A large part of Dawntide revolves around PvP territorial claims and warfare known as conquest. Players are expected to construct settlements in areas with greater resources but also greater danger, staking their claim to the territory and establishing supply lines in order to best utilize the resources and minimize the danger. Other players are expected to lay siege to these settlements to contest their territorial claim as population density grows and average player power increases relative to the game’s glass ceiling.
War is declared in the faction diplomacy screen and requires no acceptance on the part of the attacked. Once a faction is attacked, it is given the option to call in its allies, and the two factions are immediately considered to be at war. Civilian and military NPCs will react differently during a time of war.
War allows you to freely attack the ships, buildings and members of the faction you are war with, and factions at war can fight even in safe areas, though if there are guards nearby they will still uphold the law and attack or arrest aggressors.
It is entirely possible to attack a faction's buildings and ships when not in a state of war, but this will have the consequence of allowing it to brand you an Enemy of that faction. Being branded an Enemy will have a number of consequences.
If you belong to a faction that is at war and leave that faction, you will automatically be branded an Enemy of all factions you were at war with – you cannot simply jump into a war and leave it at your leisure. Enemy status can be lifted by the faction that you hold the status with, or will go away on its own after a time depending on the severity of hostilities.
Territorial control in Dawntide is decided by who holds its military buildings (towers, castles etc) and as such any attempt to seize another faction's territory for your own faction will involve siege warfare. A faction that wishes to take a castle, for instance, must overcome several obstacles.
If the attackers make it past all these obstacles and reach the castle's flag, the flag will be hauled and replaced with the attacking faction's flag, a 24-hour countdown will start and a warning is sounded to the faction owning the castle. If the 24 hours go by without the castle's owners retaking the flag, the castle and all its attached territory, buildings and stored wares and resources immediately switches hands and becomes the property of the attacking faction.
However, if the owning faction manages to retake the castle, the 24-hour clock is stopped and a new 12-hour clock is started for the owning faction. From that point on, each faction's clock only counts down when they hold the castle, and whichever clock reaches zero first determines the new owner of the castle. This means that castle sieges are affairs that can go on for more than a day in real time, and will usually consist of a prolonged series of battles requiring a huge investment of resources on the attacker's part, discouraging the '2am attack' strategy commonly employed in games that feature territorial conquest.
National Territory is territory occupied by the racial NPC factions. As this is where players start, it is dominated both militarily and culturally by NPCs, and so non-consensual PvP is not possible, nor territorial claims or warfare.
Border Territory is strongly culturally dominated by the racial NPC factions, as well as loosely militarily dominated. It typically lies between Racial Territory and Lawless Territory and function as buffer areas, insulating the home regions from invasion.
Lawless Territory is entirely untouched by civilization. Most Lawless Territory is inhabited by disorganized tribes of monsters, or powerful loners, but few of them actually make the effort to hold territory permanently. NPC owned territory in Lawless Territory does exist, but it's rare, and can be conquered like any other lawless territory.
Before you begin to settle a territory, you should take some time to consider its defense. In Dawntide, the claim to territory belongs to the faction who settled it, but this claim is not indisuptable – factions can go to war with each other, and when they do, all territory owned by either faction is up for grabs.
While one can freely put down housing on unclaimed land, actually staking claim to territory must be done on behalf of a faction. Territorial claim is based around buildings that emit control spheres, called Fortifications, which expand as the source of the control sphere is improved, while overlapping control spheres will stack up. For instance, a Castle with a moat and enchanted walls will project a bigger control sphere than a basic Watch Tower.
The “base” control building for a given settlement is the Watch Tower, which can be upgraded and modified a number of times to an eventual full fledged Castle. It is the most defensible type of building currently planned and can house the biggest amount of NPC guards and defensive measures of any single building, but each settlement can only have one, and they are expensive in setup and maintenance both. Others include forward bases, barricades and so forth.