Episode 78: Paradisia, A Lawful Good Kingdom


I suppose we must regard Conan’s kingship as one of the formative influences on the “you’ve hit 12th level, now you can establish a stronghold” strand of D&D which never seems to have got much attention in formal rules but does appear to have been a consideration in early play.


It was the key part of the Companion book of BECMI D&D wasn’t it?


So I’ve heard, but I’ve never met anyone who’s actually played BECMI - or at least who’s admitted to it.


Dominion rules were in the Companion box.

Strongholds were associated with 9th level/name level which was in the Expert box I think. I forget because I’ve used the Cyclopedia more.

BECMI was my entry game. I was the right cohort to pick up the Mentzer basic box around age 7.


It was a thing, and I’ve done it, but it presents a problem. You either have to semi-retire, or leave your hugely expensive and fairly un-profitable fief to go on adventures, making it more vulnerable to attack while you’re away.


I ran it for two years between the ages of 16 and 18. Only actually had or needed the first two boxes.


I did quite a bit of Basic and Expert (it was my introductory set), but I’d moved on to AD&D by the time the BECMI rewrite started coming out.


I played a fair bit of BECMI, but mostly pre-Name Level. I did run the Kingmaker adventure path for Pathfinder, which starts the party running a new nation at about 3rd level.


All those versions of D&D are essentially after my time. I started out in 1975 or 1976 with the three little tan books plus Greyhawk. When the large hardbacks came out, I was offended at seeing the characters I’d been playing for several years become invalidated, and at being asked to spend more money (my finances were tight then) for a new version of a game I already owned, so I didn’t buy in. In fact I didn’t buy much of any published games until a few years later when I was invited into a RuneQuest II campaign. I’ve played the odd session or two of D&D since then, but I’ve never stayed in a campaign and I’ve certainly never run o ne.


Pendragon, Ars Magica and ASOIF all are 3rd gen implementations of Named level play.


Can you define the term “Named level play”? I don’t think I’ve ever seen it.


In AD&D there was a table associated with each character class that assigned an occupation, speciality, or title to each character level. For instance, magic-users started out as prestidigitators at first level, and went through a phase as necromancers at, if I remember right, 5th level. Each of these sequences topped out at some level, which ranged (according to character class) from about ninth level to about twelfth. The highest rank title for magic-users was “wizard”, and I seem to remember that for fighters it was “lord”. From there up to twentieth level a character retained the highest rank title and prepended their level, e.g. “twelfth level wizard Bob the Blaster”.

There were I think a few reference to this band of levels, from the highest level with a title on the table to twentieth level, as “name level”. And some suggestions or bits based on the assumption that at named level characters would cut back on the dingeon-bashing a little and shift to constructing, defending, and expanding a stronghold. That was “named-level play”.


For clerics it was “patriarch.” I no longer have any editions beyond a PDF of original D&D, so I can’t say what the titles were for other classes. Fighting-Men got a rough deal, I thought, as just below “lord” was the rather more impressive sounding “superhero.”


Okay, I know that structure, and the titles of Lord/Wizard/Patriarch/Evil High Priest. What puzzled me was the idea that the high levels were “named.” It seems to me that levels 1-9 of Fighting Man are “named,” and then you just go 10th level lord, 11th level lord, 12th level lord, which is not what I would call “named.” What those higher levels are is nameless. Isn’t it?


That’s not the only example of nonsense that Gary Gygax wrote.

Maybe the idea was that the titles of the highest levels were the true name of the class.


In the fantasy supplement to Chainmail the Superhero is the 8-soldier Fighting-Man, while the Hero is the 4-soldier version. So making them the titles for levels 8 and 4 seems sensible, in its way.

These titles carry on into AD&D, and are joined by the rather dull Master Thief. But also Grand Master of Flower Arranging Flowers, so it’s not all bad.


I liked his early hip-hop stuff.

Ben Sargent illustrated a classic Murphy’s Rules entry which seems relevant:


I’m actually not sure it was Gygax. The earliest I’m aware of it is in the original Expert Set rules, which were edited (i.e., compiled and rewritten, as I understand it) by Zeb Cook an Steve Marsh. The exact quote from the rules is, “When a character attains 9th level, he or she will have reached the “name level” for that class, such as all clerics of 9th level and above are called matriarchs or patriarchs, depending on whether the character is female or male.”


I’m not sure how I would have heard of it if it were an innovation in D&D Expert Set, which I have never read, and which reached these shores after I had deserted D&D (switching to The Fantasy Trip in 1982). Popcultural osmosis, perhaps.


Pop cultural osmosis seems likely. It also might have been in use before then, just not codified.

Edit: Gah. Completely misinterpreted your comment. Sorry if you saw the original!