member, 785 posts
 Game Archaeologist
Thu 30 Mar 2017
at 17:55
Domain Level Games
Has anyone ever played or ran a domain level game here?
How did it work?

Like Pendragon' Lordly Domains as an example of what I mean.

How hard is it to hold interest? What needs to happen to keep interest?

For those that have done it, what worked? what didn't?

I have tried two here and think there needs to be another way I just haven't thought of.
Togashi Kenshin
 member, 8 posts
Thu 30 Mar 2017
at 18:15
Domain Level Games
If you mean games where the PCs control a nation, city or other polity then yes there have been some in the past. The god games are also a variation of this theme and I saw one being advertised only a couple of months ago. From what I can observe, the greatest problems tend to be GM burnout and breakaway PCs which are problems many gamers are familiar with but are exacerbated by the format.

You see for the GM they basically have to keep track of statistics for the whole world map. What every kingdom is doing, what kind of policies they are enacting, troop movements, finances, relations, etc. Even if only PC nations are around, the amount of bookkeeping is horrendous. This might be fun for the PCs but for the GM it is a lot of number crunching and that is not necessarily fun.

The breakaway PC is someone who by luck or skill has arrived at a commanding position and the game now becomes less the Great Game of Thrones and more Talk Softly and Walk with A Big Stick. If the PC is of the mind to conquer other nations then the only thing the others can do is to band together to stop him. In any case you are going to be short one or more player nations soon. If a plurality or worse a majority of PCs form a coalition then you will be basically running a World War campaign sooner or later. Either that or everyone joins the coalition and you have to invent some sort of threat so that it is not just turn after turn of just seeing numbers get bigger.

I am contemplating of running a D&D campaign with kingdom building elements but I am seriously weighing how much of the campaign will focus on it.
 member, 745 posts
Thu 30 Mar 2017
at 21:54
Domain Level Games
I think you have two really good points there, TK. Provided you catch it early enough, you can perhaps do something to prevent PC breakaway (though if your intervention is obvious, you could lose the player).

However, there is no real way around GM burnout apart from finding (or devising) a set of rules that allows players (and GMs) to manage domain games realistically with minimal effort. If anyone finds such a rule set, please let me know!

The problem, of course, is that running a nation is complex, and any ruleset that represents it with any veracity is also going to be complex. And, as you say, the GM has to run every nation on the map.

Because of the complexity, and the typical length of domain campaigns, you also need to find some very special players - people who are prepared to spend years in a single game, people who are comfortable with mathematics, people for whom managing their own domain is more important than painting the map, for whom playing is more important than winning.

There is usually far too much effort involved, for players and GM. There are easier ways to get your gaming kicks. That is what you need to overcome to make a domain game work.

Unfortunately, it's like saying all you need to explore the universe is a decent faster-than-light drive. The solution is obvious. Creating that solution is pretty much impossible. :(
C-h Freese
 member, 259 posts
 Survive - Love - Live
Thu 30 Mar 2017
at 21:58
Domain Level Games
"political science" wargaming, I think at one point worked with computer spread sheets, much like the Military.
 member, 786 posts
 Game Archaeologist
Thu 30 Mar 2017
at 23:13
Domain Level Games
Yes. Good points.
I had thought of separating the players into positions within a single kingdom.
As in:
Chamberlain - They are responsible for the affairs of their Lord's immediate household, and the family.

Steward - They attend to the general management of the estates and lands of the house.

Constable - Oversees all military matters, including the mustering, equipping and training of the knights and soldiers, and the maintenance and fortification of all castles and defenses.

Chancellor - They judge over contracts, the payment of amercement and fines, and the order in which creditors should rank. They are the king's representative charged with the application of justice.

Seneschal - They control their Lord's finances, holding their purse and managing revenues and expenditure.

This way, with a weak King/Queen, it is more of a political game than just number crunching.

A single Domain instead of multiple to reduce the paperwork.
Each playing to be "The Power Behind the Throne".

I'm afraid for it to actually work you would need a lot of players so diplomacy options would abound.
 member, 746 posts
Fri 31 Mar 2017
at 06:13
Domain Level Games
You would also need an even more perfect mix of perfect players. As well as a lot of them.

In the game you envisage there - which would no doubt be entertaining for the GM - players are no longer master of their own domain, they are potentially going to be sidelined by activity focused elsewhere.

Without a lot of effort, the Chamberlain could end up as little more than nursemaid to the ruler's kids. The Seneschal could end up relegated to bean-counting in the counting-house, etc.

As for spreadsheets (along with other maths skills), anyone who has the skill to use them probably uses them at work, and the last thing they generally want to do is use them at home, too.

This message was last edited by the user at 06:16, Fri 31 Mar 2017.

 member, 172 posts
 Prefers roles to rolls
 Based in UTC+1
Fri 31 Mar 2017
at 07:55
Domain Level Games
One mix I have found that is working well is a federal union, with players controlling a polity within it. Each player controls their own polity budget and collaborates on a council towards the main federal budget. By keeping the federal budget the main focus - in part by limiting the polity budget, but with other levers, it is a workable and runnable model for a narrative strategy campaign

You still need the right mix of players, clearly

Happy to expand further
 member, 787 posts
 Game Archaeologist
Fri 31 Mar 2017
at 10:45
Re: Domain Level Games
You would also need an even more perfect mix of perfect players. As well as a lot of them.

That what I expect.  :(

One mix I have found that is working well is a federal union, with players controlling a polity within it.

That sounds like a Victory By Any Means (VBAM) game.
How do you handle the bookkeeping and how much is there?