February 3rd, 2010

Voodoo Dolly
  • tashiro

Kingdom Design (D&D)

Note:  As usual, my post usually assumes that the game is being played 'straight' (IE, house rules at a minimum).  Obviously people have different tastes, house rules, and personal preferences.  I'm more looking at this from a 'canonically' sort of scenario.

Loosely related to my last post, I remembered a discussion I had with a player online involving the general level for the ruling body of a kingdom.  I had pointed out that there's nothing saying a king must be 'high level' to rule a kingdom, and in a number of cases could actually be low-level (5th level or less).  Boy kings come to mind, as well as kings who have taken the throne through the skullduggery of someone else, or through inheritence without having done anything themselves.

My general view is that in your general court, the top ranks (King, Master Spy, Head Priest, Court Wizard, and Captain of the Guard) would generally be 8th-9th level.  This is built on the presumption that the kingdom's seen a few generations of peace, allowing things to settle and people to live happy, peaceful lives.  If the place has been through turmoil, you could up that to about 10th-12th, and if the kingdom was recently overthrown due to epic warfare, you can go so far as pushing 14th-16th level for the upper ranks of the court.

The idea is, unstable regions breeds higher level survivors, the 'heroes' and epic figures who bring stability to the land.  After so many generations, such action is less likely, and thus the upper ranks wind up being lower levels.  A stagnant kingdom would probably even suffer lower levels (5th-6th level) as the upper ranks really don't do much and don't see enough challenges month to month to warrant a bump in levels.

Actually, extrapolating on this:  Consider how much excitement an adventuring party has in a single adventure, and compare this to the threats that any one member of the king's guard (or what have you) face at any given time should help determine the rate of growth for the NPCs.  If it takes, say, 8-9 months for someone to face a threat on par with one adventure, then you could presume that maybe that person might level once in 8-9 months.  Usually, though, I don't think most NPCs are going to even get that -- breaking up a minor thief's guild might not be enough to level a group, and that could take a year or more.

The second factor is magic items.  Your typical adventuring party is going to rack up an impressive collection (or, in my group's case, we recycle.  Sell off anything we're not specifically going to use actively, to help us fine tune what we have).  City guards and the like aren't usually going to be able to find or collect things like an adventuring party will -- even if such are available in stores.  The cost for getting most magic items would be considered prohibitive, and while economics aren't really discussed much in D&D, based on real-world models, a number of kingdoms are constantly running on a deficit, meaning that even the crown isn't going to be able to afford more than a few key items for the royal court or the upper echelons.  Actually, this would explain why most NPCs only have a small handful of magic items on them, and NPC adventurers tend to be listed with more...

Anyway -- the discussion I mentioned went something like this:  The player firmly believed that a PC couldn't start off nobility (or even related to royalty) because they'd be killed off.  The idea was that the ruler had to be 'strong and powerful' because if they weren't, they'd be bumped off by their own retainers (court magician, captain of the guard, etc).  I found the idea silly, because that pretty much presumed a 'might makes right' mentality in the kingdom, and also threw things such as alignment out the window.  To this guy's mentality, the king had to be at least 16th level, and obviously have more levels than anyone else in the court -- both to prevent PCs from taking him out, and also to prevent his own minions from taking him out.  Oy...
  • Current Mood
    contemplative contemplative