Rulership/domain play in 3.5e - An examination of mass combat, construction, and country management as applied to Athas

The title is perhaps a bit fancy for this start to the thread, but essentially there are three systems I’m currently looking at for my upcoming 3.5e Pentad and beyond campaign, as I’d like to include “name level” gameplay. If anyone has any experience with these books and their mechanics please let me know how they play and how strong a fit for Athas you consider it to be. I intend to read all of these and give some analysis for each, with a longer investigation in the system I ultimately choose to use. I’ve not had a chance to read more than a few reviews nor look at the books myself but the ones I’m eyeing are as follows:

Mongoose Publishing’s “D20 Classic Play - Strongholds and Dynasties”
I hear really good things about this one, and I generally like Mongoose Publishing’s style and find usually more than half of the content is solid or better with some real gems. This is the one I’m leaning towards currently

Alderac Entertainment Group’s “D20 Empire”
Similar praise to Strongholds and Dynasties this one has been likened to Civ gameplay which would appeal to a number of my players quite readily, and I am likely to as well. Perhaps switching to this after getting beyond a low scale with one of the other systems depending how I think they can handle larger scale.

Eden Studios’ “Fields of Blood - The Book of War”
This one is supposedly the most granular, and while that may be a turnoff for some I rather enjoy complexity and I’ll have at least one or more engineers at the table so what could go wrong? The style of this one looks good and brutal, which may suit Athas particularly well.

I’ll be off working for a few hours so feel free to wax poetic in the meantime :mage:


Might want to look at the rules for kingdoms that Paizo put out as well.

Why not just use the original (and highly praised even to this day) domain system of BIRTHRIGHT? It has the advantage of already being actual D&D rules (albeit 2e), and the further advantage of actually being an edition and system neutral sub-system rules mechanics-wise.

But wait, there’s more!

Lo and behold, official 3rd edition rules are available from Athas’ sister site!

Like Athas, Birthright is one of the original OFFICIAL FAN SITES that were designated with co-ownership status.

(And just to balance things, I offer a counter argument: it is my understanding that most if not all domain/ rulership systems out there are more or less either based on or inspired by the Birthright rules, and as such may include what the authors of such view as refinements or improvements to the original rules.)


I am running a Birthright Campaign right now and while I think BR is a good system for its game. Its best to use a system not tied to the domain/province level and bloodline dynamic. Because youd have to implement that system in your games as well.

Paizo had a good system and many of these would work, in fact one of our own members, Luke Swadling ran Sorcerer-Kingmaker (paizo kingmaker in dark sun) and he shared the change files a while back.


Gotcha. I would ignore / replace the bloodline aspects. But as no Pathfinder (or any third party, for that matter) is allowed in any D&D games I am in, that is why I made the suggestion that I did. No worries, the best choice is what works best for your group, of course.

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The Ultimate Campaign rules from Paizo are fairly strong, and I actually have a shelved campaign that will utilize them. A PF1e dwarven reclaimers game starting from the incomplete “Throne of Night” adventure series. I set it under the Red Mountains of northern Golarion.

As for Birthright there is in fact a 3.5e conversion in form of BRCS and I’ve run a couple sessions with it years ago. It’s a fine system but it’s so thoroughly integrated with the setting lore it just doesn’t suit Athas to have a true Feudal structure imo. I also happen to have a 2e Birthright game with some of my other gaming buddies planned which will be heavily realm focused and that I’ve done a lot to expand the economic and technological aspects of the game. It will be run in the off weeks of this upcoming Dark Sun campaign.

Ultimately the UC for PF has the same shortfalls as Fields of Blood in the hex-grid system imposing certain hard rules I don’t want to use. Strongholds and Kingdoms has exactly what I’m looking for in an Athasian setting and even has separate resource types, something that I find too abstracted in the other systems particularly for Athas, and very freeform construction and feels very comprehensive in a way that is not overwhelming! The investigation continues

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My summary for the three systems now I’ve read them all a fair bit, and Strongholds in full:

Fields of Blood - This system has the most abstract economy, utilizing a resource unit system and “realms” . This is probably the easiest one to just plug into any system and is very much like Humankind meets Birthright. It does utilize a 12-mile hex system which is somewhat arbitrary to me but is flexible enough to work anywhere with adjustment (2e scale Tyr valley verdant/scrub for instance is roughly a 15 mile hex). Many building options, lots of upgrades, and rules for most actions a state could enact. I think there are a lot of great ideas in here and would rate this system a solid 8.75/10

AEG Empire - This system scales through three tiers of possible gameplay, roughly baron/count, duke/king, and imperial. This corresponds to how large an abstract area, population, or (trade) value is. This one is a little Birthright meets Pendragon, and in terms of Civ titles I’d compare it to Civ4Colonization as it utilizes seperate resources. However it feels strictly tied to high fantasy and not as flexible as the other systems in that regard, 8.5/10

Strongholds and Dynasties - Individual resources with four levels of refinement, value based on rarity and quality, construction rules of varying complexity including powered structures, and population-based production. This system set out to cover just about anything a group of players could want to do (or a gamemaster imho) and give a baseline for it, and succeeds in doing so. The level of abstraction here is enough to make everything move, but not so much as to feel arbitrary as the other two systems at times do. Taxation comes in many forms, things such as road quality and maintenance are important, regimes must have sufficient control to be stable, and not be too corrupt to be effective. There are up to 15 “council positions” (more like cabinet seats/ministers) which could be filled by players, and provinces of course have governors which may or may not be the ruler of a given regime (which can come in a variety of power structures). And perhaps best of all is the class and faction system, dividing society up into upper/middle/lower and any appropriate other factions such as in Athas the Templarate, Veiled Alliance, Merchant Houses (which could be further broken up if desired), etc. There are a few things that could be defined better or clarified, prices sometimes seem a bit off, and being 3e instead of 3.5e means there is some necessary updating. I like this system the most of these three and would give it a well-deserved 9/10!

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