I must create a system, or be enslaved by another man's. I will not reason and compare: my business is to create.

- William Blake

Tuesday, May 14, 2024

How many leaders? Demographics of command

Just a small thing I noticed examining B/X encounters.

Some humanoid groups have a 2 HD leader for every 10-20 people, a 4 HD leader for every 40, etc. 

A few examples: merchants, pirates, brigands, etc.

It changes from creature to creature, but it would be easy to say, for example:

- One 2 HD leader for every 20.
- One 3 HD leader for every 30.
- One 4 HD leader for every 40, etc. 

Maybe up to level 9 (or lower for demi-humans; humans are the most organized and can get more levels).

If you ever find a group of 100 warriors, it would be organized like this:

- Led by a 9th-level warlord.
- One of each level 6, 7, 8 characters as advisors, maybe clerics, magic-users, etc.
- A couple of 5th-level captains.
- A couple of 4th-level lieutenants.
- Three 3rd-level and five 2nd level lieutenants.

This assumes an organized army. About 20% of the individuals are above 1 HD.

But most groups are way smaller, and it only have 10% of exceptional individuals or fewer.

I used to think the best way to calculate the number of exceptional people in a population was exponential: for example, one out of ten fighters would be level 2 or more, one out of a hundred for level 3, etc.

You'd need a army of MILLIONS to find a 9th-level fighter!

But come to think of it the difference between level 5 and 6 is not as extreme as level 1 to 2, so maybe level 6 is just a bit less common than level 5, a suggested above.

For larger populations (cities etc.) I'd say 50% are simply non-combatants, 25% are level 0, and 25% level 1 or more.

Anyway, it is nice to have more leaders. Gives NPC bands more personality.

This should definitely affect morale, BTW. 

I always found odd that you can defeat a group of 40 by killing one and forcing a morale check. 

Maybe this applies to leaderless groups - but with a leader, you only check when the leader or half heir numbers is killed, for example.

Anyway, just something to consider for my future encounters.


  1. I have seen 5% of population leveled and then the swiftness of the drop-off in levels varies from high (tiny villages) to low (metrolopi).

    I like that pattern you've spotted and the 100 body army example, that is a neat way to do it and it addresses the question of 'who is in the general population' and 'who is mobilised where they are useful'

    1. Yes, I think even an army of 100 requires a population of thousands.

      There is probably real information out there about which percentage of the (medieval) population could ever be conscripted.

      But, this being D&D, I'd assume the average peasant to be a bit tougher because of all the monsters etc.