Demense-Level Gaming Resources

The primary option for gaining experience points in Seekers of Lore is to discover and recover that which was lost.

Demesne FlagKnowledge in general and special items are prime candidates for this activity, and easily portable.

Not so portable, but may easily be as valuable or more in the long run is to explore and successfully settle land. This can easily be made a subgame of itself, the development and rulership over a demesne.

I have not yet determined the exact rules for this, but I have many examples to work from in developing them. I describe them below, including a surprisingly large list for Dungeons & Dragons 3e, 3.5, and Pathfinder.

Existing Demense-Level Rules

In fact, there are a fair number of examples. I describe below the ones I can think of offhand, in the approximate order I became aware of them.

First Edition AD&D

I think I first saw these in Advanced Dungeons & Dragons. When a character reached a certain level, for most classes ninth, and met certain conditions including establishing a base (a keep, a hideout, a church), a number of followers with abilities appropriate to the character’s class would appear to serve. A fighter could expect a group of soldiers and men-at-arms, a cleric could expect some acolytes, and a thief could expect to start a thieves’ guild. Magic-Users had to be slightly higher level (twelfth, as I recall) and had to establish a tower, and could expect some apprentice wizards.

I don’t remember very certainly what rules were presented, but I’m reasonably certain they were in the Dungeon Master’s Guide and were complex and convoluted, because that’s how Gary rolled. I’ve got the books around here somewhere and could check if I’m feeling very curious.

Companion Box Set

If Basic D&D focused on the dungeon and Expert D&D focused on exploring the wilderness, Companion D&D could be described as focusing on rulership. I remember seeing rules for establishing and developing a demesne, including how to track settlement numbers, taxes, and mass warfare.

As I recall it was fairly abstract, but still had more math than I’m excited about in my ever-increasing age. I’ve got the Rules Cyclopedia in a box in the garage, and a copy of Dark Dungeons (Rule Cyclopedia-based retroclone, though I’m not sure this information is in that book). I think I’ll review it to confirm my recollection, but I’m reasonably certain it’s not quite what I’m looking for.

Second Edition AD&D

This edition more or less followed the AD&D 1e approach, and I think had somewhat more information about building castles than the other editions.

AD&D 2e, though. I don’t remember seeing in the Dungeon Master’s Guide or the supplementary blue books much on rulership and demesne management… but I haven’t spent very much time with this edition in a very long time indeed. I’ll keep it in mind should I run out of other ideas.


Dear gods, I almost forgot Birthright!

Birthright was an AD&D 2e setting based primarily on demesne rulership and is probably the single-largest attempt at such rules that I’m aware of. I certainly will review the rules for this, though I definitely remember them getting somewhat complex… but not horrendously so, for the time. There is also a Birthright Community at, and they’ve worked on porting to D&D 3.x and D&D 4e (available in the downloads section) that I’ll want to check out.

Third Edition D&D, and 3.5, and Pathfinder

I’m going to lump these together, since the frameworks are generally close enough to the same that there differences are smaller than the changes I expect I would make.

Almost nothing, early in D&D 3e and 3.5, at least from Wizards of the Coast. The Leadership feat got you a cohort and some followers, but with the focus being so much on ‘kill things and take their stuff’ as it was I don’t remember very much at all about rulership. Eventually there was some information in the Player’s Handbook II and the Dungeon Master’s Guide II, as I recall… and some books by third-party publishers that are relevant.

  • A Magical Medieval Society: Western Europe (also, Second Edition) from Expeditious Retreat is an absolute trove of information about demographics and feudalism suitable for role playing games. Also, Joe and Suzi are cool people, I met them at GenCon 2003. The book is not so directly relevant in terms of rules, but is chock full of information about medieval Europe as it can be easily applied to a game… as I aim to do.
  • Empire from Alderac Entertainment Group definitely is related, and I can think of specific rules I’m considering including.
  • Fields of Blood: The Book of War from Eden Publishing also is definitely related, and I’ll be reviewing it.
  • Classic Play: Book of Strongholds and Dynasties from Mongoose Publishing appears related, but I don’t remember having read it. I have a copy here somewhere (read: in a box in the garage; this is a theme in my life right now) and will want to review it.
  • Encyclopaedia Arcane Sovereign Magic, also from Mongoose Publishing, can be expected to have magicks I’ll want to bear in mind. Birthright had spells castable only by rulers.
  • Cry Havoc from Malhavoc Press doesn’t seem to have much by way of demesne material, but is entirely about war, mass combat rules.
  • War from Alderac Entertainment Group, much like Cry Havoc, is focused on mass combat rules rather than rulership, so is of secondary interest.
  • Red Tide: Campaign Sourcebook and Sandbox Toolkit from Sine Nomine Publishing looks likely to have information of use, but I haven’t read it yet. I have a copy printed on my workbench ready for binding.
  • An Echo, Resounding: A Sourcebook for Lordship and War: also from Sine Nomine, also not yet read, also printed, also ready for binding. The relevance should be obvious.
  • Book of the River Nations: Complete Player’s Reference for Kingdom Building from Jon Brazer Enterprises. This one I have printed, bound, and read! (It’s pretty short, about 50 pages.) Some things aren’t quite how I would approach them, but overall this is pretty close, and I expect to lean on it fairly heavily. It may even serve as something of a base for the rest of my work here, incorporating ideas from the other references above.

(No, I don’t have an affiliate ID with OneBookShelf… but I did just apply for one I now have an affiliate ID with OneBookShelf, to perhaps help offset how much I spend there! Especially since I’m putting the links up anyway so you can see what books I’m talking about.)

Closing Comments

Well, this post didn’t go as expected. I thought I’d summarize some of the rules I plan to use, but when I started to touch on background material that influences my thoughts I discovered there is a lot more available than I originally realized.

It appears I have more research ahead of me than I honestly thought I did.

For that matter, I’m certain there are relevant references that I missed altogether. Does anyone have any suggestions for other references and sites I should look into?

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    • Turns out it’s just a list of different building types, from a 1,000gp simple house to a 1,000,000gp huge castle. The only optional feature is adding a moat with drawbridge to one. There are also prices listed for siege engines and large ships, including warships, which I guess would also be useful for play at this level.

  2. David Johnston

    You should also take a look at Adventurer Conqueror King … an excellent neo-clone B/X ruleset. It has a very well structured economic and demense management system.

  3. Dave R

    Adventurer Conqueror King is a D&D retro-clone that explicitly extends and rationalizes the domain game. Its the best/fullest treatment I know of in D&D-land. The base game is loosely a B/X clone, with newer influences, but the relevant chapters could be used for any other version. (Though for that you use the ACKS price lists as well, since tying those in was part of the point.)

    I like An Echo, Resounding as well though.

    • I have heard of both. Backed Numenera at Kickstarter but had to back out because I was overextended (backing too much other cool stuff, and I was confident Monte would get his books into the normal retail stream; I could look later). Didn’t back Torment: Tides of Numenera because I almost never find time to play computer games.

  4. Chakat Firepaw

    Actually, the 1ed AD&D rules are rather basic, each class gives the followers and sets a monthly tax rate the PC gets, (from a high of 9sp/person for a cleric down to none for thieves and assassins). The DMG gives a bit over a page of loose guidelines.

    You also missed a big one for Pathfinder: The system presented in the Kingmaker AP which, IIRC, will have a revised version in Ultimate Campaign. It’s fairly detailed in some areas, up to and including generating approximate maps for towns and cities.

  5. David Lamb

    3e also had the Stronghold Builder’s Guide; I was rather fond of it but never had an opportunity to use it. It only covers building stuff, and little or nothing about rulership other than how many of what type of NPC were needed to run the various elements you could include (stuff like needing an Acolyte to run a chapel).

    • David Lamb

      I see that I forgot to refresh this page before posting, because you had already posted about it. Anyway, I think the stuff about NPCs is mildly relevant because it starts one thinking about: if I have feature X, I need resource Y.

  6. Pingback: Imperial Scale to Manorial Scale in Mapping and Rulership | Keith Davies — In My Campaign - Keith's thoughts on RPG design and play.

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