Patrons of "Ye olden times" had to provide assets for their retainers. Beginning with adequate capital of one's own earning was something VERY rare and to a point where you can just say it didn't happen at all. Assets break down and they need to be replaced constantly, people were paid enough to live a certain quality of life but it was the "Owners" and Patrons who had more than enough.
I've been finding so much use for Accounting, Statistics, and Economics in my games. It allows me to observe much of the world and measure it. I am able convert real world values into game abstractions to discover things only experimentation and role-playing can unveil.
I've been learning accounting lately, and it has opened my eyes to some interesting things my readings of the history regarding land owners and pre-capitalist economics I would like to share. Right now, I'm in a zealous study into economic theory and demographics that had only lately made proficient in grasping "ratios" come to greater forensic clarity.
Patrons in GURPS may be a simple concept of "Boss" for adventurers but it has hidden meanings that few economics that can be very inspiring to the imagination. What is not immediately visible is that Patrons, a person of access to such great resources, has an organization that operates beneath them. An organization of Assets, Resources and People.
When someone owns a ton of stuff there tends to be people involved in organizing it and keeping it all running. Efficiency may be a different standard from today, but the availability and access to certain resources were harder to come by back then.
First, some historical datum to give a sense of scale. Average wealth refers to Middle Class character which in Medieval times is not the same as the modern version when it came to frequency. The middle class was actually a relatively small small group compared to their working-class "freeman" counterparts. GURPS average wealth is the equivalent of Freeman Land owners like in the stories of Don Quixote (the closest literature of that era) who can afford to send their children to University.
The bigger the patron, the more complex the asset organism beneath him. In GURPS a 10cp Patron is 1,000x that of Average wealth. So a Patron of 5,000x wealthier than the wage earning laborer. The 10cp Patron is the richest person in a population of 1M.
For a sense of scale: In 11c Europe there was about 27.3M people in 10Million square kilometers. 1 million is Urban population at 3%, in a place as fertile as france he is the richest guy in 9,700 sq miles. or 25,123 square kilometers (2/3 the size of Brittany).
Equipping Characters. In GURPS the wealth of a character is almost never enough to afford the assets he needs the job. A knight can barely afford his equipment (at wealthy), and Soldiers certainly cannot (at struggling). This is solved pretty much by the understanding that it is a common role for a Patron/Employer to provide capital to his employees.
Patron's Equipment Enhancement. In my historical readings and observing real world equivalents, things are made simple if you consider that an Employer in some way sees his employee as an asset. A "human" asset that needs capital/resources (in the form of training and equipment).
An Employer typically gives an amount of capital to an employee based on the value of the service the employee provides to the employer. An employee that has heavily invested in the training and loyalty of an employee will give as much capital/equipment needed to take care of his investment. An employer that perceives a human asset as low value expects and spends accordingly.
So a Sergeant providing the service of a Man-at-Arms will be equivalent the equivalent of the Man-at-Arms of the current status quo. The same goes for Soldiers and Retainers. A Highly trained/loyal retainer will be have a quality of life high enough that he doesn't get tempted to sell his equipment.
As a rule of thumb: the 100% enhancement of Patron provides as much capital as the character's Annual Cost of Living.
Ex. A soldier (struggling) would have as much as $3600 in assets (he didn't exactly own) from his patron. Working back, if a roman soldier earned 1.5 gold piece a month that would amount to about $1300, then the the land given to supplement their income would be able to produce $2,900. The Patron might be providing as much as $1700 in equipment (for war and farming) and the rest land.