This post belongs to a series on letting the party rule a kingdom in Dungeons and Dragons 4th edition. The main post can be found here.
Now that you should be familiar with the basic terms, lets talk mechanics. As with players, the most important part of a kingdom and the fastest way to gauge its strength, is looking at the level.
Yep, all kingdoms have a level. A small hamlet with some farmlands around it might be a level 3 Kingdom (using the term loosely) while at level 30 your Kingdom might span 3 different continents on 2 planes and be inhabited by millions upon millions of people. The level of a city increases if the players put enough work into it.
Kingdoms also provide skills. While a small woodrealm of Elves might be your best bet for knowledge on how to grow plants and herd animals, the neighbouring Dwarf country might be your best bet for information on building a new castle. These skills can be put to good use by its rulers, either to improve the kingdom or to further their own agenda.
These basic skills are the same as the ones characters have, and they have a bonus like normal. Kingdoms get a half level bonus, like characters. In addition, they get a few basic bonusses based on the kind of people that inhabit the kingdom and the basic concept of it. For example, a magocracy full of universities might get a bonus to Int based skills, with an extra bump to Arcana. On the other hand, a fortress in perpetual war with its neighbours might get a bonus to Intimidate and Strength skills.
Buildings also provide bonusses to skills. The Guild of Architects might grant a bonus to Dungeoneering, while the Crime Syndicate could give a bonus to Thievery and Stealth.
Lastly, Notable People can be used to give another bump to specific applications of skills. Sending Valoren the Bard on a diplomatic mission might yield better successes then sending Fresh Diplomat #3.
Determining basic setup
To determine the basic skills for a fresh kingdom, follow these simple steps. First, assign a level to the kingdom. It makes sense to take a level close to the level of the players, but it's not a requirement.
Once you picked a level, you'll know the kingdom's basic bonus to skills (since it's one half level)
Next, think about what kind of kingdom this is and what kind of people live there. Based on this, assign basic ability scores to the kingdom. A kingdom has one 14, two 12s and three 10s. These scores aren't really important beyond the skill bonusses, but should reflect the generic capabilities of the kingdom. If it's a huge swamp, a 14 in Con might make sense because of the lack of food and diseases. If the kingdom focusses on gathering knowledge, the 14 would be Int.
Once you assign the ability scores, add those bonusses to the appropriate skills.
Next, you need to determine the primary skills for a kingdom. How many you pick exactly doesn't really matter, but 2 or 3 is probably enough. The kingdom gets a +2 bonus to these skills.
When this is done, you have the basic skill bonusses set. How you add the bonus for Buildings and Notable People will be handled later.
The last thing we need to do is determine the resource focus of the kingdom. Kingdoms can't have a bonus to Population, but should have a bonus to 2 of the other 4 resources. For example; a kingdom of plains and forests could get a bonus to Food and Materials, while a kingdom centered around a mining complex full of Iron and Silver could get a bonus to Luxuries and Weapons.
Now, lets look at the primary buildings that already exist in the kingdom. We'll handle building new ones later, but most kingdoms already have a few when the players are put in charge.
The kingdom can have a maximum number of important Buildings equal to half the kingdom's level (a 6th level kingdom can have up to 3, a 30th level kingdom could have 15)
Each of these buildings has a Size ranging from 1 to 5. Larger buildings require more Materials to support, but also provide more bonusses. Each building needs a number of Materials equal to its Size each "turn" (more on turns later) to function. When not enough Materials are available, then a number of bonusses shut down. For example, if a Size 4 Building is only given 2 Materials to maintain it, 2 of its bonusses would shut down until it receives Materials.
When building a new kingdom, try to keep the size somewhat low. This gives players more opportunities to expand these buildings. If you include a Size 4 or 5 Building, make sure that it's something they've known about; at those Sizes you should be talking about the best known Colleges and Guilds in the world (at least)
For each Size of a building, assign one bonus to the building. A bonus is either a +3 bonus to a skill, or a +2 bonus to the production of a resource (Food, Materials, Luxuries, Weapons)
Production bonusses can stack, skill bonusses do not. Different buildings could provide a bonus to the same skill, but a building can not provide a bonus to the same skill twice.
Some example buildings are listed below. Once you have determined the buildings for the kingdom, continue to the next step.
College of Burning Magic [ Size 2 building ]
This college provides some of the finest fire mages in the kingdom. In addition to being a repository of knowledge on the Arcane Arts, it also provides the kingdom with large numbers of wands and staves of fiery power.
Bonus: +3 bonus to Arcana, +2 production of Weapons
Aegran's Lumbermill [ Size 1 building ]
This lumbermill is run by the prospector Aegran, a young half-elf. It's well known for its production of fine lumber that has aided the construction of many buildings around the kingdom.
Bonus: +2 production of Materials
The Apothecary [ Size 1 building ]
This apothecary is staffed by two friendly Druids who spend lots of their time hunting for herbs and spices that help aid the sick.
Bonus: +3 bonus to Heal
Silver Hand Headquarters [ Size 5 building ]
This legendary headquarters belongs to the Silver Hand guild. While a large trade association on the outside, it is in actuality a crime ring run by an ancient cabal of vampires that have taken to the lush and luxurious life provided by your kingdom.
Bonus: +3 bonus to Thievery, +3 bonus to Intimidate, +2 production of Luxuries, +2 production of Weapons, +3 bonus to Streetwise
Next, we need to determine what notable people hang around in the kingdom. Like buildings, the number of capped to one half the level of the kingdom, but Notable people have no Size or Level.
Instead, they have two associated skills. These skills should fit their persona (a Diplomat could have Diplomacy and Perception for example, while a Druid might have Nature and Heal)
They should also have at least a name, and could have as much background, history and character as you are willing to give them.
We'll handle how to use them later, for now just write down their key information.
Avarian the Watcher
Avarian is an Elven Ranger who joined the kingdom when it was still young. He is an explorer and has more then once been the first to arrive with news of invading hordes of Goblins or Orcs.
Skills: Stealth, Perception
Obus the Grim
Obus is a Half-Orc, though smarter then most. He serves the kingdom as a constable, leading the militia of its capital. Obus is slowly getting old, but he can read criminals like a map and is terrifying, both to his men and the general populace.
Skills: Insight, Intimidate
Alright, with the final bonusses to skills determined, the notable people jotted down and the buildings known and leveled, it's time to determine the cities' production. As we already know, there's 5 resources.
The first of those is very easy to determine. Population (the resource) in a kingdom is equal to the level of the kingdom. So a level 6 kingdom has 6 Population and a level 23 one has 23 Population. Note that these are (obviously) not actual people, just an abstract representation of them.
These people can be put to work and produce the other 4 resources. Any unit of Population can be used to produce either 2 units of a favored resource, or 1 unit of a normal resource.
For example; if you selected Food and Materials as your favored resources for your plains and forest kingdom, then a unit of Population could produce 2 Food or Materials, or 1 Luxuries or Weapons.
You can move Population around the various resources between turns, but Buildings produce a fixed resource.
When assigning the Production, keep in mind that the kingdom has an upkeep it needs to pay to prevent bad things from happening. This upkeep equal 1/2 of the kingdom's level in Food and 1/3 of the kingdom's level in Luxuries (round down).
So lets say our 5th level kingdom is good at producing Food and Luxuries and has a single building that increases Food production and the Heal skill.
We could arrange Production as follows:
Food (favored) = 1x2 (Population) +2 (Building) - 2 (upkeep) = +2 per turn
Materials = 3 (Population) - 2 (upkeep) = +1 per turn
Luxuries = 2x2 (Population) - 1 (upkeep) = +3 per turn
Weapons = +0 per turn
That means we'll be producing some good food, and lots of luxuries, but the kingdom will have no weapons to defend itself, which might hurt it later.
These extra resource we produces are neccesary to fend off Challenges and upgrade the kingdom. Keep track of excess goods; these are gathered in a store and can be spent from there. Each turn, the Food store would rise by 2 points, giving the city extra Food in case they'd be unable to produce at some point, or for it the population rises, or they need it for a Challenge, or want to trade it.
Now that we handled this, it's time to move on. Lets start by getting this Kingdom on track and learning how to deal with Challenges!