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Terrain plays a major role in Dominions. The type of terrain in a province dictates the amount of gold and resources that might be available there, it affects the (random) magic sites that may appear in the province as well as the likelihood and number of such sites, it affects the supplies that are available to passing armies, and it affects the performance of troops in battles that take place in the province.

Terrain Types[edit]

There can be many different terrain types in a given province. For instance, there can be both Mountains and Waste in a province, or even Farmlands and Waste. Some terrain types are mutually exclusive however, like Swamp and Sea.

The "Plains" terrain type is not actually listed in Dominions 3 like it was in the previous Dominions games. If a provinces has no other terrain type, it is assumed to be "Plains". There is a chance to find a magic site, especially a Astral site, in such a province.
Farmland provinces are usually well populated and give you much gold and population (tax base, blood slaves). The chance of finding a magic site is very low in Farmland provinces.
Units without the "Swamp Survival" ability get penalties for moving through swamp provinces (strategic movement reduced to 1, except flying units). Units with swamp survival fight better in swamps than other units (see table below). The chance to find a magic site in a swamp province is very good.
Units without the "Waste Survival" ability get penalties for moving through waste provinces (strategic movement reduced to 1, except flying units). The chance to find a magic site, especially a death site, is very good.
Units without the "Forest Survival" ability get penalties for moving through forest provinces (strategic movement reduced to 1, except flying units). The chance to find a magic site, especially a nature site, is good.
Some nature spells like Faery Trod or Beckoning work only in forest provinces.
Mountain provinces are usually resource rich, but low populated. Making a castle in such a province is a good idea to produce high-resource units like knights.
Units without the "Mountain Survival" ability get penalties for moving through mountain provinces (strategic movement reduced to 1, except flying units). The chance to find a magic site, especially a earth or fire site, is good.
Border Mountain
A few provinces might be rolling plains or forests, but on one border a towering chain of mountains rise over the landscape. Border mountains do not affect movement in the province in question, but units are unable to cross the mountains as they are considered too high and way too impractical to even try. Same chances of magical sites as mountain.
A Sea province is a underwater province. Sea provinces can only entered by amphibious or aquatic units. A commander with the sailing ability can move over one sea province into another land province, but cannot enter the sea province. Usually, sea provinces give much gold and have an average chance to contain magic sites. The special site-searching spell Voice of Tiamat finds all elemental sites (Fire, Earth, Air, Water) in a underwater province. Only some spells work underwater and only some nations build castles or raise province defense in underwater provinces.
Deep Sea
see Sea above.
Any land province neighboring a underwater province is a coastal province. Some rituals like Lure of the Deeps affect only coastal provinces. Otherwise same as Sea provinces, although certain amphibious unit recruitment sites tend to be found in coastal areas.
Fresh Water
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Economic Effects[edit]

The terrain type in a province affects money, production, starting population as well as supply. The map-wide relative availability/scarcity of money, production, and supply are determined in the settings menu during game creation.

Terrain Population Gold Production Supply
Plains medium normal normal medium
Farmland high high poor high
Swamp very low very low normal medium
Waste medium medium low low
Forest medium medium good good
Mountain low low excellent low
Border Mountain low low high low
Sea ? ? ? ?
Deep Sea ? ? ? ?
Fresh Water ? ? ? ?

However changes in the Dominion scales as well as the current population during the game will also massively affect the economies of individual provinces. Essentially terrain type determines the "basic" economic possibilities of gold, production and supply, scales create a temporary "modifier" that adjust the basic economy up or down, and population determines a permanent "multipler" that will either grow or shrink the basic economy.

For example a profitable farmland province under high Order will hardly be affected by Productivity or Sloth scales, but can become a poor provider under Chaos, albeit only temporarily till the scales change again. On the other hand, Growth or Death scales will respectively increase or decrease the population, leaving a permanent impact even if the scales change later. A province with 0 population is effectively dead. It produces 0 gold and only 1-2 production points, offers minimal supply and will never grow again (unless there is a random event that new settlers migrate there). If a death scale becomes the predominant Dominion on the map, province ownership will slowly become economically irrelevant.

Tax and unrest is completely independent of terrain, but also has a huge inpact on gold. Taxation in a province is the only modifier that can be freely changed by the owner. But taxation affects unrest, so the players have heavy direct influence over unrest as well.

Effect of Growth and Death scales on population after a certain number of turns
Turns Death 3 Death 2 Death 1 Neutral Growth 1 Growth 2 Growth 3
10 94% 96% 98% 100% 102% 104% 106%
20 89% 92% 96% 100% 104% 108% 113%
30 83% 89% 94% 100% 106% 113% 120%
50 74% 82% 90% 100% 111% 122% 135%
100 55% 67% 82% 100% 122% 149% 182%
150 41% 55% 74% 100% 135% 182% 245%
200 30% 45% 67% 100% 149% 222% 331%

This table doesn't take into account natural nor conjured disasters nor the effects of pillaging and patrolling.

Site Likelihood[edit]

Magic sites are more likely to be found in some provinces and less likely to be found in others. Each site present in a province increases the likelihood of there being another, up to a maximum of 4 sites possible. Whether magic sites are plentiful or scarce is determined in the settings menu during game creation, with 40% considered "normal".

In general, Swamp and Waste have the highest probability of containing sites, Mountain and Forest terrain will contain more than average while Farmland will contain fewer. There is also a (map-designer-enabled) site variable called "many", which makes it more likely for magic sites to be present in a province.[1] See the exact chances under magic sites.

Gem Types[edit]

Terrain directly affects which sites can be found there. The vast majority of sites are split between land or sea (never both). Also there are far fewer sites that can only be found in one particular terrain (ie. some sites can only be found in swamp, waste, forest, mountain or deepsea). In this sense, terrain affects gem income. Additionally, the map designer can (but doesn't have to) optionally specify if a particular province should have sites tending towards a particular magic path.[2]

Thus if you are seeing a tendency of Nature sites showing up in forest provinces, this is either random chance, or the map designer has in fact done this. But any trend is not necessarily consistent between different maps. That said, the best map designs do tend to include this feature. So as you get used to playing your favorite map, it can be a good idea to pay attention to what gems sites are located where.

Combat Effects[edit]

Terrain Effect Counter
  • +2 encumbrance
  • -1 Attack Skill
  • -1 Defense Skill
Swamp Survival
Mountain Mountain Survival
Sea Aquatic, Amphibian
Deep Sea Aquatic, Amphibian
Fresh Water

Certain terrain types will adversely affect units if they do not have a countering property. For instance, units without the Swamp Survival skill suffer from increased endurance penalties when fighting in Swampy terrain.

  1. Dominions 3 Mapmaking Manual v3.22
  2. Dominions 3 Mapmaking Manual v3.22