Lifestyle Check Resource Rolls while building a new kingdom

Last year in the Swordlords game the players made an obstacle 8 Resources test to keep the old standing army of the new-dead nation of Rostland paid. Technically, it wasn’t the whole army, it was 400 members of the Olde Rostland Central Infantry Division but out on the Riverlands frontier, 400 professional soldiers goes a long way.

So, let’s say they make a lifestyle check this spring, or more accurately, the Swordlord makes that ob 8 check for the equivalent of a ducal household (I’m guessing, don’t have the BWG book in front of me). What is she buying with that roll?

I’ll say she’s paying the army, her servants and for food and general upkeep in her fortress. She’s paying for messengers. She’s paying and equipping her knights. She’s paying the folks who work in her gold-mine. She will equip local farmers around her local keep, Fort Hajek and will build grain silos and mills and such. I’d think that she is paying for her own clothes and the clothes of her servants - banners and some finery.

And if she fails that roll - maybe corners have to be cut. Maybe tough choices have to be made.

She still has to figure out the building of her castle, roads and other infrastructure things. Her knights will have to build their own manors, walls and castles. She still owes the carpenters who have been fixing Fort Hajek up for the past months, who have let the payment go past due for the privilege of living safely behind guarded walls with food and water.

She will get cash dice from the taxes she is set to receive from Spider Hill, Olegton and Spearpointe and the first shipment of gold from her recently started gold mine. She won’t get money from the Dakka merchant clan of horse-traders because they paid their taxes early so that the soldiers could be paid, in celebration of her engagement to her son but they are a city’s worth of taxes all on their own.

I am trying to think of anything I have missed.

Suggestions welcome…

To me paying the bills on time gets you obedience.

Late with payroll and maybe rumors spread about discontent in the ranks. She’ll have a choice to try to micromanage it or promise future conquest where the soilder will get a chance to loot and plunder.

Perhaps some soldiers just straight desert and turn into the bandits she’s been working to root out.

Another idea would be infrastructure failing. Tax collectors need escorts but sometimes accidents happen. It might be interesting for a cash die to be missing when taxes come in, and they aren’t able to figure out which town is short. She’ll have to decide what to do about the matter. In my head this might mean some interesting scenes of visiting towns to do audits and seeing how else the infrastructure has been failing.

Agreed. She made a big Orate roll to keep the soldiers in her pay and then when she made the Resources check, they stayed on again.

We are on the same wavelength, without a doubt. I hear ya.

What might be kool, if a bit too technical is breaking up how she spends her taxes. I don’t know her resource exponent or how many cash dice she has coming her way. so all these obstacles are all ballpark.

daily bread ration ob5
soldier pay ob6
administrator pay ob4
traveling troupe for entertainment ob3

Seeing how she spreads her cash dice and in what order she pays these could be interesting. It would also mean she has somewhat a choice about where she fails.

You could also make each of those just an open test, and the better she rolls the better it goes. but that takes some of the bite out of it, unless of course a roll completely fails.

Breaking down lifestyle into multiple tests has a few problems. One, you’re not Letting It Ride. Two, it’s usually easier to meet several low Obs than one high Ob. You need 9 dice to have a 50-50 shot at hitting Ob 5. With those 9 dice you have a greater than 90% chance to hit Ob 3. Making multiple tests will do all kinds of weird things to tax, advancement, and chances.

Also, if you’re basing Obs on a character’s stats, skills, or attributes, you’re doing it wrong. Don’t penalize characters for having high numbers, and don’t give them extra benefit for high numbers. The number is just that itself, and the Ob should be fixed. You might tweak the consequences of failure based on this, but don’t tweak the Ob.

I might separate lifestyle and army, though. You can live as a spartan campaigner or as a duke in the lap of luxury; you can skimp on both pay and kit for your men or you can ensure they are equipped well and paid welll. The two aren’t really linked.

Hiya Judd,

  1. Pre-modern armies were not typically paid. Soldiers joined up because they had to as part of their service to the system, or if they were veterans or nobility, for the promise of loot and pillage.
  2. Standing armies were rarely kept. Armies would be assembled for a purpose—to fight a battle or lay a siege, etc. When not on campaign, those soldiers were farmers, mercenaries or nobility.
  3. Your question of “what does the Ob 8 lifestyle maintenance test get a duke” is great. I don’t think it’d get the standing army. Instead, it’d keep the castle walls up, fires lit, rugs and tapestries in place, larders filled and staff employed.

But the trick—and this is for BW as much as real life—is to not pay that bill, but to get others to pay it for you. Dukes levied taxes on their subordinates in order to pay for their lifestyle.
In Burning Wheel, you can represent this by extracting cash and fund dice from those underneath you. For an Ob 8 test, you’ll likely need 12-14 cash dice on top of your resources.
So you’re talking about squeezing your barons and lords, who in turn squeeze their lords and knights, who in turn squeeze their knights and lease-holders. Each tier keeps most for themselves before passing their due up the chain.

The shit rolls down hill, but the cash flows up.


She’s probably got to send cash up the hill herself.

Hmm! This thread is fascinating.

This is a part of BW that I do not have a good sense of so it’s hard to get my mind around what I should be doing in play.

Zora is the above mentioned Swordlord. That is a title she both accepted and claimed which, status-wise, places her above knights, and seems somewhat equivalent to duke, though at this point there is no higher authority except the Swordsaints. I’m thinking if she gets the other Swordlords to answer to her she’ll be high Swordlord. But it wasn’t that long ago that she was just a soldier-knight. She is not built for this role in many ways - she’s learning as she goes. She has a Resources of 1 and it took several tries to get that far. I can probably get her up to a 2 before this roll. Not good, though.

It’s trickier to figure out because we’re building all of this…not exactly from scratch, but from a nation defeated and exiled. Most of people who gave Rostland structure are now bones ground into battlefields. Zora has a handful of knights under her, spread out through the villages. They have done the tax collecting and each oversees their territory. There are no barons in the Riverlands yet. Maybe a few lords. Some of these knights should probably get promoted since their responsibilities have grown considerably!

There is no castle to maintain, but a fortress getting built, which is no small thing. We’re working on a way to productively dispel and disperse the standing army. The tax thing is weird! We haven’t talked about specific numbers. I don’t have a sense of what is fair to demand for taxes or where I’d be squeezing. I know some of this is abstracted fiction, but it matters because of the amount of cash dice in my hand for the roll. It doesn’t at all feel like cash pouring in to boost Zora’s wealth - it feels like it’s coming in to pour completely out again in hopes that it won’t all start coming apart.

And when she fails at Resources and gets taxed, it also feels a little strange because she has a full-time job at this point, which is essentially pouring herself into the building up of, safety, and managing of the Riverlands, but it’s not quite reciprocal like an elaborate barter economy. With a few exceptions, the Riverlanders are not also pouring themselves into building a new nation out of service to it. They’re doing it for pay (and then paying taxes). It kinda works, but it funnels all of the responsibility to Zora, which seems a fragile way to build things.

This isn’t me complaining, btw - just thinking things through. Nation-building is obviously a challenging thing and I’m just not sure I have enough of a sense of how BW interacts with this to make good decisions in play.

These replies are fascinating.

Thanks, folks, lots to chew on here.

I’ll reply when I have a moment.


Wonderful to read how you’re approaching this as well. I think the great thing here is you and your character are really discovering how this stuff is supposed to work together. So what are fair taxes? Try something and make a roll for convincing your subjects that you’re not squeezing them. You are building a fortress to protect them, after all.

Promoting knights would definitely be an good approach. Or might Zora want to break with the traditional Feudal structure and have a different division of power and taxation? More centralised, following some religious structure, or maybe even matriarchal? This could also be how she structures the kingdom in a less fragile way.

Anyway, Judd and your posts are very inspiring to read and make me even more excited to start pushing for a full BW game at home.

Cool. Good stuff. Thanks, folks.

So, here are my thoughts. Zora will face an ob 9 Resources test, equal to a Ducal court. This will pay for:

Food and staff at Ft. Hajek, with staff including 50 guards, a smith and servants.
The local farms around Ft. Hajek
Her knights/lords around the Riverlands will get some money from that

The taxes will come in from

Refugees around Ft. Hajek, not much
Spider Hill, not much
Olegton, a tidy sum
Spearpointe, an interesting situation…

With an extra bump of gold coming from the recently open mine, a tidy sum

The Dakka family pre-paid their taxes but they will be offering a kind of tax-season/wedding gift to Zora and all of her knights upon the marriage of their eldest son to the Swordlord.

That leaves the army. A squad of soldiers wrote Zora a letter, asking to be released from service so they could settle the orc-infested lands south of Spearpointe:

The hand is that of a professional scribe, hired by soldiers.

Swordlord Zora of House Kucera
Warden of the Riverlands
Wielder of Bohuslav
First Sword General of the Olde Rostland Central Infantry Division

I write on behalf of a dozen soldiers whose marks have been laid at the bottom of this missive. Our stations are spread throughout the Riverlands, leaving no unit barren should you accept our proposal.

We would like your permission to settle the lands south of Spearspointe, just south of the Little Shrike River, along the Little Selton.

I have over a dozen soldiers with family and loved ones who would accompany me with carpenters, builders and stone-masons ready to accept our hard-earned silver.

The problem is that in war-time, soldiers cannot leave armed service and as no Swordlord has declared the old war as finished, our command structure has its strict orders. I realize that I am breaking the chain of command but we are eager to begin new lives away from pounding the earth with our boots.

The folk of Spearpointe and the surrounding villages have offered their blessings and good neighborly will. Lady Eliska asked that we talk to you. The first nine steadings will each have a patron Sword-saint, as our people will keep to the Olde Rostland Faith.

We know that this is orc country and we are prepared to defend ourselves with a cluster of armed farmsteads sketched out below. In time, we would ask that you look at our community and grant a knighthood to a leader among our number so that we might have an armed defender who make oaths upon you True Sword and do grace in your name.

We await your wisdom.

<list of a dozen names>

This is probably trivial (then again, we have 150 soldiers or so at Ft. Hajek) but let us not forget the tax from Jiri’s operation, too. If he wants legitimacy, we need the income.

Luke’s bit about standing armies is dead on, and a problem for us, since we’ve got the potential of both Orcs and Brevosi that requires military force. Hmm.

You will definitely get money from Jiri, the Knifelord, the Whore’s Squire…

Ob. 9?! How quickly can I scrap the feudal system, lol.

So Zora needs to marry Imre before this test.

And I’m seriously wondering if we need Ft. Hajek at all. I mean a place to live occasionally would be nice, but maybe a court is something that comes later.

Or…maybe Zora can get help from her parents. They need a place and they would be awesome for running an estate since Zora’s on the road a lot. They are powerful enough to get their way with decisions which could be a problem, but maybe a fun one. Hmmm!

Yup, I realized that was odd but it fit with Sgt. Hajek’s character concept and works for a nation wedged between Thellid barbarians and Brevosi Dukes who see Rostland as an annexed part of their own lands ruled by up-jumped knights with delusions of grandeur. The standing army kind of came out of ways that Hajek talked about his experience in the army during the first games.

Take some soldiers and raid a neighbor for some quick cash on hand!

Our neighbors are the ones that destroyed our nation. Thanks for rubbing that in, Pete. :frowning: :frowning: :frowning:


Can you tax something specific, not just ‘settlements’?

I’ve been watching a bunch of a british archeology reality show called Time Team and it seems like there was an awful lot of taxes on various goods, how many cows you have, certain kinds of buildings, etc… Possibly Judd is just abstracting that?