With us being in the middle of our Kickstarter, and with land and titles being offered in exchange for Influence Points and backing support, it’s no surprise that there’s a large number of questions about what it means to own land, what land can be used for, how one becomes a mayor, what the responsibilities of managing a settlement are, how one becomes noble, and what safeguards are in place to protect someone’s claims. I’ve pulled together this design journal in answer to those questions.
At over 8 pages and 4,000 words, it’s the longest design journal to date. It’s ironic in a way, as the system of nobility and titles in Elyria means that no more than 2,000 characters on a server will actually be noble, and it’s most likely going to be much fewer than that. If you include in the Aristocracy, it’s still no more than 10% of the population.
With that in mind, if you’re planning to just be an adventurer, a humble craftsman, an explorer or cartographer, or even a miner, chances are good you won’t need to know any of this for a good long while. Titles and Land Management truly is a game all-in-itself and not everyone will want or need to play. Actually, not a game. A dance. The Dance of Dynasties.
The Gentry are just your average landowners and can obtain land through a number of means. They can obtain land through “mawwiage”, inheritance, purchasing from the local count, and of course, through Adverse Possession. While not something we'll cover in this design journal, it's also possible to purchase land through influence points prior to the launch of Exposition. Let’s take a look at the others in more detail.
Perhaps the most straightforward route to obtaining land is through marriage. Unless the marriage contract is specifically altered not to share ownership, any land owned by either spouse becomes the shared property of both. We leave the option open for a prenuptial agreement because you never know, he/she may be a gold digger. Seriously, they may actually be trying to dig up gold on your land.
While it's possible to inherit land from yourself or from others, when the game first launches you'll likely be children of NPC families. In this case, you won’t inherit the land of your NPC parents unless you reach a certain amount of Favor with them. Otherwise, they'll will the land back to the Count. We did that because we didn't want the first generation of players to automatically get all the NPC land. They should still have to work for it. Yep, we think of these things. To inherit land from your NPC parents you’ll need to complete a certain number of tasks for them, make improvements to the land, etc. If you ask them, they’ll let you know whether you’re in the will or not.
In addition to marriage and inheritance, you can buy land from the local Count. The Count will have a Land Management Table in a public County office that shows all parcels of land within the county. The Count, or a representative he appoints (a land manager), can go in, insert blank deeds obtained from a scribe, and then drag/drop them onto the parcels of land on the table and fill in the values.
Then, anyone can come look at the table, see the unclaimed parcels of land with the "deeds" pinned to them, sign their name, put any required money "into the table", and take the deeds. Poof! They've purchased the land.
The nice thing about this system is it means there’s no need for the Count/land managers to be online to sell the land. The Count or land managers just need to set prices and put stuff up for sale ahead of time.
Once you've purchased a plot of land, you own it and can legally build on it. And before anyone asks, yes you can re-sell your recently purchased land. You can even build a Land Management Table of your own that shows all the land you own and put it up for sale.
The last way to obtain land is through Adverse Possession. Adverse Possession is the process of obtaining land that was previously owned but has been abandoned. Abandoned land is land which has not been visited by owners or family members in the last 28 real-life days. Right away, that means it’ll most often be land that’s remote, infrequently visited, or land which has been left unattended due to people going offline for several weeks or months. Once a land has been officially abandoned someone can attempt to take possession adversely. Hence the name.
We changed the system slightly since last time we talked about this system as a result of the introduction of the Land Management Table. Now, you go to the Land Management Table located at the County Seat and it'll show you the land on it that has become "Abandoned".
While at the table you can submit your own contract in place of any contract that existed for abandoned land. You’ll need to obtain a new contract from a scribe before-hand, but once doing so you can specify the purchase price, property tax, etc. Basically, whatever you want. The contract is between you and the Count, just like when someone normally buys the land, but because you're claiming the land through adverse possession, it means you set the terms of the contract.
You put that into the table. And you click "Adverse Possession" in the UI and you’ll get back a copy of the deed/contract that’s set to become official in 28 days, assuming you maintain possession of the land. So you make your way to the land, build a simple house on it, and then keep the house from being destroyed for 28 days. After 28 days, if the structure hasn’t been destroyed, you own the land in full.
The nice thing about this is it gives the Count "notice" that you're claiming the land. If he sees the contract and doesn't like it, he may come and fight you off the land. If he does like the contract, maybe you were fair and generous, he may actually come help you defend the land from the previous owner. This process of signing a new contract is important because Adverse Possession is supposed to be a legal way to take ownership of land, not an illegal way, so there still needs to be a contract associated.
All that said, it takes almost a full two months to gain land this way from the moment someone abandons the land. One month for it to become officially abandoned, and one month for someone else to take ownership.
Now that we’ve spent some time talking about how to get land, you may be wondering what you can do with the land. This falls into three basic categories.
Residential & Commercial Construction – Buildings houses, inns, crafting buildings, taverns, etc. This just means using the land to build stuff on.
Agriculture – This means farming, beekeeping, breeding, harvesting, or really anything that involves the natural, renewable resources of the land.
Industry – This means mining or otherwise harvesting the non-renewable resources of the land.
No matter how you plan to use the land, as you gain more land adjacent to each other and attract friends to come and join you in your efforts, you start to move beyond a simple Gentry and into the realm of the Aristocracy.
The Aristocracy are the Mayors, Magistrates, and Barons. To transition from landed Gentry to Aristocracy you must follow a path of development for your land, growing it from one kind of settlement or another. Let’s talk about how you do that.
First, you, or you and some friends, buy three parcels of land next to each other, put a building with a few beds on each one of them (enough to hold 10 people minimum), and put a well in the middle. That creates a Hamlet. Everyone within the three parcels of land get water automatically when on the land. That means while your thirst still goes up, you won't die of dehydration. At the same time, having a house and a bed means your fatigue won’t drop while you’re on one of the three plots of land.
Now, Hamlets are not registered. So aside from the benefits already described they provide no additional benefits. You can call your hamlet whatever you want but it won’t show up on any maps unless you mark it yourself. If you want any benefits beyond this, you have to expand.
If you expand your collective land up to a minimum of nine (9) parcels in more or less a square, build a Tavern, and grow the number of community members from 10 to 25, your Hamlet becomes a village. In addition to the benefits provided from any of the other structures you build on the land, having a Tavern on your land means that with fields, farms, or another source of raw food on your land your Tavern can begin to service the village, preventing starvation whenever you’re within the presence of the settlement.
Now, hamlets and villages have no system of governing as they’re generally going to have no more than 3-5 players living on them. Everyone who owns land in the village is a Village Elder and should have a say in what happens in village matters. Whoever owns the most land is naturally going to have more say.
As with hamlets, villages can be named whatever you want, likely won't show up on maps, and don't have to be registered with the county. But if you register, you get certain benefits. Namely, the Count will likely want to build a road, put it on the maps, and if you build structures with crafting stations that are "open", then NPCs from nearby areas might travel and join your village. They may then purchase land nearby to help grow your village.
As you continue to grow your land, build new structures, and expand the community size it will follow a similar pattern. Here are the actual requirements:
As your hamlet grows into a village, into a town, etc. so too must your infrastructure grow. The well we first built only covers a 3x3 area. So as you expand, you'll need to put in more wells, fields/farms for food for the taverns, windmills, etc. Of course, any plot of land along a river automatically gets water. So no need to build additional wells there.
Now, once you get to the point of having a town there is a Town Charter that is filled out. The person "in charge" of the town is the Mayor and everyone else are members of the Town Council. This is similar to Guild Leaders and Officers in other games. Generally speaking, the Mayor of the town will be the person who owns the most land under the town. But it doesn't have to be that way. Whoever registers the town charter with the county is the Mayor, regardless of whether they actually have the most land or not.
One of the questions people often ask is, what are the responsibilities of Aristocracy. That is, how does a Mayor (Town)/Magistrate (City)/Baron spend the majority of their day? As a hamlet/village, there's no special UI and they basically just work with their fellow hamlet or village elders to decide where to put plots of food, wells, and other small buildings. That’s it. Beyond that they can play however they want.
As a Town and above, there's a Town Management UI which lets you see your boundaries, zone parcels of land for leasing (residential, commercial, industrial), monitor settlement resources and taxes, and lets you identify where you want different types of structures to be built. This is, as you guessed, a table, much like the Count has, which goes in the Town Hall. Through this table, people can see the "town plan". And can work to bring the mayor’s vision of the town to life.
Once you hit City-level and above, and add a Courthouse, it becomes possible to customize the local laws using the desk at the Courthouse. As with the lower-level tiers, aside from defining some laws for your city, using the City Planning Table to identify where buildings should go, viewing the resource tables to ensure you’re getting the right resources into the town, and collecting taxes, you can otherwise play the game as you normally would.
It’s our estimation that with each tier of government comes an extra couple man-hours of management a week. Hamlets maybe 1-2 hours per week spent managing/meeting regarding the hamlet, villages 2-4, towns 4-6, cities 6-8, and capitals 8-10. Remember, at the point where you’re running a Capital, you’ve got 250+ people residing within your domain. These are of course estimates. Those people who prefer to be more hands-off can delegate many of the duties to others, and those who prefer to be more involved can walk the settlements making improvements themselves.
Hamlets, Villages, Towns, etc. each have a military counterpart. These military counterparts work much the same, except they are defensive structures, typically smaller, and are paid for by the Dukes, rather than requiring payment in the form of taxes to the Count. These are currently referred to as Outposts, Forts, Keeps, Strongholds, and Castles.
Like their civilian counterparts, they require the introduction of different buildings such as Lookouts, Barracks, Ramparts, etc. The leaders of Keeps, Strongholds, and Castles are, as you might have guessed, Barons instead of Mayors/Magistrates. Beyond that, the functions of the military structures are much the same as their counterparts.
Like a hamlet, outpost can be built anywhere. Same with a fort in comparison with a village. When you go beyond that, you sign a contract with the Duke that guarantees you resources in exchange for building certain structures, keeping a minimum number of people residing there, etc.
That said, civilian establishments can have military structures as well for defense. Nothing prevents you from building those things. It’s just that lacking a contract between the Duke and a settlement leader, requires it to remain a civilian settlement.
The Nobility are the Counts, Dukes, and Kings. The main questions people have about nobility is "How do I become noble?", "What are my duties as a noble?", and "How do I lose my nobility"?
There's a few ways to become Noble: Marriage, Inheritance, Claims, and Appointment.
Marriage is obvious. If you marry someone and the contract grants you a noble title, you become noble. You can now set laws in your regions and have the other privileges of your rank. Inheritance, same thing. If you inherit from a PC or NPC (with Favor) like you did land, you become a Noble.
This is the exciting one. To claim a Noble Title, you have to have a Casus Belli. There are three ways you can go about getting a Casus Belli: Favor, Fame, and Wealth. Note: the last two only apply to non-Nobles. Once you become a noble, only favor can be used. This was provided as a way to allow players of different paths to become Noble. Once you're Noble, you must play the Dance of Dynasties to move up.
Casus Belli from Favor
Let's say I'm a Mayor of a city in some county. If I can gain enough “favor”, I can either take over as Count of the county, or if I have enough land can claim independence and create my own county.
What does “favor” mean? Favor is a willingness by your peers, your noble's peers, or your noble's liege lord to support you. This is actually a written contract that they sign that assures you their support. So if you're a mayor, and you can rally enough other mayors (currently 2/3), you can claim Casus Belli and attempt to overthrow your count.
As previously stated, instead of getting the favor from the other mayors, you can alternatively curry favor with the other counts in your duchy - your count's peers. If you can get 51% of your count's peers to agree, then you have achieved Casus Belli. As with before, that gives you the opportunity to perform a coup.
Finally, if you can get 25% of your count's peers and their duke you’ve established a cause for war.
For King, there are no nobles above them. So you either need the dukes to rally against the king, or you need to gain favor with the other Kings. There's treachery afoot!
Casus Belli from Fame
Each noble title has its own fame. Legendary for Kings, Exalted for Dukes, and Renowned for Counts.
If you can reach the level of fame just below a noble title: Famous for Counts, Renowned for Dukes, and Exalted for Kings, you can automatically claim Casus Belli on the basis of being famous.
Then, the same process repeats as before. Of course, being an Exalted character might give you Casus Belli to claim the title of King, but you still need an army to defend your new capital. That's where more politics are involved. And as an Exalted character if you die while challenging the King, you suffer the spirit loss of being a now, Legendary character.
Casus Belli from Wealth
If you're able to accumulate some, yet to be defined amount of wealth based on play-testing, you can buy a Casus Belli. Of course, you still need the land to claim as your own, and you still need to pay mercenaries in order to invade/defend your new title, but it’s at least possible to get the “CB”.
Up until this point we’ve been talking about ways to obtain a Casus Belli, which allows you to initiate a coup. But here's where the fun starts. For the sake of the next section, you can replace the word Count with Duke or King in most circumstances. The process is mostly the same for each.
Once you've got the ability to coup, you must either set up a County Seat in your own lands and declare your independence of the former Count, or you need to march in and take the County seat from your predecessor.
At this point, it behaves much like Adverse Possession. If you set up a County Seat, the reigning count has 28 days to remove your county seat. If he succeeds, you forfeit your titles, a vacuum ensues, and he can appoint a new Mayor/Baron in your stead.
If you succeed, and he/she cannot force you off your lands, then congratulations! You've created a new county!
An alternative to setting up a new county of your own, which requires a significant amount of land, is to just march into the County Seat, and claim it as your own. If you can stay in the county seat for 28 days, you become the new Count. If you're killed…. well.... Yeah. You lost. No building needs to be destroyed in order to prevent your coup from succeeding.
Coups are divisive. If a Mayor coups and invades the County seat, the other mayors/barons have essentially three options.
Regardless of which option you choose, there is a potential loss condition for you. If you joined the pretender and he lost, or remained neutral when your liege summoned you, you committed treason. In the event your liege lord wins, you’re at risk of losing your title.
If you remained loyal to your old master, and the coup is successful, the new count could sue for peace, or could choose to stretch his/her army further and invade your lands as well. No matter which route you go, coups are dangerous times for everyone.
Fortunately, in order to have obtained a Casus Belli in the first place they had to gain significant support from either your peers, your liege's allies, or even their liege lord. That's no small thing, and you should very quickly be able to take the temperature of the situation and get a good idea for who the winner will be.
As just hinted at, a noble can remove their subordinates from power and appoint another lesser noble in their stead if and only if there's a vacuum or power struggle. This generally happens during the death of a noble without an heir, or if a title is revoked due to treason. (See previous section on coups)
If you, as a count attempt a coup, and fail, your title will likely be revoked, and the Duke can put someone else in your position. But here's the important thing to note, and I'll say it twice.
A title can only be revoked due to a player's choice of actions. A title can only be revoked due to a player's choice of actions.
You have to risk losing your title for it to be taken away. We will do what needs to be done to ensure that's the case. We do not want nobles tossing their lesser nobles for no reason.
Another thing to note, in the event a power struggle does occur and a noble is forced to fill the seat of a lesser noble, they can only do so with the lesser noble’s peers, or one step below. So if a duke is tossed out or dies, the spot can only be filled with another duke or a count. Likewise, a Mayor that is removed from power can only be replaced by another Mayor, or by someone else who owns land within the settlement.
Let’s say you're the count who's just been invaded and you fled your lands. You'll keep your title for another 28 days. During that 28 days you have a free Casus Belli to counter-attack and reclaim your position. After the 28 days, your title changes to "Deposed Count/Countess..." and you no longer have Casus Belli to claim that land as your own. Another thing to note, a noble can forfeit by returning their ring to the usurper. If the Usurper gets the rings of the noble, the titles is revoked immediately and given to the new noble.
So one possible scenario is the king is assassinated and the murderer takes his ring. This creates a power vacuum and one of the dukes uses that as an opportunity to coup, by gaining favor of 2/3rds of the other dukes. The assassin then returns to him the ring of the king. The king is dead, long live the king!
Final comment on that, you'll likely have land under the county seat as a noble. You'll also likely have land elsewhere, not incorporated into the settlement. The land under the settlement becomes owned by the new noble but any land you had not part of the settlement remains your private lands. So if you've got a farm somewhere you can always flee to that if you need to.
The Kings are responsible for setting the success or victory conditions for the kingdom. That is, it's the king who decides whether the kingdom will focus on research & technology, business and commerce, or military endeavors. Through their Kingdom Management UI, they can drive the direction of the kingdom. This uses NPCs or players to communicate to the dukes and counts, so they can drive toward that goal. Also, kings set laws and taxes for the kingdom using contracts.
Dukes set laws/taxes for their duchy, and are responsible for paying dues to their king. They're also responsible for law enforcement, military, and the defense of their duchy. They manage the Strongholds / Castles / Outposts, they assign sheriffs to each of the counties, and they appoint judges to the courthouses of the cities. They can use their map to keep track of crime rates and the sizes of their defensive structures, and in war, the dukes raise their armies and lead them into battle.
The Counts are responsible for resource management, building up settlements within their counties, establishing wealth and power for the kingdom, and encouraging research. The Count's UI is about creating trade routes, identifying where resources are being gathered, and funneling the money to/from the settlements.
Another question we get asked frequently is how many settlements, counties, duchies, and kingdoms will be in the world at the start of Exposition. The answer is, there's no precise answer. The worlds are procedurally generated and as a result, there’s a range of numbers with respect to kingdoms, duchies, counties, and settlements. That said, let me provide a few numbers.
First, there will be an average of 4 kingdoms per starting continent. Within the kingdoms there will be an average of 8 duchies. Here’s where it gets interesting, the sizes of a county can vary so widely that there can be as a few 8, or as many 64 within a single duchy. On the high end, that could mean as many as 2,000 counties on a single continent. Of course, the counties would be so small they’d only allow for 100 or so characters in each. The other extreme results in over 750 characters per county. The end result will be somewhere in between. If we assume somewhere around 16 counties in a duchy, the law of averages would suggest around 400 characters per county. Given that we know the size of settlements to be 10, 25, 75, 150, and 250, it’s safe to say that a county could have any combination of up to 40 hamlets, 16 villages, 9 towns, 2 cities, and 1 capital. In reality, it’ll generally be a combination therein.
A couple examples might be:
That concludes this massive design journal. If you haven’t already, make sure you read the Update on Kickstarter to learn a bit more about how choosing kingdoms, duchies, counties, and settlements will work in Exposition. You can find the link here:
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