Witness3's Conflicts domain system

House Rule

Birthright calls itself a "Strategic warfare roleplayng game". Clashes and battles between domains are the daily bread of this game, but they can become a bother when a lot of actions are needed from a lot of NPC domains.

The Conflict system is a variant of the Agenda system. While the Agenda system focus is on bookkeeping domains one by one, Conflict uses the same rules to ease war between domains.

This will help you:
  • Create a more unstable situation, but a world that feels more alive than just raising holding levels and buying stuff;
  • Have something interesting for the players to happen in sandbox domain play;
  • Create a nice background just to be able to answer "what did that domain do this last year?";
  • Create random events with a backstory.

[top]The gist of it

  • Just like the Agenda system, domains are reduced to RP and GB per season;
  • A conflict is generated by deciding it's type, goal and duration, the latter defined as Conflict Goal (CG);
  • Score is kept just like football; every time a domain scores a victory, or his enemy scores a defeat, the winner gets 1 CG point.
  • The first one to reach the Conflict Goal will be the winner, and the defeated, in desperation, will trigger a Major event.
  • The outcome of such event can be a story trigger, a reopening of the conflict, or just a major loss for the winner.

[top]Generating wars

[top]Casus Belli

(casus belli means "reason for war", roughly, in latin).

First, You need to choose 'two (or more) NPC domains to fight each other. Holding type is a good start: temples always hate each other, guilds always want to destroy the competition, etc.

Then, let's decide why they are conflicting'. Here are four types of conflict, based upon the domain type (realm, guild, etc):

  • Feuds between two holdings of the same type are certainly the simplest form of war to manage. Guilds and Temples always aspire to have full control of a realm, Mages always hunger for power in the form of sources, Nobles may be after a specific land or to avenge a wrong.
  • A Conflict of interest between two different holding companies is a bit more complicated, because it can reflect an ideological war or a " favour " that one holding owes to another; this can be interesting because it assumes a "mastermind" is behind the conflict.
  • Persecutions happens when a regent wants a holding outside his domain. They can become uncomfortable, because army management gets mixed with realm spells and standard actions. See below;
  • Good old War between two realms should be managed in form of various activities other than direct conflict between armies, which should happen more rarely.

Note that conflicts should be small targeted. The war for the iron throne is everlasting, but may be split into tens e tens of small conflict, much more available to the characters.

[top]Conflict Goal (CG)

Conflict Goal is how many actions must be in favour of a domain to win the conflict. a CG of 10 means a domain must at least have 5 actions in his favour and 5 failures by his enemy, for example.
Since we are using the Agenda system, each domain will have 2 action max per month. So a CG 3 can be resolved within a month. Going under 3 is useless unless the domains are very unlucky.

Keep in mind your own deus ex machina approach to the world in this: if you like to handle, computer style, each single domain, small CG are irrelevant, high CG (> 15) may disrupt the conflict because everything else changes too quickly.

On the other side, if you just want to have a background of events in your world, you may as well give CG 4 to each conflict, and decide each season if someone moved the balance in his favour and scored some goals.

[top]Playing Conflicts

Now that the conflict is generated, each domain will act according to his strategies. Common strategies are:

  • Direct confrontation (war, occupation, contest, spells, etc);
  • Gathering of resources (muster troops, diplomacy, ruling, research, assets);
  • Disruption of resources (contest, contest asset, spells);
  • Sabotage (bidding high against the enemy)
  • Information gathering (Espionage);
  • Black ops (Espionage targeted at creating events).

If an action succeeds, the domain gains 1 CG. Every time an action fails, decide if this can go in favour of his opponent's CG - this speeds the resolution of conflict by pointing that GP/RP consumption is a vital factor in keeping wars.

If you want to simplify further, just keep track of direct confrontations - it's easier.

[top]Handling the initiative

I'm assuming here that you won't play domains one by one. You can play as many conflicts as you want in one turn, but consider each conflict as a "domain" in terms of initiative. Start with the one that reckons the casus belli, and then act the other.

Conflicts should roll domain initiative like single domains, with a single roll with a +1 bonus. It is pulled by conflict, not by domination. You can put all conflicts on a single "initiative slot" if you want to simplify further.

When a conflict occurs before the players, it appears as a potential news to the players, who can decide to take action in this regard; if it happens after the player's turn, players will only be able to bet GB or RP against or in favour of the active faction.

[top]Involving the players

Players should hear of those conflicts in the monthly news, rightly so if the conflict is in their own territory. Random events are a good way of involving the players because they tend to have a larger scale compared to conflicts.

Players will then try to quench the fire of war. How?
  • They may side with one faction, in which case each player action will increase a single faction's score by 1d2;
  • They may try to peace them out, in which case they may have a truce or a reduction of the conflict's CG by 1d2.

If peace talks do work, the treaty will generally be in favour of the one with the highest score. It may be the same thing as winning, but with a different price than a random event. This is Birthright: between holding levels, provinces, titles, blood, regency, treasure, assets, spells, favours, recognition of titles, we don't lack resources to use as money.

There is also another kind of outcome: maybe the players will be so disastrous or arrogant in their meddling with other domain's affairs, that they may be able to unite them against the players! just saying.

[top]Conflicts outside the active scene

Are you suffering with simulation delusions? Do you really think that you need to know what is happening in each and every country? Very well! Here is how you can play conflicts outside the active play zone.

  • Outline conflicts;
  • Each round or turn roll 1d6 vs 1d6. Who gets the highest scores 1 point. Ties drop CG by 1d2.
  • Want to hurt yourself with bookkeeping? each round/turn the contestants spend 2d4 RP and 1d6+1 in GB in action expenses.

[top]Closing conflicts

A conflict is resolved on one of those conditions:

  • One of the contestants reach a score equal to the CG, in this case a random event is triggered. The event solution may close or reopen the conflict (raise CG);
  • CG are dropped to 0 or to the point that CG reaches one of the domains' current score. In this case a truce, or peace, favourable to the one with the highest score, is reached;
  • Something bigger happens, so the conflict is suspended. It may be restarted anytime in the future with a new CG;

Closing a conflict always involves peace treaties that change the political geography of an area. However, this does not necessarily have to be a massive change, it can also involve a change in a single province. A conflict, once resolved, can always be reopened or exacerbated by new situations, as long as the premises are in place.

If the players had an active role in solving a conflict, a reward should be granted, in form of RP, GB, or diplomacy (the winning side 'owes' the players a favour).

[top]Advanced: Conflicts with Interest points

The Agenda System uses interest points to determine how much a domain is willing to spend to pursue its interests. This can be used to give some flavour to the conflicts and give some advantages/disadvantages: a domain may have multiple conflicts going on, and must decide which to favour and which to renounce.

If you want to use iHPs, then use two iHPs instead of CG. Each time a win is scored, the antagonists loses 1 point of interest in the battle. Actions that would have reduced CG will instead reduce both iHPs by -1d2.

You can also use the Base Interest along with CG, to determine how much a conflict is worth to a domain. The Mierelen family of Brosengae for example may be more interested in war with Taeghas to reclaim their ancestral home of Mieren, rather than the everlasting commercial war with Mieres ships for the control of the strait.

[top]An example Conflict

In the southernlands of Anuire a terrifying war is underway between guilds, for the control of the Arnienbae ports: those who control the ports of Ciliene can, in fact, boast a position close to the imperial city and its riches!

Contenders: Kalien vs. Orthien Tane vs. El-Hadid

ConflictCGCasus BelliScore
Diemed's guilds feud5Control of CilieneKalien / Thane / El-Hadid

Here is a round-per-round way of moving:
  • On 1st round, Kalien challenges El-Hadid's guilds with success! ( 1/0/0 )
  • On 2nd round, El-Hadid tries to regain control with a Rule Holding but fails (still 1/0/0)
  • On the 3rd round, Ortien Thane creates a level 0 holding in Ciliene ( 1/0/1)

Note that this example uses the "1 per turn" approach. This creates the feeling that a conflict is on course while avoiding to play everything by yourself. This also has the advantage of not over-charging Diemed with bidding rolls, and lets each contestant play in different conflicts if they are involved.

From the bookkeeping point of view, you just moved 3 domains with the same time and rules required to move one. And you have a lot of nice stuff to report the Diemed's next council meeting!

Now, let's pretend that after this goes on until El-Hadid reaches 5. Kalien decides to hire some mercenaries to get rid of Port of Call Exchange's presence in Ciliene once and for all! Will he play diplomacy with the Baron? will he act in secret, maybe by smuggling troops via the Arnienbae?

[top]A Game of Conflicts

Here is a small list of conflicts from my last campaign in BR. It is not meant to be exhaustive but I hope it can help you get an idea.

They are not played simultaneously, but they are there, and I can update them on my spare time, so that if player investigates areas they may
have some info. Each year of gameplay I update them with the 'Conflicts outside the active scene'.

[top]The southernlands of Anuire

  • Guilder Kalien vs.El-Hadid: the two guilds fight because the count of Endier would like to expand on the strait of Aerele at the expense of the merchant prince;
  • Heirl Diem vs. Hermendie: the baron has always wanted to drive the sorceress out of her lands.
  • Ruornil's Celestial Spell vs. Impregnable Heart of Haelyn: The Ruornil cult did not like the cult's entry into the Alamier region; the presence of the magical church in Caercas, Roesone, suggests an escalation;
  • Suris Enlien vs Kalien: The archprelate tolerates Kalien's presence in the north, as long as Medoere's freedom is not at stake!
  • The wizards of the Erebannien: it is no secret that Rogr Aglondier wants to tighten control over the sources in Roesone, to the detriment of Aelies.
  • Arron Vaumel vs. Eastern Temple of Nesirie: The governor does not tolerate anyone caring too much about the woodcutters and fishermen of Mieres.

[top]West coast

  • Avanil vs. Boeruine: the mother of all conflicts! It is a struggle for political influence, rather than a direct confrontation, fought with diplomacy as well as guilds.
  • Brosengae vs Taeghas: The province of Brosien is claimed as a birthright by the Duchess.
  • Brosengae vs Avanil: the Duchess has long been planning to free herself from Darien Avan's vassalage.
  • Celestial Jewel vs. Peaceful Seas of Nesirie: The ideological clash is only the pretext for obtaining the second place as a cult, after the imperial temple of the West.

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