Thursday, April 4, 2013

Domain Management: Overview and Sketching Some Thoughts Out

So as I sit in-between games, my mind turns to domain management. Why? Because in about half my games, I seem to have players that would love to spend their time engaging in bureaucratic exercises of running an organization/city-state/nation, and most systems just wing it.

And I hate winging it. System bits that are winged never seems to have the emphasis/importance that they should have when improvised. Improvision is for things not critical/crucial to the plot or the players happiness.

So there are two basic types of management: Domain Management and Organizational Management; while broadly these items could be done in the same system, I think it is wiser to spread them out to emphasize different things.

There are three reasons I see to have domain management, the first is that your players enjoy it; the second is to generate resources, the last is to generate plots and challenges for the players to engage with. I want to keep these in mind when I'm looking at what I'm trying to accomplish.

Broadly speaking Domain Management is about obtaining and usage of land. In my mind, this involves four key components:

  1. The land itself - where is it, what features are on it, what can it produce are all key questions that need to be answered.
  2. The structures built - what buildings are there on that land.
  3. The key people - the who's who running the domain, other than the PCs.
  4. Resources - something to manage and spend
Those four items make up the key components of domain management. I want the feeling to allow for the building up from a small manor house to a large county seat of governance. After that point, I think things get a bit too large for what I'd want to have my games to be about. So let us look at each of the areas in some form of depth:


Land can be broken down into two subcategories - major terrain and features. Terrain is fairly obvious, mountainous, hilly, forest, plains, farmland, wasteland, desert, etc. Features would make parts of the land particularly appealing, challenging, or rewarding (or some combination of all three). Features would be things like coast line, major rivers (think like the Nile or Mississippi), major lakes (Great Lakes), ancient ruins, volcanoes  or other terrain that doesn't really fit as a major terrain piece.

My biggest conundrum with land is whether a county has one terrain type or a collection of terrain types. Or perhaps that's how one delineates the size of the domain - the number of terrain types, and just allow for repeated terrain types to be used. Thus the mountainous duchy could have Mountains, Mountains, Mountains, and one of farmland to indicate the grotto that exists.

Features are easily for me to conceptualize - they are one off bits that make that terrain different then the other terrain around it. 


Now the idea behind this is to assume that there are small villages/hamlets scattered across the terrain, just to ease up on the book keeping. Buildings are something more than that, they are things that generate plots or additional resources. I envision one type of structures being freestanding, not requiring anything other than the base resources to build; and another requiring a more civilized infrastructure.

Anyone who has played any sort of building game, especially board games understand the production aspect of free standing buildings - Sawmill, Quarries, Mines, Plantations and the like. They should add (through either doubling, or just a flat addition) to the efficiency of the the land itself.

The second type of free standing structures would be Villages and Cities, with Cities being an upgrade of the Villages. These would be built to generate income as well, the centers of trade that they are, as allow for the building of more advanced buildings.

The last type of free standing structures would be a series of military - outpost, small fort/manor house, fort, and castle. Storage capacity, military forces, and protection.

So what gets built inside villages and cities? Industry that produces finish goods - textiles, iron works; universities and other places of learning, theater and libraries. Most of the goals of these would be to generate income for the city/players to do things with in the game. Of course, it does mean that money.


People are simply that - the faces of the people working in the structures. More importantly, as the game progresses they should help provide plots that entertain the group, as well as providing potential bonuses and penalties.


Resources are things you either build with, sell, or purchase. I'd want to keep it relatively simple and limit the resources to the following five items: Wealth; Wood; Stone; Ore; and Food. More than five and it gets too complicated; too few and you have quirkier things, and I already can see the game of turning food (nominally sheep/goats) into cloth, and the jokes about my fish head pants.

Villages and Cities would nominally require Food to maintain, with each additional infrastructure item requiring more food. All structures would require some amount of Wealth/Wood/Stone/Ore to be built.

So there's the backbones of what I want to accomplish with domain management, give my players some systematic tools to manage resources, generate revenue and items for themselves, and generate plots for the campaign.

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