Money for Domains and War

Among the zillions of questions asked about domains (many by me), I have another one.  My party is still low-level (4), but one of them is chomping at the bit to start domain-building.  I'm trying to gear up the campaign direction to make this a smooth process as they continue to level up.

But I have been reading a LOT of Alex's extensive domains stuff in the core, and in Axioms, and in D@W, and it just seems that the normal treasure guideline for adventures (i.e., 4 gp per 1 XP) will *never* produce the kinds of cash needed to build a domain, much less lead an army to war.

Has anyone played the later game to confirm that the money exists at those upper levels? Alex's math is generally so specific and tight, I know I should just be more trustworthy, but when I see examples of armies requiring thousands of GP a week to run, I don't see how they'd ever have that kind of money.

Any insights?

I have not yet had a chance to play at high levels but based on my understanding of the rules, I think what will happen is that a domain ruler will plateau at a domain size which no longer grants XP, or grants a very small fraction of XP, and the domain income piles up until they convert it into an army with which to secure a larger domain.

Basically, at higher levels, while the ratio of experience from gold to expereince from monster killing stays the same, you very quickly get lots of gold that DOESN'T grant experience, but also more things you could potentially sink money into with no benefit.

You don't get an army by adventuring - you get an army by establishing yourself with a domain, and then using that domain to form a realm. When you have a domain, your army is paid for by the families (and it's unavoidably so, due to the garrison expense rules). So even characters who want to maximize domain profits will still have an army of around 2gp/month/family in size. 

The more challenging question is "what sort of campaign world do you need to set in motion to create opportunities for player characters to become conquerors and kings"? The solution I have found is to have a situation with a conventional and existential threat. The conventional threat is a political threat that distracts the existing realm and domain rulers. The existential threat is a campaign-level danger that slowly grows more threatening over time, and is linked to the party's various dungeon escapades. 

The campaign thus follows this stage:

Adventurer - NPC rulers are busy playing the game of thrones, and delegate adventuring to PCs. The PCs, while exploring dungeons, discover hints of dark forces at work. 

Conqueror - Some casualties have occurred among the NPC rulers, due to their conventional struggle, resulting in opportunities for junior rulership slots for PCs. The dark forces are becoming more dangerous, but as the stakes of the conventional struggle are now so high, the main NPC rulers are still ignoring them. This gives the more justification that more sentimental contemporary adventurers need to justify seizing power. (I've found many players are so ingrained in contemporary values of democracy and humanism that they just can't bring themselves to crush their enemies and seize the thrones with no justification save power.) 

King - The PC rulers unify the region by defeating any remaining conventional foes, then turn their realm-level resources towards dealing with the existential threat, which has now become severe.

In the two major ACKS campaigns I've run, the players have ended up as rulers of a principality-sized domain by about 10th or 11th level. That's about 50,000 to 100,000 families, yielding 100,000 to 200,000gp per month for an army.

In the Auran Empire campaign, the adventurers were facing (a) a borderlands left in chaos by the withdrawal of the Auran troops and (b) the Awakening of the last sorcerer-king of Zahar. They were eventually elected military-commanders of the borderlands, and led the local legates to defeat the last sorcerer-king of Zahar (though at terrible cost). They then had one of their member seize rulership of Aura as the "Theocrat" (14th level cleric) and fought some pitched battles against other exarchs vying for the throne. They weren't able to conquer the whole Empire but did secure the place of the borderlands (cutting away chunks of S. Argolle and Krysea) as its own exarchate.

In the Opelenean Nights campaign, the adventureres were facing (a) an uprising from native Opeleneans against the empire and (b) a Thrassian tyrant waiting in torpor in a tomb.  Whilst adventuring they accidentally woke up the Thrassian tyrant and got a town destroyed, which led to them be exiled into the Waste. There they joined the uprising and became its leaders, and then justified the takeover of Opelenea as necessary to unit against the Thrassian threat. Then they lost and all got killed to the Thrassian tyrant.

Hope that helps!



Yes, this does help, thanks! I just couldn't make the numbers work in my head because they were too large.  The campaign direction advice is helpful too; I have much of what you suggested in place (or could easily get there), but I should probably start doing a little more.

Another related question: if you have a PC party of, say, six adventurers, how do they all get to play the domain game (if they all wanted to)? It seems like having them run six domains, even close to one another, pretty much ends traditional working together as a party.

You have a few options. We've typically had:

  • The highest-level fighter type establishes or takes the first domain. Later characters become his vassals, forming a realm.
  • The wizard-type establishes a tower and dungeon some distance away for magical research. He focuses on magic research more than domain management.
  • The thief-types starts a syndicate within or nearby the fighter's realm.
  • The highest-level cleric often becomes the "spiritual advisor" of the ruler to access domain power, and then controls a subsidiary realm. Sometimes, though the cleric may be the ruler, and the fighter is his vassal and top military commander.
  • Other members serve as military commanders or join senates that are part of the realms.

The party typically gets focused on military action, so everybody gathers all the troops from their various domains into one army with various PCs and NPC henchmen as commanders.



my players were just discussing this themselves. there was talk of splitting a domain between the 4 main players while they were starting out.

I think it's been discussed elsewhere, but i'd probably allow them to co-run a small domain and split the income before checking reserve XP, but they'd probably get like no xp.

I considered this option as well, and was looking at dividing the XP thresholds by the number of PCs co-ruling the domain. You’re still going to earn a fraction of what you would if you were ruling it alone, but you’ll earn more than nothing.

Of course, independant realms can also just be close allies.  If only a few of the PCs actually form top-level domains it's not even as much of a stretch.  

One idea I am toying with dangling in front of the players is a senatorial realm.  Whoever gets elected to supreme consul would obviously collect tribute from the others, but there is the idea that another election will come some day and somebody else gets to take a turn at being the top dog.  Because of the subtle differences between vassals and henchman, there's no difficulty going from having 4 vassals, all henchmen, to having 8 vassals, 50% henchmen and 50% PCs.