Playing the game
BRCS:Chapter eight/Outside the lines » Playing the game
There are many options in deciding how to lay out the campaign and the following are the most common ones. It is possible to combine aspects of several types of campaigns into one; for instance, there could be two high kings with the remaining PCs as a combination of support characters or as other regents ruling specific domains.
- 1 Collective Rule
- 2 The High King
- 3 It’s Lonely at the Top
- 4 Common Heroes
- 5 To Each His Own Throne
- 6 Scope
- 7 Playing a scion
- 8 Regents and bloodline strength
- 9 Encounters and experience
- 10 Prestige classes
In this type of campaign, the PCs are concentrated in a single realm with overlapping domains. For example, the priest PC is the head of the local temples, the wizard PC is the court wizard, the rogue is the master of the local guilds, etc. This type of campaign allows for primary focus on one geographic area. This makes DM bookkeeping easier. There are ample opportunities for domain play for players and cooperation between the characters. There are also good opportunities for role-playing and adventuring.
The High King
This is a variation on the collective rule concept. One PC holds supreme power as the High King and the other PCs swear fealty to him. This approach has the same advantages as the collective rule campaign. There are more opportunities for individual direction for each regent player, because they are also concerned with their own holdings.
It’s Lonely at the Top
Only one PC is a regent and the others are all in supportive roles, lieutenants, advisors, bodyguards, etc. This option is strong in role-playing potential but weak in domain action distribution. Most players will have little to do as far as domain play is concerned.
No PCs are regents. This type of campaign revolves around adventuring exclusively and there are no opportunities for domain play for players.
To Each His Own Throne
Each PC is the ruler of his own domain. There is ample opportunity for domain play for the players. The DM must keep track of a broader geographical area. There are more limited opportunities for role-playing and adventuring because what may involve one regent may be of little concern to another. There is less inherent cooperation between players because each is more concerned with their PC’s individual domains.
One of the principle advantages of the BIRTHRIGHT setting is the backdrop that it provides for character adventuring actions. DMs rarely need to resort to motivating an adventure by having the PCs stumble across a system of caves that the PCs explore "because they are there", BIRTHRIGHT characters adventure to protect their domains, in service to their nation, and to increase the prestige of their family name. DMs will find that character's domain actions and their conflicts at the domain level will open up entire lines of plot development and role-playing opportunities.
BIRTHRIGHT DMs have an enormous number of opportunities available to them to maintain the believability of the campaign world. Adventures for low-level characters should generally focus on adventuring opportunities at the province or realm level. Raiders, marauding monsters, local tournaments, and actions in support of conflict with local regents can provide endless sessions. Occasionally, low-level PCs can be swept into adventures that are the domain-level actions of their liege lords, parents, or other allies. At mid-levels, PCs should begin to look outside of their local realms for adventure. The scope of the adventure may tend to focus more on conflicts with other domain regents and threats that face entire realms, rather than just personal holdings. High-level characters will find themselves easily caught up in affairs that threaten to aid or benefit their entire cultural region or in attempting to deal, personally, with the ancient threats of long ensconced awnshegh or other evil powers. The BIRTHRIGHT setting has significant flexibility; characters of all levels should find adventures and challenges aplenty.
Playing a scion
Regents are the leaders of families, organizations, and other institutions that employ a large number of retainers. Regents often have retainers from families who may have served the regent’s family or the regent’s domain for generations. Even the most competent regent requires the aid of specialists to help her deal with unusual problems or to maintain the reins of her domain while she is otherwise occupied. BIRTHRIGHT has a number of traditions regarding special advantages for regent characters that long-time players may wish to continue to use. These traditions are not absolutely necessary in d20 BIRTHRIGHT but are part of the history of the campaign setting that has made it well loved by many fans. The material in this section is highly recommended variant rules, but will complicate the job of maintaining game balance – particularly between regent characters and non-regent characters. Most long-time fans of BIRTHRIGHT will wish to continue to use these familiar campaign-specific variants. DMs should carefully select which variants they wish to apply in their campaigns.
Variant: Heirlooms and special equipment
Scion characters have access to resources far beyond those of other characters. They are the direct inheritors of the power wielded by an organization or family that may span back across centuries. A scion character automatically gains the maximum possible starting funds for her class. A scion character with a bloodline-based level adjustment (i.e. a major bloodline or stronger) also gains an additional 2,500gp in starting equipment. Furthermore, regent characters may purchase magic items with their starting funds. Such items should be considered heirlooms or gifts and are purchased during character creation at the prices listed in the Dungeon Master’s Guide. Heirloom items chosen should have appropriate histories to personalize them with the character’s history – many such items have a long history with the chosen family and their destruction, sale, or loss might constitute grounds for a minor loss of regency.
Variant: Early Leadership
Regent characters are forced to act as leaders immediately. Regent characters may ignore the normal character level prerequisites for the Leadership feat. Any regent character may take the Leadership feat as early as 1st level.
Scions are born to lead. A scion’s leadership score is modified based on the number of scion class levels he has. Furthermore, a regent may add one-tenth of the sum of his province and non-source holding levels in his domain power to his leadership score (this replaces the “strong-hold bonus” and represents the regent’s position-based prestige). Scions with obvious powers may also qualify for the +1 “special power” modifier to Leadership. A regent who makes a name for himself as an individual (rather than simply as the head of his domains) may also gain additional bonuses for his personal prestige (as per the standard guidelines in the Dungeon Master’s Guide
Variant: Free bodyguards
Powerful regents are targets. The regents of most domains have a small number of trusted soldiers to protect the regent’s person from day-to-day threats, such as mugging, challenges from someone of a lesser social class, kidnapping, and assassination. Under this variant, even regents without the Leadership feat gain a set of trusted bodyguards (or other retainers) as followers. Retainers are considered followers (as per the Leadership feat) and their number and level are calculated as if the regent character had the Leadership feat. If the regent character has the Leadership feat, these retainers are in addition to any provided by the feat.
The type of retainer gained is dependent on the regent’s class. The type of followers that a regent receives depends on her class. Fighter and barbarian regents gain guardsmen as followers. Cleric, druid, and paladin regents gain guardsmen or acolytes. Rogue, bard, noble, or ranger regents gain thugs, informants, spies, or smugglers. Wizard and sorcerer regents gain arcane scribes. All regents may gain commoners. A regent’s followers can be any mixture of character types for which her classes qualify her. A regent’s default retainers are of the same race as the regent or of the cultural area of her domain or home and their base statistics should be modified by any cultural or racial modifiers.
Additionally, each regent gains one champion. A regent’s champion is the captain for her personal guard and is always a fighter of one level higher than the highest level of follower that the regent’s leadership score would normally entitle her to. This champion does not count as one of the regent’s normal followers.
- Acolytes (divine scribes) are members of the Expert NPC class. The acolyte’s class skills are; Speak Language, Profession – scribe, Profession – bookkeeper. Craft – calligraphy, Knowledge – religion, Knowledge – nature (for Erik only) Knowledge – nobility and royalty (all other deities)/, Concentration, Decipher Script, Craft – mapmaking and Forgery. Typical starting (1st level character) ability scores are: Str 8, Dex 10, Con 8, Int 14, Wis 12, Cha 8.
- Arcane scribes are members of the Expert NPC class. The arcane scribe’s class skills are; Alchemy, Speak Language, Profession – scribe, Profession – bookkeeper, Craft – calligraphy, Knowledge – Arcana, Concentration, Decipher Script, Craft – bookmaking and Forgery. Typical starting (1st level character) ability scores for arcane scribes before applying any applicable racial modifiers are; Str 8, Dex 10, Con 8, Int 14, Wis 12, Cha 8.
- Champions are members of the Fighter class and are equipped as elite warriors of their regional area (refer to Table 1-2). Typical starting (1st level character) ability scores for champions before applying any applicable racial modifiers are: Str 15, Dex 13, Con 14, Int 10, Wis 12, Cha 8.
- Guardsmen are members of the Warrior NPC class. Guardsmen are equipped with regionally appropriate weapons (refer to Table: 1-1). Typical starting (1st level character) ability scores are: Str 14, Dex 10, Con 14, Int 7, Wis 6, Cha 10.
- Informants are experts per the NPC class in the Dungeon Master’s Guide. The informant’s class skills are; Bluff, Diplomacy, Forgery, Gather Information, Sense Motive, Listen, Innuendo, Pick Pocket, Profession – acting and Knowledge – nobility and royalty. Typical starting (1st level character) ability scores are: Str 7, Dex 8, Con 8, Int 10, Wis 12, Cha 14.
- Smugglers are members of the Expert NPC class. The smuggler’s class skills are; Speak Language, Bluff, Profession – sailor, Intuit Direction, Diplomacy, Forgery, Spot, Appraise, Wilderness Lore and Ride. Typical starting (1st level character) ability scores are: Str 10, Dex 14, Con 8, Int 7, Wis 10, Cha 10.
- Spies are members of the Expert NPC class. The spy’s class skills are; Bluff, Decipher Script, Disguise, Forgery, Gather Information, Hide, Move Silently, Listen, Read Lips and Search. Typical starting (1st level character) ability scores for spies before applying any applicable racial modifiers are: Str 8, Dex 12, Con 7, Int 12, Wis 10, Cha 10.
- Thugs are members of the Warrior NPC class. They are more poorly equipped than professional soldiers. They typically are unarmored or wear light, inexpensive, armor and wield small, easily concealed, weapons. Typical starting (1st level character) ability scores are: Str 14, Dex 10, Con 14, Int 7, Wis 6, Cha 10.
Variant: Free lieutenants
As discussed in Chapter Five: Ruling a domain, a regent may use a Ceremony domain action to invest a trusted character with the Lieutenancy of her domain. A regent’s lieutenant speaks with the regent’s authority and is capable of running a regent’s domain for prolonged periods if necessary. Under this variant, a regent receives a free cohort as if she possessed the Leadership feat. This cohort consists exclusively of one or more non-adventuring lieutenants. This cohort is in addition to any cohort the regent might have from taking the Leadership feat.
Free Lieutenants are designed using the rules for a standard cohort. The Lieutenant’s character level is based upon the regent’s Leadership score. Lieutenants, like cohorts, usually require a salary. A lieutenant’s salary is usually paid from the domain’s treasury at the standard rate appropriate to the character’s skills as per the Dungeon Master’s Guide.
Lieutenants, Cohorts and Followers
Lieutenants follow the same rules and are treated as cohorts per the Dungeon Master’s Guide. A regent must have the Leadership feat in order to obtain a Lieutenant, unless one of the above variants is being used.
The total number of military cohorts is limited to their muster cost (in GB) being equivalent to the starting level of a cohort per the Dungeon Master’s Guide as appropriate for the regent’s leadership score. The limit to level of a military cohort uses the regent’s leadership score instead of his actual level for determining the highest level of cohort available.
Variant: Experience awards when followers, cohorts, lieutenants and bodyguards are present
The Dungeon Master’s Guide has specific rules for handling experience awards when these NPCs are present. Basically they do not count towards the division of characters present when awarding experience points. Using this variant all characters present are counted towards the total number when awarding experience points. Cohorts and lieutenants count as characters and followers and bodyguards count as ½ a character. The experience points awarded to cohorts, lieutenants, followers and bodyguards would still follow the rules in the Dungeon Master’s Guide but their presence would reduce what the PCs would otherwise receive. What this does is to make a more reasonable award system since the Dungeon Master’s Guide’s system basically has the NPCs counted when calculating the EL of the party but not when awarding experience so that PCs gain more experience when they are present.
Regents and bloodline strength
In the BIRTHRIGHT setting, a character of any level can become a regent of a domain of any size. A low-level character may have the responsibility of the domain thrust upon him before he is ready. A high-level character may have small domains forged from the barren wilderness at his own hands or wrested from a long-seated ruler. The power of a regent's bloodline, however, is usually very strongly related to the prestige of his family line and thus, with his noble title. Each culture has its own system of titles and ranks among nobles, but this can provide a rough guideline for relative power of a character’s bloodlines.
Table 8-1: Cultural titles
In Anuire, most nobles of the rank of Duke or above are Major or Great scions with the Great Heritage template. The Great Heritage template is also possessed by all of the direct descendants of the rulers of the original 12 duchies; Avanil, Taeghas, Boeruine, Alamie, Mhoried, Cariele, Elinie, Osoerde, Aerenwe, Bhalaene (part of modern day Ghoere), Ghieste (part of modern day Ghoere), and Diemed. Barons and Counts are usually Major or Minor Scions. Counts usually hold a single province, while a Baron always holds at least two. Nobles of the rank of Lord or below are usually unblooded. Some powerful temple and guild regents have no noble rank at all; but most domain rulers have some circuitous claim to a family of major or minor nobility from whence they derive their bloodline.
To a large extent, the Brecht have adopted Anuirean titles. One major exception is that, in Brechtür, the title Count is roughly equivalent to that of an Anuirean Archduke. This may date back from the days of the Anuirean occupation when foreign lords held the highest positions of authority and local lords (who held the true power in the minds of the people) were limited to the rank of Count. Brecht regents assume any combination of titles in order to try to seem more important, these include; Duke, King, Baron, Baronet, etc. These often have little or no relationship to the strength of the regent’s bloodline. Brecht Counts, on the other hand, are often Major or Great scions, and may also have Great Heritage.
Khinasi culture is highly independent. Each city-state is ruled by a King or Queen who often has a unique title. Khinasi Kings are usually Great or Major scions and those who are decedents of El-Arrases are of Great Heritage. Emirs, Sultans, and Lords are usually Major or Minor scions. Due to the high esteem in which true mages are held in the lands of Khinasi, many powerful wizards and sorcerers of very minor bloodlines have achieved positions of significant rank. Most blooded Khinasi are nobles, but only a very few have bloodlines of significant strength.
Rjurik culture is largely clan-based; their titles tend to reflect the individual’s standing in his clan. No one individual has ever dominated the whole of Rjurik and the highest rank that the Rjurik recognize is that of King of a realm. Rjurik kingdoms are roughly equivalent to Anuirean duchies. Rjurik kings often have Major or Great bloodlines; very few have Great Heritage. Rjurik Jarls are province rulers, roughly equivalent to Anuirean Counts, and are almost always blooded, albeit often very weakly.
Vos culture is very war-like. Vos rulers are not decided on the basis of birth, but on cunning and skill in both war and in personal combat. Most Vos leaders are blooded through virtue of bloodtheft, thus there is no uniform guarantee of bloodline in the Vos leadership. Many successful Vos Tsarevoses eventually gain significant bloodlines through the usurpation of the bloodlines of their fallen enemies. In the distant past, Basil Zariyatam ruled all of Vosgaard as Tsarevic; although the title is gone, his bloodline is certainly of Great Heritage template. Vos Tsars are roughly equivalent to Anuirean Barons; each holds as many provinces as he can claim. Lesser Vos Tsarevoses usually claim a province or less. Tsarevroses often have minor bloodlines, but many are unblooded.
Each dwarven nation is ruled by a number of Thanes presided over by an Overthane. Most Dwarven Overthanes are blooded, but many Dwarven Thanes are not. As relatively few generations of Dwarves have passed since Deismaar, there are relatively few Dwarven scions, but their bloodlines often run strong.
The Kings and Queens of the elven nations are almost uniformly strong in bloodline. Immortal, many of the Kings and Queens were personally present at Deismaar. Aside from their titular ruler, most Cerilian elves do not have a rigid system of nobility; their leaders are simply first among equals. Thus, there is not necessarily a clear relationship between an elf's rank and his bloodline.
The goblin nations were present in Deismaar in force, and their prolific breeding makes their scions among the most numerous worldwide. Luckily, the same breeding patterns have largely diluted the goblin bloodlines. Although powerful goblin bloodlines exist, most are the product of their bearer's success at usurpation. The most predominate derivation among goblins is Azrai, and members of their race are more likely to become minor awnsheghlien than any other.
Encounters and experience
Birthright parties are often larger than in traditional “dungeon crawling” campaigns. Often a PC will travel with an extensive entourage of guardsmen and other worthies who might aid him in overcoming any difficulties that he encounters. Calculating the EL for a “standard” encounter, the experience points that should be gained and distributing experience points fairly can be non-trivial.
The encounter level (EL) system presented in the Dungeon Master's Guide is based on the assumption that an adventuring party consists of four characters of roughly equal level. This assumption is rarely true in a BIRTHRIGHT campaign. When designing encounters for a PC party, the DM should consider which characters might be involved in the encounter. If a PC's bodyguards are likely to take part, then they should be included in the calculation to determine the party's strength for the purpose of determining the appropriate EL for a challenging encounter.
An effective system for gauging the strength of the PC party is to calculate their EL just as you would if they were a party of NPCs facing your PCs. This is the average level of the party with an additional +1 for every two members more than four. For example a party consisting of 2 3 rd level, 3 4 th level and 1 2 nd level would have an EL of 4 ((2 x 3 + 3 x 4 + 1 x 2)/6 + 1).
Another mechanism for awarding XP is to use the Free-Form Experience variant presented in the Dungeon Master's Guide. Each PC should receive 75 XP x average party level for an average encounter, 100 XP x character level for a tough encounter (EL + 1), or 150 XP x character level for a very challenging encounter (EL + 2).
RP as awards
As noted in the domain rules sections, scions may gain regency (in addition to experience point awards) for acts that increase their reputation and prestige.
Variant: Experience awards for domain actions
Regent characters gain experience for overcoming domain-level threats through domain actions. Experience gained for routine actions (base DC 14 or less) should be no more than 50 XP x the regent's level. Difficult actions (base DC 15-19) should provide no more than 75 XP x the regent's level. Very difficult actions (base DC 20+) and actions which are significantly opposed by the opposing regents should provide no more than 100 XP x the regent's level.
BIRTHRIGHT specific prestige classes will be presented, along with their organizations and cultural history, in the d20 Atlas of Cerilia. In addition, some DMs may wish to utilize prestige classes from other sources. In general, the use of prestige classes from other campaign settings is not recommended. The human nationalities and the various bloodlines go a long way toward defining characters without further specialization of prestige classes. If you decide that prestige classes are appropriate for your campaign, we recommend that you pay particular attention to specific racial and cultural limitations and applications.
As always, the use of prestige classes is purely optional and the BRCS and d20 Atlas of Cerilia will not present them in a manner that would make them mandatory, only optional.
In addition to the continent of Cerilia, the BIRTHRIGHT campaign setting has other lands. Characters with truly unusual classes or prestige classes might exist as unblooded foreigners. Almost any class or race is appropriate for such a character, but they should be rare! The DM should take special care to disallow any character that would distort the flavor of the campaign.