Ever since reading Delta’s Book of War, I have been bouncing the idea of a ten-to-one ratio of individuals to units for an abstracted battlefield. The idea meshes just-so with the most enjoyable parts of Sid Meyer’s Spore. What if the same idea could be used for easy tracking of organizations, empires, and kingdoms?
Three tiers seems to work best (four if you count individuals) for ease of remembering and because it fits the rule of threes. Each ‘tier’ has its own hit dice, each representing ten of the lower tiers’ dice. Ten 1 HD creatures would make up a 1 Organization Dice, OD, group. Ten 1 OD would make up 1 Domain Die, DD. Ten DD are the equivalent of 1 ED, Empire Die.
From this basic rule, any tier can be treated just like a leveled character that interacts at a different scale. Organizations act on a square mile basis and their ‘day’ is a week of normal time. Domains are settlement focused or ten mile increments. Their timescale is measured in months. Empires act on the scale of hundreds of miles and each day to an empire is a whole year.
At each tier, the condensed dice can be thought to be made up of lower tiers. A 3 dice empire might be formed of 2, 10 dice domains, a 5 dice domain, a 3 dice domain, and 2 1 die domains. Those domains could almost be empires, but they are together as maybe some of personal union? One of those 10 dice domains might be made up of a 4 OD merchant’s guild, a 3 OD mercenary outfit, a 2 OD principality, and a 1 OD band of heroes. The organizations could be broken down even further into the HD of their constituent members.
Now we’re left with a realism problem. Empires only have a total of 1000 HD?!? I was stuck here for a little while until I was leaving work one day and realized, wait wouldn’t this system make my company a small kingdom, assuming 1 HD per person? Well, I am not there full time though, and I like the place but I would not be taking up arms to defend it from bandits. So would I be treated as a fraction of a HD then? This is getting to complicated. How about I just count the leadership and VIPs, the people that if we lost them would radically change or implode the company? Just like HD will not track every hair on your head or broken nail, organization dice need not track every minion. HD, OD, DD, and KD only need to track the important people, the vital points of a group. If you want to end an organization, you need to get the president, council-people, and management. A domain needs you to not only remove the king, but the court, supporting nobles, generals, etc. An empire has many judges, courtiers, advisers, conquistadors, philosophers, royal family members, and many more that form the backbone. Killing just a few will cause problems, but the empire will right itself. At that level you would have accomplished as much as giving an adventurer cramps or a hang-nail.
Numbers out of the way, how does this work to copy NPC actions? It is easy enough to see how a thieves guild acts like a metaphorical giant thief, ‘pickpocketing’ other organizations and domains around it. I suggest using simple opposed rolls each ‘day’ of organization time. Each organization, domain, and empire will have goals it seeks to accomplish, and it can spend its hit dice however it decides, splitting its bonuses proportionally.
A 5 DD kingdom, with five levels of fighter, wants to expand its borders. It is surrounded by 2, 3 DD kingdoms and has a 2 DD republic across the inland sea. It could choose to spend its ‘day’, a month in real time, doing anything an NPC might do but translated to a scale of kingdoms. The king decides to direct 4 DD to war against a 3 DD kingdom and 1 DD towards readying defenses. This fighter makes a normal attack, +3 proficiency and +2 from strength, at a proportional penalty, 4/5 * +5 = +4, against the neighboring kingdoms AC. That 3 DD domain has two levels in cleric and one level in paladin. Its AC is 16, 14 from ring +2 from a shield. The roll beats the AC, so the 3 DD domain takes 1d8+2, taking the average for 7, damage from the attacker’s longsword, reduced by 1/5 to 5 because the attacker is only using 4 of their 5 DD. This reduces the paladin/cleric domain’s health, which they won’t be able to heal unless they devote their action to patching their wounds or they are in peace-time. For times when two domains, organizations, or empires are in direct conflict either initiative could be rolled each ‘day’ to see the order of action or defaulting to the order of dexterity scores. Wounded dice can be spent to act as normal but only count as a proportional fraction when counting bonuses to be applied to a roll. The paladin/cleric domain now has 2.5 DD to spend on its turn.
“The Devout Morlochian’s lost a fair number of their vanguard to a surprise assault by the Ulyssian Warriors. They’ve managed to hold off the army for long enough to begin siege preparations but the battle was a near rout on the field. Tending the wounded and mustering vassals is consuming much of the domains energy.”
Empires can die. But, like players they don’t evaporate at 0 hit points, or empire points in this case. When an organization, kingdom, or empire drops to 0, it begins making death saving throws. These are ‘days’ of violent unrest and instability as new or surviving leadership attempts to reassert control. Sometimes the instability fuels the ambitions of upstarts and rebels. Each failed save causes a die to split off on its own, if the group only has 1 die, it drops down a tier to 10 dice and instead loses 1d4 dice to the split. On three failed saves, the organization, domain, or empire dies completely. It splits into its next lowest tier, and those groups must start making death saving throws.
“The Ottoman Empire faced a decades long struggle following a disastrous war with the combined might of Europe. In this alternate history, it failed to reassert its leadership losing ground each of the following three years. First Balkan rebels, then Greek rebels, and finally Persian rebels, each taking a sizable portion of the empire and 1 ED with them. When it collapsed, its remaining 2 ED became 20 DD, each of which were facing their own troubles now. A variety of different kings in the former empire now rushed to fill the power vacuum: 6 DD, 5 DD, and 2, 3 DD Anatolian kingdoms, a 1 DD Syrian kingdom, and a 2 DD Circassian kingdom.”
I think that’s all I want to write on the topic for now. Hopefully this bludgeon of a tool can be helpful in creating your campaign worlds, generating world change, and some abstracted verisimilitude to your games. Check in for part 2, where I will refine the ideas, put them into clever graphics, and post copious examples. Is it clear what I’m getting at? What is confusing to you?