epub Birthright Campaign Setting epub

by L. Richard Baker

Back in the early days of Dungeons and Dragons, getting to higher levels was a huge thing, because that was the level where the characters attracted followers, and could build strongholds, carve land out of the wilderness and gain titles, and so on. AD&D 2nd edition kept the idea of gaining followers at higher levels, but didn't really have any system by which you can do anything with them, other than get them killed too attacking the dragon's lair. Birthright is a setting entirely about ruling kingdoms, fighting with armies, cutthroat diplomacy, and so on.

It does this by adding a kingdom-ruling layer on top of the typical kill-orcs-for-their-pie D&D gameplay. Without getting into the backstory too much, there were some gods, one turned evil, they fought, the gods blew up, and a bunch of people absorbed god power and now have the literal Mandate of Heaven. Including the part where if someone dies, they obviously have lost the Mandate of Heaven—literally, because their killer can steal some of the divine power in their blood. "Regents" (the term used for those with divine bloodlines) can bond with the land and use their powers to improve both themselves and their holdings, and there's a big system dedicated to this involving Domain Levels and Holdings and Regency Points and Bloodlines and so on.

One of my biggest problems as I read this is that I kept comparing it to Crusader Kings II. It isn't really a fair comparison, because Birthright was written over a decade before Crusader Kings II came out, but I spent the entire book thinking that it would make an excellent Crusader Kings II mod, and a computer would do a way better job of tracking the shifting alliances between regents, each regent's Regency Point and Gold Bar totals and what they spent them on, the movement of armies, and basically all the paraphernalia the game demands. The book explicitly mentions that keeping track of too many rulers at once will drown the GM in paperwork, and the best way is to track 2 or 3 in any given domain turn (another concept) that are important.

Other than that, it works. I mean, it's complicated, but it does what it sets out to do. Another problem I have with it—and I know it's AD&D 2nd edition, so this also isn't a fair comparison—is the randomness. Each player randomly rolls the strength of their bloodline, randomly rolls their powers, and then randomly rolls the points used to build their kingdom, so it's entirely possible to have a group where one person rules the Holy Roman Empire and another rules Liechtenstein based on the dice rolls. I don't necessarily object to this, but there should have been a point-buy system included to prevent the guy who lasts one turn before being steamrolled by their neighbors.

There is one neat point whereby characters can use their downtime during ruling to improve their hit points up to the maximum they could have rolled or their proficiency scores through training. I think random hit points are terrible, and the proficiency system was always tacked on, so both of those are definite pluses for me.

There's a sample adventure, but it's a bunch of horrible railroading crap with the possiblity of PC death by assassination unless the assassin fails to sneak. Literally:
Unless the character has a bodyguard in the room, he has only one chance to survive this encounter: Terem must fail his move silently roll.
No note on what happens if the PCs not only have bodyguards in the room, but also order the other people who have to get assassinated guarded, of course. Not really surprising after the note at the beginning of the adventuring chapter about
luring the player characters into an adventure of [the DM's] own choosing, rather than allowing the party to go haring off on personal quests.
Even if you rule a country, the DM still wears the Viking hat! The less said about this crapfest of an adventure, the better.

And it's kind of random, but barons outrank counts. Since the rest of the political layout of the depicted governments is based on the English feudal system, this really leaped out at me, but it's just a throw-away reference that never shows up again, so it doesn't really affect anything.

What I really like, however, is the world background. Birthright has multiple human cultures who are obvious ripoffs of historical cultures (English, Germans, Arabs, Norse, and Russians), and while it does lead to a few uncomfortable moments, like when it talks about how the Vos (Birthright!Russians) worship evil gods and are savage, it does provide an easy hook for a player to hang their character on, and—more importantly for me—prevents the generic fantasy name problem almost completely. A lot of names are Irishish (if that's a word) because they have an elven derivation, but the different cultures have names based on the appropriate historical culture.

Also, psycho elves who literally mount up and go out hunting humans are the best elves.

The awnsheghlien are also a great concept for bad guys. Basically, people who have the bloodline of the god who turned evil can end up mutated and end up in iconic forms, so there are creatures out there called the Spider (a half-goblin, half-spider centaur thing), the Leviathan (a giant sea monster), the Gorgon (a person whose skin has turned to stone), and so on. It's a great way to create unique bad guys while cutting down on the number of additional civilizations of sentient creatures who somehow manage to maintain a breeding population.

If you like generic high fantasy but think Forgotten Realms is ridiculous and makes no sense, Birthright is a good alterate choice. If you don't like high fantasy, you probably shouldn't be looking into AD&D 2nd edition supplements.

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Book Title
Book Author
PublisherWizards of the Coast
Release date 02.06.1995
eBook formatPaperback, (torrent)En
File size6.4 Mb
Book rating4.22 (40 votes)
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