Tuesday, March 24, 2020

Simple Domains: XP Up Front

For most of 2019, I was wrestling with squaring the circle of open table vs campaign play.  One of the central issues is "stuff over time" - expenses over time, income over time, etc.  When you don't keep very strong, consistent track of time between adventures, this stuff gets annoying.  I had a partial solution to problems of this form using ACKS' magic time-discounting ratio for mercenaries, turning them from an expense-over-time into a one-time cost.

It hit me a while back that the same could be done for domain income and, perhaps more importantly, domain XP.  Take the monthly net income, multiply it by the time constant of 30, and there's your XP value for conquering this domain, just like a monster entry.  No domain XP threshold, but the exponential XP curve sort of makes it work out - taking a (civilized) barony might give you 60k XP, but if you're high level that's not going to do much for you (might be worth extending the exponential progression up over 8th, instead of switching to linear progression - big domains yield a lot of XP).  And if you lose it, you lose the XP.  Sometimes this big lump of XP will be enough for you to level multiple times.  We already have a mechanism for dealing with big lump sums though - "you can only level once per adventure".  The same would work fine here - you can get better training by ruling a domain, but you need to go out and apply it in order to turn it into levels.  Maybe allow mass combats to also count as adventures.  This makes inheritance by a low-level character work out pretty cleanly; it doesn't take them from 1st to 8th overnight, it's still a gradual process, but a much-accelerated one that should bring them back to parity with the party relatively quickly.  Inherited domains could almost serve as a replacement for reserve XP as a power-floor for replacement characters.

If the party as a whole takes a domain, I see two ways to handle it.  One is to split the rulership XP among them equally, and then as they get more domains and start assigning them to individual characters you stop dividing it.  Another is to make class-specific stores of domain XP.  So maybe your civilized barony has 60k general rulership XP, 15k cleric tithes XP for whoever the spiritual leader is (works out about right, 500 families * 1gp/mo * 30 months), some amount of thief XP based on market class...  and then wizards are hard.  The thing I like about this is that when you move to personal domains, you can fill those slots with henchmen (if your hench repertoire is diverse), and level them up for rulership when you need vassals.  I'm not sure it's worth the complexity.

So then the primary benefits of domain rulership are XP and a captive market, and the focus in the domain game is on taking them from other people.  If you need cash from your domain, you can exploit it, which is sort of like self-pillaging and permanently reduces the XP value of the domain by an amount equal to the gold pieces extracted (and 1 peasant family per 120gp, not that we're modeling that here).  This seems like the right place to plug in a domain morale system that matches my assumptions, that for the most part your average peasant is never going to be terribly fond of his adventurer overlords and is mostly ambivalent until you start squeezing him.  So exploiting your domain (and other catastrophes and exceptional circumstances, like failure to address an invasion or donning a helm of alignment change) triggers a morale roll with immediate consequences like bandits or revolt, and otherwise domain morale is assumed to be apathetic.

I haven't looked at syndicates yet, but I think they'd be amenable to the same treatment, and if I abstract syndicates, then I can enforce the assumption that they're not made up exclusively of 4th-level spies, and then the math will be much saner (and if you use a syndicate to push beyond its normal limits, then you get into exploitation and popular morale).  Cleric domains should be fine.  I suppose I should turn my attention to magic research next, and figuring out how that would work in a system with loose timekeeping.  The other next thing to do would be to redo the Simple Domains entries with lump sums of XP.

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