Game of Thrones and OSR Domain Play



I remember being so excited in 1984 when the D&D Companion Set at last came out. I'd been promised it for years. Well it wasn't really that long, given it was first promised in 1981 with the then-current editions of the Basic and Expert rules. That's less time than some Kickstarters are overdue...

One thing I really liked was the idea that PCs could rule their own domains. Of course it provided me with quite the education in feudalism as a result, a nice supplement to my middle school social studies classes. There have been a few OSR games and supplements devoted strongly to such ideas. It's baked into Autarch's ACKS and Sine Nomine's An Echo, Resounding. ACKS is its own B/X-based RPG with a ton of detail about building domains. An Echo, Resounding is a supplement for Labyrinth Lord and other OSR games - it's quite a bit lighter than ACKS.

I find it a bit interesting is that domain play tends to be the province of high-level characters. From an advancement perspective I can see the logic in this, though fiction and history are full of rather young and inexperienced people who find themselves in positions of authority. Game of Thrones and its literary basis, A Song of Ice and Fire has given us many such examples - Joffrey Baratheon, Robb Stark, and Daenerys Targaryen all came to rulership when they were young and relatively inexperienced. In D&D terms Robb would at best be a mid-level character while the others would be rather low level. Robert Arryn (Robin on the show) becomes Lord of the Vale at a very young age as does everyone's favorite bad-ass, Lyanna Mormont.

How would this work in gaming terms? Of course, Green Ronin has its own rather excellent RPG based upon the novels. But what I'm looking at is how this style of play might be realized in an OSR-style RPG.

On Game of Thrones often these young rulers have their own advisers. King Joffrey is little more than a figurehead, albeit one who occasionally causes trouble by ordering a public execution that causes the North to rebel. Lady Mormont, though she too has her own advisers, is capable of making her own decisions. Jon Snow is more like the adventurer who becomes a ruler at higher levels - and often still goes on adventures. And Robb Stark is a great example that encounters often aren't balanced.

Such domain play does seem to require a bit more civilization than one finds in most OSR games. The North is perhaps the best example of the traditional "borderlands" adventure location one often finds so appealing for campaigns - especially when one adds the Wall and the lands beyond it. Though not quite a domain as one usually thinks of one, the Night's Watch storylines offer perhaps the best example of a campaign evolving into domain play, with low-level characters going on adventures beyond the Wall, reach mid level and get involved with military conflicts, and at higher levels becomes rules themselves, forming alliances and moving troops.

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