Domain Play: Revised

Continuing from .

I fell into the trap. It’s not even very subtle: I put in adjusted costing times and per-slot-of-farmland support values.

The bones are good; let’s cut the fat. The summary is that you are the Regent of a Domain; you rule over it through your Ministers, who execute your policy and respond with its results.


No more specifics about economic simulation or anything more than a very loose coupling of crops-to-population. Instead, we’ll let that be the minister’s problem.

What’s a Domain? What’s a Minister?

A domain is an entry in a guidebook. It can be anything from a single castle to a great empire. It can have any political system, from a family in which the grandmother is the absolute autarch to a direct democracy in which each citizen votes.

As an entry in a guidebook, a domain has important statistics that are fractal: each part of the domain (regions, cities, neighborhoods) can be thought of as a sub-domain which also has some fraction of its parent’s statistics. The important stats are:

  1. Adult population. This can be broken down by skillset and level of wealth; turning free artisans into indentured soldiers can be done but will yield poor and surly troops. This can be captured demographically, but from the point of view of the game we’re more interested in some high level pseudo-demographics:
    1. Industry. Assuming someone is either completely productive, or completely unproductive, what percentage of the people generate wealth? 100% means that the entire population takes full advantage of the resources available; 0% means total unemployment and no skills to speak of.
    2. Military. How battle-ready are the people? 100% means that the population are all ready to serve as soldiers currently (regardless of whether they’re literally under arms); 0% means no member of the current generation can serve as a soldier at all.
      1. Do note the size and rough composition of the standing army, if any. That represents a drain on the kingdom’s coffers: 1gp per 1xp of soldier, per month. This holds for battlebeasts and wizards, too.
      2. Fortifications are a sort of product of this: military towns have military buildings.
    3. Loyalty. How aligned with the government are the people? 100% means that the government and people are of one mind; 0% that the government has no relationship with the domain: they are effectively in revolt.
    4. Specific populations. This breakdown is not always helpful, but knowing that 5% of the population are elves (industry 90%, military 90%, loyalty 50%) matters a lot if there is a ghoul invasion; knowing for a fact that the domain has 30 doctors might matter during a plague; knowing that the standing army is 9,000 people matters and their loyalty is 5% would be helpful if worried about a coup by the generals.
  2. Area. The square mileage of the domain, usually segmented into 6-mile hexes. This, too, is likely broken down by settlement level (none, farmland, village, town, city) and terrain type (desert, forest, hills, jungle, swamp, mountains, plains)
    1. As a baseline, to be “self-sustaining”, at least 50% of your population should be agrarian, and you must have one full hex of plains farmland per 5000 people (per here). Variance in Economy will result in a greater or lesser amount of harvest here; so for instance with 50% economy you might want 75% of your population agrarian!
      1. Since your urban centers provide taxable wealth at perhaps 10%, stable societies want less than 5% of their population under arms.
    2. Each agrarian member of the population produces 10gp of food (assuming ideal conditions).
    3. Each urbanite generates 5, 25 or 50 gp of wealth depending on whether they live in a village (up to 1000 people), town (up to 6000) or city (up to 25,000), again assuming ideal conditions.
  3. Resources. These are the important features on the map which provide a direct economic benefit: mineral wealth, good hunting ground, enchanted forests. It also includes things like towns filled with notable artisans, capable of transforming resources into finished goods or access to trade routes, since those are built to capitalize on the resources. Controlling these gives your citizens access to wealth; when the sourcebook says the region exports “grain and iron”, this is what they’re talking about.
    1. Each resource counts as an “additional village”, increasing the wealth by an additional 10gp per member of the population, above their normal income.
  4. Treasury. This is the domain’s liquid cash on hand.

Domain Turn

The domain turn is run once per month, and consists of 3 phases:

  1. External event
  2. Economy
  3. Action
  4. Resolution

Why did we cut upkeep? It fits better in economy, which is shaped by external events.

The external event is simple: roll randomly, draw from a deck: figure out what new calamity (or blessing!) besets the kingdom. This is where the seasons should make themselves known: famines and closed roads in winter, flooding and assessing the damage in spring, bounty in summer, harvest and sickness in autumn. I’ll probably post some better rules soon, but for now, you could continue to roll on the Current Calamity table, DMG page 112. It affects resolution, but has no immediate effects.

If loyalty is under 50%, roll d%; if it is over the loyalty, then the difference in rolls will go rogue this turn unless you take actions to remediate. They might secede, turn bandit, or just start ignoring you.

If industry is under 50%, there might be actual widespread disease and famine. Roll d%; if it is over the industry, then the difference in rolls have succumbed to poverty and disease. They die this turn unless you take actions to remediate.

If military is under 50%, that’s fine. You’re not a very militant country. Your borders might be at risk, though.

The economy uses the wealth of the nation and the state of the treasury to determine how much spare cash the domain has to handle your requests. If all else fails, assume a well-running kingdom:

  • Increases its population by 1d6% each turn
  • Can maximally raise via taxes into its treasury 1gp per farmer and villager, 5gp per townie, and 10gp per city dweller, times its Industry multiplier.
  • Has stored 10 years of back-taxes.

The action is the actual domain turn the regent (that’s you) takes. You discuss things with your ministers and struggle the bulk of your domain pointing in the direction you choose. The most impactful choice you have is in selecting ministers, forming relationships with them and trading favors with them: you cannot take any of these actions directly*, but only request that your ministers perform them.

The types of actions you take are effectively limited by your imagination and care for detail: new civic policy, creation of roads, changing the flow of rivers through damming, diverting money for a personal project, declaring war, arranging trade treaties, founding cities. You may also have the ability to select new Ministers; if you do, now is when it happens.

Select a cost in population, time, land, treasury-cash, good will, etc; have the minister make some skill checks. On a success, they make progress towards your goal this turn. On a failure, they don’t.

For some guidelines: New construction takes 1 turn per 5000 gp of value, and requires 200 laborers; value determined by what it is you are building. Making a new village requires construction of 10 such structures, and requires you get all of the laborers to the location.

Raising an army allows you to convert the Military percentage of the population into soldiers, though you’ll lose their economic capabilities. Deploying your army in the field is even worse: you’ll have to start transporting them around and transporting food to them, requiring yet more infrastructure outlay. If you sack a city, you can extract about 20% of its wealth for your treasury, or you can try to leave it in place and reconstruct it for about 50% of its cost.

Placating the populace (or investing in them) is an attempt to boost loyalty, industry, or even military (if you think of it as propaganda). Make a monetary gift to the people of at least 6gp per head in the region you’re trying to affect; make a loyalty, industry or military check. If you roll over your existing score, increase it by 1; if you roll under, increase it by 1d6.

* “You cannot take any of these actions directly” is a lie. You can! If you want to build a 300 mile road yourself, you can hire a bunch of Vorish laborers and start laying cobbles. The landowners in between will be a bit weird about it, and the state won’t maintain it. On the other hand, the same minister who wouldn’t lay the road might be willing to purchase it and maintain it, if they get the tax revenue thereafter! These rules are about working within the system. If you do something in your own name from your own purse, I wish you well.


The resolution is when everything comes calling: the ministers report back, and we figure out how the domain is getting on. This begins the DM’s section of the rules, since the ministers are where we hide the economics simulation.


No seriously, only scroll down for excruciating detail. Because, since the players only operate on their domain through the ministers, it’s totally okay to fudge it. Assume the budget under the economy heading and you’ll be alright.


Still here?



How does the Economy work?

Each turn, during the economy step:

The population increases by 1d6%.

Farms generate food, according to the season: In summer and fall, the seasonal modifier is +1d20%. In spring and winter, the seasonal modifier is -1d20% (and this can drive a domain with poor industry into liability!). Since the seasons balance out, you could ignore the seasonal modifier.

Farms also have a terrain modifier. Farms in plains and meadows are at 100% efficiency. Farms in hilly or forested terrain are at 75% efficiency. Farms in deserts are at 0% efficiency. All others are 50% (mountains, swamps, etc).

Food generated uses the formula:

(Industry + seasonal modifier) * Terrain Multiplier * farming population * 10gp of food

Food consumed uses the formula

Total population * 5gp of food

If there was leftover food, it is converted to wealth at a rate of 5/6ths: Each 6 food gp becomes 5 wealth gp.

If there was not enough food, it is converted to wealth at a rate of 6/5ths: Each -5 food gp becomes -6 wealth gp.

Settlements generate wealth, according to The Market Modifier. Roll The Market Modifier once for each of your largest settlements, and then once overall for all smaller settlements together; it’s 1d20-10% in any case.

The settlement multiplier is 5, 25 or 50 gp, depending on settlement size.

A settlement with access to a resource adds 10gp per resource to this number per resource (or see the more specific rules still, below!)

Wealth generated per settlement uses the formula:

(Industry + The Market Modifier) * settlement and resource multiplier * working population in gp of wealth

Okay. So that’s how much stuff got generated. And it includes things like self-education, building roads, transporting eggs, the fire department: it’s not all +1 swords and jewelry you can carry off, you know?

To reflect this, you can tax Wealth at any rate below 20%. That’s not really the rate on the books, it’s just how much wealth you extract from the citizen’s economic activity. This money goes into the treasury, and you can use it.

From your treasury, now you have to pay your own outstanding fees. In particular, each member of the standing army, if any (plus court wizards and similar notables) is going to request twice their experience-point value in GP from you.

From what’s left over after THAT, you can make merry.

How do Ministers work? What do I use the treasury for?

They use their holdings and the treasury to attempt to enact your will.

Each minister takes what you’ve asked them to do, and attempts to get the segment of the population which they represent and control and have them do what you want (in addition to whatever they were normally doing).

What do specific settlements yield?

We can use way more specific formulae to calculate our income/outgo.

  • Each hex of farmland produces a baseline of 10gp of food per worker to a max of 2500 workers (25,000 gp of food), with the terrain multiplier.
  • Each village produces 5 gp of wealth per worker, to a max of 1000 workers (5,000 gp).
  • Each town produces 25gp of wealth per worker, to a max of 6000 workers (150,000 gp). If there are fewer than 1000 workers, it produces as a village.
  • Each city produces 50gp of wealth per worker, to a max of 25000 workers (1,250,000 gp). Workers beyond this limit don’t produce economic effects accessible to the regent. If there are fewer than 6000 workers, it produces as a town.

What does a specific resource yield?

Settlements and their “resources” are a proxy and aggregate for a variety of different harvestable goods. You build a settlement in a place which has something you might be able to benefit from, the town harvests and converts into finished products and trade goods. If you want to use this more granular rule, assume that each worker invested in extracting resources no longer contributes to their settlement but instead yields 5g per month, with a multiplier derived from the type of resource:

  • Textiles and Spices: About 50 pounds (or square yards) per worker, yielding the following wealth multipliers:
    1. Canvas x1 (default resource)
    2. Cotton x5
    3. Ginger x10
    4. Cinnamon/Pepper x20
    5. Cloves x30
    6. Linen x50
    7. Silk x100
    8. Saffron x300
  • A mine lets each worker yield about 50lb of the commodity in wealth per month.
    1. Stone x1: Produces 500 pounds per worker.
    2. Salt x1: Produces 100 pounds per worker.
    3. Iron x1
    4. Copper x5
    5. Silver x50
    6. Gold x500
    7. Platinum x5000

About lackhand

I was born in 1984 and am still playing games, programming computers, and living in New York City. View all posts by lackhand

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