A bazillion years ago, I figured I’d want to experiment and play some Civ games to get an idea of tech trees before moving forward with faction development.

I did the thing, so now I’m ready to do the thing.

FreeCiv, Master of Magic, and Alpha Centauri are all great. I’m glad I finally got to play AC because it’s maybe the greatest game like, ever. No joke.

So, here’s what I’ve got so far for “faction tech tree.”


Now I’ll explain what “Like Wizards” is supposed to mean.

“Teching your way to victory” isn’t the goal here, so I’ve abstracted a lot of stuff out. I want PCs to be able to use factions to build boats, raise armies, improve settlements and fortresses — build roads, if necessary.

A lot of this stuff is already in D&D if you know where to look.

What I figured I’d do is “roll up cultures” like D&D characters — complete with six of their own ability-type scores, and “classes” for factions . . . if any of that makes sense. And technology is the “magic system.” Or uh, spell list. Whatever.

Alex of Cirsova has blogged about ‘doing magic wrong’ in D&D across the editions, and I can’t hope to summarize everything here. Read the series, you’ll learn something.

Anyway, I’ve attached myself to the idea of the Wizard as a kind of . . . “thief of spells.” I very much like the idea of Wizards raiding each others’ libraries and stealing each others’ spells. Even if this turns out to be yet another ‘wrong’ interpretation of magic-users in D&D, I’m captivated by the idea.

Among other things, it gives arcane magic-users a clear GOAL, not to mention a reason to find scrolls and spellbooks in treasure hoards. Magic wands and wizard staffs mean a little more than being mere ‘magic guns.’

So my approach to factions was to have them level first, tech second. Factions level up similarly to the way PCs do, of course. Experience earned through combat and . . . whatever else grants experience in your game. Quests. Treasure.

But a key thing about factions, see: is they only get one free tech per level.

You can do the math — and if you know about when magic-users gain access to the next tier of spells, you can see the implications clearly: if you want all the tech, you have to steal it from other factions.

And there is a fundamental interaction between factions: espionage.

PCs get spells, factions get tech.

Like any good subsystem, my tech tree is full of little jokes and nods to disciplines like anthropology, philosophy, political science, and history.

Unlike standard tech trees of course, these technologies don’t lead nicely from one to the next. I mean, they were inspired by that ideal, but each technology is singular — but don’t confuse that with self-contained.

A faction that develops T3: Shipbuilding without T5: Woodworking is going to struggle with materials for their ships. Ships are going to be prohibitively expensive, take forever to build, and sink easily.

But it’s little things like this that spur people to make the kinds of choices they have done throughout history. Want to explore the world but your boat won’t float? Develop materials science. It has nothing to do with your goal: explore the world.

Obviously, there’s still work to be done. I have to fill out the chart.

Like the magic system, I’m going to aim for roughly eight disciplines: but they aren’t going to be ‘hard science’ categories. There’s going to be some weird and ugly overlap and there’s going to be some head-scratchers. But that’s okay.

It’s a work in progress.

I think one of the more exciting ideas is actually that I can throw stuff from Alpha Centauri right on there, if I want. Because D&D is all about those weird clashes between swords and spaceships. Maybe woodworking doesn’t lead to rocketry.

But who’s to say it doesn’t? Maybe elves develop the first space program.