Sunday, January 19, 2020

Saul On The Road To Damascus - The Domain Game

Gary's and Dave's concept of the 'end game'.

It's been very cold here, with a snowstorm, and I was out on Saturday with the electric snowblower clearing the drifts; while getting the gear ready, I had one of those illuminating moments that occasionally occur to me.

Back around the turn of the year, there was a discussion of what has been called 'the domain game' in D&D; Both Gary and Dave thought that players would progress to a point in the game campaign where they would become rich and powerful enough to buy, build, conquer, or otherwise become the owner of a feudal domain. Prof. Barker included this in his own "Empire of the Petal Throne" and added the possibilities of career paths in the military and the temples; Phil found that while he could award the small two-hex fiefs to players, the difficulty was keeping them there. They wanted to have 'adventures', and eventually his version of the 'domain game' took a back set to the flow of the campaign.

Some of us still played it, though, which is why I became a provincial governor (Hekellu and the Chaigari Protectorae) as did others (Sokatis, for example) and then later a legion commander. (As did quite a few of Phil's players, I should note.)

By and large, though, that's not the direction that either D&D as a game or as an industry took. Much to their surprise, Dave and Gary found that players preferred to continue to both go up up in level and to go off on adventures - settling down and hiring people to go off on adventures for them was not happening.

How this affects me is that I came into RPGs at the stage where the domain game was the object, and I still play that way; Lord Chirine is, for all intents and purposes, an 'infinite level player-character', and he doesn't have the time to go off and have adventures - he's got a legion to command, a small enclave to run, and he sends players off to do things for him - they have the adventures, and he cleans up afterwards.

I've realized that this is not the way people play RPGs today, mainly; I've noted that I'm more into playing worlds, and not really into sets of rules and game mechanics. Many of the wonderful forums out there on the Internet reflect the opposite, because that's the way that people have been playing for the past forty years. I certainly don't mind that - if you're having fun, that's the whole idea; I've found that I am coming at what's called 'gaming' from a very different point of view and a very different perspective.

My feeling is that if people are interested in what we do here at The Workbench and over at the Proboards forum, please feel free to join us and take away what you can for your own games from the discussions.

My only request is that people don't call these three guys I gamed with 'stupid' for not being able to see forty-five years into the future and knowing how gaming would evolve. Thanks!


  1. "Playing worlds" versus "playing back stories" - that could sum up the difference between old school and modern RPGs perfectly!

    I'm still in search of somehow doing both. Which is why Etinerra sees me playing my solo wargames, seeing effects at a strategic scale and figuring out what the NPCs are doing, while the players muck things up on a local and regional scale.

    Happy New Year!

    1. Good point! While we were exploring Phil's world, we were also evolving our players - 'writing their back stories', as it were. It took over a decade, as we played the same ones throughout, but the stories did happen.

      I think your approach is a very good one; it's very similar to what we did in Phil's campaign - if not the very same - so I think you're onto something... :)

  2. There’s nothing wrong with not being a Lord. However past 9th level or so the game breaks down somewhat. It’s hard to come up with fighting type adventures for guys who level towns.

    An alternative is to make new guys and just have the Lords there in the background, or to start a new campaign entirely.

    1. Agreed; the idea was that once past that level, the PC would be a 'parton' of the new ones, exactly as you say. Lord Chirine is actually 'off the scale' in EPT, as it does indeed only go up to 9th, and he's got a legion as well. So, hire new players... :)

  3. Funny coincidence there, I just made a post a couple of days ago about "the campaign!"

  4. Oops, the link :