The Dominions video game franchise by Illwinter Game Design has a highly active and generally both welcoming and helpful community. But for all that, it’s not necessarily easy to navigate. Most of it is organized unofficially, and is sprawled haphazardly across the Internet.
This guide, along with the unofficial Illwinter wiki, is part of an effort to make it easier for newcomers to find their way around in that community and make the resources that community has produced over the decades more accessible. I hope you find it useful!
The vast majority of discussions about Dominions happen on various Discord servers oriented around the game, or around a YouTuber or other content creator who produces a lot of Dominions-related content.
Discord is a modern chat platform, similar to Skype, Slack, or IRC clients. Discord was developed specifically for gaming communities, however, and has a lot of features which allow individual communities to efficiently hold many channels and let users navigate between them easily. For many video gaming communities, Discord servers have partially taken over the role previously held by internet forums, as the main way to discuss video games, organize multiplayer teams and matches, co-ordinate modding efforts, or sometimes even to chat with or contact the developers.
A number of community members have put together a list and posted it as a page on the unofficial Illwinter wiki. Of these, the Dominions Nexus and Immersion servers are going to be the most interesting to a new player. The Nexus is a general-purpose server and the largest within the community, while Immersion specifically orients itself to beginners who want to get into the multiplayer scene.
The only official community for the game are the Steam Forums, however, which is the only place the developers frequently visit.
As a consequence of the above, the official Steam forums is the only part of the community where you can expect Illwinter to see your posts. A bug report thread for the latest version of the game can always be found at the top of the list of threads.
The wishlist thread is the place to go with most suggestions you have for the game. If you want to discuss a particular game topic at length, though, feel free to create an individual thread for it. Illwinter has been known to adopt properly-presented, well-thought out ideas, but if you’re going that route, be prepared to write an essay, and don’t be too disappointed if there’s no official response to it.
Illwiki is a fan-created, funded and controlled wiki with no ads. You’re visiting it right now! It’s intended to host virtually all information relevant to the game and its community. You can find most other resources linked in this document on the wiki. Unfortunately, for security reasons, only registered members can edit the wiki, and user accounts have to be manually set up by the wiki administrators. Happily, we can be easily reached using @wiki admins on the Discord Nexus server or via firstname.lastname@example.org.
Larzm42’s “Inspector” is a tool which can be used to easily find the details on any spell, item, unit, or nation in the game, and more. It’s updated after every patch and is considered an essential tool by most of the community.
Here is a list of guides collected here on the wiki. Most guides linked are hosted on the wiki itself or on the Steam forums, but some are hosted as google documents. Some are also hosted on the DominionsMods forum, notably Taorec’s very extensive guides. Disclaimer: the DominionsMods forum does not use HTTPS, so use your best judgment as to whether you want to enter potentially sensitive information (e.g. login using a password) on that site. An introductory gameplay guide for beginners can be found here.
F, A, W, E, S, D, N, B: These are shorthand for the magic paths in the game, standing for Fire, Air, Water, Earth, aStral, Death, Nature and Blood, in that order. They are also used as shorthand for the paths a mage or Pretender may possess, rendered as Xn, where X is the Path and n is the path level. For example, F2 for Fire 2. They are also used as shorthand for a number of magic gems or pearls, typically using the reverse order and/or lowcaps, e.g. 2F or 2f for “2 fire gems.”
O/T, P/S, H/C, L/Misf, M/D: These are shorthand for the “scales” chosen on Pretender creation. They stand for Order/Turmoil, Productivity/Sloth, Heat/Cold, Luck/Misfortune, and Magic/Drain, in that order.
Boosters, Boosting: This refers to ways of temporarily increasing a mage or Pretender’s magic path levels. “Boosters” are specifically magic items which increase path level while worn, such as the Skull of Fire. Some combat spells such as Phoenix Power may also be used to temporarily “boost” the caster’s path level for the duration of a battle.
Raiding: This refers to attacking weakly defended provinces with highly mobile forces as to disrupt the enemy’s economy, movement, and cause psychological pressure on a human enemy while improving your own economy. Raiders are ideally as cheap as possible, and only as strong as they need to be for their job. Raiders are usually small groups of flying or stealthy units, or sometimes single commanders called thugs. (This is not to be confused with the "Raiding" ability possessed by some units in-game, allowing them to pillage enemy provinces without actually entering them.)
Thug: A thug is a single unit, often a mage or mage-priest, who can conquer weakly-defended provinces on their own. There are many variations on the concept, but they usually rely on some combination of a powerful blessing, spells, and magic items, which enable them to deal with large groups of weak enemies with little risk. SC refers to a "Supercombatant", the precise meaning of which is debatable, but is usually defined as something like a thug that goes up against whole armies, with or without support.
Scripting: Refers to the orders given to commanders, mages and troops that they will then perform in a battle. For example, a Death mage may be scripted as “Cast Horde of Skeletons X5; cast spells”, or a squad of archers may be scripted to “Fire [at] Nearest [enemy]”.
DRN: Shorthand for the “Dominion Random Number” generator used for most events in Dominions with a random outcome. It’s equivalent to rolling two six sided dice, and for each that lands on a six, you subtract one from the total, and then roll another die and add that to the total. (A common way of describing this, outside of the Dominions community, would be “a 2d6 open-ended roll”. The manual also specifies a lower-case "drn" that uses 1d6 instead of 2.)
A much more extensive (but WIP) guide to acronyms and jargon can be found here.
In contrast to many other games, Dominions does not have a public lobby for multiplayer matches. This means that most people who want to set up a game advertise and recruit for their game before starting it. Unless a game is specified as anonymous, you should never join a game without first talking with the host of that game. This is considered a massive faux pas and you’ll probably be kicked off before the game starts. Despite this, Dominions has a very strong and active multiplayer community, and it won’t be hard to find someone to play with.
In olden days it was pretty cumbersome to set up a multiplayer match of Dominions. The host had to understand things like port forwarding, all the players needed to understand IP addresses, and unless everyone was playing at the same time, the host would need to set up a dedicated server running around the clock. Playing by email was no less cumbersome.
These days, though, most communities use third-party dedicated servers and hosting tools to run and play multiplayer games. The biggest of these are the Clockwork servers and the Llamaserver, which we will now cover in detail.
Currently the most popular method of setting up games, and considered the easiest to use. These games are managed by the Discord bot “Mr. Clockwork” and are run exclusively through Discord, though they may have threads on the forums for recruiting purposes. The bot is found on and can be used within all major Dominions community servers. The dedicated servers used by the bot for the purposes of managing and hosting matches, mods and maps are funded by Patreon, and new ones are easily added when the current set of servers start running out of space.
Most community Discord servers have one or two channels named something like “#multiplayer games”, “#recruiting”, or “#lobby”, which are used to organize and run new games. You can either request that someone else host a game for you, or you can try and use the bot yourself. It may seem intimidating, but it’s pretty easy. The #clockwork_help channel can be found on all servers which use the bot, and contains a list of commands for the bot, and the bot will tell you what you need to know about the process of creating a game when you use the !host command. (Note that the "!" prefix may vary between servers; "!host" is correct on the Dominions Nexus, while on Clockwork Hounds it'd be "?host".)
Issues with the bot or the dedicated servers can be reported to the users Drithyl and/or pencils, of whom at least one can be found on every community server using the bot.
For nearly ten years before the development of the Clockwork bot, Llamaserver was the go-to hosting service of choice for the multiplayer community. Llamaserver is a PBEM (play-by-email) service, meaning that you need to download turn files from the emails it sends you, place them in the appropriate folder, play the turn, and then attach your save file to an email you send back to the Llamaserver. Some find this tedious, but it does make “archiving” your turns very easy, so that you can go back and revisit them at any time.
Llamaserver games are organized fairly similarly to Clockwork ones: the host figures out what kind of match they want to play, then they start a thread on the forum or else create or request the creation of a channel on a Discord server, and start advertising. Guides for hosting and joining/playing games are found at those links.
Please remember to not join games on Llamaserver unless you’ve talked to the host first, unless the rules of the game explicitly let you join anonymously.
Server issues can be reported to llamabeast via email, llamabeast (at) llamaserver.net
With Dominions multiplayer games inevitably involving significant commitments of time and energy (even blitzes tend to take one or more evenings to complete), the multiplayer community has become a tightly-knit one in which players are expected to be able to get along with and respect each other. A single player dropping out without warning can wreck a game. In other words, most communities expect a certain level of good conduct from their members. Players who don’t live up to that conduct can quickly attract a bad reputation and find themselves blacklisted by other players and hosts. The precise rules and expectations will vary between communities, as is the strictness with which they are enforced, but the following is a fairly universal set of expectations and ideals:
You should never drop out of a game without warning, and especially never set yourself AI without warning. This can cause a lot of trouble for the other players. The community is generally very understanding of every sort of issue that drives people to leave games, whether it’s burnout, increased IRL commitments, or a hopeless in-game position, so don’t hesitate to talk with the game’s host and other players beforehand. Typically, the host will pause the game and try to find a substitute player.
While it is preferred that players play and submit their turns in a timely fashion, most matches will set the turn timer to a day or longer. This should allow players all around the world to conveniently participate in a game and spend an hour or more on their turn, if they need to. However, if you realize that you won’t be able to play and submit a turn before the timer runs out, most hosts and communities will be very generous with granting “extensions”. The game host can always grant extensions. Further, servers which use the Clockwork bot usually have some sort of “Game master” role, who can grant extensions for any bot-hosted game.
In the vast majority of matches, trades are considered binding, while diplomacy is not. (This is usually spelled out in the rules for any particular game.) What this means is that if you say you’ll give provinces, gold, items, or gems in exchange for something in the same category, it is considered a binding promise. Intentionally breaking such promises is considered cheating. The key thing is that a trade involves exchanging tangible in-game resources for other resources. Non-binding diplomacy means you can “legally” break any more abstract promise you make; for example, if you and another player sign a non-aggression pact. This is not necessarily free of consequences, though: players who you betray in this way will often publicly very loudly proclaim that you can’t be trusted. Most community members don’t treat diplomatic arrangements as suicide pacts, though, and will be understanding if you break an agreement when holding to it would clearly result in losing the game. Rarely, you may find that it’s hard to tell whether a particular agreement is trading or diplomacy - in this case you can consult with the game’s host or the community’s administrators (if asking the host would give away your plans, for example).
If you are losing, it is often expected (and certainly preferred) that you keep fighting for as long as possible. If you’re down to your final, besieged province, it is usually fine to give up, but most players would prefer that you don’t give up until that point.
Relatedly, the practice of “death baskets” can be very controversial. A “death basket” involves sending all your remaining items, gems, and gold to some other player after you’ve lost. Some communities are fairly accepting of these: others very much are not.