National Thrones changes the game in a way that affects all players and could very well exist in the base game. With this mod in its lvl1 EA version, all level 1 thrones are replaced by the capital cities of the EA nations that aren't being played this game! As soon as you take control of such a throne, called a National Throne, you have the means to access the entire content of this nation in addition to yours, including national spells, summons and items. Although the base idea of this mod is very simple, using it correctly requires to understand a few more things about the way it works. That's why I wrote a detailed Q&A in the description section. I advise everyone interested in this mod to take a look at it!
Q: What is the intended way to use this mod?
A: First, all players decide what nations they'll play. Then, the game host decides of which unplayed nations will be potential thrones in this game, and whether there will be other non-national level 3 thrones or not.
Once this is done, it is time to enable National Thrones mods. Yes, National Thrones is actually several mods rather than just one! The first one is a bit special: called National Thrones lvl1 CLEAR, it just removes all classic level 1 thrones from the game. Enabling it is not necessary to play with National Thrones, but it is highly recommended because National Thrones are very powerful and wouldn't be balanced in a game where they're mixed with other level 1 thrones.
In any case, if you want to enable National Thrones CLEAR, you have to do it before enabling other National Thrones mods! Each of those actually adds to the game a National Throne representing a different nation; for example, the first of them is called National Thrones lvl1 - EA Arcoscephale A and enables EA Arcoscephale as a nation accessible to the player that controls its throne. But if you enable them before National Thrones CLEAR, then they will be cleared too and won't appear.
Once all mods are enabled, the game can be created as usual. During this process, you can either select exactly as many level 1 thrones as National Thrones you enabled, or less. If you select less, then only some of the National Thrones you enabled will actually be in the game, and they'll be choosen randomly as usual. In any case, don't select more level 1 thrones than the number of National Thrones you enabled: if you enabled National Thrones CLEAR, since there wouldn't be enough level 1 thrones to fill the game requirements, it could cause the game to crash! At this point, you can also if you want add some level 3 thrones to the game. Those will be the same as usual, and will be mixed with National Thrones. National Thrones give more powerful effects to their controllers, but they only grant 1 point of ascension each, so this is supposed to be more or less balanced, especially since National Thrones are very well defended by independents, even though they are technically level 1.
Once the game has started, players will compete as usual for the control of each throne. When a player takes a province with a National Throne, he has access to 3 very basic units of the corresponding nation, as well as the base scout and base commander from this nation. But it doesn't stop here! If the player claims the throne, he gets access to many more troups and at least one low level mage from the nation, as well as more commanders most of the time. And is that all? No! Once a National Throne is claimed, and only then, its controller can cast for free a special ritual (that can be found in Thaumaturgy level 0) that will unlock a sacred hidden site of the throne's nation. If he does so, he will get many gems each turn, as well as the access to all the missing units and commanders from this nation, including its sacred troups and best mages! Also, this site is absolutely required to cast the national spells from this nation.
The rest of the game is as usual. However, there are several small details that were'nt told above. That's why I'll answer a few more questions below.
Q: Do I have to use National Thrones in the intended way?
A: Of course not! Do what you want with it! For example, you could totally use it to create a game with 15 different EA R'lyeh thrones. However, there are some technical limitations that make some steps of the above process preferable for practical reasons, as will be explained below.
Q: Is it possible to play a nation that's already represented by a National Throne in the game?
A: No. When you enable a nation as a National Throne, it immediately becomes impossible for players to pick this nation as their main one in this game. There are two reasons to this.
First, it is more fun and balanced: if it didn't go that way, then you could be unlucky and fight for a throne that actually gives you nothing, since you already are the nation it grants access to.
The second reason is a technical one: National Thrones mods modify some important parts of the nations they're about, so that these nations can be used by all players provided they have the right thrones. If these nations stayed playable while their National Throne is enabled, then their gameplay would change in weird and unpleasant ways.
Q: Why is there a letter after each National Thrones mod's name?
A: This is needed because there is an important rule when enabling National Thrones mods: never enable two with the same letter-code in the same game. Those are not compatible with each other. For example, don't enable both EA Arcoscephale A and EA Berytos A. Instead, enable EA Arcoscephale A and EA Berytos H. This also explains why some nations exist in several versions in National Thrones: for compatibility.
Q: Why didn't you just make all National Thrones compatible with each other instead?
A: Here's the short answer: for technical reasons, it seemed to me that this cannot be done. Maybe I'm wrong, though. If you find the solution to this problem, I'd be happy to improve National Thrones.
Q: But I want the long answer!
A: Here it is, then. In a National Thrones mod, the letter-code indicates which level 1 throne from the base game is replaced by the mod. Since there are exactly 23 level 1 thrones in the base game, there are only 23 letters for National Thrones mods, ranging from A to W. For this reason, it wouldn't make sense to create a National Thrones mod with the letter code X, Y or Z: these letters couldn't be associated to a level 1 throne from the base game to replace.
Q: Why didn't you simply create new thrones, rather than replacing the old ones?
A: I tried, but they wouldn't show up in the game. Maybe I'm wrong, but at this point I believe that the only way to add new thrones to the game through modding is to actually replace the old ones.
Q: Let's talk about balance, now. Isn't it weird for a National Throne to be just level 1? They're more powerful than that, and they need to be heavily defended by independents!
A: It is only weird as long as the classic level 1 thrones from the base game are there. If you remove them, and if therefore all level 1 thrones have the same powerlevel as National Thrones, then it is no longer weird. "Level 1 throne" doesn't mean "weak throne" anymore, instead it just means "throne giving 1 ascension point". Also, National Thrones are more heavily defended than classic level 1 thrones. Please tell me how I should tweak their defenses!
Q: What if the player that controls a National Throne creates the hidden sacred site of the throne's nation, and then looses the throne to another player?
A: Then, since the hidden sacred site is still there, the second player will be able to recruit the best units of the throne's nation without even claiming it. However, there's a way to avoid that. In addition to the spell that can create this hidden site, there's also a spell of equal level, school and path that can destroy it. So, if you think that you're about to loose your National Throne, don't give your opponent an advantage: sabotage your throne, and make it necessary to claim it, then recruit a foreign mage, and then use this mage to retreive the hidden site. These 3 additional turns can make all the difference in your war!
Q: Why isn't there an option to use National Thrones with level 2 or 3 thrones?
A: There are two reasons. Alone, they're not quite enough, but together they give a good explanation of this fact.
The first reason is a reason of balance. I don't see why you would need National Thrones level 2 or 3, except to have more than 23 National Thrones in the same game (which is kind of a good reason, but a very situational one). If you want to use non National Thrones along with National Thrones, then these classic thrones must be level 3 and these National Thrones must grant just 1 ascension point each; otherwise, the game would be extremely unbalanced. For this reason, I don't think that level 2 or 3 National Thrones are useful.
The second reason is a practical one. Creating level 2 or 3 National Thrones is technically feasible, but creating this mod was a VERY tedious task. I had to do a lot of uninteresting work to get this result, for example spending literal hours copying specific numbers that must be changed depending on the letter-code of the National Thrones mod. Creating level 2 or 3 National Thrones would require to do it again. Unless there's a very good incentive to do so, I don't think I will any time soon. So, combined with the first reason, this one explains why I stopped there: there's no good incentive to do this hard work right now.
However, it is good to know that I wrote my mods in such a way that level 2 or 3 thrones could be created one day (and I don't even have to be the one to do it, but who knows? Maybe I'll do.); that's why, for example, they all bear "lvl1" in their name. If it was certain that there never would be level 2 or 3 thrones mods, then this would be useless. I made it so because I want to let this door open in the future.
Q: I think that playing with National Thrones and level 3 classic Thrones in the same game is not balanced at all.
A: You're probably right. What I actually meant is that the situation with level 1 or 2 classic thrones is a lot worse and in a much more obvious manner. Level 3 thrones' equality with National Thrones is more debattable.
Q: Why are the EA nations the only ones available with National Thrones?
A: I started with the EA nations because they inspired me the most for this mod and because I think that this age is very popular, even though MA is too. Since creating National Thrones mods is a very tedious and uncreative task (as explained in the answer to the question on level 2 and 3 National Thrones), I stopped there for now. However, if people seem to like this mod and ask for more, I will probably make MA or even LA versions of it.
However, note that you can use EA National Thrones in games of any age. Maybe you'd like to recover the old ruins of Therodos as LA Arcoscephale? Who knows, the possibilities are limitless!
Q: What is this "National Thrones Additional Versions" folder in my download?
A: The basic National Thrones package contains one mod for each EA nation from Arcoscephale to Ur, each with a different letter-code from A to W, and 3 mods for each of the missing nations, that is to say Berytos, Xibalba, Atlantis, R'lyeh, Pelagia, Oceania and Therodos. To improve compatibility between National Thrones mods, each of these three versions uses a different letter-code, but all these letter-codes are already used by the 23 first nations. This package is more than enough for most games, but it doesn't permit ALL possible combinations of National Thrones. If you want to enable A LOT of National Thrones or find yourself in the rare situation where it is impossible to enable the exact combination of National Thrones you want, the "National Thrones Additional Versions" folder enters into play.
This folder contains all the missing versions of Berytos, Xibalba, Atlantis, R'lyeh, Pelagia, Oceania and Therodos. In other words, if you take all the files this folder contains and put them in your mod folder with all other mods, then each of these nations will have 23 different versions, one for each letter-code. If I did my maths right, this is the minimal number of National Thrones mods to make all imaginable combinations possible.
Q: Why did you put these additional versions in this folder, and not with the others directly?
A: Because without them National Thrones is "just" a 45 mods compilation, while with them it explodes to 185.
I did name the files in such a way that National Thrones mods will always appear at the very end of the mods list, so that they never become a nuisance to the player.
However, there is another problem with that number. Dominions 4's interface can barely display all these mods in the list. If you have a few other mods, which is very probable and legitimate, then some of these 185 will not be displayed. Therefore, it is both annoying and useless to put them all in the basic package.
Instead, you have the option to directly pick what you need in the "Additional Versions" folder and put it with the rest of your mods. This way, you won't be drowned in useless mods, you'll only have what you need or want.
Q: I have other questions, suggestions, or helpful criticism!
A: Then I'll be extremely happy to read it! Just send me a message somewhere, and I'll improve this mod as much as I can following your feedback! After all, I'm pretty sure there's still a lot of room for improvement; I didn't test everything in the mod, and it is very possible that there still are some bugs in it.