Domains as actors, part deux: perks

After the first installment, I felt the need to make domains more unique. At the moment they are only distinguished by their fortification, domain type and of course by their topology, or connectedness.
The way domains are connected to each other is very important. In Risk, lands have only one stat (the continent they belong to), yet Ukraine is way more important than, say, Madagascar. For the same reason, make domains connect in interesting ways.

At any rate, here’s a first list of perks. I suggest each domain has a 1 chance in 4 to get a random perk, and if they got a perk they check for an extra perk. If they do have one, roll 1d8:

  1. Treacherous woods: all units in the domain fight as unarmed peasant levy.
  2. Swampy grounds: units must stop after entering the domain.
  3. Sea Harbour: +1 import and export. Only for coastal domains.
  4. Plentiful fisheries: harvest can be carried out in any season. Only for coastal domains.
  5. University: during a Fair action, the domain can spend a trade good and a food reserve to gain a prestige point.
  6. Metalworking tradition: every winter can transform one trade good to one arms without spending actions.
  7. Pilgrimage: every summer can spend one food reserve to a trade good without spending actions.
  8. Rich Mines: the first harvest of the year grants an extra trade good. The trade good can’t be consumed by this domain using the Gain Prestige action, but can be exported and spent elsewhere. To distinguish these tokens from the traditional type maybe flip them over.

So, yeah. The next step for this is a PDF with a few scenarios.

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Domain Game: a first attempt using domains-as-actors

I’m trying to write a domain game for RPGs because what’s around does not tickle my fancy. I also recently learnt that domain and demesne are pronounced the same in English. Since then, this never failed to make me giggle at each game using demesne instead of domain.

So I decided to come up with a system where every domain is an actor: that is, each domain can do stuff each turn. While it’s not the only way to do it, it’s a way to abstract the whole “what changes in the world”, and it seems to be an approach that is not really common. Different types of domains will have different actions, in addition to different stats.

Another decision I had to take is the granularity and the size of the game: this can vary from neighbourhood fighting against each other in a city (for example Necromunda, and my final design aim for the Into the Odd domain game) to planets being conquered for the control of the galaxy (Twilight Imperium). I went for a somewhat typical OSR scale, where each domain is either a County (or other non-small fief) or a City.

Why cities? Because I wanted two different kinds of domains, and I’m really interested in the growth of cities. Also cities have tradesmen and crafts and trade, and that’s more interesting than simply raising armies and levies and killing a lot of peasants. This way you can starve citizens until they kill their city council too.

Before I continue with the rules, I want to spend a word on tactical infinity: anything that the rules say, feel free to override, either by the authority brought by consensus or by referee. I am of the opinion that the greatness of role-playing games is not that you play a character, but that rules are routinely adapted to improve play. Cherish that you are empowered gamers, free to make your own rules. What I suggest for domain game is: before each action in the game, players can suggest to have a small or long adventure to affect it. It can be something as simple as having a chat with a fellow ruler, or clamping down on brigands with an expedition of your dudes momentarily in the guise of murderhoboes, or leading the assault on a fortress. Degrees of success in the endeavour can grant a modifier to the action in the domain game, or give an automatic success, or present a variation in the result. Similarly, these adventures can happen after the action to prevent an horrible failure, or converting a near success to a success, or to temporarily increase effectiveness. For example, domain infrastructure limits trade; clamping down on bandits going all murder against them can temporarily increase the amount of traded goods. If the players manage to make a great impression on the bandits and get rid of their bosses and charm a few key bandits they might even gain a unit of light infantry on the side. I suggest that each player character can participate in only one adventure per season. And that’s why you have henchmen and companions. Also this whole domain-caused-adventures helps bridge the abstraction gap between domain play, based on seasonal turns and very chunky entities, and traditional RPGs, where you play in turns or rounds with entities that are a single person.

At any rate, the example I sketched out works as such:

The Game Elements

In addition to the domains (counties and cities), there are other game elements. They might be tokens or be written down on stats sheets. They are:

  • Trade Good: they are created by cities. It’s more or less 5000 to 20000 coins worth of stuff, depending on your economy. They can be spent in many ways.
  • Food Reserve: they are like trade goods, but are only consumed by besieged cities.
  • Arms: they are like trade goods, but they are used only to equip armies and levies and gives them combat advantage. If you are being fancy, or you have places that make excellent weapons like Dwarven, Flemish or North Italian Cities, they also have a rating depending on the metalworking level of the manufacturing city; a higher rating means mo’better advantage.
  • Armies, raised by counties. They fight well. How well depends on the system you use. A county can raise only a single army at time. They can also use a single Arms token each, to get combat advantage. To raise a second army, the first one must be disbanded or destroyed. If disbanded in the same region, the army can be raised again next season. If destroyed, the leader must save or die or be captured, and the county must wait 2d6 seasons or sacrifice both a trade good and an arms token to be able to raise an army again. You can represent the recovery putting white dices on the domain and spin them down as time goes by.
  • Levies, raised by counties and cities. They are not as good as Armies. Free City levies or rioting city levies fight as well as real Armies. If a levy is raised, the raising domain can’t do any actions until the levy is disbanded in the same region or is destroyed. If destroyed the domain must wait 1d6 seasons before taking any action. You can use a black die to represent the recovery.

Each domain has also a prestige score and a fortification score.

Prestige is like Charisma, but for domains. It amounts to “how awesome other rulers think you are and how much they want to be at your parties”. No game mechanics for it yet, but consider this: if you had to pick, you’d rather be making happy a place like Bruges than a place like, dunno, Dunbar? And df you’re asking dude, what’s Dunbar? well, that’s the point I’m trying to make.

Fortification gives advantage to the defender (depending on your resolution system). Furthermore, each 8 points transform a hit by attackers into a miss.

What Happens In The Game

Domains can do one action per season. Four seasons per year. It’s also possible to play with two seasons per year (summer and winter) without much change. Each domain can also import and export 1 unit of trade goods, food reserve or arms per turn.

A county (or other feudal rural domain, the scale is flexible) can:

  • Raise an army: the lord of the domain raises their lances and readies them for battle. The county’s army is deployed in the county and can immediately move. A domain can only raise a single army. If the army stands at the end of the winter without being disbanded, it consumes a trade good either from its home domain of from the domain where it is, if the host domain kindly provides or if it pillages (see pillage later). If it can’t consume food or pillage it get disbanded.
  • Raise a Levy: the county raises a levy. The levy is deployed in the county but can’t immediately move: must wait a turn. Remember: if a levy is raised, the domain can’t otherwise act.
  • Trade: the import and export limits for the county are both raised to three for this season.
  • Harvest: produces a unit of Food Reserve, which is kept in the county. This can be done only during Summer and Autumn. if playing with a 2-seasons year, the harvest provides 2 Food Reserve units. Food Reserves can be exported.
  • Fortify: the fortification score of the domain goes up by 1. Spending a trade good makes it go up by another point.
  • Gain Prestige: the domain can increase its prestige by 1 by spending a Trade Good.

A City can:

  • Fair: only in summer. The import and export limits of the city are lifted for this season.
  • Trade: the import and export limits for the city are both raised to three for this season.
  • Raise a Levy: the city raises a levy. The levy is deployed in the county and can immediately move, attack and be disbanded in the same turn. City levies are quite eager. Remember: if a levy is raised, the domain can’t otherwise act.
  • Manufacture: produces a unit of Trade Goods or Arms. The goods or arms are kept in the city. They can be exported too.
  • Fortify: the fortification score of the domain goes up by 1. Spending a trade good makes it go up by another point.
  • Gain Prestige: the domain can increase its prestige by 1 by spending a Trade Good.

Combat!

If two enemy units happen to be in the same domain, any of the two commanders can start a fight. Resolve it using the system of your choice. Bear in mind the advantages should be granted by:

  • City levy fighting in the City domain
  • better armor
  • fortification, if the defender has any

Any unit occupying a domain can do one or more of the following actions:

  • Sap: reduce the fortification of the occupied domain by 1
  • Siege: stop the domain from taking any action except Raise an Army, Raise a Levy, Fortify. Cities can raise levies as soon at any point ant the levy can attack immediately enemies in its domain and then, if desired, disband.
  • Pillage: add one pip to the black die of the domain, to a maximum of 6. If no black die is present, add a die on the 1 face. This can be countered by having the domain consume 1 Food Reserve. Doing so waives the unit’s winter maintenance cost.
  • Seize: the occupier takes control of the domain.

As a reaction to the action being announced, the defender can stop the action by attacking. The defender in this case won’t benefit from the fortification advantage unless the occupier was Sapping or Seizing. If the defender wins the fights, the occupying action is countered and all is well. If the attacker wins the fight, the action succeeds.

If a domain is seized, it can be razed instead. In this case it can’t carry out any action for the rest of the game.

DEFENESTRATE!

Each season a city has a black die and enemy troops Saps, Sieges or Pillages it, it must roll a d6 and score at least the amount on the black die. If successful, all is well. If failed with an odd number, the city raises immediately a levy and attacks the occupier. If failed with an even number, the city reenacts the First Defenestration of Prague and joins the side of the occupying forces.

On age and time pressure in domain games. Or: the OSR Lurgie Table

Getting old kind of sucks and life’s most annoying way to let you know you’re getting old is to make your body fall apart. Age in D&D traditionally means falling stats. Stats falling with time gives players a sense of urgency, especially during domain play. It’s fine to spend a few years breeding horses, raising kids, researching spells and skill at arms and blogging, except when you’re not happy about time passing.

Every winter after the 1d6+30th each PC follows the following steps:

  1. Roll on the Lurgie table. The stat in the second column drops by one permanently because of the condition in the third column.
  2. Roll a d6:
    1. On a 4 or more, get back to step 1. I know, it sucks, but the alternative to age is an early death.
    2. On a 3 or less, you’re happy with not getting even worse.
  3. Roll two dice:
    1. If the result is equal or over your Physique or Constitution or 12, you get the serious lurgie: roll again on the Lurgie table to find which one. That stat takes 1d6 damage, but you recover 1 point per month. A medic can roll on medicine to halve the damage (round up).
    2. if the result is under your Physique or Constitution, you’ll probably see the next spring unless you starve or the orcs/them foreigners get you.

If at any point any of your stats is 2 or less, you’re bedridden. At 0 you’re DEAD. If your hits get to 0, you’re bedridden, under 0 you’re DEAD.

This is the Lurgie table for AFG.

1d6 stat affected condition
1 physique consumption/stroke
2 craft drink/senility
3 spirit evil eye/nerves
4 take 1 negative additional hit palsy/tremors
5MORE NO LOSS you’re fine!

And this is the Lurgie table for D&D and other OSR games. In these games the stat loss is secure instead of having a 50% chance because it has twice as many stats compared to AFG. There’s no direct hit point loss but a drop in Constitution will lower your HP.

1d6 stat affected condition
1 Strength stroke
2 Intelligence senility
3 Wisdom nerves
4 Dexterity palsy
5 Constitution consumption
6 Charisma evil eye

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Domain Game 101: Horsebreeding Rules

Passing the holidays in Milan means, to me, playing a lot. In the past week I ran 5 sessions of 5-6 hours each and PCs gained land and title. There’s a lack of small scale OSR rules for domains so I started using Chris’s Feudal Anarchy rules. One of my players realized that horses are expensive and decided to start horsebreeding.

I made some rules to support it because I think it’s an interesting downtime activity, it’s appropriate for a knight bachelor and destriers are awesome, mean, have 4HD and fight with hooves and a big chip on their shoulder. By the way, I have zero experiences with horses. I have vague memories of riding a mule for about 10 meters when I was 5 though, so a casual wikipedia browsing gave me enough information to build some rules. I can only claim that these rules please us, but not any kind of realism or clue.

Most importantly horses in general allow characters in heavy armour to outrun opponents. Wearing heavy armour or not ought to be an important choice in fantasy RPGs and the whole “can’t outrun opponents in heavy armour” is a big, big problem. In AFG this usually means death for either fighters left behind as the rest of the group falls back or for the fighters’ unarmoured comrades that don’t flee when they can. Horses give you mobility.

The following rules use super-easy 5MORE mechanics. Furthermore all hit dice below are d6s: if you prefer using d8 increase all end-of-development thresholds accordingly. Note that “level 2 horse” means that the horse saves and fights as an animal or monster of level two.

Horsebreeding Rules

Mares are usually receptive in spring and summer (two seasons). If there is a stallion (adult male) available mares (adult females) can try to conceive, roll once per season a Conceiving roll, succeeding on a 5MORE.

Then, for each of the three following seasons, try a 5MORE Pregnancy roll with a +1: on a failure pregnancy results in a stillbirth. If all rolls so far have been successful 11 months after conception the mare will give birth to the cutest little foal ever.

The foal will start at 1HD. Roll the hits at birth: of course it won’t have all these hit points as soon as it gets out of the womb, but we’re going to use hits to track horse development until their fourth year, when development ends.

From the second year rules change depending on the two parents’ level. The types are Rouncey (lvl 2), Courser (lvl 3) and Destrier (lvl 4).

Rounceys: add 1 hit during the second year, then 1d6-1 hits during the third year. At the end if the third year if the horse has at least 11 hits it become a Courser, otherwise a Rouncey.

Coursers: add 1d6 during the second year and 1d6 during the third year. At the end if the third year if the horse has at least 15 hits it will become Destrier, if it has 6 or less a Rouncey, otherwise a Courser.

Destriers: add 1d6+1 during the second year and 2d6-1 during the third year. At the end if the third year if the horse has 11 hits or less it will become a Courser, otherwise a Destrier.

If horses of different types mate, treat the offspring as inferior type but add 1 hit at the end of development.  If a Destrier mates with a Rouncey, roll development as a Courser.

An horsebreeder can follow up to 10 horses and can aid horse development three times each season: in case the character is not pleased with one of the above rolls for their horses a Horsebreeding 5MORE test can be rolled. If successful the horse can re-roll and keep the best result except for Pregnancy rolls.

Mares Special Attributes

In addition to any other horse quirks that your system supports, roll 1d6 for each of the following attributes. On a 1 the mare has that attributes, but don’t tell that to the player until it’s evident.

Twin-conceiver: this mare has a 50% chance of conceiving twins.

Late estrus: the mare is receptive also in autumn.

Fertile: +1 to Conceiving roll, +1 to Pregnancy rolls.

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