(art by W. J. Linton)
In many old-school fantasy role-playing games, when the characters reach 10th level the nature of the game changes from one of adventurous exploration to the maintenance and defense of a domain. This is essentially a change in tone; whereas free-wheeling dungeon delving and general skullduggery was the order of the day, it gives way to the localized concerns of politics, intrigue, and lordship that accompany “settling down.”
The “domain game” level of play is entirely possible for games that skew toward Gothic Fantasy, but for these games “settling down” always comes at a price—and not just the sacrifice of autonomy! Gothic fiction has many examples of characters who have inherited, won, or married into estates that come with a problem to be solved. For our purposes, an “estate” can be any functional building that a character of a given class might gain control over: it could be a castle and the surrounding lands, an outpost or fortress, a wizard's tower, a thieves' guild, a temple or church, a guild, et al. Of course, you may use whatever rules you like for the normal administration of such an establishment, but once the characters are in charge of a location you should roll on the following table to see what special problem they will need to deal with.
You Inherited an Estate, but There's a Problem...
|1||Accursed – For some mysterious reason the estate has been cursed and ill-luck will plague any who take ownership of it. This ill-luck can take many forms, and indeed its severity should escalate the longer the curse has been left un-investigated; its effects could include minor accidents that happen on the premises to madness and death. As to the cause of the curse, perhaps a murder was committed on the estate and the culprit has yet to be brought to justice.|
|2||Contaminated – The estate is literally plagued with a debilitating disease that eventually sickens all who resides there. The cause of the disease could be traceable to a variety of possible causes: a trio of hags who poison the estate's wells, a clan of were-rats who are tainting the meat of the local farms, or a pocket of decaying zombies who are trapped within the estate's water system are all possible causes that will need to be investigated and rooted out.|
|3||Contested – While the new owner of the estate may assume they have sovereign control over their domain, some other lordling believes he or she has a rightful claim on the territory. The claimant may be mundane (such as a mad prince who believes himself to be the rightful heir to the land) or supernatural in nature (such as a vampiress who has awoken from an ancient sleep to regain her former holdings). If the structure is new, the claimant believes they are due to the land the estate sits on.|
|4||Disrepair – The estate is in a frightful state of ruin and will require additional expenditure to put into working order. However, the more pressing concern will be to discover why the estate is in such disrepair. Perhaps a family of ghouls who live deep within the dungeons of the estate have taken to raiding the surface levels for wood and stonework, or perhaps the structure is slowly being swallowed by a horrific creature lurking within the land itself.|
|5||Haunted – The estate is home to a number of non-corporeal undead spirits. These spirits may be banshees, ghosts, specters, wraiths, or some combination of the same. These spirits will harass the new owner of the estate, ruin any important social engagements held there, and will make it difficult to retain staff and servants. The spirits have unfinished business and it is up to the estate's new owner to lay them to gentle rest.|
|6||Hazardous – The estate is located in a part of the world that is fraught with danger. If the estate is located in a remote part of the world, it could be in danger of attack from barbarians, raiders, or an antediluvian supernatural threat. If the estate is located in a more civilized part of the world, it could be in danger from a thieves guild bent on ransacking it, revolutionaries looking to make a grand political statement, or a supernatural threat of an urban character.|
|7||Indefensible – While the estate is fine on the face of things, an army or warband of some kind is already marching to lay siege to it. Unfortunately, the estate is poorly garrisoned, poorly positioned for war, lacking in defensive walls and fortifications, lacking in war machines (and crews to man them), or some combination thereof. It will be up to the estate's new owner to innovate a plan to save the estate from certain destruction.|
|8||Infested – The estate is infested with some kind of vermin. The vermin might be rats, snakes, insects, or something else, but their constant scurry disrupts all sleep within the estate and has given it a reputation as an unclean and forsaken place. The cause of this infestation will rest mundane treatment; something otherworldly or decidedly sinister (such as a mad monk bent on revenge or a mummy lord using the vermin to spread contagion) will be the root cause to be discovered and dealt with.|
|9||Meager – The estate has very few resources to draw upon. Perhaps the land around the estate isn't growing enough food to support the tenants—has a vengeful witch has placed a hex upon the farmers that only the estate's owner can lift? Perhaps the estate's capital is being embezzled by a dastardly vassal who is using the funds to support a vile demon cult. Perhaps the estate's vineyards have been blighted by an undead evil that has made its lair among the vines.|
|10||Mutinous – For some reason, the vassals, servants, and
retainers attached to the estate are planning an uprising against
their new master. Perhaps they've fallen under the sway of a vile
hypnotist who uses them as pawns to gain control of the estate.
Perhaps they belong to a witch-cult that has dark plans for the
estate. Perhaps they remain loyal to a former owner of the estate
and are attempting to drive the current owner mad through fiendish
acts of gas-lighting.
|11||Unfashionable – For some reason the estate is unpopular with both the locals and the important powers to be. This means that the estate's owner will be neglected, passed by for honors, and robbed of all-important social capital. The cause of this slight could take a variety of forms: the deep woods near the estate harbor a coterie of bandits, a monastery on the estate's grounds is rumored to be involved in blasphemous doings, or the estate itself is intentionally being cut off from social circulation by a villainess who wants it for herself.|
|12||Ruined – The estate is not currently in habitable shape due to the vagaries of time, war, vandalism, or something similar. Much work will be done in order to set things to right and to make the estate a functional location. What will be discovered amongst the rubble? Perhaps a dungeon still inhabited by all manner of monstrous creatures. Perhaps a cursed treasure that will lead the estate's owner abroad in search of a mysterious hex-breaker. Perhaps a mad uncle, long thought to be deceased, has been inhabiting a ruined tower with his hideous creations.|
(Inspired by something Levi Kornelsen was toying with for his own game on G+)