Thursday, February 17, 2011

Settling the Wilderness

Work still continues on the King of Dragon Pass post. Reinstalling the durn thing on my hard drive proved to be a foolish, foolish mistake. Fired up a game last night and several hours went poof. (There is a reason I eschew computer games for tabletops ones in the past five years.)

As penance, I am sharing another freebie subsystem from the Domain Game, in this case guidelines for attracting denizens to your newly-carved lands.

Note that I still want to add a few things to these guidelines notably some ways to model attracting more urban types (craftsmen, merchants, clergy, and the like), rural un-landed workers (fishers, foresters, cottars, prospectors, etc.), and “out-of-the-box” emigres (demi-humans, non-humans, nomads, etc.).

Any thoughts from the peanut gallery?

Colonists are attracted to your realm by the promise of free or cheap land. Colonists work their own land and provide their own means, thus the player-lord has no direct obligation to house, feed, and pay them as they do for their retainers, hirelings, and followers.

Every three months a call can be issued to a friendly adjoining civilized area. With each seasonal call, the player can grant and settle up to 1d6 square miles of arable land (+1 can be added for 200 gp spent on advertizing and inducements).

Granted or purchased land must be reasonably secured (regular patrols and no outstanding monsters or other threats) subject to the GM's ruling.

For each square mile granted roll:
Roll d10
1 none
2-3 16 families of tenant farmers
4-5 14 families of tenant farmers, 2 families of freeholders (80gp for sale of land)
6 12 tenant farmers, 4 freeholders (160gp sale)
7 12 tenant farmers, 4 military colonists
8 10 tenant farmers, 2 freeholder (80 gp sale), 1 gentry (160 gp)
9 10 tenant farmers, 2 military colonists (160gp sale), 1 gentry (160 gp)
10 8 tenant farmers, 4 freeholder (160gp sale), 1 gentry (160 gp)
*Any emigrating family can be substituted for a family of tenant farmer if desired.

-8 extreme conditions
-3 harsh climatic conditions or poor soil
-2 land has been secured less than a year
-1 below average soil

+1 good soil or other pleasant terrain conditions
+1 land has been secured more than five years
+2 extremely fertile soil

Tenant Farmers
Free farming family that works a leased grant of 40 acres in exchange for farming work, militia service, and taxes. Typical family will be five with three working bodies that are available to work the landowner's seeding and harvest. The household will provide one unarmored combatant with club, dagger, or other makeshift weapon.

Free farming family of five that works a purchased grant of 40 acres. In an emergency situation, the household will provide one combatant with leather armor and a bow, spear, or other culturally-specific weapon.

Military colonists
Family headed by soldier/mercenary/warrior that works a leased grant of 40 acres in exchange for militia service. The household will provide one combatant with ring or scale armor and a polearm—or equivalent culturally-specific weapon and armor.

Wealthy, but not titled landholder that purchases 120 acres. One family of five with 12 servants. In an emergency situation, the household will provide one mounted warrior with chainmail, shield, sword and lance—or equivalent culturally-specific weapon and armor—and three unarmored combatants with club, dagger, or other makeshift weapon.  


  1. I am happy that you are being such a good Catholic boy since I have been loving these DG posts fer sure.

    I have some related questions to your post. How much of each square mile do the new colonists take up? Are you thinking they all settle together as part of a village or live and work in separate houses?

  2. @Wampus
    Yep, Jim, never underestimate the role Catholic guilt plays in driving my psyche. ; )

    For simplicity sake the new colonists fill up the apportioned square mile (remember that a sq. mile is 640 acres, which you will see is the total number in each of the chart's entries).

    I leave the settlement business up to the GM and/or player. The new settlers could all live in a village on-site; an adjacent larger settlement; or in isolated farmsteads. Doesn't matter as long as they could realistically work their plots from where they live.

  3. Man! This stuff is fantastic! I tried to do an "overlords" experiment game last year, winging it from the start, but methinks that I should have spent more time working out some mechanics like this. I admire your perseverance and creativity here!

  4. Cool., I like the Gentry providing emergency forces.

  5. @Ragnorakk
    Actually, I have been mostly winging it from the start too. The idea has been to "grow" the guidelines as situations are raised through the actual play in the play-test Domain Game.

    The players can say to what degree this has been a success for them, but on my end it's been a fun and productive process.

    I still have a good deal of catch-up for areas not demarcated yet, but it's made each of the sections more robust and/or playable then my original attempts at rules.

  6. @Pierce
    Thanks. I thought it'd be interesting (and vaguely historically accurate) to have some variation in what each class of colonists brought to the domain.

    Still working the kinks out of the taxation rates for all these new inhabitants too.

  7. Very cool. Thanks for sharing.

    It would be interesting to try to articulate the same fundamental ideas about settling a land but for a feudal society. A fair number of FRPG default societies are feudal and the ideas would need to be tweaked for them.

  8. @Eric
    My intention was to make it multi-period and versatile for a range of campaigns. It probably reflects the early Renaissance (late 15th to mid-16th century) and Antiquity better than the feudal one mostly because there was much more colonizing activity in those periods.

    (By the way Alexis of Tao of D&D makes an excellent case for the fact that the bog standard D&D setting is likely much more of an early renaissance one than a feudal one here:

    It should be able to handle some of the feudal era stuff both the tenant farmers and freeholders are based on the spectrum of free yeomans (who typically had holdings of 30-80 acres).

    The gentry can be stand-ins for petit serjeants (rich yeoman who could afford horse and armor).

    I handle serfs in my labor and hirelings section.

    But you got me thinking about how to handle vassals and minor nobles in general. Maybe I need to draw up some guidelines for attracting knights, knight bannerets, and the like?

  9. The problem with Settler scenarios is that colonists are a bit of a myth. With a few exceptions in the stone age, there are no empty areas in a world to just settle. Even cro-magnon man had to kill off the neanderthal.

    Without a series of population killing plagues to clear their way, you're actually playing an invasion scenario. Which admittedly is more fun, but substituting orcs for indians, bushmen, or slavs doesn't really change that.