Pretender Design

Well, I know more or less what my nation has, so the next step is to figure out how I’m going to make it better. The pretender god I’m going to take is the Ageless Olm. Mostly, I’m taking him because I really like him and think he’s cool. The other reason is that, as of the new patch [4.16] he’s really really cheap at 70 design points. For reference, his wife now costs 250.


There’s really nothing special to recommend the olm besides his price though. He has no special abilities not common to his race, he isn’t likely to destroy armies single-handedly, his dominion is of middling strength, he learns new magic slowly and the magic he starts with is in paths that Agartha is already good at. That doesn’t bother me though, because with him have a ton of design points.

The first thing we want to do is bump up Dominion strength.1 This is less important in the new patch, but we can afford it so I’m not going to take risks to see how much less important. The next thing I do is free up points where I know I won’t need them. I set my heat scale2 to three, because Agarthans are cold-blooded and I want my winters to be mild even in the generally chilly caves that we live in. Besides, I’d get more heat without getting points for it in the summer anyway.

Lastly, I imprison my pretender. It would be nice to use him early in the game, but I don’t actually need to, he’s not that tough and I won’t have spells for him to cast. So I take the whopping 250 points happily.


Now I look at what I want. First of all, I bump up the two magical paths that we start with, water and earth, up to four. This is cheap (48 points) and it means that the pretender is going to be reasonably useful at these things. It also means that I get a minor bless3 for each of these. The water bless only gives Defense+2, which isn’t that useful for my mages and olms, since they’ll only be getting attacked if I really fuck something up, but I also have melee sacreds3 that I might use, and it’s definitely possible that there will be battles where everything goes wrong and I’ll really appreciate some survivability, even if it wouldn’t be worth the points were it not so cheap and if I didn’t have so many. The earth is more valuable, since it gives reinvigoration4. I don’t want my mages too worn out from all the spells that they’re going to cast, and if I do use my melee units they’re some of the few that have armor, so it’ll help them too.


Now, let’s take a look at my scales. Right now they’re mostly default, but they aren’t staying that way. Order scales will allow me to wring more gold out of the population, so I set them to three, making my nation into a totalitarian state in which I have complete control. According to the UI, this merely cancels out he income penalty from the heat, but in caves, during winter, and if my dominion cools down for some other reason, that penalty will be reduced and order will give me a nice bonus.

Next is productivity/sloth. This scale is mostly for the resources used to make armor, which my people aren’t really going to be using anyway, because they’re dumb like that. So I drop it to -2. I don’t like going lower than two if I can help it, not just here but in general, because there are bad events tied to the third scale. In this case, I do want to keep some resources for armored troops as I can afford them.

Heat was already addressed, so next is growth. Right now my income is pretty bad, so I’m going to address that here. I’m taking growth three. This gives me a moderate bonus to my income, but more importantly, it increases the rate at which province population grows, meaning if I have a decent-sized empire under my dominion, it’ll grow enough to make me a powerful economic player over time. This isn’t perfect, since gold does eventually become less important than magic, but it’ll help me out anyway.

Luck is something I really like in games, because it’ll give me lots of gold, gems, and items. But I don’t actually need it here – order reduces the occurence of unusual events anyway, and one of Agartha’s best mage, the Earth Reader, is a fortune teller, meaning it can predict and prevent bad events. The chance for that to happen is low, but with enough of them it adds up and I intend to have as many of them as I possibly can anyway. So I’m going misfortune 2. Even with fortune teller, there are some terrible events in misfortune 3 that could lose me the game if they happened at the wrong time, so I’m not going all the way.

Finally, magic. My Earth Readers are pretty good at research anyway, so it’s not like I really need this that badly, but I can afford it and research dominance is a pretty substantial advantage. So I go all out. Three magic, meaning my research capability will be great (assuming I can keep up the cashflow for my earth readers; if I’m poor I’ll fall back on engravers, and my research will just be good) and my land is filled with easy and convenient magic.


At this point my pretender looks like this:


I have a whopping 434 points left after the essentials. The first thing I do is turn my minor earth bless into a major. That doubles my reinvigoration, and adds +5 protection, meaning that even my naked mages and olms will be as tough as if they had pretty good armor.

The next thing I do is add more magic. I choose air, because my mages can’t hit the broad side of a barn with any reliability. With the +2 precision from air, they can, although they’ll still have to cross their fingers for smaller things and friendly fire will be a constant problem. Air also opens up some good spells. With boosters, I can bring the four air I use for a bless up to six, and I’ll have my choice of battlefield-shaping spells to cast during the late game. Unfortunately, air doesn’t have a good summon to let me open up the path to broader usage, but it’ll be quite useful in the big battles where I need it most.

I have enough points left to get another of any magic path (except Earth) or scale, but my dominion strength is still sitting at what I consider the bare minimum and what some people consider below that, so I bump it up by one. I briefly considered taking a point of nature, which would let me summon naiads eventually and break more heavily into nature magic, which would give me some other options I might need. Dominion strength, though, is something I know for sure I’ll need. I’m left with an awkward number of points remaining, but I’m pretty happy with how this turned out, and it’s definitely ready to test out.



Agartha is a sort of a mix of a geriatrocracy and a magocracy, with the Closed Council, a group of mages, as its highest authority. They draw their ranks from the oldest and most respected members of the oracular orders, all powerful mages in their own right. For those without magic, the oldest are also the biggest and they are the sacred units of Agartha, generals and champions who lead into battle. In the default lore it’s implied that there is little unity or control, but that is Agartha led by my wife, the mother of the pale ones, the earth made flesh. I am the father of olms, the oldest and most magically potent being in the nation, and a rising god. Under my word and my magic, the hierarchy is rigid and daily life is heavily structured according to my precepts. Agriculture flourishes wonderfully (due to growth) and my breeding programs ensure that the population swells to make full use of these resources. The sun may be sweltering and my lazy subjects may shirk work when they can, but my divine and effective rule ensures that they prosper nonetheless, and our laboratories are centers of unquenchable learning that all the world envies. At least, that’s the plan.

  1. Dominion strength is a measure of how worshipped your god is. With more of it, you convert people faster and your people are more resistant to being converted. And that matters because in places where you are worshipped (in your dominion) you have better access to sacred units, your god and prophet are stronger, your global spells (in the late game) take effect or are more potent, and you are a lot less likely to be brought to 0 worshippers. If nobody worships you, incidentally, you lose. 
  2. Scales are the magical properties of your dominion, as well as the cultural effects of your religion. They spread wherever you are worshipped, and spread faster where you’re worshipped more devoutly. 
  3. Bless is a very special holy spell. It only effects your sacred units and what it does depends on your pretender’s starting magic. Sacred units are special mostly for being subject to bless, though they are also special in that the amount you can recruit in one turn in one province is equal to your dominion strength, and they cost only a quarter of the usual upkeep. 
  4. Dominions has a fatigue system. Units in heavy armor get it according to their encumbrance, and mages use it as a rough equivalent to mana, spending fatigue until they’re too worn out to cast any more. It reduces stats, but I’m more concerned about the spellcasting. Reinvigoration reduces a small amount of fatigue each turn and allows spellcasters to get more done in long battles. 

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