Dominions 6 – Ultimate Guide to Pretender

The Pretender

Dominions 6 is about the struggle between pretenders to ascend to godhood. Thus, the pretender is the embodiment of the spirit of the nation. But there are many ways to aspire to godhood, and you have a lot of leeway to shape exactly what kind of pretender will lead your nation.

The pretender will determine how much dominion you can have in a province, how fast your dominion spreads, what type of scales rule the land, and what bless effects your sacred units will have. Pretenders also have the ability to research and cast spells, and even forge magic items and fight in battle.

Pretenders are the most important single aspect of any Dominions game.

The important points to remember about pretenders are:

  • A pretender is a commander unit, and moves on the strategic map and battlefield
  • The magic paths chosen for the Pretender affect which spells he will be able to use
  • Magic paths chosen also determine what Bless effects, if any, you can choose for your nation’s Sacred units
  • The pretender’s magic paths also affect what divine spells the priests of the nation can cast.
  • The dominion scales you choose will determine what effects will be felt in provinces under your dominion
  • The dominion strength you choose will determine how easily your dominion spreads
  • When a pretender is killed, he or she can be brought back by priests of his nation using the Call God command. This may take some time. He or she will also lose some magic skill or a point of dominion.

Creating a Pretender

AI NameBonus
Easy AI-30%
Normal AI0
Difficult AI+30%
Mighty AI+60%
Master AI+100%
Impossible AI+150%

Besides choosing a nation, creating a pretender is the most significant decision you’ll make in Dominions 6.

Each nation starts out with 450 points to create a pretender god. These points are spent on the three categories below: physical form, magic, and dominion. A fourth category, The Awakening, is a way in which you can trade the later appearance of your pretender for more build points at the outset.

Physical Form

A pretender must have a physical form, like a titan or giant squid, which you choose based on the ones available to the nation you have selected. Some nations have more choices, and some relatively fewer. Not all pretenders are available to all nations. This is because those pretenders did not exist for that nation historically.

Each pretender has a different set of attributes, which can be examined by right-clicking on the pretender in the selection screen. Some are giants. Some are flying goddesses. Some are weird polyp things that can only live underwater. Others are folks just like you and me, only with three heads and magical powers. They all have various attributes just like regular units, while some have special attributes that merit further explanation. These are all attributes inherent to the physical form in question – they cannot be conferred or purchased separately.

Many pretenders have an inherent point cost as part of their physical form. For example, the Phoenix, a pretender that looks like a giant heron, costs 110 points. If you choose that one, you will have 340 points left to spend on dominion and scales.

Immortal Pretenders

Some pretenders (Vampire Queen, various manner of Liches, the Phoenix for obvious reasons, and others) are immortal. There are two kinds of immortality in Dominions 6: immortality and dominion immortality.

Dominion immortality (e.g. the Phoenix) means that if a pretender is killed while in a province with friendly dominion, it will simply re-appear in their nation’s home province. If they die in a province that does not contain friendly dominion, they are subject to Call God just like non-immortal pretenders.

Immortality (e.g. the Master Lich) means that a pretender is fully immortal and can even die outside its dominion and still re-form.

Reforming a pretender’s body (whether immortal or dominion immortal) takes some time, usually about three months, but is dependent on monster type. If the pretender is soul slain, it will not reform and must be called back by priests just like any other dead pretender god. Reforming the body usually gets rid of most afflictions. Immortals do not heal afflictions more than other units otherwise.

An immortal unit that dies on a remote plane (e.g. the Void or Inferno) will not be able to utilize its immortality.

Immobile Pretenders

Some pretenders (Monolith, Fountain of Blood, and others) cannot move. This means they have no inherent movement ability. But usually they can still be transported by teleportation rituals. Some immobile pretenders (Monument, Geyser) are just too large and cannot be moved even by teleportation. Note that some teleportation like rituals (e.g. Wind Ride) isn’t true teleportation and requires the caster to be mobile.

Designing a good immobile pretender can be a challenge, but they have their advantages. Most immobile pretenders have a low physical form cost.

Dragon Pretenders

When players select a dragon for their pretender, a wizard shows up. This is not a bug. Research has shown again and again that dragon pretenders don’t change into dragon form until they are wounded. The pretender will be displayed as a wizard until he changes shape either by using the change shape order or by being wounded in combat. Prior to that, he remains in wizard form because it was easier to cast spells with hands instead of dragon claws.

Trinities

Some pretenders are Trinities, one being split into three entities. The three entities share part of their magic abilities, but lose some of their powers when not together. If two entities in a trinity are present, they lose some magic power while a lone entity will have severely reduced magic abilities. Different Trinities have slightly different effects on being apart. The separate entities in a trinity have reduced research abilities, but all of them can research at the same time. If one entity in the trinity dies it can be called back in half the normal time.

Magic

Some pretenders begin with skills in magical paths – others don’t. This is listed in the character screen for that physical form. For example, the Great Mother begins with Nature 2 and Earth 1. Some pretenders don’t begin with any skills in magic paths. Regardless of starting abilities, magic skills can be purchased in the Magic screen. The cost is in the table “Cost for skill point in a path”. Note that if the first skill chosen is in a new path with no magic skill yet selected, the cost is the pretender’s “New Path Cost.”

Cost for skill point in a path

1st8
2nd16
3rd24
4th32
5th40
6th48
7th56
8th64
9th72
10th80

These costs are cumulative, so that increasing a magical path from 1 to 4 costs 72 points.

Note that this refers to the numbers of skills added by you in that path, not the actual total skill. In other words, since the Great Mother begins with Nature 2, and you want to bump her up to Nature 3, that only costs 8 points because that’s the first skill increase by you in that path. Thus, starting with a pretender who already has skills in paths you want can be a significant cost savings. Of course, this is partly accounted for in the point cost of that physical form.

Example: The Carrion Dragon begins with Death 1 and Nature 1. You decide you want to increase his skill to Death 4, Nature 4, and Fire 2. That means you need to select three skills in the same path (Death) for a cost of 48, three skills in the Nature path, for a further cost of 48 (you have now spent 96), and 2 skills in Fire. However, because the Carrion Dragon does not start with any Fire, selecting Fire is a new path purchase and thus the first skill in Fire costs 80 points, as listed in his character screen. To get him to Fire 2 costs another 16 points. The total cost of magic for this pretender is thus 192 points. Magic can be very expensive.

Divine Magic

A pretender’s magic paths also determine what divine spells that nation’s priests can cast. For more information on divine magic.

Bless Effects

Each nation has a number of Sacred units, most of which can only be recruited in the nation’s home province, generally because there is a magic site there which permits their recruitment. Sacred units are specific to that nation: if another nation captures that province and magic site, it cannot recruit those units.

The main advantage to sacred units is that they can be Blessed. Blessing is a level 1 holy spell, and thus can be cast by any priest. It is cast only on the battlefield. A blessed unit gains three advantages:

  • +1 morale
  • All the bless effects conferred by his nation’s pretender, chosen upon creation
  • All the bless effects conferred by any Thrones of Ascension claimed by the nation or disciple nations

Bless points to buy bless effects with become available when a pretender has a skill of 2 or more in any magic path. These effects are chosen from a list of possible effects depending on what magic skills the Pretender has.

In general, every skill level above one in a path equals one bless point. (Thus, an Air 2, Death 4, Nature 6 pretender receives 1 + 3 + 5 bless points for allocation.) Some nations or pretenders may receive bless bonuses which translate into additional bless points. (For example, Marignon, Conquerors of the Sea receives 3 extra bless points to buy bless effects for.)

Bless effects cost bless points equal to the magic skill requirements for that effect. E.g. An effect that requires Astral 3 & Fire 1 would cost 4 bless points to buy.

Sometimes a bless effect also has a scale requirement, but this does not affect the cost.

Some bless effects are always active (e.g. unaging and larger). They are called passive blesses.

Fire Bless effects
Fire 1Superior Morale (+1 Mor)
Fire 1 & Death 1Wasteland Survival *
Fire 2Attack Skill (+1 Att)
Fire 2Fire Resistance
Fire 4Inspirational Presence *
Fire 4Righteous Wrath
Fire 5Death Explosion
Fire 5Heat Aura
Fire 6Fire Shield
Fire 7Flaming Weapons
Fire 8 & Astral 4Unbearable Splendour
Air Bless Effects
Air 1Precision (+1 Prec)
Air 2Shock Resistance
Air 2Farshot
Air 3Awareness
Air 4Swiftness
Air 4Storm Flight
Air 5Wind Walker *
Air 5 & Earth 1Weightlessness
Air 6Air Shield
Air 7Thunder Weapons
Air 8Charged Bodies
Air 9Flight
Water Bless Effects
Water 1 & Cold Scale 1Winter’s Gift *
Water 1 & Nature 1Swamp Survival *
Water 2Cold Resistance
Water 2Swimming *
Water 2Defense Skill (+1 Def)
Water 5Chill Aura
Water 5Slow Weapons
Water 6 & Fire 2Vitriol Weapons
Water 6Water Breathing *
Water 7 & Cold Scale 1Frost Mist Weapons
Water 9 & Magic Scale 1Quickness
Earth Bless Effects
Earth 1Mountain Survival*
Earth 2Reinvigoration (+1 Reinv)
Earth 2Strength of the Earth (+1 Str)
Earth 4Unbreakable
Earth 4 & Nature 3Larger *
Earth 5Reconstruction
Earth 5Resilience of the Earth
Earth 6Hard Skin
Earth 7Fortitude
Glamour Bless effects
Glamour 1Undreaming *
Glamour 1Heroism (+50% XP) *
Glamour 2Quiet Stride *
Glamour 3True Sight *
Glamour 3Blur
Glamour 6Obfuscate *
Glamour 6 & Fire 2Awe
Glamour 7Displacement
Glamour 7Dread
Glamour 8 & Luck Scale 2Luck
Astral Bless Effects
Astral 1Arcane Command *
Astral 2Magic Resistance (+1 MR)
Astral 3 & Death 1Spirit Sight
Astral 3 & Fire 1Solar Weapons
Astral 4Far Caster
Astral 4Arcane Finesse
Astral 5Magic Weapons
Astral 6Twist Fate
Astral 7 & Misfortune Scale 1Fateweaving
Astral 8 & Magic Scale 2Etherealness
Blood Bless Effects
Blood 1Strong Vitae (+1 HP)
Blood 2Strength of the Flesh (+1 Str)
Blood 3Strong Blood
Blood 4Enchanted Blood
Blood 4Blood Surge
Blood 5Blood Bond
Blood 6Unholy Weapons
Blood 7Blood Vengeance
Blood 8 & Death 4Vampiric Weapons
Death Bless Effects
Death 1Undying
Death 1Undead Command *
Death 2 & Death Scale 2Half Dead
Death 3Mending Bones *
Death 4Withering Weapons
Death 5Stygian Flesh
Death 6Reforming Flesh
Death 7Reanimators
Death 8Death Weapons
Death 8Fear

Effects marked with an asterisk are passive blesses.

Bold effects are “incarnate only” which means that they only apply if the pretender is awake as well as alive.

When you are constructing your pretender, the Magic screen will list all of the bless effects to which your selections have entitled you. Look at the bottom of the screen. The +1 morale effect is not listed because it is common to all pretenders.

Nature Bless Effects
Nature 1Resilient (+1 HP)
Nature 1Low Light Vision
Nature 2Poison Resistance
Nature 2Forest Survival *
Nature 3 & Magic Scale 1Unaging *
Nature 4 & Death Scale 1Poison Weapons
Nature 5Recuperation *
Nature 5Berserker
Nature 6Barkskin
Nature 7Regeneration

Pretenders also gain Indirect Magic bonuses (see the section entitled Magic). Pretenders and Disciples are Sacred units and are automatically blessed when they are in their dominion. However, they cannot be blessed outside their dominion.

Example: Your pretender is Neter of the Sun, which starts with Fire 2 and Astral 1. You decide to boost the magic paths to Fire 4 and Astral 4. You are playing Machaka, so you get no further bonuses and thus you have six bless points to spend on bless effects. You will be facing Ermor, so you choose Solar Weapons, which costs four, leaving you with two bless points. You spend these points on Magic Resistance. Your blessed units will gain both of these effects. In addition, all of your blessed units will have +1 morale, because this is an effect common to all bless spells.

Effects of dominion scales.

ScaleEffect
OrderIncreases income by 3%, Resources +2%, Recruitment +10%, Unrest reduction +1, 2% fewer random events
TurmoilDecreases income by 3%, Resources -2%, Recruitment -10%, Unrest reduction -1, 2% more random events
ProductivityIncreases income by 3% and resources by 15%
SlothDecreases income by 3% and resources by 15%
Heat/ColdEach step of heat/cold level away from a race’s ideal level decreases tax revenues by 5% and decreases supplies by 10%
GrowthIncreases population growth by 0.2% per month, Increases supplies by 10%, Increases income by 1%
DeathDecreases population growth by 0.2% per month, Decreases supplies by 10%, Decreases income by 1%
Fortune5% more random events, Chance of a random event being good increased by 10%
Misfortune5% more random events, Chance of a random event being good decreased by 10%
MagicMakes spells harder to resist (-0.5 MR per scale rounded down, to all units in a province), All spellcasting generates 10% less fatigue per scale, Gives all friendly mages +1 research points per scale, +50 points of starting research per scale
DrainMakes spells easier to resist (+0.5 MR per scale rounded down, to all units in a province), All spellcasting generates 10% more fatigue per scale, Gives all mages -1 research points per scale, -50 points of starting research per scale.

Dominion

Two separate things fall under the category of dominion: maximum dominion and dominion scales. For more information about dominion and its spread, see the section on Dominion.

Cost for Dominion Candles

1st7
2nd14
3rd21
4th28
5th35
6th42
7th49
8th56
9th63

The cost to add dominion strength is calculated for each additional candle chosen, above the pretender’s base dominion strength. Thus, a pretender who starts with dominion 3 would use 7 design points to increase to dominion 4, and 14 more to go to dominion 5. Every pretender starts with at least Dominion 1, and the maximum is 10, so you can only ever choose 9 new candles, and thus the table stops there.

Scales

Dominion scales are the representation of the effect that the belief in one’s pretender god affects not only the populace but the very fabric of a province. When creating a pretender, you choose the way in which your religious belief changes the cosmic forces in provinces where your dominion holds sway.

Each scale has a favorable side and an unfavorable side. For example, Growth is the favorable side of the Growth/Death scale. You can guess which side Death is. For each tip of the scale, bonuses or penalties accrue to the province under the sway of that dominion.

You can gain extra points for pretender creation by choosing unfavorable scales. Scales tip both ways, which is why they’re called scales.

  • Each left-click of a scale costs 40 points.
  • Each right-click of a scale gains you 40 points.

Exception: Each click of the Heat/Cold scale (either way) away from a race’s preferred scale gains you 40 points per click, but only for the first 3 clicks.

Example: Machaka is a race that prefers Heat 2 scales. When you start building a pretender for Machaka, the Dominion screen will automatically start at Heat 2. Each click of the scales (either way) will gain you points as you move to an unfavorable dominion scale. Either Heat 1 or Heat 3 will gain 40 points for Machaka, at the expense of decreasing tax revenues and supply (see table below). Some abilities like Ice Protection are dependent on Heat/Cold scales as well.

Scales range from -5 to +5, but usually they can be tipped a maximum of only two to either side.

Certain pretenders are attuned to one or two scales and can tip these scales one step further. E.g. the Master Lich is attuned to the death scale and can raise the death scale to 3.

In turn the opposite scale (growth) is more difficult to raise and can only be raised to a maximum of 1. Some nation are also attuned to certain scales and can raise these scales one or two steps further. Pretender and Nation scale attunements can cancel out each other, but they cannot stack and raise the limit above 1.

The bonus/penalty listed in the Dominion Scales table is per click. So clicking twice in the direction of Order gives you Order 2, and increases your income by a total of 4% while decreasing random events by 4%. Like in the magic screen, the scales screen displays the cumulative effect of your choices. Note that extreme scale values of 4 or more are not recommended as they usually bring certain unwanted side effects, you can read about these in the Dominion chapter.

Example: The Carrion Dragon from the above example begins with dominion 2. Because the dragon costs 160 points for his physical form, and you spent 192 points on magic, that leaves you with 98 points for dominion and scales selection. Increasing dominion to 5 costs 42 points, leaving you with 56 points for scales. Because changing your scales costs 40 points for each click, you can only change one scale, and by only one click. You can gain more points for pretender design through The Awakening (see below), or reassign some of the points you used for magic or dominion to give yourself enough points for scales.

Some nations (see Nations list) prefer certain heat or cold settings. They suffer penalties when outside of their preferred environment, just like nations without a preferred temperature setting suffer penalties when the environment has heat/cold scales other than zero. In the past, these nations still received extra points for tipping the scales one way or the other. Now, they only get extra points for tipping them away from their preferred scale setting.

The scales in a province under your dominion will likely not initially exactly correspond to the scales you’ve chosen. This is because the dominion scales in a province change more slowly than the level of dominion. It may take several turns of strong dominion over a province to tip the scales to the settings you chose at the outset. If you have low dominion over a province, your scales will likely never ramp up to full value. The exact mechanics can be found in the Dominion section.

Pretender hit points The hit points of pretenders (and prophets) are affected by the current dominion in their province. Pretenders and prophets in friendly dominion will have increased hit points, while in enemy dominion their hit points will be reduced. The greater the dominion, the greater the effect. They also get increased strength and magic resistance.

For each level of friendly dominion in a province a prophet and/or pretender gains:

  • +1 strength,
  • +½ magic resistance point
  • +10% hit points

For every level of enemy dominion in a province, a prophet and/or pretender loses:

  • –1 strength
  • –½ magic resistance point
  • –10% hit points. Hit points cannot be reduced below 10% of the total.

The Awakening

This determines the time needed to pass before the pretender is actually summoned to this world. If you start the game with your pretender, your initial points for pretender construction are 450 (minus the cost of the physical form of your god). To have your pretender appear one year (10-13 turns) into the game (Dormant) gives you a 150-point bonus. If you wait three years (28-42 turns) you get an extra 350 points (Imprisoned). Note that while one turn is a month, and thus 12 turns equals one year, the time to the Awakening is not precise, and you may wait a little longer than (or not as long as) other nations in the same game.

Once you have assigned a Physical Form, Magic skills, Dominion strength and Scales, and Awakening to your pretender, you can give your pretender a name. If you leave the name blank the game will choose an appropriate name for a pretender of that nation based on the long history of the world of Dominions.

Disciples will awaken in about half the time of their pretender.

Pretender Death

A pretender loses either one skill level in one path of magic or one point of dominion strength for each death suffered (unlike the global “one loss in each path” of some of the previous Dominions games). This does not affect bless effects, which remain what they were at the beginning of the game. The chance of losing magic is 50% + 10% per level of Nature magic that the pretender had when he died. If the pretender doesn’t lose any magic or if the pretender has no magic skills, it will always lose one point of dominion strength instead.

The magic skill most likely to be lost will be Nature, and the least likely to be lost is Death. In fact, there is even a small chance of gaining knowledge in Death magic when dying. There is an even smaller chance of gaining skill in Astral or Blood magic after death as well. The lessons of the Underworld are unpredictable.

No pretender can go below a dominion strength of 1, no matter how many times he/she/it dies.

Death of Immortal Pretenders

Dominion immortal pretenders who die in a friendly dominion re-appear in their home after the reformation period, and do not suffer the magic skill or dominion strength loss. A dominion immortal pretender who dies outside a friendly dominion is subject to all the above rules. An immortal pretender does not lose any dominion or magic paths on death no matter where it dies. A pretender that gets soul slayed will not be able to use its immortality ability however.

Call God

If a pretender dies, he or she can be brought back by his nation’s priests. Each priest level assigned to the Call God order in a turn generates 1 point. Once a nation has accumulated around 50 points, the pretender returns to his or her home province. The total is not exactly 50 in order to add some uncertainty to the exact reappearance. In a disciple game the points required to call the dead god are increased by 50%.

Example: The pretender of Vanarus has died. Because he had Nature 3 when he died, he has an 80% chance of losing one skill level in one magic path (not necessarily Nature) and if he does not, he will lose one point of dominion strength.

On the following turn, Vanarus assigns three level 1 priests and a level 2 priest to Call God. If no other priests are assigned to this, it will take about ten turns for the pretender of Vanarus to return.

The nations Ur and Uruk have a special property which allows their god to be called back from the dead without losing any magic levels or dominion strength.

Automatic Bless Effects

All pretenders and disciples are auto-blessed within their own dominion. They are not blessed at any other time.

Sacred units on the battlefield with their pretender are auto-blessed as well if the battle is in a friendly dominion.

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