Some Thoughts on Domain and Generational Play

You have read that Muad’Dib had no playmates his own age on Caladan. The dangers were too great. But Muad’Dib did have wonderful companion-teachers. There was Gurney Halleck, the troubadour-warrior. You will sing some of Gurney’s songs as you read along in this book. There was Thufir Hawat, the old Mentat Master of Assassins, who struck fear even into the heart of the Padishah Emperor. There were Duncan Idaho, the Swordmaster of the Ginaz; Dr. Wellington Yueh, a name black in treachery but bright in knowledge; the Lady Jessica, who guided her son in the Bene Gesserit Way, and—of course—the Duke Leto, whose qualities as a father have long been overlooked. 
Dune by Frank Herbert


Right now I've got a decent Icons game going and with the summer semester at Brandeis having kicked off I'm likely safe from jumping into a new campaign for at least a little while.

But I do have time to think about possible campaigns. With the new season of Game of Thrones on I've been thinking a bit about domain and generational play in RPGs. By this I mean that while players have normal characters, these characters have positions of authority. Possibly each of them rules his or her own manor, possibly they are all in the same noble house with various positions within the house - captain of the guard, castellan, heir, etc. Such a game can potentially, though not always, go through time rather quickly, such that a character can be replaced by his or her heir.

George R.R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire series is a great example of this. Focusing just on the Starks, you've got characters in a variety of positions. Ned Stark was the second born - the spare - but wound up becoming ruler of the North. His eldest son attempted to restore the North to its status as an independent kingdom. His wife helps smooth diplomatic issues for his son.

The Dune series provides another example of generational play. The Atreides family is defeated in Dune, with the duke slain. But his son, Paul,  and his consort, Jessica, get away and form an army to defeat their enemies. Paul himself has children, one of whom becomes a quasi-immortal emperor.

There are a fair number of RPGs that deal with such issues. Pendragon is probably the most famous of them, where such challenges as finding a wife and gaining an heir are of viral importance as your character will most certainly die in play (from natural causes if battle does not lead him to his death). The game is fairly narrowly focused to Arthurian tales of knights, though a number of 4th edition products deal with other character types. Also much of this could be mined for a RuneQuest or similar game.

Green Ronin's Song of Ice and Fire RPG has house rules, though it makes fewer assumptions regarding the types of characters that will be played. It assumes a slower passage of time than Pendragon, though that is true of most games, given Pendragon assumes one year per session.

The D&D Basic/Expert-inspired ACKS RPG has its own set of rather involved domain management rules, ranging from a tiny barony to an entire Empire.

I've no master plan at this point, just throwing out some thoughts and ideas that I might build on over time...


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