Saturday, October 9, 2010

House Rule: Rest and Recovery

The ease of a full recovery after just one extended rest (6 hours) is one of the most commonly criticized game mechanics of 4th edition. I feel it removes an important element of danger from the game and indeed I have never been a fan of the ease of magical healing in prevoius editions of D&D either.

Therefore, I'm introducing this house rule into my 4e game:

Per extended rest, a character may recover either one healing surge or may remove one failed death save. A short rest has no effect on recovering failed death saves.

The doesn't have a major effect on the tactics of an encounter but it does change the players' overall strategy between encounters. This puts 4e players in a more perilous position than players of eariler editions as there are no easy means of magical healing to speed up long term recovery. Any such magic would also have to be house ruled as well if used at all. Perhaps a new ritual or new magic item could be introduced to improve the recovery rate but I'm not inclined to include such items. I've always liked the "major wound" mechanic of the Pendragon RPG and I think this rule lends a little of its flavor to D&D.

Any 4e players or DMs out there have an opinion of this?

Friday, October 8, 2010

World Building: Tech Preview of Ubisoft's "From Dust"

This looks fun. Hope it comes with a "Print to giant hex map" button.

This reminds me not to try to compete with video games when it comes to building and simulating worlds. While a lot of my posts here have been very crunchy on mechanics, the end goal is to create a framework for aiding immersive interactions between human players sitting together face-to-face, bringing a world to life in an unpredictable and spontaneous manner which with computer games can't compete. Death to Lord British!

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Prospecting for Metals

Access to rare metals could make or break the fortunes of a civilization. When PCs wish to secure a stronghold, it is natural they should seek out these resources. Propecting on their own holdings may reveal hidden sources of stability and wealth.

Prospecting requires a successful 5th level complexity one skill challenge. (The skill challenge is a 4e mechanic but can be adapted to any AD&D edition with the use of nonweapon proficiencies or skills.)

Prospecting for Metals Skill Challenge (5th Level)
Prospecting is time consuming, back breaking work with little chance of overnight success. Long hours are spent in cold mountain streams and dismal bogs sifting for rare materials.

1 (4 successes before 3 failures)
Primary Skill:
Dungeoneering - Moderate 5th level DC (15)
Secondary Skills:
History (1 use) - gives +2 bonus, Knowledge of past assay attempts.
Perception (1 use) - gives +2 bonus, A close eye is kept out for tell tale signs.
Endurance (1 use) - gives +2 bonus, Extra hours of back breaking labor.
All Moderate 5th level DC (15)
Time Required:
1 month
Area Covered:
1 five mile hex
No results.
200 XP

% chance / metal / frequency
01-94 Nothing of value in this area.
95-99 Iron 5% of Crust


% chance / metal / frequency
01-50 Zinc 75 parts per million
51-91 Copper 60 ppm
92-97 Lead 10 ppm
98 Tin 2 ppm
99 Arsenic 2 ppm

% chance / metal / frequency
01-57 Antimony 0.2 ppm
58-78 Silver 0.08 ppm
79-97 Mercury 0.07 ppm
98 Platinum 0.004 ppm
99 Gold 0.003 ppm

metal / suggested effect
Fey Iron (Radiant)
Shadow Iron (Necrotic)
Star Iron (Psychic)
Orichalcum (Force)
Mithril (lighter)
Adamantium (stronger)
Uxoricore (Fire)
Uru (Thunder)
Black Orichalcum (Psychic, Force)

Prospecting is a time consuming undertaking and the appropriate random encounter rolls should be made.

Once a metal is discovered, it must be extracted which I'll detail in a future post. Placer mining was the most common method but shaft mining is also a possibility, especially in Dwarven operations.

I leave it to the DM to determine the details of any fantastic metal discovered but the rewards for successful extraction should be significant.

These charts should be taken with a grain of salt. For example, historically lead was collected at several times the quanity of copper, despite being more rare. This probably was because lead was in some way easier to extract than copper. Also, lead was often found with other metals such as copper, zinc and silver but this chart only produces a single metal on a successful role.

For more detailed information on various metals one might encounter in a D&D game, check out the recent post on The Tao of D&D about mining and metals.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Research Material on Medieval Economies

Today I received three used books in the post purchased to help me research the ins and outs of medieval urban life:

"The Commercial Revolution of the Middle Ages, 950-1350" by Robert S. Lopez.

"Medieval Cities, Their origins and the Revival of Trade" by Henri Pirenne.

"Economic and Social History of Medieval Europe" also by Henri Pirenne.

All three look quite helpful. I've already started the Lopez book which 20 pages in seems like a quick and surprisingly entertaining read. The conclusions Lopez makes confirm that I'm on the right track. (Very reassuring!) He has some interesting material on post-Roman barbarian economics which will soon become a post here much like the manorialism posts for you Conan and orc marauder types. I'm getting a lot of new-to-me information on the Roman Empire and some context on today's credit driven economy as well. Hopefully, the Pirenne books will be as inspiring.

I read "Life in a Medieval City" by Frances and Joseph Gies years ago and found it great fodder for D&D background material. I recommend it if you're into this sort of thing.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

On the Use of Guild Marks as Sympathetic Fetishes

"In Ilova, the City of False Doors, it is the custom of the Honorable Fraternity of Bakers and P√Ętissiers to brand freshly baked loaves of bread from their ovens on one end with the Sigil of the Tortoise and the other end with the Sigil of the Hare. These marks serve to identify the loaves as legal goods free of taxes and are the subject of much superstitious speculation by the hungry Ilovian populous. In the markets, wandering among the citizens adorned in their funereal togas, one can hear much talk of the boons, ills and sundry other effects attributed to whether one spreads one's lard across either the tortoise side or the hare end of this bread. In fact, the sigils do serve as sympathetic fetishes to aid in targeting the loaves for enchantment by the guild Athermancers in accordance with the Laws of Contagion. These rituals can aid or hinder the rising of the bread, the length of its life upon the shelf and even, once consumed, the vigor of its consumer. It is by these means that the Honorable Fraternity of Bakers and P√Ętissiers and her sister guilds exert influence and direction over the welfare of the entire economy, all at the behest of the Grand Guilder and High Officers of the Greater Confraternity of the Plen River Traders."

From The Codex of Surviving Imperial Livery Patents of Moranth, circa 17 AC.

Game Effect: Upon entering a city in which a single Guild controls the majority of the economy, make a saving throw to resist the effects of the arcane policy control mechanisms in currently place. To randomly determine the current policy effects, roll a d10: 1-3: -1 to skill checks, 4-6: no effect, 7-0: +1 to skill checks. These effects remain in place until the character leaves the city or until the end of the season. Abilities and powers which grant additional saving throws may be used to negate these effects normally.

The Post In Which Guilds are Sundered in Twain

For the last few weeks I've been at an impasse as to how to proceed with highest levels of economic activity for my game world. My original idea was to create a plausible system of economics linking the small scale of manorial production of actual goods to the larger, playable game pieces of Birthright style guilds. My feeling has been that guilds have been rather poorly defined in both description and game mechanics. Are they confederations of several small livery companies? If so, how deep down does the regents control extend into, say, the inner workings of the Honorable Fraternity of Bakers and Cake Frosters? The Hanseatic League seems like the best historical analog for a guild but along a more mono-despotic vein. The regent acts as both CEO and Chairman of the Board of a holding company composed to numerous sub-guilds who shoulder the gritty responsibility of the realities of production and labor. That leaves our regent free to... to what exactly?

I had assumed to make money. It's becoming clear with research that is a false assumption. Or rather it's better to say, their ideas on the production of wealth are far from my modern views on wealth. Guilds practiced mercantilism, not capitalism. They were strict monopolists wielding letters patent to force out and stifle competition and innovation. Foreign trade was considered a bane unless the exports always, always exceeded the imports. (An unrealistic as well as undesirable goal.) They imposed strict social order to control the balance of haves and have nots. They saw ruthless development of internal markets as the only route to wealth and when these markets stagnated, acquisition of foreign markets by force of arms was the common solution. Guilds were less concerned with money than they were with control.

And here I was trying to figure out how they profited on the free market. Under the guild system, the free market and the black market are both the same and criminal. Guilds are really a type of urban law holding. Criminal networks and the traditional D&D thieves' guilds are where the real inter-realm economic trade action is at, which is good as far as dramatic purposes are concerned. It looks like I'll be splitting the Birthright guild into two pieces and repurposing them into new roles.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

World Building: Macro-economics (Part 2)


This post is a dump of fairly raw data on the amount of goods produced by a manor.
This data is meant to be scaled up to the province level, not detailed down to Harn-like granularity. My long term aim is to create price indexes for a few broad ranges of goods from which I can derive prices for items on the equipment lists and for trade should the player wish to try their hands as merchants. The information here will be used to set the production values of the base index.

The manor produces Food, Metals, Raw Textiles and Timber and exports these items to local urban centers where they are consumed or worked by craftsmen into manufactured products. These are the average amounts produced per manor, not every manor's output will be strictly as described below. In a small barony of five manors there may be only one mining operation which produces 1500 lbs of metal per year and no mining at all in the other manors.

Amount of Food:
  • 1 acre produces on average 500 lbs of foods per year.
  • A person consumes about 5 lbs of food per day.
  • 20 acres supports 1 family adult and dependents with 10000 lbs of food per year or 5 tons. (Includes feed and seed.)
  • A manor of 100 feeds 50 city families which is 500000 lbs of food per year or 250 tons.
  • This food is produced on 3000 acres.
  • Includes grains, meat, grapes, milk, fruit, etc.
Amount of Metal:
  • Iron produced at 3 pounds per capita per year.
  • A manor of 100 produces 300 pounds per year.
  • This is mostly iron but can include gold, silver, copper, tin, zinc, etc.
Amount of Textiles, Furs, Hides:
  • Linen from flax.
Flax 1000 lbs per acre of which there is spinable flax for 25 yards of linen.
5 yards per outfit.
Acres of flax per manor = 10% of 3000 = 300 acres which produces 150 tones per year or 7500 yards of linen or 1500 outfits.
  • Leather
Pigskin is common.
10' sq per pig.
400 pigs per manor, 25% butchered a year.
50 lbs of meat per pig
5000 pounds of meat per year or 2.25 tons (as apart of total food)
1000' sq feet pigskin or ~100 yards of leather, 20 outfits.

Cowskin from naturally loses only, i.e. 10% of herd.
Herd of 100 cattle.
40' sq feet per cow
400' sq ft leather per year
~45 yards of leather or 9 outfits

Deer, Elk
Hunt 50 a year
20' sq feet per animal
1000' sq feet deerskin or ~100 yards of leather, 20 outfits.

200 sheep per manor, 10% loses
5' sq ft leather
10 lbs of fleece per year, 15 yards of wool or 3 outfits
2000 lbs of wool per year or 1 ton or 3000 yards or 600 outfits
100' sq ft or 9 yards or 2 outfits

  • Furs (beaver, rabbit, fox, ermine, etc)
Hunt 50 per year
~4' sq ft furs
20 yards per year

Amount of Timber:
  • 200 trees per acre, 30' tall 10" diameter, 500 lbs. or 100 tons per acre total.
  • Sustained harvest at 10% = 20 trees weighing 10000 lbs. or 5 tons.
  • 200' board feet per ton. (Board feet 144" cubed.) 10' 2"*4" is 960' cu. is 6.66 board feet.
  • 10' by 10' wooden wall (30 2*4s) is 200 board feet.
  • Acres of timber per manor = 10% of 3000 = 300 acres which produces 1500 tones per year.
  • A 20' by 30' for wooden house requires 22 tons of raw timber.
  • 1 urban family burns 20 tons of wood as fuel per year reducing available timber to 500 tons per year.
  • Building upkeep for 100 dwellings reduces available timber by 200 tons.
  • 300 tons of timber available per year.
Total yearly exports of a manor:
  • Food: 250 tons (Mostly grains, some meat, fish)
  • Metal: 300 lbs (Mostly iron)
  • Textiles: flax for 7500 yards of linen, 3000 yards wool, ~250 yards of leather (Pig, Deer, Cattle), 20 yards of furs (Beaver, Rabbit, Stoat)
  • Timber: 300 tons
Total Value of Exported Goods: ~1800 GP per year
  • Food 1CP @ 50lbs - 100 GP
  • Metal(iron) 2GP @ lbs - 600 GP
  • Timber 1GP @ ton - 300 GP
  • Flax 1GP @ "42 yards" - 180 GP
  • Wool 1GP @ "25 yards" - 120 GP
  • Leather 1GP @ "1.5 yards" - 375 GP
  • Furs 10GP @ "1.5 yard" - 133 GP
Next post will look at urban wages and will determine prices for common adventuring items based off the information provided here.