Kingdom: Fear and Loathing in Emporopolis (Updated June 20, 2013)
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    Feb 2004
    Corvallis, Oregon, United States

    Kingdom: Fear and Loathing in Emporopolis (Updated June 20, 2013)

    So my group and I have been playing a FATE game in a sword & sorcery setting, a decadent Byzantine Empire-like analogue. Magic involves working with spirits, who are at best alien and uncanny, at worst... let's not go there, and none of whom are nice. There are two forms of it: Sorcery, in which one makes an actual pact with a single spirit. This gives great power, but it is limited to the spirit's sphere of influence. Then there's Wizardry, which involves stealthily siphoning off power from the spirit of your choice. It's weaker but much more flexible. It's theoretically possible to be both a wizard and a sorcerer, but the investment of time (and game resources) is prohibitive.

    The official religion of the Chrysian Empire is the Church of the Logos, which forbids sorcery and grudgingly permits wizardry. But many noble houses dabble in sorcery sub rosa because it's so useful, and many people still clandestinely worship the spirits. To them, sorcerers are religious figures, though not ones you'd want your daughter to marry; and wizards are scum you tell stories about to scare your children. (To those who aren't particularly religious either way - which is most people - magic's just a trade, though possibly an illegal one, like smuggling.) The Logites have a branch called the Graycloaks, wizards whose job is to ferret out sorcerers.

    That's not precisely the game I'm posting about today, though! (I may at some point.) Instead, I'm posting about a game of Kingdom we played to establish the past history of the campaign city, the trade center of Emporopolis, jewel of the Western Provinces! Set 300 years before the FATE game, a civil war in the capital far to the east withdrew the legions from the west and left them to fend for themselves. They've grown used to self-government, but now the civil war is over, the winning Great House has established the Church as the official religion, and the Empire is looking west once more.

    (Full disclosure: We were playtesters of Kingdom, a new game by Ben Robbins, the creator of Microscope. If you're interested, it has a Kickstarter here. And yes, I'm authorized to post on the game now.)

    The characters were:

    Governor Milos: The ostensible ruler of Emporopolis, sometimes known as 'Milos the Mild'. A compromise candidate of the various noble houses in town, Milos is the consummate politician, juggling the needs and desires of disparate factions. He's begun to worry that he won't be able to keep all the balls in the air much longer, and so he's begun to be a bit indecisive - if he stalls long enough, maybe the problems will go away. (This is his Issue - when he wants to make things happen in the game, he'll have to pay a Price related to this.) He also fancies himself a great 'Man of the People', which for him mainly consists of walking a block out of the Noble Quarter to the Golden Goblet, an upscale tavern where he can hobnob with fabulously rich merchants and other common folk.

    Milos' Role at the beginning of the game was Perspective. That means he understands his city and can predict the consequences of the decisions that are made. His greatest Wish is for the city to be peacefully re-annexed to the Empire. He Needs advice from Fylakas, though he doesn't fully know why.

    Fylakas Ekbiasmos: A shopkeeper of ample but not excessive means, Fylakas is openly known as a sorcerer - though not everyone knows he's a sorcerer of Shaprenka, the Demon God of Secrets. He is not openly known as the man who holds the entire power structure of the city under his thumb... Using his power of Secrets, Fylakas has dirt on everybody who's anybody, and on plenty of people who aren't. He pulls a string here, a string there, to make the city dance as he pleases... The lucky ones are the people who don't know how that drably dressed man made it into the Golden Goblet. They still have their illusions. (Milos is one of these, though he goes so far to consider Fylakas a friend with valuable advice.)

    Fylakas has an apprentice (his Issue), a brash and ambitious 16 year old named Mathitis, an orphan whom he plucked off the streets. It's kind of par for the course in the Secrets trade that master and apprentice will affectionately plot against each other for fun and profit (the group jokingly described them as 'a friendly version of the Sith'!) but Mathitis has come to resent the limitations of his apprenticeship and might just try to take things to the next level.

    Fylakas' Role at the beginning of the game was Power, which means he's the one who calls the shots and ultimately decides what will be done. His great Fear is that the Church of the Logos will become powerful enough in town to persecute sorcerers. He Needs sorcerous reagents from Kerdizo, who is the sole supplier of some crucial ones in town.

    Kerdizo Kerma: One of those aforementioned fabulously rich merchants who frequent the Golden Goblet. Kerdizo's trade empire spans the entire known world; if you want it, he can get it for you for a price - if he doesn't have it already. He's head of the Merchant Guild in town and so is reluctantly involved in politics. Kerdizo's a fundamentally honest man who's had to do some things he's not very proud of to make it to the top, and he's worried about losing his integrity. (This is his Issue.)

    Kerdizo has a trophy wife and some kids who don't exactly excite him as heir material. He got married because marriage is what you do. Mortality and a growing dissatisfaction with life have begun to strive for his notice. He's done it all in the merchanting biz... is this all there is?

    A master of trade in a city obsessed with it, Kerdizo began the game with the Role of Touchstone - he reflects (and his player determines) the reaction of the masses to what goes on. His greatest Fear is that trade will be disrupted, and he accordingly Needs Milos to maintain stability, or at least the successful illusion of it.

    (Milos was played by our usual GM, the inveterate and inimitable SuentisPo. Kingdom's a GM-less and zero-prep game, though, so he was on a par with everyone else this time. I played Fylakas, while JoJoz played Kerdizo.)

    When the game began, we determined that Emporopolis faced three major Threats:

    * The resurgent Empire in the east. They can't be happy to have lost their western provinces, and Emporopolis above all.

    * Religious conflict between Spiritists and Logites. All the major spirits have temples in town, and there are scores if not hundreds of minor shrines as well. But there is also a mid-sized temple of the Logos, and under their new Hierophant they're beginning to feel strong enough to openly express their disapproval of idol worship, loose morals, and black magic.

    * Maldark, a sorcerer of foreign extraction and blackest (and bloodiest) of reputation who has recently made a successful play to take over the powerful Thieves' Guild. Whatever he plans to do with it, it certainly cannot be good.

    SuentisPo went first. He described how the city was in an uproar over the bloody murder of a minor noble, Sparthios Spitha, along with his entire family. ('Sparthios' is the lowest rank of nobility, it isn't inheritable.) And he laid out the question: Will Emporopolis declare martial law against the Thieves' Guild? This was the game's first Crossroad, the first decision point that would determine the city's future...
    Last edited by The Shadow; Friday, 21st June, 2013 at 05:46 AM.

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