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I want to run a campaign in which the players control individual but influential characters (maybe heads of families), with the main focus of play on the PCs building up a city over time, starting from its founding as a village. I plan to do this over voice chat or a play-by-post forum. What I'm missing and need is a rules system to manage how they gather resources, money, workforce and all that; how to spend that on buildings and improvements to build a village, and how to track their progress as they keep growing it until it becomes a city.

When it comes to the geography of the area, history, conflict – everything story related – I have it covered. But the focus of the game is less on that, and more on the challenges of having to gain power and prestige through either gathering wealth from their economic endeavors, or through other means such as politics, military or thievery.

What I need and I lack knowledge in, is how to handle that? I want to start them off with a basic village, nothing built but some hovels, and have them go from there. But how do I assess the cost of buildings (such us houses, carpentry, mills, farms, mines, bow makers, etc.)? Or how many people would it take to run them? How much profit or goods would these buildings provide the players? How do I tell when the village has turned into a town – what are the requirements to achieve that? What goods and necessities do the population have and need fulfilled?

I have no idea where to start, how to pick value of resources or buildings. Is there a system for this? A rulebook? I have yet to come cross anything that can give me details on how to manage resources, population, production, building, etc. for this kind of game.

I'm specifically looking for a system that deals with that level of detail and simulation, not one that abstracts away the details.

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Related: Realm Management Rules That Work (not a duplicate, as this Q has a narrower scope than that Q). The GURPS Low-Tech Companion 3: Daily Life and Economics or C&S answers there might make good answers to this question, though, if someone with more GURPS or C&S experience than I wanted to develop one into an answer that directly addresses this Q's requirements. –  SevenSidedDie Mar 19 '13 at 0:43

6 Answers 6

I believe you're looking for Book of the River Nations. It's based off the rules originally made for running kingdoms in the Pathfinder Kingmaker adventure path, but provide more details and options.

http://paizo.com/products/btpy8kgr

This is the complete player's reference to Kingdom Building organizes all the rules players (and GMs) need to explore new lands, build nations, and defend against invading armies consolidated into one easy to reference tome. Starting with rules included in the Kingmaker Adventure Path, this volume expands every aspect of kingdom building and mass combat and delivers new feats, spells and class options to give PCs the edge in conquering and ruling their own corner of the world.

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The Chivalry and Sorcery Game Master's Handbook (out of print but still around) gives clear details of how to build mediaeval buildings and at what cost, from peasant huts to royal castles. It also includes the average income for all normal professions, from which you can work out how much profit a business would make, as well as much other material that may or may not be useful. You don't need the rest of the game, as long as you can convert the prices into whatever you are using. I would regard this as a resource rather than an answer, though, since it focusses on feudal society, with manors ruled by knights being the important part of the country, and towns being necessary adjuncts.

Incidentally, there never is or was a clear division between 'village' and 'town'. Those administrators who need to make a distinction pick an arbitrary number of inhabitants, usually around a thousand.

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Check out Lordly Domains or Book of the Manor for the Pendragon RPG (4th and 5th eds, respectively).

Also, the Birthright setting for AD&D 2nd involved the management of estates, though not on the village level. (Just tried it shortly - it was fun, but once was enough.)

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If you want to go for a very gritty low-fantasy medieval feel, HârnManor, a supplement for HârnMaster, deals on a very detailed level with the economy of manors and the village. For getting the economy of a town right, there is a (fan-made, but the quality of fan-made stuff published on Lythia.com is exetremely high) extension called HârnTown.

HârnManor is deals mostly with the yearly running of a manorial village (crops, vassal's fees, rents) but includes and implies rules for extending the village, the few pages of HârnTown deal with the usual proportions of craftsmen in the town.

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There are two resources I can think of that might be useful:

The Kingmaker adventure path for Pathfinder contains some very basic management and realm building mechanics (in the second part of the module) which include realm stability, income, building up different aspects/buildings in a city and what the city needs. I'm playing the Kingmaker adventure path at the moment and we're having a lot of fun with it (do we build a pub or a barracks?) and it should be pretty easily adaptable to other systems. Cost is abstracted to resource/build points which also could be pretty easily adapted to another system.

The Rolemaster (RMSS) book Castles and ruins contains information regarding management and building of a castle, which includes building, maintenance, labour and so on; this isn't really focused on cities but it has a wealth of information about resources, construction and so on in a magical/medieval society. I've run Rolemaster for over 10 years and this book is definitely worth a look if you want a much more detailed (almost counting the bricks!) level of construction handling.

Of the two I'd probably recommend the Kingmaker system as my need to count every bag of sand needed has lessened and I'd rather make more management level decisions for the city rather than count every copper piece.

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Yeah Kingmaker rules are good, but they can be easily exploited so you need a sensible group. Paizo are also expanding and refining the kingdom building rules in their next book, "Ultimate Campaign". –  Macona Mar 19 '13 at 10:14
    
Yep, Ultimate Campaign looks promising, but can't really recommend it until I've read it :) –  Rob Mar 19 '13 at 10:31
    
I'd definitely second the Kingmaker suggestion, although it's really just a framework to expand on. There are a lot of expansions and revisions to the Kingmaker rules on the Paizo forums which can add a lot of complexity and alleviate some of the breakability. My house rules currently have about three times the base number of building types, trade goods, alliances, a much less abstract mass combat system, and the beginnings of special actions each position holder can take. –  Bobson Apr 5 '13 at 16:10
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The Kingmaker rules were slightly expanded in Ultimate Campaign and are now on the d20pfsrd here: d20pfsrd.com/gamemastering/other-rules/kingdom-building –  mxyzplk Sep 18 '13 at 2:11

Interesting question. I can't come up with a really good solution, but here is an unorthodox idea on how to tackle this:

How about using a strategy computer game to model the progress of the city? This does provide some level of abstraction (a rather strong abstraction with some games), but it would give you:

  • resource requirements
  • time requirements
  • workforce requirements
  • some basic economy to provide for the above

The 'tech tree' that is often at the hart of such build-up strategy games could also provide your players with clear goals, intermediate and long-term, that they can work towards.

As an added bonus you could actually play out their moves/decisions between sessions (this would most likely not result in much 'game time') and use the state of the game after this as the starting position for the next RPG session. You could even provide the group with a screenshot of 'their' village/town, if you think the game graphics are sufficient. That way they could really see how their town grows over the years/sessions.


Now as to actually coming up with a game that can do all the above. Here are some ideas:

  • Stronghold - low abstraction, classic middle ages, somewhat limited in terms of non-combat-relevant economy
  • Civilization/FreeCiv - high abstraction, but very detailed grand-scheme economy to develop small settlements into larger cities
  • Total War Series (the medieval ones) - high abstraction similar to Civ, but lacking the research tech-tree
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