So my players managed to land a "Deck of Many Things" last night. I had intended a silly one shot "break" in our long campaign, and the result was one player getting a chance to pull a single card.

The player ended up pulling the Throne. (Gain a +6 bonus on Diplomacy checks plus a small castle.)

All in all everyone handled it amazingly, the player jumped on the +6 Diplomacy as they have already grabbed the role of the "Face" for the party, so this will help.

My problem is how to handle the Castle.

The Party wants to split it up and create some sort of frontier utopia. They really want to take a few games head to this place, meet the people, and set themselves up a "proper home". (The druid wants to take over farming and food production, the mage wants to set up a school, the warrior wants to open a school as well, etc....)

I am all for this as this is the first time the players have really shown an interest in something other than crawling and fighting/ amassing loot.

The problem is I have no idea where to begin with this.

I looked at the Ultimate Campaign rules on the Pathfinder SRD and honestly I was lost. It seemed really complex. Is there an easier way to handle this sort of thing?

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    \$\begingroup\$ Since the Castle appeared where the character who drew throne picked, how far out exactly they choose to build the castle? Does someone else own that land? Are there indigenous monstrous or barbarian people? Are they in the border of any kingdom, nation, or political body? \$\endgroup\$ Mar 30 '15 at 17:18
  • \$\begingroup\$ I am working with the players now on designing that. They specifically want a frontier area. So the campaign revolves around a large scale war. My basic concept was a vision of World War 1 envisioned within a Pathfinder setting. There are numerous castles and keeps that have lost rulers and the like, so it will be no real issue to have the players jump in to fill that void story-wise. My problem is dealing with the incidentals such as taxes, income, upkeep, etc.. \$\endgroup\$ Mar 30 '15 at 18:00
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    \$\begingroup\$ As the GM, it is up to me to decide how to best incorporate it into my campaign. I chose an Abandoned castle \$\endgroup\$ Mar 30 '15 at 18:03
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    \$\begingroup\$ @TheAmusedMuse You appear to be trying to solve this problem via discussion, which is not something comments are for. Post an answer if you've got one? (Possibly review the frame challenge guidance if relevant.) \$\endgroup\$ Mar 30 '15 at 18:09
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    \$\begingroup\$ Cool, you now have a massive money sink for the characters! Any issues you had that there was too much money in the game are now gone - wages, building maintenance, food for staff, road-building, bridge-repair, equipping soldiers, paying taxes, bribing officials, throwing parties for noble neighbours, feeding visiting dignitaries, providing soldiers to the ruler of the land, establishing a church, … \$\endgroup\$ Mar 31 '15 at 21:01

You have one of the best problems to have as a 3.X GM. If there's a certain part of the game world that the players clearly want to engage with, then you have an easy way to give players exactly the kind of content that they want. Here is some advice on how to handle this new castle.

Don't use the Kingdom Building rules

It's really tempting to use a set of rules that you find, I know, but the Kingdom Building rules don't really do what the players want to do. As you noted, the rules are really complicated and have a ton of moving parts that don't actually help with the idea of making a frontier keep like they want. I wouldn't say that the Kingdom Building rules are bad, per se, but they're built more for a group that cares about the specific numbers involved in making a kingdom, rather than the broader aspects. Definitely use parts of these rules for inspiration, but don't use the whole thing unless the group really does want to deal with minutiae all the time.

Change the focus of the campaign to the castle

If your players really want to do stuff with the castle, change the geographic focus of the game to be near the castle. Maybe their current quest giver wants them to tame that section of wilderness, or maybe the BBEG finds that they need to kidnap people from a specific nearby village for a dark ritual. However you do it, if the players really want to have a castle, then make it so the game works with that, instead of fighting it.

Give them both RP and mechanical bonuses

In medieval times, people who lived near a castle would pay taxes to the owner of that castle, in exchange for defense from threats and such. One option that I've seen used is that the owner of a castle would get a significant portion of their wealth-by-level as taxes from their populace, so it feels like keeping up the castle and the surrounding lands gives them more money. In addition, maybe give them titles and show them how their subjects are happy with them (assuming that they're at least decent rulers).

For example, let's say that the party is 10th level. They should have 62,000 gp in wealth, and should gain an extra 20,000 gp by the time they get to level 11. In this case, you might give them 5-10% of their wealth for this level, roughly 1,000-2,000 gp for each party member, every month or so. You should take into account how much time you expect them to spend between levels so that you don't give them too much or too little money. If you find that they have too much, give them something to spend it on. Maybe an alchemist wants to set up shop in town, but needs some seed money to get started. Maybe a caravan of dwarven merchants want to sell you high-quality weapons for you soldiers.

Use "Yes, and..." as much as possible

There really aren't a lot of good rules for making and building a kingdom that aren't either super expensive or super complicated. Rather than getting hung up on exactly how things work in the rules, just wing it. If the druid wants to help out farmer's yields, then let him. Tell him that the farmers now have better yields than they ever have, and they started celebrating "[druid's name here] Day" in honor of how much he helped. Maybe give the mage some free spells or spell research, representing the fact that he can copy spells from his student's books with impunity.

Also, if your players want to add some kind of magical structure to their castle, don't use the standard magical creation rules. The normal rules are geared towards stuff that players can carry around with them, and are very much overpriced for a game that focuses on a large structure like a castle. A rule of thumb to use is that if the players want to add a spell to one section of the castle (say, the walls, or the border towers, or the keep), charge them what it would cost to make a similar item for one player, rather than trying to multiply the cost over the larger area.

If your players want to build other structures, charge them based on how big the thing they're building is. If they're building an inn, watchtower, or other single-building structure, charge something like 10,000 gp. If they're building a fort, or walls for their keep, charge more, maybe 30,000 gp. If they're building something huge, like a whole new castle or a massive aqueduct, change more like 100,000 gp. The precise numbers don't really matter. What matters is that the players feel like they're spending an amount of money that doesn't feel trivial, and that they feel like they're getting something for that money. If your players never have any money, then charge less. If they're particularly flush, charge more.

Use kingdom-level threats, rather than adventurer-level ones

Maybe the kingdom next door wants to take over some of your now-fertile land. Maybe bandits are causing problems with caravans. Maybe a necromancer is causing all of the dead in the land's graveyards to rise. Maybe there's a war in an allied kingdom, and you need to send off troops to help out. Whatever plotlines and threats you develop, try and make it so the kingdom is tied in. It's okay to occasionally just do another dungeon delve, but if the players care about their kingdom, then reward that passion by involving the kingdom in the game wherever you can.


Basically, my suggestion would be to follow these rules of thumb:

  1. Make the castle the focus of the game.
  2. Work with your players to let them do what they want.
  3. Don't use complicated rules systems when you don't need to.
  • \$\begingroup\$ How should I handle things like Income from Taxes, cost of building, and other similar land management things? \$\endgroup\$ Mar 30 '15 at 17:33
  • \$\begingroup\$ I added a few paragraphs about taxes. \$\endgroup\$
    – DuckTapeAl
    Mar 30 '15 at 17:53
  • \$\begingroup\$ This is incredibly helpful. Thank you for your time. I am kicking around a ton of ideas now. The best part is the move from Adventurer-level threats to Kingdom-level threats makes complete sense for how the story has changed from level 1 to where the players are now. The good part is I see this as a sort of self correcting problem, if they mismanage the kingdom, and treat it as a "Monty Haul" campaign, then the citizenry will revolt and the players will end up becoming the problem themselves \$\endgroup\$ Mar 30 '15 at 18:54
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    \$\begingroup\$ Big +1 for Yes, and... take all the ideas they have and roll with them \$\endgroup\$
    – Rob
    Mar 31 '15 at 14:53

I had something similar happen in a very old AD&D campaign I DM'ed ages ago: one of the PCs was a Cavalier (Fighter subclass appeared on Dragon) and he was from a region that was basically Arhurian Britain with the numbers partially filed off.

His King gave him a small fief in a not-too-civilized area of the Kingdom (there was plenty of political sublplots getting on - the PC was young/inexperienced and he was given the castle half-expecting him to fail in mantaining peace and prosperity so that some other candidates would get there later etc.).

I do agree with what the other poster suggested: don't get too worried about the mechanical aspects of running the place (in my case I provided a couple of old retainers that were able to provide advice and keep the books) and concentrate more on things like:

  • dealing with area threats like marauders, humanoid tribes, maybe some smaller (depends on your party level) dragon or some other similar creature.
  • situations where the person in charge can try to win the hearts of the local populace (administering justice, having something built or repaired to improve the quality of life, like a mill or a temple, deal with some medical emergency like an epidemic).
  • establishing contact with non-humans (elves, dwarves, whatevers) or potentially hostile neighbours

On top of that, provide some political intrigue (in my case someone else was interested in getting hold of the castle because it gave access to some magical object hidden somewhere inside: finding it would take days of carefully examining all the walls, cellars etc. so you had to get full control of the place) plus the area where the castle has some local insurgents: the Kingdom had a monotheistic religion, just like Arthurian Britain, while in the area there was an attempt to revive older form of "Pagan" religions, backed by druids and witches who hoped to get back to their ancient ways.

To top all this, the whole party had made an archenemy during previous adventures so they were subject to sporadic assassination attempts.

You just need a detailed map of a (smallish) castle, and to prepare a wilderness map of the area around it. Considering how your player acquired it would be normal that he doesn't really know much about the area or the history, so discovering more about what he "acquired" would be an adventure in itself.


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