the entries are colored by what that ability bonus is better than or equal to.  A fighter with a 14 DEX, a +1 bonus in ACKS, gets 3 levels of benefit - at 4th level, his skill outstrips his natural ability.

It might be a bit jarring to see it applied to attack throws, but, let's look at a couple things that haven't historically been given ability bonuses.

FWIW, damage bonuses from STR would be applied all the time. Swingin' hard is swingin' hard, if you hit or not.

Saving throws generate a big table - I'm making no presumption as to what ability might correspond to each save, but, you can see that what holds for the attack throws holds here too - Fighters quickly outsrip their abilities, whereas a Mage with high CON might rely on it to help his Poison & Death throws for the majority of his career.

And, for last, the thieving skills. This may be very well the best place to do it; a little boost at low levels on thief skills is something I've heard mentioned a lot around the interwebs.

Our thief might stretch his natural talents all the way to 4th level before training overcomes them.

There's slight precedence for the change in attack throws - the Potion/Girdle of Giant Strength sets your attack throw to that of an 8 HD creature, unless you're already better than that, which, in a roundabout way, somewhat validates my idea. Gauntlets of Ogre Power take a small hit, though, in that they set your STR to 18 - you'll get the extra damage but not the attack throw bonus if you're a Fighter of 7th level or higher.

All in all, still old-school, in that high ability scores aren't necessary - they just may ease out some of the low levels. It's also a bit new-school, in that you can apply ability score bonuses to more things ...without fearing the PCs being monstrosities at high levels.