Fief and business rules so simple that they REDUCE bookkeeping

I talk about running a D&D business a lot because my players are always involved in some moneymaking scheme above and beyond the usual adventuring. I’ve tried the 5e rules on my group’s pizza joints, designer tabards, and bishoprics, and I’ve cobbled several sets of business rules together, and I haven’t really been happy with any of them. Either they’re too profitable or not profitable enough, and they always add a layer of bookkeeping. I think I’ve got a solution that cuts the Gordian knot.

Business, fiefs, and other investments don’t give you money, they pay your lifestyle expenses.

Post-it-note sized rules summary:

Investments (businesses, feifs, etc) pay for your lifestyle expenses. Cost is at the DM’s discretion: 1000 gp and 1 month per 1 gp daily allowance is a good starting point. Optional: roll a monthly random encounter check. An encounter means a threat to your investment which might reduce or raise your income.

I like 5e’s lifestyle expenses, although I don’t recall making my players pay them that regularly. Doing the accounts is a little bookkeeping task that’s fiddly enough that it often goes unremembered. What if owning a business (or feif or temple) is a way of buying your way out of this chore?

How much should it cost to invest in a business? As a rule of thumb, say that it will pay for itself in about three years (say 1000 days). That means that a shop that will pay you a modest lifestyle (1gp a day) costs around 1000 gp. A barony that will pay for a low-end aristocratic lifestyle (10gp) is worth 10,000 gp. Let’s throw in a time cost too: a month of downtime per 1000 GP. That means that building a baronial castle will take about a year.

Adjust this ballpark price based on circumstance and player cleverness. A fief with a mouldering castle might be given free as treasure, but it might still take 50% of the normal downtime and cash to get it running. An ice-cream shop in Al-Qadim will be more profitable than one in Icewind Dale.

Upgrading a business is easy – pay 1000 gp and 1 month, more or less, to add 1 gp to your living expenses, or if you need 1000 gp in a hurry, do the reverse (no downtime required).

Every business has growing pains

Here’s one bit of optional bookkeeping: every month, roll a random encounter check for the business/fief (17-20 on a d20, or 6 on a d6). An encounter means an event that requires the players’ attention: bandits move into their fief, for instance. If the players don’t deal with the situation, their daily income goes down by, say, 1 gp. If they deal with it adequately (kill the bandits) the problem goes away. If they deal with it cleverly (convince the bandits to join the militia) their living allowance goes up by the same amount.

I recognize that this monthly die roll reintroduces some of the complexity I removed. But it’s less like bookkeeping and more like a source of adventure hooks.

7 Responses to “Fief and business rules so simple that they REDUCE bookkeeping”

  1. Rhenium says:

    The interesting issue I see is the necessary downtime.

    Baronial estates (for example) require a seneschal. If they are good, they’re going to cost you or they’ll leave for better pay elsewhere. If they’re bad, then they may bankrupt or destroy the resource. The time cost will likely be much greater than anything else, but hey free money.

    It would be interesting to run a campaign where the two months away (because ten months of maintenance for estates) is where all these middle-aged adventurers get to run off and have some fun plundering dungeons. Just like they used to do before they all ended up in middle management of a local empire. The wizard complains about her damn apprentices, the fighter about how he’s tweaked his back from carrying all those copper pieces that one time, the thief now has a wife and three kids, etc, etc…

  2. Dariel says:

    Brilliant! How about a rule limiting how many ‘guests’ you can maintain per month at your given lifestyle? Without this every PC could just end up mooching off the baron’s son … :-)

  3. EdOWar says:

    Nice set of rules for businesses and such. I think I will borrow them. Many thanks.

  4. I see the potential for all kinds of mischief in this. Very nice.

    Rhenium also present some interesting ideas.

  5. Josiah says:

    I really like this and it will be going into my games straight away! I did have a question: do you have a place with all of the ‘post-it-note’ rules posts collected together?

  6. 1d30 says:

    Rhenium: If your campaign setting has a seasonal rhythm where the Summer warring happens after crops are sown and before the harvest, and adventurers can extend that into Spring and Fall because they have fewer responsibilities, there’s a low-level version of that happening. If Winter isn’t kickbutt enough to keep people from traveling, though, it’s a constant adventuring season. Also, if the focus of play is underground, weather matters less – although traveling from dungeon to town can be onerous. At high level Winter matters less because of all the hippogriffs and flying carpets and Teleports – and the responsibilities of a fief can hop in at just that time. It’s not that the players can’t adventure outside Summer anymore, it’s that their responsibilities keep them busy. Post-fief, I could see Spring and Fall being mostly administrative, during Summer you’re fighting off bandits and other lords or going off to war for your king, and when everything cools off for Winter and the peasants are mostly just hanging around indoors you can nip off for some adventure.

    This suggests that a random encounter table for the nearby area would look a bit like this:

    Spring: lots of farmers, building / repairing defensive structures, low-level adventuring bands
    Summer: Armies of low-level conscripts, militia, and mercenaries
    Fall: farmers again, desperate raids by the ill-prepared for Winter, low-level adventuring bands
    Winter: Extremely desperate monsters / bandits who know they won’t survive Winter, high-level adventuring bands escaping their fiefs

Leave a Reply