Conan Acheronian Edition
Exploitation in the Hyborian Age
Annual revenue for a feudal lord from settlements under his governance is a small portion of the ready cash listed in the settlement description (Based on the DMG, this is calculated as one tenth of urban adult population times one half of the wealth limit):
Annual revenue as a portion of ready cash listed, by settlement size
Manorial estate: 1/5 (see below)
Small City: 1/200
Large City: 1/400
Settlement Size Base Wealth Limit
Small Town 8,000sp
Large Town 30,000sp
Small City 150,000sp
Large City 400,000sp
For example: A small town with a population of 1,350 and an average wealth limit of 8,000 sp would provide annual revenue of 54,000 silver pieces. How much of this income passes on to the local Feudal Lord’s own Liege does not enter these calculations.
This revenue represents the payments extracted from the burghers in return for the privileges they enjoy as free townsfolk, as well as tolls and other miscellaneous sources of income. The revenue can be temporarily increased through various means, but this is likely to impact negatively on the overall wealth (and quite possibly, size) of the settlement, not to mention the popularity of the feudal master. Most of this revenue will be spent on maintaining order and essential public works.
In an agrarian society at a medieval level of development, such as the Hyborian nations, nine out of every ten people are agricultural workers of some sort. This is necessary in order to support all specialist workers, craftsmen as well as the nobility. An average manor covers one square mile (640 acres), of which 75-90% is arable. A population density of two adults per acre of cultivated land is the norm. While burghers are likely to maintain a few animals and practice horticulture for private consumption, most staple crops and other agricultural produce come from the surrounding countryside.
A third of the manor’s land is used exclusively for the production of crops for the Liege Lord’s use. If this seems excessive, remember that the feeding of a single warhorse requires the agricultural output of nine serfs. The remainder is used to house the peasants, who pay a tallage of 2 sp per person annually, or 1 sp per acre for those to whom the manorial lord has sold property rights. The serfs are required to spend half of their time working on the lands allotted to their lord, often during the harvest or other inconvenient times. A Third of the land remains fallow through the year, as per the three-field crop rotation system used by the Hyborians. Along with these, a number of other taxes, fines and fees amount to an annual total of between a few sp and a gl or two per person residing on the manor grounds. Most of this will be collected in agricultural produce rather than coinage. For equivalent prices see the table below
Product Equivalent Price 10 lb wheat, or 5 lb flour:1 sp
One chicken: 5 sp
One goat: 10 sp
One sheep: 20 sp
One pig: 30 sp
1 lb salt: 50 sp
One work horse: 75 sp
One milch cow: 100 sp
One Ox: 150 sp
To quickly calculate the annual revenue of a manor, go through the following steps:
1. Determine the quality and size of the estate: Climate, soil quality and the like can be abstracted to factor into the proportion of land that is arable. An average Hyborian manorial estate has 528 acres of land under cultivation, out of 640 acres (one mile square). To determine the actual amount (in percentages), roll 3d6 and add 72. The actual size of each manor, as well as the potential productivity, represented as the proportion of land cultivated, can be determined by GM fiat, but for players of noble characters in possession of several manors, this average number can be more convenient. The actual productivity each year can and does fluctuate wildly, but as the cycles of feast and famine are a familiar aspect of Hyborian life, this can be presumed to even out in the long term unless relevant to the campaign or adventure. 2. Calculate the community size for the manor, multiplying the cultivated acreage by two. 3. Calculate the income as for a village (2,000 sp wealth limit), from which the lord can extract up to 1/5 sp (20%). This is not the actual wealth limit: Subsistence farmers are unlikely to have more than a few coins, if that. Again, as for urban centres, most of this income will be spent on public works and military expenditures. This is money that is “left over”, after covering the basic living expenses (food, clothing, building maintenance etc.) of the noble, his immediate family and essential manorial staff at a standard of living expected of their social standing. 4. Any factors that increase the productivity of the land, such as the spell blessing of the good god, increase the “ready cash”-statistic of the estate, and consequently, the income for the lord.
Exploiting natural resources such as timber and minerals can be considered to add to the effective community size and wealth of the estate. Of course, any person employed in industry cannot participate in agriculture: As the ratio of farmers to non-agricultural labourers remains unchanged, it is possible for a noble to maintain one such enterprise for every ten manors dedicated to cash or staple crops. Some of the local serfs can also be presumed to perform some or all of their labour duties in resource extraction or similar primary production.
While the likes of salt mines can theoretically produce tremendous wealth in the context of the Hyborian economy, the availability of labour is a bottleneck. Also, the reigning king is usually the formal owner of any mines, and the local noble can expect at most a third of the final produce. Even chattel slavery can only help so much: Slaves need to eat (almost) as much as anyone else in order to work and survive long enough to make up for the cost of their purchase. They need shelter and overseers to prevent revolt and escape.
A significant local industry such as a quarry or mine can, in terms of the mechanics presented here, be modelled as a small town or village with an effective wealth limit dependent on what resource is being extracted. Note that unless an actual mining town has grown around the enterprise, this wealth limit does not actually represent what can be purchased by the player characters.
Size of operation and Effective population
Small (40%) Hamlet [(3d10×10)+100]
Medium (35%) Village [(5d10×10)+400]
Large (20%) Small Town [(1d10×100)+1000]
Huge (5%) Large Town [(3d10×100)+2000]
The number in parenthesis represents the frequency of such sites
Calculate the revenue for the local lord as for an urban centre of the size indicated, with the effective wealth limit modified by the kind of resource extracted.
Product Effective Wealth Limit for operation Stone, timber 0 Exotic timber, iron, tin +1 Copper, salt +2 Gemstones, gold, silver +3
Example: A large salt mine with an effective population of 1,500 will have an effective wealth limit of 150,000 sp for purposes of calculating revenue for the local lord, which amounts to an annual income of 112,500 sp.
Using the risen dead as labour on fields or in mines, summoning mighty elementals to bring forth the riches of the earth or using magic to command weather to favour the sorcerer can have an effect on overall productivity on a local scale. This is best handled on a case-by case basis, unless a spell specifically states large-scale uses in its description (for example, sorcerous garden). Trying to use summoned beings or animated objects to perform mundane tasks will likely take quite some time to pay off, given that permanent sorcery is almost inevitably necessary to enact the effects. Permanently binding a water elemental (the instructions had better be rather well thought out) or casting command weather as a permanent spell can increase the productivity of cultivated land in the area of effect by a third, which stacks with the enrichment use of sorcerous garden. When using the Weather Magic sorcery style, it is far easier to destroy the crops of a competing neighbour than to increase one’s own productivity. One should also keep in mind that mighty spells, if used carelessly, can be quite unpredictable.