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Runequest Empires - Practical use?

posted Jan 24, 2013 11:07:44 by d.w.johnston
For some time the Runequest Empires book has appealed to me. Not in the traditional sense of using it as a background for running my adventures, but as a mechanism to generate history/detail for a campaign setting.

My idea has been to start small nations (all primitive) with d3 for initial statistics, set the turn rate to about 1 turn = 100 years and see which grow and thrive and which die off (the random events can cut down a small nation of primitives with ease).

I have a map prepared and had thought of the following rules to represent spread of population. Initial civilisations must spread to new map areas instead of increasing size, they may only increase size when all areas around them are occupied already. Each new area occupied will start a new nation to manage, which will inherit the statistics and cultural identity of its "Seed" nation.

This should give me a rough feeling of cultural / racial spread.

I have worked on a script to do almost all the "work", but there are a few points I would like to get some feedback on before proceeding.

1. What Trigger event should occur that would promote a nation to "Barbarian-hood". I felt that Culture should reach at least 25 for this to occur. The random charts for events have triggers that cause the growth of culture occasionally, which would then need to be improved over time to reach the threshold of becoming Barbarians. Can you think of a better mechanism than this?

2. The Siz -> Population chart seems quite large for such small cultures, so I planned to alter it and have smaller numbers at the bottom. Here is the original chart and my proposed change.

SIZ Population
1 100,000
2 300,000
3 500,000
4 650,000
5 800,000
6 1 million
7 1.25 million
8 1.5 million
9 1.75 million
10 2 million
11 2.25 million
12 2.5 million
13 2.75 million
14 3 million
15 3.25 million
16 3.5 million
17 3.75 million
18 4 million
19 4.25 million
20 4.5 million
21 4.75 million
Then a further 0.25 million for each point

Changed Size Chart
1 10,000
2 20,000
3 40,000
4 80,000
5 100,000
6 150,000
7 200,000
8 300,000
9 500,000
10 650,000
11 800,000
12 1 million
13 1.25 million
14 1.5 million
15 1.75 million
16 2 million
17 2.25 million
18 2.5 million
19 2.75 million
20 3 million
21 3.25 million
22 3.5 million
23 3.75 million
24 4 million
25 4.25 million
26 4.5 million
27 4.75 million
Then a further 0.25 million for each point

Can you think of any changes that would improve the changed chart?

3. Is there any further changes you think would improve this idea? ... or even simplify it?

For anyone who lacks the Runequest Empires, our kind hosts "The Design Mechanism" sell it for a wonderful 99 cents (63p), it makes very interesting reading!.

Your comments and suggestions are very welcome, as well as input from anyone who has used this system previously?


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6 replies
d.w.johnston said Jan 24, 2013 11:12:22
For those interested .. here is a link to RQ Empires
Afon y Bydysawd said Jan 25, 2013 02:08:19
I tried using Empires to develop a campaign world two years ago (?). I found a couple of the steps difficult and/or long to follow and gave up on it. I considered making a script to do the work for me, but in the end it was easier just to design the world without the Empires book. I think for a "let's progress the world into the future", something like Empires could be fun. But for world-building? eh, it didn't work out for me. I'd be interested in seeing the results of your work if you choose to make the script available.
sdavies2720 said Mar 04, 2013 21:27:01
I've played around with Empires as well, and also would love to see anything you're willing to share.

I think the biggest challenge with Empires is figuring out scale and how things relate back to in-game numbers. For instance, I started using Empires when my players' characters rebuilt a castle & were awarded the fief. I thought it would be great to use to manage the year-to-year progress of the region. But tying things back to meaningful in-game numbers was hard (our wealth just went up, how many man-at-arms can we hire?).

I ended up going back and fudging some (very very old) notes I had from Chivalry & Sorcery.

You population chart looks ok, but I'm curious what problem you're solving (or what you want to make happen)

dreamer_prophet said Mar 05, 2013 19:52:39
Good luck with the project; it's something I fancied having a go at, but never got around to. I did give some thought to grounding the characteristics in some actual figures. I didn't get awfully far, but FWIW I'm happy to share what I have:

Military Strength (MIL)
MIL is a measure of the militarization of the society. To determine the percentage of the total population that makes up the “draft pool” of potential combatants available to fight Divide MIL by 10. A feudal society that expects 200 heads of population to support a knight and two men-at-arms to answer a call to arms (1.5%) has MIL 15. At its height in the 10th century, the Byzantine army stood at an estimated 150000 out of a population of around 18 million (0.8%) or MIL 8 (Byzantium had quite a large slave population, which, for obvious reasons, it would not want to carry weapons). A society can potentially muster three times this number for a short time, though this carries the very serious risk of causing famine as workers are taken away from the fields.

Religion (REL)
The culture’s inclination to create public religious institutions (e.g. the Catholic Church or the Imperial Cult of Ancient Rome). REL/10=% of population fully committed to their spiritual occupation. Example, in medieval Europe there was one clergyman per 40 population, and one priest per 25-30 clergymen. Approximately 2.6% of the population or REL 26. (see Empires p.48; REL shouldn’t be lower than 18. During the Renaissance consider REL to fall to 17 or 18.)

Wealth (WTH)
Indicates the percentage of the population living above subsistence level. More than 90% of the population of medieval Europe was engaged in subsistence agriculture, so average “Wealth” would be about 10. As most of the population not engaged in agriculture were tradesmen living in towns, Wealth can therefore also represent the approximate index of the urbanization of a population (again: 10% in medieval Europe; in 13th century Italy urbanization reached 20%; in Imperial Roman times urbanization in Italy has been estimated at 32% comparable with 18th century Europe! Medieval Byzantium was about 25%.
Kris said Apr 03, 2013 21:19:38
Hi, I am new here and I am pretty new to runequest, but not Pen&PaperRPG. I hope my (long) post makes sense.

I recently bought the 1$ Empires pdf (what a deal!) and I am very impressed.
I love deep, complex worlds for my player to explore and Empires was just the book I needed.

Now, I have had some questions and improvised some to come to my own conclusions before I stumbled in here.

I would like to present you my SIZ List for smaller kingdoms (No real multi-state-empires formed on my young continent as of yet).
My biggest problem was, that I have a important, quite small city state. Originally I thouth it would have ~10,000 People. It is SIZ 2 with 50,000 People, now.
This chart has a nice, regular flow in numbers. I plotted it in excel and saw that there were as little bumps as possible.

SIZ - Population
1 - 25,000
2 - 50,000
3 - 100,000
4 - 150,000
5 - 250,000
6 - 350,000
7 - 500,000
8 - 650,000
9 - 800,000
10 - 1,000,000
11 - 1,200,000
12 - 1,400,000
13 - 1,600,000
14 - 1,800,000
15 - 2,000,000
16 - 2,250,000
17 - 2,500,000
+1 - + 250,000

One major Problem I had: MIL.
How do I define MIL for empires that vary from 50,000 to 2,000,000 People? (2-15 SIZ in my List)

In the book it says that MIL is how large the army of a kingdom is. That makes sense, as its number gets reduced by damage and thus is an absolute number of soldiers, that... well, die.
Of course, even if 50% of the smallest kingdom are warriors, their army wont get near the size a kingdom with 2mil people can muster.
Taken from the post above I assume that 1.5% of the population is the "normal" size of an army and thus the same MIL as SIZ.
This way I can move the "conscription %" up or down for militaristic or more peaceful nations.
My Army size List:
MIL - Soldiers
1 - 375
2 - 750
3 - 1500
4 - 2250
5 - 3750
6 - 5250
7 - 7500
8 - 9750
9 - 12000
10 - 15000
11 - 18000
12 - 21000
13 - 24000
14 - 27000
15 - 30000
16 - 33750
17 - 37500
+1 - +3750

Now, if my SIZ 2 has a conscription rate of ~5% it has a MIL of 4
My SIZ 10 kingdom (1,000,000 People) is more peaceful, but huge, their 1% rate equals an army of 10,000 which si a MIL of 8

This is (for me!) a (more or less)realistic way to now and show how large armies are.
Of course it pretty much ties SIZ and MIL together, but that comes from the nature of empires, and armies... right?!

Pew, that was long...

Now for my question.
How would you model a rebel faction?
As a Faction from the Guilds, Factions and Cults book?
Because their SIZ of course is very low, but they are almost all soldiers.
So if the rebel base is 2000 strong, thats about a MIL 4 in my book but a faction of SIZ 19 by the Guilds book.

But if I model it as another kingdom its a SIZ 0-1...

Maybe I am overthinking this... Anyway, thanks for the great great book, it really inspires me to think about this stuff!

BTW, I plot my maps taking into account real people per square miles, taken from this great post:
Medieval demographics made easy

And that is why I don't want to inflate numbers, because I plan for certain travel times... So it all has to come together nicely :)

P.S. no preview function? Oh oh... good luck me!
lawrence.whitaker said Apr 03, 2013 22:45:28
Here's another practical use for RQ Empires...

Your son has an English project about invasions. Cue Dad digging-out RQ Empires...
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