8, 8, I forget what is for
Then the players have bought into the idea and want to do it. In practice I don't know that this would happen very often, but if it does you should have a procedure for doing it.What if everybody in the party wants to run their own demesne? It feels like the number crunching would get outrageous.
Yeah, it was trying to construct massive spreadsheets using various manor building systems that made me not want to do that. I definitely don't want the players to be better off playing a video game.Cheers to Squeen's idea to run companion software. The risk there though is that people might start to ask why they don't just stay home and play the Civ clone instead...
What you and squeen are saying is actually what I am advocating, I am suggesting an approach or a procedure rather than a ruleset. The structure of 4e would allow me to create an entire ruleset for various elements, but I am never going to do that. Rather, I am advocating a way of looking at player choices to give them benefits that they actually care about and gives the DM some direction as to how to deal with it when players want to do these things.Otherwise, veer hard in the direction of hand-waving: Clearly warn players of risks. Allow them to tell you all the things they would like to do to stack the odds in their favour. Play out the bits that require role playing or adventure. Add it all up and decide if that leads to Advantage or Disadvantage. Have the player make a roll and relate the results.
Getting mired in peasant taxation sounds awful.
So you don't have to write the stats for every thing a player could decide to build or do. You just need to know, and communicate to your players, that if they want to do these things there will be concrete benefits; you need to have some idea about how you are doing to deal with the sorts of decisions that players are likely to make, including delegation to followers and henchmen, and you have to have some ideas about how to create adventures that involve those sorts of activities. Something more interesting than rolling for annual sorghum production.
It can totally be ad hoc. Whatever reward you want to give can start small, and can be increased when PCs are "successful enough", or decreased when they "suffer a setback", in the DM's judgement. You can come up with ad hoc ways of determining what happens when the followers try something, or when the opposing NPCs try to thwart said followers, or make moves against the castle when the PCs are away. But I think most DMs need a little guidance as to how to do this, or they would be doing it already.
I think the common themes, which I am coming to realize as a result of this discussion, are (a) domain play has to be as rewarding to players as dungeon play; (b) there needs to be a neutral way of determining the outcome of actions undertaking by NPCs, in case players do that (for the same reasons morale rules, assassin spying tables and sage knowledge tables exist) - basically, the off-screen stuff; (c) it has to involve little or no bookkeeping; (d) there needs to be an approach to adventure building that engages these sorts of activities by PCs; (e) DMs need at least some guidance because most aren't going to figure this out on their own.
That last one comes from my own history with domain play, and the comments of everyone here who seems inclined to just not do it because it seems like a PTA and not sufficiently rewarding.
My favourite character was one I played as a teen/young adult to about 25th level (shocker, his name was "Beoric"). Beoric was a ranger, so when he reached 10th I immediately rolled up his followers, rolled their stats, determined personalities for all of them, set up chains of commend, etc. I also designed a stronghold (not normally a ranger thing, but not strictly forbidden) with the intention of carving out a territory and overthrowing the evil government by conquest. And ... nothing. We were steering into various standard other adventures, and I never got to do anything with it. I tried similar things with later characters (including running a thieves' guild), but it never panned out.
I talked to my DM a couple of years ago and asked him why domain play never worked out, and he said that he was also interested in it, but could never figure out how to make it work. And I think that happens a lot.
I also have a theory that anyone who wants to run a domain, as opposed to having a home base to put their stuff, has a bit of DM in them. They want to engage in a little world building inside the DM's world, and they want to make their mark on the world itself. I think anyone player who wants to do this is likely to be happy to do a moderate of amount of any bookkeeping for you (like rolling up followers or remembering any benefits you gave the PCs), so I am more concerned with not creating work on the DM side of the screen.
DMs who are interested in this, or have players who are interested in this, need to be taught techniques for managing it. And frankly the best way of teaching DMs is through adventure writing. Create an area on the border of a kingdom with several noble estates, and an independent town big enough to justify a thieves' guild or two. A baron whose demesne protected the border of the kingdom from marauding orcs has died mysteriously, and the king grants the estate to a PC fighter type (or cleric in a pinch) and charges him to protect the border. But one of the neighboring lords covets the land, and stirs up the orc hordes in an attempt to make the PC look incompetent. A second wants to gain PC support (or use them as patsies) for his intrigues at court. A third is in league with a group of bandits and the local thieves guild, and stages raids on other lords' villages and robs the caravans taking goods to market. You get the idea. Build in room for the later construction/acquiring of religious strongholds, wizards towers and thieves' guild. And provide the DM with the techniques to manage it all, without having to track the price of sorghum.
That is an adventure I would like to see.