Not Just Wilderness Clearing. Reading over my post I think I may have gone a little too far with yesterday's stick-bending about wilderness clearing being the entirety of the domain-play adventure in AD&D. While it's undoubtedly central stage, Gygax does specifically mention political machinations as a way to shake things up when things start looking dull:
“Because this is a fantasy adventure game, it is not desirable to have any player character's territory become tame and staid. There must always be a chance for some monster to enter the area and threaten the well-being of its inhabitants. What is the answer if the territory is located in the heart of some powerful state? Intrigue and petty wars, of course! If the territory of a player character is part of a nation, then there will be jealous neighbors, assassins, and the like to threaten him or her.”
Encounter Tables as Central Mechanic. Yesterday I also made several mentions of how the many, longish encounter tables crunched in the back of the DMG were to be used to stock out the hexcrawl contents and periodic checks for wandering bands. Suddenly the gigantic “number appearing” and “% in lair” lines become much more relevant.
Interestingly this is extended even further to be the central mechanic to handle the all-important way that your little hold in the wilds grows:
“[Potential settlers] will begin to appear after the player character's stronghold is finished and patrols have generally cleared the area. The populace will match the area and the alignment of the character. When a random monster check reveals some form of creature who properly matches the potential inhabitant type for the territory, then have them move in and settle down, making proper subservience calls upon the master of the territory, naturally. Hamlets, thorps, and various other settlement farms will eventually be established here and there in the area, starting near the castle and working towards the fringe of the territory.”
It's an interesting contrast to how the other D&D domain games which almost to a system work out some automatic (and bone dry) formula for population growth (such and such percentage of “peasant families” move in per such and such time).
At first glance it seems silly and unworkable—what I'm going to grow a colony of wandering ankhegs, satyrs and stag beetles here--but when you look harder at the frequencies of certain encounters it becomes more obvious: the most common encounter across clime and theme is with groups of “normal humans”.
Even on the pure wilderness charts the chance of a given encounter being a roll on the “men” sub-table is as high as 10-25 percent of the time. In inhabited/patrolled areas (presumably what you are rolling on in the post-clearing example above) that number jumps up to 40-65 percent. You can potentially throw in a 1-10 percent chance of meeting demihumans and a 3-15 percent chance of humanoids as possible settlers (depending obviously on alignment and reaction).
What's more on the Men sub-table the “monster” listings—bandits, beserkers, brigands—only occur 10-20 percent of the time, leaving merchants, dervishes, nomads, pilgrims, and tribesmen as groups that have some likelihood of settling down. (Hell my players would just as likely be recruiting the former group of ruffians).
There are also interesting domain-play possibilites for some of the less obvious monster encounters. Herds of mastodons and wild horses? How about a potentially lucrative resource on the hoof? Tribe of hill giants? Do we risk trying to sign those giganto-bumpkins up or mount up?
Personally I love this. It's not great “simulation”, but it is great fantasy gaming.
But then again the idea of being a self-proclaimed petty warlord just barely ruling over a motley deep-wilderness, monster-haunted domain of religious zealots, blink dogs, forest tribesmen, pixies, and ballsy caravan owners has a way more evocative pull to me then being a feudal-like count with an auto-expanding number of faceless serfs.