Over the Memorial Day weekend while at Balticon I picked up a very large collection of Birthright books. While it wasn’t the setting I spent the most time with (that honor goes to the Forgotten Realms and Thunder Rift) I think it may be my favorite. It was the first setting (for D&D) that allowed you to begin your career as the ruler of a domain! It didn’t matter if you were a warrior, priest, wizard or rogue, you could control not only the land, but the temples, guilds, and even the very magic of the land!
Seeing as there are a couple of Domain-Level homebrews being cooked up at the moment, it seems like a good time to spend a while looking at what has come before. Over the next few weeks I’ll be looking at the setting, the rules, and doing some reviews on the various products.
But let’s start at the beginning, shall we? Unboxing Birthright!
The core box set for Birthright contains a surprising amount of material! Books, handouts, cards, maps...
The first book is the Atlas of Cirelia, and it is written by the Castellan of the Iron Throne to the new regent (you!). It gives an overview of the history of the world, the people upon it, the (literally) divine blood of kings, and the geography of the continent that is the focus of the campaign. This is the book that you hand to your players if they want to know more than “you get to play a king/high priest/guild master/court wizard, and at only 32 pages, it doesn’t take very long to read through.
The next book is the Rule Book. It explains the differences between Birthright and standard AD+D 2e, It then goes on to give the rules for using the battle cards, and then for running a realm. At the end of the book it provides rules for randomly creating your own realms, should you choose to run your own setting with the Birthright rules. This one clocks in at 96 pages.
The final book is the Ruins of Empire, which describes the realms of the Southwestern corner of the continent. These thumbnail views (1-2 pages each) are a good starting point for players to get the game going.
In addition to the 3 books there is also a battlemat and 112 war cards for resolving battles with the Birthright battle system, and a “War Chest” which is really just a small cardboard box for storing the war cards in.
Also there are 2 poster maps showing the lands of the continent. One shows an overview of the entire continent, while the other shows the areas described in the Ruins of Empire book.
A custom Birthright DM’s screen and a stack of handouts which include languages and common names, some major enemies/monsters, and domain record sheets round out the contents of the box. All in all a very worthwhile set for $30 (US MSRP) even back in 1995.