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King for a Day» Forums » Reviews

Subject: King for a Day: Atmosphere and Suspense Infused Back into a Genre rss

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Mary FanGirl
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King for a Day: Atmosphere and Suspense Infused Back into a Genre

I was given a copy of King for a Day as a point "shut up" message from one of my more experienced gamers. It was directed at my often mentioned argument that of all of the games I frequently play or am game mistress of, Fantasy is the one that holds the least surprises for me and thus interest. It’s a provocative statement but one that I stand by because while there are exceptions most DM's live off of the creature stat books which, in my opinion, kills the suspense of the players and thus their characters. Non-suspense in a game, especially when fighting the unnatural, reduces even the finest game to a dungeon crawl. That is fair enough when simply dealing with goblinoids, simply use the pointy end, however if character sees a man-spider, even if the character has never seen one before, that character will be wary of its poison sting because the player intuitively knows it. People forget the suspense of dealing with the unknown, that visceral reaction when seeing the first chestbuster in Alien, the terror of not knowing what that is or what you can do to handle it. The key to atmosphere and the suspense in any genre is the unknown; in the perennial vampire hunter in Dracula, Abraham Van Helsing admits to more or less "winging it" in combating the titular vampire. After all, how suspenseful would it be if in dealing with such a creature, Van Helsing just reduced him to a list of weaknesses and strengths.

Does Jim Pinto's King for a Day shut me up regarding a suspenseful atmosphere in fantasy games? Absolutely.

I must admit that at first I was really apprehensive about reading King for a Day cover to cover. With over 300 pages, the sandbox campaign book is larger than some core rulebooks out there and usually something that big means reading about custom pantheons you don't care about, or magic spells, or items that you will never use. Instead you will find hundreds of useful detailed NPCs, incredibly detailed locations, and set-ups and hooks for a year's worth of adventures.

King for a Day focuses on the atmosphere of the campaign and details with setting and personalities that one expects from a horror game setting similar to Call of Cthulhu or the early days of The Old World of Darkness. Jim Pinto fills a fantasy world with the impeding horror that has been absent from the fantasy genre as if he used the Necronomicon to bring back Lovecraft and Howard to continue their partnership from the "Lovecraft Circle". It’s a truly interesting take on the fantasy genre with a setting that I could easily see in any world but one that is gaining more traction with Pathfinder's more pulp influence and the popularity of Game of Thrones.

If there is one thing I would ask for improvement on is while the book layout is easy and accessible, there is so much information with very little to break up that text visually. The art work is minimalistic but for the eerie setting it works, but still a little filler would be nice. However that is at best nit picking considering the length and vision of the work put into the setting and tone of this setting.
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Karl Larsson
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Added to my wishlist. I would love to see a more detailed review of this game.
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Felix Lastname
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Yea, me too (want to see a more detailed review).
I have it on my shelf, but this is a really intense book, with, as has been said, a lot of information. Daunting.

So, Mary Fangirl, could you relate your impressions regarding what system might work best with the setting as presented?
Or rather, which system might not work well with this at all?
You mentioned Pathfinder and GoT, but was that for thematic resonance only or actual gameplay as well?

To be less complicated, I'd love to run some Dungeon World, but is "King for a Day" in any sense a reasonable fit?
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Charles Dexter Ward
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You can easily fit it in any campaign. The setting is in a more or less secluded valley (though you could expand it if you like). There is a horror theme.

The NPCs don't have stats but have descriptions which allow you to rate the importance and most noticable characteristics of the NPC. In fact, I plan to use one of the "NPCs" (Lindisse) as a cornerstone of a new adventure. And that's just one NPC.

So even if you don't plan to run the scenario (and there are lots of storylines), it is a perfect book to own. Highly recommended.

And if you need specific information, let me know!

Disclaimer: I was a proofreader of the book.

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Mary FanGirl
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I have used it with Pathfinder myself but I can see it in any Fantasy system. Thematically I think you could even adapt it towards modern times with a bit of twecking. I don't think it would work well with setting that involve more flashy magic models but it is certainly open enough that a talented GM could try.
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Felix Lastname
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Now that I've been reading a bit, I think what I'll do is the following:

A Dungeon World conversion!
I will translate the Social Mechanics from K1D to Dungeon World, with the standard 10+/7-9/6- scaling, to replace the standard "Parley" move from DW. Then, I will go through the DW playbooks and adapt them a little, toning down silliness and magic (barbarian, druid), and maybe add some moves to each playbook that connect to/draw on these new social moves.

Reputation and Trust warrant some thought, because giving people +1 in DW is mighty indeed, so I am not sure about how to scale this.

If I get around to writing this up, I'll put it up both here and the DW subforum.
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