To the Manor Born: Fief Generation in the World of Greyhawk Part I
Date: Sat, June 11, 2005
Topic: The Game Engine

Congratulations! Your character has reached a point in her adventuring life when she wants to buy land - a fief. You could use the rules to create fiefs in expsensive supplements. But they are too complex. Or, you can use this adaptation of the fief generation rules from the D&D Companion rules set. Read on to see how easy a fief can be developed in your campaign.

To the Manor Born: Fief Generation in the World of Greythawk Part I
By: Glenn Vincent Dammerung, aka GVDammerung
Used with Permission. Do not repost without obtaining prior permission from the author.


When your character has achieved the status of landed nobility somewhere in the Flanaess, it is natural to ask just exactly what that means. This article discusses the specifics and provides a system of generating a fief. The system presented is an adaptation of the fief generation system originally introduced in the Companion boxed set of the original Dungeons and Dragons game. That system was subsequently reprinted in the original D&D Rules Cyclopedia. While there have been outstanding systems for fief development presented in Harn Manor and a Magical Medieval Society, both are very complex. The original D&D rules are rather simple by comparison. This article attempts to split the difference, but will choose simplicity that does not bog down play over a greater detail or realism that slows play to a crawl. This article is not edition specific and may be used in Greyhawk campaigns that use any rules set.

Fief Size

For convenience, a basic fief is assumed to correspond to a thirty mile wide hex. In the World of Greyhawk, it may be assumed that a basic fief is the equivalent of a single hex. It is, of course, possible to have fiefs that consist of multiple hexes. A basic fief is also not necessarily limited to the lowest ranks of nobility. In a strict hierarchy, this is possible but would ignore the difference in resources and population, and thus the value, of any particular one hex fief. Ultimately, how large the fiefs of the various ranks of nobles are must be determined by individual dungeon masters.

It is also possible to have fiefs that are smaller than a single hex. This may be done either by decreasing the available resources and population in the fief generation process or by declaring some smaller unit or portion of a hex, a hex equivalent. In the Flanaess, if a large, landed nobility is sought in an area that does not possess many hexes, smaller than one hex fiefs may be the way to go. In my Greyhawk campaign, this is what I do. I also enlarge the hexes to sixty miles across. The advantage of doing this is not only to increase the possibility of a larger body of landed nobility but to, at the same time, preserve substantial areas of wilderness that await exploration or development.

All of the following will look at a one hex baseline. Simple multiplication or division will account for fiefs greater than a single hex or those smaller.

Fief Population

Once a fief has been sized, it is necessary to determine the number of families living within the area. For convenience, one family is presumed to include five members. The number of families within a given hex is determined by a dice roll after an initial determination by the dungeon master based upon a categorization of the area using the following table:

Wilderness: 10-100 (1d10x10) Families
Borderland: 200-2000 (1d10x200) Families
Civilized: 500-5000 (1d10x500) Families

It is also possible to have no families in a true frontier area. The number of families generated represents the initial number inhabiting the hex. This number is not static but will grow over time. The number of families determines the growth rate toward a relatively stable, ultimate population using the following table:

FamiliesGrowth Rate
Per Year
Above five hundred families, a 1d6 die roll is made to determine monthly population growth, if any, according to the following table:
Die RollMonthly
Above one thousand families, population stabilizes and can only be adjusted by the dungeon master. Population growth represents both births and new families or individuals entering the area. Civilization breeds civilization. Of course, these numbers are averages and might be increased or decreased by the dungeon master based upon character actions or reactions to events. Special circumstances may justify further increases or decreases in population at any level.

Fief Resources and Income

Once a fief’s size and population have been determined, the income that will be derived from the fief will depend on the resources that are available to be harnessed. There are three general categories of resources, each of which generates a number of gold pieces per month. Some resources are, thus, more valuable than others. This is summarized in the following table:

Domesticated Animal Resources (cattle, sheep etc.): 2 gp per month
Agricultural Resources (grains, vegetables, flax etc.): 1 gp per month
Mineral Resources (copper, iron, tin, coal, clay, lead etc.): 3 gp per month

The total number of resources, without consideration of the type of resource, that will be found within a given one hex fief may be determined by the dungeon master or by rolling 1d8 on the following table:

Die RollNumber of
Once the total number of resources is determined (see above), the specific type of each resource must next be determined. For each resource generated above, the precise type of resource (Animal, Agricultural or Mineral) that is present in the fief may by be determined by the dungeon master or by rolling 1d10 on the following table:

Die RollType of
Thus, if we determine that a fief has three resources, we roll on the above table to find what each of the three resources are available. This, then, tells us how many gold pieces each type of resource can be produced. Of course, it is the population, the number of families, that will do the actual harvesting.

Before calculating annual income, two notes need to be made. First, annual income represents income to the landowner. It is presumed that in addition to the annual income to the landowner, each family also generates enough additional income to fully support themselves during the year. It is not possible for the landowner to reach this additional income without decreasing productivity to a degree that would offset, or worse, any additional income that might be derived. This article does not include a system for over taxation, because it is ultimately destructive of efficient fief management. Even evil landowners want to extract the maximum resources from their land.

Second, annual income is calculated using a ten month base, not a twelve month base. Revenue that would be attributable to the two months not accounted for is presumed to go toward maintaining and improving the fief, dealing with minor setbacks and conducting the ordinary business of running the fief, excluding tithes and taxes which will be discussed later. The alternative would be a more cumbersome list of maintenance calculations. This is unnecessary. No thinking landowner, even an evil one, will allow their land and its improvements to deteriorate because revenue would thus be decreased.

With these two caveats in mind, annual income is calculated as follows:
[No. of Animal Resources x 2 gp] x No. of Families = Animal Resource Income (ARI)
[No. of Agricultural Resources x 1 gp] x No. of Families = Agricultura Resource Income (VRI)
[No. of Mineral Resources x 3 gp] x No. of Families = Mineral Resource Income (MRI)

[ARI + VRI + MRI] x 10 = Total Annual Fief Income

From the Total Annual Fief Income, taxes to the government or any feudal lord must be subtracted, as well as tithes to the local church(s) or temple(s) according to the following table:

Taxation = -20% of Total Annual Fief Income
Tithes = -10% of Total Annual Fief Income

After taxation and tithes are subtracted, the remainder is the land owner’s Disposable Income that may be spent as he or she wishes.

It is possible to withhold either taxes or tithes. If taxes are withheld, the government or feudal lord will immediately embargo all trade with the fief, reducing the next year’s Total Annual Fief Income by 15%; there is also a possibility of military action to depose the fief holder or to collect the withheld taxes or both. If tithes are withheld, the local clerical authorities will immediately refuse all healing within the fief and will not perform marriages or funerals; all of this may incite the local populace to be unhappy, reducing the next year’s productivity and Total Annual Fief Income by 5%, and to perhaps revolt, which reduces Total Annual Fief Income to zero. To completely avoid taxation and tithes, it is necessary to move outside the jurisdiction of any government or religion, likely a total wilderness or frontier area with only the least population.

This article comes from Canonfire!

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