March 29, 2009

Birthright & 4th Edition Dungeons & Dragons

I recently cracked open my old Birthright materials. If you are not familiar with Birthright, it was a 2nd Edition Dungeons & Dragons campaign setting where the characters were essentially rulers of nations backed by the gods. It was a game of adventure and nation building. One of the cool things about Birthright was the idea of bloodlines, you played a bloodline of kings and queens - not just one character. As you progressed, you increased your regency points and increased your domains (lands, provinces, resources). The setting presented a mix of Arthurian and Tolkienian mythology - a nice diversion from the "standard fantasy" of 4E. In terms of setting, it kind of reminds me of Harn. You can check out the Wikipedia page for more basics.

I really enjoyed reading about this setting; although sadly I was never able to get a game up off the ground. There were some fundamental flaws in rules at the time, and if I remember correctly, D&Ders either loved it or hated it. I was surrounded by gamers who hated it, thus I never played it for more than one or two sessions.

Fortunately this morning I crawled out from under my rock and discovered Birthright is alive and well! There's a very vibrant and growing community tucked away on the net that apparently even once had the tacit approval of WotC to publish a d20 update to the Birthright setting. I also found that there is an effort to convert/update the Birthright rules to 4th Edition. Of course, some major changes to 4E would be needed for this to work, but it should be interesting if it ever gets off the ground.

Have any of you played Birthright beyond a few sessions? What was your impressions of this 'version' of D&D?


  1. Actually I'm in a long-running 3E Birthright game now. It's a great setting, and the folks at did a fantastic job with their conversion. Love it.

    The 2E Birthright game did have some mechanical rules problems (its attempt at a simple large-scale battle system was laughable, and even in our game we've had to replace the 3E system with a modified version of Warhammer). But I'm not sure any setting except the Forgotten Realms had as much material published as Birthright - there are TONS of books for it, all of them fascinating reads.

  2. I'm in the same boat as you. Bought the setting and couldn't find anyone to play it for longer than two sessions.

  3. I played in two Birthright campaigns about 10 years ago and really enjoyed it. In the first, all the PCs were rulers and it worked out surprisingly well. Granted, we never tried the large-scale battle scenes (that campaign ended before war erupted), but the political aspect was great. And as Grant mentioned, the folks have done a terrific job of keeping the setting alive.

  4. I never played Birthright but I always wanted to. I was surrounded by haters as well. I read a couple of the novels a long time ago - that was as close as I ever got. ;(

  5. Man, I remember playing about six months (9-10 sessions) of BR way back in the day. I can't remember much besides liking it (though I was pretty much a fanboy of anything TSR) and using the BattleSystem rules for large scale battles.

    @Grant: I think that Greyhawk, Dark Sun, Ravenloft, and Planescape all had more material.

  6. I am running a 2e - modified version of the game online actually. I find birthright the campaign setting (aka running regents) works far better online. - feel free to stop on by, and if interested to join up.

  7. Thanks Juan, I'll definately take a look. Dunno if I'll have time, but I'm interested!

  8. I enjoyed playing 2nd Ed Birthright weekly for about 5 years with same group. We had 2-3 rotating GM's with one main GM for main plot. The richness of backgrounds, plots, NPC's, politics and personal ambitions of PC's created some great stories and battles. As the players got up in higher levels we started to role play often using lieutenants rather their our main characters. All of this was done just within single empire of Anuire. I went out and bought all the rest of 2nd Ed campaign setting and ran Rjuirk briefly. After leaving that group I have played with 1st, 3rd and 4th edition groups so have not had chance to go back to it. Would love to find a good 4th Ed conversion to try it again. (Toronto, Canada)

  9. Greetings,

    I liked the patched version of the PC game and pen&paper of Birthright. Sad it never got a remake now that technology is better (more advanced).

    When considered it proper, to wait 2 years doing nothing and then claiming they just waited for D&D 4th edition I considered it a bad joke, it was fact though. All they did was take the mental property of the fans and next it was all their own. That part I would repeat at court.

    Privately, or as DM/GM/ST, I did my own small-scale files, yet few players seem to know anything but monster bashing and for such I found DDO decent enough.

    I loved the Birthright setting, though its time was over many years ago and the new D&D owners prefer... freaky customers than those suiting heroic roleplay?


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