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  1. #1

    A Hypothetical: Doing away with the provinces...

    I've been trying for a bit to do a domain rules conversion for a different system (true20) and I've pondered a few system agnostic changes that would probably require some rethinking.

    Of these, the biggest/most daunting has been mostly trying to do away with provinces, because while they can provide some interesting info, they also feel limiting due to the basic "one ruler per province, borders never change" approach. Basically, I tend to use province levels as a marker of population (and have a different holding indicating land development), and I also tend to use tables where province levels indicates a population progression relatively similar to that of 3rd edition experience points (it used to be in the old accessories on the site, although I tend to use multiples of 4.000 or 6.000 instead of 2.000 (so I get actual medieval densities; 4.000 and I boost Anuirean and Brecht and some peripheral realm levels by 1, or 6.000 no modification).

    Province holders would be both feudal landlords and sovereign princes; this means that a non-subinfeudated, undivided Avanil would be just 3 points shy of a level 14 province (assuming the trianglar sequence continues after level 10; on a sidenote, Medoere would be a level 6 province). It could also be split into 102 baronies. Both extremes would obviously be silly. I also use a quick rule of thumb from a rarely if ever applied french royal ordnance, so I use for minimal personal domains as level 1 for a baron (1 point), level 2 for a count (3 points, actually more like 4) and level 5 for a duke (15 points, actually more like 16), plus vassals if any.

    Potential causes for splitting up holdings I can see would be
    - Personal unions, keeping both realms separated
    - Administrative divisions, provinces, shires, although I'm a bit iffy on this still.
    - Distinguishing personal domain and the realm, as with the duchy of Lancaster and the kingdom of England.
    - Exclaves, the province holding would have to be contiguous land. A potential source of nightmares, however, when you consider things like this, although it's a relatively more modern phenomenon, and the split level 1s of Avanil do average about 80-90-ish square miles (Liechtenstein is only a tad smaller).

    A province holder, even non-sovereign, would get the entire benefits of holding province levels, however the non-sovereign ones would be considered vassals, with obligations. A powerful vassal could eventually be powerful enough to resist militarily to attempts at removal, depending on the realm.

    This would likely mess up with the level parity in some ways (say, your level 14 province can end up having 105 level 1 guilds), and needs further thought, but I'm not at playtest point yet (what with me only really gaming in the springs and summers anymore), and I figure a limit on the number of holdings might work out as well, although it could still leave a discrepancy between the total levels due to using this triangular numbers method to determine the link between population and province level. It also has the potential to monumentally mess up source if I keep it as is, but pooling source over an area might allow for less "squishy" sorcerers as well.
    Last edited by Gwrthefyr; 03-28-2010 at 05:07 PM. Reason: ebiteb for byslexia ;)

  2. #2
    Member Exile's Avatar
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    So, rather than having provinces, a domain would effectively have a "population" attribute - that would in turn determine how many of each holding-type it can have?

    The Prince of Avanil would therefore not need to know where his borders were, but merely how many people he ruled. That would certainly make it easier to handle many elements of domain management....

    But IC, the people are in particular places on the land. Would warfare be wholly-abstracted, so that troops fight over 'points' of population rather than specific physical locations? If not, you still need some way to link population to specific areas of land... at which point you're presumably back into some sort of province or city system.

    There have been some efforts to write up systems in which a domain has a 'character sheet', gaining or losing traits as a PC would, without needing particular resources to be specifically mapped and tracked. Is that the sort of result you're after?

  3. #3
    Site Moderator Sorontar's Avatar
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    Would it still be possible to have holdings in an area that has no ruler and no law holdings?

    Sorontar

  4. #4
    Quote Originally Posted by Exile View Post
    So, rather than having provinces, a domain would effectively have a "population" attribute - that would in turn determine how many of each holding-type it can have?
    Yes and no, it would be tied to both population and land area, but the land area would have to be populated area; not quite splitting the provinces themselves but more of the order of "a village here, a village there", so mostly population tied.

    But IC, the people are in particular places on the land. Would warfare be wholly-abstracted, so that troops fight over 'points' of population rather than specific physical locations? If not, you still need some way to link population to specific areas of land... at which point you're presumably back into some sort of province or city system.
    This is one of the consequences I'm not sure about yet, that's part of why I'm still partial to having some sense of land division (whether shires, cities, etc), basically, it wold end up being possible to treat all cities like Anuire, assuming the right political circumstances.

    Basically the abstraction level and the consequences on other holdings are my two main issues: I already figured it messed immensely with sources, and fighting is another one of these things. At the same time, the population divisions could be tied to land: a citadel here, a county there. Basically, it would be easier to pull with modern positional warfare, but at the same time it could probably work with siege warfare to some extent. What changes hands when the peace is signed can potentially just be done by level rather than the whole deal. It would, however, potentially reduce the abstraction of war, if Avan's lands happen to be a single large province holding (I figure he probably runs about a third to one half of his domains by himself), then it becomes realistically possible to campaign over the area without having a mechanic where the losing army is expelled from it, and it's likely that they could spend days and weeks in the area without so much as a skirmish. Basically, I'm trying to suppress the urge to turn warfare into something too tactical, but at the same time there's possibility in having ways to go from the complex to the abstract; I like a system that can do the extremes.

    As for holding levels in uncontrolled areas, sure, I don't see why not, although there would be few if any of these, most would probably end up being republics or under the control of various strongmen, unless the population was a nomadic band or a pastoral tribe...

    For the return to the land, I was of two possible minds on that:
    - The first option was making urbanization into "feats", however this fails on account of the fact that when the higher levels are hit, larger domains risk being terribly underurbanized, especially once the system allows for going above level 10, however, the rural overpopulation of England and France compared to Italy was pretty notorious at the end of the middle ages so it might not be too bad, and if "shire" holdings are allowed to be put together (but not tied to the province, basically they'd just be an amalgamation of population points over an area, the provinces could be more or less that, but it's still not thought through; I guess at this point it shows I've been playing Victoria too much ). In a similar way other holdings could have branches/dioceses/pools, of varying sizes, that might not be entirely tied, although keeping track of how a particular branch is spread politically might end up having them follow political borders to retain some semblance of simplicity.
    - The second option would have been to treat cities as discrete holdings, however forcing players to split up even more of their holdings to have cities might actually penalize a lot for, say, army musters (how much can you subdivide the holdings and still have room for cavalry, or knights, since for a single troop of knights you'd need a minimum of a level 4 holding). It could be balanced with character rules (you need to have sheriffs/provosts/bailiffs/governors to control these administrative divisions after all, which means further maintenance or good charisma to go with leadership to recruit those)

    There have been some efforts to write up systems in which a domain has a 'character sheet', gaining or losing traits as a PC would, without needing particular resources to be specifically mapped and tracked. Is that the sort of result you're after?
    Not quite, sort of, but with more possibility to go from complex to abstract, although these did interest me a lot. Like I said, I'm pitching a work in progress which I'm still trying to balance out. And of course, the vagueness of borders would be pretty historical for the period, sure the villages and fields will tend to be clear, but who is really entirely sure where the border begins and ends in a forest, or on moors and mountains, unless a river has been set as the border (common, but not quite that common, many small principalities could end up being river valleys, having the river right in the middle and no clear land border).
    Last edited by Gwrthefyr; 03-29-2010 at 12:42 AM.

  5. #5
    Member Exile's Avatar
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    It'd add a good deal to the set-up work involved, but you could potentially name and (approximately) site towns and cities in each realm - so Oxford is West of London and Warwick West of Oxford and East of Bristol, but that's about all you need to know....

    That would then give you pre-defined "population units" (and containers for holdings) scattered across the map, over which people can fight (politically and militarily).

    For small changes in power, small-scale medieval peace deals quite often did involve the transfer of "four villages in the area of La Marche", or whatever - you could handle 'rural' populations that aren't in particularly strategic sites simply as a pool of floating points.

  6. #6

    Where I still fail to provide concrete numbers behind the concept

    So, more thought.
    I realized something checking through the BRCS revisions again, and it dawned on me that the holding limits might provide some way of measuring things. I figure some sort of relative limit on how much of a holding and how many holdings a regent can rule efficiently might work. I also have a table somewhere for the resulting holding splits, and realized that it would also lead to some sort of balance between income, regency and maintenance costs and incomes; keeping a hard limit of 10 on holding level might also help (although I'm not sure it needs it, but there's a point where you hit diminishing returns in the regency/gold/military balance, to a point where I doubt you'd be likely to find a level 20 holding instead of 4 level 10 ones (more accurately, 3x10+1x9)), not that a regent would only be able to rule a single holding, but it would allow some degree of consolidation, and maybe a quick rule of thumb as to how to split feudal domains, and the pita that is appanage-seeking heirs. I would be tempted to do the limit on the number of holdings on a bloodline basis; no bloodline would limit to one holding, +1 for each level going from tainted, minor, major, great and true, an unblooded ruler/republic would have to federate more or have much higher level holdings (I'm dubious but it's the option that comes to my mind atm, charisma bonus, synergy bonuses from lead, diplomacy or knowledge (law), or from size of the ruling assembly might be additional options).

    I'm still somewhat using the provinces, though, as a rough guide on what kind of population density the land can support, with some overruling where it's obviously ridiculous (e.g.: the Zweilunds are probably barely the surface area of 2 provinces at the absolute most, while Spiderfell is 2-3 provinces on its own), and these may go to/over 11 if the proper conditions are there. Some elements are slightly houseruled to make sense: waterways and climate will affect level potential, as will a few more things, and the holding split resulting from a province going over 10 could explain away the division of Anuire-city and Anuire-county.
    Last edited by Gwrthefyr; 04-02-2010 at 03:30 AM.

  7. #7
    Member rjurikwinds's Avatar
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    Gwrthefyr, I first was shocked by the title of your post ("How can anyone take away provinces!?")
    But you developed your argument well and I'm actually starting to see a lot of value in it;

    Even before doing away entirely with province boundaries it made sense for me that different parts of a province constitute some sort of points;
    Example: In a large province 3/4
    The elves in the mid-size forest surrounded by humans might constitute a 1/1 "sub-province" -- and the dwarves in the mountains have a 1/2 and really the human village (with the local Jarl) only constitutes a 1/0 with the remaining 0/1 being sparsely populated fields where brigands, orogs and nomads travel through.... it would help explain a mix of populations in the giantdowns: where Dwarves and others are sparsely populated but still hold "something".

    If I take a step back though it would seem that by design the provinces were meant to be "small" -- both in terms of population and size; and I've ran micro-birthright campaigns that worked well (you, your 5 retainers and your party constitute a 1 law holding and if you recruit a lieutenant you can raise it to law(2)! etc...)

    As for movable province boundaries -- I'm totally open to it and feel that it make sense from a medieval comparison standpoint (besides, Endier was part of another province -- the Spider fell -- was it not!?) -- it would fit too with the "create province" action -- so a 3/5 province would be split into a 1/4 and a 2/1 province; I'm assuming too that two smaller provinces could be united... The Lord would have to spend quite a bit of influence in order to get the population to identify with the new provinces (or risk having their aliegeance stick to the original province.) -- so that kind of split could not happen in a very fluid way!

    "Say master Dunberg, are you on your way to Ustjukil?"
    "Yey and Nej, I'm bound for Neu-Ustjuk if that's what you mean!"
    "Well, to me it will always be Ustjukil; I was born there and so was my father and my father's fathers before me. Can't figure out why Vari had the mind to split off the east of the province and give it a name that means nothing to anyone but to a few nomads who aren't for staying half the time anyway!"
    "I kind of like the name, and besides the king's men guard the road better now that they can focus on protecting merchants. The province markers are clean and welcoming to the visitor -- surely people are now proud to be neu-ustjukians!"
    "Neu-ustjukyou-what!? Vari can spend gold and influence on justifying his folley but never will they make me believe that people will buy into this; Ustjukil is still the name of the land that rings true in the people's ears.. and even should goblins clean out the last man, woman and child -- to those displaced it will be the land they yearn to return to; the land they will always want to re-take... Ustjukil..."
    Last edited by rjurikwinds; 04-02-2010 at 09:06 PM.

  8. #8
    Member SirRobin's Avatar
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    I've always felt that provincial boundaries should be fluid. I chalked up their existence to rule and mechanics limitations.
    Sir Robin the Not-quite-so-brave-as-Sir-Lancelot,
    who had nearly fought the Dragon of Agnor,
    who had nearly stood up to the vicious Chicken of Bristol,
    and who had personally wet himself at the Battle of Badon Hill.

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    At 08:41 AM 4/5/2010, SirRobin wrote:

    >I`ve always felt that provincial boundaries should be fluid. I
    >chalked up their existence to rule and mechanics limitations.

    If you`re going to do away with provinces entirely, you might
    consider using villages, towns and cities as the basis for the
    population rather than a fixed population number. That is, a village
    might represent 0-1 levels of holdings (and 1 level of population)
    while a town could be 2-3 and a city 4-6. That would make the
    population the center of the holdings and province borders would be
    as fluid (or not) as you wanted. Plus, it parallels the existing
    materials on how holdings work: they manifest as small, medium or
    large structures/facilities or magical sources.

    In the long run, I think a system like that makes as much sense or
    more than the static system of provinces, and it`s a bit easier to
    wrap one`s head around when compared to the weirdness of population levels.

    Gary

  10. #10
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    The province border non-fluidity is there only for the sake of play. Surely no one IRL conquered the entire province or nothing. It makes life easier, like which holding and how many levels of it are there, how many people are there. If you go and split, what is the new domain level now, what if this piece of province is merged with that one, etc. And that is some work to be done.

    Like Gary says, villages and towns could do the trick if you abandon the province level. But still, if you are playing Cerilia, you need to map all that villages, towns, cities, etc, so again there's a whole lot of work to be done.

    House rules certainly could overrule some of the nonsense from the books.
    Rey M. - court wizard of Tuarhievel

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