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D&D 5E () What would you want for 5e Birthright?

CapnZapp

Legend
First off, a short summary, since this campaign world is perhaps less known to recent gamers:

  • player characters (and some NPCs) are special, more special than normal, having bloodline powers.
  • Iconic monsters like "The Spider" or "The Werewolf" are leaders of their own countries. That's not a Spider, it's the Spider, a powerful monster-king with plans of his own. The term is "awnsheghlien", meaning someone given great dark powers by twisted corruption. Basically, it could be you except you got vampire powers and became really powerful and evil, and took the name "The Vampire", reshaping an entire country to match your mood. It's a bit like Highlander in that you kill other powerful leaders and take their power (and hope it doesn't corrupt you).
  • the campaign world supports domain-level play, where bloodline characters are leaders of their chosen nation and generate regency points, of which there are four kinds, one for each of the four base classes: law (fighters), temple (clerics), source (wizards) and guild (rogues). Points can then be used to raise armies, cast mighty spells, and develop your country's provinces. There is an economic map with loads of provinces, and conquering a rich province can be a goal in itself for players, or just a necessary stepping-stone in order to be able to defend the borders against the Spider's marauding troops...
  • the world Cerilia consists of many nations, grouped in five broad ethnic groups. So you'll have all the faux medieval Europe nations here, all the rugged mountaneous Scandi-Slavic nations over there, the desert people with their magical cities somewhere else. Sprinkled in among these are your stock elf forest kingdoms, your dwarf underground kingdoms, and... the Gorgon and its country there, the Sphinx and her country over there.

What would a 5E version look like?

Basically what's cool about the setting is the notion that iconic monsters have risen to become leaders of their own distinct countries, and that there is support for what happens when that iconic monster raises an army to invade your home country. That's what sets Birthright apart imo.

The actual world is pretty samey, with lots of indistinguishable versions of western kingdoms here, several Arabic nations there, and so on. It's so large and interchangeable. And it's obviously in need of a stereotype cleanup. Basically, the question needs to be asked: would 5E be better served by a new much "tighter" map, where you start with the idea to focus on one corner of the world (with maybe 20 nations), but then make sure to include real diversity (and not just 20 different faux-scandinavian forested independent-but-proud nations), cutting out the chaff. Only include as many nations as you're able to make feel different! A new map, a new world but with the core ideas of the old AD&D setting.

As for bloodlines I definitely feel the 5E way would be to simply say that any player character is by default a special person. No cluttery bloodlines powers needed or wanted. If you don't have regency, you're a NPC. Simple. In AD&D it was already very common to simulate a living breathing campaign world by giving NPCs class levels. You would discuss how many level 7 fighters or level 4 paladins etc a given city could support, for instance. Thus it was felt heroes with bloodlines needed extra bloodline powers to elevate them above "regular level 7 fighters". Since 5E doesn't work that way (which is great), I suggest simply that what in other campaign worlds is a "regular hero" in Birthright is a special hero. Same stats, no extra rules.

As for the domain layer of play, I have a sneaking suspicion the numbers were basically just made up. It was enough to support a GMs hand-holding but nothing that stood up against real scrutiny. Compare to a board game. A board game needs to be balanced in some sense. Its numbers can't just be made up or there is no challenge. Most economic tidbits in rpgs just doesn't work. Either it's trivial to get rich or you would bankrupt your organization as soon as you tried gaming out the rules. I suspect this layer could benefit the most from getting a brand new do-over, assuming its developers are given enough time to actually get it right.

In summary:

Cerilia as a game world is a bit naff and the cool ideas of Birthright would probably be better served by a new map. The things I would get a 5E Birthright module for is the economic overlay, and the old one is probably not worth using as a starting point. The other thing I want is the cool monster kings - and their nations - and of course: adventure material that marries regular adventuring with domain-level rewards. After all, you're gaming in Birthright because hunting down that beast or finding out who's poisoning your village well is part of a greater whole. You don't just do it because you're sell-swords, you're doing it because the beast hinders development of your province or chokes an important trade route, and the poisoned wells is a sabotage campaign by raiders from the neighboring country...
 

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Space to can add supernatural factions (vampire clans, werebeast tribes, spellcaster brotherhoods, fae noble houses, ghost guilds..) with their own palace intrigues.

I suggest some an app in your tablet to can manage the domains, economy, building strongholds and those things.
 

payn

Legend
Im not too familiar with it so any update would be appreciated. This seems like a good system to run a Game of Thrones type of game.
 

Faolyn

(she/her)
The nations that are total expies of real world groups should be double-checked, of course. The rules for domain-management should be streamlined, but with added options for complexity. I don't know if any nations are elven, dwarf, etc., but there should be some--and more than one of each. As well as the more supernatural ones, like @LuisCarlos17f suggested. In addition to the domain management stuff, it should also support people who just want to do standard adventuring (or pathfinding for expanding territory).
 


Stormonu

Legend
Pronounceable names. I understand the original author wanted a specific theme, but gawd did it make it impossible to remember/pronounce most of the names in the books.

Also needs a mass battle system and a good system for ruling that plays well with a group and not as a solo game.

The awn… (not even going to try) were an excellent idea for unique foes, and I like them very much as a sort of “progenitor of monsters”. The Gorgon as sort of an end-campaign boss (or the threat of one) was a good idea, but I hated he was so close to the “starting kingdom” you were sort of expected to play.

Personally, I think Birthright should be torn down to its ideas (regency, strongholds and rulership) and rebuilt from the ground up with the original campaign world taking a hike.
 

Stormonu

Legend
As for the domain layer of play, I have a sneaking suspicion the numbers were basically just made up. It was enough to support a GMs hand-holding but nothing that stood up against real scrutiny. Compare to a board game. A board game needs to be balanced in some sense. Its numbers can't just be made up or there is no challenge. Most economic tidbits in rpgs just doesn't work. Either it's trivial to get rich or you would bankrupt your organization as soon as you tried gaming out the rules. I suspect this layer could benefit the most from getting a brand new do-over, assuming its developers are given enough time to actually get it right.
BTW, the domain play came from a boardgame version they used to playtest the campaign world. TSR used to run the boardgame version at Gencon and made it available on their website, usable with the Birthright conspectus map.
 

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vincegetorix

Jewel of the North
I'd like something resembling Fantasy AGE (Green Ronin)'s rules for Mass combat and organizations (which can be domains or guilds or whatever). In this system, Armies and Organizations have ''character sheets'' pretty close to a normal character.

So a Dm might decide that each player can have, let's say, 1 organization turn and 1 army turn per game night after the usual dungeon delving of the main characters of the campaign to let the players decide the direction taken by their domain or armies.

Or a Dm might decide that one game night every three game night will be fully dedicated to Army and Domains.

All of this is pretty streamlined and use the actual mechanics of the game instead of being a whole other system bolted on the 5e's one (looking at you Stronghold and Followers...)
 

Urriak Uruk

Gaming is fun, and fun is for everyone
Strongholds and Followers, Kingdoms and Warfare.... except not quite as complicated, and more integrated with play. Meaning, the PCs can actually be in the fight, much like how Dimension 20 did it in their Crown of Candy stream.
 

What I'd want is something equivalent to Van Richten's Guide to Ravenloft but for high politics and domain management. About half a dozen pages on the setting itself, but a lot for the DM on DMing such a setting. For the players Bloodline Gifts that work roughly the way Dark Gifts do in Ravenloft and a couple of subclasses (I see Paladin and Warlock as obvious) and feats.

Fundamentally I find the play style it brings to be interesting but nothing I've seen of the world itself makes me thing that that's where I wasnt to do those things so much as it's something I want to be able to add to other settings when the PCs have earned it.
 

I wish I could give a detailed answer to this, but my experience with Birthright was very short, one prep session.

I didn't like randomly rolling for abilities (this isn't Gamma World!) and didn't end up with any. IIRC you could end up with no, minor, or major abilities. To be fair, starting with 3e, we got feats. Eberron's Dragonmarked feats were kind of similar. You could still not have the special ability, but you weren't spending a feat for that, so it's okay.

So the first thing I would want is to have bloodline powers represented by feats. Perhaps everyone gets a bonus feat, which you can spend on a bloodline power, or something else. Spend more feats for major bloodline abilities. Having more powerful bloodline abilities probably comes with more social power (again like being Dragonmarked; if you have a mark so big it covers your entire back you "earn" respect) and that social power is essentially part of the feat.
 

amethal

Adventurer
As for bloodlines I definitely feel the 5E way would be to simply say that any player character is by default a special person. No cluttery bloodlines powers needed or wanted. If you don't have regency, you're a NPC. Simple. In AD&D it was already very common to simulate a living breathing campaign world by giving NPCs class levels. You would discuss how many level 7 fighters or level 4 paladins etc a given city could support, for instance. Thus it was felt heroes with bloodlines needed extra bloodline powers to elevate them above "regular level 7 fighters". Since 5E doesn't work that way (which is great), I suggest simply that what in other campaign worlds is a "regular hero" in Birthright is a special hero. Same stats, no extra rules.
That is a wonderful idea.

I'd often wondered how to do Birthright in Pathfinder - feats, gestalt classes, mythic rules? - but actually there's no need for any of that. (I also like the idea that the 12th level Fighter who rules the domain could retire, hand his crown off to the PCs, and revert to a 12th level Warrior - maybe even with some negative levels.)

Would you include some rules for the "stealing power" thing Birthright had going, or leave that out / make it a monsters-only thing?
 

Stormonu

Legend
Story-wise, stealing power fits, but it’s easily unbalanced in play. I’d leave it as a monster only ability personally. If it was possible for PCs to steal/absorb power, the mechanics would need to be much more limited so it isn’t disruptive to bounded accuracy.
 


CapnZapp

Legend
Something to spend all the gold I acquired while adventuring.
Lol.

Normally I'd be on your side but if there's one campaign world where it actually makes sense to expect heroes to invest their gold in "downtime activities" like improving their nation's defenses, it's this one.

I mean, if you're playing your classic murder hobo delving dungeons, that's perfectly fine, but why do it in this campaign world?!
 

CapnZapp

Legend
Story-wise, stealing power fits, but it’s easily unbalanced in play. I’d leave it as a monster only ability personally. If it was possible for PCs to steal/absorb power, the mechanics would need to be much more limited so it isn’t disruptive to bounded accuracy.
The one balanced way is this:

Stealing power (Highlander-style) replaces XP.

Don't defeat a monster king? Don't gain a level. Simple.

It also explains why you aren't interested in regular adventuring down dungeons. Because while that might make you wealthy, it can't make you a more powerful regent.

Birthright can easily support the campaign style where there is twenty monster-kings, one of each level; you just need to

1) find them
2) use your nation's resources to set up a situation where you are placed to take one out
3) while simultaneously trying to defend against your immediate neighbors and stay below the radar of the more powerful ones

if you attempt 3) by yourself, you obviously CAN do it (since a party of heroes quickly equate whole garrisons of regular foot-soldiers) but

A) it doesn't really help you stay off the radar
and
B) you're essentially wasting your potential. Why do something an army unit can do? Why not do the thing you're uniquely equipped to do?

What is that, then? 1) generate and spend regency points and 2) gain levels (and take out competitors and reduce pressure on your borders at the same time)
 

vincegetorix

Jewel of the North
The one balanced way is this:

Stealing power (Highlander-style) replaces XP.

Don't defeat a monster king? Don't gain a level. Simple.

It also explains why you aren't interested in regular adventuring down dungeons. Because while that might make you wealthy, it can't make you a more powerful regent.

Birthright can easily support the campaign style where there is twenty monster-kings, one of each level; you just need to

1) find them
2) use your nation's resources to set up a situation where you are placed to take one out
3) while simultaneously trying to defend against your immediate neighbors and stay below the radar of the more powerful ones

if you attempt 3) by yourself, you obviously CAN do it (since a party of heroes quickly equate whole garrisons of regular foot-soldiers) but

A) it doesn't really help you stay off the radar
and
B) you're essentially wasting your potential. Why do something an army unit can do? Why not do the thing you're uniquely equipped to do?

What is that, then? 1) generate and spend regency points and 2) gain levels (and take out competitors and reduce pressure on your borders at the same time)

Maybe Regency could replace Xp altogether? Like when you complete certain actions (killing a named Monster, expending your domain, gather a hoard for your domain, routing an army, gaining a Mark of Prestige etc) you gain Regency Points, which you can spend to either build new features/building for your Domain OR advance your PC level ( 1 xp = 1 Regency point).

Mutant Year Zero has a nice system where you spend resources to have your fellow survivor in your shelter build buildings to improve your home and increases the stats of it, making it better to withstand the random Effects that plague the land (sandstorm, raiders, drought etc). Some building also generate things like incomes, better equipment, healing rations etc.

A basic system like this would awesome.
 

aco175

Legend
I would like to see where you can gain levels if you adventure. I think it still needs to be D&D, but with a layer on top of it. Maybe you gain something like feats if you defeat the other regents, like Highlander. You would still need to practice your combat prowess to be able to defeat the others and be the one.

You could also go opposite and have the regent be more of a figurehead that the players jointly control like a business and they are still a party under him. This way the party adventures and the players can make a decision to invade or negotiate with another kingdom.
 

Laurefindel

Legend
Birthright is a setting that always fascinated me but never played. Nevertheless, what I'd like is a few things that would set it apart from other medieval-fantasy settings.

  • A more medieval feel.
  • One of two notches down of the "magic" dial.
  • A military campaign mini-game, or even side-along game, with expansion of downtime rules. Almost half boardgame with RP sessions between "game rounds".
  • Low-level support (i.e. mechanical rewards other than xp/levels, even if they're one-offs). This doesn't look like a game for one-man-armies.
  • Rules for political intrigue.
  • Magic linked to power sources.
  • More of those domain booklets and maps. Those alone sold the setting.

And, this is where my opinion probably diverges the most: stay within the northern-europe analogue. Polish it, allow enough mixity with foreign nations to allow any PC representation, play on leadership rather than nationalism,
 

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