Thursday, January 6, 2011

Experience with Domain-Level RPG Play?

The correspondence has been flying fast and furious in the last two days between the 14 current players of the domain game experiment and yours truly.

One interesting, tangential observation I have drawn from it is the number of players who have said—and many of these are long-time players and refs mind you—that their actual playing experience with this kind of play at the tabletop is minimal to non-existent. Much more of it seems to have been with computer games if anything.

Which makes me curious about the why. How many readers out there have had experiences with this level of play in a tabletop rpg? What was it like? What worked for you? What didn't?

And if you haven't, what was holding you back? 


  1. Sorry to hijack this thread, but did you happen to get my e-mail? I hadn't heard back yet. Thanks.

  2. No problem, what's the subject header? And did you send it to kutalik at gmail dot com?

  3. Chris--to answer your question, kind of sort of. We had a BECMI that grew to the C level and we tried to play through the first two of the related C modules. There was some barony management and warfare but I'm not sure we ran it as it was in the rules and after a time we were really just waving away that whole level of things as we rode around and did adventures. It was fun though even the glimpses we had of it.

  4. Yeah, back in the 80's we had a BECMI campaign that reached to the C-levels and we played through Test of the Warlords(?), CM1.

    I think the issue is that we (DM's in general) start our grandiose campaigns at level 1, we don't account for gamer-ADD, and since the typical campaign is 12-18 months*, we're perpetually starting over.

    *I saw that statistic over at Torch,Pole,Rope, but it sounds right...

    I like the idea of the companion level supplement you're working on, though.

  5. We used to play Domain-level games when I was in junior high, but in later years when I tried them as a DM they fell kinda flat. I saw that the Song of Ice and Fire RPG has some rules for running Domain-type games integrated right in there - maybe some of it is worth stealing?

  6. Oddly enough, the only domain level game I recall participating in was the culmination of one of the first D&D campaigns that I played in during the late 1970s. Once all the characters in our adventuring party had reached a certain level, flush with gold, we built castles and established baronies in the wilderness and, of course, went to war against each other. I'm pretty sure it ended up being far more focused on the warfare than on the resource management.
    It ended for me when several of the good characters allied against my evil wizard resulting in my head on a stake at the castle gate and lots of happy villagers...

  7. Last year we played a domain-level game using Song of Ice and Fire RPG (the game based on George RR Martin's fantasy books). The PCs were a minor lord and his retinue. It was a pretty cool campaign — minimal dice rolling, but lots of bickering about how to allocate resources, defend against attacks, supply armies in the field, negotiate with lordly neighbors, etc.

    So there was some resource management, but the whole idea of it was so fresh to everyone. We also did a bit of mass combat, but armies were mostly just there for a show of force...actual roleplaying tended to defuse the situation before swords were drawn.

    Anyway, it was very different from anything we'd ever played, and very satisfying as a result. We managed to end our last session at a good stopping we could start it up again one day.

  8. I'm a player in this game, and I've also both run and played through the classic Domain-level BECMI adventure "Test of the Warlords"

    Had a blast with it. A lot of handwaving occurs, and we would routinely fast forward a season or two between scenes in a session, and a full year between sessions.

    My second-last BX/LL/AEC campaign played out to level 9 with PCs running a merchant house, a thieve's guild and a church.

    The next BX/LL/AEC game had them leading church and clan-provided followers to an ancient fortress to reclaim it from the wilds as their third adventure (so they were a mix of levels 2 and 3). Again, a lot of handwaving for what happens at the settlement, but after each dungeon outing we rolled 2d6 to determine who had moved into the settlement. A 7 was a merchant caravan visiting, everything else involved the settlement growing. Rarer results were cooler stuff.

  9. I am a fan of GRRM's work--if not his work pace--so I will definitely have to check it out.

  10. I have never played a Domain level game before, bu I am very interested in it. The closest thing that I have to this kind of play experience is my current, in production game, City Builders, which focuses on a City Council developing a small town/village/city.

  11. Had some experience with a Chivalry and Sorcery campaign. One of the other player's character and mine were knights who had been given fiefs on a border holding. We managed by managing resources and judicious investment (we combined to have a Mill built) to eventually expand our respective populations to the point where we began to recruit other knights as our vassals. Unfortunately we also were dead in that path of an invading army and my character died defending a breech in a city wall.

  12. I know A Game Of Thrones D20 (the older Gaurdians of older game based on George R. R. Martin's work) has some elements of high level play as well.

    I've never played a high level game at all really, let alone a domain game. This will be my first experience with such a game.

  13. For our gang, the tween years -- 10 to 12 -- were the developmental "sweet spot" for this kind of domain creation. There was something hugely appealing about the construction rules at that age and we all spent many hours outfitting hidden valleys, cloud castles, secret undersea lairs. I wonder if that's why we were able to be such dedicated dungeon masters in those days.

    But before and after, it was all about the role, at least for us. Before the tweens, you got to be big and tough and clever and maybe rich. After the tweens, you got pretty much the same package, only the stakes kept rising.

    I wonder if more adults don't do more domain management because we can get a lot more of that kind of thing at home, so to speak -- maybe for some of us the responsibility of running the roost is part of the problem! On the other hand, domain management computer sims do seem to be everywhere, so maybe it's just one of those things where technology scratches the old itch better.

    Interestingly, I can remember domain management as being one of the better options for solo play. We would collaborate, but it was also a game you could play alone.

  14. @bomasticus
    "Interestingly, I can remember domain management as being one of the better options for solo play. We would collaborate, but it was also a game you could play alone."
    It is interesting and something I've been wanting to explore as a critical point. Some of the most interesting examples of this kind of play are found in solo wargaming from the 60s to today. A curious phenomena worth an exploration or two.

  15. Maybe we forget about solo play now that we can all sit alone in a room and type and never lack for a "full table" ever again. Thinking back, our crowd got up to a lot of solitaire play -- wargames, dungeon crawls, domain building, solo modules, choose your own adventure. Was it a lonelier world then or were we just at a lonelier age? Anyway, fuel for later.

    As tweens, we loved the catalog shopping aspect and then the active resource management or budgeting aspect. We weren't so much into the upper-level leadership aspect -- we all had 2-3 characters but even then were more interested in deepening each personality than in building out armies or nations. It was nice to *have* an army if you needed it, but the normal game scale tended to encourage us to pull individuals out of the mobs and ignore everybody else.

    We were never all that interested in where the name level "allowance" came from at that age, either. The spending got incredibly granular as we outfitted our "rooms" but the system stayed abstract from an income perspective. If the books told you a job or territory earned X a month, that was that.