Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Experiments with Paizo Domain Rules

The latest Aldelle Group adventure log is delayed due to my wife and I spending an evening doing something geeky together: testing out the Pathfinder RPG domain management rules from the Kingmaker AP. I really want to tryout the domain rules ckutalik on Hill Cantons is putting together, but they're not published yet, so I'll have to wait on that.

I spent some time Sunday afternoon putting together an Excel spreadsheet that looked like the Kingdom Sheet form in Pathfinder #32 and partially automating it. Last night we started with a random map created by Hexographer and my wife selected a point to start her kingdom. Then we started working through my condensed notes on the domain turn structure.

This is when I realized there were usability issues with the Kingdom Sheet in general and my implementation of it in specific. The issues with the sheet relate to issues with the structure of the kingdom turn, so I'll go through that and discuss how it relates to the sheet.

The Kingdom Turn structure is:
  1. Upkeep Phase
  2. Improvement Phase
  3. Income Phase
  4. Event Phase

The first issue is that Upkeep is paid at the beginning of the Kingdom turn. Not normally a problem, except that you are paying the Consumption value set last turn, not this turn. But the value my sheet calculates is based on settings for this turn and there is no place to note Consuption for the previous turn. Now if I make the Consumption rate on the spreadsheet read from a previous page, that's fine, but the easy way is to put a blank for "Consumption Last Month" separate from the calculations of Consumption for this turn.

Additionally, there is only one blank for the Treasury, whose value will change through the turn. A better way would be multiple Treasury blanks:
  • Starting Treasury (equal to Ending Treasury for the previous month)
  • Treasury after the Upkeep Phase (it is possible to gain a build point [BP] during the Upkeep Phase in addition to spending for Consumption)
  • Treasury after Improvement Phase (to show BPs spent)
  • Treasury after Income Phase (to show effects of the Income Phase)
  • Ending Treasury (to account for any changes due to Kingdom Events).

It would also be nice to have a blank for BPs spent on Improvements (claiming land, building cities, building roads, establishing farmlands) and one for Income (deposit of adventure loot, withdrawal of cash, sale of items, and, oh yeah, generating income for the kingdom).

I'd like to point out that pronouncing Edicts happens during the Improvements. The benefits (or penalties) apply immediately, but none of it is paid for until the Upkeep Phase of the next turn. This caused an issue for my spreadsheet, as it was calculating this turns Consumption and applying it directly to the Treasury, which is not what happens in the rules. Not a major issue for an electronic spreadsheet, but it could get confusing if you were using the paper form.

Now, once we got all that squared away and I made some changes to my spreadsheet (plus the handy use of some paper to calculate expendatures), the system works fairly smoothly. The Kingdom Sheet Paizo supplies would work fine if Upkeep happened at the end of the process so Consumption paid was based on what happened this turn, but I like the dynamic that if you overspend (or fail to make enough income) and go negative Treasury, you have to deal with the Unrest penalties for the entire turn. Best to keep that Royal Assassin post filled in that case.

We also had to make some changes to the map after we started. My wife chose her starting location based on a tactical mindset as she had not read the domain rules. She started in a coastal wooded mountain hex with many forest and/or mountain hexes around it. Her thinking was that woods = timber = income source and mountains = defensible. The domain rules don't care about any of that except as cost inflaters (forests cost 2 BP for a road and 4 BP to prep for a city while mountains take 4 and 12 BP, respectively). [Oh, wait, I just found where it does take those into account. This brings up a point about readability and cross-references that I'm not going to go into here.] Additionally, farmland can only be established in plains or hills, which were nowhere in sight and there are no rules for clearing out a forest hex to make farmland. Farmland reduces consumption by 2 BP per turn, so farmlands are vital when starting a new kingdom. We solved this problem by converting most of the nearby light woods hexes to wooded hills and left it at that.

There are a few things that are not accounted for in the rules. There are 11 positions in the ruling council (that's what I call it - Paizo never names the group) that have serious consequences if they are not filled with at least a warm body. At no point is their salary covered. While several will be filled by PCs and possibly cohorts, some at least will be filled by NPCs who should expect some form of compensation for their work. I'm guessing that their salaries are expected to be dealt with out of the PCs pocket as a roleplay aspect or just hand-waved as part of the country's Consumption stat (after all, 1 BP = 4,000gp and skilled hirelings are paid in silver), but it would have been nice to see that at least meantioned somewhere.

After running 8 turns and feeling we had a handle on the mechanics, we realized we had forgotten to roll for Kingdom Events in the Events Phase after the first turn. Oops. Guess I still need to test those out to see how balanced those are. 
So long story short, the Paizo domain rules are workable, but need some tweaking and better cross-references as stuff gets lost. The Paizo form needs a lot of work to be really usable, but covers the basics. Hexographer is such a cool product that my wife almost instantly approved the purchase of it. Hoody-hoo!  Did I mention my wife is awesome?  I should because she is.


  1. Hey Patrick, it seems like there's a lot of great PF fans down in H-town. Glad to learn of two more.

    Are you planning on making your version of the Kingdom form available at some point?

  2. Lost a long reply due to work filter. Sigh.

    The upshot is, the revised Kingdom Sheet is available in the Downloads sidebar. It needs some tweaks (place to enter BPs spent on making farmlands) and then to be "made pretty", but it is (mostly) functional right now.