Taxes and the Economy

Being in lockdown, with little to do and bored with updating my wiki – I took a shower.  Did you know that showers are one of the best places for thinking, ever?  My campaign system incorporates taxes – and I had a rough idea of how they, and the economy, worked – but by the time I came out of the shower, I had it all sussed out.  Now I need to write it down before I forget.

There are only three different taxes – and they are very straight forward.

Ordinary Taxes

Ordinary Taxes are the main taxes that everyone pays, it goes to the Council or Lord who ‘owns’ the settlement and is used to help expand and maintain the settlement.  It is based on the economic value of the main businesses in the settlement and is currently set at 20% of the economy.  However, it doesn’t come directly from the settlements businesses – but to understand that, you need to understand the three tier economy.

Primary Economy

The Primary Economy consists of the main businesses in town that are run by the PCs or significant NPCs.  If it contributes Economy, Loyalty, Stability, Defence or Magic Items  – it is a main business and part of the primary economy.

Example:  An inn contributes +3Economy and +1Loyalty to a settlement,  and is always part of the primary economy.  It directly employs waiting staff, bar staff, cooks, housekeeping staff, stable staff etc.  It rents rooms, sells food and drink and may have other facilities (such as meeting rooms) as well.  But it hardly pays any taxes – directly.

Secondary Economy

The secondary economy represents those businesses that directly service the Primary Economy.  It is generally run by the middle classes and less important NPCs, and includes craftsmen, professionals and the moderately wealthy.  There are many more people involved in the Secondary Economy that there are in the primary economy.

Example:  the Hotel buys meat from a butcher, veg from the market, crockery from the potter, beer from the brewery, wine from the wine merchant …  The inn needs cutlery, pots, pans, bed linen, laundry services and many other items.  The Commoners need somewhere to live, so the Secondary Economy includes tenements and other rented facilities owned by, and providing an income for, the minor aristocrats and lesser NPCs of the town.  All those members of the Secondary Economy have to pay taxes and fees, and they pass those costs on to the Primary economy, as part of the cost of doing the job.

Tertiary Economy

This consist of the commoners who supply the Secondary Economy.  The brewery needs barley and grains, the butcher needs animals, and the market needs eggs and vegetables.  Somewhere along the line someone has supplied metal to a smith or tinker, material to a seamstress and carried wine to the wine-merchant.  It consists of farm labourers, porters, teamsters, cleaners, spinners, weavers, woodcutters, quarrymen, apprentices, servants – and all sorts of other low skilled commoners. And there are more people involved in the Tertiary Economy than in the Secondary.  These guys all have to pay taxes and fees as well – and these get passed on as well. 

The Effect

The economy is like an iceberg – you only ever see the top 10%,  but there is much more going on underneath.  So while ‘Ordinary Tax’ is based on the economic value of the businesses in a settlement, the money doesn’t actually come from the business itself – it comes from all the people who are involved in the business or servicing it via the Secondary or Tertiary economies.

Nor does it come in the form of income or corporation tax – those are much too difficult to police.  Instead, there are fees for using the market, property taxes, fees for passing through the gates – every one finishes up paying bits of tax, according to their station. However, those costs finish up reflected in the prices that the Inn above charge. 

It is important to remember that these taxes are assessed in BPs – which are an indeterminate mix of cash, goods and services.  So some commoners might pay in labour (sweeping streets, painting bridges, carting refuse).  Some members of the middle classes might pay in a goods or services – a supply of torches, or perhaps pens, ink or maybe even paper or a signwriter might ‘refresh’ some of the town’s signs each year.  There are many options – including coins. 

Simple Tax

This is the tax that is paid to the overlord to help grow and maintain the region / province, country or empire.  Rather than being a set percentage, Henry of Midmarch collects Road Tax – this comes in the shape of road tolls and settlement income raised from goods entering or leaving a settlement.  To keep it simple, Henry collects all the income generated by Roads or Highways within the Campaign System Rules.  He does not claim the income generated by canals.

However, a different game could use a different way of collecting this tax.

Development Tax

A Development Tax, is a fee paid when you are granted permission to build or develop something. 

Settlements of all sorts are required to keep Economy, Loyalty and Stability in balance, if they don’t bad things start to happen in their town.  Investors and business-folks are mainly interested in developments with an Economic benefit for them.  To balance that, the council has to add points of Loyalty and Stability to their town – they can either do this out of their tax money, or they can ask the investor for a contribution towards expenses. 

In Midmarch this has settled at roughly 0.5bp per every point of unbalanced economy –  the town has to find another 0.5bp from its own resources to keep the balance.  This is a discretionary tax – it is normally lower for ‘friends’ and higher for ‘strangers’.   Religious building don’t add to the Economy but do add Loyalty and Stability – so they are often encouraged, tax-free, to help balance economic developments. 

It happens on a provincial level too.  Henry of Midmarch claims the right to charge a fee every time someone wants to settle a hex.  He has a sliding scale of fees for his followers – first hex free, next six hexes taxed at 1bp per hex, 2bp per hex beyond that.  It is higher for strangers.  The right to settle at Tazleford was bought by an elf, who paid for it in a heady mix of gems, jewellery and magic items.  That was three or four times the cost that Henry would have charged one of his favourites.   Indeed, he has been known to give hexes away free to people who have done him a service.

Extra taxes

I have described a full tax system here – however a monarch can charge whatever taxes they think are appropriate.  In England / Britain we have had taxes on the number and size of windows, taxes to fund ship building, or special taxes to support an army.  Not to mention import and export duties on all sorts of items – at one point merchants had to pay a tax to be able to export wool that had been produced in England.

As a DM, you should be prepared to throw in strange taxes if it suits you.  As a player, you should expect them …

Mass Combat

Overview

I have never found a set of mass combat rules in a D&D style game that I liked – but I never really knew why. However, sometime ago I saw a blog that explains it perfectly. The quote below sums it up.

“All of these games perpetuate the flaw that kept Chainmail from catching on in the first place: in order to play them, you have to stop playing D&D.

D&D is not a war game. All the design decisions that make a good war game lead to a bad D&D game, and vice versa.

-Because war games are played competitively, they must be fair. D&D campaigns can only achieve longevity when they are unfair in favor of the players.“

There is more to it, and I ‘sort of’ like the system he comes up with – but that doesn’t work all that well with my overall campaign rules. So I have come up with my own version.

Base Concept

I have read mythology and fantasy books for years, and whenever they describe wars, the action focusses on the heroic individuals and the actual battle take place in the background. The Siege of Troy, for example, focuses on Paris, Achilles, Ajax and other heroes – not on the battle. In Celtic myth Cu Chulain fights off a whole army almost single handled – but the stories deal with the small encounters rather than mass battles. In The Lord of the Rings, Tolkien focuses on the heroes at the Battle of the Black Gate – and I could go on.

It is that style of heroic battle that I want to portray in my mass combat rules. The battle is still there and becomes the backdrop for normally D&D style small group combats – with the PCs as the Armies’ heroes. Importantly the outcome of the PC encounters affects the morale of their army, and adds to their saves and combat rolls.

And that matches my experience as a re-enactor :] For years I have been a member of the Sealed Knot and, more recently, The Wimborne Militia re-enacting battles from 17th century Britain. I am never really aware of the overall state of the battle, apart from in the most general terms, because I am too busy fighting my own fight. The same was true when I was in command of a company or regiment involved in the battle – I was given a specific task, then relied on runners from a General to tell me what the overall position was, or to change my tasking.

I want to create the same sort of effect in my D&D game.

The Campaign Rules

My campaign rules are designed to support a long running game where the players can build up churches, businesses and strongholds – and even develop an independent state, if they want to – and these mass Combat rules need to work with those rules as well. That is particularly important at the moment as my primary campaign, runs on RPoL and can have fifteen or sixteen PCs split into three different adventuring parties.

Under those rules ‘Military Presence’ is defined by Defence Points. Each Defence point is, roughly, about a CR7 encounter (after very basic run-through combat) – and will form the basis of Army size/effectiveness calculations. To do this the size of the unit gets smaller and the toughness of the troops increases. So, perhaps, 10 guardsmen, 7 veterans, 5 light cavalry or 3 heavy cavalry, each make up 1dp of troops. And that makes sense to me, because all of those units have the same cost in the Campaign Rules (1bp) but if you want tougher troops you have to pay them more and buy them better equipment, so it balances out.

To find the total strength of the army I use the additive method found in the DM section of the PF rules. The table below is an extract.

Army CR Calculations

CRWeighting
165
2100
3135
4200
5265
6400
7535
8800
91070
101600
112130
123200
134270
146400
158530
1612800
1717100
1825600
1934100
2051200
2168300
22102400
23137000
24204800
25273000
26409600
27546000
28819200
291092000
301638400

Find the CR value of the unit in the left-hand side, then take the weighting from the right-hand side. Add the weightings together and then cross-reference that total to find the total CR of the Army.

So for example a very small army might consist of 4dp of guards and 3 DP of light cavalry

  • 1dp Guards = 535
  • 1dp Guards = 535
  • 1dp Guards = 535
  • 1dp Guards = 535
  • 1dp Lgt Cav = 535
  • 1dp Lgt Cav = 535
  • 1dp Lgt Cav = 535

Total = 3745

3745 = CR12 army.

For that example, I could just as easily have said 535* 7 = 3475 and got the same result.

This all assumes that the Army has a suitable NPC command structure in place, which should be more or less in place from their other functions in the game world.

However, this system allows us to be a bit more flexible. Perhaps a Cleric, Wizard and Ranger also live in town, and they come along to support the army …

  • Army = 3475
  • L4 Cleric = 135
  • L7 Wizard = 400
  • L6 Ranger = 265

Total = 4075 – or a CR13 army.

Note: Characters with at least one level in a PC or Prestige Class.

Example

Midmarch has an army worth 44 defence points, assuming that every unit musters as requested – that gives an Army strength of 23,540 – or a CR 17 army. However, there are a number of NPCs or inactive PCs who come along in support of the army.

  • Henry (Aristo/Scion) CR6 – 400
  • Rikka (Magus) CR5 – 265
  • El (Fighter) CR3 – 135
  • Abbess Beatrix (Cleric) CR3 – 135

Bringing the total strength up to 24,475 – which is still a CR17 army, but it doesn’t need much (perhaps the Roths) to push it up to CR 18.

It makes combining armies straight forward as well. For example House Khavortorov have 15dp (8025) of normal troops and supporters worth another 1465 – giving an army strength of 9,490 or a CR15 army.

Should Midmarch and Khavortorov join up to fight together – their total is 24,475+9,490 = 33,965. Or a CR 18 army. Again it doesn’t need much (just a L4 PC) to tip it over to a CR 19 army.

Making it work.

The battle ebbs and flows around the battlefield, often in sight of the heroic PCs battle. At the end of each combat round one of the PCs rolls for their army, DM rolls for the enemy. Opposed D20 roll – modified by the Army CR and mods awarded from the PC battle. Keep a total of Victory Points.

Army wins by 15 or moreDominant win+3 Victory points
Army wins by 10 or moreWin+2 Victory Points
Army wins by 5 or moreWinning Draw+1 Victory Point
 DrawNo Change
Army loses by 5 or moreLosing DrawNo Change
Army loses by 10 or moreLose-1 Victory point
Army loses by 15 or moreHeavy loss-2 Victory points
PCs get the better of the round +1 morale modifier to Army combat roll
PCs clearly winning +2 morale modifier to Army combat roll
PCs win Heroic Combat +5 morale modifier to Army combat roll, and
+5 Victory points.

The battle ends at the same time as the PCs Heroic Combat.

Victory Conditions

If an army ever reaches -25 Victory Points, it routs and runs away. It might be reformed later, but it suffers a -4cr depletion penalty until it can get back to its barracks and recruit new soldiers. Getting a routed army to reform is an RP challenge for the PCs. A routing army may be pursued by Heroes from the other side, but the victorious army does not chase them.

If no-one routs – then both sides retreat to their pre-battle formation when the PC heroic combat finishes. Any army who finishes the day with 1+ Victory Points – suffers a -1cr depletion penalty until it can get back to its barracks and recruit new soldiers. Any army who finishes the day with 0- Victory Points – suffers a -2cr depletion penalty until it can get back to its barracks and recruit new soldiers.

Whether the armies reform and fight again next day is down to the commanders on both sides. Either commander can choose to retire and concede the ground – if both choose to stand, the battle starts again the next day (with the cr penalties applied)

Why do it that way? Even a victorious army loses soldiers unless they are re-enforced – and that is hard to do with limited communications and really slow transport. But just as importantly, it means even Victorious leaders have to think about their army strength – especially if they think they need to take on a different army later.

Sieges

Sieges have always been more difficult that open battles, and even taking buildings with light fortification or defence is more difficult than taking, or burning, civilian properties. This is because there are more combat trained people about, that can fill in when required. Under the Campaign rules there are auxiliaries and militia – and then there are all those guys who are too old to go off on active duty. However, they can fire crossbows for the walls, chuck rocks over the battlements, pour hot stuff through murder holes or poke spears at anyone who comes close. So …

  • If the troops are at home (ie not out as part of an army) Defence Point Value for every fortified building, villages with palisades, or towns/cities with walls is doubled.
  • If the troops are away, with the army, the buildings are defended by those people left behind – so defence points still count (but at normal value) if the building or settlement is besieged.

The problem arises when you have a city like Tusk. Three districts are inside the walls – and benefit from defence – but another three are outside the walls and there is nothing to stop a marauding army destroying those districts – when the army is away from home.

Property Law

You wait patiently for a post, and then suddenly two come along almost at the same time. However, one thing leads to another – and it was the last post on settlements that made me think about property. While much of this post could be generally useful – all the examples come directly from the game I run at RPoL. In part that is because I am in the middle of developing a new element for my house campaign rules.

Land Ownership

This section refers to large tracts of land that are owned by Kings, Nobles and Aristocrats.  This ownership is heritable, and can be passed down from generation to generation.

Alloidal – this is the absolute land ownership enjoyed by absolute monarchs.  The land is held by the grace of The Gods and The Sun – or by conquest.   There is no higher authority who can make laws or take the land away from its ruler, except by conquest.

  • This is how Coral the Conqueror held Brevoy.
  • Before Brevoy existed – Lord Surtova,  Lord Olovsky and Sword-Baron Aldori held their land Alloidally. 

Palatine – Palatine states are one stage down from Alloidal states – the ruler owns the land but has a responsibility to a higher authority.  Palatine states are generally required to follow military  policy set by their overlord, use a national currency and pay Simple Tax.  Beyond that, they are free to rule their land as they see fit – they decide the laws, run the courts, tax their people, award titles and make any other decisions they want to.

  • Examples – House Lodkova’s lands.

Manorial – Manors are land granted by a higher ranking authority.  The owner can charge taxes and rent, sell or lease land and properties as they see fit. However, they are required to follow military policy set by their higher ranking authority, use a national currency, pay Simple Tax and follow all the laws of the land.   Manors are a single hex – but an individual may own more than one manor, which combine to create an Honour.

  • Examples of manors include – Ringbridge, Oston, Silverton.
  • Examples of honours include – the leMaistre estate (Newgate, Eastgate, Westgate) and the Vallani estate (Feyfalls, Whiterun)

Tribal Ownership – land owned by a particular tribe and the land is used for their communal benefit.  There might be a chief, and there is probably an elite – but the land belongs to the tribe.  There may well be a treaty arrangement between a tribe and the surrounding manor.

  • This fits the Sootscale Enclave (Kobolds) in Midmarch.

Property Ownership

This section applies to individual properties, rather than to parcels of land. However, It can also include livestock such as farm animals, mule trains etc, wagons, ships, boats and personal property such as weapons and armour.

Freehold – The owner has the right to sell or lease the property onwards but must pay Ordinary Taxes to their higher authority.  The authority normally retains the right to take it back into ownership if the property is abandoned or unused.  This type of ownership is normally reserved for the aristocracy and can be passed down through the generations.

  • Examples include – Henry/Adoven’s estates in Tusk –  and every other building listed in the spreadsheets. 

Leasehold – The owner buys the right to build and use a property for a limited amount of time (often 100 years).  For that time the owner has all the same rights of a freeholder.  However, the property must be returned to the authority at the end of the lease or a new fee paid for an extension. Many buildings in towns and cities are leasehold and are often ‘owned’ by low ranking aristocrats, or NPC craftsmen. They are not recorded in the financial spreadsheets and don’t affect their town’s balance/stats in any way.

  • Examples include – Many of the tenement buildings in Tusk are leased by House Hananki and Lily Teskertin,  who are junior members of the Tusk Aristocracy.  They are then rented out to commoners and other NPCs alike.

Copyhold – most commonly found in the country side, Copyhold is a way for commoners to own property.  Normally this comes in the form of a small piece of land that can be used as a small holding, in return for a fixed service.  That might, for example,  be a responsibility to maintain and repair a section of road.  So long as that obligation is met, the Copyhold remains valid and the commoner holds onto their land.  It can be sold, or passed on to the  next generation –  although that must be approved by the local lord / authority.

  • Examples include –  most of the smallholdings in rural Midmarch.

Owners

There are many ways that a property’s owner can be defined – here are some examples.  These  types of ownership apply to  Letters Patent and can be a signatory of a contract.

Personal – Cass Mordane owns land at Silverton (with Manorial Rights) as well as a Hotel and a Tavern (both freehold property).

Family – DELEM trading is the property of the leMaistre family.  It owns freehold property in Midmarch and across the southeast of Brevoy.

Joint – WSM is jointly owned by Domitius Solanus and Kendrick Winters.  It also works well for established adventuring parties and mercenary companies.

Charity – The Three Ladies School was set up to be self-funding and self-supporting.

Administrative – The Governor of Midmarch own a small estate that provides services to Midmarch.  Tusk Council owns a number of buildings in the city.

Communal – some properties are built and owned by the whole community,

Letters Patent

Letters patent are a way for a ruler to assign titles, land or a privilege to people, groups or families.  In many cases they can be granted by a representative on behalf of their ruler.

Patents of Rights – A Patent of Rights is a document that confers a specific right on an individual, often as a reward, or as payment for a service.  Patents of Rights are heritable and can be passed on to succeeding generations.

  • Examples Include Marik’s exclusive right to negotiate business with the Sootscale Kobolds.

Land Patents – Patents of Palatine land ownership must be signed and delivered by a ruler.  Patents of Manorial land ownership are often signed and issued by the ruler’s representatives.  Other types of land or property ownership do not need a Patent, just a contract with the Local Lord –  as they do not confer any special rights.

Patents of Nobility – The document that confers a title on an individual.  Peerage Titles (such as Duke or Count) are only conferred by Kings.  Kings, Dukes and Princes can all appoint Barons.  Lord and Lord-Dominus titles are often issued by the king’s representatives against given criteria.  In Midmarch the Governor can award the title of Lord-Dominus and can recommend the title of Lord – according to The Military Policy.  Patents of Nobility are heritable, but normally contain a clause that links them to the manors that triggered the ennoblement.  (Those manors / resources are inherited alongside the title – other properties may be left to other hiers)

The Terms

In Midmarch, Lord Henry LeMaistre, Governor of Midmarch is the ‘overlord’.

Simple Tax –  In Midmarch,  Simple Taxes are paid to the Governor to support provincial running costs. They are the fee you pay to ‘buy’ the land from Henry the Governor and the income from any roads that pass through your lands.

Ordinary Tax – in Midmarch Standard Tax is set at 29% – and is calculated and paid automatically (by your business managers) within the Campaign Rules.  It goes to fund and support the settlement the building is in.

Military Policy – Different levels of Noble title are awarded to those who provide different levels of military support to the state/province when required by the Overlord\Governor.  (Lord Dominus = 5 defence points, Lord = 10dp, Baron 15dp)

Settlements

Overview

Settlement types have been used to in D&D style games for as long as I can remember.  The first edition DMG had a nice table (p173) that was used for randomly determining the contents of a hex, which also include population guidelines. There has been something similar in every other rule-set that I have used – because it is such a handy tool for the world designer. 

There have been, and still are, many different RL definitions of settlement types.  They have changed historically and the change with jurisdiction, so in my definitions I have chosen something that ‘sort-of’ fits at least one RL definition, and fits in with the standard progression as seen in various game rules.  Where appropriate I match the descriptions up with examples from my House Rules and assign an average population to help with my number crunching and population calculations – although the number of people living in each type of settlement could vary significantly.  A settlement should have the people that you need it to have J

Minor Settlements

Single Dwelling

Literally just one single dwelling – it might be home to an extended family running a smallholding, a group of hunters, a hermit, a watchtower, or an oracle.   

Under my house rules, a Watchtower, Base Camp, Smallholding, Tree House, Holy Grove and Witch Hut all count as single dwellings.  Average population = 10.

Thorp

When two or three dwellings comes together, they are called a thorp.  They are too small to support a church, council, market, shops or businesses and tend to revolve around rural activities such as smallholding, fishing.   They do not have a might, however, have a shared barn or other minor infrastructure.  As a community they are relatively self-sufficient, but have to take their excess good to the nearest village or town to sell.

Under my house rules thorps form naturally in the hinterlands of towns and villages.  A typical thorp might contain two smallholding families and a family of ‘river-folk’ who make a living from fish, waterfowl and reeds. Most residents are commoners and you can find low levels of many country crafts  (basket work, carpentry, trapping, hunting, bow-making etc).  Average Population = 30.

Hamlet

A Hamlet is step up from a Thorp.  It is large enough to support a few businesses but relies on the administrative systems of a Village, Town or City.  It might be based around a farm, a vineyard, a ranch, a mine, a country house, a monastery –  there are many possibilities.

Under my house rules a hamlet counts as a secondary settlement and can be found in the hinterlands of primary settlements, although there are strict limits on the number of hamlets each settlement can support.  Hamlets are nearly always planned developments that needs investment, and they increase the number of Thorps and single dwellings a hex can support. Average Population = 200, however only about half of these people live in the hamlet, the rest live  in single dwellings and thorps close to it.

Rural Settlements

Village

A village is the main rural settlement – it is just about large enough to support a few businesses and the administrative system for the area.  However, it could be managed by a Village Elder, the Lord of the Manor or by a Bailiff (as part of a larger estate).

Under my house rules, a Village is the first of the primary settlements and ‘controls’ the whole of its hex and oversees any other settlements (Single dwelling, Thorp, Hamlet) in it.  There are restrictions to the number and type of developments available in a village, which makes it a part of the rural economy.  A series of hexes with villages would make a good ‘holding’ for rangers or (perhaps) followers of a farming / rural deity. 

Alternately, a village could also be upgraded (with the right investments) to a town (and then a city or metropolis) and form the hub of a more traditional ‘holding’.

Average Population = 300,  however only about half of these people live in the village,  the rest live  in Single Dwellings and Thorps close to it. (The village’s Hinterland).

Urban Settlements

Town / City / Metropolis

The only real difference between a town, city and metropolis is size – they all have the same sort of thing – only the scale increases.  Urban areas generally serve as a trade nexus, are the home of serious crafts-folk, professionals and the wealthy.  Small towns may have master-crafting weapon-smith, while larger towns and cities might produce progressively more powerful magical items.  The same is true of professionals – you are unlikely to find a lawyer in a village, but many towns will have some sort of legal professional – although the best will congregate in cities or a metropolis.  It is the same with magical service, religious buildings and just about everything else.

Small Town: Average Population = 1,000, however only about half of these people live in the town,  the rest live  in Single Dwellings and Thorps close to it.  (The town’s Hinterland).

Large Town: Average Population = 2,500, however only about half of these people live in the town,  the rest live in Single Dwellings, Thorps and Spontaneous Hamlets close to it.  (The town’s Hinterland).

Small City: Average Population = 7,500, however only about half of these people live in the city,  the rest live in Single Dwellings, Thorps and Spontaneous Hamlets close to it.  (The City’s Hinterland).

Large City: Average Population = 17,500, however only about half of these people live in the city,  the rest live in Single Dwellings, Thorps, Spontaneous Hamlets close to it.  (The City’s Hinterland).

Metropolis: Minimum Population = 25,000, however only about half of these people live in the city,  the rest live in Single Dwellings, Thorps, Spontaneous Hamlets close to it.  (The Metropolis’s  Hinterland).


Spontaneous Settlements

You may have spotted Spontaneous Hamlets in some of the descriptions earlier – but they are toy to help give the hinterland some flavour, rather than a serious investment.  Sometimes a hamlet comes into being without really being owned by anyone or having any great effect on the economy.  You find them in areas where there are a lot of small holdings or thorps – and the people club together to make community benefits.  No one owns enough of the building to be classed as the owner, nor does anyone make enough money for it to be classed as an economic benefit, and as a type of self-help, it doesn’t win any loyalty or stability benefits – it just makes the local commoners lives a bit easier.

Some RL examples might be a village hall, a Community Shop or Bar  (there are examples in the UK at present), a Communal Barn  (I am sure I have read about these in the US) and Communal Brewery (I know of these making wine in Italy).  In all cases the developments themselves are owner jointly by locals, there is minimal profit which is used to maintain the building or is shared out between the local ‘owners’.  However, each of these Communal Developments takes up as much space as their commercial equivalent, and the same rules apply –  no more than three developments and no more than size 4.  There are some examples below –  all of them  barter or exchange goods with the locals.  Visitors, of course, have to pay in good hard cash.

A tavern and shop might be a good combination for areas where many thorps are close together.  The tavern provides a community centre/hub, while the shop sells those everyday things that cost less than 5gp.

A fruit producing region might have a communal brewery and a community tavern to sell the country wines they make.

A craft workshop might make a good community centre in a hilly area.  Equipped with a number of looms and a couple of spinning wheels – the women meet here daily to produce woollen cloth. 

A communal barn might mean that merchants pay a better price for the goods – because they can collect more at a time and don’t have to call at each smallholding.

A communally owned Trade Post could encourage merchants to visit as well as offering, goods for sale and exchange.

While visitors pay in good hard cash, locals and regulars can barter or exchange goods with the locals – and any of these developments can double as a community centre, ‘host barn’ dances or even serves as a school/nursery for the local children.

But Why?

From a World Builder’s perspective – it happens.  People will do things to make their lives easier – and it is much more realistic than just having a hundred faceless thorps spread about the hinterland. It adds some flavour to the environment.

From a DM’s perspective – I want somewhere for when I have adventures set in the hinterlands.  If I have a thief on the run and hiding out – I have somewhere to put them.  If I have a werewolf stalking the hinterlands, I have somewhere for PCs to go and ask. Basically, I can create a small ad-hoc settlement, whenever I need one – without affecting the local town.

From an RP perspective – it enables a different type of ‘Good Deed’ for Characters rather than just making a cash donation to a ‘good cause’.  However, helping a community  develop something for themselves could be seen from a number of perspectives.  A follower of Abadar might see it as a way of promoting trade, business and self-reliance, rather than a good deed.  A follower of Erastil might see it as both a good deed and a way of promoting Old Deadeye’s philosophies.  A Chaotic  might just see it as a good deed – or even a random deed.  It also enables a different type of NPC reward –  over the years I have seen any number of PCs reward NPC’s who helped them with a handful of coins or even a reasonable value gem.  Now they can send some of their folk around to help with the construction of a community barn …

Life, The Universe and Everything: Part 1

The Universe

The cosmology that underpins my game universe.

In the Begining

Way back, back beyond the earliest memories of the old dwarf, and even beyond the earliest memories of the oldest god – there was nothing.  Or absolute chaos, depending on which priests you listen too.  But then, it was so long ago that it doesn’t make much difference really.  However most faiths tend to follow two main schools of thought

The Interventionist School

There was a noise, or least something happened.  Some say it was just a noise, although most priests agree that the primal over-god Ey-Oh came into existence – and most of those agree that Ey-Oh was deaf, blind and barely aware of its surroundings.  Instead Ey-Oh swum in the soup of chaos (or nothingness) until it started to take a shape and form a structure of its own.  His (or her, sages can’t agree) swimming created Planes of Fire, Earth, Water, Air, Hope and Despair – with the Ethereal Plane weaving in around and about them.  Great swirling nodes of elemental material swirled through the Ethereal, eventually leaving great inter-planar rifts in their wake – and it was the outpouring of Elemental material through these planar rifts, that created the prime material planes.

There are many Prime Material worlds, and each one is  a nexus point where  rifts from all six of the great planes have come together.  The ball of Elemental Earth that spewed from a rift created the land, Elemental Water created the sea, Elemental Fire made the sun  etc ….   Over time  flow though the rifts slowed, and the flow of elemental matter has come into equilibrium. 

Eventually Ey-Oh struggled to swim.  She was a creature of the old universe of Chaotic Nothingness, and could not understand the order of the new universe, and his existence came to an end.  But gods don’t die quietly, and Ey-Oh was no exception, rather than passing away quietly, Ey-Oh exploded in a great burst of Life, Magic and Immortality.

Many sages and priests, who follow this school of theology, believe the Ey-Oh recreated himself.  Many say he able to sense his universe around him Ey-Oh remains as the great over-god and all others pale into insignificance when compared to him.  Most say that Ey-Oh is The Universe itself.

The Natural School

Other sages and priests follow the Natural School of Creation.  They believe everything stsrted with the creation of the world, when the sky and the earth were one. As there was no sky or earth, as a result there was only an empty void. However, one day, a gap formed in the void. All that was lighter than the gap headed upwards and formed the sky. All that was heavier than the gap fell down to become the earth. Rain fell from the sky creating a great mire before a clear blue drop of life-dew fell, settled into the newly created swamp and grew into a great tree. The tree stood firm on the ground and pushed up the Sky. With each day the sky grew ten feet (3 meters) higher, the Earth ten feet thicker, and the tree ten feet taller. And the bubble expanded.

After a while the tree grew seed pods which, when they burst gave forth the Elements, time, positive energy and negative energy. However the release of all of those conflicting energies caused a huge explosion and the bubble that contained the earth and sky was blown apart – creating lots of little bubbles with their own little bit of earth and Sky. At the same time, life, magic and immortality were released into the world.  The energies coalesced to make the elements planes. The void that was left became the astral and ethereal – we live in one of those little bubbles, while life, magic and immortality pervade everything in the universe. It is said that the tree is still there, invisible to most, stretching from the heavens to the hells, passing through the Astral and the Ethereal, and linking all of the bubbles together. The elements trapped inside our world bubble became the Primordial Powers, and between them they nurture all life on earth.

Cycles

But all of that was so long ago, the Universe has changed many times since.  After The Universe was created, gods and people came into being – but no one really knows how.  Each race, indeed each nation, have their own ideas – but it is unclear and many cycles ago.   What we do know is there has been at other eras before the start of this one, and we know that, in Cosmic terms, we are only just at the start of this era.

The end of the last Era

After the eternal winter the great snake drank the sea, the wolf ate the sun, cows turned to lions and ate everything. The armies of the righteous, the chosen who had died in battle, those whose hearts were lighter than a feather, and those who had gone into the east with the sun were mustered and they fought together against the undead legions of the underworlds. Gods, demons and giants fought to the death, then the fire came and the seas rose up. Everything was destroyed. This is known as the Gods War.

And the start of this Era

Except that it wasn’t the end of the Universe, just the end of that cycle. The Great Powers are beyond the Gods and out of their reach, while the The Tree of Life is indestructible – and life goes on. Some hid within the trunk of the great tree (Ethereal plane), others became as birds and flew to the topmost branches (Astral), others hid in the great mounds and wells around the roots (Elemental Planes). Many small groups survived to repopulate the world when it was healed.

Eventually they returned and the new Era started.


Note: Spells like Plane Shift, Shadow Walk, Create Demiplane and Planar Refuge made it possible to escape and wait out the apocalypse. Even some mid-level casters would have been able to escape, and presumably take their entourage with them. Each one is, potentially, a seed for the new tribe.

The Old Lords

Over the months I have made a number of posts based on building a bespoke pantheon for my game world. An earlier post, pretty much fixed the deities for The Temple of the Shrines – a group of deities who have been working their way along the trade routes of the world. This post does something similar for The Old Lords.

The Old Lords have been in my game world for ages and originally represented the remains of the Celtic Pantheon that I had used in my very first online game, called Galinia. Later, it changed slightly to include some North American deities, which let me add a slightly nomadic element while maintaining a nature loving clan/tribal based structure. Now I have reworked it to match my Gods Wars cosmology – and built it on a number of lesser or local deities, from Real World religions and mythologies.


The Church of the Old Lords

  • Overview: Rural, community based faith. (TN)
  • Domains: Animal, Artifice, Community, Plant, Protection, Travel
  • Symbol: Six-Fold Cross

The Church of The Old Lords is a relic of an earlier, simpler time and the faith that went with it.  The Church of The Old Lords promotes a simple rural philosophy that promotes concepts of community and respect based around village life. 

Tenets of the Faith

  • Respect the natural world.  Hunters, trappers, gatherers, miners, woodcutters etc – are expected to take the share considerately.  Don’t take the doe when she has a fawn.  Take a handful of berries and move on.  If you take a tree, plant three more …
  • Respect yourself and each other.  Be seen as a good member of the community.  Offer help when someone is struggling.  Don’t kick them when they are down.  Ask a fair price.
  • Respect property.  Theft, graffiti and general vandalism is disapproved of.   But so is mistreating you farm or herd animals, or neglecting your fields.
  • Respect your community.  Your village should be highest in your heart, but other followers are part of your community as well.  Be prepared to fight for, and defend, your community if you need to.

Church

There is no formal hierarchy to the church – it is a community religions.  Each village will have its own Wise-Woman or Elder-Man who guardian of the lore, tends the local shrine, knows the festivals and prayers, and is favoured by the gods.  But communities are more than villages, and there are shrines high up in the mountains, deep in the forests where shepherds and woodsmen tend to meet – and even just at the side of the road.

Shrines are often just a rock with the Six-Fold Cross onto it, and aren’t really places for religious gatherings, they are there as a reminder.  Most people glance at them and smile a silent prayer to their gods, other times might touch the shrines lightly.  Sometimes a minor offering might be placed by the shrine, often a small piece of food from a recent meal placed on the shrine, or a small amount of a drink spilled on the ground.

Clergy

Most clergy, known as Wide-Women or Elder-Men, are low level adepts, living as an integral part of their community.  Some are farmers, some are hunters, and others are mothers, warriors or shepherds.  It doesn’t matter quite what they do –  they are part of the community.

Occasionally a more outwardly focussed cleric will come along –  either with a desire to see the wider world, or to take the faith back to the rest of the people.  The Wise-Women and Elder-Men nod their heads wisely as they help the young ones prepare to leave.  But are just as ready to help welcome them back home again, once they have discovered the error of their ways.   Some never come back, of course.  But that might be because they have found another community to serve …

PC Clerics

All PC priests of The Old Lords are nature loving Clerics  (No Druids, Inquisitors, Oracles or other priestly class).  The clerics represent the whole pantheon at once, even though the separate deities are described individually, they do not have clergy of their own.

Holidays

The primary holidays are the Solstices and Equinoxes, which mark the turning of the seasons.  These help them know when to plant, when to harvest, when to bring the sheep back home, when not to take game, when to start preserving food for the winter – etc etc.

These holidays and festivals that are so important to the followers of The Old Lords, are still celebrated among Hann people everywhere, as traditions and as part of the folk-lore and traditions of the Hann People. 


Backstory

While they are not worshipped individually any more, and there are no priests dedicated to any of them – this is what the old lords looked like back in the day when they were seen as separate deities.

Lord Crow

  • The Protector. Patron of Chieftains and warriors. (NG) (M)
  • Domains = Protection, War.

Origins: Back in the days before the Gods War, Lord Crow was known as Hug served as messenger to a god.   When his god was slain in the Gods War, Lord Crow was showered in Shards of Immortality – and the familiar became a minor deity in his own right.

Appearance:  Lord Crow normally appears as a dark-skinned man with a hooked nose, dressed in black & silver studded leather armour and a black feathered cloak.  In battle he wields a great spear called Gung-Bol.

Teachings:  To be noble is to be strong of mind, to provide leadership to others and to protect your people from harm.  Lord Crow encourages tribal leaders and chieftains to maintain a warrior band, tasked with protecting the land and the people.

Church: Priests wear black robes, with white trim and serve as house priests and advisors to chieftains, rather than serving in a local temple.  There is no formal church hierarchy, and few formal churches dedicated to Lord Crow.

General:  Lord Crow was said to have three wives, the land deities Mawida, Rusina and Maria.  Many modern Theologians think Lord Crow is an aspect of the Hannite god Cawin. Lord Crow was seen as the major Deity within the pantheon.

Mawida

  • Maid of the Woods. Patron of Hunters, Trappers and Woodsmen. (TN) (F)
  • Domains = Community, Animal, Plant

Origins: Mawida grew as the forests grew, they have always been her home, and she knows no other.

Appearance:  A young woman with long hair worn loose, dressed demurely in a dark green dress.

Teachings:  Respect the forest, take what you need and leave the rest.

Church: Most villages have a female druid / wise woman who lives as part of the community.

General:  Mawida is one of Lord Crow’s wives and many modern theologians think that she is one aspect of the triple goddess, Maruma.  The Green Faith believe that she is a Nature Spirit, an aspect of Gaia the Earth Mother. Mawida was seen as a significant Deity within the pantheon.

Rusina 

  • Mistress of the Fields, Patron of Farmers. (TN) (F)
  • Domains = Community, Animal, Plant

Origins: Rusina has been here as long as she can remember, the fields and plains have always been her home, and she knows no other.

Appearance:  A chubby woman with her hair tied up in braids, dressed in a brown dress.

Teachings:  Respect the land, follow the seasons. Look after your crops and animals, and they will look after you..

Church: Most villages have a female druid / wise woman who lives as part of the community.

General:  Rusina is one of Lord Crow’s wives and many modern theologians think that she is one aspect of the triple goddess, Maruma.  The Green Faith believe that she is a Nature Spirit, an aspect of Gaia the Earth Mother. Rusina was seen as a significant Deity within the pantheon.

Maria

  • The Mountain Crone, patron herders. (TN) (F)
  • Domains = Community, Animal, Plant

Origins: Maria has been here as long as she can remember, the mountains have always been her home, and she knows no other.

Appearance:  An old woman with her hair tied up in a bun, dressed in a grey dress and cloak.

Teachings:  Respect the land, follow the seasons. Look after your animals, and they will look after you.

Church: Most villages have a female druid / wise woman who lives as part of the community.

General:  Maria is one of Lord Crow’s wives and many modern theologians think that she is one aspect of the triple goddess, Maruma.  The Green Faith believe that she is a Nature Spirit, Maria was seen as a significant Deity within the pantheon.

Conn

  • Patron of Crafters and Merchants. (LN) (M)
  • Domain =  Artifice, Community.

Origins: Conn was unknown before the God’s War, but is said to have lead a group of servants to safety in a mage’s personal demiplane. His people were a rag-tag bunch when they returned to the prime material.

Appearance:  A Halfling Craftsman, wearing a leather apron and carrying a small silver workers hammer.

Teachings: Work hard, perfect your skills, charge a fair price for you labour.

Church: No real Church, just a shared understanding of Conn’s Philosophies with shrines in workshops.

General:  Conn is one of two minor deities who played a small role in the pantheon.

Angelia

  • Patron of Travellers. (CG) (F)
  • Domain= Travel

Origins: Angelia was an immortal long before the Gods war, and when the war started she travelled away from the Prima Material, and just kept travelling. She took a number of followers with her – this is still known as “The Long Journey” among those who recognize her.

Appearance:  A half-elf dressed for the road.

Teachings: The journey is often more important than the destination.

Church:  No organized Church, but occasional roadside shrines.

General:  Most theologians think that Angelia and Way are aspects of the same deity, and followers of The Old Lords tend to respect followers of Way, as if she were an aspect of Angelia. Angelia is one of two minor deities who played a small role in the pantheon.

A quiet month …

Wow.  That has been an interesting month.  A cold followed by a bit of a cough (no, not coronavirus) slowed me down, and a whole series of other bits and pieces as well.  My wife is preparing to start a new job, so we have had all the up and downs of interviews and preparing to leave a long-term employer.  The government have added yet more paperwork for the training providers I work for (Part Time) and that inevitably gets pushed down to me.  However, this is just  …

There was a rant here that I took out  J  But you get the idea!

It has, on the other hand, been a quiet month on the game front.  I spent a few days thinking about building the Rules Website that I spoke about in the last post.  I even went as far as creating a game and a Wiki at RPoL so that I could think about structures and start putting some content together.  It didn’t go well, as I soon realized that I wanted to do a number of different things.

  1. I want to include the rules changes I have used (or have considered) to make my D20 games work faster, or more easily, on RPoL.  Anything that delays a player posting holds the game up.  Effects that run for more than one round, may need tracking over weeks of real time.  There are lots of little tweaks.  (Note:  I run slow games with a once-a-week post rate)
  2. I want the site to only contain ‘Core’ rules, but I also want it to be usable for both Pathfinder and 3.0/3.5e.  So whose core rules?  I suspect that this is not an insurmountable problem – but it is one that I haven’t thought about yet.
  3. I started putting my own tweaks in.  For example, Gnomes haven’t had a strong ‘persona’ across the game’s history, and every new version /publisher that comes along chops them about a bit more. Because of this, Gnomes don’t really feature in games worlds I write, and I found myself writing an article justifying why I wasn’t going to include them as a PC class on the website.  Now this is something I do want to do for my games world site –  but I don’t know that I want to mix the two up together.

So that project has been put on hold and sent back for more consideration.  One day I will learn to separate the three things – either that or I’ll just publish a whole new games system with an integral world …   Well, a man can dream :}

However, there have been some real positives this month.  We recently finished the Kingdom Round and I promised the players that I would start up a couple of pure RP threads for them to play around in.  These are ‘Fuzzy Time’ threads that run alongside the adventure threads.  The PCs are still out adventuring, slaying monsters and exploring deserted strongholds – but they are also doing social / RP things that are outside the normal timeline.  I monitor ‘Fuzzy’ threads, to make sure that they  don’t cross over with the ‘Adventure’ threads, but the players, generally, understand the concept and I don’t have to interfere all that often.  It has  worked really well as a way of letting players develop their characters, without interrupting play.

One thread took a group of  PCs into Restov, where they have been meeting up with their families, shopping and politicking.  That particular group gave been exploring their backstories and (in some cases) forging strong links and relationships between their characters.  A second group took a boat south to explore Jovvox  (Yeah!  Gnomes.  But this is Paizo’s game world, rather than mine) and Mivon.  So far we have got to Jovvox, and we are about to go and have dinner with a gnome merchant.  There are others who have been in the woods trying to catch a thylacine.   They have all been great fun to watch, and they have given me (and the players) an opportunity to understand the characters better.  And the ‘Boat Trip’ thread gave me the opportunity to wheel out one of my favourite NPCs – Helga! 

Helga first appeared in my Kingmaker table-top game, when I needed someone who knew their way about boats and Mivon.  As she was going to be a recurring NPC, she had to have a character sheet of her own, and that meant I could be a  bit more flexible within my own NPC guidelines.  Helga is a Half-Orc commoner, who grew up on the Mivon dockside and finished up working on the docks and as a sailor in The River Kingdoms.  And as everyone knows, River Kingdom sailors are not far short of Pirates ….

Helga is now L5 and has some nice gear for a commoner – including hand-me-down magic items passed on to her from her previous employers. She has a very low charisma, negative mods for Diplomacy and Bluff –  but a decent Intimidate modifier.  As a Ship’s captain she barks at her crew, threatens them –  but is always there alongside them with her Masterwork greataxe (or her Brass Knuckles) if ever they are in trouble.  Her Str and Dex  are high enough that she doesn’t get pushed around by the everyday folks of a city.

But she is great fun to play.  She is never very diplomatic in what she says to her bosses, and tends to tell things as she sees them, rather than prettying them up.  And then she shouts at her crew, and (potentially) anyone else she  is lower down the pecking order than she is.

I like playing Helga!

Rules

Those people who play with me soon realise that I have an obsession about the rules.   Not in the sense that I am a stickler for the published rules, or that I know all of them inside out and have every single rule book going.  Pretty much the opposite, in fact.  I like games where the rules are easy to use and fade into the background –  rules give the game structure, but the game should be dominated by role-playing and storytelling, rather than the minutiae of rules and rolls.  That is one of the reasons why D20 works for me as a rule set – it a nice straightforward mechanic (Roll a D20 and add your modifier) that allows a Player to Role Play the event – especially in an online environment.  For example …

“George ducks down behind his shield as he advances on the dragon, hoping it will provide some protection from the monster’s fiery breath.  Then, peeking around the side, he swings his longsword towards the dragon’s neck. ”  (OOC rolled D20+11 to hit –  total 13.  Whoops.)

Or

“Brianna teeters on the edge of the ledge as she tries to dodge the axe, then a loose stone dislodges under her foot and for a moment she hangs there staring at the ground thirty feet below her ….  Then, somehow, she manages to throw herself backwards, flicking herself onto the roof of the tower again.   Relief floods through her, until she turns to see the half-orc raising his axe again.”  (OOC Reflex save.  Rolled d20 +14 = 34! Yay!)

Note for people that DM me:  I wish I could remember to write like that all the time.  😛  Few people write like that every time –  but I love it when I do see a post like that.  It works particularly well when players know what they need to roll to succeed – as they often do in the later stages of a battle.

However, the rules also define the basic style and structure of the game.   Chivalry and Sorcery has a very different feel to Runequest, which feels different to GURPs or D&D.  And, much as I love both systems, I can’t imagine playing a medieval fantasy game using the rules that came with the original Marvel Superheroes or Classic Traveller.

And that is how I finished up playing Dungeons and Dragons based games, rather than other systems.  I quite liked the feel of the original rules, Tolkienesqe, mythological overtones – and the Monk thrown in for good measure!  Flexible enough you could build your own worlds and cultures with it if you wanted to.  There were lots of different settings, of course, but none of the guys I played with really invested in any of them –  so we played very much within the original rules and maintained the feel of the game.  Actually, I probably have a few hundred pounds worth of AD&D books – but they were always addition reference books, something to browse through at leisure and pick out one or two bits to help personalise a character.

Then came the 3rd ed – it took me a while to move to it –  but I did eventually, thanks to playing Neverwinter Nights of the computer.  I am still slightly uncomfortable with a character generation system that encourages complex planned builds – IMO carefully constructed builds might make for very powerful characters, but they often lead to one dimensional, one trick ponies.  I like good flexible characters who engage with my world and react to the world.  I would rather DM players who are prepared to build their characters on the experiences they get in game, rather than to a plan.

And the internet makes it worse.  With easy access to on-line rules sites every single rule that is published becomes available to everyone.  Every player can discuss builds with other like-minded players around the world. And some build discussions on the Paizo forums (I have switched to Pathfinder) are incredibly complex and convoluted.  Mining skills and feats across a range of publications and settings, skilled builders can build characters that are significantly more powerful than those that anyone else plays.  Does that matter, I hear you ask.  And the answer is yes – because as a GM I have to manage combats and scenarios that suit all the characters and let all of them play a significant role.  If the party has one Uber Character that is significantly more powerful that everyone else – it gets boring quite fast.  Well it gets boring fast for everyone else but the player of the Uber Character.

OK.  Rant over.  I have nothing against that style of play –  but it doesn’t suit my style of GMing, so not in my games  🙂  However, it does bring me to the point of this blog entry.

My ‘Stolen Lands’ game on RPoL has been running for about three years and has between 12 and 18 players at any one time.  As always there is quite a high level of attrition.  Players come along play for a while and decide the game isn’t for them (that’s cool.  I do the same thing), real-life happens, and they take a break, or move on to other things.  That is life for a long-running game on a play by post site.  But it means that I get have to keep going through the   “No, you can’t have that” process quite regularly.  Ah, and yes – there is lots of guidance about what people can, and can’t, use.  But they miss stuff, I miss stuff and then  … 

So I have been thinking about making a D20 reference website that just covers the rules I allow.  That then made me wonder how I could make the rules better for RPoL style play.  For example, initiative works differently in Online Play – combats take long enough as it is, but if everyone waited for their initiative before they posted, they would be even longer.  In a one post a week game –  effects that are calculated over a number of rounds can be a pain –  poison, disease, alchemist’s fire, and I am sure there are others.  What if we could pull those effects into one round?  That would certainly make it easier and less intrusive.  I am certain there are others as well …

I wonder ….

Troop Types

Posts and messages between a couple of my combat oriented characters, discussing what they could do with troops, has made me start thinking about troop types again.  While my basic troop types work  for my kingdom system, they don’t leave the PCs with a lot of ‘flavouring’  when it comes to RP posts or customizing their own troops.  So now I want to find a middle way, something that will works with the mass combat system I use – and something that allows PCs to customize and tweak things in ways that meet their RP needs.

Mind you, any rules that allow reskinning of troops will be an ‘Optional Extra’. It is important that the basic system in’t any more complicated that at present, so that less combat oriented players (or characters) aren’t disenfranchised.

My mass combat rules are based on mythological Celtic warfare models – the armies clash in the background while the heroes fight it out between themselves.  If the heroes win their particular fights, then their army gets a big psychological boost and the enemy is liable to rout.

There are reasons for this:-

  • I can use Defence Points to define the size and ability of an army and build the background combat around a D20 roll using army size as a modifier.
  • I don’t have to try to run a Minis-type wargame in an online forum.  A decent RL wargame can take hours to play out, online it would take forever.
  • The standard pathfinder Mass Combat rules are almost as complicated as a mini-figs game – and needs quite a lot of work to manage each round.  It becomes a focus to the game, rather than a background element.
  • A wargame style battle is only relevant to the one or two military character who have an army to command. Every PC can be involved in the ‘heroes’ part of the battle.
  • Not really an advantage,   but just about every ‘story’ medium uses the same model.   Most good war films concentrate of a selected group of characters, while all hell breaks loose around them. The same is true for most books set during a war.

The reason this matters is that Defence Points are one of the key values that help define a settlement, or personal estate, in my Kingdom building rules.  That means I have to understand the effects of a whole range of different troop types have within that system – and (because I like to make things a challenge for my PCs) I want to work out how I can fit that into the development side of those rules.

The system I have used so far is loosely based on the CR value of the troops involved, and uses the ‘Unit of light Foot’ as a measurement.  It makes a unit of Veteran Infantry or Light Cavalry equal to two units of Light Foot and one unit of Heavy Cavalry equals three units of light foot.  It is fairly rough and ready and doesn’t deal with any other troop types.  But how to refine it?

My basic Light Infantry NPC is Cr2, which means a unit of 10 of them, according to the encounter tables, counts as CR8 – however that feels a bit high to me.  I don’t think they would prove much of a challenge to a party of four PCs at L8  –  L5 or L6 maybe.  I can see I am going to get into ‘best judgement territory’ already …    …   and this is getting difficult!  I have played with a number of different concepts and formulae –  and I can’t find one that makes sense across a range and works consistently.  If I tweak a formula to make it fit in one place –  it makes it silly somewhere else!  There isn’t even a consistent ‘Best Judgement’.   

So a change of tack, and I found  that, at low levels, the formula [(20/CR) Rounded up] produces the same CR as ten CR2 light infantry.  And ten CR2 Light Infantry makes up one defence point.  That means that I can allow PCs to recruit any sort of troops, within the rules, in 1 Defence Point Units.

So now, one Defence Point can buy

  • A unit of Ten Light Infantry (CR2)
  • A unit of Seven Veterans  (CR3)
  • A unit of Five Light cavalry (CR4)
  • A unit of Four Heavy Cavalry (CR5)

And the unit numbers are the same for any other troop at the same CR.


House rules to support the extra flexibility.

  • Troops must be intelligent humanoids found within the civilised area, which pretty much means core races.  They will be warriors and cannot exceed L4.
  • Mounts must be Int 2, available in the area(*) and trainable.  Lower Int animals can’t learn enough tricks and higher Int mounts are too independent to serve a cavalry unit.    That doesn’t stop PCs coming to an arrangement with higher Int creatures to act as a personal mount.
  • Creatures trained for Combat Riding add +1 to their CR value (for  purposes of working out Defence Point values for troops) 

(*) You can’t just go out and order half-a-dozen trained hippogriff (for example) through a mail order catalogue, so you need to establish a breeding and training programme for them.  But before you can do that you have to gather some Hippogriff to start your programme.  Etc, etc.


The next job is for me to go away and rewrite all of my standard troops and unit types to match the new rules.  After that I will be able to tweak the buildings in Kingdom rules so that PCs can skin them for different troop types and RP scenarios.

Winterfest

Midwinter celebrations, based around the time of the winter solstice, have been going on forever – well for a very long time, at least. Now midwinter is dominated by Christmas, but many old and ancient traditions still exist, incorporated into our modern celebrations. This is the time when the days are darkest, the wind is coldest, times when farmers can’t really work on their land – and people stay indoors a lot. A time when people need cheering up and reminding that things WILL get better.

These are some of the motifs that I use for Winterfest, the midwinter feast and celebration, in my game worlds.  They are fairly general, but give a feel for the modern Holiday Season, hopefully without treading on anyone’s religious beliefs.

Greenery

Decorating the house with greenery goes back a long way.  Holly, Ivy, Fir Trees and European Mistletoe are evergreen, and are examples of the few green plants that can be found across Europe in the deep midwinter. They were brought inside the home as a reminder that the days were getting longer, the year would be ‘reborn’ and the growing times were coming. In medieval times there are records of wealthy people using bay leaves and other ‘exotic’ greenery to decorate their houses

Gift Giving

Gift giving in midwinter goes back to Roman times and Odin, the king of the Norse Gods, was said to ride though the sky (as part of a hunting party) distributing gifts. St Nicolas is a late-comer to the gift giving tradition. It might not be Stockings by the Fireplace, but small interpersonal gifts were (supposedly) common – and there are records of Kings and rulers handing out significant gifts. The downside is, that recipients were expected to respond with a gift fit for a king ….

New Year

New Year is a bit of a strange one. The Romans celebrated it in the spring, others at midwinter. I can see logic in both – by spring you can clearly see that the new year is up and running. However, in the north, you can often see snow drops and other early flowers pushing through the cold, hard winter ground to brighten the world. For me, the winter solstice works best – days start to get longer, there is a bit more sun and the first plants are coming into leaf and bloom. For me, that is the start of the New Year.

Mince Pies

Well, not just mince pies, but just about every RL area has its own special mid-winter treats and eating rituals – many based around preserved fruits. Many fruits and vegetables are harvested in the autumn (or fall) and set aside for winter. Many veggies last well through the cold months and don’t need very much special preparation – but fruit tends to go off much more quickly. So they are dried or used to make jams and pickles – which are eaten throughout the winter. Normally, they are used slowly and sparingly, so that they last for the whole of the winter – but Winterfest is a time of feasting and celebration – so we need sweet treats to make it special. And the easy motif for me to use is a Mince Pie full of sweet rich flavours. Note: Mince pies originally had meat in them – but I tend to think of them as the more modern vegetarian version.

Mulled Wine

Basically, warmed wine mixed with spices and herbs. It works equally well with ale or cider which are the rural or ‘Country’ equivalent. Originally made by heating a poker in the fire and then using the red-hot poker to ‘scald’ the wine and heat it up. In makes a warming drink all the way through the winter season – and is particularly prevalent at parties!

In Game

So if you get invited to a Winterfest party in my games world, you have a rough idea of what to expect.