Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Under New Management: Castle Ravenloft

But the property taxes are a killer

Before Gencon, the Gothic Greyhawk game saw the players defeat Strahd and continue to explore Castle Ravenloft looking for Strahd's storied treasures.  Now that Strahd is gone, a lot of the remaining undead are becoming free-willed and will harass the valley for some time to come - so the players will likely decide to spend time clearing the castle and pacifying the valley.

Castle Ravenloft:  horse & carriage not included
They've expressed an interest in taking the castle over as their latest real estate venture.  It's what players do - clear dungeons and then claim the property if they think it's worth something.  They used to own a nice secluded tower and a crumbling inn, but those areas were overrun by thousands of zombies and I think they'll have to consider them a loss.  But Barovia has beautiful mountain air, scenic vistas, tough and hardy peasant folk, and an opening for the top job of ruler - I'm thinking one of the guys will be getting a jump on domain ownership.  Since no one is sure of the status of the zombie war in the lowlands, it could even be a while before the Earl of Sterich gets wind about the new Lord of Barovia and has something to say about it - neither Strahd nor Barovia were vassals, but he may want to annex Barovia when it's under new management.

Adventurer Conqueror King (ACKS) has some campaign rules to help adjudicate domain management for your D&D game, so I figured I'd test them with Barovia.  Here's what an ambitious PC could be looking at if they wanted to claim Castle Ravenloft.

Barovia is fairly depopulated after Strahd's reign; the village has only 32 families left in it and another 96 in the surrounding countryside, giving the 6 mile hex for the domain 128 families (640 people).  Based on population density, the ruler of the castle will need to claim both valley hexes (2 - 6 mile hexes - 1 Borderlands, 1 Wilderness).  If I did the math right, it will generate 1,024gp in land revenue, 512 gp in services revenue, 256gp in tax revenue (total of 1,792gp per month in revenue).

Now for the expenses.  It takes a garrison to secure a domain, so the PCs will have to secure the services of 512gp value in mercenaries or men-at-arms.  No free followers appear until 9th level!  512gp would buy around 40 heavy infantry or crossbowman - typical chainmail wearing mooks.

Now - how about that amazing castle?  First off - has anyone seen Castle Ravenloft?  It's got to be one of the most over-the-top Gothic monstrosities around.  Assuming I calculated the costs right, Ravenloft would have cost something like 1,152,500gp to build new - over a million gold pieces.  The curtain walls are 90' when the standard castle might have 30-40' walls; towers are 90' or higher when 40' towers are the norm.  Based on the upkeep calculation, keeping Ravenloft in good repair would cost 5,762gp per month.  Winning Castle Ravenloft is like being bequeathed Graceland or the Neverland Ranch and then realizing you're going to owe more in property taxes than you make in a year.

Still - if you want to be a high flying adventurer and show off your bling, you should have the right crib, too.  Nothing says "We came, we saw, we kicked some legendary ass", like setting up shop right in Castle Strahd and mounting a few vampire teeth on a plaque.  "And over here we have the ashes of the previous owner on the mantel, right next to Lareth the Beautiful's dented helmet, the Hand of Vecna, Eclavdra's tentacle rod, and one of Bigby's  lesser spell books."

In other words, the upkeep means they won't be lacking in motivation to go sack some dragon hordes for extra money to maintain that 'lifestyle of the rich and famous'.  Eventually, you'd hope the population in the valley starts to grow so the revenue base improves, and the castle become supportable.

Some final considerations.  The morale of the populace was demoralized under Strahd (to say the least) so there's plenty of room for improvement under new management.  The players can expect to tithe about 179gp a month to the church to start turning around that morale.  Barovia is a class VI market (the smallest kind) and seems to generate Hides, Glassware, Gems, and Monster Parts (duh) as popular trade goods, based on my random rolls on the trade goods tables.  Spices are a commodity here, and one would do well to bring Spices to market in far off Barovia if you want to turn a profit.

Like I mentioned in "Gothic Greyhawk is getting the ACKS", I don't see why the magic users couldn't get started on their workshops and libraries, the clerics will certainly start rebuilding the faith, and the thief can establish his first hideout.  None of them would attract their free 9th level followers if they started early, but it'd add a new dimension to the game.

Fun stuff - it didn't take long to put together those stats for the domain.  Should be interesting to see what the group does with their shiny new MONEY PIT.  I did take some good natured grief from Mrs Beedo while figuring this out:  "I can't get you to look at the checkbook but you can calculate economics for your fantasy world? ", followed a few minutes later by, "Remind me never to build my own domain when I play D&D with you guys.  The last thing I want to do in a fantasy game is have to worry about paying the rent".


  1. Oh boy! Anyone know the location of a good dragon horde they can direct them too?

  2. They'll have plenty of money to cover the first year's upkeep once they find Strahd's treasury, but yeah - I'm working up some leads for gamers that need to score a lot of gold for maintaining the high life.

  3. Very cool post. You should do one on a setting from each of the classic modules (the keep on the borderlands, the isle of dread, etc..) My players once wanted to move into the caves of chaos.

  4. The numbers could go backwards, too. I wonder if Strahd was keeping up his maintenance? The castle may be closer to crumbling than it appears.

  5. My player's aren't going to like that, but it makes perfect sense - they should have to invest a few months of upkeep up front just getting the castle back into shape. Muhaha.

  6. Wouldn't some of the now free-willed undead make off with at least some of the treasury? Or, if they aren't into lairs that allow them to live human-like unlives, maybe carrying off stuff that had been theirs before they died?