What Is A Rulership Campaign?

What is a rulership campaign in Dungeons & Dragons or other fantasy TTRPGs set in the Forgotten Realms? Is it the same as heroic fantasy swashbuckling? Not all tales are about slaying dragons and rescuing townsfolk. Unlike the heroic stories of many adventurers there are those who walk the halls of power instead of tomb raiding and robbing goblinoids in the countryside. Many of the threats and opportunities are the same, but the adventurers are not wandering folk heroes. Instead, they are community leaders or work in service to a monarch or ruling council or those who tame of the frontier.

One of the more common ways of becoming a leader is to seek out a government and pledge loyalty to the rulership. Many adventurers solve the problems local rulers may face then they ride off into the sunset not sticking around for any rewards other than cash. Adventuring for money is a hard life and many local rulers may be in a better position to offer rewards other than money. The empty mansion, the abandoned sawmill, or other properties may be offered as compensation and an incentive to stay. Every rural village wants well-armed defenders to put down roots. Many rulers of large nations need loyal vassals to act as knights, sheriffs, magistrates, and governors. Adventurers who swear fealty could be given title and land to oversee in the name of the ruler. The locals would not just be any townsfolk but are now subjects of the adventurers.

Another way to become a leader is to find the land that has not been claimed by any other ruler and carve out a fiefdom. This is a more ambitious undertaking than relying on the wealth and power of a patron such as a king or queen. Instead the adventurer must build wealth to finance an expedition to clear land of monsters, pesky nature loving Druids, and other foes. Once the land is safe for settlers then the adventurer can begin taxing the locals in exchange for military protection. Taking one’s own land and ruling it has the advantage of being one’s own boss but there may be disadvantages as well. Other adventurers may covet the logging village or iron mine and attempt to overthrow the rulers. Or a neighboring kingdom may decide to expand its borders and annex what was a free fiefdom. The ability to control and defend one’s own land claims from other rulers is a key factor when choosing a location to build a fiefdom.

A rulership campaign has many similarities to a heroic fantasy campaign but with additional elements of administration and political intrigue. Adventurers who want to put down roots in their own community may wish to build that community on their own or through service to a noble Lord. It can be an interesting story for an adventurer in their later years or for a young ambitious person who wants more out of life than crawling around in dusty tombs and plundering old treasures.