With my post on Settler, some commented that there had been attempts at a settler campaign without much success; another that it had been rewarding. A settlement campaign is difficult - to begin with, it demands the characters have a purpose, and hopefully a mutual one. This can usually be managed so long as there are local monsters to be killed and booty to be found. It makes little difference whether one is raiding a dungeon in the wilderness or raiding a dungeon on one's own land. However, the wilderness never runs out of dungeons; there are only so many you can reasonably insert in the countryside five miles from home.
So the settlement campaign begins to break down when the region is 'cleared.' It has been my experience that even when you've spent two years of real time campaigning a party around their land, digging into the deepest dungeons and slaughtering hosts of humanoids by some local fort, there is NEVER enough combat to satisfy them. Even when 'going up a level' only means a very slight increase in their ability to hit and only 2-5 more hit points, they still want to go up a level.
I'm not certain what this is all about. Human nature, it must be argued.
So as a DM you're bound to find your party wandering far afield from their local land once the peasants are now safe from nightly incursion. The problem is, as is always the problem, that D&D is wholly based upon the acquisition of experience, and the acquisition of experience demands the sacrifice of monsters and an abundance of treasure for the cause. The restored or installed civilized manor offers neither. Taxes just aren't as interesting to haul home, and law enforcement pales somewhat.
Interesting, is it not, that so many other games can find other things to expand upon than the player character's prowess. Wealth is, after all, generally considered a reward in itself, while the accumulation of an army and the acquisition of territory provide suitable goal posts. Heck, all you do in the Sims is acquire money and build a house ... any upgrades to the actual participants are purely cosmetic.
So why is D&D so tunnel-minded? Why is it the party don't do the logical thing, the thing that every other logistics-minded game does? One would expect the party, having established itself in the hierarchy of the local kingdom, to build up it's army, pick a smaller enemy and proceed to conquest.
The party doesn't do it because there are no rules at all for this sort of play. Mass combat rules, to begin with, are shit from end to end, so that even the simplest of them still require a long, tedious strategic placement and a long, tedious plodding victory. There's no mechanic for "attack into next hex" to simply discover if one can seize it or not, and no mechanic to determine how much food or resources are there, how many of your army can they provide for and how practical it is to gather energy to attempt seizure of the NEXT hex.
Many parties joke about World Domination, but since no player's lifetime is long enough to attempt World Domination by the rules of the game, in truth everyone gives it up as a lost cause.
It is like Dan and Laurie the end of The Watchmen (the graphic novel makes this more stark than the film). Having killed so many people, Dr. Manhattan is off to create life on another planet, Ozymandias has the task of slowly guiding all of mankind in the right direction ... while Dan and Laurie are going to, well, go back to the same old business of catching local criminals, presumably. Nit-picky stuff. Like two soccer parents admitting they're not up for the big plays. The contextual dregs at the bottom of the adventure barrel.
Players in D&D opt for this because it's SMALL enough to be reconciled with their character's obvious abilities ... and, it must be said, with the lives they lead as actual people. The average player just isn't cut out for finding World Domination a desirable prospect. Managing the Foodway down the block is a big reach for them, since it means a lot of drab paperwork, employee relations and taking it on the chin when someone in the store fucks up. They're not built for responsibility. They'd rather play scrub with their friends than join a league. They'd rather cycle at the gym than on the open highway. Watching football is more fun than playing it.
The gentle reader gets the idea.
So for the most part, where it comes to the game, keeping track of how much supplies one has and where they're coming from, and how much the people of this village or that town like or dislike me, that's all very well when a game like Civilization IV handles those remote details for me ... but I'd rather not do it myself, thank you very much. That's the sentiment you the DM are marching uphill against. Your players just don't care.
Not to beat the drum on Civ IV (though I always do, it's just too good a metaphor for the things that D&D overlooks), but there is an accessible aspect to playing that game that also exists in D&D. In Civ IV it's obvious ... in D&D, it's grossly under-contemplated. That being that the game offers as much as you're willing to micromanage.
You can get down into the grittiness of the game and keep track of every city's health and happiness, carefully managing the various resources and trade routes, slowing down the game so that you can minutely apply the power of your workers and builds to the highest level of efficiency, in which case you can play the game at the God Level ... or you can decide to say, "fuck all that noise" and set the game at Warlord, where such details just don't matter as much in actually winning the game. It is up to you how hard you want this game to be.
Between all the bullshit editions wars and what the game is or isn't, or what a DM should do or not do, and all that endless bitching about all those unsolvable issues, D&D really comes down to how much are you prepared to work. After five years writing cheek & jowl with the gaming community, I've come to realize that there will never be solidarity, for no other reason than that there are SO MANY people playing the game who are ineffably lazy, and righteously so. Righteously to the extreme. And why not, from their perspective? The game sets on the Settler level, where all the monsters are killable and all the treasure is kewl ... so if I want to play it on the Settler level, then screw the world. My friends and I like it there.
I think where my issues arise would be in that there is hardly a setting above the Settler level. Warrior level, surely, and perhaps I've done enough work to justify calling my game the Warlord setting. But this is work I've done on my own, not something the community cares about, and certainly not anything the various corporate powers that be can bother themselves to address. They're still debating on how the rules should be written, and what rules to write.
It's been 40 years of that now. Can you bring to mind any other game, organization, agenda or conception that, after forty years, without any outside influence, still cannot come to a single point or question that isn't still subject to ad hoc changes on the whim of whomever might happen to be in charge this month?
No. Neither can I.
Before anyone can play a Settler Campaign (which is clearly far above the "Settler Level"), there's a lot of hard work in front of the DM game enough to try. And I don't think there are that many of us out there. I am game. And I'm going to continue to map out my journey to get to that place as best I can, no matter how many details or adjustments to the game I have to invent from whole cloth in order to make such a thing possible. In the beginning, with the whole internet available, I expected to find some help. I'm wiser now. I hope, however, that I can be of help to anyone reading this.
So no, I don't expect that any of you have adjudicated or run in a proper settler campaign. There are going to be a lot of things I'll write about in the upcoming Civilization posts that are going to suggest things that have NEVER been done in a campaign, mine included. But one has to start somewhere. One has to find someway to achieve a God Setting in the game.