Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Land Measurements and a sim-economy.

I went off on a tear last time I brought up to topic of SIM economics. I threw out a lot of numbers and reveled in math and I'm going to do it some more. A lot of building a medieval economy (even a fake one) ties in with the land. Us modern folks still depend on the fruits of the land but most are removed from that to the point it isn't really part of our everyday language. We may use the term acre, but most folks don't really know what an acre is or have a real reference of how much land is required to feed us.

A lot of the old time measurements were tied to the land. That's what was worth measuring after all.

An Acre is a basic unit of land measurement. It really has no fixed dimensions but is an area of 4,840 square yards. An easily measured acre is one furlong long and one chain wide (660ft x 66 ft). The old definition of an acre is how much land a pair of oxen can plow in a halfdays worth of work , actually a whole day: Oxes are a pain to work with and must be fed and watered and rested to keep them healthy and fit for plowing so that half a day is really still a days work for the ox team.

There are 640 Acres in a square mile of land. I'll get back to that later.

Moving up from an Acre we find ourselves with an Oxgang (or bovate). An oxgang is how much land a single ox can plow in a season and still allow the crop to get sown. The actual area of an oxgang can vary by the demands and difficulties of the local terrain, for ease of math I'm going to go with 15 acres. Oxen weren't usually kept as lone animals as they were often kept in teams of eight oxen and a pair are normally used to plow which causes the identification of a unit of land that two oxen can plow in a season as a Virgate (or Yardland) of 30 acres. As the ox were kept in teams of 8 that gives us another unit of area known as a Ploughland (or Carucate) which is the land a full team of 8 oxen can plow in a season (120 acres).

The units of land and how important they were are part of the language that defines the land, economy and population. A person who occupied, worked or was responsible for aVirgate of land would be know as a Virgater. A person rsponsible for 1/2 that much land would be know as a Bovater. The tax levied on a carucate was called a Carucage.

The Carucage is the taxation levied on a single household as defiend for manorial property and taxation purposes.. So a Caricate of 8 Bovates (120 acres) is how much land is needed to support a household. This land was also known as a Hide.

A Knight's Fee of five hides is enough land to support a fully equipped knight. This Scutage , being the money that could be raised from 5 hides of property is what it takes to support 1 Knight in a traditional feudal setting. A person would be allowed to work that land by supplying the Knight or the coin that would hire a knight from the proceeds of those 5 hides.

A Fief is the holding that allows Knights to be maintained. A fief could of course be smaller then a Knight's Fee and could be as small as a a Hide (or Caricate) as that land is intended to support a household.

So in an ideal situation a typical Fief would have 5 Caricates (for a total of 600 acres). This land is supposed to be enough to support a Knight, support his family, keep him armed and stable a warhorse in addition to paying other taxes, duties and expenses the Knight would incur.

600 acres to a Knight's Fee (or Fief) is awfully close to a square mile. For campaign economy building purposes I'm going with 5 hides to a square mile for ease of accounting.

Those 5 hides have to support: A Knight, his wife, children, other family members, retainers, servants and farmers along with warhorse, other steeds and oxen to work the land.

Above the Hide there are other units of land. There is the hundred (which is measured at a size of 100 Hides). This is the land adequate for 100 households. A hundredman (or hundred elder) would be responsible for administering the territory and maintaining the troops drawn from it which could number 100 soldiers or 20 knights. A hundred could be split into 10 tithings of 10 families. Within each of the hundreds there is ideally a formal meeting place where then men of the hundred meet to discuss local matters and a hundred court of sorts could be held.

Above the hundred we have the Shire. A shire was administered by a Shire-Reeve (or Sheriff). A shire can vary wildly in size and may or may not be considered a County. A shire need no be manged by or owned by a Count.

A hundred (which supports 100 households) will cover 20 square miles as that is the area of 100 hides. the shire will have no fixed definition here. A hundred is able to support 100 soldiers or 20 knights, the knights families, their retainers, staff, farmers, warhorses, other steeds and oxen.
For ease of accounting later in life of this rpg sim-economy I'm going to have each hundred ideally support 50 soldiers and 10 Knights (1/2 of the total possible of each alone)

How many knights and soldiers can then be supported on the Hexes of the average RPG map?

How much land does a hex actually cover? Measured in a width (W) from hex edge to hex edge the area a hex covers is W x W x .86.

For later ease of reference here are common hex sizes with area and hides along with Knights and soldiers (50% total knight possible and 50% total Soldiers possible) for each hex.

Hex Size....area in square miles....Hides .... Knights/Soldiers
5............... 21.5 .............................. 107 ....... 10/50
6............... 30.96............................ 154 ...... 15/75
8............... 55 ................................ 275 ....... 27/ 135
10.............. 86 .............................. 430 ....... 43/215
12.............. 123.84 ........................ 619 ....... 61/305
20............. 344 ............................. 1720 ..... 172/860
24............. 495.36 ........................ 2476 ..... 247/1235
30............. 774 ............................. 3870 ..... 387/1935

These figures by hex are only possible in good temperate clear hexes. In areas of more difficult terrain reduce the population possible. Possibly: In Areas of hills reduce Hides to 2/3 the area. I cool areas reduce the number of Hides by 3/4 again. In Forested Areas reduce the Hides to 1/3. In Mountainous or Swamp land reduce to 1/6 if occupied at all.

It's going to take a little work to get this working with my 4cp-large loaf of bread calculations from the earlier post. That will lamentably have to wait for yet another post.


  1. Very nice, thanks. I've recently started to study the era shortly after the fall of Rome to get a better understanding of the feudal society and thinking about the numbers helps visualize some of the information. I just may have to 'borrow' your rationale for my own worldbuilding.

  2. Glad you like it. I just edited the hex size chart as I had made a math error earlier.

  3. So...how many loafs in a hide? ;^)

    Very interesting stuff, please keep going.

  4. Wow. Nice and perfect timing. I've been hacking away at campaign demographics in my old campaign, and this dovetails nicely. Especial thanks for the hex size/land/support table.