Domain Play: By the Numbers

My campaign is narrowing in on Name Level: where the characters are beyond the threat of the lowly orc, and their panoplies could buy them a nice town. Pathfinder has some decent rules here, but they’re kinda crunchy. I want something higher level; unfortunately, the otherwise excellent An Echo, Resounding is too divorced from the gp-and-hp of D&D.

So let’s talk about buying a nice town.

And then training the peasants up into soldiers.

And then beating the tar out of all of the lowly orcs.


So you’re Ruler of a Domain

That means you get to interact with the domain system. You’re a Regent. You don’t necessarily have any special powers, except that once per month you get to resolve one Domain Turn. The benefits are that you can shape your domain through your policies and expenditures, turning it into a machine aimed at any particular goal you please. You can also skim a little bit off of the top, harvesting wealth, resources and personnel for your pet projects.

It’s good to be the queen/president/archduke!

The Domain Turn

  1. Upkeep.
    1. Each of your Ministers resolves their upkeep events.
  2. Event.
    1. Roll to determine events.
  3. Edict.
    1. The Regents and ministers twiddle with the knobs.
  4. Resolution.
    1. The edicts have their effects, and the Ministers (and their holdings) are altered thereby.

From the above, we’ve introduced a few new nouns. Let’s deal with that!

The Regent is you. It’s the PC, NPC, or other leader of a domain. Big domains can have multiple cooperating regents just fine.

Ministers are the heart and soul of this system. The difference between a regent and an adventurer is that the regent has people to do things for them. They even have people to do things for their people, and so on down the chain. In short, they have factors in the old sense: agents, deputies, representatives. They’re NPCs, with statistics, and if you want they could even have classes and levels. They’re so important to this system that they have additional rules below.

Edicts are the actions the players (and NPC rulers) take via their ministers.

Upkeep, Events and Resolution are just phases to break up the action. The upkeep phase is where costs, complications and losses generally come up; events represent a change in the situation (such as droughts or booster crops, outbreaks of disease or discovery of new resources); and resolution is where holdings generate income, edicts affect morale, and other similar issues.


Let’s get something basic out of the way first: It doesn’t really matter what scale this domain is being built to, and it doesn’t really matter what the political system in the domain is. The dividing line between “you own a castle and employ twelve footmen” and “you are now using the domain system” should be a sliding scale: with a single castle, you would have a single minister, the steward or castellan.

And it doesn’t matter if there isn’t a “minister of war” or a “minister of the west”. For these purposes, even if it’s all decisions are made by respectful debates in the Hall of Speakers by selectmen and selectwomen chosen via sortition, there’s still somebody in the hot seat whose job it is to administer the execution of battle or the construction of the levies. That’s the minister.

Okay. So what is a Minister?

A Minister is a stand-in. They’re the mechanism by which a regent executes their will over the domain. They’re the narrative glue that prevents us from having to track the placement of each gatehouse and abbey and instead declare that Monksylvania is, indeed, crawling with monks, because the Minister of Monks is the foremost of the ministers and has the largest dedicated resources. They’re the human face on the economic engine that allows us to zoom out a little.

Your minister is given dominance over some of your domain’s resources. This can be of a mix of types or a large fraction of a single type or whatever. The important thing is that the minister can account for them and (at least mostly) order them around.

A domain has statistics. We’re using this in the sense an economist might, at least until I show my ignorance: These are statistics that are calculable by counting noses or accounting ledgers. These numbers shift over time.

  • Population: A straight count of the number of adult (or near-as-makes-no-difference) denizens in the domain, regardless of loyalty.
    • Each member of the population consumes the output of one slot of farmland. Artisans and militaries also “occupy” a gp value in structures of the appropriate type.
    • Each artisan has an upkeep set by their skills and level in GP. If specified use the given rate; otherwise, calculate per militant.
    • Each militant has an upkeep equal to their XP value in GP.
  • Size: The square-mile size of the domain. More useful are the slots of structure provided by the size:
    • Each square mile of land can be dedicated to structures:
      • Grassland, Meadow: up to 240 slots; construct at normal speed.
      • Hills, Forest: up to 120 slots; structures loses 50% construction.
      • Jungle, Mountains, Swamp: up to 80 slots; structures loses 66% construction.
      • Arctic, Desert, Open Sea: 0 slots; no construction.
  • Structures: The total sum of gp in buildings (and other terrain improvement) in the domain, as well as equipment and goods associated with those buildings.
    • Structures come in 3 types; farmland, artisan and military.
      • Farmland provides food for the domain; costing 30 gp per slot (60 in hills and forest, 90 in jungle, mountains, swamp). Each square mile of farmland requires 100 laborers to operate, or each slot of farmland can be farmed by 1 laborer.
      • Artisan structures and Military structures are of effectively unlimited value per slot, but one slot each — the value must be specified at the outlay. Each turn, up to 6000 gp may be invested in a given mile, though in difficult terrain a smaller amount might survive investment.

Each minister is given absolute charge of some fraction of these quantities. The Minister of War might have mastery over all of the soldiers, borders, and castles; the Duke of the East might have charge over all of the land, people, structures and wealth east of the mountains. So if a PC wants to arrange movement of persons, places or things, they just have to talk to the minister. A minister can have any amount of resources devoted to themselves, but a Regent can’t have more than 5+their charisma modifier Ministers. Regents don’t actually get any resources themselves: if a PC (“regent”) wants to play a minister, then the rules-text position of “minister” is filled by their aides and staff.

You don’t have to track the actual number of soldiers versus numbers of peasants who report up to a given minister. I wouldn’t recommend it, actually. Instead, I’d just remember that the Baron of the Fields — a minister with 5% of the wealth of the nation — has 12,300 citizens (3,000 artisans, 1,000 militants), 80 square miles of land, 58,000 gp worth of structures, and another 32,000 gp of wealth.

The Baron of the Fields is also a monster manual-style noble, and holds the breadbasket of the nation in his hands. If the PCs want to raise an army for the border, they’ll have to figure out how to supply it, and the Baron of the Fields is the way to do that. It’s a shame he has an Economy bonus of -2.


Each of your Ministers has 3 attributes in addition to their strength, dexterity, intelligence and so forth. They are:

  • Military: The ability of the minister to wage war and build the structures thereof.
  • Economy: The industry and productivity of the minister: what wealth they can generate with their personnel and structure.
  • Loyalty: The minister’s connection to the people and to the regent.

These are driven by the personality of the Minister, and adjusted over time, in particular Loyalty in response to events.


Okay. So let’s get back to the whole domain turn thing.

You take one domain turn per month. Let’s call that 30 days.

  1. Upkeep.
    1. Farms require upkeep in spring and winter: 1d6 x the number of farms structures in gp or they are destroyed. If this leaves population unhomed, they are considered unpaid.
    2. Artisans and Militants require GP expenditure equal to their upkeep value.
    3. Any unpaid individuals test loyalty; those failing will leave; those failing by more than 5 might turn bandit.
  2. Event.
    1. If there is a pending event, there is a 50% chance it occurs this turn. Roll to determine events. Otherwise, roll the Current Calamity table, DMG page 112. There is a 50% chance the event occurs immediately, and a 50% chance it is pending until next turn (and next turn, and…).
  3. Edict.
    1. Construction: Each minister may make a Economy check. Per point above 10, they may invest in a single square mile, building several slots of farmland or investing in a single artisan or military building. In either case, the maximum invested per square mile per turn is 6000 gp. Remember, artisan and military structures must have their target size dictated at the outset, and aren’t usable until complete!
    2. Matriculation. Each minister may make an Economy check (artisans) or Military check (militants). Per point above 10, they may select one structure which is both 1) completed and 2) not yet at capacity, in terms of population. They may convert laborers into artisans or militants as appropriate.
    3. Recruitment. Each minister may make a Loyalty check to acquire new families of settlers. Make a Loyalty check. Per point above 10, select one square mile of farms. Fill ’em with peasants.
    4. Taxation. Skim a little off the top. Collect (1d10+5)gp per laborer, 10 times the quantity for artisans. Destroy 1 farm in each square mile.
    5. Movement. You can command the movement of people from place to place via Military checks. If you’re moving soldiers, maybe they do soldiery things at the other end. If they’re laborers, it’d be better to have a really good reason you’re moving them.
  4. Resolution.
    1. Active laborers generate income in the summer and autumn: 1d10+5 gp per laborer.
    2. Artisans generate income continuously: 1d10+5 x 10 gp per individual.
    3. Unpopular ministers test

Okay. So now we have a little fake economy going — not sure I trust it yet — and a mechanism by which the players interact with it and vice versa. You talk to your Ministers, and they go out and do your bidding. There’s a system where you can roll a few dice and do some multiplication (or spreadsheets or whatever). There’s also a way to handwave it: things are stable until they aren’t, and you have a percentage of your population determined by your square mileage and fecundity dedicated to artisans and military.

I’d probably do libraries and stuff as one offs: they’re artisan structures, and they can answer questions about Baalzebul’s favorite ice cream.



About lackhand

I was born in 1984 and am still playing games, programming computers, and living in New York City. View all posts by lackhand

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