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[Let's Read] Birthright Campaign Setting


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In our hobby's "golden days of old", to borrow a phrase from Macaulay, the point of all the dungeon crawling and dragon slaying was to accumulate enough gold to be able to afford the construction of a castle. Achieving this goal marked the point where your player character graduated from being a murderous hobo to become one of the magnates of the land. (Why the other magnates of the land allowed one to purchase a castle rather than simply poisoning one is one of those things that went tragically unexamined.) This was a long, drawn out process, intended to take years of campaigning and countless battles and adventures.

In 1995, TSR came up with a campaign setting that let you skip all that and get on with the magnate stuff.

The Birthright Campaign Setting (just Birthright hereafter) was the first D&D campaign setting which truly captured my imagination. It wasn't the first that I'd read, of course -- that was the Known World (or Mystara, to use a name I've never really liked) which I first encountered in the D&D Expert Set. But Birthright was the first "world in a box" that I bought, despite knowing nothing about it. Ravenloft I'd read about in ads in comic books; the Forgotten Realms I'd met through articles in Dragon and actual stories in comics. Birthright I saw on the shelf in the local games and comic store in Swift Current, Saskatchewan, and just from the cover, I had a feeling that this was talking to me.

Sadly, I never found anyone willing to play it with me, and though it was, I believe, the final flowering of TSR's creative genius, it came too late in the season and died in the cold of winter. But time passes, and everything old is new again, and it's now available from D&DClassics.com and other DriveThru sites. And there are all sorts of shows on TV that speak to the idea of being a person of power and influence, most notably (of course) A Game of Thrones. And here, in this thread, I'm going to discuss the game that let you be a king at first level ... and strive to be an emperor by the end of the campaign.


Birthright contained three books and the collection of reference cards which were relatively common in boxed sets for 2nd edition AD&D. The books, in the recommended reading order, are:

The Atlas of Cerillia -- a zero rules description of the history of the continent on which the campaign is set and a quick guide to some though not all of the interesting locales theron, intended to be read by players and DMs alike.

The Rulebook -- a 100% rules description of how the rules of the 2nd edition AD&D game are modified for the specifics of this setting, along with the special rules for being a ruler and doing ruler-y type things.

Ruins of Empire[/i] -- the first gazetteer of the continent, describing the kingdoms descended from the shattered Anuirean Empire. (Later gazetteers would describe the kingdoms of other regions.) Also including a sample adventure to illustrate how all this is supposed to work.

One thing that the PDF release unfortunately doesn't include are the battle cards that were intended to be used for the mass combat board game described in the rulebook. It's a pretty serious oversight, and a regrettable one -- though perhaps they'll be made available in subsequent updates of the release.

Tomorrow: We start reading The Atlas of Cerillia.


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Birthright is one of my favorite D&D settings, and I've always been sad that I never got a chance to play it outside some PBEM domain-only stuff.

Kaiju Stew

Big gay metal geek.
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Subscribed. I love Birthright more than any other D&D setting, but it's always been such a hard sell for my group.


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Perhaps it's reappearance on D&Dclassics and the current popularity of Game of Throne will convince more people to give it a shot?


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Why the other magnates of the land allowed one to purchase a castle rather than simply poisoning one is one of those things that went tragically unexamined.
Seems like trying to pull that on any adventurer who lived long enough to afford a castle would be a quick but painful trip to an earlier grave.

Come to think of it, couldn't you just kill someone and take their castle?


Golden Wyvern Adept
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*gets comfortable*

Second edition for the settings, I always say (I've said it before, really!) Dark Sun was my favorite, but Birthright was second. Domain management, yay (although probably broken. But then, the way I ran it had one player using 3-4 characters, each one running a factor of the domain). The bloodlines (with a tinge of Highlander). The unique monsters. And yeah, I think it came too late in the life of 2E.

I just got back my box of battle cards tonight (the set came with a cardboard chest you folded up to store them).


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peers around with interest....
I had moved away from D&D at the time and missed this setting completely.
Later I used Mystra and BECMI rules for my kingdom running needs. I staid with them until kingmaker. For long I have been curious about birthright.
let her roll.


Taxidermic Owlbear
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I'm in. I never really played Birthright, but I like the focus on humans and the more "mythological" flavour of the supernatural elements.


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I liked everything about Birthright. I liked the regency powers, realm magic, rules for domain management, ley lines, etc. Everything that is, but the boring as paste generic fantasy setting of Cerilia. If Birthright had been marketed and designed as realm domain rules for every campaign without being marketed as a setting, I think it would have done better.
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