Sunday, May 27, 2012

The Economy of D&D: The Lord and His Manor

A detailed look into manorial life and economy in the standard Medieval Fantasy Setting analyses...

EDIT: Check out the Manor Generator to actually see the revised format AND a tool to actually generate your own manor economies.

For the last month I have had a bit of an obsession regarding Economy in DND, and decided to do the math on a basic Manor estate. The basic estate would be around 4 square miles of farmland including the hamlet that it belongs in, and the incomes generated by peasant and Noble land alike. I have used MMS: Europe, DMG I 3.x, Stronghold Builder’s Guide, and additional resources to do the basic math required. The numbers below assume that 1/3 of all lands belong directly to the Noble, and 2/3 belong to the farmers in the area.  These numbers do rely on some numbers I have generated through analysis in threads in ENWorld on Famine and the Value of Copper Pieces.

Manor Income: 

The basic income of the Manor is measured in Wheat just to make for an easy translation.  Wheat is sturdy, capable, and provides for a portable crop with many uses and constant need.  Some manors may grow additional cash crops (indigo, tobacco, cotton) though these can come with additional equipment needs.  The Noble gains his income from each farm on the property based on the crops grown.
  • Wheat Production (81269 GP) after 50% upkeep/taxes/scutage.40634.5 GP
  • 4466.14 Taxes and Rental for all peasants in area, given in produce.
  • Rent (5 skilled craftsmen (1 smith with 3 prentices, 4 skilled craftsmen with no prentices, 25% produce, living on lord’s land): 2294 GP.
Income Total: 47394.64

Ahh, the life of a Manor Lord is difficult...
Basics: The costs of maintenance and upkeep on any manor can be quite high, and drain the resources of the Noble for his own benefit.  The Noble provides for the basic costs of Upkeep on the Manor, and gives a a strong defensible position for the household and its residents.

Guards/Soldiers: The world is lawless, and there needs to be protection for the Manor in times of lawlessness.  This cost provides for a group of soldiers and guards to be fed and clothed for the year, and additional soldiers can be hired (based on prices below).
  • Half of an Army Base (50 soldiers): 1200 GP/year.
  • Living Upkeep: 3024/year.
  • Equipment Upkeep (50 Soldiers): 884 GP (Saddle, Longsword, Longbow, Light Steel Shield, Dagger, Quarterstaff, Studded Leather upkeep (new set avg 1/10 yrs, 5 new sets of clothing/soldier/year, 2 new sets of peasant’s clothing/yr for staff.
  • Stabling Costs: 680 GP (Stablehands for 50 horse, stable upkeep basic stables).
  • Horse Upkeep: 750 GP (50 Light Warhorses).
Subtotal: 6538 GP/year.

Household Costs:  Every man needs a roof overhead, but some yearn for better.  This cost includes a nice residence for an established Manor, and the Upkeep costs required for the household, employees, and the Noble's personal animals.
  • Fancy Residence for 15 (Noble, Spouse, 4 children, 2 cooks, servants, Governess/Tutors (2), Butler, 3 Servants) Upkeep: 3320 GP.
  • Household Upkeep: 5472 (Common Upkeep for all household servants, Good Upkeep for Noble Family).
  • Upkeep for employees: 1116 GP.
  • Noble’s Stables Upkeep (Fancy): 672 GP (Stable and Groom for Twelve Horses)
  • Horse Upkeep: 240 GP (2 ponies, 3 Heavy Warhorse, 6 Light Horse, 1 Heavy Horse).
  • Dog Upkeep: 20 GP (8 Guard Dogs)

Cost Subtotal: 10840 GP

Exterior Costs:  Men need to eat, and the Manor needs defense.  This cost provides for a basic wooden palisade and the overall maintenance of flocks of animals for produce and sale.  The amount of animals listed here more than provides for the Manor; however, the Noble keeps such large flocks in case of famine so that they may be salted, cured, or otherwise kept in lean times.
  • Meat/Milk Livestock upkeep: (700 pigs, 400 cows, 1000 sheep, 2000 chicken): 814 GP/yr (after trade to mitigate costs).
  • Wall the Manor (72 stronghold spaces worth of wall, palisade): 7314.

Cost Subtotal: 8128 GP.

Total: 25506.75 GP.

Yearly Income (Net) for 4 sq. mile manor: 21887.89 GP.

What could a Noble spend this type of money on? [Costs per year unless otherwise noted]

Outfit one footman to be sent to War (1 years wages (war 1) + full equipment cost): 228.8 GP.

This shows the base price of scutage in a time of war.  A Noble may be asked for multiple footmen to serve as his personal coverage, though a single footman may prevent the local smithy from going dark or help to pay for the Sage to continue his work on the property.

Sponsor a Mercenary Company of Warriors (100 soldiers + 10 Sergeants, 5 lieutenants, 3 Captains) to the War (Double 1 year mercenary wages, equipment and horse ‘rental’, officers paid normal rental cost): 13270.24 GP [magic users not included save for NPC class officers].

Hiring a whole Mercenary Company is expensive, but an excellent way to pay off a debt to a bellicose lord. The initial payment for gear can then be subsumed with a Maintenance fee of 10% if the Company must be hired for a longer period.  Some Lords in more lawless regions may hire a Company to keep the peace, but they should be wary of the actions of some companies...

Mage depicted is the 'Luxury' model
Hire a trained Court Mage for a year (lvl 3 Wizard): 1080 GP, spellcasting negotiable.

A Court Mage serves at the behest of a Lord for entertainment, identification, mending, and other skills that may be needed.  Most Court Mages are not fit for combat duties, though many spellcasters would enjoy being put up for a year to be granted the right to study the arts in quiet.

Hire a trained Combat Mage for a year (lvl. 3 Wizard plus 1.5 Hazard Pay, equipment ‘rental’ provided): 1995 GP, spellcasting negotiable.

Usually a Warmage-trained spellcaster, Combat Mages may be attached to a Mercenary Company to assist warriors with their skills.  The Company may also be granted items that the Combat Mage can use with his Arcane Knowledge as a piece of living artillery.

Hire a 3rd level Adventuring Party (4 members, wages only): 4320 GP.

Hiring a party for a year is pretty cheap.  While the Party will need to outfit themselves this sort of arrangement usually does not include any kickback to their Noble.  Lords in contested areas may need the well-oiled apparatus of a party to clear local monsters out of house, handle diplomatic missions to neighboring fiefs, and generally do the dirty work their own guards are not capable or skilled enough to perform as well.

Outfit/Hire a 3rd level Adventuring Party: 15120 (PC base wealth + 1 year of wages).

Ever wonder where the party gets all of their nice equipment if they are just working for a local Lord?  This would be the case.  Adventurers may pay back their outfitting to their Lord through a large portion of their collected booty; however, such an arrangement provides for loyal talented retainers who can keep the peace when your mundane guards may not be able to.  The Party can also be useful for traveling and serving as a more landed noble's eyes and ears, and can serve as a group of hired troubleshooters on the Lord's lands.

Expand Demense: Varies, may be required to provide full or half produce as taxes for a period from his Lord.

Sponsorship: Payment of Upkeep costs of individual.

Sending Children to Court may not be the best idea...
Send Child to Court (with tutor): 3967 GP

The cost listed includes horses, a tutor, a handmaid, guard, and appropriate upkeep. Sending a child to Court helps to teach them of the politics and culture of the local kingdom and can assist the Child in gaining higher station when they come to adulthood.  Children sent can also serve their parents as eyes and ears in the Capital if needs arise, though they are not as talented as professionals employed for the purpose.

You're Welcome.
Keep a Mistress: 1635 (+10 Perform check (3 gp/day), Common Lodgings).

Sadly the chainmail is not included. A Mistress is an expense some nobles consider important... The Mistress can serve as pretty much an court-appointed musician or specifically needed noble performer or talent.

The Mistress provided is given a very nice stipend for her lifestyle, and her exclusivity.  If the Noble keeps their Mistress in the home she would be considered a Concubine and may actually cost a little less for upkeep due to only needing to live in the Noble's own household.

Spies in a City: minimum 1260 GP (Skilled Expert “Sage”, Common Lodgings).

Everyone needs eyes in a city.  While children can serve some of these purposes, you will probably want a Spy for your needs if there is intrigue in the Noble's kingdom. This price does not provide for any sort of Adventurer, so if you need a more talented Spy you may look into higher costs.

Hire Competent Assassin: Varies, minimum 360 GP/lvl per week/HD of target (year’s wage per week covers all expenses, minimum 1 month).

Sometimes people need killing.  If you want to hire an Assassin you're going to pay for it as they need to operate in a very dark area.  The costs of an Assassin provides you with the necessities for the job but not a guaranteed kill... Killing can take time, and an Assassin will cover themselves unless they are provided a very nice amount of hush money.

How to make more coin?

Most Nobles have Investments that they make with their cash. Sponsorship of voyages would be a great way to make cash, though it is not without its risks. A basic income projection of 3% growth on investments for conservative investments (no risk), 6% on moderate risk (85% sure bet, lose d100 percent current bankroll) or 10% risky investment (65% sure bet, lose 2d100 percent current bankroll) are decent risk levels for most calculations. Most services will yield their money back on a seasonal basis excluding winter (compound all interest 3/year).

If our family invests 1/3 of their money into a clear, conservative investment strategy for ten generations can produce millions of GP. For the sake of not introducing Compound Interest and its hazards of creating an oligarchy  we will create a Generation Block.

Factor in every 20 years of possession of the Manor. For every 20 years of growth add the 1.5 of the normal Net Income of the location to the Manor’s overall value. The actual value would be quite a bit more; however, we are figuring in taxation and losses as part of our figuring. This figures Conservative Growth of 1/3 of the manor’s wealth… Those who invest themselves foolishly soon find “shirt-tails to shirt-tails” an apt turn of phrase.

If our current example holds and the manor has stood for 200 years, the manor has 328318.35 GP worth of “Expansion” that has been performed. If we use the rules of Medieval Magic Society: Mythic Europe our lords could expand their arable lands in an uninhabited area by quite a bit via assarting. The nobles could invest this currency in shipping, making for a more fanciful estate, creating a castle for protection of the realm, or help to found an actual city, allowing for more individuals to gather, more taxes, etc.

This is, of course, a small but capable holding in an arable location, and does not take into account the additional income of the estate… The rest of the manor’s direct holdings (2/3 of its land) could be used for multiple purposes, and even for additional population.

I did not specifically include these in the Net Income statistics to allow for a representative sample of a group of peasants living in a large manor. The overall population of this large estate would amount to a sizeable hamlet. A lord of this sort of estate would also have the possibility of additional population centers near it; as an agricultural holding it could be just the pastoral estate of a small Aristocrat family ruling over several hamlets, thorps and villages in the general area. It can also represent mercantile holdings and farmland… The possibilities are endless.

Feel free to comment; I would be happy to hear from you via the comment field or emailing me at my name at



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