View Full Version : What Is Birthright?

12-27-2003, 08:02 PM
I am new to Birthrigth. Which i think look like a fantastic setting but have a few questions about this world!

What makes this setting unique/better compered to Dragonlance or Forgotten realms!

Is it high magic like FR!

Do the players all have to be kings?

12-28-2003, 12:07 AM
Welcome, Hubert, to the wonderful setting that is Birthright! First off, I suggest you download the Playtester document for the "upgrade" from AD&D 2e to D&D 3e (more things have been considered, especially now with 3.5e on the shelves).

Now, on a quick note, Birthright is a setting of generally low magic, with few strokes of brilliantly majestic high magic concepts: +1 daggers are valuable family relics, and +5 vorpal bastard swords are more than legendary! Furthermore, on the note on regency, well, no, not all of us enjoy playing regents, other find it fascinating but too big a bite to swallow (spelling?), while others love playing regents!

12-28-2003, 12:48 AM
Another welcome.

Actually Birthright is not a low magic campaign. It is a low-magic item campaign though, much like RaspK_Fog pointed out. There are, supposedly fewer magic items (unless you look at the 2nd ed adventures and published material which is inconsistent in this regard) - but the magic items tend to be more powerful than normal. There are few who can cast the powerful greater magic spells (in 2nd ed this was any arcane spell of greater than 2nd level except for illusion and divination spells), saince in order to process these power of these spells a character had to be blooded or have elven blood.

The magic itself is extremely powerful. There is Realm level magic which affects entire provinces.

Most players do tend to want to run kings or rulers of some kind, but there are different types of styles being run. There are some who play a standard adventure level game, those who play a predominantly domain level game (little to no adventuring - very common for PBEM type games) and those who play a mixture of both. Historically the most powerful regents were actually priests and thieves because priests controlled the motivation of the people and thieves (2nd ed, now rogues) controlled the economy. Most realm regents ended up having to court favor with the local guilder and priest in order to maintain control of the realm.

The things that set Birthright apart mostly revolve around the death of the 'old gods' and their blood being spilt on those around. This was the basis for 'being blooded'. Being blooded granted scions (those who have been imbued with the blood of the old gods) blood abilities which are very similar to spell-like abilities, it also made them better rulers by being 'blessed' with the divine. There are other key factors that also set it apart - elves don't worship gods and hence are not clerics, but can cast greater magic without being blooded. Halflings come from the Shadow World, which is a very different place than the 'Real World', many features being the same, but many others being different - death and dread have taken over the Shadow World and now it is not a good place to be.

12-28-2003, 08:53 AM
> Hubert wrote:

> I am new to Birthrigth. Which i think look like a fantastic setting

> but have a few questions about this world!What makes this setting

> unique/better compered to Dragonlance or Forgotten realms;Is it high

> magic like FR!Do the players all have to be kings?

Birthright can be played either as noble rulers (kings, high priests, guild

masters) or as the familiar adventurers who might take commissions from such

figures. The pure adventure style ofplay works fine, its a well developed

world, but its not a better ford than any other setting for this kind of game.

The politically motivated adventure game uses strait adventurers, but the

complex political machinations of the various rulers creates a background and

context for the adventures the PC`s undertake. This might be considered a kind

of three musketeers style of play, and the BR setting provides plenty of

material around which to build intrigues and political changes that don`t rely

on the PC`s as the mainspring. The third kind of play is the PC`s as rulers or

nobles who are family of, friends of, or vassals of rulers who may or may not

rise to the higest ranks themselves. I think its at this level of play where

BR is really offering something that no other setting can touch. There are

rules for handeling the special divine abilities so many RW cultures have

associated with aristocrats. The list is broad and fantasy based, but its easy

to be selective if you are focusing on your favorite nation or your own

invention. Second, there are rules for governing provinces. Again they are

best used to reflect the society you imagine in your minds eye and not used

litterally as written, but its much easier to patch an innertube than make one

from scratch.

Birthright is generally a low frequency / high power magic world. Magic is

rare, but its wielders can be especially potent. Wizards need to be decendents

of the great heros to be able to cast true magic, so its rare. Those who also

control the magical energies of several territories can cast magic more

powerful than normal wizards by drawing on the magical energy of the land.

Kenneth Gauck


12-29-2003, 07:03 AM
At 09:02 PM 12/27/2003 +0100, Hubert wrote:

>What makes this setting unique/better compered to Dragonlance or Forgotten


A couple of people have chimed in on this, but I`ll go ahead and add my take.


The Domain Level. BR is the only campaign setting with an articulated set

of guidelines for running a realm comprised of population, legal systems,

economy, religion and magical potential of the land itself. Rules

occasionally come out for D20 products that do something similar, but IMO

none has really approached the versatility and utility of the BR domain

level, despite some of the vagaries and sometimes occasional shoddy editing

of those original texts.

Bloodlines. Bloodlines are unique to BR and are tied into the background

of the setting. If you don`t already know, they are the remnant of the

divine energies of the gods released by their sacrifice and embodied in the

mortals (and a few others) present at the Battle of Deismaar. Those with a

bloodline are called scions. 1,500 years after that battle, bloodlines

continue to exist by being passed on to the progeny of those present, to

those they willingly (in one way or another) transfer it, or by some rather

poorly documented methods generally left up to DM fiat--the Land`s Choice

or by a form of extreme bloodtheft. Bloodlines grant divine powers and

allow the collection of regency, the mystical powers gained by the control

of a realm that represents the energies of the collective hope,

aspirations, respect, belief, power, etc. of the people and natural

environment who make it up. Note that in the original 2e BR rules only

those with a bloodline could control a realm while in the fan-produced, BR

3e update anyone can be a regent (though they wouldn`t be as good at it as

a scion because they couldn`t collect/spend regency on their domain actions.)

Awnsheghlien/Ersheghlien. The iconic monsters of BR are unique to the

setting and are in many ways different from any other monsters in any other

setting. Where FR or DL might crank out a few dozen, hundred or even

thousands of draconians (or other monsters) that make those settings

"unique" the "unique" monsters of BR are themselves actually unique. It`s

THE Spider, THE Gorgon, THE Magian that inhabit Cerilia.


(compared to FR and DL)

This one is subjective to a certain extent, and I`m no doubt biased on this

score. Having said that, I`ve played FR and DL as well as several other

campaign settings, and here`s my opinion:

BR has better demi-humans, humanoids and human cultures. The races of BR

are more "realistically" and portrayed, and differ from standard D&D races

in ways that are apt to the campaign setting. Athas did a pretty good job

of changing the various demi-human and humanoid races to fit the campaign,

but that is a very specific setting. When one plays in that world one

knows what one is going to get. Most campaign settings have the standard

D&D races plunked down into them with very few changes or changes that

don`t necessarily have anything to do with the setting itself. The

demi-human and humanoid races of BR all have demonstrable, significant yet

subtle changes that interact with the campaign setting itself. BR goblins,

for instance, are different from goblins in other settings. They are not

physically larger, more intelligent, but because they control very large

populations and trade with human neighbors, etc. they have a culture in a

way that seems lacking in other campaigns. Orogs are more interesting than

the cannon fodder of standard humanoid races in other settings. Similarly,

the human races are culturally distinct, yet we see how human cultures are

often intermingled in the various border nations of Cerilia. These

examples don`t even touch upon the subtle, yet significant differences

between BR elves and those of other campaign worlds.

BR has better themes. Where FR and DL themes can be vast,

continent-spanning and as significant as the basic conflict of good vs.

evil, BR overshadows either of them in both scope and subtlety. In scope

there`s just not much more significance that one can put into a setting

than a cataclysmic battle of the gods that permeates the campaign

world. Perhaps a setting based on something like the Norse Ragnorak would

compare, but even that IMO fall short in that such a campaign is

apocalyptic, where for BR it represents only the _beginning_ of

things.... In subtlety, BR has the corrupting influence of Azrai`s

bloodline influencing characters at the adventure level and exemplifying

the addictive nature of evil as portrayed with all the complexity of

personality and totemic monsters; the setting has all of the intrigue,

diplomacy, wrangling and maneuvering of the political level of play at the

domain level; the cosmological significance of the Shadow World cannot be

overstated, nor can one ignore the pre-history of the setting that is much

more closely akin to several real life mythologies--and gains all the deep

rooted psychological benefits thereof. The conflicts of other campaign

worlds are comparatively vulgar--in the sense that they lack development

beyond very coarse or obvious oppositions, thus providing little

opportunity to portray depth of character, conflict of choice or moral

ambiguity available in just the shortest of BR`s texts, the Atlas of Cerilia.

>Is it high magic like FR?

It`s not high magic like FR, but it`s not really a low magic setting

either, and in general I think there are things about BR that make it a

much more high magic setting than any other campaign world. Sometimes

described as "low magic" BR is unique in that magic items are comparatively

rare, but there are vastly more powerful magics available (realm spells)

that are generally reserved for DM fiat in other campaign worlds, in

addition to the power of bloodlines already described and large amounts of

magical energies available in controlling realms. BR battlespells are also

significant magics in the setting (one that I personally think either need

to be discarded or vastly reworked) that are very powerful. In many ways

the magic available to low level BR characters can overshadow that of the

epic level characters in other campaign worlds.

>Do the players all have to be kings?

Nope. By "kings" I assume you mean regents who control provinces or

holdings, and in BR there are several flavors of them. Technically, at the

domain level only 1/4 or so would be considered nobility in the traditional

sense. Those regents who control temple, guild or source holdings may or

may not have titles, but in general more regents are not "kings" (or

amongst the landed aristocracy) than are.

More to the point, however, campaigns need not be conducted at the domain

level at all. BR can be played entirely at the traditional, D&D adventure

level of play using only the background, terrain, cultures, languages, etc.

of the setting as background for those adventures. I`ve personally played

whole BR campaigns in which no one ever controlled a holding or a province

other than NPCs, but the PCs actions did have domain level consequences in

that they dealt with things ranging from domain level random events to

carrying out the LT actions or participating in the delegation of duties

that were part of a larger domain action being performed by their

liege. When one sees the adventure level of play in such a context it adds

considerably to the depth and gives a nice way of portraying the events the

PCs engage in.

Hope that`s informative,


12-29-2003, 05:15 PM
Thank you, for all the replies.

I will start to read the d20 BRCS, and see what more can laern about Birthrigth.

12-29-2003, 07:22 PM
Make sure you download the revised Chap 2 info. Check the BRCS threads and look for the specific thread on it. It incorporates 3.5 and a lot of comments on that chapter. It is the bloodline/blood abilities chapter.

01-01-2004, 01:09 PM
ok! Thank you very much

01-01-2004, 07:57 PM
I usually consider BR to be low magic because of the lack of magical items and the relatively low number of arcane magic practitioners. As well, most arcane practitioners are of a relatively low level. The setting also lacks the near god-like casters from some settings (re: Elminster).

Another aspect that I think hasn't yet been touched upon is the emphasis in the setting on religion. In most settings, temples and religion seem to have little effect on the world, whereas in BR, they are hugely influencial. As well, there aren't all-encompassing doctrines for each god or goddess. For each god, there are many many different interpretations of a god's place in the world, their stance on social issues, etc. So there is a great deal more potential for conflict.

As well as the d20 BRCS which has been released, the d20 Atlas of Cerilia is under construction.

01-02-2004, 06:18 PM
the more i read the BRCS, the better it sounds but Is there any place where i can find or see a map of cerillia or do i have to buy it as a ESD.

I know that there is a map on Map of the Week from WOTC, but it dosnt have any names on it.

01-02-2004, 08:53 PM
Originally posted by Hubert@Jan 2 2004, 01:18 PM
the more i read the BRCS, the better it sounds but Is there any place where i can find or see a map of cerillia or do i have to buy it as a ESD.

I know that there is a map on Map of the Week from WOTC, but it dosnt have any names on it.
There are a few on the downloads list and I know that Ian (Raesene Andu) has posted the links to a few more in one of his posts.

I don't know how well I'd rely on a pdf map though. The one in the box set (try searching on e-bay and maybe you'll get lucky) was a large size map which is much better for laying out provinces, roads, etc. There were other large maps in the various expansion sets (Cities of the Sun, Havens of the Great Bay, etc) which covered the other regions of Cerilia.

One of the things that was supposed to make it into the d20 Atlas were maps - since people, like you who haven't had the chance to play Birthright when it came out, don't have ready access to them.

I hope that helps.