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I'm currently running a Pathfinder play-by-post game with some friends, and I decided to try the Kingdom Building rules from Ultimate Campaign.

The PCs are goblins who saved a bunch of other goblins from other tribes from a labor camp, and they decide to found a new tribe.

What's a good amount of BP to start the kingdom ?

By good I mean :

  • players should be able to have fun
  • goblin tribes don't use gold coins but rely on barter
  • it should feel like the kingdom couldn't have been without their effort and good will and wise decisions

I'm afraid giving them too much would diminish PCs' value but giving too little would result in an unwinnable situation which could be frustrating, unless I end up giving DM-fiat cash just to avoid the kingdom falling apart because of my mistake.

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In the Kingmaker Adventure Path, the PCs start with 50 BPs but this reflects a specific amount bestowed by the swordlords of Restov on the PCs to get them started.

In general, when you start you'd estimate how many BPs you want to grant. Ultimate Campaign describes BP:

Build points are an abstraction representing the kingdom’s expendable assets, not just gold in the treasury. Build points include raw materials (such as livestock, lumber, land, seed, and ore), tangible goods (such as wagons, weapons, and candles), and people (artisans, laborers, and colonists). Together, these assets represent the labor and productive output of your citizens.

And also that

In general, 1 BP is worth approximately 4,000 gp; use this value to get a sense of how costly various kingdom expenditures are.

So in your case... Goblins. The approximate worth of most goblins and goblin settlements frankly approaches zero in raw materials, capital, and skilled labor.

Providing a seed amount of BP at the start of kingdom building means your kingdom isn’t starving for resources in the initial months. Whether you acquire these funds on your own or with the help of an inf luential NPC is decided by the GM, and sets the tone for much of the campaign.

So your campaign, your vision, but if I were starting out a bunch of goblin PCs trying to wreak a kingdom from a goblin tribe the answer would be "0 BP to start with." Unless the PCs have managed to get enough treasure to cash in for some starting BP.

I'm somewhat concerned by your statement that you'd be "giving them DM-fiat cash just to avoid the kingdom falling appart." You shouldn't bother using a ruleset if the option for failure is not there. If you intend for it to succeed no matter what, then just make it succeed. You should use these rules if failure is an entertaining option (and with Pathfinder goblins, it certainly would be IMO!).

If I were taking We Be Goblins or something and extending it into a kingdom-builder I'd be tempted to reskin the rules and use Junk Points and restate all the buildings and whatnot as the degenerate ridiculous crap goblins would come up with. I bet your players would be super entertained in participating in that process.

Though I think an "Unrest death spiral" is the expected outcome for a goblin city, you could bootstrap this by using the Downtime rules, also from Ultimate Campaign, to do some building and organization development at higher resolution and then once there's some starting points that would be equivalent to BP, move into the larger kingdom building rules. (In fact, here's a sidebar where they discuss the interaction between those two rulesets.)

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Failure IS an option, but I'd like success to be one also. If I let them start with, say, 15BP and we see some turns later they didn't have a chance, I don't think this would be a enjoyable result (I'll edit my question). The reskin is an interesting suggestion, does We Be Goblins provide settlements examples, or something like that ? \$\endgroup\$ – Trajan Dec 22 '14 at 6:42
  • \$\begingroup\$ The rules are just as tenable starting low - if you don't make it profitable, you will go down regardless of initial investment. \$\endgroup\$ – mxyzplk - SE stop being evil Dec 22 '14 at 13:57
  • \$\begingroup\$ @mxyzplk I think he meant that he would only DM Fiat the cash if the city failed due to him miscalculating the startup needed with no fault toward the PCs. \$\endgroup\$ – Aaron Dec 22 '14 at 14:38
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    \$\begingroup\$ I understand what he means, but that is a false dichotomy. The rules can if carefully used go up from 0 BP. A PC is less likely to die if started at level 5; so if a level 1 PC dies is that "the DM's fault for not giving them more levels"? \$\endgroup\$ – mxyzplk - SE stop being evil Dec 22 '14 at 16:17
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You want to give enough BP that kingdom building isn't too slow.

The Kingdom Building rules point out:

It's not easy to start a kingdom—probably the reason everyone doesn't have one. If you are founding a kingdom on your own, without an external sponsor or a fantastic windfall of resources, the initial financial costs can be crippling to PCs. Even building a new town with just a House and an Inn costs 13 BP—worth over 50,000 gp in terms of stone, timber, labor, food, and so on.

I don't know if an Inn is the most cost-effective building to start with, but it seems like a reasonable choice (as well as being a logical one: Many towns start around a lone inn that accumulates more services). Lets consider what a base kingdom that started with 15 BP would look like after a month.

Sample Kingdom

Since Economy is the most important stat for growing a kingdom, I am going to assume four PCs who each take a role which they have a +3 to the appropriate stat to add their bonus to Economy, and the rest of the roles are filled by NPCs with a +1 to their relevant stat.

  • Ruler: +3 Economy
  • Councilor: +1 Loyalty
  • General: + 1 Stability
  • Grand Diplomat: +1 Stability
  • High Priest: +1 Stability
  • Magister: +3 Economy
  • Marshal: +3 Economy
  • Spymaster: +1 Economy
  • Treasurer: +3 Economy
  • Warden: +1 Loyalty

Totals: +13 Economy, +2 Loyalty, +3 Stability

With the Inn and House, that becomes +14/+3/+3. Being goblins, the alignment will probably be CE, which grants +2 Loyalty and +2 Economy. That brings us to a final score after the first (partial) turn of +16/+4/+3, with 2 leftover BP, and a Kingdom DC of 22 (the minimum for a kingdom).

The first full turn

Upkeep Phase

  1. d20+3 vs DC 22 is only a 10% chance of succeeding, and a 65% chance of failing by 5 or more. Unrest will increase by an average of 1.725 (Rounded to 2, imposing a -2 penalty on all future checks).
  2. Consumption is 2, which eats up our two leftover BP.
  3. We have no magic item slots.
  4. We have no negative kingdom stats.

Edict Phase

We can't afford to do anything in this phase except change edicts. I'm leaving all Edicts at "None", because I can't afford otherwise (except Taxation, where my Loyalty is already really low).

Income Phase

I'm not depositing or withdrawing anything, or selling anything, since all that could have been done before founding the kingdom. All that's left is to collect taxes.

The tax check adds (d20+16-2)/3 BP to the treasury. That could be anywhere from 5 to 11 BP, but on average it will be 7.85.

Event Phase

This phase is impossible to model, and is also the best way to meddle within the rules. Rather than rolling for an event, just pick a good one.

The second turn

I'm not going to break it down as much again, but you're starting this turn with two more Unrest and ~6 more BP than the last turn. That makes you more likely to increase Unrest again, and doesn't give you much BP to actually do anything with, although building a new House will get rid of a bit of that Unrest (as will finding a NPC to be the Royal Enforcer)

Analysis

Obviously, this example may bear no relation to your PC's actual kingdom. They also may make other choices, such as boosting Stability-granting roles at the expense of Economy. That may cut off the Unrest death-spiral, but it will slow their BP growth even more. In other words there will be almost nothing to do to grow the kingdom for a long time.

This may or may not be an issue. You can use this as incentive for the PCs to go questing for more gold and items (or other benefits, such as a friendly nearby fey that grants the Kingdom +1 Stability by watching the borders) to boost their kingdom. But if you do too much of that, then the difference between the rounds/days of adventuring and the months of kingdom time means you're almost never dealing with the kingdom rules. Conversely, if you focus too much on the kingdom, a lot of in-game time will pass with very little happening.

The rules do suggest:

If you're running a small, self-starting kingdom, the GM may allow you to turn your gold into BP at a better rate. You may only take advantage of this if you don't have a sponsor; it represents your people seeing the hard work you're directly putting in and being inspired to do the same to get the kingdom off the ground.

This rate starts at 1000gp worth of stuff per BP (which is much better than the default 4000gp), but unless the PCs are high enough level to have several thousand gp worth of items, that still won't be very helpful.

Conclusion

Starting a kingdom from scratch is hard. It will take a really long time to build up to the point that you can afford to start claiming any nearby hexes, let alone building any interesting buildings. Until the PCs have enough personal wealth (or other resources) that they will have 10+ BP leftover after their first turn, it's probably not worth starting to use the Kingdom rules.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Though I think for "goblin tribe" that is a desirable rate - is it really a good thing that "woot, the goblins have built a city the size of Magnimar in a year?" \$\endgroup\$ – mxyzplk - SE stop being evil Dec 22 '14 at 19:06
  • \$\begingroup\$ @mxyzplk - I had that thought, but then it becomes "Why use the rules at all?" It's a very large subsystem to use for a very small percentage of the game. At some point, it just becomes easier to handwave the first few months/years of growth, then start the PCs with extra BP to represent that time. \$\endgroup\$ – Bobson Dec 22 '14 at 19:09
  • \$\begingroup\$ I guess, though one might as well handwave levels 1-3. And I think "unrest death spiral" is pretty much the expected fate of a goblin city. But the downtime rules, also in Ultimate Campaign, do have rules on building and organization creation that could be used as a higher resolution starting point to dovetail into this (for building the initial inn, etc.). \$\endgroup\$ – mxyzplk - SE stop being evil Dec 22 '14 at 19:18
  • \$\begingroup\$ @mxyzplk - I think that's a false comparison. There's no special rules for levels 1-3 that only come up once every few sessions, let alone a whole complicated subsystem's worth of rules. The closest would be rule systems (such as environment) that have spells which let you ignore them later, but those are rarely complicated. I do agree about the expected fate, though. \$\endgroup\$ – Bobson Dec 22 '14 at 19:27

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