What's my favorite classic D&D setting? Birthright. I love the backstory and I love the rulership mechanics.
Most PCs have the blood of gods in their veins, which gives them powers beyond the rest of humanity. This extra power boost worked out better than AD&D psionics, so I think the designers of Birthright learned a sense of balance.
In Birthright, if your PCs worked hard and got lucky, they could eventually control various holdings or even rule countries. To support this style of play, Birthright introduced Provinces (a piece of the countryside roughly equivalent to a county, usually 30-50 miles across) and the Domain Turn, which occurred every three months where leaders could grow their population, build a city, develop their holdings, trade, spy on rivals, or go to war.
This is the start of a system for inserting Provinces and Domains into D&D 4e. I won't get into taxation and gold bars and regency points, nor how Magical Holdings and Province Level limit each other. I will explore a framework for describing the area the PCs inhabit and how it might interact with neighboring provinces.
Provinces and Power Sources
Provinces in Birthright have an overall Province Rating and various types of Holding Levels. In thinking about how to describe those numbers in 4e, it seemed like Power Sources would provide a usable structure.
Since there are six power sources and six ability scores, the analogy maker in my head mashed together this table:
|Law Holdings, Fortifications, Armies (Temp Score)
|Defenses, Army/Town Guard Effectiveness
|Province Level Limit, Province Terrain
|Natural Resources, Food Production, Citizen Health
|Guild Holdings, Roads, Trade Routes
|Trade Strength, Black Market Availability, Spycraft
|Magical Holdings, Ley Lines
|Technology Level, Spell Availability, Magical Effectiveness
|Church Organization, Citizen Welfare, Religious Strength
|Province Level, Courts
|Propaganda, Entertainment Effectiveness, Citizen Happiness, Loyalty
With this table you can describe provinces using the six power sources, or as characters with the six basic abilities. I'll focus on power sources for the remainder of this article, since characteristics only make sense if the province somehow tries to act. This table was built using D&D 4e concepts, but this idea can be used in any system.
About the Analogies
Each power source for a particular province has a score from 0-10, ranging from no presence at all to the premier center of power for that source. The following table gives a rough idea of what each score means.
or Basic Farming
|Magically Enhanced Farms
These scores are guidelines meant to fuel your imagination, not hard-and-fast rules. A high Primal score with zeros in every other category could mean an Eden of endless resources, for example.
Example Province: Bardmoor
Let's say your PCs are travelling across a swamp that you haven't developed yet. You want to quickly generate a thumbnail of the area which you know doesn't have a huge population, so you could assign numbers or randomly roll 1d6-1 for each Power Source. For larger provinces, you could roll 1d10 or 1d8+2. Let's say you get the following scores for Bardmoor:
|Strong garrison. Bardmoor Castle sits in the middle of the swamp.
|Good hunting, not much farming. Gator steaks a specialty.
|Well-developed trade hub. Riches from trading with Lizardfolk?
|Either a small cabal of wizards, or one strong/famous one in the area.
|No established divine presence. Possibly anti-religious?
|Minimal government presence. Very few commoners - mostly military and traders.
|Bardmoor Castle, center of trade.
You can get a sense of Bardmoor's typical classes based directly on the power source score. If we bend the rules and move Rogues from Martial to Shadow, we'll see mostly soldiers, mercenaries, and traders of varying honesty. Scouts and Druids are fairly common, but people would talk about the rare Clerics or Paladins passing through their town.
If the PCs or other leaders in a province start making changes, then the scores will change. Changing a score will take money and time. If there's a sudden push to build defenses, the PCs will see construction everywhere for the next few months as walls are built and towers fortified in every town in the province. The new Wizards' Guildhall is sure to raise the Arcane score of a province, but the money to pay for construction needs to come from somewhere.
Similarly, if a disease is ravaging a province or a natural disaster occurs, then scores may drop. Losing a war may drop a province's Martial score. That earthquake may have destroyed a temple and killed several priests, lowering the Divine score. If a leader acts like an idiot and alienates his people, then the Psionic score will drop to reflect the new lower opinion of the province in general.
Provinces in Conflict
When one province decides to invade another, or start a trade embargo, or hold a competition of festivals to curry favor with the High Priest of Bahamut, you can use this system to compare Power Source scores and determine who would win. The higher score has the advantage in most cases. If the scores are far apart, then the side with the lesser score may not even put up much of a fight.
|A Martial 6 province in action.
Feel free to use the Amber Diceless idea of changing the fight to a more advantageous arena. If a province is attacked with an army (Martial), stage an economic coup by ruining their trade goods (Shadow), or start a guerrilla war across the countryside (Primal), or call in favors with allies to counterattack on a different front (Psionic). There's more than one way to win a war, especially if you control food production in a province.
But Wait, There's More!
As I said, this is the start of a system that only covers how to describe provinces. I may develop this idea more as time permits. I've got a rough idea for handling an economic system in slightly more detail than just numbers, and there's plenty of room for development in having provinces act, both in conflict and in cooperation with each other.
I hope you can use this idea to think of your campaign world on a slightly larger scale. If you use this idea, I'd love to hear about it, either through the comments below or directly through Google+ or Twitter.
Thanks for reading!