Escapist Podcast - Tabletop: 008: Domains at War Putting Epic Battles Into Your Campaigns

008: Domains at War Putting Epic Battles Into Your Campaigns

The Escapist staff talks about Domains at War.

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You mentioned using the Domains at War rules with Pathfinder. Is the rule system comparable/convertable back or forth from the kingdom building/mass combat rules in the Ultimate Campaign Supplement for Pathfinder? I'm using that rule system currently, but Domains at War sounds fascinating, and it would be handy if it converted without too much fudging.

I want to play a campaign with Alex as my DM. I would love to be in a true sandbox and then role play as a cat. I would hide turds everywhere.

Platapus555:
You mentioned using the Domains at War rules with Pathfinder. Is the rule system comparable/convertable back or forth from the kingdom building/mass combat rules in the Ultimate Campaign Supplement for Pathfinder? I'm using that rule system currently, but Domains at War sounds fascinating, and it would be handy if it converted without too much fudging.

I'm not familiar with Ultimate Campaign and I couldn't say if it would work really well. Domains at War is d20 based and requires a decent amount of fudging to work with pathfinder.

Very interesting. I've had an idea for an Alexander the Great-inspired campaign bubbling in my mind for quite a while, but I've never brought it to the table because I didn't know what system to use. ACK may be right up my alley. I have some questions if anyone familiar with the system can help.

1) Domains at War seems based around very large-scale combat, involving thousands of people. Does it (or vanilla ACK) have rules for a small raid conducted by a longhip's worth of raiders on a small town? Is there a noticeable break between that and the hex-based mass combat?

2) Wizards came up a few times for both their sheer destructive power and their flexibility, implying that wizard superiority is often the deciding factor. How are martial characters treated in the mass battles? Are they expected to act more as leaders of troops or as one-man killing forces? Is there space for the thief/rogue to make a difference other than the obvious ambush?

3) Just a general question about ACK's tone; it seems to be more on the grounded and realistic end of the spectrum. Is this accurate? Are the heroes exceptionally heroic in the classical sense of being more than regular men, or are they merely better than the average Joe?

I was really intrigued by Alex's elements to a successful war campaign. The elements of an unstable political environment and a looming larger threat are two of the elements I learned about in a history course for 20th century revolutions. I'd have to get my notebook out to list more details, but I do distinctly remember those two parts among a few others. Even the group's talk of morale and loyalty help with starting conflict or avoiding conflict to differentiate reform and revolution as well as maintaining active open warfare. Regrettably I don't have an audience to get into table top that I know of where I live, but it sounds like war games and a lot of similar table top experiences would be vastly improved with historical knowledge on the GM's part (if a GM is a part of it. As previously stated, I am not very familiar.)

Thunderous Cacophony:
Very interesting. I've had an idea for an Alexander the Great-inspired campaign bubbling in my mind for quite a while, but I've never brought it to the table because I didn't know what system to use. ACK may be right up my alley. I have some questions if anyone familiar with the system can help.

1) Domains at War seems based around very large-scale combat, involving thousands of people. Does it (or vanilla ACK) have rules for a small raid conducted by a longhip's worth of raiders on a small town? Is there a noticeable break between that and the hex-based mass combat?

2) Wizards came up a few times for both their sheer destructive power and their flexibility, implying that wizard superiority is often the deciding factor. How are martial characters treated in the mass battles? Are they expected to act more as leaders of troops or as one-man killing forces? Is there space for the thief/rogue to make a difference other than the obvious ambush?

3) Just a general question about ACK's tone; it seems to be more on the grounded and realistic end of the spectrum. Is this accurate? Are the heroes exceptionally heroic in the classical sense of being more than regular men, or are they merely better than the average Joe?

1) There's an entire chapter devoted to scaling the size of battles, whether up or down.

2) Players with fighters and other martial builds will probably find themselves leading a single unit or small detatchment as a lieutenant, where they'd add morale and command and control bonuses, or if they're particularly well-suited, they'll be in overall command in addition to leading troops. The same can happen with thieves, or any class at all, and mine ended up in command of a good number of units in the army in the Oplenean campaign mentioned in the stream.

When units clash, lieutenants leading them will normally face off against each other (not required, as you can give orders from the back of the unit, as my thief preferred) while their forces fight around them. Should one defeat the other, the surviving one can add their efforts to damaging the opposing troops, and martial troops are particularly suited to this.

3) Default tone-wise it's closer to relatively normal men becoming heroic through deeds, rather than supermen continuing to do heroic things; Odysseus instead of Achilles. That said, it's a system so you can bend it to the needs of your campaign.

Platapus555:
You mentioned using the Domains at War rules with Pathfinder. Is the rule system comparable/convertable back or forth from the kingdom building/mass combat rules in the Ultimate Campaign Supplement for Pathfinder? I'm using that rule system currently, but Domains at War sounds fascinating, and it would be handy if it converted without too much fudging.

It would be possible to use D@W with Pathfinder, but the results would not have the 1:1 match between system and world. In other words, it would be an imperfect correlation of the personal and mass combat scale. D@W assumes a world where magic is less common than Pathfinder. That said the results would be much closer than trying to use Warhammer or something.

bdcjacko:
I want to play a campaign with Alex as my DM. I would love to be in a true sandbox and then role play as a cat. I would hide turds everywhere.

...This is not the sandbox you're looking for. /waves hand

Thunderous Cacophony:
Very interesting. I've had an idea for an Alexander the Great-inspired campaign bubbling in my mind for quite a while, but I've never brought it to the table because I didn't know what system to use. ACK may be right up my alley. I have some questions if anyone familiar with the system can help.

1) Domains at War seems based around very large-scale combat, involving thousands of people. Does it (or vanilla ACK) have rules for a small raid conducted by a longhip's worth of raiders on a small town? Is there a noticeable break between that and the hex-based mass combat?

2) Wizards came up a few times for both their sheer destructive power and their flexibility, implying that wizard superiority is often the deciding factor. How are martial characters treated in the mass battles? Are they expected to act more as leaders of troops or as one-man killing forces? Is there space for the thief/rogue to make a difference other than the obvious ambush?

3) Just a general question about ACK's tone; it seems to be more on the grounded and realistic end of the spectrum. Is this accurate? Are the heroes exceptionally heroic in the classical sense of being more than regular men, or are they merely better than the average Joe?

1. The game has 4 scales: Platoon, Company, Battalion, and Brigade. Platoon-scale battles use units of 15-30 troops. Company-scale battles use units of 60-120 troops. Battalion-scale battles use units of 240-480 troops. Brigade-scale battles use units of 960-1,920 troops. Each side will typically field anywhere from 3 to 20 units. So you could handle battles ranging from 45 on a side to 20,000+.

2. Martial characters can act as Lieutenants, Commanders, Generals, and/or Heroes. Lieutenants improve the morale of the unit they are with and make it easier to command. Commanders control a division of troops, with their strategic initiative, number of troops and amount of orders they can control determined by their class, Intelligence, Charisma, and proficiencies (skills/feats). Generals are like Commanders, but their Charisma influences the whole army, and their strategic initiative is used for strategic factors. Finally, Heroes can maneuver like one-man units and fight other Heroes or units. In ACKS, martial classes get certain class abilities that arcane and divine classes do not, such as morale modifiers and command proficiencies, that tend to make them the best leaders on the battlefield.

3. ACKS is definitely grounded and realistic. The level of magic in the setting is closer to that of Conan or Lord of the Rings than Forgotten Realms. Characters are normal men who become heroic through their deeds. The default character generation system is to roll up 5 sets of ability scores using 3d6 in order, then pick one to be an adventurer; so you're in the top 20%, but you're not The One Destined Hero. All rules that apply to PCs apply to PCs.

Mezahmay:
I was really intrigued by Alex's elements to a successful war campaign. The elements of an unstable political environment and a looming larger threat are two of the elements I learned about in a history course for 20th century revolutions. I'd have to get my notebook out to list more details, but I do distinctly remember those two parts among a few others. Even the group's talk of morale and loyalty help with starting conflict or avoiding conflict to differentiate reform and revolution as well as maintaining active open warfare. Regrettably I don't have an audience to get into table top that I know of where I live, but it sounds like war games and a lot of similar table top experiences would be vastly improved with historical knowledge on the GM's part (if a GM is a part of it. As previously stated, I am not very familiar.)

Yes! Absolutely true. ACKS and D@W definitely shine when the GM can bring historical know-how to the game. One of the most fascinating ACKS campaigns running right now is deeply rooted in the 2nd Century BC Macedonian politics as Alexander's successors struggle. Great stuff.

Archon:

bdcjacko:
I want to play a campaign with Alex as my DM. I would love to be in a true sandbox and then role play as a cat. I would hide turds everywhere.

...This is not the sandbox you're looking for. /waves hand

Jedi mind tricks don't work on cats. Cats have a much older and more powerful magic than the force.

Still I would love to do a campaign in a world where I could run around and the world reacts to me as opposed to just running doing pre-built scenarios out of a book where the only solution is the one in the book.

bdcjacko:

Archon:

bdcjacko:
I want to play a campaign with Alex as my DM. I would love to be in a true sandbox and then role play as a cat. I would hide turds everywhere.

...This is not the sandbox you're looking for. /waves hand

Jedi mind tricks don't work on cats. Cats have a much older and more powerful magic than the force.

Still I would love to do a campaign in a world where I could run around and the world reacts to me as opposed to just running doing pre-built scenarios out of a book where the only solution is the one in the book.

That's precisely the appeal of sandbox campaigns!

What is very funny is to put gamers who have only ever played in railroad/story campaigns into a sandbox and watch them fumble around trying to figure out "what they are supposed to do" and "how we are supposed to finish this story arc". It took probably 20 sessions for my play group to realize (a) there is no "supposed to do", and (b) there is no "story arc". It actually can create existential angst.

The downside of a sandbox campaign is that there are no assurances of happy endings, so it can end quite darkly both for individual PCs and for the group as a whole. In my most recent campaign, an undead lizard king defeated the party, transformed their fighter into an undead slave, and slew the heroic paladin. The end.

Archon:
That's precisely the appeal of sandbox campaigns!

What is very funny is to put gamers who have only ever played in railroad/story campaigns into a sandbox and watch them fumble around trying to figure out "what they are supposed to do" and "how we are supposed to finish this story arc". It took probably 20 sessions for my play group to realize (a) there is no "supposed to do", and (b) there is no "story arc". It actually can create existential angst.

The downside of a sandbox campaign is that there are no assurances of happy endings, so it can end quite darkly both for individual PCs and for the group as a whole. In my most recent campaign, an undead lizard king defeated the party, transformed their fighter into an undead slave, and slew the heroic paladin. The end.

I am of the opinion if you want to play an on rails game, that is what video games are for. A table top game should be more open and free.

bdcjacko:

Archon:
That's precisely the appeal of sandbox campaigns!

What is very funny is to put gamers who have only ever played in railroad/story campaigns into a sandbox and watch them fumble around trying to figure out "what they are supposed to do" and "how we are supposed to finish this story arc". It took probably 20 sessions for my play group to realize (a) there is no "supposed to do", and (b) there is no "story arc". It actually can create existential angst.

The downside of a sandbox campaign is that there are no assurances of happy endings, so it can end quite darkly both for individual PCs and for the group as a whole. In my most recent campaign, an undead lizard king defeated the party, transformed their fighter into an undead slave, and slew the heroic paladin. The end.

I am of the opinion if you want to play an on rails game, that is what video games are for. A table top game should be more open and free.

You are preaching to the choir in that regard. But I have had several people quit because the campaigns were too deadly / hard / open / dark.

Archon:

bdcjacko:

Archon:
That's precisely the appeal of sandbox campaigns!

What is very funny is to put gamers who have only ever played in railroad/story campaigns into a sandbox and watch them fumble around trying to figure out "what they are supposed to do" and "how we are supposed to finish this story arc". It took probably 20 sessions for my play group to realize (a) there is no "supposed to do", and (b) there is no "story arc". It actually can create existential angst.

The downside of a sandbox campaign is that there are no assurances of happy endings, so it can end quite darkly both for individual PCs and for the group as a whole. In my most recent campaign, an undead lizard king defeated the party, transformed their fighter into an undead slave, and slew the heroic paladin. The end.

I am of the opinion if you want to play an on rails game, that is what video games are for. A table top game should be more open and free.

You are preaching to the choir in that regard. But I have had several people quit because the campaigns were too deadly / hard / open / dark.

Well that then comes down to knowing your play own play style and your DM's style. I don't want to be handed success, but I don't want to feel like it is unattainable.

Archon:

Platapus555:
You mentioned using the Domains at War rules with Pathfinder. Is the rule system comparable/convertable back or forth from the kingdom building/mass combat rules in the Ultimate Campaign Supplement for Pathfinder? I'm using that rule system currently, but Domains at War sounds fascinating, and it would be handy if it converted without too much fudging.

It would be possible to use D@W with Pathfinder, but the results would not have the 1:1 match between system and world. In other words, it would be an imperfect correlation of the personal and mass combat scale. D@W assumes a world where magic is less common than Pathfinder. That said the results would be much closer than trying to use Warhammer or something.

Ah, neat! I tend to play a low magic sort of pathfinder game anyhow, so with a bit of fudging and the like, may be able to pull something off. For 4E I ended up writing my own rough mass combat system for my players, and seemed to work, but was worried about doing the same here.

Castalia House just posted a glowing review of Domains at War. It has an exhaustive amount of information for those who'd like to know more!

http://www.castaliahouse.com/review-domains-at-war-battles-by-alexander-macris/

 

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