Consider the following points:

  • In ACKS, a character can only directly manage one domain, and the maximum size of a domain is fixed at 16 6-mile hexes. In order to control more land, a character has to assign management of additional domains to their henchmen.
  • A henchman managing a domain is normally expected to pay 20% of his domain's revenue in taxes to his lord, i.e.: the character who assigned him the task of managing the land.
  • Characters managing domains gain experience for the task, provided that the net income from the land exceeds their campaign experience threshold. The campaign experience threshold is dependent on the level of the character managing the domain; Thus, a low-level henchman assigned a domain will gradually increase in level until their income from the domain is less than their campaign experience threshold.
  • Henchmen must be paid a monthly salary commensurate with their level.

Individually, each of these points is straightforward, but together they confuse me, since they mean that a domain with a given income is liable to level a henchman until the salary owed to them exceeds the taxes they need to pay to their lord, meaning that they effectively keep more than 100% of their domain's income - and are charging their lord the extra.

For example, if I assign a henchman a domain that grants a monthly net income before taxes of 10,000 gp, that henchman will owe me 2,000 gp in taxes each month - but that same domain will level the henchman up to level 8, at which point their monthly salary will be 3,000 gp.

I strongly suspect I'm missing something. I think it might be that henchmen who manage domains take domain income in lieu of a salary, but I can't find anything in the rules to confirm my guess. (Or am I wrong, and the game requires me to run some sort of pyramid scheme in order to stay in the black?) Could anyone clear this up for me?


2 Answers 2


Once a henchman is given a domain, they're no longer a henchman, they're a vassal.

Think about it this way. Ser John the Great gives his loyal spear-carrier Walden a title over the Barony of Thicke. Lord Walden of Thicke becomes a peer of another Baron who was never Ser John's henchman, Baron Gwynedd. Baron Gwynedd has income, land, peasants, and all kinds of nice stuff… and then sees that Baron Thicke, his equal is being paid an additional 1000 gold pieces every month! It's an outrage! A slight against his worth and honor! It's… base bribery being paid to Baron Thicke! And What is he being bribed to do, or not do? Perhaps treachery lies ahead and action must be taken to keep my land and title…

Does that sound like a stable feudal realm? No, it does not.

When a henchman is given a domain, they gain a different relationship with their lord. They owe allegiance, but it is not absolute. They owe taxes, but only as much as is reasonable. Their land is theirs and does not belong to their lord any longer – it has been given to them at the price of vassalage, not rented to them – that's just stewardship. Giving someone an actual title and lands means it is theirs now. Paying them to be your vassal is either redundant, or is a bribe for something.

At which point, sure, you can continue to buy their loyalty, but bribes don't make for loyalty to you, only your gold, and it can cause envy between your vassals and resentment to you from those you've overlooked with your largess.

Henchmen are paid in exchange for their coming on adventures. Vassals are given title and lands in exchange for being bound by duty to pay taxes, and to raise their levies when you call them to battle. In one you are their employer, and the other you are their lord. A lord does not buy their vassals with gold, but rather attempts to ensure their loyalty with titles, honour, prestige, justice in their quarrels with your other vassals, and respecting their own lordship over their domain.

This is one of those things that isn't said in the book, because it's overlooked and assumed to be just common knowledge. ACKS gives you rules for running a feudal system, but it doesn't walk you through all the nuts and bolts of what feudalism is and how it works, just like it doesn't explain that a sword is a pointy bit of metal and a club is a length of sturdy wood. Every game has to assume a huge range of things to be known by the players, and in ACKS the incompatibility with being a paid henchman and being a landed, titled vassal is one of them. Granted, it's probably something that should have been explained because it touches so closely on how to use the rules presented, but it's not a fatal oversight. If one has enough background on the real-world system the rules are modelling, the moment someone wonders at the same thing you did, the very fact that it would be a problem if it worked that way provides, all by itself, the answer that it probably isn't supposed to work that way.

  • \$\begingroup\$ You make a pretty persuasive argument (and are probably right), and I've upvoted your answer, but I'll reserve the bounty for an answer from a more authoritative source. There's just too many questions yet unanswered - Like, why do vassals count against a character's maximum henchmen limit if the relationship is so different? Can a vassal still be taken on adventures like a henchman? And can a henchman refuse to become a vassal of a domain so small that it would result in an effective pay cut? \$\endgroup\$
    – GMJoe
    Commented Apr 19, 2013 at 0:53

Vasals probably do not get paid a fee. It doesn't say this, but does say they pay the liege.

Note that the example on page 146 does not show Vassals as an expense, only as income.

However, also note that the GP Threshold is almost always higher than the fee for the current level. If the character levels up, he's below the cap, and perhaps below his fee, but he's not levelling up again until he's making more than his own current "fee"...

Lv         HF        GPT
 1         25         25
 2         50         75
 3        100        150
 4        200        300
 5        400        650
 6        800      1,250
 7      1,600      2,500
 8      3,000      5,000
 9      7,250     12,000
10     12,000     18,000
11     35,000     40,000
12     60,000     60,000
13    145,000    150,000
14    350,000    425,000
  • \$\begingroup\$ It's true that the threshold is always below the fee, but that's really not important to this question. Think of it this way: a domain with revenue of 10,000 gp will require the owner to pay 2,000 gp in taxes - and, assuming that at least 25% of its revenue will be available after taxes and other maintenance, will eventually level the henchman in charge up to level 8 or more - and a salary of at least 3,000 gp. \$\endgroup\$
    – GMJoe
    Commented Jan 31, 2013 at 6:11

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