Internal Politics

Questions from a couple of players have made me think about politics within my Campaign Rules.  Not the grand political machinations of Kings and Courts, but rather the Local politics of how towns, cities and strongholds are run.

The rules, as they stand, are set up to build well-balanced holdings that function well – landowners and Councils are pushed towards maintaining a balance of Economic and Social developments, to provide adequate policing and reasonable management.  It started out based on a semi-feudal system of personal holdings, with noble titles and fairly ’traditional’ obligations to state and over lord.  It developed into a system that can support Free Cities overseen by a Council of Burghers –  who have the same status as minor nobles – and it has a ‘Joint-Hold’ option where two (or more) people can operate as a team.

So currently we have :-

  • Midmarch – Semi-Feudal – run by an NPC noble.
  • Tusk – Free City, run by a council of PCs.
  • Old Keep – Half way house with very limits obligations to an over lord.
  • Southern Region – an almost federal organisation that covers all of the above.
  • Ringbridge – a ‘Joint Hold’  (well it started out like that but one of the players left)
  • V&A – a merchant house financed by three PCs.
  • WSM – another merchant house jointly owned by two PCs.

So not a bad range of options, however, they all fall into that nice ‘well-balanced’ bracket that was described earlier.  Sure, there is some opportunistic developments and building – and some PCs are more interested in making money than others – but overall, everything stays in balance.

However, there are other types of settlement – not every city or stronghold is nice, well-balanced and well-organised.  In Paizo’s Kingmaker AP (The setting for the game) both Restov and Mivon are ‘chaotic’ cities while other cities are heavily regulated or under the thumb of a military dictator.  And I want to start by looking at those.

Chaotic Holdings.

One of the things that strikes me about both Mivon and Restov is that very little of the policing in under central control.  Mivon is, effectively’ run by a group of squabbling warlords, each with their own private army and each out to benefit themselves.  They compete for the tight to police parts of the city, and they are led by the best Aldori Duellist – who proves their fitness by (literally) fighting their way to the top.  Restov has a more formal council, with merchants and religious leaders – but also leaders of a number of different factions.  In my version of Restov there are the merchants, the Church, three different duelling traditions and the dwarves.  While there is a city and local ‘police’ force, most of the policing is devolved to the various factions.  Dwarf Town is patrolled by Dwarves, the Duelling Factions patrol their own districts, private guards look after the merchant’s houses.

In Mivon, the more Chaotic city, there is little central control, and minimal expenditure on Community Developments that support the population generally (although I suspect the wealthy are well catered for).  Gangs roam the streets and Aldori Houses have a crackdown when they feel like it.   If you want to achieve anything in Mivon, you need to grease palms or convince an Aldori House that your plans are good for them, possibly by greasing palms …

Restov is less Chaotic and the council has some control over spending and development – but it is  always a tough negotiation between the factions on the council, who want the best for their own district and their own people.  Some factions have other goals as well – the Dwarves want good stuff for Dwarves generally, the merchants want better trade routes, some religious houses want respect for the common folk – among others.

That is quite easy to handle within the Campaign Rules.  Rather than have a central ‘police’ force, have privately owned militia with little overall control.  Allow the settlement to run ‘Out of Balance’ and take the random ‘Bad Things Roll’ to represent the chaotic nature of the place.  The less central control, the more chaotic it becomes.

Lawful Holdings

There are a couple of examples of Lawful Holdings in the Kingmaker AP, although I am not going to detail them in the same way, because my players haven’t really discovered them yet – however, they have something in common as well.  In each case the ‘police’ are heavily armoured and powerful, more like an army than a police force, and are capable of enforcing the laws of the city.  If the Laws of the settlement are designed to benefit one individual, or group, at the expense of the general population (Bogside was an example) it is Lawful Evil, of the laws are for the benefit of everyone – it is lawful evil.  *shrug*  again that is a role-play thing, possibly even allowing the settlement to run out of balance, and crushing any disturbances with the force of the law.

Tusk, the PC managed Free City in my campaign, is probably edging into the Lawful Neutral category.  Laws to be followed with the ability to enforce them, but well-balanced and not too exploitative.  It recognises the rich and wealthy, encourages them to invest and make money for themselves – but makes sure that basic societal needs are met for everyone.  It is a well role-played and balanced city.


The Campaign System is based around personal ownership.  Each PC gets a few Build Points to start with, and the system encourages them to go away and invest those BP, to make themselves richer and more powerful.  That fits well with the Semi-Feudal and Burgher philosophies that are written into the system.  It supports personal ownership and joint ownership, and it is possible to set up a non-profit organisation (Such as Three Ladies School) where income from the venture is reinvested to build more schools.  Some religious organisations, such as the Church of Pharasma with the graveyards, provide social support for the population – but that is a side effect of following the teachings of their chosen deity.  Other faiths will provide fewer societal benefits, as the follow their deity’s teachings.

Overall, it is a very ‘capitalist’ system with limited possibilities to create charitable organisations. 

That said, the rules (as they stand) to model the more extreme versions of Communism which (in many ways) is similar to the more extreme forms of capitalism.  Both are based on the concept that one group of people know best and that they deserve the beast of everything.  In the case of an extreme communist society you have the wealth invested in posts – and the post holder gets to enjoy all the benefits and power that go with controlling that particular post or office.

However, the Campaign Rules don’t support a middle ground between those two systems.

Common Hold

While the rules allow the modelling of charitable organisations they still need managing and are, potentially, open to abuse.  The Three Ladies School, has a set of accounts, and grows slowly by developing new schools – when it has the money.  It was set up with small contributions by three wealthy Ladies making small donations (and an interest free loan) – but they could, potentially, choose to take the income from it, rather than reinvesting it in more schools.  They won’t, because the DM won’t let them – BUT it is possible.  I want something that is easier to manage and less open to the possibility of abuse – Common Hold might be the solution.

Common hold is based on three RL business types.  Mutual Societies were set up in the UK (and possibly many other countries) as a way of providing insurance and personal loans for those without access to the financial system.  They were owned by their ‘investors’ and the profits were redistributed back to them, and there are still a few Mutual Building Societies left in the UK, that provide banking and financial services to their members.   Co-operatives were primarily set up to provide cheaper food and basic supplies for the common people.  In many places the shops were owned by the local landowner and charged high prices to their resident-workers so the co-operatives set up shops and stores to buy in supplies and sell them on at lower profit margins.  Again, there are still Co-operatives operating in the UK.  Now-a-days they are generally non-profit organisation who give a dividend to members – and anyone can join.  In Italy, I came across community winemaking businesses.  The local small farmers bring their grapes to the community winery, to be pressed, fermented and  bottled – when the wine is sold, each farmer gets their share of the profit, while some is used to benefit the local community as a whole. 

All three examples are community enterprises, run by the community for the benefit of the community.  No profit is shared with wealthy owners, but the wealth generated is redistributed directly to the local community, by the local community.  All ways that have been used to boost the living standards of the local community as a whole.

There are a couple of developments that start to model this in the Campaign Rules already.  The Community Hall is generally run for the community, by the community with no benefits, apart from helping to maintain a balance, for anyone else.  The Public Jetty with the same stats as a military of commercial jetty – however part of the jetty is reserved for community vessels.  Individual ‘slots‘ can be used for fishing boats or military boats –  however, unlike a commercial jetty, boats here pay  tax to the local community.  Both of those developments give some element of control to the local community.  The Public Jetty also has the benefit of offering opportunity for small investors, perhaps even community owned fishing boats. 

A community owned Serai could provide a similar service for mule trains, and an Alms House that takes up space in a settlement but provides no benefits at all  (cost 1bp – Econ+0, Loy+0,Stab+0 – Size 1) might make a suitable charitable donation to a settlement.

To take things further, any suitable economic development can be declared as Common-Hold, and given over to Community management.  Perhaps a Mill, a Winery or a Fish processing plant (all, basically, Craft Workshops)  they would be run by the local community, for the local community and profits redistributed automatically to the community.  These probably have to cost 2bp and be balanced (Cost 2 – Econ+1, Loy+1, Stab+1 – size 1).  These are all fire and forget developments – while the economy is shown against the settlements balance, no one takes any profit from them – not even the local council or the local lord.


Within the game rules, Taxes are set at 0.2bp per point of Econ.  While part of that tax is collected from the business, a large proportion of it is collected from the ancillary business and workers the business supports.  The business itself makes 0.5bp (per campaign round) for each point of Economy.  However, that tax rate can be adjusted, to take more (or less) from the business directly. 

For example, tax rate could be set at 0.3bp per round taxes, and take the extra 0.1 directly from the business, which would mean that the business would take 0.4 in profits each campaign round.  If that tax was taken by a community oriented council it makes for a way of financing local community buildings.

A wealthy council might go the other way, reduce tax to 0.1 and increase business profits to 0.6 per campaign round.  There is nothing in the Campaign Rules to stop a settlement varying its taxes whenever it feels like it.  Note, however, that the balance must still be maintained (or face the ‘Bad Things’ roll :} ).  Note that suddenly raising taxes is going to irritate your investors – and you should probably give them advance warning.

Investing in a High Tax area, where the extra tax is used for community benefit could well be seen as a ‘Good Act’ by anyone needing to maintain and alignment stance.

Royal & Noble Titles

Today, I have been thinking about Royal and Noble Titles.  This is something that I have done previously, but have never really been convinced by what I came up with.  Now, thanks to all the extra time that Covid, combined with semi-retirement, has given me – I thought I would have another go.  Previously, I have looked generally at the titles and ranks, but this time I chose to use the Holy Roman Empire as my guide.

In the longer term, I think that I might need a hybrid monarchic system, that will add some flavour to my Stolen Lands game, but I also need a system that works with my campaign rules.  My Influence Rules have become incredibly complicated and there isn’t really a structure to use them in, my lower level, Aristocratic Titles work well enough, and I can get a basic definition of Baron – the title that links the top of the Aristocrats and bottom of the Noble tiers of titles.  But beyond that, it gets all woolly, and I am making stuff up for NPCs, and I would like to make get something a bit more consistent for when my PCs get to those levels – however, that won’t be for some time yet.

So far I have Laird, Lord-Dominus and Lord that work well as Aristocratic titles, while Baron works as the link between the Aristocracy and the Nobility.  These are supplemented by Governor and Viscount (both administrative titles in my game) that can be used to grant authority within a province.  While Baron is technically a Noble title, a baron is never an independent ruler with the right to impose their own laws and culture and (technically) they have to obey their overlord. I have been using Duke and Count in much the same way, but then I run into issues with palatine counties and duchies that have some elements of rulership – which starts to get complicated.  So, for this exercise, I am going to say that Counts are more powerful versions of barons (Great Barons, if you will) and have an overlord, while Dukes always rule palatine, or independent states.

This gives me Counts and Barons as hereditary nobles, and Governors as temporary or lifetime nobles.  Viscount becomes a temporary or lifetime promotion for a Baron, making them more influential.  That fixes my middle tier of titles, and leaves a way for PCs to progress through the system.

Now comes the difficult bit of Emperors, Kings, Dukes, Princes, Electors, Landgraves, Margraves, Emirs, Maliks, Chieftains and many other titles for absolute or limited rulers.  Throw in the concept of Prince-Bishops, Patriarchs, Merchant-Princes and Free-Cities and it becomes really complicated!  Because it is a game system, and is supposed to reward PCs for becoming more powerful and influential, I want to include a number of different routes in to the upper echelons of power and influence, even if they don’t traditionally fit there.

For the time being, I am going to exclude Kings and Emperors as (for me) their roles are relatively clear. An Emperor (or Empress) rules an empire of states that were once independent and have (normally) been conquered.  Kings (or Queens) rule independent realms, unless they are conquered by an Emperor.  The others all have a limited forms of authority or independence, but for the sake of simplicity, I am going to use two ranks – Dukes and Fursten.


Duke, in real life is a complicated title.  There are Palatine Dukes and Royal Dukes, Arch-Dukes, Grand Dukes, Honorary Dukes and a whole bunch of other titles that are translated as into English as Duke. So I am going to mash them all together for a nice straightforward definition.

A Duke is a hereditary noble who controls a fairly large area of land, and has a lot of autonomy in the way they rule.  In my game this represents the leaders of the Great Houses of Brevoy.  This, almost certainly, is not a realistic goal for any of my PCs.  I guess that the only ‘promotion’ to this level will be Jamandi Aldori, who currently holds the title of Countess.  I might well be wrong, but Duke is one of those pinnacle goals that will only be met, very occasionally.

Just as importantly, I am going to tie the title to the land.  Lose the title and you lose your rank of Duke.  You probably retain the title of Lord – But that is a big step down the Hierarchy.


Fursten is much more interesting, it just means First, but as a title it is generally translated as Prince, in the sense of a Ruler of some sort.  While not all of these turtles would normally fit into this category, it means I can make it include:  Princes, Prince Bishops, Merchant Princes, Lord Mayors and Chieftains.

Prince-Fursten – generally referred to as Prince …  While, technically, all Fursten have the same standing, Princes always have precedence in formal gatherings.  A Prince is ruler of a territory that includes at least one city or at least ten developed (not Wilderness) hexes.  You don’t get an automatic promotion if you exceed those minimums – however, you might gain seniority among the other Prince-Fursten.

Prince-Spiritual – Prince-Spirituals always walk immediately behind the Prince-Fursten, while  the rest of the Fursten walks as an amalgamated group behind them.  This is a generic title, and the actual title might be Archbishop, Great Druid, Primate or something similar.   In the days of the Holy Roman Empire, Prince-Bishops ruled large estates, much like Abbots in the UK – for the game rules, this needs to be modified to having a strong presence across the region, rather than concentrated in one city. 

To account for the different types of faith in the game world this is defined in terms of BP (Build Point) costs of Religious Buildings.  An Arch-Bishop will have a cathedral, however a Great Druid might control a series of Holy Groves and  other small religious organisations, while  a Primate might control an abbey and a number of other monastic buildings.  Just as importantly, their control should spread over more than one noble estate.  (Duchy, Principality, County, Province or Free City) to represent the breadth of their influence.

Let’s say (provisionally) an investment of 60 BP (Religious Buildings), with developments in at least three noble holdings.   That should be achievable in less than 10 years, from the current position, for the Churches of Abadar and Pharasma that are currently operating out of Tusk.

Merchant-Prince – originally just a description, I intend to incorporate this into the hierarchical structure.  The ‘threshold’ needs to be the comparable with that of Prince-Bishop. Let’s say (provisionally) an investment of 60 BP (on Merchant Developments), spread over three noble holdings, which incorporates at least one Greater Trade Route.  Note:  A greater Trade Route requires two city bases.

Again, that should be easily achievable inside 10 years from the current position of both V&A shipping and DELEM trading.  Other Merchant Houses might take longer, but they aren’t a primary focus for PCs.

Lord Mayor – The Leader of a Free City, currently this would be the Lord Mayors of Tusk and Restov.  This is fairly well defined already – the rules for settlement size defines a city –  the Free bit is a political decision –  which may have to be negotiated.

Chieftain – The leader of a ‘People’ who are dispersed over a wide area.  This could be quite difficult to define in game, and is unlikely to be a PC goal.  Having said that, I once ran a character who was head of his family clan *shrug*.  The most likely example I can think of, in my Stolen Lands game, is a charismatic and powerful Dwarf pulling the Dwarven Diaspora together, under one political leader.

Again, let’s say 60bp of investment, in any area, whose owners/controllers pledge allegiance to the racial/family cause.

While that isn’t perfect, and the values might change, I think that gives me a system that allows PCs from any class to work out a way into the Senior Nobility. Prince-Fursten and Merchant Prince can be achieved by any class, and realistically any divine caster can achieve Prince-Spiritual status. It will take careful investment, and dedication – BUT it is within the grasp of any call.


And now I have gone back to thinking about the mass combat rules.  I like the concept –  no pseudo-war games – but the battle as a backdrop for character/party action that helps to decide the outcome of the overall battle.  However, I have never been happy with the mechanic that I was playing with – which always came down to a single d20 roll.  I couldn’t get a modifier system that I was happy with, nor a reasonable range of outcomes without being very manipulative.  But recently I came across the Troop ‘monster’ subtype.  Possibly I ‘came across it again’, but this time saw how I might be able use it.

However, it made me think about Defence and how I use Defence Points in my Campaign Rules.  Settlements are pretty much controlled by 4 starts.  Economy (Econ) or how much Money is floating around, Loyalty (Loy) or how much the rulers are liked,  Stability (Stab) which to do with the populations state of mind and Defence  (Def) which is all about how safe the settlement is.

There has always been some overlap between Def and Stab, and more advanced Defensive Building give Stab points, but most Stab points come from institutions such as courts, jails, granaries etc. 

The Watch

At the most basic level Def is all about protecting the population from local threats.  The village watchtower sends out troops to patrol the surrounding lands to keep bandits, predators and monsters away.  They are the guys who clear out the beetle infestation or deal with the goblin raiding party, they might also help chase out herds of elk, or other creatures, that are eating all the crops.  They also break up fights (etc) in the village and the Sergeant acts as a low level magistrate to help resolve disputes.  In a town or a city, they guard the gates, patrol the streets, disrupt burglaries and perform other basic security functions.

In other words, they defend the population from local threats through a mixture of small scale military and policing actions.  This led me to model The Guards on the gendarmerie system   of full time soldiers who serve (most of the time) as a ‘civilian’ police force.  The Guard are basically patrol men, who can operate as Light Infantry, should the need arise.  These guys make up the bulk of any settlement’s defensive force.  Just about all troops from Watchtowers and the town/city walls are guards.  Most of the time they walk patrols, stand by the gate, and break up disturbances – low-level military policemen, not all that different from the population they serve. 

The Campaign Rules say that any settlement with Def 2+  is able to patrol the surrounding hexes as well. There aren’t that many benefits from it, but it means that you will know as soon as a Goblin Clan move into the hex next door, and gives you a tentative claim on that land. It is particularly helpful in wilderness areas.  However, that implies that the second defence point is used for Scouts (either infantry or cavalry) to carry out regular patrols over those areas.

So, the first two Def points of any settlement, and all Def Points from watchtowers and walls should be guards/scouts –  all ‘light’, gendarme style, troops. 

Another option in the rules, allows settlements to employ marines to patrol lakes, waterways, harbours etc.  Unlike R/L, marines in my Campaign Rules are a Soldier /Sailor combination – warriors with Profession:Sailor as well as Profession:soldier who act more like militarized coast guards than anything else.  All units based at Military Jetties are Marines, and they follow the same basic pattern as the other Light Infantry Unit types mentioned. 

Militarized Policemen in peace time, who serve as rank and file Light Infantry / Cavalry when war comes.  The Guard, The Scouts (Foot & Cavalry) and the Marines make up The Watch – and are all L3 warriors with light weapons and light armour.  See The Black Watch for the origins of the name.

The Army

The army is a different kettle of fish – as Professional Soldiers they don’t have a local job in peacetime, instead, they practice, go out on exercises and hone their abilities.  They are a slightly higher level than the watch and have better equipment – which makes them more of a force to be reckoned with.  While they don’t do every day policing, they deal with incursions, insurrection, riots and other large threats that might be difficult for the watch to deal with –  and they are in the front line if there is a war.

The Army is composed of L4 Warriors with better equipment.  Those with Medium Armour and weapons that do d8 damage are classed as Medium Troops and cost 2BP.  Those with Heavy Armour and weapons that do d10 damage are Heavy Troops and cost 3bp.


That works for both the Troop subclass rules and my Campaign Rules.  It balances up the costs of extra equipment for better quality troops, and gives Players a choice of how to build their army.  Cool.

The only problem is how to charge people for these more advanced troops?  The more I think about it, the more I am tempted to make them upgrades.  Example:  A brand-new barracks (Def:2) comes with  two troops of Light Foot.  However, for 1 extra BP you can upgrade a ‘light’ troop to a medium troop.  Spend another BP (Now or later) and you can upgrade the other light troop to medium OR upgrade the medium troop to Heavy.  And so on …

Starting a New Year

The Campaign Rounds, in my RPoL game, happen every RL six months but represent a year in game time – it amuses me to use the dates of the summer and winter solstices to start campaign rounds.  We started off running campaign rounds every time the group levelled up (I was using a group levelling system) – but that didn’t work well when we recruited new players, because they were never going to catch up.  However, that, and the XP system I have put in place, might be a good blog post later.

Anyway, we are coming up to the start of the next Campaign Round, it will be year 4715 and players will have to age all of their characters (any entourage and secondary PC characters, as well as their main PC) by one year.  Better news is that existing Entourage members can advance a level – assuming they haven’t reached their permissible level limit (1/2 the level of their PC), or their level cap (L5).  Secondary PCs, such squires or cohorts purchased with a feat, are not affected because they level according to their own rules.  But most importantly, it is the time they get income from their investments and get to develop the next part of their Character’s (non-adventuring) story.

As DM, I control quite a lot of resources, and while my NPCs each have their own agenda, I like to support the PCs when I can.  I always appreciate it when people interact with the structure of my world and, while all things should be a challenge, I try to use NPC resources sympathetically.  So I tend to have a quick look at each Business, town or estate, before time, just so I am aware of the problems that they might face – and the options that are open to them, should I be asked for advice.  These are my thoughts:-

First, I think, the political climate is important. The King-Regent of Brevoy and The Rostland Aldori are gearing up for a civil war – with a large part of Rostland as the prize.  Midmarch is on the border, and we have PCs with family, and allegiances, in different camps.  We know that the Gnomes of Jovvox (who sell weapons in bulk) are building a shop in Ringbridge (close to The Aldori) and we think that members of the Rostland Aldori have been speaking with their ‘cousins’ in Mivon.

Other things affect the development climate as well.  V&A Shipping will be opening up their first external trade link (quite an important occasion) with a jetty in Jovvox and regular services between Tusk and Jovvox.  They are also negotiating for permission of build a jetty in Mivon.   Zelona will take ownership of an ancient keep found in the Narlemarch.  Henry isn’t interested in colonising that area so, while Henry is prepared to be supportive, Zelona and her colonists are ‘on their own’.

Henry’s main plan is to push Midmarch westward to the East Sellen River, an expansion which will (eventually) cover two ‘interesting’ sites.  An old villa, once home to a mage of some sort, which should really be occupied to prevent its re-population by monsters, bandits or tribes.  And Bogside, a village on the marshy borders of Hooktongue Lake, which could be taken over – once the current despotic overlord has been dealt with.

But back to Midmarch:


Tusk has been growing rapidly, and has progressed from a simple village into a small city in just a few short years – and that is starting to create size and pressure problems.  There are three core districts:  Central district (Civic buildings temples etc) is almost full.  Port Henry (The dock area) has ONE development slot left.  Merchant (home of traders etc) has more room,   but (for aesthetic reasons) should probably be saved for the other mercantile businesses which will surely arrive.  Outside the walls there are Lakeside (which is filling up fast) as a military / trade district.  College (which is what it sounds like) and Ivory Nob, the putative ‘Noble District’.

What would I do?  I think I would build a seventh district, to close the outer ring of the city, and start paying smelly and low status developments to move there.  Build your own ‘Workers district’, rather than let it develop haphazardly.  Things like the Orphanage, The Grain Silos, The Brewery (have you ever lived close to a brewery?) and the Leather Works.  It adds a point of consumption (which they would have to pay from taxes) but it establishes the structure of the city and helps with planning.  It makes it easier to build an outer wall, gives another water border and makes planning and zoning really easy for the next few Campaign Rounds.


Oston is almost full as well however, the senior residents (Oleg and Svetlana) have decided to limit the size of the town, and won’t allow development of new districts, because they want to ‘live in the country’ – rather than a big town or city.  A one district Small Town fits that model well.  It also fits in with Henry’s views of a rural economy to the north of Midmarch – which is where all the good agricultural land is.

What would I do?  Oston has barracks for its troops, and therefore has two defence points.  This means Oston can have two Hamlets (secondary settlements) in their town hex. Oleg and Svetlana are cool with that, so long as there is an agricultural / country feel about such developments.

The Others

I don’t see any real issues for any of the other estates.  I expect Marik Metals will develop their new mine and I guess the Vallani estate will start on building canals soon.  WSM needs to pay back debts this round, and V&A Shipping need to remember that they will want quite a bit of cash (to develop in Mivon) soon –  and work out how to raise that out of the campaign/BP rules system.

And my advice for Zelona, if you want a rural/wilderness holding, get your village built first – then look at extending into the surrounding wilderness areas.  You might be able to help fund that development by building suitable hamlets (say Fishing and a Green Lumber Camp) in the Old Keep Hex.  Last thought is that you will need to balance Econ, Loy and Stab carefully and use the space in your village and your fishing hamlet wisely – while you have more usable space, I struggled when building the Northern Narlmarch Reserve.   However, you could also build a small town (as Tatzleford will do) which would make your planning a bit easier, but might not suit your RP needs.

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


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


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.


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 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.


Back to working on my pathfinder House Rules. Poisons have become relevant because a Player wants to make their own poisons for use in combat and I have just added some basic rules for crafting during down time. I have been skirting around the matter for a while, but could never really get to grips with it. Then suddenly today, everything seemed to click …

A short while ago, I had a very brief discussion about poison use in FRPGs.  My position, based on years of playing traditional FRPGs was that it was evil –  the other position was that poisons have been widely used though history, so  they should be more acceptable  than  they are.  That started me thinking –  could I justify either of those positions? With the caveats that I run games based on the standard European Fantasy model.

My games feature  Knights in Armour,  Military Orders, Kings and Nobles – and the traditional fairy-tale view  of wizards, monsters and fey.  Even the religious structures in my game world are built with (albeit modern) European church structures in mind. You will find echoes of Norman, Celtic and Norse history, legends and stories in my games World.   So Europe become the cultural reference point – and most RL European cultures, were warrior based, with military strength and individual combat prowess and honour important.   Even in the fairy-stories it is always the Wicked Queen (or a similar character) with the poisoned apple.

Secondly, I like alignment as a Role Playing tool.  I know many modern players dislike it as ‘restrictive’ and ‘not allowing them to play the character they envisage’ – but  *shrugs*  I don’t run that type of game.  I like games that have a cultural feel to them, rather than the bland ‘anything goes settings’ that game companies come up with to drive sales.  And, realistically, if you consider the alignments broadly –  you can fit most people into one of them.

And just as importantly, I don’t like things that make my GM life complicated.  I am not going to remember to see if the PC poisoned themselves every time they put the poison on their arrow, or transferred it to another container.  Nor am I going to remember to apply round on round damage – I don’t even do that for my monster’s poisons.  So having to change all of my monster stats every round (or two) really isn’t very appealing.

Which leads to another thought.  I tend to use published scenarios for my games and modify them to fit my needs.  Currently, I have three groups in a single on-line game playing in Paizo’s Kingmaker  AP. Some encounters cut out completely, others have been swapped with things from other modules, and there are extra bits added in strange places.  Just to make it worse, the parties are in three different parts of the six-book AP.  Nor are the parties all at the same character level or the same level of design optimization.  All of which means that monsters and scenarios are regularly tweaked, in play.  This helps keep everything at a challenging level for the group, but it means that I change stats and HP in the middle of an encounter to serve my needs – rather than following published material as it is written.

Players in the game come from a number of different backgrounds.  I have players who think that the Pathfinder Society GMs are harsh in their rulings (practically anything in any Paizo rule book is good to go) to players who have to re-read the rules every time they swing a sword.  They are all a valuable part of the game, and add different things to the overall feel of the game.  While combat is only one element of the game, each character needs to be able to play a part, and see their actions as worthwhile.  There is, sometimes, a very careful GM balancing act when a party is in combat!

Game Style comes next:  I play campaign games on-line.  The current game has been running for three and a half years and it takes over six months for a character to earn enough experience to go up a level.    I don’t kill characters lightly  🙂   There have been a couple of close calls, but there is always a chance.  No-one has ever been one-shotted, although there have been a few who have been knocked unconscious and have needed their ‘team’ to save them.  The most recent one came to within one point of death – and that was decided on a 50/50 die roll.  It added much more tension,  more RP opportunities and galvanized the party.  Win, Win all the way around – but it means a bit more creative rule-interpretation on the fly. 

In an online game, player attrition ids a big problem, and that is partly why I have three groups of players.   The game has been running for over three years – at this rate it could well  run for another  five or six years.  This way, Players who stick around will see their character become rulers of the new land that they are building.  And the new land gains a history at the same time.  Rather than new characters coming in  all the time and carrying on where the last character died –  Players and their Characters can achieve something,  build a legacy and create history (for the game world)  at the same time.

I am getting very close to talking myself into disallowing poisons altogether here, on the basis that they don’t fit culturally, and make GMing more difficult.    But on to the poisons themselves.

Poisons are a complete game changer.  They can have the same sort of effect on a combat as some spells, but are less constrained.  A poison might have a low saving throw, but if three or four poisoned arrows are delivered in a single round,  then saving throw isn’t really relevant  Sooner or later the monster will fail its throw and the effects will kick in.  And the effect is cumulative, if the arrows keep coming, the next saves are tougher and the monster is more liable to fail again.  And so it goes on.  Then there are things like Blue Whinnis –  effectively a one-shot opportunity for 100gp – less if you make your own.  My recent CR7 monster (A Chuul) had +7 for Fort –  so effectively a 75% save  rate for Blue Winnis – which works out at a 6.25% chance of a one-shot.  That is significantly better than the chances of a Crit for any of the characters involved in that combat – and a single Crit would not have won the combat

OK, I think I can feel a ‘nerfing’ coming on.  I don’t want to ban poison use completely, however, I don’t want it to make big changes to the way my game works.

  • Poisons are single shot.  You take the prescribed damage if you fail the save – however, there are no subsequent saves and no secondary effects.
  • Poisons are restricted to the CRB (This is a House Rule in many areas of the game)

That said, I would be pleased to hear other people’s thoughts on the subject.