Sunday, 10 December 2017

Trade in CSIO

1 Introduction

I’ve been wanting to do this for a very long time indeed. The City State of the Invincible Overlord (CSIO) came out in the 70’s and a revised edition in 1980 or thereabouts. Over the course of several publications and 18 maps of about 38,000m² each, Judges Guild mapped out and gave basic population statistics for an area (“The Wilderlands”) about the size of modern Libya, or the UK, France, Germany, Italy, Poland, and a bit of Belgium put together.

One thing that was never clear to me was just how wild the “wilderlands” were. There’s not much in the way of roads, and the basic terrain is not open plains but light woods, with some plains interspersed. Did the towns marked trade with each other much? How dominant were the handful of city stats and how dependant on their satellite towns where they in turn? Where would a pirate or bandit lurk and by extension where would patrols be placed to protect the trade routes?

Around 1989 or so I bought a book - Settlements by Meyer and Huggett - in a Cancer Research charity shop which introduced me to Reilly’s theory of retail gravitation (from 1929). The idea was that trade between two settlements could be modelled based on the product of the populations divided by the distance between them raised to some power. Add in some constant multiplier to scale it to specific units and the resulting formula looks a lot like the standard Newtonian one for gravity, hence the name.

The specific reason I bought the book was that I thought that I could use it to somehow model the trade pattern in the Wilderlands of the CSIO. Nearly 30 years have passed since that day and finally I’ve gotten around to it! What can I say? I had a long list of things to do.

The catalyst for finally doing this was two-fold: firstly I had been nursing an idea for a path-finding algorithm for a couple of years which I had hopes for, not only for geographic path finding but for broader applications in code optimisation. Secondly, I stumbled across von Thünen’s model of the “Isolated City State” and how he showed a city state’s surrounding economic area could be seen to diverge from a theoretical model under the influence of terrain and transport factors, something I was seeing in my reading around mediaeval London and its trade patterns. I even found a couple of websites that demonstrated this with some limited path-finding algorithms.

One attractive aspect of von Thünen’s model was that it is essentially pre-industrial and focused on agricultural questions which were broadly applicable back into the mists of time.

2 Method

So, Reilly used distance, but what is “distance”? Straight line distance is clearly nonsensical; as von Thünen emphasised, the real distance should be measured in time. Since we’re dealing with D&D here, that meant looking at movement rates. But underlying this was a deeper question about the nature of trade. In the von Thünen model, different sorts of produce are segregated into bands around the city state, primarily by their perishability and this maps directly into Reilly’s theory where the power distance is raised to relates to the urgency of delivery. The obvious example is that fresh milk, especially before refrigeration, simply has to be produced near or in the city.

By extension of this idea, it’s clear that on the scale of the Wilderlands maps very little trade is done in such products and if the CSIO needs milk it must be producing it itself in the surrounding hex of farmland or getting from very close-by up the Twilight Road or down the Old South Road. In any case, such things would not make up a huge amount of the trade on the map as published, where roads are very rare indeed.

For the sort of bulk non-perishable goods I was thinking about - timber, grain, metals, wine etc. - the value drops of linearly. Which is to say that the value of the product is constant, at least on a time scale of a season or two, and profit is eroded as much by the costs of the fifth day on the road as it is on the first. For milk, the second day erodes profit much faster than the first, and by the fifth you’ve got nothing left to sell.

This makes Reilly’s power simply equal to one. Since I’m only looking at relative levels of trade I don’t need a constant to convert into units (yet), so the final version of the formula is just


and all I had to do was calculate the travel time between every city on the map (all 98 of them).

I looked at how to do this using the hex map. I tried a lot of things but eventually I had to admit that the hex map simply wasn’t good enough. Forests and especially rivers did not follow hex sides and trying to encode them as side data ballooned. Eventually I realised that “hexpath” would have to be come “pixepath”, and the map would have to be some sort of bitmap image where each pixel was given one and only one terrain value.

2.1 A Star is born, then dies, is reborn, and finally discarded

I had been mulling this path finding idea for a while. I have written a few chess playing programs over the years, including a Dragon Chess written in M68000 assembly, and had been struck by the whole idea of quickly finding a move, and then progressively trying to find a better move. If the first “guess” move is sensibly chosen then the search time is drastically improved as candidates can be discarded early.

What, I thought, if we took a direct line from Point A to Point B over a map as a first guess, and then tried to refine it from there?

I constructed a test map and gave it a go. Well, to cut a long story short, it didn’t work. Looking back, I was gradually approaching the correct answer but my biggest problem was actually the direction of travel. Going from start to finish, my algorithm was constantly tripping over itself because the square it had “come from” at each step was not itself in a resolved and final state so it ended up looping over and over again. Adding flags didn’t help as that left the previous square as an unknown, preventing any objective early cutting out of paths by comparing them to the first guess.

I gradually started peeking at the Internet for help and found the A* algorithm. This is based on Dijkstra’s algorithm and like his it starts at the end and works backwards. Since the search starts with an objectively completed square (the destination, who’s cost is by definition known to be zero), it avoids the problem of tripping over its own tail and can always complete.

So I redid the code to use A* and things were good. For a while.

As it turns out, A* is a very fast way to find the distance between two points. But to find the distance between 97 points and a 98th, it’s not so hot. In my earlier code I had cached a lot of data in the hope of re-suing it, but A* doesn’t do that, so each run through starts from nothing again. For my code, once there were about 7 cities on the map, A* was getting slow.

Once I switched from a small test map to the map included in the code, which is 1807x1349 (8px = 1 mile), with lots of terrains, A* died a death. Going back to Dijkstra’s original algorithm, I realised that it in fact caches the whole map. Once Dijkstra’s has run once the output is the cost of moving from any point on the map to your chosen city. This means that finding the route from Thunderhold to CSIO takes 3 minutes - much longer than A* - but those three minutes also get you the distance from every other city and point on the map. Over all, this is a huge advance over A*.

2.2 Drunken Sailors, not Bee-lines

The first runs with the code generated trade routes all right. But they didn’t look very realistic. Partly this is because Dijkstra’s algorithm is known to behave slightly odd on a grid like a bitmapped image, but also because the transition between two pixels of light wood, or between light wood and open plain, always costs the same. So the trade routes were all made of horizontal, vertical, or 45° lines.

Adding a small pseudo-random factor to the cost of each square had a much larger effect than I had expected and the routes now look quite good, although not perfect.

2.3 Plains, Boats, and Roads

The next problem was that everything went by boat as far as possible. It’s certainly true that river and sea trade were extraordinarily important for mediaeval trade and one thing that modern people really don’t appreciate as they fly along the motorway at 70+mph is the humble bridge.

Until the 13th century, Britain had a massive shortage of bridges over rivers. If you have a one-ton cart being pulled by a couple of horses, even quite a small stream was an obstacle. If you were using oxen it was even worse as their short legs meant they would drown in a stream that a man could probably wade across.

So, yes, rivers should be important but they were insanely so when I first started to add significant numbers of towns to the map. The solution was to think more about what was being modelled: bulk goods.

One does not simply throw a ton of goods onto a barge and demand to be taken to Modor Modron. You generally have to wait for the tide, the ship to be ready, perhaps for other goods to be loaded up etc. So there’s a delay. There’s also a delay at the other end, albeit a smaller one.

Similarly, where an adventuring party might simply build a raft and enter a river or even the sea almost anywhere, if they needed to, 10cwt of barley needs something more sophisticated. So, rivers became a barrier again, except at settlements. And at settlements, the assumption is that on average goods set off on the boat/ship/barge, the day after they arrive, and 6 hours are needed to get unloaded and underway at the other end.

Cobbling together transport is still possible but it’s madly expensive. Similarly, switching from or to river transport at a ford can be done but it takes a week.

Finally, there is an assumption that the boats in question are quite small and do not handle the larger swell of the open sea as well as they do the more sheltered areas near the coast, so movement rates for the former are reduced. At the moment, I’ve defined (using the map) “open sea” to be anywhere more than 5 miles from any coast.

Movement aside from the special delays for transshipping is defined using D&D scaled inches so that it’s easy to relate to. Normal overland movement in D&D is 2xMv. So, a move rate of 12“ translates to 24 miles per day. I’ve pre-calculated the 2x part in order to allow some finer-grained rates as shown in the code snippet below:

\ These values are effectively 2 x the normal D&D move rates
+terrain impassible
infinite impassible self!
32 " opensea  \ slightly more risky, so avoid if possible
18 " city
48 " coastal
18 " plains
 9 " woods
24 " roads
12 " ltwoods
 9 " hills
 6 " wdhills
 1 " mts
 1 " swamp
 6 " desert
 4 " scrub
 6 " rough
30 " river
12 " ford
1 " jungle
4 " snow

I’ve not used snow yet. Note that the order of these terrains matches, and defines, the code used in the bitmap, so impassible is zero, open-sea is 1, city is 2 etc. When the program starts up it displays the combined movement table, which looks like this at the moment (probably best in the print-friendly version):

    opensea city coastal plains woods roads ltwoods hills wdhills mts swamp desert scrub rough river ford jungle snow
1 opensea 15 960 12 53760 53760 53760 53760 53760 53760 53760 53760 53760 53760 53760 15 53760 53760 53760
2 city 3840 26 3840 26 39 23 33 39 53 253 253 53 73 53 3840 33 253 73
3 coastal 12 960 10 115200 115200 115200 115200 115200 115200 115200 115200 115200 115200 115200 13 115200 115200 115200
4 plains 53760 26 115200 26 39 23 33 39 53 253 253 53 73 53 115200 33 253 73
5 woods 53760 39 115200 39 53 36 46 53 66 266 266 66 86 66 115200 46 266 86
6 roads 53760 23 115200 160 36 20 30 36 50 250 250 50 70 50 115200 30 250 70
7 ltwoods 53760 33 115200 33 46 30 40 46 60 260 260 60 80 60 115200 40 260 80
8 hills 53760 39 115200 39 53 36 46 53 66 266 266 66 86 66 115200 46 266 86
9 wdhills 53760 53 115200 53 66 50 60 66 80 280 280 80 100 80 115200 60 280 100
10 mts 53760 253 115200 253 266 250 260 266 280 480 480 280 300 280 115200 260 480 300
11 swamp 53760 253 115200 253 266 250 260 266 280 480 480 280 300 280 115200 260 480 300
12 desert 53760 53 115200 53 66 50 60 66 80 280 280 80 100 80 115200 60 280 100
13 scrub 53760 73 115200 73 86 70 80 86 100 300 300 100 120 100 115200 80 300 120
14 rough 53760 53 115200 53 66 50 60 66 80 280 280 80 100 80 115200 60 280 100
15 river 15 640 13 115200 115200 115200 115200 115200 115200 115200 115200 115200 115200 115200 16 26880 115200 115200
16 ford 53760 33 115200 33 46 30 40 46 60 260 260 60 80 60 26880 40 260 80
17 jungle 53760 253 115200 253 266 250 260 266 280 480 480 280 300 280 115200 260 480 300
18 snow 53760 73 115200 73 86 70 80 86 100 300 300 100 120 100 115200 80 300 120

These costs are scaled to the 1px=1furlong of the bitmap. Notice that it’s not symmetrical: going from city to river costs 3840 movement points, and from river to city costs 640.

When considering these movement rates bear in mind that they’re for a horse-drawn wagon when on land.

2.4 Hard Border

The biggest limitation of what I’ve done so far is, of course, the map edge. The results below all assume that there is nothing beyond the map, including the western edge where of course the City State of the World Emperor lies.

2.5 Moving House

Beyond adding in a “wooded hills” terrain in a couple of places, the main changes I made to the map was to move some of the towns to more logical places. I never moved any outside of their own hex but, for example, Seasteadholm was moved to the coast instead of being a couple of miles inland. I assume the cartographer had to fit the symbols into the map and there wasn’t always room when there were also wood’s rivers, and coastal cliffs to show. Similarly, if a settlement is elven and there are woods in the hex, I moved them into the woods at least a bit.

2.6 Here Don’t Be Dragons

The biggest lack of this iteration of the code is the lack of monsters and castles. In some way, both of these should affect trade. Both are given in the guidebooks but their effect must be based at least partially on movement - a group of ogres three miles away across water is unimportant, while the same group by the side of a road is going to have an impact on trade. Castles may reduce the effect of monsters, but may also impose their own tolls.

Given that the 98 towns require something like 5hrs to analyse at the moment, this is going to have to wait.

3 Other Factors

Once the raw data was calculated, giving a basic figure for the trade between two settlements, a couple of other factors were added in which Reilly probably didn’t spend much time on: race, alignment, and civ (tech) level.

3.1 Race

The race relations were based on the tables in PHB and DMG with some fiddling to join them together, as well as the addition of balrogs - a feature of the wider CSIO. The letters used in the game (P, G, T etc.) were mapped to specific multipliers (100% for prefer-ed,; 32% for hated; 10% for feared, a new category).

100 constant p
95 constant g
86 constant t
71 constant n
55 constant a
32 constant h
10 constant f

\ dw el gn  he  hb  ho  hu  gl  go  og  or  ba
p , a , g , n , g , h , n , h , h , h , h , f , \ dw dwarf
a , p , t , g , t , a , n , a , a , h , h , f , \ el elf
g , t , p , t , g , h , n , h , h , f , h , f , \ gn gnoll
n , p , t , p , n , a , t , a , a , h , h , f , \ he half-elf
g , g , t , n , p , n , n , f , h , f , f , f , \ hb hobbit
h , a , h , a , n , p , t , n , t , g , h , g , \ ho half orc
n , n , n , t , n , n , p , a , a , h , h , f , \ hu human
h , h , h , h , h , h , a , p , a , g , t , g , \ gl gnoll
h , a , h , a , h , t , a , a , p , h , n , g , \ go golin
f , f , h , f , a , t , t , t , a , p , t , n , \ og ogre
f , f , h , h , a , g , t , n , t , g , h , g , \ or orc
h , f , h , f , n , g , t , n , g , n , g , p , \ ba balrog

Since the race relations are not symmetrical, they’re calculated for each side of the trade and combined, so that if trade occurs between orcs and goblins the overall modifier is .95*.71=67.45% of normal.

3.2 Alignment

Alignment is handled the same way but the percentages were loosely based on the loyalty modifiers in the DMG. On that note, I resolved the question about “1 step, 2 steps, 3 steps” by ruling that changing any letter to N was one step, but that someone at N could move to any alignment in a single step. So LG->LE is two steps (LG-LN->LE) but LG to CE is three (LG->NG->N->CE). Fudge-a-rama.

create aligntradetab
\ N    LG  NG   CG   CN   CE   NE   LE   LN
85 , 100 , 85 , 80 , 75 , 65 , 70 , 90 , 95 , \ N
70 , 100 , 85 , 65 , 50 , 30 , 35 , 75 , 95 , \ LG
85 , 100 , 85 , 80 , 60 , 50 , 55 , 75 , 80 , \ NG
70 ,  85 , 85 , 80 , 75 , 50 , 35 , 55 , 60 , \ CG
85 ,  85 , 70 , 80 , 75 , 65 , 55 , 75 , 80 , \ CN
70 ,  65 , 50 , 65 , 75 , 65 , 70 , 75 , 60 , \ CE
85 ,  85 , 70 , 65 , 60 , 65 , 70 , 90 , 80 , \ NE
70 ,  85 , 50 , 45 , 40 , 50 , 70 , 90 , 95 , \ LE
85 , 100 , 70 , 65 , 60 , 50 , 55 , 90 , 95 , \ LN

Generally, people trust Lawful and Good -types most, and Neutrals are suspected a bit by everyone.

3.3 Civilisation Level

Each town is given a civ rating in the guidebooks and I’ve modelled this by simply them together, adding 1, and then multiplying trade volume by that. So a civ 8 trading with a civ 5 gets a 14x multiplier while a civ 9 trading with civ 9 gets an 19x multiplier.

The median civ rating seems to be about 5, so x11 (5+5+1) is the “normal” rating.

4 The Results

4.1 Trade Routes

This was the original target question: what are the trade routes? The current base map is (note: these maps are not opening when clicked on but if you select "Open in new tab" you should get the full-res versions):

Overlaying trade routes, with the boldness of the route being proportional to the amount of trade, gives this (open sea removed for clarity:


Figure 1: Graduated Trade Map

Here’s the same map but with the routes shown at the same boldness regardless of the amount of traffic:


Figure 2: Un-Graduated Trade Map

The next map is one that relates mostly to von Thünen’s model a bit more. This is a graduated tint overlaid on the map and centred on the CSIO itself, each step from light to dark indicating one day’s travel to the city.

I’ve pushed the bounds of copyright here to allow some of the original map to show through under my coloured version and the tint.


Figure 3: Days Travel To CSIO

It’s worth looking at this map for a while and visualising how much you know about places that are 5½ days travel away from you - the distance that Thunderhold is from CSIO. Assuming that you can think of anywhere that would take 5½days to get to in the modern world!

The final map is just for interest and superimposes a map of Kent on Wilderlands map 1 to show the scale. Basically, each Wilderlands map covers an area of 24.3 million acres (38088m²), which is about ¾ of the size of England.


Figure 4: Kent for scale

4.2 Trade Volumes

Trade is measured in arbitrary units for now and the program captures two main numbers for each settlement: the amount of external trade it engages in itself, and the amount of trade which passes through it on the way to somewhere else.

Since each town has a listed population we can translate these numbers into a measurement of wealth, even if we don’t have a specific ratio to convert it into gps. Another obstacle to making too much of these numbers - creating a measure of GDP - is that these numbers are all for external trade and don’t capture anything at all about internal trading within each town.

Taking tax on passing trade at a rate of 5% (1 shilling per pound) and adding it to the main trade figure gives the following table ordered by total income per person:

City Trade Per Person Via +tax
Darkfield 21199 121 117863 149
Haghill 7150 47 54507 63
Sea Hill 11342 38 153155 62
Modron 59829 48 59973 48
Bier 7187 42 7187 42
Thelamie 5778 35 21603 40
Croy 18179 39 18179 39
Brushwood 4614 34 4614 34
Wolfstone 13457 33 13457 33
Sticklestead 81295 32 82366 32
Woe 8431 31 8431 31
Seastrand 12553 30 12553 30
Ottersgild 5460 29 5460 29
Dearthmead 9288 29 9288 29
Zarthstone 12170 29 12823 29
Tain 11034 27 16507 28
Armagh 7741 28 7741 28
Fireside 9373 28 9373 28
Luckstone 6270 27 6270 27
Warwick 259121 27 259121 27
Anvil 4846 26 4846 26
Goodhap 5726 26 5726 26
Smitten 10539 22 25241 24
Tegal 5340 23 10672 24
Byrny 10923 23 22016 24
Muskholm 8985 23 8985 23
Rockhollow 4821 22 4821 22
Gaehill 9021 22 9021 22
Oakenbridge 6847 21 14383 22
Swarin’s Cairn 3211 20 5226 21
Flint 6264 21 6264 21
CSIO 435882 21 435939 21
Ryefield 2773 21 2994 21
Omen 4500 19 15445 21
Mill Haven 3713 19 5869 20
Shewolf 3276 20 3276 20
Sea Rune 2591 19 2742 19
Troth 3523 19 3796 19
Dorn 4259 18 4259 18
Thunderhold 36340 18 36340 18
Orlage 2894 17 7012 18
Foremost 5957 17 5957 17
Bernost 8304 17 8304 17
Carmage 3931 16 3931 16
Greybeard 7277 16 7277 16
Sunlitten 7429 16 7440 16
Limerick 2230 14 4288 15
Finmark 4510 15 4510 15
Lakenheath 8126 15 9226 15
Wormingford 1751 10 20486 15
Heatherbush 2883 14 2883 14
Bulwark 4267 14 4267 14
Hlymadle 4887 14 4887 14
Varin’s Firth 6304 14 6331 14
Ossary 47768 14 47777 14
Benobles 3859 14 4775 14
Irungsway 2501 13 2501 13
Springle 5081 13 5081 13
Landmarch 5904 13 5904 13
Red Cliffe 1568 12 1599 12
Ashenshaft 5372 12 5445 12
Charnock 5795 12 5795 12
Seasteadholm 1889 12 2037 12
Hankam 2031 11 2031 11
Hel 5131 11 5131 11
Bondmaid 1953 11 2094 11
Atwan 3266 10 3266 10
Hindfell 3362 10 3365 10
Elixer 4188 10 4188 10
Boughrune 2154 9 2154 9
Guilding 2809 9 2809 9
Doom 3028 9 3028 9
Caelam 4432 9 4432 9
Catalan 4604 9 4604 9
Shavenoar 1192 8 1192 8
Serpeant Little 1209 8 1209 8
Havocia 1313 8 1313 8
Jasonyria 2110 8 2110 8
Karn 2296 8 2296 8
Goblin Hill 3817 8 3817 8
Grita Heath 810 7 810 7
Smite 2404 7 2404 7
Anguikan 2975 7 3031 7
Lightelf 3057 7 3057 7
Elf-burn 975 6 5122 7
Forecastle 939 6 939 6
Adderwood 1873 6 1873 6
Palewood 571 5 571 5
Sunfells 2280 5 2280 5
Hunwood 2615 5 2615 5
Wildwood 741 4 741 4
Ered Chimera 1032 4 1032 4
Crucible 521 3 521 3
Hledra 799 3 799 3
Trollslore 486 2 486 2
Wenlock 608 2 608 2
Skaney 742 2 742 2
Dart 293 1 293 1

Re-arranging the table to give the top 20 cities by raw trade gives us:

City Trade PP +tax
CSIO 435882 21 21
Warwick 259121 27 27
Sticklestead 81295 32 32
Modron 59829 48 48
Ossary 47768 14 14
Thunderhold 36340 18 18
Darkfield 21199 121 149
Croy 18179 39 39
Wolfstone 13457 33 33
Seastrand 12553 30 30
Zarthstone 12170 29 29
Sea Hill 11342 38 62
Tain 11034 27 28
Byrny 10923 23 24
Smitten 10539 22 24
Fireside 9373 28 28
Dearthmead 9288 29 29
Gaehill 9021 22 22
Muskholm 8985 23 23
Woe 8431 31 31

4.2.1 CSIO

There’s not much to say about the City State itself. As expected, it is the largest economy and it draws in some trade from basically everywhere on the map. The biggest trading partner is Warwick at 26.2% of all trade. Here’s the whole list, down to those with 0.1% share:

City % CSIOTrade
Warwick 26.2
Sticklestead 7.6
Modron 6.0
Darkfield 4.3
Ossary 4.2
Thunderhold 3.8
Tain 1.6
Woe 1.5
Croy 1.5
Haghill 1.4
Dearthmead 1.4
Bier 1.4
Gaehill 1.3
Byrny 1.1
Luckstone 1.1
Seastrand 1.1
Sea Hill 1.0
Fireside 1.0
Lakenheath 0.9
Flint 0.9
Goodhap 0.9
Wolfstone 0.9
Foremost 0.8
Varin’s Firth 0.8
Smitten 0.7
Zarthstone 0.7
Oakenbridge 0.7
Charnock 0.6
Springle 0.6
Landmarch 0.6
Bernost 0.6
Bulwark 0.6
Omen 0.6
Muskholm 0.6
Rockhollow 0.6
Sunlitten 0.6
Armagh 0.6
Greybeard 0.5
Hlymadle 0.5
Goblin Hill 0.5
Hel 0.5
Dorn 0.5
Ashenshaft 0.5
Caelam 0.4
Shewolf 0.4
Anvil 0.4
Atwan 0.4
Carmage 0.4
Ottersgild 0.4
Brushwood 0.4
Tegal 0.4
Finmark 0.3
Elixer 0.3
Hindfell 0.3
Catalan 0.3
Anguikan 0.3
Hunwood 0.3
Troth 0.3
Thelamie 0.3
Limerick 0.3
Ryefield 0.3
Guilding 0.3
Benobles 0.3
Mill Haven 0.3
Jasonyria 0.2
Irungsway 0.2
Hankam 0.2
Doom 0.2
Bondmaid 0.2
Smite 0.2
Sunfells 0.2
Orlage 0.2
Adderwood 0.2
Boughrune 0.2
Wormingford 0.2
Heatherbush 0.2
Lightelf 0.2
Swarin’s Cairn 0.2
Sea Rune 0.2
Havocia 0.1
Shavenoar 0.1
Wildwood 0.1
Red Cliffe 0.1
Karn 0.1
Elf-burn 0.1
Seasteadholm 0.1
Serpeant Little 0.1

4.2.2 Warwick

Yes, so. Warwick. No one ever talks about Warwick, but it’s one of the biggest cities in the whole setting, not just Map 1. Bigger than Tarantis, bigger than Valon by miles. It dominates the north coast and the only reason it is not more important as a trading partner is that the map ends just north of it.

As it is, it has more trade per person than CSIO and has a higher civ rating too.

4.2.3 Modron

Much smaller than Warwick, or even Ossary, the model used doesn’t, I think, give Modron due consideration for potential tax collection from passing vessels but since they don’t literally pass through the town the program doesn’t catch them. Even so, it has the second highest ratio of direct trade to population, after Darkfield, and on that measure the citizens are more than twice as wealthy as those of the CSIO.

City % Modron Trade
CSIO 44.4
Warwick 18.5
Sticklestead 12.7
Ossary 2.8
Croy 1.3
Seastrand 1.0
Thunderhold 0.9
Brushwood 0.8
Wolfstone 0.7
Byrny 0.5
Zarthstone 0.5
Fireside 0.5
Sunlitten 0.5
Armagh 0.5
Smitten 0.4
Tain 0.4
Varin’s Firth 0.4
Ryefield 0.4
Oakenbridge 0.4
Greybeard 0.3
Flint 0.3
Muskholm 0.3
Sea Hill 0.3
Hel 0.3
Rockhollow 0.3
Ottersgild 0.3
Ashenshaft 0.3
Tegal 0.3
Charnock 0.2
Finmark 0.2
Lakenheath 0.2
Bernost 0.2
Gaehill 0.2
Darkfield 0.2
Anvil 0.2
Dearthmead 0.2
Woe 0.2
Troth 0.2
Thelamie 0.2
Dorn 0.2
Benobles 0.2
Caelam 0.1
Springle 0.1
Hlymadle 0.1
Elixer 0.1
Hindfell 0.1
Landmarch 0.1
Catalan 0.1
Foremost 0.1
Smite 0.1
Omen 0.1
Orlage 0.1
Shewolf 0.1
Haghill 0.1
Goodhap 0.1
Luckstone 0.1
Ered Chimera 0.1
Atwan 0.1
Bier 0.1
Karn 0.1
Carmage 0.1
Limerick 0.1
Seasteadholm 0.1
Boughrune 0.1
Guilding 0.1
Wormingford 0.1
Heatherbush 0.1
Mill Haven 0.1
Lightelf 0.1
Swarin’s Cairn 0.1
Sea Rune 0.1
  1. Pareto Curves

    The question naturally arises from the above observation as to how the uppermost members of society compare between the CSIO and Modron, given that the (external trading) economy of the former is 7¼ times the latter.

    If we use an 80/20 split (80% of wealth is owned by 20% of people) then we get the top 20% of Modronites are sharing 47863 between them, which is 129.7 units each. The same calculation for CSIO gives 348705 to the top 20%, which is 87. When looking at percentages this disparity holds, but for the CSIO the number of people sharing that wealth is much higher and the true picture comes out when looking at it from that PoV.

    So when we look at the top 20 people in each place, the difference between the two cities’ elites is clearer. For Modron these people represent 1.6%, whereas for the CSIO they represent 0.1%. The 20 Modronites have 1695 units of wealth each, the City Staters average 8405 units each.

    Ultimately, the top guy in Modron can expect to control 22424 units of trade while the Overlord grabs 111204 (assuming that the Overlord is as content to share as Anoethin is).

    I’ve glossed over many questions here, not least of which are what slope to use for the Pareto calculation and how applicable it is to very small numbers of people in autocratic societies. Not to mention that populations listed in the guides are for able-bodied men of fighting age, not full populations. Perhaps "top families" would be a better way of looking at it.

4.2.4 Ossary

Although Ossary is big and technically advanced (civ 8), its alignment of CE costs it a lot of trade. Still, it dominates the southern area to a degree which can only increase once Map 2 is added. The largest city there, Antil, is just over ⅓ of the size of Ossary and somewhat backward with a civ rating of 4.

City % Ossary Trade
CSIO 39.0
Warwick 23.5
Sticklestead 5.8
Modron 3.5
Croy 1.6
Swarin’s Cairn 1.4
Sunlitten 1.1
Sea Rune 1.0
Oakenbridge 0.9
Heatherbush 0.9
Mill Haven 0.8
Lightelf 0.7
Smitten 0.6
Armagh 0.6
Varin’s Firth 0.5
Hel 0.5
Seastrand 0.5
Tegal 0.5
Greybeard 0.4
Bernost 0.4
Catalan 0.4
Byrny 0.4
Muskholm 0.4
Tain 0.4
Zarthstone 0.4
Wolfstone 0.4
Guilding 0.4
Ashenshaft 0.4
Caelam 0.3
Lakenheath 0.3
Dearthmead 0.3
Thunderhold 0.3
Woe 0.3
Thelamie 0.3
Rockhollow 0.3
Ottersgild 0.3
Dorn 0.3
Wormingford 0.3
Serpeant Little 0.3
Charnock 0.2
Finmark 0.2
Hlymadle 0.2
Hindfell 0.2
Landmarch 0.2
Gaehill 0.2
Flint 0.2
Darkfield 0.2
Anvil 0.2
Goodhap 0.2
Karn 0.2
Fireside 0.2
Benobles 0.2
Jasonyria 0.1
Irungsway 0.1
Springle 0.1
Elixer 0.1
Doom 0.1
Hunwood 0.1
Foremost 0.1
Smite 0.1
Sunfells 0.1
Orlage 0.1
Shewolf 0.1
Haghill 0.1
Ered Chimera 0.1
Troth 0.1
Atwan 0.1
Bier 0.1
Sea Hill 0.1
Limerick 0.1
Seasteadholm 0.1
Boughrune 0.1
Ryefield 0.1
Forecastle 0.1
Palewood 0.1

4.2.5 Darkfield

Being on the road to CSIO as well as being physically close to it gives Darkfield a huge boost without being too incompatible on race, alignment, or civ.

4.2.6 Haghill

Like Darkfield, Haghill is near the city and gets a bigbump from that despite being small and undeveloped.

4.2.7 Sticklestead

Sticklestead is another large settlement that doesn’t get much of a look in, although an official scenario dealing with the area did come out in 2010(!). Bigger than Modron, it’s important because it allows access to the river and thereby to the sea, CSIO, and Warwick. I’ve also given it a bridge and a ford over the local rivers.

5 So what?

What to do with all this information? Well, the trade route maps show, for example, that Wormshead point is a good place to go a-pirating, and a place to send patrols to prevent it. There’s a line of small islands south of Croy which might make interesting bases for this sort of activity too, if the keyed encounters are not enough to put the players off.

The same goes for the land, with various crossroads apparent where PCs can prey on caravans, hire on to protect them, or where the DM can place inns or similar out-of-town bases.

PCs hired to locate lost cargoes or kidnapped merchants may be able to use their wits to learn of likely places to start a search.

The major cities will have rivalries and intrigues aimed at getting an economic advantage. Guilds from the cities will do likewise.

The information gives some idea of how likely it is to be able to learn something by locating a native traveller. So, finding someone from Warwick won’t pose too much trouble in most locations near the sea but finding people from Tegal to ask about its manor might be hard.

Even Thunderhold has only a 3.8% share of the City State’s trade.

There will be other uses, but for now I need to look at making the code multi-threaded so that I can hope to tackle adding on at least Map 6 and see what that does to the trade routes to the west.

All the Forth code is on Github (

Sunday, 2 July 2017

Sunday, 18 June 2017

The Temples of the City State of The Invincible Overlord


This is the first post in an experiment to see if I can convert the temples of the City State of the Invincible Overlord into the religious outline from the previous post. The version of CSIO is the second edition from 1980 so there’s a few difficulties. The first one is that this edition was part-way between LBB D&D and AD&D. So the range of deities in the city includes some from GD&H as well as ones which were included in D&DG. Indeed, the gods of the city state are an interesting mix of major and minor, multi-planar, and local with a range of characteristics which makes it an interesting challenge to fit into any single framework.

Another point is that the alignment system in the 2nd edition seems to be a 5-point system with LG, CG, LE, CE, and N only. There are hints in the text that the authors wanted this or that NPC to be, say, LN - in particular, the overlord himself - and that applies to the gods as well. I’m going to try to represent the full AD&D 9-point system in this series of posts but I’m sticking to my stance of eschewing Concordant Opposition, although I will revisit it in the future.

So let’s get started:

The Temple of the Gargoyle

This temple is an example of a Holy of Holies. Indeed, an extreme example as the god physically dwells here and nowhere else.

The Gargoyle, Arghrasmak, is a demi-god of some sort from the Elemental Plane of Earth and is only worshipped in the city and the nearby area.

All the normal clerical spells can be obtained here up to 5th level, the highest that Arghrasmak is able to grant.

Symbol is a grey sphere held in a black claw. Clerical mace heads are normally in this form.


As a chaotic, the Gargoyle dislikes the rule of law and has become a sponsor of thieves in the city. As an evil chaotic, he encourages the more aggravated cruel sorts of theft in order to increase suffering.

As an elemental his interests are in things from the ground - gold, silver, jewels, and loves to accumulate these for no more reason than he likes them.

Beyond these things, Arghrasmak has little interest in the mundane world and spends most of his time sleeping and plotting the eventual overthrow of those who forced him from his border kingdom in the Inner World, as he calls the Plane of Earth. Anything which increases his standing amongst the denizens of that place will gain favour.

He is dangerous to attempt to deal with and his word, although rarely given, is seldom honoured. He really only wants the treasures of the underworld. Worship is nice but the clergy’s main function is really as a bodyguard.

Sacrifices and Dedications

For (any number of) third to fifth level spells, the god must be awoken by three sacrifices of metal (100gp worth), magic (any item, even a scroll of a single spell), and blood (1HD animal sacrifice). The deity will then wake, spend the requisite time in mental communion with the cleric, and return to its sleep.

Magical items usable by clerics are retained as dedications, everything else goes into the pit within which Arghrasmak sleeps. His stony skin soon destroys many of the magical items, but he retains a few useful ones in case of emergencies.

Lay Members

The temple’s congregation is mostly thieves and the temple itself is responsible for the thieves’ quarter’s existence as it offers sanctuary to its laity. Normal members (casual, 0-level thieves and beggars) pay 5sp per festival, and are expected to attend at least one per year (making up for missed events by paying the shortfall).

Classed thieves are expected to pay 100gp value per level per year and for this they get the protection sanctuary and +5% to their ability to hide in shadows.

All members in good standing will (must) receive the services of an appointed litigation trickster from the guild thereof if arrested for theft-related crimes. If the member is found not-guilty of their alleged crime, the fee is half the amount they were accused of; if found guilty the fee is only a quarter of the claimed amount. Note that the issue of whether the member actually stole anything at all is not relevant here.

The Overlord has compromised with Arghrasmak on sanctuary, avoiding a direct confrontation with a being of unknown but substantial power. Arghrasmak has abandoned human sacrifice, and the Overlord recognises the boundary of the temple as beyond his reach. The entrances, of course, can be guarded as he sees fit, so long as he does not actually barricade them.

Priests and Clerics

As well as access to the spells below, the high-priest and those of priestly level are granted +4 on all saves against petrifaction (including flesh to stone) once per season.


The first full moon after each solstice and equinox divides the Gargoyle’s year into four seasons. Missing four of these festivals in a row without good reason (DM’s decision) will result in loss of clerical status.

Special spells

Due to Arghrasmak’s nature, he can not personally grant spells without being physically present - and he has never left his pit/nest in the last 450 years - so remote shrines to him are only able to grant first and second level spells. These shrines tend to be underground caves, grottos, or platforms in high, rugged mountains where some one or other of his followers has settled down to play the role of local priest.

These require 100gp value per level. Animal sacrifice is valued at 50gp per hit die.

  • Stoneskin; Level 2; V, M; 1seg.

    Otherwise as 4th level magic user spell.

  • Forget; Level 1; V, M; 1seg

    Otherwise as 2nd level MU spell.

These spells are also available at the main temple in CSIO. Additionally, Arghrasmak has one each special forth and fifth level spell which can be obtained at the main temple:

Protection from Petrifaction (Alteration)

level: 4 Components: V,S,M
Range: Touch Casting Time: 4seg
Duration: 1 turn Saving Throw: -
Area of Effect: Creature touched  

Explanation/Description: Grants immunity for ten minutes only against any magic which would turn the recipient into stone.

Stoneform (Alteration)

level: 5 Components: V, S, M
Range: Personal Casting Time: 5seg
Duration: 1rnd per level Saving Throw: -
Area of Effect: Caster  

Explanation/Description: When this spell is cast, the cleric takes on the stony form of a gargoyle. While in this form he or she can only be struck by magical weapons and can attack either with a weapon as normal, or by using their hands (single attack routine doing 1d4/1d4 plus any strength modifiVitrificationNitrificationto normal heat or cold and against magical attacks of these forms takes half damage or none, depending on a saving throw.

Armour class is reduced to 5 or remains as it was before, whichever is best.

The form is not winged unless the target is, in which case it can fly at a rate of 12“ so long as the caster is unencumbered, 6” if carrying heavy gear, and nothing if very heavily loaded or worse. Manoeuvre class is E.

In this form, only spell casting that does not require somatic components and which can be performed with nothing more than the holy symbol as its material component may be performed.

Saturday, 10 June 2017

1 Magic and Religion

1.1 Background

1.1.1 Ye Wizards

D&D is, essentially, Vancian magic and level-based classes. I know WotC think otherwise but they only have the name because they paid for it and that doesn’t give them any rights to decide what it is, just what gets marketed under the name.

Anyway, without both of these things, you’re just playing a fantasy role-playing game. It might be a very good one, but it’s not Dungeons and Dragons.

Generally this isn’t a problem as the level-based system is pretty good at simulating how heroic or action fiction of all sorts works in terms of abilities and resistance to death - there’s normal people who die in droves against something that a small group of heroes defeat.

Vancian casting is a little less universal, although not so much in the practical sense of actually casting the spells so much as the preparing them.

Obviously, Vance’s work has examples of the process of basically jamming the energy of a spell into one’s head and releasing it later, losing in the process all that stored energy and so requiring the whole ritual to be repeated before the spell can be cast.

Vance’s ideas evolved, possibly riffing off Saberhagen, but the core idea had a little bit of an impact outside of his works, notably on Terry Pratchett although that was almost certainly by way of D&D.

The system allowed for the sort of tactical decision making and resource-management which is a hallmark of early exploration games.

But there was a problem which was created by that very exploration-heavy assumed motivation - a magic-user who went exploring more than a day’s journey from home was basically stuck with having to drag their precious spell-books with them and risk their total destruction, at which point they’re in real difficulties.

Now, dragging spell-books around on an adventure is definitely not something that occurs in source material of any kind that I can think of, including all the stuff in Appendix N. It’s a major issue for AD&D magic-users and a huge disadvantage beside their fellow spellcasters, the clerics and druids.

1.1.2 Ye Clerics

Now, clerics in D&D are not priests. They’re actually holy warriors who are given miraculous powers by their “deity”. I say “deity” because this is somewhere the deep roots of D&D in mediaeval wargaming rise to just below the surface. Far from being the modern, or ancient, fantasy vision of a world full of gods and spirits, the core books of both OD&D and AD&D are very much a Christian view. Clerics are followers of Christ without the game saying so. In OD&D, the cleric’s “holy symbol” was specifically a cross. AD&D moved away from that slightly but the broad vision of the class is the Christian vampire hunter.

The practical effect of this is that God is literally everywhere - and feels like he’s everywhere - and that is one thing that makes playing a non-Christian cleric unsatisfactory.

Clerics use the same “theory of spells” as magic-users - the energy of the spell is implanted in the character’s mind and is released when needed. The difference is that instead of spell-books, the cleric’s deity gifts the energy requested, either indirectly or directly and in person.

The rules apply no restrictions on where this gifting takes place. They specify that the cleric gains them by “supplication” but, in keeping with the assumption of an omni-present god, the 15 minutes-per-level of praying or whatever form this supplication takes can be done anywhere and at any time.

This is clearly a major advantage to the adventuring cleric as compared to the adventuring magic-user struggling to find ever more secure (and un-heroic) ways of transporting their most valuable possessions across open wilderness or even into deep oceans or planes of living fire. That would perhaps be acceptable as just something that magic-users have to live with in return for their much wider range of spells and, indeed, two entire extra levels of spells. I’m not sure where that argument leaves illusionists, though. But there is a knock-on effect of this al-fresco worship which is more subtle but also much more deadly to the role-playing experience.

Because there is no requirements about place of worship, the cleric character need never enter such a place. A “high priest” can happily reach that position without the player ever having had to deal with their religious organisation, enter a temple or perform any overt act of religious ritual. The cleric trains under another cleric and, similarly, there’s no need for that training to take place in anywhere more religious than an Inn.

Similarly, there are no real rules about ritual cleansing or purification, since there is nowhere the cleric has to worry about entering while “polluted”.

All in all, this aspect of the cleric’s spell-gaining mechanic is one of the main reasons that AD&D and OD&D have a fairly notorious lack of colour. There’s pretty well no depth to the relation between a cleric and their deity, with the possible exception that many players dream of one day taking on their god, or some god at least, in combat.

For many DMs it can be hard to find experienced players even interested in playing a cleric as there’s little difference between them, and their spell mechanics means that they all cast the same sorts of spells. Once you’ve played one cleric, you’ve played them all. The odd magic-user here and there will fail to “know” fireball or even magic missile and regardless of that their spell lists will be dominated by what spells they have found while exploring. Clerics are heal-bots not just because the cure spells are fantastically useful, but because there’s no cleric anywhere who can’t cast them.

I’m going to skip over the various attempts to make a cleric’s choice of deity useful in AD&D as they were all pretty feeble. Instead I am going to discuss a cure for both this ill and the question of magic-users’ books.

1.2 A Modest Proposal

The solution to both problems is, I think, this small change to Vancian casting:

  • Instead of being lost completely, a spell’s energy is drained until the caster has time to rest and meditate on it again, using the same time as is currently needed to learn the spells from the normal source (book or god).
  • However, only the spells currently assigned to the “spell slots” can be recovered this way, changing the memorised spell list is impossible.

For example, Jim the magician has a rest for 6 hours and gets his spell books out. He then spends another 2 hours memorising burning hands, magic missile x2, sleep; mirror image, invisibility; dispel magic, and lightning bolt. He then heads off on an adventure with some mates, leaving his spell books at home. During the next day or two he uses both magic missile spells and the invisibility.

Jim settles down in a nice warm cave and has 4 hours kip. On awakinging, he can spend 45 minutes bringing the components of the thaumaturgical circuits back together in his mind and he’s ready to go with a full complement of his initial spell list.

Only if he found another magic-user’s spell book would he have the chance to swap out one of his memorised spells for something new (or if he returned to his base of operations).

This obviously allows magic-users to work “in the field” at the cost of what flexibility they had. What about clerics?

Well, the same change applies to clerics. Instead of being able to change their spell-lists anywhere they like, they can now only change the memorised list by spending the normal 15 minutes per spell level on hallowed ground. Put simply, they need to visit a shrine, temple, glade, grotto, or other sacred ground in order to commune properly with their deity.

A cleric of Neptune can still pray for spells while 1000 miles inland and 10,000 feet up a mountain in a desert, she’s probably going to have to make her own holy site up there first. Otherwise, she has whatever Neptune granted her at the quay-side shrine in Pompeii as she set off for the high Atlas Mountains.

1.3 Colouring in the Cleric

The change proposed above is minor for magic-users and illusionists. It gives them less flexibility in spell-casting if they take the option of leaving the spell books behind. For clerics and druids, the change is much more profound.

By requiring some specific and sanctified area in which to commune with the power which grants them their spells, this change gives clerics, PC and NPC a motivation to protect such areas, to expand them, and to bring things (living or otherwise) to them for sacrifice or dedication to their god. Plot hooks! Hurrah!

1.4 The Effects of (Un)Holy Space

1.4.1 Physical

Let’s look at the holy space idea in a bit more detail. Firstly, it has to be a physical thing. It may be as little as an altar in a defined space; some deities will not demand one or the other but the baseline is that the holy space will have at least one of these two.

Druids will have groves, some of them will be created or sanctified by the druids, but some will be the “natural” homes of dryads or similar beings. A bank by a river inhabited by a naiad, or a mountain where sylphs dwell might also do. But even druids may have altars too.

Some sort of ritual, perhaps using the ceremony spells in UA, must be carried out to gift it to the deity, and this may have various restrictions on it, such as time of year, or specific sacrifices peculiar to the thing being worshipped.

1.4.2 Metaphysical

The holy space belongs to the deity; it is literally its house (one of many). The things brought there and dedicated to it belong to the deity and removing them is the same as stealing from the deity.

The same applies to spirits and souls. Regardless of alignment, the soul of a human sacrificed at a demonic altar is going to the Abyss. An Orc sacrificed at a heavenly altar is going to heaven.

The assumption is that objects have some sort of spirit and sacrificing an item by breaking it and leaving the pieces in the space for some period in some way sends a copy of the item “to the gods” as a token of esteem.

This aspect of ownership places a burden on the priesthood that is proportional to the size of the space. A simple altar overlooking a sea cliff is easy to maintain; there would be no need for a full time priest at all. But a complex like the acropolis in Athens would need guards and the guards would need monitoring, and the number of shrines, altars, and temples implies more or less full time staffing of some sort.

Notice that this is mostly about keeping the gods’ property safe. The role of the cleric is very much about serving the deity, less so the laity and even less so non-believers (or non-worshippers).

  1. Wipe Your Feet

    Coming into the deity’s house may mean abiding by various rules. For the Greeks, as an example, entering holy ground after killing someone was forbidden, similarly people who have had sex were “polluted”. These things could be fixed in many cases by simple washing (basins were provided outside all but the smallest shrines), but other acts would require more strenuous efforts. There’s no particular reason why intent or knowledge should be involved in these rules. A person who reverses their chariot over a small boy without noticing might find themselves judged as unfit in the same way as a soldier who has just returned from the battlefield.

    Obviously, a cleric who is unclean will not be given new spells until they have done something about it.

    This gives scope for active and intelligent use of both atonement and geas spells (as well as plain old having a bath now and then).

  2. Tidy Up In Here

    Related to this idea it also becomes necessary to look after the god’s house while s/he is off doing godly things. The area needs to be representational of the deity’s desires and goals as formed by their alignment, sphere of interest, and personality. This might mean polished marble, heaps of rotting corpses, the arms and armour of defeated foes, or garlands of flowers and a spring of fresh water.

    This, in turn, provides a means of attacking the deity’s interests (and the status of their local clergy) which may need to be defended against. Holy/unholy water is one simple way of attacking an area, but various rituals might be possible too. Once an area is desecrated in this way, it becomes unavailable for spell renewal until cleared up. More plot hooks!

1.4.3 Very Metaphysical

As a generic motivation, looking after the deity’s house will only get you so far. More specific motivations for the different deities will need to be, well, specified. Alignment is a reasonable start.

Broadly, Good deities want to protect the world from Evil deities who want to eat it. Evil deities share an enjoyment of causing suffering and loss. Morally neutral ones don’t want that, and Good ones want there to be active elimination of it.

Within those categories the gods’ personalities and areas of interest should inform what they expect to see in their material dwelling spaces and also what actions they are expecting their clergy to carry out on their behalf in return for their blessings (i.e., their hit points, saving throws, and above all their spells).

On the ethical side of things, Lawful deities will be looking to increase the degree to which societies are organised and stable, while Chaos wants to free the individual, or just go mental.

  1. Metagaming Metaphysics

    From various clues in the books, we can posit some metaphysical rules. We know, for example, that demons and devils can not enter the PMP at will but that devas and so forth can. There’s even rules about how long a demon or devil can stay if they do get invited or summoned.

    I suggest this: The Deities of Law and Good (top-left quadrant of the alignment graph) agreed that there should be restrictions placed to protect the PMP. Basically, the PMP is off-limits unless the rules are broken, in which case the powers of Law or Good can intervene to restore them and then return to their home plane as soon as possible.

    Lawful Evil (the devils) agreed to go along for the sake of stymieing Chaos; Chaotic Good for the sake of thwarting Evil. CN, CE, and NE go along with them (most of the time) because the Solars are the biggest boys on the block; they have no real choice. However, they did manage to at least get the various clauses in that do allow them to be called to the PMP.

    The main loophole is the sacred area which allows them to communicate directly to their clergy without breaking any access rules, since the space is by definition their property and not, in a sense, actually the Material Plane. Through this, they can maintain a clergy and have that clergy pursue their agendas by proxy (which has the additional advantage of not being personally dangerous; no arch-duke of hell wants to wake up to find Thor knocking on the door).

    So, although most deities have no great interest in 0-level worshippers (who they regard as nice pets/food, depending on alignment), they do take an active interest in classed characters because of their ability to Get Things Done™.

    Everyone knows this is a technicality but it actually suits all sides in one way or another.

1.4.4 Temporal Spaces

There’s no reason that holy spaces should be 24/7. They may only operate at certain times: when the moon is full, the spring tide is at its peak, or the stars are right and so forth.

In any case, there should be a specific necessity for clerics to make sacrifices at a holy site at least once per year. This can be handwaved as part of their monthly upkeep costs, at least in terms of what is sacrificed, but the DM should require actual physical attendance at a site. Failure will result in the blocking of any new spells until atonement has taken place.

Some deities may require more frequent attendance, but annual is a recommended minimum.

The same goes for non-clerical worshippers, but there’s no direct game mechanical effect.

1.5 Rough Ideas

1.5.1 Levels of Holiness

What’s D&D without levels?

There’s a natural instinct to think of a hierarchy of holy sites. Perhaps:

  • Personal or household Shrine
  • Public shrine
  • Village church
  • Parish church
  • Cathedral
  • The Vatican


  • Personal or household shrine
  • Public or shared family shrine
  • Village temple
  • City temple
  • Cult centre temple

That sort of thing. At the same time there’s a couple of “natural” ways of applying the idea of levels to AD&D clerical assumptions:

  • Shrine (cleric can gain 1st or 2nd level spells)
  • Temple (cleric can gain 3rd to 5th level spells from intermediary spirit)
  • Cult centre (cleric can gain any spell from deity)

Or, holy spaces might come in 7 levels, with each designating a corresponding spell level.

I quite like the idea of this second version as it means that lesser gods and demi-gods automatically have less impressive cult centres.

However, both of these divisions leave something to be desired when we look at the very low end and, in particular, at religions that worshipped gods and goddesses with aspects as well as hero-cults. I’d like these to be sources of small numbers of, or even single, spells specific to the aspect.

I don’t want to go “full Greek”, as it were and have cleric PCs have to do a tour of the land to stock up on the general spells from PHB. But I quite like the idea that if a party is going to go to sea, then a trip to a specific temple of Poseidon might grant the cleric a particular spell like ’calm sea’ or ’charm sea-monster’ etc. I’d also quite like to move many of the UA spells into this sort of frame-work so that players can simply play with PHB and discover new spells by asking around or exploring.

It also makes pantheons more relevant as a character has access to multiple allied deities for specific things without getting bogged down in questions of who is their “actual” patron god.

Without getting too setting-specific, here’s my idea for classifying holy precincts by “level”:

  1. Simple - spells of any level but limited to 1, 2, 3, or 4 spell levels (see below).

    Requires attendance from a lay-priest.

  2. Minor site - 1st and 2nd level spells

    Requires attendance by a cleric or druid of 1st level

  3. Important site - 3rd, 4th, and 5th level spells

    Requires a cleric of 5th level or druid of 3rd level

  4. Great site - 6th level spells

    Requires cleric/druid of 9th level

  5. Holy of Holies - 7th level spells

    Requires a cleric of 16th level or druid of 14th level.

If a priest, shaman, or cleric of the appropriate type is not available to perform the main holy day rituals of a year then the site is automatically downgraded one level, with an additional level loss per each subsequent festival day which is missed. Once a site reaches level zero it has been abandoned but up to that point it can be restored simply by performing the next major ritual in the god’s calendar.

  1. Simple site restrictions

    A simple site will have a number of spell levels available is based on the deity - 1 for cults based on spirits (ancestors, minor demons, ki-rin etc.), 2 for demi-gods, 3 for lesser gods, and 4 for greater gods.

    So a small barn shrine dedicated to a local grass spirit will offer only one 1st level spell (bless cow or some such). A small altar in the woods dedicated to Enlil will offer some mixture of spells adding up to 4: perhaps 4 first level spells, or a single 4th level spell, two 2nd level spells or whatever.

    These spells can be a mixture of general PHB spells or unique spells specific to the locale. The greater the object of worship the more likely it is that there will be general spells available.

  2. Unique spells

    Sacrifice must me made to the value of 100gp times the level of specific spells prayed for at a site. Unique spells might be available at any site, but simple sites will always have at least one and it will related in some way to the nature of that site.

    In addition to the on-the-spot sacrifice, the character is required to return and sacrifice 10% of whatever is gained through the use of the unique spell granted. This applies to the entire party and covers anything returned to safety on an adventure where the spell is actually cast.

  3. Lay priests

    Lay priests are 0-level NPCs who are pious enough to be allowed to perform rituals at a site. If their wisdom is high enough then they will be able to pray for and use the spells available at their site using their wisdom bonus alone.

    Since these are NPCs, their base wisdom is limited to 15, but age may increase that. So, for example, a lay priest with 14 wisdom can cast two 1st level spells; one with a wisdom of 17 can additionally cast two 2nd level spells and a 3rd level spell.

    There is no requirement that a lay priest be able to cast any spells at all, but their wisdom must be at least 9 in order to properly perform the required rites.

  4. Holy of Holies

    The top level of sacred space is the Holy of Holies. Each deity will only have one of these on any continent or similar sized area. There will be some representation of the deity there which forms the focus for the god. These will not necessarily be anthropomorphic or representative of the appearance of the god at all, although they will usually be emblematic in some way.

1.5.2 Mobile Altars, Fetishes, and Shamen

Mobile sites are available in several forms such as the famous Temple of the Wooden Sword, or a shaman’s fetish stick or similar items.

Such basic equipment acts as a simple site but with the additional restriction that the generic spells available (i.e., the PHB ones) are as listed for tribal casters in DMG.

1.5.3 Guardians

Aside from the material creatures which protect a site, it is possible for guardian spirits to be assigned to one.

Such guardians will be picked from an appropriate plane and could be modrons, oliphants, devils, demons, or any creature which can be encountered on the astral plane (for druids the guardian must be able to traverse the ethereal plane instead) of a compatible alignment.

A guardian’s challenge rating is limited to the square of the site it is attached to. If the site degrades, the guardian will remain until the site is completely abandoned.

Guardians will be empowered to engage in combat, possibly from the astral or ethereal planes and possibly psionically, any trespasser who touches any of the god’s belongings without permission or good reason. The guardian will use whatever faculties it has to determine this, and potentially can be fooled.

The deity itself will act as guard for its holy of holies.

  1. Making Friends

    Whatever ritual is used to summon a guardian, the creature must serve willingly and so the summoning (which may have similar restrictions and requirements as originally dedicating the site did) must end with a successful reaction roll from the guardian towards the summoner.

    The reaction roll is modified by charisma and the target score is based on the guardian’s alignment:

    Alignment Target
    LG 35
    NG 50
    CG 55
    CN 60
    CE 70
    NE 65
    LE 45
    LN 40
    N 80

    These are based on the loyalty mods with the exception of the modifier for neutral (i.e., elemental) guardians which assumes, based partly on contact other plane, that they prefer not to get involved with, or are just not interested in, events on the material plane. If you don’t view it that way, or you have neutral deities involved, then 50 would seem the logical score. I would say that for druids in particular, woodland and fey creatures would be a common type of guardian.

    These are minimums; further modifiers should be applied upwards if the character is not in good standing. Penalties should be applied if the holy precincts to be guarded are not worthy of the guardian - too small for a powerful one, in disrepair, or in an inappropriate place.

1.5.4 Hierarchy

There is no hierarchy of temples or sites by default. An individual religion may have such but since all the higher level clerics are in communication with the deity or its servants directly, there is no need for councils or synods or similar to decide what is or is not canon law nor any reason why a priest from one site should be able to order a priest from another around, other than personal respect or strength. There may be organisational issues which need oversight, of course, but even that is not a given.

1.6 Notes

1.6.1 Logic be damned

Logically, clerics under this system should really not get any spell recovery at all unless at a sanctuary but from a game perspective that’s just too harsh and we’d be back at the point where magic-users on campaign are crippled except it would be cleric PCs getting the crappy end of the stick.

1.6.2 Jesus!

Personally, as is probably apparent from the length of this post, I’m very excited about this, really rather simple, idea. It does have a minor issue in that it is actually a poor fit with pure monotheism of the modern sort where the single deity is literally the only one. Older forms of monotheism, as found in the Old Testament for example, allowed for the existence of multiple gods but simply insisted that a particular tribe exclude all but one from their worship. That sort of monotheism is a lot less omnipresent than the later versions which started to gain ground around 400 B.C.

So if, in fact, you really do want to run a mediaeval setting, much of this idea will have to be modified, possibly to use saints instead of other deities or aspects of the single one.

1.6.3 Transgressions

One area where this system is easier on players than the book system is that clerics who transgress will still potentially have access to spells - perhaps very powerful spells - which they can continue to use. I would suggest a two-pronged attack on this possible abuse.

Firstly, if the cleric changes alignment or begins worshipping a different deity, the shock of this re-alignment of their self- and world-views simply clears their minds of all previous spells.

If this does not apply then some form of divine retribution will be forthcoming. Just as servants of a deity grant the higher level spells, so they can be sent to destroy those that abuse the power given. Deities will not personally intervene in this way. Faithful clerics may be sent in the first instance, and if a rebellious cleric is recalcitrant for any length of time then they may be anathematised so that clerics and servants of the deity will sense immediately that they are under (edict).

Entering a sacred precinct while in such a state will possibly incur the immediate attack of any guardian spirit.

1.6.4 Our World and the World of Myth

One problem with adding rules for religion (or any aspect of a fantasy world, really) is that one has to decide what it is that one is trying to simulate. Does one simulate how religion was actually performed in real life or instead simulate what people believed was going on?

This carries through into almost everything about holy spaces. People believed that the gods liked sacrifices. Yet, with the exception of killing things, it was obvious that sacrifices didn’t really do anything except lie on the altar getting rusty/rotten/tarnished/stolen.

Primitive people had to rationalise some other form of sacrifice and common examples were breaking items, burying them, or throwing them somewhere inaccessible so that the owner would never be able to use them again, making them a sacrifice in the sense of losing something. The pretence being that the owner’s loss was somehow the gods’ gain.

But in a game, what happens? Does the gold given to the temple actually vanish? If so, what the hell are the gods doing with gold coins, torcs, and jewellery?

Items are an easier fit with the idea that the sacred space is in some sense the god’s house and so can be regarded as decoration. A cthonic deity might well be happy to have things buried in the ground.

I think a playable solution is to distinguish between sacrifices and dedications.

A sacrifice is materially consumed by the deity. That means that it is transported from the site of sacrifice to wherever the deity’s home is in the inner or outer planes, where that being can decide what to do with it. What is an acceptable sacrifice depends on the deity.

A dedication is something which is given to the god but which remains in its material home where it was placed, and is available for use by those sent on specific missions from that site.

Both of these conceptions are supported by the ceremony spells in UA. They are analogous to the keeping or selling of magic items. A sacrifice is more immediately rewarding; a dedication is a long-term investment.

Historically, and indeed currently, most temples and churches have been happy to accept cash for the simple reason that the priesthood could use it (similarly with food offerings, although Akhenaten was a notable exception, insisting that food be left to rot rather than eaten).

Again, in a fantasy world the question is what to do about cash sacrifices - do they vanish or remain. I’m inclined to go with the latter for the majority of gods.

Cash can be used to expand the holy areas and maybe pay for guards and so forth. For some deities a reasonable use might be to hire mercenaries or spread corruption and gambling. So long as the earthly representatives remember that, once sacrificed, the money is their god’s and not their own then they should be okay.

  1. Stop Waffling

    All of the above is a way of saying that sacrifices and dedications should affect the “standing” of a cleric (or any worshipper, in fact) in some way that I can not quite define.

    Characters not in good standing will not be able to renew spells until they have atoned, and if they go a long way beyond the pale, such as borrowing dedicated arms and not returning with them when they are needed for someone or something else, they may become anathamatised as mentioned above.

  2. The Free Market in Worship

    An important word in the study of religions, particularly polytheistic ones, is “reciprocity”. This the idea that humans do something for their deity in return for the deity doing something in return.

    The problem is that no deity ever actually does anything in return since they don’t exist. That means that there is nothing which fixes any sort of ratio between what is sacrificed or dedicated to the god and what the worshipper gets in return. The Aztecs got nothing more for their conveyor-belt approach to human sacrifice than the English Christians of 1316’s harvest festivals did to prevent the Great Famine

    From a game point of view, there’s nothing to hang off this back-and-forth as it simply didn’t actually exist.

    However, in a fantasy game we have living gods taking an interest in the world “below”. What each wants from that interaction should be defined, as mentioned above, by their alignment, sphere of interest, and personality. Essentially, I’m saying that each deity (and each aspect of each deity) should have it’s own requirements for being in good standing there and that the “exchange rate” will vary, possibly wildly.

    For example, a simple site devoted to a CE god of disease may offer cure disease in return for a human sacrifice while a NG god of healing might do the same thing in return for donating funds towards building a hospice within a holy site. Or in return for dedicating the head of a mummy or other disease-spreading monster.

    There’s no way to draw up a generic system for this sort of thing. In particular, I reject Gygax’s suggestion in Dragon #97 of a universal system of power-brokerage. I think that’s just the temptation to systematise every detail that many of us are vulnerable to.

  3. The Negative Effect of Gods

    In the real world, religion develops and changes according to the needs of the worshippers. This isn’t unexpected since it was they who invented the deities, chose the sacrifices, and set the rules. Socially, this allows the religious leaders to adapt instead of condemning new ideas (an option they don’t always take).

    As M.A.R. Barker noted in his own fantasy world of Tekumel (Empire of the Petal Throne), if the gods are actually real then this flexibility goes away. Or, at least, the option resides with the deity rather than its followers. Priests and clerics are the enforcers of their gods’ views of how the world should work and if that god says that electricity is an abomination, then it is their job to hunt down anyone working on generating it and stop them. Potentially at least, progress itself becomes blasphemous.

    While this may grant the DM an in-built excuse for why their world, or some region or other therein, has never developed beyond the point at which the DM wants it to had reached, it may also give players something to fight against. Perhaps another set of plot hooks, or just a pain in the neck for the DM, depending on how they handle this.

1.6.5 What is a cleric?

In this vision of the religious character, an AD&D or D&D cleric is an active agent. To make an analogy with a temporal baron, the normal “priest” takes the place of a steward to the god while the cleric is the champion sent out int the world to take care of some business or to win some prize.

This model is a much happier and clearer fit, especially if we eliminate the whole concept of Concordant Opposition that was introduced in D&DG. Doing so leaves all clerics as having a non-neutral alignment and that means they all have a diametrically opposed alignment. Even more plot hooks!

Now, any adventure for a cleric has a purpose of some sort - at the very least to bring back great prizes or wonders to give to their god, and beyond that the chance to root out the actions of the opposing alignment(s).

The cleric is no longer a strange anomaly, a priest with no church, but an active agent in the world much more in keeping with the class description in PHB but with no mysterious questions about why they never have any religious duties. Adventuring is their religious duty. Not necessarily proselytising but certainly carrying on work which pleases their god. And back at base there’s a whole body of priests looking after the god and with whom the cleric has a reason to interact.

There are several other types of holy agent in the game, however:

  1. Paladins

    Paladins must likewise visit holy sites in order to change their clerical spells and to dedicate or sacrifice their tithe.

  2. Bards and Rangers

    Similarly, bards and rangers must spend time with druids in order to adjust their druidical spell lists.

  3. The Demi-humans

    Just as human deities are interested in things on the material plane, so other races’ deities may have other spheres more relevant to them. Thus, perhaps, we have an explanation for the lack of dwarven, gnomish, and elven PC clerics - these races worship gods with no specific interest in the realms in which most adventurers travel. Thus they are unavailable for normal play.