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D&D General To Domain or not to Domain?


No. Ive tried it a few times over the years as a DM and it seems to degrade the campaign to more book keeping then I prefer. I might be open to try it again with the right players or a more abstract rule system but its generally not the type of game I like.

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I'm guessing that a lot of groups that played the Waterdeep Dragon Heist ended up setting up business empires or other organizations, as an opportunity for a business and/or hideout is baked right into the introductory parts of it and I think most people go into an emphatically urban campaign with a large social RP factor in mind. I know my group ended up running two taverns with a large number of employees, franchising our name out to a third, and renting out space for a brothel. Having the Acquisitions Inc. book get released towards the end of the cycle for Dragon Heist was doubtlessly also an inspiration towards entrepreneurialism.

That's not exactly like having the PCs own a stronghold or domain, but it makes me think that if it is what the DM hopes for it is probably good to introduce some seed from which it can grow long term. Not something that will instantly take over the campaign, just something to put them on the potential track for moving into a more established leadership position rather than just be sought after as crisis solving vagabonds.

I do think running organizations is one of the places where tabletop roleplaying has the potential to shine, unlike in video game rpgs where they basically always suck because there is nothing programed in for meaningful leadership and you just have supposed underlings insisting you need to go on quests all the time and more or less do all the work while they wander aimlessly around the home base.


It happens in some of my campaigns. In some like the Karameikos Campaign (BECMI rules) it's a central focus and PCs eventually became Dukes, & even the Sultan of Alasiya; in others like 4e Loudwater it's more a backdrop to superhero team adventuring, as if the Avengers were based out of a small manor house with a few hundred peasants to look after. :D In my Wilderlands game Hakeem the Destroyer forged a mighty empire through politics and war, but there wasn't really anything resembling a 'domain game' as such, certainly no book keeping.

In my Princes of the Apocalypse game, PCs can clear strongholds, take them as bases, and attract followers. The Followers rarely feature much in play (except Bruldanthor the Dwarf Exposition Sage) :D - but there is a kind of strategic element as the PCs take strongholds from the Elemental Cults, boxing them in and restricting their freedom of maneuver. Currently the PCs have the Earth & Fire Keeps as strongholds, smashed the Fire cult (sneaked in, killed Prophet, took Weapon) and have recently sacked Water keep & right now are sacking Water temple, while being allied to the Air keep. So Air cult is free to act, but Fire is in shambles, Earth is intact but heavily constrained, with no easy surface access. Water had been doing well but is now being smashed pretty decisively.
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I did back in my first AD&D game (which I inherited), because I wanted the players to have some location they're attacked to. One player chose not to do so, but that was his decisions. When I ran the Greyhawk Wars, The first to fall was the wizards tower, and he was forced to teleport away (after setting the tower to explode. The fighter/rogue's fortress was next in line, and while he and the wizard tried to hold back the horde with his soldiers, it too fell (they escaped with a few NPCs through a secret tunnel. It was only the cleric's temple that remained, which the party used to rally at in order to fight back. It really made the high level game fun, as the loss of so much was a blow not only to the power of each character (most lost loot stashed in the places taken), but the morale of each player.

In 5E, I did have a player who first earned the title of Knight Commander, and eventually control of a fortress on the borderlands (this was a plot device to get the party in a certain position). He later married a minor noble, earning the title of baronet. After a major adventure for the kingdom, he was granted the title of Baron, and the land he oversaw was now a full barony. The slow build up made things interesting, because the players each had plans to use the fortress owned by the single player.


D&D 5e (2019-Today)
For my current game the PCs started level 3, are sibblings and children of a baron. They already have status and responsibilities towards their familly, serfs and the crown. No need to wait for «name level» if you want to play the domain game.

The players agreed to this. They wanted to experience something different. They had never done this.

The PCs are now level 8. They are on the verge of a war with another barony. The King is on their side but the Duke is on the side of the other barony. The curent play of the PCs is to try to convince the Duke to change sides even if he is married to the sister of the opposing baron. They have proof of devil worshipping by the opposing baron and his family. They hope it will be enough. TBC


Our campaign started as a nautical, piraty thing, and after winning a second ship, several party members decided they wanted to start a trading company. Several levels later, we liberated a newly appeared island and claimed it for ourselves (well, for Waterdeep). As a captain of the flagship, my character was first knighted, and later granted with the title of count. His name is Baran, so the island (or continent, as he likes to call it) is Barany, and the county (er... nation) bears the same name. The hamlet -- capital, that is -- is Baranton, of course.
His plan is to proclaim the Empire of Barany (under the suzerainity of Waterdeep... for now), and rule gloriously under his many titles:
His Glorious Imperial and Celestial Royal Majesty,
Lord Baran the Undeleteable, First of His Name; His Most Serene & Illustrious Lordship:
Heir of Elements, Prince of Storms, Archduke of Thunder, Grand Voivode of Lightning;
Princely Count & Earl of the Grand Earlmarch-County of Barany;
Knight of Waterdeep;
Fleet Admiral of the First Dreadfleet of Barany Admiralty;
Lord High Warmaster General of the Bloodthirsty Island Horde;
Lord Protector of Stormcliff Castle;
Lord Supreme High Judge of Barany;
First Laird of Baranton;
Benevolent Grand High Clanmaster, Thane of Thanes of All Subjects of Dwarvish Persuasion;
Stalwart Guardian of the Gates to the Underworld;
Defender of Faith;
Acknowledged by Valkur;
Wielder of the Twice-Struck Staff;
Captain of the Broken Cage;
etc. etc.


It is always an option, but I do not use any mechanics for it. Just role playing. You do not just get it - you need to make it happen with in character actions. I provide openings for it to happen, but it is not automatic - and it often locks characters down in ways that limit future adventures a bit. As such, I am neither happy nor sad to see PCs decide to start some organization, or to see them leave those options alone.

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