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Monday, April 16, 2018

Endgame, part 1: Castles, Clearing Hexes, and Clerics

Turning on Retro-Scope, I dredged up a post on this topic from that iconic Old-School gaming blog of yesteryear, Grognardia called “on the Loss of D&D’s Endgame.”  Rather than regurgitate it all here in bits and pieces, I urge you to follow the link and give it a read. Mr. Maliszewski has been kind enough to leave the blog online even though it has long been mothballed. It reflects many of my thoughts on the subject. Not to mention James is a far more articulate writer than I.

Once a character reaches name -usually 9th- level (so called because that’s when the character’s experience “title” stops changing and they are referred to by such grandiose labels as Lord, Wizard, Master Thief and so forth.

Most classes are going to construct some sort of castle, keep, or tower. There are short, but functional rules in Cook for costs, times, and more. But before the PCs can build anything, Cook has a few things to say (from X52):

“When building a castle or stronghold, a character must first clear a hex or local area of monsters, entering the hex with a force of men and dealing with any lairs the DM has set up in the area. (The DM may also require the character get a land grant from the local ruler, if any.)”

So it looks like the PC is going to be busy before the first stone can even be laid. There are critters to clear out! A character might pay some men at arms, or lower level adventurers, to do the dirty work. The bit about the local ruler is not insignificant, either. That’s the sort of thing a DM needs to think about for his setting ahead of time if he plans on getting into this aspect of the game eventually.

As sort of a baseline cost for these posts, I took the description of Tarnskeep from Threshold in the Karameikos Gazetteer and priced out something roughly equivalent. Without getting into all the particulars, a character wishing to build Tarnskeep would be looking at approximately 175,000 gp, including hiring two engineers from the specialists section, and a little under a year in building times.

Not to mention Tarnskeep's owner is a high-level cleric!

I thought we’d look at the human classes first, as they are the most common. Going alphabetically, we’ll begin with the Cleric. The cleric is also the class that’s going to reach name level sooner than most in the XP charts, so it seems as good a beginning as any. (Thieves are a bit unusual, so I’m happy to save them for later).

The cleric PC hits 9th level (Patriarch/Matriarch) at 200,000 xp. Considering that most of a character’s experience is coming from treasure, this means he should have a fair bit of coin to work with. Of course a good bit of it may well have been spent along the way, but he should still be pretty flush.

When looking at the rules for clerics, Cook Expert has several things to say about 9th level. Rather than quote a great block of text, I wan to take each point in turn.

“When clerics reach 9th level (Matriarch/Patriarch), they may choose to construct a castle (see p. X52) or stronghold.”

Seems straightforward enough. This next bit is interesting:

“...the cost of building the castle will be half the normal amount due to miraculous assistance from the deity.”

So if you were wondering how those ancient civilizations managed to build such elaborate temples before you dungeon-crawled their ruins, now you know!

Once a keep or temple or whatever is built, it needs to be manned. No worries for a cleric though:

“Furthermore, once the castle is completed, fanatically loyal troops (the "faithful", who never need to check morale) will come to defend the cleric. There will be from 50-300 soldiers (5d6 x 10), from l-2nd level, armed with various weapons.”

Wow. No morale check for an average of over a hundred soldiers. That is not insignificant in a portion of the game where things like having troops to call on can have a real impact. Never mind wars, take a look at this bit from the castle construction section again:

“When the building is complete, the character may want to clear the surrounding area of monsters. The cleared area will remain free of monsters as long as it is patrolled.”

Finally, there is a section about settlers moving in if areas are cleared and improvements are added as enticements (mills, inns, etc.). This can yield 10gp annually per family of settlers. That will help pay for a lot of the day to day expenses once things are up and running.

So even after looking at a fairly simple clear & build model for just one class, we can already see some of the shifts that this sort of play would lead to in a campaign. I can understand some folks questioning whether this sort of thing would be fun, or just more book-keeping. But I also have to ask, if you’ve run a character all the way up from first to ninth level or higher (after all, you don’t need to start building right at ninth), don’t you think you might be ready to try something different? Of course you could always just start a new campaign or play a different system for a while, but it seems a shame to me to shelve a character that has paid such heavy dues when there is a whole new sphere of play awaiting them. The potential scope and depth of the plot-lines that could unfold. Whether it’s the responsibilities of leadership, political intrigue, or even militarily.

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