Of the 14,000 to 15,000 talents a year the Red Emperor receives as revenue, about 2/3rds (let’s say around 9500 talents) of that is taxes or rents on agriculture. A little over 1/5th (let’s say around 3000 talents) is from tolls on markets and caravans. The rest is a miscellanea of gifts, forced loans, tribute, plunder, natural resources, mines, and the rest.
Less than 20% of the agricultural revenues come from the Provinces, but during the Lunar Occupation of Dragon Pass (1602-1625) almost two-thirds of the toll revenues did, some 2000 talents per year. That’s how important the Dragon Pass choke point is.
So let’s think how things are looking end of the year 1625. Imagine you are one of the Irrippi Ontor scribes in Glamour working for Ivex Devouring Dog. Toll revenues are down to maybe 1500 talents, as the Dragonrise has disrupted trade in Dragon Pass, and worse the newly independent Sartar has seized control of much of the trade road network. Heck it is even worse than this, as the Provincial King of Tarsh was given proxy (and protection from Tax Demons) by the Red Emperor to pay for the Lunar Army in the South using toll revenues collected in Tarsh. So let’s say only about 1000 is left for the Imperial Court.
Provincial agricultural tax revenue is down as well. Normally that’s around 1700 talents, but with Aggar in rebellion, and tribal uprisings elsewhere, it is maybe only 1000 this harvest.
And in the Heartlands, we’ve lost Oraya and much of First Blessed to nomad raids. That’s another 1000 talents lost. And there are peasant revolts in the other satrapies. Lose another 1000 talents.
So instead of our usual 14 to 15,000 talents, we are looking at somewhere around 9,000 to 10,000 talents this winter.
But the Red Empire is in full military crisis. We need to rebuild the southern army – devoured by a True Dragon. We have a war in the Redlands and a major peasant uprising to crush. Minimum of 15,000 talents is being demanded by the Red Emperor. Plus he still refuses to cut down on the Court Expenses – another 5,000.
So we are looking at being 10,000 talents in the hole. And remember we’ve been drawing down about 4,000 a year from the reserves for the last seven years. But those reserves got plundered in 1621-1622, when the Red Emperor declared an Extra Full Moon Year and exempted all Lunar cultists from paying taxes. Which meant the treasuries got plundered another 3300 talents. I don’t know how big of a pile of money the previous Red Emperors gathered in the Seventh Wane, but it is probably gone now.
And if you can’t find story ideas there, you aren’t looking.
I expect what we will see is a combination of things. Some debasement (but not so much as to risk the veteran soldiers getting pissed). Looting of Lunar temples (“I am the son of the Red Goddess, and this stuff is mine anyways”). Confiscations, revocations of privileges and exemptions, etc.
But it is safe to say there will be a growing unrest, frustration, and even loss of legitimacy for Moonson – and that will be even stronger within the Lunar leadership.
I imagine that there are thousands of Irrippi Ontor cultists redoing assessments, looking up old rights, and doing the equivalent of looking for loose change under the mattresses. Every talent matters!
Now none of this is necessary to get the setting, run games in Glorantha, or whatever. But for world-building, I find it a useful exercise. For decades, we were presented with a Lunar Empire of infinite resources, both financial and military. Rebellion was impossible because the Lunars could just throw money and troops at the problem.
But if we look more carefully, what we find is that the Lunar Empire has a lot of resources, but they have limits. And seven years of war, combined with conspicuous spending has made that worse.
This helps explain, at least to me, why the Empire could not easily reconquer Dragon Pass after the Dragonrise – and why Sartar got several years of breathing space after the Battle of the Queens. It also helps explain why the Empire is able to recover again and again.
The Sartarites are beneficiaries of this. But that is for another post.