Saturday, May 9, 2020

Wilderlands - So how big IS a Barony?

     In my last post, I had graphically demonstrated that there was no room for nomads in Altanis, based on the patrol area of "Baronies" as listed in the canon.

     In this it follows closely with the OD&D booklet Volume 3 The Underworld and Wilderness Adventures which, in lieu of a number of hexes, gives a patrol radius.

     By time we get to AD&D, the term "Baronies" has been changed in the DMG to "Territory Development by Player Characters".  
DMG page 93

     Honestly, I find the rules opaque, the DM gives the player a map of 6 hexes, the scale isn't stated but I assume it's 30 mile campaign hexes.  Then (start) map(ping) the hexes at a 200 yard scale, so they fit nine into a one mile hex.  Once the player has mapped the central hex and six surrounding it - this is the confusing bit - which scale is he talking about, 200 yard, 1 mile or 30 miles?  It will take a LONG time to randomly roll enough 200 yard hexes to map seven 30 mile hexes.  In any case, to get back to how far the character will patrol, I interpret the final paragraph to mean once the character has cleared a thirty mile campaign hex, wandering monster checks are reduced.

     I'm going to add in one more system at this point, Adventurer, Conqueror, King includes domain level play in it's core rules and defines the territories, not only of Baron, but of a number of greater nobles also.

Time for some math!

    The Wilderlands definition of patrolling out four hexes from the center hex creates and area of no less than 61 five mile hexes.  Each file mile hex is an area of 21.65 square miles, so the area of a "Barony" in the Wilderlands is 1320 square miles or 845,216 acres or 342,047 hectares.
     OD&D defines a Barony as patrolling a twenty mile radius,   1256 square miles, or 803,840 acres or 325,303 hectares.
   AD&D is opaque, but I'm going to assume he meant a barony equaled a 30 mile campaign hex or 779 square miles or 498,831 acres, or 201,870 hectares.
    ACKS comes in a a puny six mile hex.  That give it an area of 31 square miles,  or 19,953 acres or 8,075 hectares.

Lets put it in a table and do some real world size comparisons.
Region Description Square Miles Acres Hectares
San Marino Fifth smallest country 2015.36 6216
ACKS1 x Six mile hex 3119,953 8,075
Liechtenstein Sixth smallest country 6239,680 1658
Rutland 40th largest Ceremonial County 15297,500 39,457
Sao Tome and Principe 25th smallest country 386247,040 99,974
Westmoreland 29th largest Ceremonial County 759485,990 196,637
AD&D 1 x Thirty mile Campaign hex 779498,831 201,870
Mauritius 26th smallest country 788504,320 204,091
Rhode Island Smallest US state 1033661,120 267,546
Samoa 29th smallest country 1097702,080 284,122
Gloucestershire 17th largest Ceremonial County 1235790,470 319,892
OD&D Twenty mile radius circle 1256803,840 325,303
Wilderlands 61 x Five mile hexes 1321845,216 342,047
Cornwall 16th largest Ceremonial County 1336854,770 345,913
Cabo Verde 30th smallest country 1557996,480 403,262
Delaware Second smallest US state 19381,240,320 501,940

     In Real World terms,  the areas given for Wilderlands, OD&D and AD&D are simply too big, they are the size of an English County.  Now, I know that Ceremonial Counties do not represent a contiguous landholding, but while their size and boundaries have wavered over time, they do go back to the Norman Conquest where they are used as census units for the Domesday Book.  And that book shows that several barons will have holdings within the County.
    One illustration of the practical issues with the sizes given is the time it would take to patrol areas this large.  For a Wilderlands barony, it would take a single patrol over two months, at twenty miles a day, to pass through every single square mile.   Keeping monsters out of such a large area would be a frustrating game of Whack-a-Mindflayer, even with multiple patrols.

More Math Ahead!

    As long as we've reached this point, what is a reasonable size for a Barony, or any other feudal demesne?  Does ACKS have it right at a about 30 square miles?
    To answer that question, I'm going to pull out my go to system for world-building for the last 40 years - Chivalry and Sorcery.  The old red book provides a system for Designing the Feudal Nation, allowing you to generate the demesnes of the great lords, down to the landed knight.  Who isn't terribly humble even if his small manor house isn't much more impressive than the local inn.
   In this system Barons are the lowest nobles (knights being of "gentle" birth rather than "noble") however, unlike the Dukes, Earls and Counts above them, they are NEVER 'tenants-in-chief' holding their lands directly from the King.  Instead, they report up to one of the great nobles - and their fief is generated as part of generating the demesne and feudal holdings of their overlord.  In short, if when generating the fief holders of the great noble, you randomly generate a small castle or shell keep, you create a barony to hold it.  The barony itself will have fief holders dependent on it, but these will be mere landed knights.

    In the C&S Sourcebook, under Feudal Economics, are rules for calculating the amount of land to grow food for a given population.  There is a page of text, but it comes down to add up the population figures from the table, multiply by 10 to include families, beggars and bandits in the area.  This gives the total population, which is multiplied by 8 to determine the number of acres of cultivated and pasture land required to support the population.

   There is one more source I'm going to pull in, Leonard Cantor's The English Medieval Landscape.  This tome, published four years after the Sourcebook, reviews land use at the time of the Domesday Survey.  It shows that "35% of England was covered in arable land, 25% put to pasture, with 15% covered by woodlands and the remaining 25% predominantly being moorland, fens and heaths."  
     Note that the percentage of crop land to pasturage is reversed from the Sourcebook, but it's the ratios of those together to the total amount of land that I'm interested in obtaining - and that ratio is 6 acres of farm and pasture to 4 acres of wood and wasteland.  I can now calculate the average size of a "Barony".

     In doing so, I am assuming that each Barony will have the same breakdown of land use as the kingdom as a whole.  That is of course, another spherical cow of uniform density - a working approximation that meets my current level of detail.
     So, throwing the C&S tables into a spreadsheet and letting it do the math for me, based on the possible outcomes of the determining the Baron's tenants, I find that a Barony will hold between 56 and 118 square miles of territory, on our five mile hex map that is between 3 and 6 hexes (rounding up to the nearest whole hex).  Because of the distribution of possible out comes, the average size is 81 square miles or 4 hexes.  Now I can re-do the last map.

Altanis Baronies & Villages
Click to enlarge
Now, I have room for Barbarians!


  1. AD&D DMG is saying: Taking the Construction Hex (5 Mi.) as the centre, the six hexes which immediately surround it (look at a hex map, this will make sense) is the amount of land which needs to be cleared.

    Once the construction is underway, centre the construction in a Campaign-scale map, which is 30 Miles across the big Hex, with each of the smaller Hexes representing 01 Mile. These 1 Mile hexes are explored and mapped/surveyed.

    Since we know that the centre hex is 5 miles, on the 1 mile hex scale, the construction area will be roughly 5x5 hexes. Around this, each additional 5x5 segment encircling the construction hex has been cleared and can be set as farmland, pastureland, habitation, road, etc. Only the areas outside of the 'core' hexes are explored/patrolled/surveyed.

  2. Those assumptions certainly make for a reasonable sized holding that can be effectively patrolled.