User Summary/Game Materials:
Hidden Kingdom is an unusual & hard to find RPG from 1983. It seems to be an incredibly well researched effort to create a game that allows players to simulate life as a noble in Arthur's Britain. The game covers politics, war, economics, personal combat, romance, and more. Apparently this was the only game New Rules, Inc., ever produced.
Here's what the promotional material that comes with the game mentions:
Enter the world of HIDDEN KINGDOM...
A unique adventure game that combines the most exciting elements of three popular gaming systems: fantasy-role playing, historical simulation, and strategic conflict.
HIDDEN KINGDOM is set in the turbulent age of King Arthur -- a world rich in diversity and conflict. It is an age of passion, chivalry, and faith -- of heroes and schemers. There are skirmishes of vengeance and wars to unify the kingdom. Monsters stalk the hinterlands while Christians and Pagans vie for the hearts and souls of men! Sainthood and naked power walk side by side and the Code of Chivalry attempts to reconcile them both.
HIDDEN KINGDOM captures the noble ideals of Arthur, the legends and romance of Camelot, and the high adventure of the knights and ladies of the Round Table!
The game components are high quality (especially when considered in the context of the era) and consist of the following:
- Sturdy Three Ring Binder & Slip Cover
- Complete Rules & Reference Guide
- Character information on over 300 characters
- 5 Character information sheets
- 2-part color hex map of Arthur's Britain
- Basic charts folder (this item is essentially a folded up poster that has all the mostly commonly used game charts)
- Dice (two 6-sided, three 10-sided), and one each of 4, 8, 12, & 20-sided).
One of the unique features of this system is that it completely lacks character creation. Each player chooses one of the 300 or so nobles included with the game and plays that person. This means that it's possible to play some of the more famous Knights of Arthurian Legend (or someone much more obscure).
There are only a handful of characteristics...
- LB (Leadership Bonus): Important in Warfare
- SPR (Swordplay Roll): Ability to hit in personal combat
- OB (Offensive Bonus): Damage bonus in personal combat
- DB (Defensive Bonus): Ability to avoid damage in personal combat
- UN/JB: Unseating Bonus & Jousting Bonus: Used in determining a jousting outcome
The Alignment system in the game is also somewhat unusual. Characters are either Christian or Pagan with subdivisions of each of those two categories. These alignments affect how a character's Faith/Power & Chivalry ratings rise and fall... these ratings, in turn, influence how NPCs view the characters and can make certain tasks harder or easier to perform.
The game also has a somewhat unusual turn progression. The Game Guide (think GM) leads the players through these modes as the adventure progresses.
There are four game modes:
Mode 1 - Traveling
Mode 2 - Encounters
Mode 3 - "Sundries"
Mode 4 - Special
Traveling Mode involves simple moving from place to place. Any sort of impediment or event moves the game into Encounter Mode. The game includes an exhaustive series of tables to determine what sort of encounter happens (based on terrain and province). These can range from a classic damsel in distress scenario, to a monster attacks, to seeing a Black Knight riding in the distance. Mode 3 doesn't seem to have a proper name, but it usually flows as a response to what comes up in the Encounter Mode. This may involve personal combat, negotiating, fleeing, supernatural intervention, hiding, searching, etc. Mode 3 is also the mode where various other needs of the party are addressed (like eating). Mode 4 is reserved for a handful of special actions/events: Warfare, Tournaments, Adventures. An Adventure is a structured encounter involving the sort of activity that is classically associated with a D&D module: traveling to a remote area, overcoming obstacles/creatures, in order to return with a treasure/piece of information/important person. (The time intervals in these modes can be very flexible).
In addition to the stats for the various characters, the Appendices in the back of the book cover the twenty Kingdoms of the game, Heraldry (with images of various shields), and Magical Items. There's also a write-up of a sample play session.
Even leaving aside the game engine, this has a great deal of material useful for any game set during the Arthurian Era.