Level Up (A5E) A Fix(?) For Rural Stronghold Pricing

Ondath

Hero
Hey all!

This is something that's been bugging me for a while, but I crunched the numbers only recently so I'm hoping to get feedback — either from those who use the A5E rules, or hopefully the ones who designed the Stronghold rules themselves!

Thing is, there is a clear discrepancy between Rural Strongholds and Buildings when it comes to bang for your buck, and I'm not sure if this was intentional. I made a thread about it way back in July, but I got tumbleweeds in response, so hopefully the discussion can be slightly more lively now that I can contribute something to the table.

If You Go Rural, You're Getting Scammed
So, when you build a Stronghold in Level Up, the costs depend on the stronghold's size. For Buildings, each square foot of building costs 1 gp. For Rural Strongholds, each acre costs 500 gp. For prices in the middle, paying the same amount of gold gives you a Stronghold of equal Grade: 500 gold qualifies either for a Grade 1 Building a Grade 1 Rural Stronghold, 7500 gold for a Grade 3 Building or a Grade 3 Rural Stronghold, etc...

But, at the highest and lowest costs for each Grade, Rural Strongholds are simply a bad bargain. Take the Stronghold pricing table in Adventurer's Guide (as well as the a5e.tools website, here), flip the scale so that it shows not Stronghold area but Stronghold cost thresholds for each Grade, and the pattern becomes obvious:

GradeBuilding PriceRural Stronghold Price
1100-1000 gp500-2500 gp
21001-5000 gp3000-5000 gp
35001-10000 gp5500-10000 gp
410001-25000 gp10500-30000 gp
525001-50000 gp30500-60000 gp
650001-100000 gp60500-125000 gp
7100001-250000 gp125500-300000 gp
8250001+ gp300000+ gp

In each bolded price point, Rural Strongholds give you less for more. Some of this is due to the 500-gold increments, but most of it is not: 2500 gp gives you a mid-sized Grade 2 Building, but for Rural Strongholds it stays at Grade 1. 28000 gold pieces would get you a Grade 5 Building, but only a Grade 4 Rural Stronghold, and 55000 gp gets you a Grade 6 Building while the Rural Stronghold still lags at Grade 5.

This goes beyond the base pricing, too. Rural Strongholds also get fewer staff members when they increase their Furnishing and Staff quality.

Is This Intentional?
Given the evident pattern where Rural Strongholds need to pay more both for their base construction and for their furshing and staff, I can't help but wonder if this was a conscious choice. Maybe a simulationist decision made to represent the difficulty of maintaining an open area compared to plopping a building inside a city. Maybe a game design concern in order to balance the stronger features of Rural Strongholds. However, I see nothing that points to these:
  • If this were a simulation/flavour decision, I imagine there would be some reasoning given in the section on Strongholds that explained the price discrepancy within the game universe's rules. Something like "Unlike obtaining the lease for a small building inside a city and building your Stronghold there, maintaining a large swath of land as your Stronghold is costly. This is why PCs planning to build Rural Strongholds should be prepared to pay a higher premium." But no such text is in the Strongholds section.
  • The reason I doubt it's a balance decision is the fact that some Strongholds can be either Rural or a Building. This means you can get the benefits of say, a Menagerie, in either form. In such a case, Building it as a Building is the obvious superior option, and if balance were of concern, the Rural version of a Menagerie would probably give some benefit to offset this. Furthermore, other, Rural-only Strongholds (such as Farms or Encampments) don't seem to provide anything superior to Buildings of similar Grade to justify an increased cost.
Now, if the designer of the Stronghold subsystem came up and contradicted my analysis, I'd happily concede my views. This was the reason I created my thread back in July. But since nobody responded, I'm stuck with my analysis.

A Fix?
Going with the assumption that Rural Strongholds were not supposed to be pricier than Buildings, we can easily correct this error. Here are two alternative tables assuming that Buildings and Rural Strongholds should cost exactly the same in each regard:

Table 1: Rural Stronghold Size
GradeRural Area (cost = 500 gp/acre)
11-2 acres
23-10 acres
311-20 acres
421-50 acres
551-100 acres
6101-200 acres
7201-500 acres
8501+ acres

Table 2: Rural Stronghold Furnishings by Staff
QualityStaff by Rural Stronghold Size
Frugal1 per 2 acres
Average1 per acre
Luxurious5 per acre
Legendary5 per acre

There we go! A lot of pontificating for a minor quibble with Level Up's rules. What do you think? Does it make sense to make Rural Strongholds in line with Buildings? Or is there an obvious reason for making Rural Strongholds more expensive that I'm missing?
 
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EthanSental

Legend
Supporter
I didn’t see the first thread and didn’t notice the price differential. Build and maintaining a stronghold was an important part of my 2e Dm and playing days with our group, glad it was included in A5E. Hopefully you get some feedback on this.
 

xiphumor

Legend
My hunch is that this is going to end up being like the Adept and Berserker having a weird maneuver progression, to which I never received a satisfactory answer, mostly because I don’t think there is one.

I like your fix though! :)
 

Tonguez

A suffusion of yellow
1 square mile = 640 acres so your grade 8 rural stronghold is the size of a city (Old London is called the square mile), thts a whole lot of productive land so I just put the discrepancy down to
a) it cost more to get workers in rural areas (since most are working the fields)
b) you get more productive land in a rural stronghold

other than that your fix is pretty good
 

Ondath

Hero
1 square mile = 640 acres so your grade 8 rural stronghold is the size of a city (Old London is called the square mile), thts a whole lot of productive land so I just put the discrepancy down to
a) it cost more to get workers in rural areas (since most are working the fields)
b) you get more productive land in a rural stronghold

other than that your fix is pretty good
I mean, I think that is pretty reasonable. Given how rural strongholds systemically cost more, this might have been the reason. Even if that were the case, I wish they had made their reasoning clear in the chapter!
 

Ondath

Hero
My hunch is that this is going to end up being like the Adept and Berserker having a weird maneuver progression, to which I never received a satisfactory answer, mostly because I don’t think there is one.
I looked at the tables and huh, I never noticed that. But I'm guessing that might have been a balance tweak done in later stages of design. Since in final balancing, you stop applying general principles and tweak the numbers until you get something that "feels" right (or gives a balanced feel at the table). The weird progression of maneuver degrees looks like that!
 

Time ago I made a quite in depth comparison between the different strongholds.

While it's true that often rural strongholds are more expensive than the equivalent building strongholds, the fact is that often you can get them for a lower quality, meaning that they can become significantly cheaper.

For example, the encampment can be frugal (x0.5 cost) while a library needs to be at least luxurious (x2).
This means that depending on which features you're most interested in (ASI vs followers vs prestige vs specific perks), the choice isn't obvious. I'm not sure how much of this was intentional in the design process
 


Ondath

Hero
It’s been a while but for me there was a sense that buying half the county shouldn’t be the same price as buying a house. Owning land can have events behind those mechanically outlined in feat form.
So there was a simulationist reason! Thank you for the reply :)
 

Stalker0

Legend
1 square mile = 640 acres so your grade 8 rural stronghold is the size of a city (Old London is called the square mile), thts a whole lot of productive land so I just put the discrepancy down to
a) it cost more to get workers in rural areas (since most are working the fields)
b) you get more productive land in a rural stronghold

other than that your fix is pretty good
Some large Roman plantations were that big. Considering that this is the greatest of strongholds, costing as much as legendary magic items…being the size of a city doesn’t seem at all crazy to me. This is like the once in a kingdom kind of place
 

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