Setting up a hold

Jd Smith1

Explorer
So the 5e Strongholds supplement isn't doing it.

The PCs are preparing to retake, and re-occupy a Dwarven stronghold. The place is already built. Suitable populations are available (refugees and the survivors of the original occupants). Basically they're setting up a colony of sorts.

The key I want to hit them with is food production, because defending crops and especially animals like pigs and sheep will create the best headaches for the PCs.

Anyway, I've looked at the Strongholds supp (useless), Harn Manor ( some good ideas). What I need is data on food production in this period (any medieval, even with crop rotation) regarding food produced, workers needed, etc. That way when the PCs come home for down time, there will be problems waiting for them that are beyond the ability of their guard force.
 

Jd Smith1

Explorer
A very rough rule of thumb was 1 acre of arable land per adult per year. Adjust up or down according to the quality of the land and the nutition of the crop.
Yeah, I've found that. I'm not going to get much into the specifics of crops, just the one acre feeds one person for a year, and one person can work 4 acres. But I was wondering if there is a good source on primitive farming that could give me some facts and figures I can use to harass the players.
 

Dausuul

Legend
Just a note, be aware that magic in 5E can really throw a wrench into efforts to make food supplies matter. Druids are by far the biggest offenders here. With goodberry, one 1st-level spell slot can feed 10 people, and plant growth doubles a crop's productivity for a year. A mid-level druid can greatly supplement a farming community's output, even if they're only around for some of the time.

This may not matter if there are no druids in the party (clerical food-magic is far less efficient), but it's worth keeping in mind as you plan.
 
Last edited:

Jd Smith1

Explorer
Just a note, be aware that magic in 5E can really throw a wrench into efforts to make food supplies matter. Druids are by far the biggest offenders here. With goodberry, one 1st-level spell slot can feed 10 people, and plant growth doubles a crop's productivity for a year. A mid-level druid can greatly supplement a farming community's output, even if they're only around for some of the time.

This may not matter if there are no druids in the party (clerical food-magic is far less efficient), but it's worth keeping in mind as you plan.
Good points. I'll factor that in.
 

NotAYakk

Adventurer
Resources:

Population (and worker percentage)
Cropland (each cleared acre produces 50 people-weeks a year if harvested; takes work to clear)
Pasture (acres. It takes 1.5 to 2 acres to feed a cow+calf for a year, or a dairy cow)
Housing (in people-housed at peasant levels; so if housing >> population, you get better digs)
Livestock (people-weeks of food; can be harvested or grown)
Dairy (people fed per day from livestock)
Fresh Food (people-weeks)
Preserved Food (people-weeks)
Troops (human-guard equivalents, in 5e 1/8th of a CR per troop)
Morale
Loyalty (to the PCs! Not the same as morale)

1 fullgrown cow is about 100 people-weeks of food if eaten. 1 calf grows to a cattle in a bit less than a year. 1 pig is about 50 people-weeks of food if eaten. 1 chicken is 1 people-week of food. 20 chickens produce enough eggs to feed 1 person (250 or so per year per chicken). 1 cow produces enough milk to feed 1-4 people (depending on breed; high yield breeds may not exist)

So 1 cow, impregnated, (100 people-weeks of livestock) consumes 2 acres of pasture and produces another 100 people-weeks of livestock per year. So each acre of pasture with sufficient livestock feeds 50 people.

1 cow, milked (calf slaughtered), consumes 2 acres of pasture and produces 50-200 people-weeks of food over the year.

Wheat is 4 million calories/acre. That is 40 people-weeks per acre per year. Potatoes and Corn are 150 people-weeks per acre per year.

The above might require magical yield increasing; it is modern numbers with modern crops.

High-yield is 3-4 people fed/acre. Low yield is 0.5-1 people fed/acre. Getting "over the hump" is before you have the huge amount of food is going to be hard.

Once you have the basic economy set up, it should be mostly self-sustaining. Start with the above and see what gaps they have. Have some initial quests and efforts to make it self-sustaining.

Once setup, it should become a source of quests and adventures.

Say, call the things that happen a "Challenge". Each Challenge should have a (a) what happens if you ignore it, (b) how urgent it is, (c) what you get from defeating it.

The ignore bit is important; it is a settlement, it can probably deal with a dire wolf problem itself. It will lose a bunch of troops and livestock and morale, probably. Maybe roll some dice, and instead the troops easily dispatch the dire wolves, generating a morale boost.
 

NotAYakk

Adventurer
Myself, I sort of like the world-building idea that areas outside cities are so dangerous that everyone huddles into fortifications (even villages) at night. Lone homesteads only work if you have it regularly blessed to keep out the things that go bump in the night.

At the same time, blessings of the sun, nature and other gods boost yields significantly, up to modern-esque levels. But clearing the forest is way, way more dangerous, because the trees eat people, and the animals are worse.
 

Oofta

Title? I don't need no stinkin' title.
If it's a Dwarven hold. Perhaps they grow edible fungi. Or they might raise some type of underground livestock. They could hidden valuts with dried food. Oh, and underground rivers and lakes.
Don't forget cave cows ... er ... deep rothe.
 

Beleriphon

Totally Awesome Pirate Brain
There's a few things to keep in mind for food. Chickens are probably some of your highest yields for actual space required to keep them alive. That is until we get into things like insects.

Humans can survive on protein from insects, and the mass of insects you can versus the caloric output is pretty astonishing. As a bonus, edibile insects haven't changed that much in the last few hundred thousand years so regardless of your chosen level of technology the bugs are there waiting to be munched.
 

Jd Smith1

Explorer
Myself, I sort of like the world-building idea that areas outside cities are so dangerous that everyone huddles into fortifications (even villages) at night. Lone homesteads only work if you have it regularly blessed to keep out the things that go bump in the night.

At the same time, blessings of the sun, nature and other gods boost yields significantly, up to modern-esque levels. But clearing the forest is way, way more dangerous, because the trees eat people, and the animals are worse.
How do you feed those cities?

From a military standpoint, the Human nations will not last long in such an environment. Being blind and having restricted movement, they are already on the verge of collapse.
 

Jd Smith1

Explorer
There's a few things to keep in mind for food. Chickens are probably some of your highest yields for actual space required to keep them alive. That is until we get into things like insects.

Humans can survive on protein from insects, and the mass of insects you can versus the caloric output is pretty astonishing. As a bonus, edibile insects haven't changed that much in the last few hundred thousand years so regardless of your chosen level of technology the bugs are there waiting to be munched.
Thanks, but no thanks!
 

Jd Smith1

Explorer
If it's a Dwarven hold. Perhaps they grow edible fungi. Or they might raise some type of underground livestock. They could hidden valuts with dried food. Oh, and underground rivers and lakes.
The Dwarven hold is a mining outpost, so there's not really many food production options. However, it is positioned for production of a valuable commodity, so it will creature an income stream that should justify the entire project.

Of course, income draws trouble...
 

Tonguez

Adventurer
  1. An Acre is the amount of land a single man can plow with an ox in a Day
  2. An Acre of land yeilds 2 - 6 bushels of crop per Year
  3. it requires around 20 bushels to feed someone per year.
  4. A Medieval Household had around 5 people (so required around 100 crop bushels)
  5. Most peasants had access to around 20-30 acres/year to support their household including animals ( an Ox & plough) and also the Rent/Tax they paid to the Manor (ie your Stronghold).
  6. (NB In England Manors would tax the Hide (120acres) or 4 households).

So for game purposes the PCs need to determine the Acres of land they control and then assign workers/households to those acres

For Crop Yield I’d roll 1d6 x Acre = Bushels

Eg I have 500 acres x d6 (3) = 1500 bushels (tax 10% or 150 bushels)
1350/20 = feeds 67.5 people

Modify the d6 yield roll for Terrain/Climate, Druid spells and other events (Bumper crops, Pest invasion, Crop diseases etc)

So Year 1 has an unexpected frost (-2) roll d6-2 = 2
In a poor yield year (with 2 bushels per acre) even on 30 acres you only get 60 Bushels per year - enough to feed 3 people in the household, thus your 2 other children die of starvation unless the PCs do something to increase the yield.
 
Last edited:

NotAYakk

Adventurer
How do you feed those cities?

From a military standpoint, the Human nations will not last long in such an environment. Being blind and having restricted movement, they are already on the verge of collapse.
Assume your city has a 1 mile radius and you can exploit land within 5 miles of the edge of the city.

If 50% of that land can be exploited at near modern rates (using magic to keep fertility up/grow animals faster/etc), each supporting 3 people for a year, that is 35,000 acres, and can maintain a population of 105,000 people in that city. Which is just ridiculously huge for a pre-modern city.

You might have a ring of watch towers a mile further out than the cultivated land.

You'd herd the animals into shelter during the dangerous night. And the cropland would have to be somehow resistant to being eaten or destroyed; possibly the cropland would be closer to the city, and somewhat defended even at night.

Smaller scale versions of that can work for even tiny settlements. So long as there is some way to have a holdfast that survives the night, a blessed ring of defence around your house that usually keeps the night monsters at bay.

Such smallholds might only work in relatively civilized lands, where the greater beasts don't roam. Nowhere is perfectly safe.

To defend your city, you'd fine a place where the ley lines are sufficient to power the runes and rings of protection, and fertility of the land is high enough. They'd start as small holds, exploiting the ley lines to survive. Over time they'd clear more and more land around them, always at a high price. Satellite holds would open up nearby at good spots and trade with the growing main hold, and eventually be swallowed up.

--

Now, why? I want a world with plenty of ruins and the like, but also with everything from cities down to hamlets and cottages. In the real world when huge cities appeared, there was little in the way of dangerous wilderness anywhere close, and no great beasts usually on the continent!

By forcing the cities to be small and tight, and using fertility-magic as the excuse to generate modern yields, we can have a great metropolis that is not that far from places to adventure.

The danger of this society keeps their population from exploding. Surplus peasants can be used at the dangerous job of clearing new land, from which only a small percentage survive. So you can avoid the "50 peasants for every non-peasant" population; that 100,000 person city doesn't need 5 million peasants covering all of the land to the horizon. Instead, the city has 10,000 farmer and herders, 40% dependents, and 50% tradesmen, priests, soldiers - city dwellers. A real metropolis.

(That is still a much higher percentage of food producers than modern western society has. And as I didn't assume cheap transport, the food production ends up being right near the cities.)

This also means that there is plenty of land for heroes to clear and settle, and that your skill with a blade and spell is as important as your macroeconomic backing to produce a functioning settlement. Which is awesome for D&D adventure hooks.

A more "realistic" clearing situation basically makes such clearing be a capital project funded by some king, where they burn a pile of money and resources to slowly increase their kingdom's wealth over a generation or more. A unit of farmland might have a surplus production of 0.5%-5% of what it cost to feed the animals and humans who cleared it for a year depending on how "lucky" you got (otherwise, it would have been cleared long ago). So now you are talking about investing 100 tonnes of food to get back 1 tonne of food produced per year; as you cannot store food long-term, that is better than letting it rot or letting peasants starve and revolt. But again, that isn't a fun D&D game of conquest!

With the ability to expand settlements limited by valor instead of the effort to clear the land, the PCs are in a great place to become kings.
 

Advertisement

Top