So after the last live stream it’s pretty clear that the game is going to be geared towards a well defined and fairly small town; maximum population less than two hundred, in a single settlement. This makes sense to me given the desired scope for the game and what we’ve seen of the gameplay.
But I know that players are likely also going to want to go bigger; to conquer and expand their town into a kingdom. I’ve been thinking about how to reconcile this with the single town the players will have under direct control. What I’ve been considering is a model a bit like the classic King of Dragon Pass. For those who are unfamiliar with the game it casts you as the leader of a newly settled clan in the titular pass, trying to survive. You only have direct control over your clan, but eventually you get the chance to form a tribe with other clans. You don’t control the other clans in your tribe directly; instead there’s events during the year where you have to mediate between tribes and a yearly moot where certain issues are settled and decisions are made. Each clan contributes something to the tribe, resources or magic or knowledge.
I think a similar model could be used for Stonehearth to build kingdoms or empires; instead of building more settlements you end up allying with other tribes (the Rabbits, the dwarves, etc) or subjugating them (the Goblins) and each group contribute something to your kingdom. In exchange they might need help or resources from time to time. If you wanted you could be a kind ruler and levy low taxes/tribute and give help whenever needed or you could be a cruel ruler and demand exorbitant tribute and never help your vassals. Nation-building in this fashion could also have other effects, like more frequent/larger caravans between members and the like.
You still only directly control your settlement, but now it’s the capital of a small kingdom, and it opens the game up to a lot of different directions. Probably would have to be a post-release feature since it implies a fairly complex diplomacy model.
Anyway, that’s my two cents on one way things could work. Feel free to shoot it full of holes or propose your own system.