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DM tips: It's lonely at the top

Below are some comments on playing a campaign with only one regent. Please feel free to add your own comments.

[top]Why play a game with only one regent?

One of the difficulties in playing a Birthright campaign can be the book-keeping and rules knowledge involved, one way to avoid the issue or allow a more gentle introduction is to play a game where only 1 player runs a regent character. With only one domain to track book-keeping becomes much simpler for the DM and a non-issue for most of the players.

As the campaign goes on and the players becomes more familiar with the rules, etc, the campaign could metamorphose into a High King game or a regular game of regents.

[top]An example party for a lonely at the top campaign

In this party Duchess Seriena is the only regent (holding provinces and law holdings), Duke Calean and Lord Arlen are potential replacement regents if something happens to the Duchess (Duke Calean would likely be a regent while any child matures, Lord Arlen would be Duke in his own right) or could becomes vassal lords as the domain grows. Bram, Laile and Stiele all ultimately answer to another domain but have reason to be around and support the regent and could take on domains themselves as the campaign progresses if their players desired.

The party is quite magic-heavy with both a wizard and priest, but Stiele could easily be any class (not every member of a church needs to have the priest character class to be a priest) or Laile could be a fill-in character for visiting players rather than being full-time.

[top]The centre of attention vs the McGuffin

The regent can be the center of attention, the unquestioned leader surrounded by their adoring loyal servants or simply a McGuffin that causes adventures, perhaps by continually needing to be rescued from the consequences of their own folly by their aides. Most likely the PC party is somewhere in between, the other PC's being childhood companions, hired help, friends, etc who live near and adventure with the regent.

The regent can either run a very small domain (where adventure is necessary to grow or preserve the domain) or a very large domain (where sneaking out for adventure is the regent's only escape from a stultifying courtly existence) or anything in-between.

Regardless the campaign has certain challenges compared to other types of campaign.

  • *What happens if the regent's player moves on?
  • What happens if the regent dies?
  • How are the non-regents kept interested in the campaign?

[top]The regent's player moves on

Ideally either the most experienced (so they can teach other players regency) or the least experienced player (so that they can learn with aid from other players) is chosen as the regent. But what happens when the player moves out of town, doesn't turn up or have time to play anymore, etc? The DM can run the domain and regent as NPC's but that is fairly unsatisfying and potentially increases the DM's workload considerably.

The solution is usually to have a new regent character taken over by an existing player, possibly the former regent is offered a place in a larger court, leaves on family business, a quest or pilgrimage, etc and another PC is their heir, or is chosen by a superior lord as the new regent, or simply claims the domain and dares anyone to take it.

Some players may be happy to simply take over the existing regent character, but players can be quite proprietary over characters so in general some pre-planning is sensible such as having one player play the younger sibling of the regent or a cousin (for a noble centric-domain), or having other ties to the domain (for example a temple centric-domain could have the other PCs be members of the faith (lay or otherwise) organisation such as the captain of the templars, the bursar, the mage-hound/inquisitor, etc.

In general this campaign works best when either one player likes being the center of attention and the others are happy to let them play the role; or when the players are mature enough to play the roles without the "rank difference" between the characters being an issue between the players.

[top]The regent's character moves on

In games characters die or move on from time to time and that can cause a particular problem for a campaign where one character is the center of the campaign.

Where the regent is a guilder or temple holder the issue is less as the new regent can come from a relatively wide pool, however noble inheritance generally follows strict rules, and a source domain needs a wizard or sorcerer regent to function effectively.

As with loss of the player, coping with the loss of the key player-character works best with some pre-planning to provide an heir from within the party ranks, or for the player of the former regent - i.e. a spare brother or sister of the noble is mentioned but not explored early on (they may be off on a pilgrimage, fostered with another noble, etc).

[top]How are the non-regents kept interested?

Although only one PC is a regent - at least at the start of the campaign - that doesn't mean that the other PCs are nobodies, in fact as the PC regent domain flourishes with the actions of the PCs (one hopes) the other PCs are likely to be courted by other regents who wish their support. While it is harder to reward the non-regent PCs (action/RP bonuses and even bonus holdings are only directly beneficial for the regent) the non-regent PCs may still feel ownership of the domain if their character is designed as part of the domain keeping them interested in its growth, or their characters could get traditional rewards such as gold, magic items, powers, titles or suchlike - or progress towards a domain of their own.

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