Vampire seems to have been THE system for high political drama and intrigue. At some point I'd still like to see if it is possible to run a Dark Ages Vampire chronicle. Who knows? I've also been looking at Iron Empires which is an impressively political science fiction setting. You can see some of my earlier work on that here.
In the meantime we have A Song Of Ice And Fire from Green Ronin, which looks to me as if it could fit the bill. This uses Green Ronin's Chronicle System, which to my knowledge has really only been used to power Game of Thrones roleplaying to date. I'm wondering whether it might be adapted for a samurai political drama, say during the decline of the Ashikaga shogunate in the 1400s?
I like the way players can work together to build a house, a noble clan that can participate in the power politics of Westeros. While you could just as easily use the core rules to run a game of conventional adventurers, the default campaign has characters as members of the same noble house, or their retainers. In some ways it reminds me of the chantry construction process in Ars Magica.
Creating House Karstark
Picking up my trusty dice, I began rolling. Firstly, I had to determine the location of the fiefdom, as that affects its other attributes. Westeros, after all, has quite diverse geographical regions. The dice came down for the North, so I was looking at Stark bannermen here.
Each fief has a number of core attributes,which you also roll for and then apply regional modifiers. For example, fiefs in the North are better defended by default, include more land, but tend to be poorer overall. I've included my initial rolls with regional modifiers already applied:
- DEFENCE (33) - quality of the fief's overall defences / strongholds, including natural obstacles that might obstruct an invasion;
- INFLUENCE (41) - determines the Lord's maximum status, which at this stage is 5;
- LANDS (55) - how much land the house controls, in this case quite a lot;
- LAW (21) - overall standard of law and order in the fief;
- POWER (21) - military muscle, in this case a modest force but we may change this;
- POPULATION (30) - measures the number of people living in the fief and number of larger settlements;
- WEALTH (21) - "enough to get by" according to the rules.
Looking through my Game of Thrones campaign guide, also from Green Ronin, I wanted to see if I could match this house to one of those listed. I quite like the look of House Karstark, so decided to go with them.
Each player now gets to spend 1d6 to boost the above attributes. I decided there are four hypothetical players in my campaign, so have 4d6 to play with. I feel the Karstarks are still lacking in military heft so 2d6 goes to that. I roll a total of 6, which takes it to 27 points. The other 2d6 goes to Wealth - I don't want the Karstarks just "getting by", even in the North. I roll 7 in total, which boosts their Wealth to 28.
History of the Karstarks: power won through treachery?
We roll to find that the Karstarks have been around since the time of the Andal invasions, so they qualify as Very Old as a family. The campaign book has them as a factor in the North over 1000 years ago, that they are descended from the First Men, and that they became lords as a reward for helping Karlen Stark put down a rebel lord.
As a Very Old family I roll to find out how many significant events they have in their history. Treachery comes up first, so must be how they actually won their fiefdom. I decide they were likely part of the rebellion against the Starks but betrayed the prime movers in the insurrection at a critical stage, and were rewarded for their treachery. Nice. This was a long time ago, obviously, but memories are long in the North too.
Since then they have been favoured by the Starks and the Kingdom of the North, as I roll Favour twice, followed by a Windfall. I suspect one of those Favours might have been a marriage with the Starks at some point in the distant past. The Windfall might have come as a consequence of the Karstarks' support of their Stark cousins during the War of the Usurper.
This history means the family is net +1d6 Defence, +3d6 Influence, +3d6 Lands, +2d6 Law, +1d6 Population, +5d6 Power, +2d6 Wealth. Truly, the Karstarks have done well.
Their scores now stand at Def 38, Inf 52, Land 69, Law 29, Pop 36, Pow 46, Wealth 39. This is beginning to look like more of a contender for some serious power.
The Sun of Winter!
I now have to spend my points to build the Karstarks' realm. First, for Defence, they have a castle at Karhold. It is a small castle (30pts) with a single small keep and a couple of towers. Nothing fancy. They have some points left over (8) for further construction in the future, but can't afford anything more right now.
The family has tons of influence, so we spend 20 for a first born son and another 10 for a first born daughter. It is tempting to go for a second son with 10 more, so I do it, leaving 12 points in reserve. Three of my player characters will be of the blood. Awesome. Looking at the entry in the campaign guide, it looks like Eddard Karstark, his brother Torrhen and his sister Alys will all be PCs. The head of the house, Rickard, will be an NPC. Rickard's maximum status is 6.
Now it is time to allocate my Lands points into actual domains. Karhold is out in the north-east of the Northlands, on the Bay of Seals. It looks mainly forest, with some coast and a river valley. I decide to break the domains down as follows:
- Karhold - plains (5) - dense forest (5) - small town (20) - pond (5) = 35pts
- The Valley - plains (5) - river (3) - road (5) = 13pts
- Seal Coast - plains (5) - coast (3) - road (5) = 13pts
- Eastern Woods - plains (5) - light woods (3) = 8pts
I know these are not imaginative names. I like Karhold and the Seal Coast. I see another domain south of Karhold along the river and then a final domain to the east of Karhold between the castle and the sea. These are actually quite small holdings, even though the family has a relatively high land score. The rest will be under their vassals. This just amounts to land directly under their control, which is less than 40 square miles of territory. The estates may not even be contiguous.
I think Karhold and the Valley and Eastern Woods are likely all easily reachable, but the family has another manor out on the coast which is further away, although still directly owned.
Law and Population actually contribute to House Fortunes. More on this later, but for the time being, the Karstarks have a -2 from their Law of 29, and a +3 from their Population, so looks like a net +1 at the moment.
Next time: we look at the Karstarks' army and their banner houses.