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DM tips: Born to Rule

Below are some comments on playing a campaign with scions who will one day become true regents or who are already regents ruling a domain. Please feel free to add your own comments.
To many, the core difference of a Birthright campaign to standard DnD is realm level play. The Birthright setting has a rich history and diverse cultures and as a result game-play can be fun and rewarding, particularly for those players like to look beneath the surface to see how and why the realms change about them.
DM's may wish to start a campaign with the PC's not ruling realms, or even unblooded, in order to give the PC a chance to win a name for themselves before they ascend to true greatness. That method has the advantage with novice players of teaching them about the setting before requiring them to understand the holding system as well, has a second benefit that PC's have then 'proved' themselves to win their title, but loses the possibility of novice PC's making some truly gloriously amusing blunders....

[top]The blooded

In Birthright campaigns it is the blooded who rule, the blooded to whom others look for leadership. While no game mechanics are suggested simply for being blooded, being memorable, inherently glorious, born leaders, lucky or simply energetic are among the likely social aspects of being a scion. Scions of Azrai may be deemed 'cursed' or 'unlucky', scions of the local patron god are likely to be considered 'blessed' and, if they have a powerful bloodline, possibly seen as near-divine.

[top]Playing Blooded Birthright vs a 'standard' DnD campaign

Creating, ruling and managing holdings can be done in a completely separate manner to 'tabletop adventure level' gaming, or it can be integral to it. Every domain action can be initiated via an adventure, every adventure the springboard to gaining some advantage at domain level. By linking domain and adventure level play both can be enriched as adventures become less about smashing down a few doors and winning a fortune, than in gaining an advantage to be consolidated at domain level or bypassing some domain-level problem. Of course the regent themselves doesn't charge into every fray or support every task themselves, they need minions - and an adventuring party is both visible to the ruler by its fame and an obvious source of talented minions. Adventurers with a good reputation are likely to have several regents court them for their service and such service may lead them to first being members of, and then running the domain themselves.


The birthright setting provides ready patrons - not just rulers but their vassals, guild-masters, temple prelates and source holders. All of these require minions to do their bidding... They key difference in Birthright, is that often the PC is the Patron. Attracting good minions, training and retaining them is crucial to the power of the PC and woe betide the PC who routinely fails to properly reward their minions - ambition in the talented is a dangerous thing...

[top]Racial differences

As with many other settings, Birthright changes a number of the races to present a different role-playing experience.


Elven rulers are both more and less secure than other races. Elves do not believe in divine right or even divinities - so those with the blood of the old gods are not granted the respect and even worship found elsewhere in Cerilia. The elves are however far less interested ruler-ship, meaning that once a ruler proves themselves, they meet far less resistance to their edicts. Elves are used to rulers who think in terms of decades and centuries - not months and years, a ruler who tries to do too much too fast may meet significant resistance from the elves.


Goblin rulers are fortunate, in that Cerilian goblins are marginally more civilized than other beast-man races, but unfortunate in that what goblins really respect is strength, toughness and success. Goblins make loyal subjects as long as loyalty is in their best interest, but many goblins - particularly of the larger breeds - are ambitious and they consider dead-man's shoes to be a normal promotion strategy. Goblins like winners, so even the cruelest most capricious goblin ruler will be welcomed by their subjects as long as the goblins are 'winning', goblins have little tolerance for failure however and any ruler who proves themselves weak by such failures will face constant challenges until they once again prove their strength.


Halflings are often called 'the quiet folk', halflings do not wage wars of conquest, massacre neighbors while raiding for goods, or undertake any other traditional means of gaining glory typical amongst humans. Instead halflings like a nice quiet life of peaceful growth, gaining wealth is pleasant, but even then halflings rarely gain wealth just to be rich, they generally spend their wealth as it is gained or simply give away the excess in charity. As a result being a halfling ruler is mostly about keeping the peace, making sure that neighbors do not covet the lands of the halflings, and enjoying apple crumble on long summer evenings.

The difficulty of maintaining a relatively prosperous, non-militant realm in a continent as war-torn as Cerilia is however immense, and only the burrows is known to exist as a pure halfling realm.

As such halfling rulers are mostly found running domains, the elves find that halflings make good guilders being aware of commerce, but also appreciative of mebhaighl and lacking the 'cut-throat' insticnt of humans in the main - and with the added bonus of course of being far more acceptable to the more xenophobic sidhe. Dwarven rulers may consider halflings more diplomatically able than their own people - and more comfortable away from the mountains. In any community where physical force is important (i.e. most human societies) the small size of halflings is likely to undermine any authority they might have. Halflings thus make reasonable guilders, good source-holders, but likely poor temple or law regents.

[top]Playing a Domain ruler

Rank hath its privileges - Cariene Avan 476 HR.
As ruler of a domain the PC has significant social rank and power, they likely have a cadre of lieutenants (loyal or otherwise), and many other supporters. This requires the PC to display a certain social awareness - they need to behave in certain ways to retain the respect and loyalty of the populace. The PC gains in return a significant body of people willing to do the PC's will. It should be remembered however that these are people not automatons - a temple domain's people serve the regent from religious duty, or from respect for the wise guidance of one proved godly. Guild members typically follow from a desire for profit or continued employ. Acting in a manner contrary to the underlying aims of the domain ruled is likely to lead to poor morale, desertion, and the emergence of rivals.

[top]Playing the domain vs playing the regent

One way of playing Birthright that differs to most D&D games is that instead of playing a specific character, the player can play a domain. In this case typically the player has 99% control over the regent, 90%+ control over a handful of 'named' members of the domain, and loose control over the rest of the domain members -the DM may still play these characters from time to time, but they are 'shared' with the player, a few may prove to be spies or traitors secretly plotting against the domain, or may be subverting into becoming such, but in the main the DM will allow the player free rein with these 'secondary' characters or exploit only known hooks and flaws (which a wise player creates in each so that they can guide the DM towards mischief that they can expect and counter of course!)
Playing the domain has the advantage that 'death' becomes the loss of one character played, not the only character played. It also allows a player a lot more variation and opportunities to play 'unusual' characters for a session or two while still benefiting their domain so 'achieving something'.

[top]The court and adventures

In general a court will seek to keep the regent alive (the loyal members of the court anyway) and simply keep close to the regent, as such leaving the court behind may be quite difficult, and having a few bodyguards tag along with an adventuring party is likely to be quite common. In general a court is more willing to risk the heir of a domain than the regent themselves, and is exceptionally loathe to risk the regent if there is no heir.

[top]Get out of that throne!

You rule vast armies, the ships of the sea sail at your command, thousands of slaves battle at your whim - now the DM wants you to go hunt that goblin band - why? Just send a patrol!
A PC regent has vastly more power than any other PC, simply because they sit at the top of a large organization. Even a source holder is likely to have servants, and many people who will 'do them favors' for one reason or another. As such it can sometimes be difficult to get regents to go 'adventuring' compared to a 'standard' D&D game.
Common spurs for the PC to go adventuring are:
  • to maintain a reputation as a hero
  • to outshine a budding great captain
  • to gain some advantage more quietly than could be done via a domain action
  • to do something that typical servants simply could not do
  • to do something that convention decrees only a scion / regent can do
  • for fun
  • to provide aid to an ally without being seen to offer the support of the domain
  • to fulfill a debt
  • to support a domain action
  • to seek penance or search for divine aid

[top]Money money money

Domain level play almost inevitably means that money ceases to be an issue at an individual level. Adventuring to gain a few coppers is folly when one's guilds bring in silver by the wagonload and many players may simply abstract away 'basic' cash paying attention only to significant items of spend and the like... This is not necessarily the case however, adventuring can bring huge rewards - particularly given the minimal outlay of expenditure, and so adventuring can provide a domain with vital growth capital in its early years, or after a major set-back, particularly for a small realms or those in poorer locations such as The Giantdowns or Vosgaard.

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