Thursday, June 4, 2015

Disinterred Eldricity: Ruling Domains, Part One

Here it comes. The big kahuna of imports. I'll be doing my best to update mechanics, but am keeping much of the previous structure of the Birthright domain management intact. Sometimes I'll clean up something ugly or that doesn't fit, but for now, this first section is for the edification of those who are unfamiliar with the rules so they can understand the rest of what we talk about.

I've also taken care not to just, you know, copy paste crap from the Birthright rulebook, but it's pretty critical to have a cross-reference going on.

Glossary of Terms

I’ll be working with a bunch of words that might not have any context if you are unfamiliar with Birthright. For the clarification of the audience, these are the following terms I will be using below.

Assets - A resource that a regent controls that is not otherwise classified as a province or holding. These include Armies, Courts, Fortifications, Ley Lines, Lieutenants, Roads, Trade Routes, and Treasury.

Domain - The term for the collective territories that a regent holds. It can be as small as a single province, or as large as whole kingdoms.

Domain Power - A numeric rating that represents a regent’s total control over their territory. It is equal to the total number of levels of all provinces and holdings that the regent currently owns, no matter where they are located or what type by which they are classified.

Domain Turn - A period of time in which a regent can perform activities in their domain, be it to go on adventures, build holdings, engage in diplomacy, or muster armies to war. Domain Turns typically happen in threes, and are roughly equivalent to a calendar season.

Holding - An establishment of law, trade, faith, or magic within a province. A province can only contain as many total holdings of each type as it has levels; therefore a level 3 province can have up to 3 levels of each kind of holding, and not all of them must be controlled by the same regent. Holding types are Law, Guild, Temple, and Source.

Loyalty - A scale of how loyal a given province is to its regent, affected by Law holdings. Loyalty is graded as high, average, poor, or rebellious.

Province - A section of land within a domain. The typical province is anywhere from 1000 to 1500 square miles in size, but the dimensions are largely irrelevant.

Province Level - A numeric descriptor of how populated and developed a province is, on a scale of 0 to 10 (typically). The more developed a province, the less the potential of its Source (if any).

Realm Magic - Powerful spells that can be cast using Sources to power them. These spells typically affect an entire province or an army occupying a province, and are extremely taxing to the spellcaster.

Regency - The power that a blooded regent holds over the land. It is a very real sense of divine right to rule. It is also a currency of sorts, referred to as regency points (RP, not to be confused with the roleplaying part of “RPG”).

Regent - The term used to describe a blooded scion that also rules a domain. This term is used in the setting itself by its populace, but a regent is more typically referred to by their noble title (count, baron, duke, etc.).

Scion - Used to describe any blooded individual, but in a shorthand sense. One may be a scion without being a regent.


As Regency is the first of two currencies used in managing domains, it becomes important to track every time a series of domain turns comes into play. At the beginning of a given domain turn, a regent collects Regency equivalent to their Domain Power (sum of all levels of all holdings and provinces) plus their Bloodline score modifier.

Example: Erin Velescarpe is a young regent with a lot of work to do to carve out her domain. She owns four provinces (levels 3, 2, 1, and 4 respectively) and five total holdings (of levels 2, 2, 1, and 1). Her Bloodline score is 15, giving her a modifier of +2. At the beginning of her domain turn, she collects 18 Regency Points.

Regency can be gained or lost in a number of ways. If the regent’s bloodline is ever damaged, by magic or some fell curse, it will affect future Regency gains. It is also a currency used to initiate actions during the domain turn, with costs varying dependent on the given action being taken and how much effort the regent puts into said action.

Previously a regent could also spend Regency Points to increase their bloodline strength score. Since we do not use that scale anymore, and overall Regency Point generation and expenditure will be modified from original formulae, this is no longer present in my conversion. 5th Edition already has a bunch of ways to improve ability scores, and those are more than good enough.

Should a character’s Regency Points ever drop below zero for any reason (be it the attack of an awnsheghlien, a magic spell, or bad management of points during the domain turn), they become temporarily cursed by their blood and are at disadvantage on all checks made using Bloodline (domain action checks, Bloodline saving throws, etc.) until their Regency Points once again rise to zero or above.

As such, finding ways to target an enemy regent’s Regency Points is a valid means of weakening them severely so that you can mount actions against their territory. These methods will be covered more in depth below.

Gold Bars

The other domain-level currency is the Gold Bar (GB). In liquid terms, it’s roughly equivalent to two thousand gold pieces of typical player currency, but is an abstracted value of actual precious metal, trade gems, scrip, and goods. Gold bars can be liquidated into coinage through a specific domain action, but are generally out of the reach of players in the short term (no one is going to ride off with the entire domain’s currency by raiding one storehouse of gold ingots).

The currency is used to finance domain actions of all kinds, from construction of holdings to paying spies and mercenaries. It is also used to pay for court expenses when hosting dignitaries and holding tournaments. Gold bars are acquired via taxation of provinces and holdings, as well as spoils of war when conquering enemy domains.


Holdings can be thought of as ways a province is structured both on a policy and political scale as well as the nature of its populace and income. The four types of holdings available are guild, law, source, and temple.

Guild Holdings

These holdings represent the presence of businesses, craftsmen, and financial investments that are maintained by various guild journeymen. While the exact type of guild is not relevant to its mechanics, it is helpful and flavorful to determine the nature of a given guild holding within a province.

A seaside province may have a guild associated with the fishing industry or shipping, while an inland plains province may support a guild that maintains the wellness and trade of livestock and crops.

Law Holdings

Regents desire law holdings in order to exert their influence and control over a given province. A law holding may take the form of an organized local force of guards, or a group of roughnecks who exist in your employ and mete out your questionable justice throughout the territory.

Law holdings controlled by you help bring rebellious provinces under control, while law holdings belonging to other regents within your territory might represent their thugs or bandits working against you -- or just a few men they keep around to make sure they can get a piece of the local pie, as it were.

Source Holdings

Only those who are both blooded and can cast arcane spells (bards, eldritch knight fighters, arcane trickster rogues, sorcerers*, warlocks, and wizards) may make use of source holdings. Sources are a representation of the primal magic of Cerilia, and in more developed lands, this magic is weaker. The further from civilization that a given piece of land is, the more likely it is to have a high source rating and thus more bountiful source holdings. Additionally, source holdings are required for arcane spellcasters cast realm magic.

Source holdings may take the form of ancient henges, primeval forests, faerie trods, the remains of a gigantic ancient dragon, or other sites of implied magical power.

*if using Cerilian sorcerers in your campaign

Temple Holdings

As their name implies, temple holdings are bastions of the faith (any faith, really, that can gain popular support among the locals). While temple holdings can be controlled by anyone, divine spellcasters (clerics and druids) require temple holdings to cast their versions of realm magic.

Temples do not need to be temples as such, but any site of worship from a modest rural chapel to a massive cathedral can be counted as a temple holding. Correspondingly, higher level temple holdings tend to be more elaborate.


Truly conquering territory in Cerilia is not merely marching your troops into a location and subjugating its population. Until investiture is performed, a province or holding does not contribute to Domain Power and no regency points are gained from it at the beginning of domain turns.

Investiture also encompasses the creation of vassals and transferring the rule of provinces and holdings to other regents. This function is more properly explained in its listing under Domain Actions, which will come in another article.


The largest domains are almost impossible to manage on one’s own, even with a massive staff of courtiers and financiers, a regent will find themselves pulled in too many directions once their domain reaches critical mass -- in game terms, being unable to rule the whole domain through the course of a season with just three domain actions. This is where vassals become important.

The ceremony of investiture has a function to install a vassal under another regent. This relationship is both political and mechanical; the vassal is promised some functional support (whether it be in the form of a mutual defensive pact, a one-time or repeated donation of wealth, or a threat to submit or be eradicated) and in exchange the vassal agrees to add the regency points they would normally gain from the Bloodline ability score to the regent instead.

This means that the vassal does not receive this extra value at the beginning of their domain turns; it is a tithe given to the lord. Powerful lords who control vast portions of territory will install multiple vassals and vastly increase their per-turn regency point gain, but in return must devote aid to their vassals or risk losing their support.

Vassals can be other player characters or simply represented by promoted NPCs, but they must possess a bloodline in order to contribute regency points. Promoting unblooded characters does not require this function of investiture, as unblooded characters cannot rule domains.

Next Time!

In the next article, we'll dive into the Domain Turn, the functional aspects of managing territory, and describe all of the domain actions a player can perform. Here, a fair bit of nip and tuck was done to make the actions feel more familiar with 5th Edition terminology, as well as reduce the amount of free-action abuse that could become prevalent in the previous incarnation.

As a personal note, have I mentioned how much fun this is for me? This is really fun. I love doing this. I love Birthright, I love tabletop games, I love this kind of game in particular, etc. There's just so much to love here. It's actually kind of cluttered now. Hand me that dustpan, would you?

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