End-Game Implications

The end-game for (A)D&D is something that many in the OSR are rediscovering, and it’s something that I’ll be placing some emphasis on in my own Emprise!™ game. However, in thinking about it, there are some interesting setting implications that the stated end-game rules pose that are possibly not all that apparent at first blush.

First off, a quick review. Clerics (at 9th level) can clear an area, attract followers, and get 9 s.p. per month per inhabitant. Fighters and rangers (also at 9th level) can clear an area, attract followers, and get 7 s.p. per inhabitant. Magic-users (at 12th level) can do the same, and get a 5 s.p. per person tax every month. Thieves (at 10th level) set up their headquarters in or near an existing town, and start their own guild, so their end-game experience is very different than other classes.

In those simple rules there are some interesting things unstated. First off, there is assumed to be land that can be “cleared”. Enough that, following the rules on p. 93 of the DMG, areas of seven 30-mile hexes can be cleared as part of a single freehold. Thus, the campaign setting needs to have some borderlands that can be pushed out and expanded as civilization grows and more hexes are cleared of monsters. Where’s this land? In the World of Greyhawk, for example, there don’t seem to be many places where there’s wilderness to expand into. Is it the areas “between” the kingdoms? If so, the DM has to make sure he’s accounted for this, and that the kingdoms’ claimed territory is much larger than the actual, populated and “tame” land.

There is also the prospect that there are people– peasants, tradesmen, artisans, etc.– in the campaign that are both free to move around (not a very historical thing in a medieval setting) and willing to go out to the new edge of the wilderness to settle in under the PC in the newly cleared region. Where are these folks coming from? What sort of social forces are at work that encourage the establishment of new hamlets and villages? What’s the motivation for picking up and moving? Are the taxes under a PC going to be lower than those in the core of the realm? If so, the numbers cited above give some baselines for what to expect in the interior. And what are the existing landlords going to think of these periodic exoduses of taxpayers out to the edge of the wilderness? Are they trying to get rid of their malcontents by sending them out that way?

That brings up another interesting rule from the DMG, on p. 94. Apparently, those little silver-piece generators will go into open revolt no less than once every 5 years! And that’s going to be 20% of the population, growing by 10% and getting more and more capable every month. Egads!

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Wargamer and RPG'er since the 1970's, author of Adventures Dark and Deep, Castle of the Mad Archmage, and other things, and proprietor of the Greyhawk Grognard blog.

10 thoughts on “End-Game Implications

  1. Are we sure people are moving into the area in droves? Perhaps the area to be cleared could be a formerly civilized region. There are still folks there trying to carve out a life under constant threat of monster attack. They'll gladly pay less than a gold per month in protection money, what with there being no cops in the area since those giants destroyed the old baron's castle three generations ago.

  2. There’s also the possibility that the money comes from an existing lord, who has appointed you, his vassal, to extend his territories into the borderlands and build a keep here. For each successful settler, you get x amount of coin for support, etc.

  3. I always assumed several possibilities, be it like Jeff mentioned, a previously held land, or a "new" land granted to the PC's by a lord for their service or renown. Usually the land would be either on a border/contested area with another kingdom, thus strengthening the lord's hold, or in a uncivilized border region, expanding the lords hold.
    In these "granted land" cases the common folk come from persons the lord has sent there to better serve him.
    Lastly and perhaps the most in keeping with the sword and sorcery feel. They can be swaths of wilderness the PC's have carved out for themselves and the common folk are drawn there do to the PC's renown, or in the case of a cleric, religion. Now as mentioned this later scenario might not be all that in keeping with a medieval world view, but there is plenty in the game already that isn't. Besides it can be fodder for conflicts with other lords angry at defection of their surfs and vassals.

  4. I think adventurers (PCs) are the dregs of society, those who for whatever reason cannot function. The way players tend to play (violent and greedy) seems to bear this out.

    If you assume that, then immigrants to a border land will likely be more undesirables. The most violent and controllable ones get picked up as retainers and followers. The violent and uncontrollable ones become bandits and adventurers. The nonviolent ones (who would previously not venture into the wilderness) become peasants.

    But they don't have good skills or wealth. If they did, they'd be back in the civilized lands. So the blacksmith on the borderlands is going to be pretty crummy, and you will always be able to get better metalsmithing done back home in the capitol.

    This means there will be merchants coming regularly to trade manufactured goods to the colonists (including the PCs). And they want to buy raw materials, rather than poorly-finished goods, as those have the highest profit margin. If no raw materials are available for sale (say, the PCs have everyone process everything ineptly) then the homeland merchants just don't come anymore.

    So there is a place for the loner ranger / trapper / woodsman, and the doughty retainer, and the mucky peasant. But you do not see people with decent stats or anyone above Level 0, simply because folks of quality have better opportunities in civilized lands.

    Obviously this conflicts with the desires of the PCs, who would love to gather vast armies of powerful retainers and flocks of heroic, handsome, healthy, productive peasants. But if they have to start with the dregs, and they improve those dregs to something worthwhile, they are able to "Level-Up" their domains in the way they "Leveled-Up" their characters.

    In that way, the development of the character makes it ready to begin domain play. And development of the domain makes it ready for mass-combat play.

    Perhaps something exciting lies beyond mass-combat development. Any ideas?

  5. Well, just going by what's on p. 94 of the DMG, we read:

    "In territories hacked from the wilderness, the "fame" of the owner will eventually spread so as to attract inhabitants to the safety (?) of the area."

    So while the ideas offered make a certain amount of sense (and doubtless would be taken into account in the play of a game), as far as the rules themselves go, the assumption is that new settlers are coming into the newly-cleared area.

    Now, Emprise! is going to be a bit more… er… comprehensive… on the subject, of course. But in terms of what AD&D has to tell us, there is that assumption built in.

  6. It's easy to forget how cheap life could be in medieval societies and pre-modern economies. Some of the first English colonies in America had 50% or higher mortality rates, yet apparently that was an acceptable risk to get ahead rather than remain a cottager or beggar in the homeland, where they were pretty much stuck in their station. (And yes, they were supplemented by transported prisoners, but many were volunteers, even if they had to indenture themselves for passage.) As late as the mid 1800's, Chinese immigrants to California had about a 40% mortality rate, but just the chance of being able to afford a wife and adequate food still beat starving in a ditch in a society up against Malthusian limits.

    To me, there's an element of all that implied in D&D, in some of the price lists, and just the fact of implied feudalism. So I'm comfortable with immigrants risking the dangers of even a frontier with monsters just for the (relatively) low taxes and chance to hold their own little plot of land or workshop. Their former rulers might get upset if too many leave, but if it's just a few then it solves the problem of younger sons and extra mouths to feed, so no worries there.

    But if you've established that the neighboring lands all have free and prosperous yeoman then yes, that removes the incentive to uproot for a more dangerous land. New settlements might have to send off to distant lands for immigrants, and even bargain for indentured servants and condemned criminals.

    I would go only half as far as 1d30 does on the dregs of humanity angle. Immigrants are mostly going to be poor, and maybe even indentured or indebted to a sponsor who paid their travel expenses and provided a stake (unless the pc lord does that himself). Some will have low stats, from poor childhood nutrition if nothing else. Skilled craftsmen will be uncommon enough to be valuable, but present in the form of journeymen without the money or seniority to establish themselves as masters in their homeland. But ultimately, most of those who come will at least be motivated to work, and those who aren't will be dead in a few years at most.

    As an aside, those silver piece revenues crack me up. I like how fighters can strong-arm more taxes out of the peasantry than wizards, but clerics have them both beat. I picture some otherwise benevolent good cleric who just can't conceive of either supply-side economics or progressive tax rates, he just knows the peasants will be better off if his temple has all the right accoutrements.

  7. the campaign setting needs to have some borderlands that can be pushed out and expanded as civilization grows and more hexes are cleared of monsters. Where's this land?

    Marginal lands and unregulated/disputed border areas. Settlement travels along river valleys and only gradually washes up into the (agriculturally marginal) hillsides and moorlands.

    T.R.Glover's The Ancient World and – more recently – Tom Holland's Millennium have interesting – and very readable – sections on why the new towns of their respective eras (BC, and 800-1200AD) popped up when and where they did…

  8. I really like the idea of the players starting their domain as a penal colony. Somehow, you have to get these dregs and unfortunates to work and make the land productive. If they live through a winter, well, maybe you start to get different types of settlers, encouraged by the colony’s success and famous (and affluent) founders.

  9. I make the assumption in Wyrd Greyhawk that so many opposed races living in close relation to each other results in a constant state of warfare that waxes and wains, but never dies entirely.

    This creates perpetual shifting geographic areas of Dark Age and Renaisanse and civilizations cultural, artistic and technological level can vary greatly from one generation to the next as war destroys the knowledgable and learned.
    This creates a social class of refugees I call the Unfettered. These people move about the continent, looking for new lives, regardless ofthe feudal order.
    In the End Game scenario, the "wilderness" may well be a land that was ruined by war in the recent past, and the new population will be Unfettered migrating in from other lands.

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