d20 Political Positions

Political Positions:

   As characters advance and grow in power, they inevitably become involved in larger-scale events, being granted political positions, carving out their own areas of influence, or simply acquiring respect and deference. Regardless of the method, these translate into political position points. Given that d20 (and other) games vary widely as to just what a “high level” character is, here’s a generic chart. Your game master will just have to decide the level limits – although I’d suggest a simple x1 level or skill level multiplier for low-powered games, x2 for medium-powered games, and x3 for high-powered games. If you want to use this for non-d20 games, you’ll just have to set the limits on the ranks for yourself.





Random Kid; found on any streetcorner



Promising Youngster; many adolescents



Journeyman; the common adult level



Professional; veteran adult level



Elite; the best that are at all common


Master; people you must seek out



Grand Master; you may not find one



Champion; the pillars of nations



Prodigy; the greatest of mortals



Legend; suitable for epic tales



Demi-Deity; mythic objects of worship


   Characters can also scrape up a few more position points for having relevant skills and special advantages, although this is limited to three of each. In general, having a relevant skill at the Master level is worth +1 point, at the Prodigy level is worth +2, and the Demi-Deity level is worth +3. Relevant advantages are worth +2 points each. In addition, backers may “loan” them their own points (although they can always withdraw their support, which is why child-rulers so often lose out), they may acquire more through relevant feats and special abilities, and you don’t have to pay points for things you acquire in play – which is why the negative point totals for low-level characters are listed.

   What are the relevant skills and advantages? Well, positions vary enormously, so that’s up to you and your game master – although there are some suggestions listed with the common positions, below. Note that, while characters may only gain bonus points for one position at a time, they are not required to restrain their actual activities in any fashion. If you really want to be a Merchant-Sage, simply describe your position and spend your points on it’s various aspects.

Common positions include:

  • The Religious Leader: These characters gain influence thanks to the depth of their wisdom and knowledge. Relevant skills include appropriate knowledges, meditation, counseling, diplomacy, and leadership. They can gain bonus points for supernatural allies, knowledge of ancient secrets, prophetic talents, oratorical gifts, and exceptionally high charisma.
  • The Representative. These characters are go-betweens for greater powers, whether those are rulers, powerful merchant houses, or cosmic entities. Appropriate skills here include diplomacy, oratory, a knowledge of heraldry and the nobility and a knowledge of protocol and manners. Representatives may gain bonus points for having relevant allies and connections, oratorical gifts, exceptional sources of information or communicative abilities, and for simple wealth.
  • The Commander. These characters command military force, whether that means men with loincloths, rocks, and sharpened sticks or automated interstellar battle fleets. Relevant skills for them include tactical skills, knowledge of enemy forces and historical battles, personal defensive skills (making it easier to worry about commanding their forces instead of self-defense), and a good understanding of the technical limitations of his or her forces. Generals may gain bonus points for special methods of communicating with their men, methods of augmenting large numbers of subordinates at once, special talents for inspiring and leading others, and for having enough personal power to make a difference on a mass battlefield.
  • The Administrator. These functionaries keep things running smoothly in difficult times. Unlike Representatives, however, Administrators are actually in charge of things – and with more actual power comes a greater share of the blame if something goes severely wrong. Administrative skills include knowledge of protocol and etiquette, knowledge of law and precedent, composition, and diplomacy. Administrators may gain bonus points for enhanced social talents, connections with subversive elements, allies with religious or magical authority over the area (or a major part thereof) they’re responsible for, or for special sources of information.
  • The Lawman. Whether sheriff, outrider, federal agent, traveling magistrate, herald of the king, or special agent, the lawman is responsible for maintaining order, investigating crimes, and punishing the guilty within his or her jurisdiction. Relevant skills here include anything for locating clues and analyzing evidence, knowledge of the law, the underworld, and the local area, information gathering, and the ability – for more personal investigators – to sneak about and disguise themselves. Lawmen may gain bonus points for appropriate allies and connections, for relevant mystical talents and defenses, and for enhanced personal abilities.
  • The Trader. These characters may call themselves merchants, caravan leaders, guildmasters, smugglers, or pirate captains, but their primary interest is always money. Mercantile skills include commerce, negotiation, diplomacy, knowledge of the law, of goods and lands, of the underworld, and of border procedures, and – in some cases – piloting, smuggling, and ship handling. Traders may gain bonus points for enhanced social talents, knowing useful secrets, mercantile connections, and – if operating illegally – for underworld allies and special methods of concealing their goods and operations.
  • The Sage. These characters gain influence thanks to their acknowledged skills, their knowledge, and the influence they hold over their students. Obviously enough, relevant skills include whatever skills you teach and a wide variety of knowledges. Those teaching martial skills will need them as well. Sages may gain bonus points for knowing relevant secrets, for bonuses to the skills they use or teach, for connections with other scholars and teachers, and for advantages relevant to their fields – which could be practically anything depending on their fields.
  • The Crimelord. These characters hold the secrets of the underworld, of betrayal and suspicion. They include spymasters, mafia dons, the masters of gangs of thieves, and bandit leaders. Relevant skills here include forgery, stealth-based abilities, knowledge of the underworld and the law, manipulation, and skill with traps. Crimelords may gain bonus points for having truly loyal followers on tap, for personal enhancements, or for knowing blackmail material and other useful secrets.

   Now that you have some points, you’ll want to spend them. When you get more points, you’ll want to spend them too. In either case, you’ll need the permission of the game master. Simply having the points may not be enough to buy some upgrades; fortresses rarely move to better locations, although it may be possible to improve the area around them enough to justify an upgrade. Similarly, there may not be any massive cities to rule in a world of deserts – or at least none that are attainable simply by spending points.


   The basic element of a position is it’s Size. Size is bought directly. Benchmarks include (1) hut, small cave, roadside shrine, couple of guards, (2) modest house, small shrine, guardpost, patrol, (3) sizable house, elaborate shrine, section of wall, (4) hamlet, squad, dojo, (5) watchtower, small village, platoon or troop, (10) keep, large village, border fort, guild, (15) major temple, small castle, town, company, (20) moderate castle, small city, (25) large castle, modest city, district of a major city, (30) mighty palace, sizeable city, regiment, small order of temples, (40) major city, brigade, modest order of temples, (50) major corporate holdings, minor army, major order of temples, (75) a small province, a major army, and (100+) a major province or small country, a mighty army, or leadership of a major faith.

   This presumes that the character actually runs things: characters with limited authority, such as lawmen, pay half cost. Those with little authority over the region, such as ambassadors and other representatives, pay only one-fourth the base cost. Non-military positions provide a modest personal retinue of up to (cost) trained individuals (warriors, priests, mystics, martial artists, merchant captains, etcetera, as appropriate to the position) and (cost) semi-trained individuals (peasant levies, servants, etc). All positions grant an (after taxes and basic expenses) seasonal salary, bonus, or expense account of (size cost/5)d10 x the bare minimum yearly cost of living for the setting.

Additional Features:

   Adding additional special features cost 2/4/8 points for grades 1/2/3. They include Holding Assets, Army Enhancements, Connections, and Preparations.

   Holding Assets are associated with settlements, networks of contacts, and fixed military outposts.

  • Artists produce 1d10 works or services suitable for Nobles/Great Lords/Kings and Emperors per season. Specific types include Bards, Calligraphers, Dancers, Painters, Sculptors, Tailors, Glass-workers, Map-makers, Beauticians, Philosophers, Poets, Jesters, Writers, Cooks, Theater Companies, Doctors, Lawyers, Woodcarvers, and similar professionals. A “work” might be a production of a play, a great feast, a treatment for a rare illness, or several sets of elaborate clothes. They’re principally useful for prestige and when exchanging favors, not profit.
  • Industries produce 1d10 units of products suitable for Nobles/Great Lords/Kings and Emperors per season. Typical quasi-mediaeval types include: Brewers, Distillers, Herbalists, Jewelers, Silver- and Gold Smiths, Armor Makers, Weapon Makers, Poisoners, Trainers (of Hounds/Horses or Falcons/Big Cats and other Exotics), and Miners (producing exotic materials, for example, a gemstone mine may provide small ornamental stones at grade-1, larger ones at grade-2, and flawless gems at grade-3. Mines may provide metals, gems, rare types of stone, mystical materials, pigments, and various other mineral items). In all cases, the size of a “unit” varies with the product: fine whiskey comes in barrels and cartloads, armor comes in suits, and mystical materials generally come in handfuls at most. In game terms, Industries provide special resources, assets that provide money fall under Production. If you happen to want an Industry that makes money, simply buy it as a Production Asset.
  • Production Assets add 2d10 to the seasonal salary roll per level per season. Production assets include Farms, Mines producing mundane materials, Quarries, Forests, Fiber Sources, Weavers, Fishers, Red Light Districts, Potters, Papermakers, Smelters, Roads (minor/major/trade route), Attractions (early tourism), Salt Producers, and Waterways (minor/ major/port). Air- and Space-ports also fall into this category, but are not available in most seasons. Sources of drugs and other quasi-legal materials add an extra 2d10 to the usual salary roll over and above the base bonus, but tend to draw trouble. Sources of seriously illegal materials provide an extra 4d10 on the base salary per season, but attract lawmen and rival criminals.
  • Military Assets include Garrisons (multiply the base holding troops by 1.5/2/3), Fortifications and Siege Weapons (+3/6/10 on defensive tactical skill checks), Training Facilities (+3/6/10 on offensive tactical skill checks using the holding troops), Arsenals (allows you to swiftly recruit and equip troops with basic/average/complete sets of weapons, armor, and gear), Outworks (allows you to force an opponent to fight an extra 1/2/3 small battles to seize the holding), Chokepoints (reduces the effects of an advantage in numbers by 1/2/3 levels), Warehouses (lets a holding withstand long sieges or famines but will need restocking after 1/2/3 major emergencies), Levies (reduces the effects of an advantage in numbers by 1/2/3 levels, but does not improve an advantage, since levies aren’t much use in an attack), and Teacher (there are teachers available for a minor school specialized topic/for a minor and a major topic/for 2 minor and 1 major topics).
  • Political Assets include things like a Palace (excellent guest quarters/+3 on relevant social skill checks/+5 on relevant social skill checks), Staff (skillful servants/competent assistants/experts in 2-3 fields), Reputation (known across the region/province/country), Location (defaults to distant, wilderness, or otherwise vulnerable. Borderlands/Interior/Central if purchased), Treasury (covers major expenses, taxes in bad seasons, etc 1/2/3 times before needing replenishment), Courts (reduce unrest and criminal activities by 1/2/3 levels), Backing (there’s another person/group of modest/notable/major power and influence with an interest in maintaining and supporting the holding), Connections (get a minor/notable/major favor once per season), and Reconstruction (damaged assess are normally rebuilt at 2 points per season, this increases the rate to 3/7/12 points).
  • Religious Assets include Temples and Shrines (improves morale/minor priestly aid/notable priestly aid), Patron (holding has a minor/notable/major guardian spirit), Spell Library (has a collection of descriptions and theory/minor spells/intermediate spells available), Lore Library (has a selection of basic works/rare accounts/exotic secrets available), Research Library (Specify) (reduces the amount of time and XP needed to research either martial, social, or magical disciplines, spells, or martial arts techniques by one-half/two thirds/three quarters), Enchantment (has some minor/notable/major magical feature, this may be taken several times), Wards (keeps out scrying and minor spirits/and alien energies/and massive magical attacks), Sacred Site (draws pilgrims, provides a +5/10/15 bonus on ceremonial magic checks), Mystical Nexus (grants dreams and visions/passage to a nearby dimension or elemental plane/passage to a distant realm), Monastery (supports some wise elders/plus a few mystics with lower-grade powers/plus one or two advanced teachers), Gardens (provides +5/10/15 on meditation checks), A Magical School (can provide advice/occasional basic spells/training in magical skills and techniques), A Divine Blessing (select a field, characters who regularly pay their respects at the relevant shrine get 1/2/3 rerolls on rolls related to that field per season. At 8 points the severity of a single event roll per season related to the field can be rerolled as well).
  • Espionage Assets inclue Secrecy (disguises the reputation of/the nature of/the existence of a small [maximum size 20] holding), Safehouse (gain a secret room or vault/a disguised and fortified household/a network of smugglers and hiding places in which to conceal your secrets), Spies (gain access to contact points with a group of sneaky mercenaries/an organized spy network/actual mystical spies), Secret Passages (gain a few convenient passages/free access to several major buildings/ concealed routes throughout the holding), Nonhumans (gain friendly contacts with a few/a dozen or so/a small horde of the local nonhumans. Only available if such contact is rare and unusual in the setting), and Agents (roll to get advance warning of attackers/seasonal events/political maneuvering).

   Note that these represent things above and beyond the norm: any village has some sort of tavern or inn; few places have famous and exceptional ones. Optionally, holdings can have disadvantages just like characters, representing enemies, a rebellious populace, criminal organizations, and similar difficulties. These provide a few more points to spend, but are rarely really worth it.

   Army Enhancements: are associated with mobile military forces, rather than with particular locations. They include Basics and Training.

  • Basics include Equipment (basic only/complete/superior/superb), Magic (none/ modest/average/superior), Camp (disorganized with basic pickets/organized with basic pickets/organized with tight security/and minor fortifications), Naval Transport (none/enough small boats for a detachment/supply ships and blockade groups/can operate as a navy), Naval Support (increase advantage in numbers by 1/2/3 steps if fighting on a shore or against a port), Air and Space Transport and Support (operate similarly, but aren’t available in many settings), Supply Train (can support 2/3/4 sieges or major battles without major resupply), Recruitment (rebuilds 2/3/7/12 points of damaged military assets per season), Medical Corps (restores 20/30/40/50% of lost size within a week after a battle), Mobility (army travels slowly/at normal speed/ quickly/lightning fast), Reputation (provides a +5/10/15 bonus when attempting to negotiate an agreement without actually attacking), and Scouts (outriders/general info on area/detailed info on area/and traps set)
  • Training provides a +1/2/3 bonus to tactical checks whenever it can be brought to bear. Possible fields of training include Command and Signal Corps (coordinating maneuvers), Siegecraft (attacking fortified holdings), Heroic Dueling (contests of champions), Morale (on the first battle roll), Tactical Maneuver (when attempting battlefield ruses and such), Evasion (when attempting to break off an engagement), Cavalry Charge, Cavalry Skirmish, Shield Wall, Hedgehog, and many more.
  • While it doesn’t affect the game mechanics directly, every general should give some thought to his or her armies description, divisions, general strategy, and units. It has a major impact on their tactical options in battle – and thus on the game master-assigned modifiers on their tactical skill rolls.

   Connections and Preparations are associated with operating in someone else’s territory – whether as a spy, ambassador, magistrate, or merchant.

  • Connections are minor allies – members of society who are willing to go to a fair amount of trouble, spend a little cash, and even take modest personal risks to help you out. Of course, they’ll want occasional favors in return and they’ll go away – or even become enemies – if they’re mistreated or if it becomes obvious that an alliance with you is no longer in their best interests. On the other hand, if you lose a connection for some reason – they die of old age, lose their job, or some such – you can replace them in the next game session.
    • Grade-1 (2 point) connections are with relatively minor individuals – retired experts, particular bureaucrats, individual warriors, and so on. Grade-2 (4 point) connections may be with either a group of minor connected characters – the department of transportation or some such – or with a single one with notable personal or political power. Grade-3 (8 point) connections may be with a group of notable individuals, such as a national committee, or with a single individual of quite impressive power.
    • Connections are only described in general terms when purchased – usually determining the origin or a descriptor and their general profession (ambassador, artist, bureaucrat, cleric, duelist, explorer, member of the royal family, informant, investigator, merchant, warrior for hire, teacher, spy, and so on). Thus the player can specify a “northern frontier bureaucrat”, “shen duelist”, “sage from the red council”, “famous explorer”, or “master calligrapher”, but the game master picks the individual.
  • Preparations are things a character heard about, set up, or have pulling for them – as opposed to things that the player actually thought of. While their results are somewhat unpredictable, and they’re almost never a complete solution (they offer a second chance or some extra time at best), you can simply call upon them as needed once per season each – although you can purchase more than one of any given type. Common types include: Blackmail (you can threaten someone with a minor embarrassment/disgrace/the life of a hostage or an attack – although making major threats may have repercussions later on), Guards (you’ve arranged to have a bodyguard/several common warriors/a squad of skilled fighters to back you up in the immediate vicinity – even if they don’t work directly for you), Backing (you receive unexpected support from a minor/notable/major individual, who has chosen this moment to repay a favor), Reputation (you conveniently gain witnesses to your splendid character/find that several people in the area know of your talents in whatever role is convenient for you/find that everyone in the area has heard of your heroic deeds), Provisions (you may have a messenger ready to go for help if you do not signal or who has been dispatched earlier to carry any information you could have provided at the time/you have a safehouse or private location handy to hide out in/ you have an alibi handy, whether due to careful misdirection or to the use of a stand-in), Contacts (you know someone in the area/you know someone who can provide a rare or expensive item or service/you know someone who can provide an illegal or unethical item or service), and Ninja (you can have had some minor item planted or a small task carried out almost untraceably/a witness will step forward to present any desired story/you can request an assassination attempt).
    • Preparations are always subject to game master review: if you’re shipwrecked in the middle of the ocean on a raft and are pulled out by pirates, you’re unlikely to have a previously-unnoticed contingent of bodyguards around to help you out. Of course, you can have them out looking for you – or might have planted an agent in the local pirate gang if the game master is willing to go for it.

   Note that the Special Features list is not exhaustive: if someone wants to get a production holding that produces fine pottery, an artist who does exotic masks, or comes up with some other bit of exotica, this is perfectly acceptable.

   Now, for those times when you just can’t come up with anything.

Seasonal Events/Involving (d10/d10):

  • 1) Disasters: (1) Earthquake or Volcano, (2) Landslide, (3) Flood, (4) Drought, (5) Storm, (6) Famine or Blight, (7) Fire, (8) Plague of Rats or Insects, (9) Epidemic, and (10) roll twice, keeping both.
  • 2) Criminals: (1) Bandits/Pirates, (2) Rebels, (3) Subversion, (4) Smuggling, (5) Theft, (6) Assassination Attempt (nearby, witnessed, or on character), (7) Gang War, (8) Secret Society, (9) Accusation, and (10) Mysterious Intruder.
  • 3) Magic: (1) Black Magic or a Cult, (2) Spirits, (3) Demons, (4) Contamination, (5) Ghosts, (6) Prophecy, (7) Undead or Extra-dimensional Incursion, (8) Magical Item, (9) Blessing, (10) Curse.
  • 4) Politics: (1) Ambassador, (2) Royal or Imperial procession or representative, (3) War, (4) Deliberate Provocation, (5) Challenge to a Duel, (6) Invitation, (7), Wedding or Betrothal, (8) Rumor, (9) Blood Feud, (10) Raids.
  • 5) Personages: (1) Artist/Craftsman, (2) Hero/Villain, (3) Prophet/Mystic, (4) Lawman/Crimelord, (5) Teacher/Sage, (6) Relative of the Local Nobility, (7) Outlander or other Oddity, (8) Enemy, (9) Ally, (10) Deity or other Major Spirit.
  • 6) Gatherings: (1) Competition, (2) Wedding, (3) Tournament, (4) Festival, (5), Coming-of-Age, (6) Funeral, (7) Birth, (8) Dedication, (9) Retirement, (10) Riot.
  • 7) Responsibilities: (1) Quest, (2) Missing Person, (3) Liege Lord, (4) Annoying Duty, (5) Family, (6) Witness to Criminality, (7) Maintenance, (8) Resolve Dispute, (9) Indiscretion, (10) Embarrassment
  • 8) Oddities: (1) Information, (2) Temporary Alliance, (3) Mistaken Identity, (4) Cash, (5) Illness, (6) Forbidden Love, (7) Drugs or Poisons, (8) Arrest or Capture, (9) Mysterious Death, (10) Unsanctioned Duel or Feud.
  • 9) Miscellany: (1) Harvest, (2) Gift, (3) Nexus, (4) Mine/Natural Resource, (5) Nonhumans/Outsiders, (6) Trade, (7) Message, (8) Black Market, (9) Lost Treasure, (10) Intrigue.
  • 10) Reroll twice, disregarding further results of 10.

   Sadly, seasonal events are only helpful (or located in enemy territory yet still impacting on the characters) about 20% of the time. After all, there isn’t much real excitement or profit in dealing with minor benign events.

Seasonal Events/Severity (d10):

   1) Trivial (easily dealt with), 2) Unimportant (not much impact even if you mess up trying to fix it), 3) Minor (some impact, but not a lot), 4-5) Notable (will be pretty annoying if you fail to handle it), 6-7) Major (this will have a serious impact on the course of future events in the area if you foul it up), 8) Grand (a major impact on the area for some time to come), 9) Immense (will reshape the campaign locally), and 10) Catastrophic (will reshape the local campaign and have a significant impact on the surrounding provinces).

   While reshaping a campaign via random tables isn’t recommended, if someone more competent has to deal with your problems, you’ll probably wind up getting replaced.


   Now, since this is Open Game License – and, unlike most of the other Open Game License stuff I post it was originally inspired by other people’s open game license material (although I believe the final traces of those materials to be the notion of building positions with “points”, the 2/4/8 point-cost structure for the various special purchases, and the notion of experienced characters having plans ready to go even if the players don’t) – here are the legal notices:

   Declaration of Open Game Content: Everything except the Political Positions Table and the Seasonal Events Table. If someone should want to publish this for some reason, they can make up their own tables, simply link to it here, or at least ask.

   The basic Open Game License can be found Here.

   The updated copyright notice (section 15) is provided below:

   Copyright Notice: Open Game License v1.0a Copyright 2000, Wizards of the Coast, Inc. System Reference Document (draft version) Copyright 1999, 2000 Wizards of the Coast, Inc. System Reference Document Copyright 2000, Wizards of the Coast, Inc. Authors Jonathan Tweet, Monte Cook, and Skip Williams, based on original material by E. Gary Gygax and Dave Arneson. Players Handbook, Copyright 2000 Wizards of the Coast, Inc. Dungeon Master’s Guide Copyright 2000 Wizards of the Coast, Inc. Oriental Adventures, Copyright 2001 Wizards of the Coast, Inc. Rokugan, Copyright 2001 Alderac Entertainment Group, Inc. Creatures of Rokugan, Copyright 2001 Alderac Entertainment Group, Inc. Magic of Rokugan, Copyright 2001 Alderac Entertainment Group, Inc. Way of the Samurai, Copyright 2002 Alderac Entertainment Group, Inc. Way of the Ninja, Copyright 2002 Alderac Entertainment Group, Inc. Way of the Shugenja, Copyright 2002 Alderac Entertainment Group, Inc. Fortunes and Winds, Copyright 2002 Alderac Entertainment Group, Inc. Secrets of the Lion, Copyright 2002 Alderac Entertainment Group, Inc. Secrets of the Mantis, Copyright 2002 Alderac Entertainment Group, Inc. Secrets of the Phoenix, Copyright 2003 Alderac Entertainment Group, Inc. Secrets of the Scorpion, Copyright 2003 Alderac Entertainment Group, Inc. Secrets of the Crab, Copyright 2003 Alderac Entertainment Group, Inc. Secrets of the Crane, Copyright 2003 Alderac Entertainment Group, Inc. Secrets of the Unicorn, Copyright 2002 Alderac Entertainment Group, Inc. Secrets of the Dragon, Copyright 2002 Alderac Entertainment Group, Inc. Secrets of the Shadowlands, Copyright 2003 Alderac Entertainment Group, Inc. The Complete Exotic Arms Guide, Copyright 2004, Alderac Entertainment Group, Inc. Way of the Open Hand, Copyright 2004, Alderac Entertainment Group. Original Political Positions Manuscript Copyright 2006, Paul M. Melroy. Revised Version Copyright 2008, Paul M. Melroy.

   Oddly enough, Alderac Entertainment Group did not include “Way of the Daimyo Copyright 2003, Alderac Entertainment Group, Inc.” in this section of the license. Instead, they included a note elsewhere, asking that the source be credited in the body of the work, which this is indeed a part of. Moreover, the Open Game License requires copying the copyright text exactly and then adding your own. Ergo, this footnote.

2 Responses

  1. […] Political Positions: some rules for playing a politician, ambassador, general, or other influential individual. […]

  2. […] (covers purchasing Army Enhancements, as per the Political Positions rules. I’m going to assume that this is not an “Occult” skill; it’s simply not something […]

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