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Kingdom» Forums » General

Subject: Share A Game: Kingdom rss

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Ben Robbins
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Share a Game is an RPG Geek initiative in which knowledgeable users volunteer to spend a week hosting a thread about a particular game and answer any questions about that game. This thread will have a week in the spotlight, but will always remain active if you stumble across it later.

For more information, including volunteering to host a game yourself, or to request a particular game that you would like to know more about, see the wiki page: Share a Game. And in order to receive notifications when new threads are posted, subscribe to the GeekList: Share a Game



A while back I did a Share A Game thread for Microscope and I've been graciously allowed to come back to talk about my new game, Kingdom.




KINGDOMS ARE ALL AROUND US

Kingdom is about being part of a community. How we try to make the groups we belong to be what we want, but at the same time they pressure us to do what they want.

The question becomes: do we change the Kingdom or does the Kingdom change us?

Your "kingdom" can be any kind of organization, community or group. It can be a city, a hospital, a motorcycle gang or a colony ship hurtling through the void. We sit down and make the Kingdom together and then we each make a character who is part of the Kingdom, who cares about the Kingdom and shares its fate.

As we play we see how the Kingdom deals with the Crossroads that confront it: the important decisions the Kingdom must make that may change it forever. What do our characters do to make the Kingdom be what they want? What do they do when the Kingdom puts pressure on them to do things they hate? Play and find out.

It's GMless and no prep.


POWER / PERSPECTIVE / TOUCHSTONE

The Kingdom ties the characters together but it's the characters who decide how to push the Kingdom (and each other). Each of our character's place in the Kingdom is defined by one of three Roles:

Perspective characters understand the Kingdom, both its merits and flaws. They can foresee the consequences of decisions the Kingdom makes. Touchstone characters reflect the desires of the people of the Kingdom. As soon as a Touchstone character expresses an attitude or opinion about we know that is what the populace feels. And then there's Power. Power characters are in charge. They decide what the Kingdom does.

Each Role doesn't just change what the character can do, it changes how the player is allowed to play the game. So when your character has Perspective you follow totally different rules than if you had Power or Touchstone and vice versa.

Quote:
Our Kingdom is the nuclear ballistic missile submarine the USS Carnegie. A player introduces the next Crossroad "will the submarine surface and call for help?" The Carnegie is suffering mechanical problems but its mission orders are for silent running. The XO has Perspective and he's sure that if they don't surface they'll drift into hostile waters. The character doesn't want it to be true but the player wants to turn up the heat, so he uses his Perspective to makes that prediction. It's now a fact.

The Chief Engineer says hogwash, the repairs are manageable, they won't drift. Surfacing now would just be panicking. But he's Touchstone not Perspective so whether the characters know it or not, all the players know the XO is right, the Chief is wrong. But because the Chief is Touchstone we know that the crew think the same way he does: they don't want to surface and they think surfacing would be an act of cowardice.

The Captain? Yeah, he's Power. After hearing the consequences and what the crew thinks, in the end he's going to get to decide what the Carnegie does. But a lot can happen before the Crossroad is resolved...



BRICK ON TOP OF BRICK

Pretty simple, right? Only three Roles. But those three building blocks can be combined in very complex ways.

First, your Role isn't set in stone. If you want a different voice in the Kingdom or it feels like your character's life has changed, you can change your Role to match.

And even though each character only has one Role at a time, there's no limit on the combination of Roles at the table. If there are four players, three might have Power, the fourth have Perspective, and no one have Touchstone.

Don't like what another character is doing to the Kingdom with their Role? Challenge them and take their Role away. Don't like that Power is committing the Kingdom to a futile war or how Touchstone is showing the citizens to be selfish cowards? Step up and stop them. But be warned: no matter what happens that player is still has a voice in the game. If you take away their Role they pick another. When the mob storms the castle and overthrows the tyrant and throw him in the dungeon (taking away his Power) he can bitterly gnash his teeth about the dark future in store for the realm at the hands of these fools! (switching to Perspective and predicting the consequences)

When there's a vacuum and no one has a particular Role, that facet of the Kingdom is adrift and unpredictable. For example if no one has Touchstone we don't know what the people of the Kingdom want -- the people probably don't even know what they want. Their reactions are unpredictable and often destructive. A Kingdom where no one has Power is like a ship without a rudder. No one can make decisions and nothing gets done. Want to fix it? Step up and take that Role. Or talk someone else into doing it.


DOES IT BURN DOWN OR WHAT?

All this fussing and fighting can push your Kingdom into a Crisis. The Crisis can destroy the Kingdom and end the game. Characters can try to save the Kingdom, help bring it down if they've grown to hate it, or run for their lives in a last attempt to be free of the Kingdom and escape whatever fate awaits it.


YOUR OWN WORST ENEMY

One of the fun things about the game is that because of the way the rules work you can merrily push for things that your character hates but which you think are good drama. Introduce Crossroads or make predictions that your own character doesn't want to come true. Be a terrible tyrant and dare other players to depose you, just to see what it takes for their characters to step up.


QUICKSTART SEEDS

The game is designed so that you can sit down and build your Kingdom from scratch, but the book includes a bunch of playsets so you can just grab one if you need inspiration or you want to get started faster. Play anything from a Wild West town, human partisans fighting alien invaders to a newspaper struggling to stay relevent in the digital age.


There's a lot more information, including a bunch of example Kingdoms, on the kickstarter page.

Ask me all the questions!
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Thanks for reviving Share a Game!

The roles of characters seem crucial to how this game plays out. You mentioned how you can change the role you take. Does that happen within a scene (possibly allowing one player to shift through several roles) or do you have to wait until the action has moved on (restricting your role to whatever choice you make at the start of a particular scene)?

You've touched on how the game certainly works with more than three players. Clearly for this kind of collaborative process, playing solo is out of the question. But how well does it work with two players, when you are forced to have at least one of the roles missing from every scene?

Microscope allows for jumping around a timeline (zooming in on areas of interest in any order). Does Kingdom do the same, or is it played out sequentially?
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Absolutely! The Roles are crucial to the game. You can change during any scene you're in (with a few constraints) but you also have the opportunity to change Roles while the Crossroad is being resolved. Crossroad resolution is a multiple step process where we see play through vignettes and see how all the action feeding into the Crossroad comes to a head and gets decided. It's when we finally see what the Kingdom decides to do. If characters don't like the way things are turning out this is their last chance to step up and do something about it, usually by changing their Role or challenging someone else.

There have been a surprising number of people interested in 2-player Kingdom. Originally I assumed it would just be a bad fit (for a variety of reasons) but I'm going to give it another look and see if there would be ways to do it. I've never actually tried to play it with two people so first I'm going to give it a shot. When I designed Microscope I didn't originally think it would work 2-player either but that actually works great.

And no, no defying time and space in Kingdom! But you can play games that cover large chunks of time, even generations of characters who are all part of the same Kingdom. There's a mechanism for having interludes, breaks in the action, where we see the characters reflect and live their lives in the calm between the storms. By default those interludes are a few months long but you can choose to make them be years, decades or centuries instead.
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Thanks for coming by to do this!!! I backed this project right away and am really excited about it.

I'm sensing that the split of narrative authority through the three roles is itself the resolution system, with the Touchstone and Perspective characters essentially defining the stakes and the Power character making the final call. Is that an accurate description? I take it there is no randomizer?

That seems like a really clever way to resolve crises. But how do you come up with them in the first place? Is it collaborative, or does it emphasize individual contributions, like Microscope does? Are they defined during setup or through the flow of play?

You mention that one of the fun parts of games is introducing elements that can cause trouble for your character. I like to play this way, but I know a number of people who prefer to stay more in the actor stance and work in the best interests of their character. Do all the players in a game of Kingdom need to have an eye on the larger narrative and be willing to introduce complications, or can some take a more traditional approach?

Thanks again!
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Marshall Miller
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Ben, this just sounds like a really cool game. I'm excited.
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Huge fan of Microscope Ben, so thank-you for taking the time to outline Kingdom for us. I'm very excited to get my hands on a copy.

Can you expand a bit on the interaction between multiple iterations of the same Role? To use your example, the Chief Engineer thinks the repairs are manageable. He's wrong, but because he's Touchstone the crew have taken his side. What if we have another Touchstone character? Is that character tied into the opinion of the Chief, or if they disagree is that just a sign of divided opinion among the crew?

Can you also talk a little about incorporating Kingdom into Microscope. Would you pause the Microscope and 'zoom in' to examine a Kingdom that's just been created, using the outcome of the Kingdom game to decide what happens in Microscope? Or would you wait until the end of the Microscope game to examine Kingdoms in detail? Or something else?

How much physical stuff is required? It sounds a lot less component driven than Microscope, and I'm thinking here of index cards. If there's no need to spread out a tableau of cards I'll add another voice in favour of two-player Kingdom - potentially my new train journey game of choice!
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Does the Power player have any constraints regarding his decisions? Do Touchstone or Perspective have influence on these decisions?

And thanks for Microscope, by the way
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Mease19 wrote:
Ben, this just sounds like a really cool game. I'm excited.

Thanks, Marshall!

thecameronin wrote:
Can you expand a bit on the interaction between multiple iterations of the same Role? ... What if we have another Touchstone character? Is that character tied into the opinion of the Chief, or if they disagree is that just a sign of divided opinion among the crew?

Yep, contradictory Touchstones are a sign of division, which in turn hurts the Kingdom and moves closer to Crisis (and possible destruction). One Touchstone doesn't dictate what the other can do.

Disagreement works differently for each Role, but in the end you can always go to the extreme and decide to kick your rival out of their Role.

thecameronin wrote:
Can you also talk a little about incorporating Kingdom into Microscope. Would you pause the Microscope and 'zoom in' to examine a Kingdom that's just been created, using the outcome of the Kingdom game to decide what happens in Microscope?

I'm going to cover this in a section of the book but generally I'd recommend doing them as separate sessions: playing a Microscope game and then sitting down to play a Kingdom within that setting. Or doing the reverse, playing Kingdom and then using Microscope to explore the past or future (or both). I think that would be more fun that switching midstream. Kingdom definitely builds momentum as you play, so if you only did one Crossroad for example and then went back to Microscope you might cut off the action just as it was heating up.

thecameronin wrote:
How much physical stuff is required? It sounds a lot less component driven than Microscope, and I'm thinking here of index cards.

One hundred cubits of finest cedar! Index cards also work.

There are only three index cards on the table at all times, there's a sheet of paper with details about the Kingdom itself and then there are half-page character sheets that also double as name stands. There are also cheat sheets for each Role which also act as stands to show other players what your current Role is. You can see the table layout in some of the pictures in the kickstarter video, but some of those are from earlier in the playtest. I'll see if I can find a good example and post it here.
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schizoid wrote:
Does the Power player have any constraints regarding his decisions? Do Touchstone or Perspective have influence on these decisions?

That's a more complicated question than it sounds. The simple answer is no. Power can decide the Crossroad however it wants (well, pick either yes or no). But more realistically Power is constrained by the facts that Perspective and Touchstone have established. The whole Kingdom has to live with those consequences.

And just like in any community, if you go too far people aren't going to stand for it. Abuse any Role and someone is going to take it away from you. Or destroy the whole Kingdom to stop you.

But before that, there's a smaller step where a character can Intervene to stop a particular thing that another player has established with their Role (you predict we'll run out of food, so I intervene and prepare lots of supplies to avert that prediction). Intervening is usually the first step, but if it fails -- and the player being countered is the one who decides if it succeeds -- you can escalate to take away their Role. So when someone moves against you, do you give them what they want or block and risk them escalating and overthrowing you? Both sides have to weigh how important it is to them and how far they're willing to go.

In a way you could say that one of Power's priorities is to keep the Kingdom intact because the Kingdom is what gives them their authority. If the Kingdom didn't exist, what would they be in charge of?
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vestige wrote:
I'm sensing that the split of narrative authority through the three roles is itself the resolution system, with the Touchstone and Perspective characters essentially defining the stakes and the Power character making the final call. Is that an accurate description? I take it there is no randomizer?

It's more like how the trouble gets started. When the Crossroad is first introduced you really don't know it's full meaning or impact. The unique contributions of each Role set the stage for the characters deciding how far to go. They're really making it clear where the conflict is and why.

There are no dice or anything like that, but as always I find the biggest randomizer in the universe is another person's brain.

vestige wrote:
But how do you come up with them in the first place? Is it collaborative, or does it emphasize individual contributions, like Microscope does? Are they defined during setup or through the flow of play?

Each player takes a turn introducing a Crossroad and then you play through and resolve it before introducing another Crossroad. Each Crossroad is like a chapter of your game. Just like a Focus in Microscope, when it's your turn to make the Crossroad you have a lot of power to decide what you want to explore, but unlike Microscope you're encouraged to double-check with the other players to make sure the Crossroad is something everyone is interested in.

The Crossroads are made up on the fly, but when the players are making their Kingdom together they brainstorm threats to the Kingdom. That discussion, combined with the wish or fear each player picked for their characters, sparks a lot of Crossroads. Later Crossroads build heavily on what happened in previous Crossroads.

vestige wrote:
You mention that one of the fun parts of games is introducing elements that can cause trouble for your character. I like to play this way, but I know a number of people who prefer to stay more in the actor stance and work in the best interests of their character. Do all the players in a game of Kingdom need to have an eye on the larger narrative and be willing to introduce complications, or can some take a more traditional approach?

A mix works great. But even if everyone plays in-line with their character's desires there are destabilizing factors built into the design that still provoke drama. Characters are not allowed to start off with matching wishes/fears about the Kingdom's future, so there are seeds of disagreement from the start. And each Crossroad introduces a Side-Effect, something that will personally impact one character and pushes them to do something they normally wouldn't want to do. So perfect harmony tends to get messed up before too long.

Different Roles also have very different levels of "meta". For example Perspective characters see the truth but of course they aren't making it true: the player is deciding what's true, the character just sees it. Compare that to a much more straight role like Power: everything that Power can do is being done by the character. As a player you can choose to have your character make strange choices but they are always your character's actions.
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One thing I'm not sure I made clear, but which is pretty essential to the game, is that when you challenge another character's Role and take it away from them you have to step in and take that Role yourself. You can only prove someone doesn't have Perspective by showing that you have Perspective instead. Only by taking Power can you overthrow someone else's Power, etc. So even in your moment of victory you have to leave behind whatever life you had in your old Role. There's no escaping that trade-off.
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Ben Robbins wrote:
Only by taking Power can you overthrow someone else's Power, etc. So even in your moment of victory you have to leave behind whatever life you had in your old Role. There's no escaping that trade-off.


Does this involve a change of character (will I be playing a different character and leave my old character behind) or is this always a "grab for power away from POWER" for my own character?

Is it even possible to change characters inside the game?

Thanks,
Olav
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olav.mueller wrote:
Ben Robbins wrote:
Only by taking Power can you overthrow someone else's Power, etc. So even in your moment of victory you have to leave behind whatever life you had in your old Role. There's no escaping that trade-off.


Does this involve a change of character (will I be playing a different character and leave my old character behind) or is this always a "grab for power away from POWER" for my own character?

Is it even possible to change characters inside the game?

Thanks,
Olav

Nope, you remain the same character, but your role in the Kingdom has changed irrevocably. The King resigns their Power to the Chancellor who's pulling their strings, the scholar loses their Perspective as they become involved in the plight of the Kingdom's people, the priest is no longer a Touchstone as they delve into intensive study of the coming crossroads.

The one way you can change characters is by retiring a character--which usually happens during a Crisis, when your old character flees the Kingdom or dies.
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Is it playable by 2?
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Jux_ wrote:
Is it playable by 2?

I had my doubts but it turned out great. Here's the game report:

Thanks for Visiting Pine Bend (Two-Player Kingdom)

The book includes some (very small) modifications to the scene order that you should use for two-player games.
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