Roleplaying Resources

Farming

Disorganized Notes

Random farming notes, compiled by me from various posts to rec.games.frp.dnd.

Raising animals for meat

An acre under normal conditions produces 1d8+8 months of food per month. Large animals require twice that (so little because some things (wheet) leave a lot of fodder, and a lot of the land lies fallow for extra grazing).

Specifics:

  • Cows are 1/10 as land-efficient as grain.
    • Corn is the best cow-food, but it's the greatest drain on soil nutrients. Forrage gives less protein than grains, so must have a lot of forrage land to support a cow.
  • Pigs are 2/9 as land-efficient as grain.
    • Swine ran free gaining weight on mast and whatever else they could find. They eat snakes (including poisonous ones).
  • Poultry are 2/5 as land-efficient as grain.

How much land do animals require?

  • Horses: 1 per acre
  • Oxen & Cattle: 1 per acre
  • Sheep & Goats: 6 per acre
  • Pigs: Allowed to forage in the forest
  • Chickens: Forage around the village

Modern farming: 40,000 lb potatoes or 6Klb corn or 3Klb beans or 250lb beaf per acre of prime land per year.

Organization of a farming village

Village in center, with fields surrounding it. No one too far from a water source. Two acres of farm land per person, because 1/3-2/3 of land is left fallow. Or 3-4 acres per family (with an average size of five people)? I don't know exactly, but those are some people's ideas. One person says you till a half-virgate (12-16 acres). A wealthy peasant might hold 40-100 acres.

Houses:

  • Cold climates: tight clustered buildings for shelter from wind.
  • Warm climates: large gaps for air flow.
  • Mountainous: Spiderweb pattern up the hollow and valleys. Houses dot the hillsides.
  • Farm: Tight core, and loose circle of homes around it.

Agriculture and Living space

2/8/01 From bradds@concentric.net (Bradd W. Szonye)

A couple of corrections and additions.

Bradd W. Szonye bradds@concentric.net wrote:

The vingate is the amount of land required to support a family…

This is called a “virgate,” not “vingate.” Mea culpa.

I'm not sure what the hide represents…

One source I just found says that the hide is the amount of land that a single ploughman can cultivate. However, the usual estimate of 120 acres seems like a lot of land for one man to tend, and the same source claims that the *hide* is the amount of land required for a single family, which also sounds wrong. (You can support about 150-200 people on a square mile of good farmland, which corresponds to the estimate of 5 acres per person, or one virgate per family.) Therefore, I still don't know what the hide represents.

Also, many sources claim that a virgate is 30 acres and that a hide is 4 virgates, but the actual numbers vary from location to location. The English village, Elton, studied in /Life in a Medieval Village/, for example, set the virgate at 24 acres and the hide at 6 virgates. Either is roughly the same amount of land, and should be good enough for drawing your maps.

Each family generally owns a home ranging in size from a 10 x 20 foot
cottage to a 15 x 50 foot longhouse.

I forgot to mention that many homes and other buildings don't face the street squarely. Crooked rows of houses are quite common, and some of them don't face the street at all.

Finally, I wanted to mention taverns, while I'm thinking of it. Some taverns are permanent, but it's much more common for individuals to host a “tavern” out of their homes after brewing a batch of beer or ale. Thus, a medieval “tavern” is much more like a block party than it is an established pub. Gies & Gies state that a silver penny (corresponding to the D&D silver piece) is a typical price for three gallons of home brewed beer. (Your typical peasant or other unskilled laborer earns about a penny a day.)

2/8/01 From bradds@concentric.net (Bradd W. Szonye)

Bradd W. Szonye bradds@concentric.net wrote:

I'm not sure what the hide represents…

One source I just found says that the hide is the amount of land that a single ploughman can cultivate.

Okay, I realize that it's *really* bad form for me to followup to my own followup of my own post, but I think I've figured this one out. A hide does indeed seem to be related to the amount of land that an eight-ox plough can cover. Also, you can divide each virgate into two bovates (ie., like “bovine,” a cow); a bovate is 1/8th of a hide, and thus you need one ox per bovate to till the fields. If a family holds a virgate, then that family needs to contribute two oxen to the plough. Now, only some places measured land according to ploughs and oxen, but that does seem to be the origin of the “hide.” In summary:

hide: about 120 acres; the amount of land an 8-oxen plough can cover virgate: about 30 acres; the amount of land needed to feed a family of 5 bovate: about 15 acres; you need about one ox per bovate acre: a single field, about 1/8 mile (a furlong) long by 1/80 mile wide

2/28/01 From Peter Newman <pnewman@gci.net>

How much does a bushel of wheat usually weigh?

In 3rd ed 1 lb of wheat weighs 1 CP. If we say that in our fantasy game world good land will yield 15 bushels per acre and that 20% of this (3 bushels) must be held back for next years crop then a field which can yield two crops per year will produce 24 bushels x ? lbs/bushel x 1 CP per pound in revenue (less labor costs). If we then decide what sort of annual rate of return this society can produce we can than determine land values, in CP per acre. (Naturally we'll have to reduce yield per year by one third if we use a three field system and one half if we use a two field system to account for nonproductive use or nonuse of the land).

2/28/01 Brett Evill <b.evill@tyndale.apana.org.au>

You're about to discover that the price ratios between various commodities inteh D&D price lists are badly out of whack. In the real Middle Ages a quarter (16 bushels) of wheat cost about thirty times the daily wage for unskilled labour.

2/28/01 Peter Newman <pnewman@gci.net>

What's wrong with that? Sixteen bushels of wheat can keep you fed for a year or so, why shouldn't it cost at least a months wages?

When I ran a search on wheat I could not find out how much it weighed.

Average wages are 1 SP per day and poor meals are 1 SP per day but wheat is 1 CP per pound. It seems to me that an average person would do a lot better if they simply bought wheat and added water to make gruel and sprouted a bit of it to make sprouts. If they borrowed a bit of sourdough starter they could make sourdough gruel. Sourdough gruel, sprouts, and rose hips should make an adequate diet. Why on earth would you spend a whole silver a day on food when 1 lb of wheat is only 1 CP? Just leave out that expensive (2 CP per 0.5 lb or 4 CP a lb) bread out of your diet and stick to gruel. If you want you could even cook it, after all 20 lb. of firewood is 1 CP, so you can afford it with what you save by not buying bread.

2/28/01 Brett Evill b.evill@tyndale.apana.org.au

You're about to discover that the price ratios between various commodities inteh D&D price lists are badly out of whack. In the real Middle Ages a quarter (16 bushels)

I hate mediaeval measures. A quarter is not 16 bushels, it is 8 bushels. Except at Windsor, where it is 9 bushels. Sorry.

of wheat cost about thirty times the daily wage for unskilled labour.

What's wrong with that? Sixteen bushels of wheat can keep you fed for a year or so, why shouldn't it cost at least a months wages?

There is absolutely nothing wrong with that. That is the price that pertained in the Late Middle Ages, and they got on okay.

But a quarter of wheat (8 bushels, 64 gallons, 512 pints) is going to weigh on the close order of 500 lb. So you ought to get about 16 lb of wheat for a day's wages. In D&D, with a day's wages standing at 1 sp and an lb of wheat costing 1 cp, worker's are considerably worse off, and there may be some doubt that they could support their families.

It depends, of course on the costs of other necessities, so it's very difficult to calculate. But be aware that if you try to calculate the rent (value) of land from the price of wheat, the wage rate, and an assumed yield, you might get funny numbers considering that the price ratio of wheat to labour is rather high in the D&D price lists.

Farming and Weather

3/4/01 Peter Newman <pnewman@gci.net>

Peter Newman wrote:
I'm just not sure that we want to assume a series of disasters will occur one year in twenty.
Having some experience with farming. A series of disasters can occur which is the reason I prefer growing season checks, a bad spring can sometimes be made up for by a good summer. Certainly if a DM uses weather in his campaign such could be factored in as part of crop production. I expect that even a bad year would normally have a yield of at least seed baring man made actions (an army stripping fields, that ball of fire, etc.).

How about if we assume that each crop usually takes somewhere between 91 and 180 days to grow, assume that this is part of two seasons, and roll a weather check twice for each crop. With winter wheat this would be fall or winter and spring and with most other crops this would be either spring and summer or summer and fall. This would provide a more realistic feel without complicating things too much. We could assume that if both seasons Weather roll is a 1 you get a complete crop failure (1 season in 400) and make the other modifiers cumulative.

Also there is having stats for each farmer, 1000 rolls or more can become a paper work problem.

1) That's part of the reason I suggested that they were 'Taking Ten'.

<nods> saves on dice, might not on record keeping, unless you farm all farmers, stay Com1 with +4 rank.

Well 3rd ed canon says that almost everyone is a Commoner 1 and specifically notes; “Common folk farm the fields” In most settings most people will probably live in Thorps of 20-80, Hamlets of 81-400, or villages of 401-900.

Due to the way the system is arranged thorps will have a high percentage of (low level) PC and other NPC classes but Hamlets and Villages will both be 80+% first level commoners.

However on further thought I realized that most farms will be run by someone who is greater than age 35 who are therefore likely to have an WIS bonus of +1. Therefore it would probably be better to assume an average bonus of +5, not +4.

2) In most games there won't be a thousand farmers whose results matter.

Well this might surprise you, depending on how large the population is and the size of farms. My simple model for a realm of 70,000 families, requires 10,000 farmers, each farming 20 acres (another 20 fallow), yielding 15 units of food per acre (a unit one months supply of food).

I was assuming a more manorial system in which much of the land was controlled by a feudal landlord and worked part of the weak by serfs who tended their own tiny subsistence level plots the rest of the week. If serfs plots are too small to produce crops for export and sale they can be ignored to simplify the economy. YMMV.

Now I know some will say this is a large realm and they would not have one that large. If you drop to 5,000 families, you drop to about 715 farmers. Right now I use block all farmers are the same, also I need to adjust some values as to things like food consumption. The model foes have some calculations for animal consumption and did give the humans some meat to eat. Based on some of the numbers that have been talked about, I suspect I will need to increase consumption, which means either my farmers need to produce more per acre (at the high end of that already) or farm more land.

You might want to figure out land prices and decide how many person days of labor an acre of crops requires. If an acre yields 10 bushels of wheat that weigh 60 pounds each than the acre gives 600 lb. of wheat that are worth 600 CP or 6 GP. If (using the Craft rules) one third of that was materials costs than growing that acre of wheat cost 200 CP. If your seed yield averages 5:1 than you're using 120 CP worth of wheat, 80 CP worth of other capital (amortized loss of plow, ox, hoe, etc), and 400 CP worth of labor costs plus profits. How many person days (and plow animal days) of labor did an acre of wheat usually require?

With a normal 'Craft' roll the price is known and the time to make it varies. With farming I'd assume a growing season of _about_ the same length from year to year and alter the value (and size) of the crop based on the roll.

<nods> growing seasons tend to be close to the same, some hearty crops could grow a little longer, in the event of autumn early frost.

Right, it's a simplifying assumption. If you want to include weather variations you could assume that in the tropics the growing season is not limited by cold (but by monsoons, etc) and say that at 23 degrees north you can grow 365 days a year while at say 75 degrees north the growing season is 0 days per year. Therefore for every degree north you go the growing season is (365/(75-23) seven days shorter. On an earth sized planet a degree north or south is about seventy miles. Does 10 miles north = one less day of growing season sound about right?

farmers side by side could have far greater results that defy logic.
The better farmer planted a different crop. The farmer who rolls a one planted potatoes and they all rotted in the ground because it was very rainy this year. The farmer who rolled a twenty planted rice and because it was so rainy the rice paddies stayed nice and moist and he grew a bumper crop.

Well is we say at the end of the year what crop was planted, this could work. I generally picture that a farmer needs to have seed before planing what to grow.

Well of course he does but unless the farmer is a PC or has to buy seed from a PC does this transaction really need to be noted?

Before the advent of modern agronomy & fertilizer farm results may have varied more.

[1} If a flood model is used it should be kept in mind, that there are normal floods, then the rarer high flood, sometimes a low/no flood as well. The area the normally gets flooded would be prepared, and planting on higher land could occur and take flood damage. <snip>

If you want to go to that level of detail, sure. I was suggesting subsuming all that under a simple terrible weather, bad weather, average weather, good weather, great weather sort of system. Unless the PC's are having an adventure that depends on them getting across the river during flood season does it really matter if the crops suffer because of a high flood or because of no flood?

OTOH if crop yields in your system are regularly altered by spells this may all make a great deal of difference. In third edition a 13th plus level Cleric or Druid, 11th plus level Wizard or Sorcerer or a 16th or 17th plus level Bard can potentially cast 'Control Weather' to deal with poor weather. A magic item made by a Druid that is command word activated will cost 163,800 gold if it has unlimited uses. It will control weather in a circle three miles in radius. This circle will have an area of a little over 18,095 acres. If we need to amortize the cost of the weather control over a twenty year period then weather control will cost 0.45 GP per acre. Since wheat is worth 1 CP per pound and a bushel of wheat is about 60 pounds than any land that will yield more than +0.75 bushel per acre if the weather is perfect should be weather controlled to ensure maximum efficiency. If not all land in that 6 mile circle is suitable for the plow then obviously you'd need a greater increase in yield than that.

What would the typical variation in yield per acre be between a perfect weather year and an average weather year? An efficiently laid out kingdom would be dotted with six mile in diameter circles of weather controlled cropland. If a three field system was used you could simply move the magic item to the used fields and let normal weather occur in the unplowed field. Naturally all villages, roads, forest, etc would be in the areas between two circles whose boundaries just touched so as not to waste weather controlled land on mere houses (unless they have vegetable gardens in which case they should probably be weather controlled too).

[1] Since each use will last 4d12 x 2 (min 8 average 52, max 96) hours we could consider making this item have a limited number of uses per day to save a little money. With three charges per day we can ensure 24 hour a day control and save 40% of our cost, thus we need to gain less per acre before justifying the 'Control Weather' magic item.

3/4/01 Dirk Collins <res04tzu@gte.net>

Going back to the historical neolithic stats we used to estimate yields of up to 22 Bushels per acre, the little village of Goljamo Delcevo had 39 acres under cultivation. 20 families lived in the village. The archaelogists and researchers calculated that the workload divided among the families, would have left sufficient labor free for the building & maintenance of houses, lumbering, cattle breeding, hunting, fishing, gathering, trading, and home and temple crafts. The village produced both ceramics, and high quality tools as well. So you are looking at about 2 acres per family under cultivation. A family size of 2-12 individuals (My guess), sometimes more, and work was from sunrise to sunset in the growing season. for gaming purposes 1-4 persons per acre, with their animals during the growing season would be required to care for the crop.

> What would the typical variation in yield per acre be between a perfect weather year and an average weather year? An efficiently laid out kingdom would be dotted with six mile in diameter circles of weather controlled cropland. If a three field system was used you could simply move the magic item to the used fields and let normal weather occur in the unplowed field. Naturally all villages, roads, forest, etc would be in the areas between two circles whose boundaries just touched so as not to waste weather controlled land on mere houses (unless they have vegetable gardens in which case they should probably be weather controlled too).

For a long time the modeling of weather effects in my campaign(s) have been handled with 3×5 Index cards. Using a deck of about 200 weekly, monthly, quarterly, and annual event cards, I mix and shuffle to simulate the effects of weather and for random events that occur that would be of interest to the players.

Here is an example of one annual card

Extreme Weather - Winter continues all year long in Kingdom. x10 snow fall amounts, heavy winds, frequent blizzards. Massive crop failure. Famine for 9 months of this year, 45% of population perishes. Prices for food and perishable goods skyrocket. Permanent migration of more than 10% of the local population occurs to warmer climates.

Another one

Famine - Drought in Spring, Poor Harvest in Autumn. 4 month famine begins 5 months after harvest. 5% of population per month perishes or relocates. In the last month of famine, a plague begins and continues for 3 additional months reducing the total remaining population by 10%. Traders and merchants do not enter the plagued kingdom. The cost of imported good will rise.

Here is an example of a seasonal card

A Moderate force (482 men, women, and children) of seafaring peoples land on the western shores of the kingdom with the intent of settling here…

And an example of a monthly card

A wild animal is raiding the local villages carrying off women, children, and elderly. The animal strikes 1-2 x per week. The local folks are paarlysed with fear. The animal will remain active until captured or killed

A weekly event card
  1. Illnes strikes 1 player
  2. The Elf, Terris, Son of Prince Tamerthon of Crystalmeer is inadvertently insulted by a member of the party, and challenges party member to a duel.
  3. Party is insulted by a local merchant.
  4. None.
  5. Princess Seawyn, bastard daughter of King Taramir and The Duchess Tam-Tarsil visits the area the players are in.
  6. Hobgoblin raiding party assaults town, takes captives if possible.
  7. Prince Jamin, son of King Taramir arrives with 20 elven warriors to reinforce town for a time.
  8. None

There are cards for both good and bad weather events, and for good and bad social events as well. In the absence of any unusual activity a normal crop yield is presumed. The card idea works well for me, are easy to use (you have to do up the cards only once) and is easily customizable to fit almost any campaign. You can add new cards at any time for any new event that may strike your fancy as a DM/GM.

As for magic and weather control, that is rare IMC and is handled on a case by case basis, if it is what the players are interested in.