With the recent talk about province levels and distribution of land I wish to
post an email that Mark A Vandermeulen (one of the best birthrighters out
there in e-mail land) sent me explaining his distribution of lands in his
Osoerde campaign that was posted a while back. While the one Baron to
province level might need to be changed to landed lord and the scale changed
appropriately I think that this is one of the best descriptions I have ever
seen. I hope Mark doesn't get mad at me for posting it.


- ---------- Forwarded message ----------
Date: Fri, 14 Nov 1997 20:15:08 -0500 (EST)
From: Mark A Vandermeulen
To: TOMMY.ASHTON@asu.edu
Subject: Re: Nobility of Osoerde

On Fri, 14 Nov 1997 TOMMY.ASHTON@ASU.Edu wrote:

> Mr. Vandermeulen,
> I am member of the Birthright list. I wanted to ask you some
> questions on you Nobility of Osoerde post. It was outstanding! You
> talked about a "one count per province, one Baron per province level"
> general rule which was posted. I looked in the archives and could not
> find these past posts. If you have the time could you answer a few
> questions? I run a Rohrmarch High King campaign and would like to
> implement your system.

Thanks a lot. I'm glad to hear that you liked it. And I'll be GLAD to
expound on my favorite topic: Birthright. By the way, Mark is fine. I'm a
graduate student, and a TA, so I get "Mr. VanderMeulen" a lot, but I try
to discourage it. I do sign my full name at the end of my posts, but
that's mostly because once my fingers get started on "Mark" they just sort
of naturally carry on and finish it without my brain actually being very

> 1) How did you access the number of manors to each noble? Was there a
> formula or did you just state 5 as being the highest and arbituarily
> assign from there.

I started out with a simple rule: not all of the people are going to be
officially "attached" to the heirarchy of nobility. In provinces which are
more independent and "chaotic" in outlook, more of the people will be
happy to live on homesteads or farms which do not have the offical
sanction (and thus protection) of a noble lord. Or there are a lot of
people how do things like fish or trap and who thus rely more on wild land
than on cultivated land. For these provinces, I gave a total # of
manors equal to 5 times the province rating. Thus the Sunken Lands has a
total of 10 manors located in it. More lawful provinces, and those more
dedicated to farming, have a total number of manors equal to 10 times the
province rating. Thus Brothendar has 30 manors located in it. Note that
even though they have more manors, lawful provinces are not any more loyal
or make any more money: independent subjects are just as loyal as those
more tied to the land (and farmers can get just as riled up as trappers
when they're angered).
Next, I alloted one Baron per province level. Five ended up being
about the maximum any one Baron controlled directly, but this was not
necessarily a matter of choice. If there was a good reason, I could have
alloted more. It just gets much easier to delegate some of your authority
to Baronets when you have lots of manors. If you count up the manors that
a Baron holds PLUS those that his vassal Baronets hold, you'll see that
some Barons are really quite powerful. Actually, what I did for these were
to take some lined paper, mark off 30 lines (or however many) and write
"Baron" on the first line and then on later lines pretty much at random.
The Barons would then eventually get a name, and those with lots of blank
lines under them would get some Baronet vassals. Actually, I think I
started with twice the number of Baronets as Barons in each province, but
that was changed some as I started creating little stories about each of
the nobles in a province.
Also, I included as a "manor" any conspicuous landholder who would
be located in the province. Thus, the monasteries each fill up a "manor"
slot, as do each of the towns. In Khinasi lands, I would probably have a
caravanserai taking up a manor slot.
Finally, each province received a Count (and thus could be called
a County), unless it was a "chaotic" province, which became "Baronies."
This is by no means necessary: in a chaotic kingdom, chaotic provinces
would be the norm, and each would have a Count. I made the difference in
this case to emphasize the difference between the outlook of the provinces
and the general outlook of the kingdom (or Duchy) as a whole. They're sort
of "frontier provinces."

> 2) In a county like Moergan where the Duke has no law holdings are all
> the Barons against him? Furthermore, how would this work in counties
> where the law is split (i.e. would one of the barons be on the side of
> duke, another on moergans).

That's basically how I'm interpreting it, yes. The Duke automatically owns
the loyalty of his Counts, but in this case all of the Barons under him
disagree with him, and so he has virtually no power. In split provinces,
some of the Barons are loyal to the count, and others are more
standoffish. They harbor secret, or not-so-secret, loyalties. But of
course, they know that if they act on them, they get the next visit to
Duke Raenech's torturers. But they WOULD if they thought they could get
away with it, or if they thought it was worth it (willing to be a
sacrifice for the sake of eventual victory). This has worked pretty well.
In the case of the Sunken Lands, my characters actually convince the Lord
Warden, who was an honorable man who was sent out to the swamps as a sort
of punishment for questioning Raenech, that it was worthwhile to switch
sides secretly, even though he ended up looking like a fool in court
because he was never able to capture the charaters. (Actaully, he did
twice, the first time they escapes, and the second they convinced him to
join them.)

> 3) How would you handle provinces where the Duke owns only 1 law holding
> out of a possible 2 but nobody owns the rest?

The first Baron is vocally and publically a supporter of the Duke, while
the other is more of a free thinker. He hasn't actually said that he
dislikes or opposes the Duke, but he is not quick to support him, either.
With time and effort, another regent may be able to earn his loyalty away
from the Duke, or the Duke may spend the time and effort it takes to earn
his loyalty himself.

> 4) You said the sunken lands didn't get a full count or baron. Why? It
> has the have the same population number (2/6) as algael (2/3). Is this
> your way of saying not many regents want to rule swamps?

As I said above, it's more a way to show a province of more independent
mindset. There are actually probably the same number of "manor units" in
the province, but half of them are in no way connected to the official
heirarchy. They are all lone homesteads, tiny fishing villages, etc.
scattered here and there.

> If you have the time these answered would be wonderful and much
> appreciated. I missed the discussion of this and I feel that this would
> make for a great enhancement of my high king campaign.
> Thank you,
> Tommy Ashton

No problem, Tommy. I hope this helps. It's basically a very simple device,
but it helped me a lot in getting a handle on the kind of people that the
characters would be meeting and interacting with.

Happy gaming.

Mark VanderMeulen