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

[If you haven't read the end of the game, go up two posts and read that first.]

I have to admit that at first, I was a little skeptical of Kingdom. How could a game with no GM and such simple rules generate fun gameplay and great stories? I was willing to try it, given how incredibly much fun I'd had with Microscope, but I had my doubts. (Microscope, it's true, also has no GM; but it also doesn't have PC's, while Kingdom does. It wasn't clear to me how that could work.)

I was also concerned that the out-of-character maneuvering would step on the in-character roleplaying. I don't much care for GNS terminology, but at least it's clear: I was concerned that the 'gamist' and 'narrativist' elements would not lie down together.

I was wrong on several counts. First off, it worked. It worked really, really well. We had a completely glorious time! In fact, rather than switching back immediately to our FATE game, we plan on playing another game of Kingdom on top of the previous one! JoJoz will continue playing Kerdizo as the new Lord Mayor; I will play Mathitis, and SuentisPo is still working out what he wants to play.

It's true, this game probably isn't for everybody - but it suited us down to the ground. Kingdom really rewards off-the-cuff creativity, taking on the roles of supporting characters at the drop of a hat, and thinking several steps ahead of where you're at.

In a word, it really rewards players who are GM's, or who can think like GM's. As it happens, all three of us have run games in the past, though SuentisPo has more experience than both of us others put together.

In fact, I wouldn't say so much that the game has no GM, as that all players are GM's. During your own scene, one you yourself have framed, you can introduce new fiction and new characters simply on your say-so. Abuse is curbed by the fact that everybody else has the same power - and, of course, by the group's social contract.

The rules may be simple, but they are cleverly and tightly designed to both drive conflict and encourage cooperation. The result is that kickass story just kind of happens, arising out of the interaction between players. It was weird to watch and to experience, but it worked.

The sort of player this game emphatically will not reward is the passive sort who sits there and takes direction from others. They'll get eaten alive. On the other hand, Kingdom might be just the thing to encourage them to come out of their shell!

The rules could be more clear in a few places, but hey, it was a playtest document; I'm sure the final version will be much improved. And none of us really had any idea how to play Touchstone properly until the game came to an end with SuentisPo having his sudden insight on how to use it.

We started out thinking that Touchstone was quite anemic compared to Perspective and Power, and found we were wrong. It's definitely the most subtle of the three Roles, though, and requires a deft touch. Basically, when Crisis hits - and we didn't really appreciate what Crisis could mean until we'd played it out a couple times - the Attitudes are almost the only guidance one has as to what it will be like. And given that Touchstone has more power than anyone else to decree when a Crisis will boil over, well, it's a potent combination. As the rules themselves say when describing the Role, "Moral of the story: Don't piss off the people!" (There's also some subtle aspects during Crossroad resolution that give Touchstone a considerable boost in the long run, but I don't want to go into that here. They were subtle enough that we didn't catch on to them until we'd actually played, though.)

For those least comfortable with the idea of a game like Kingdom, I suggest playing Power at first - it's the most straightforward and obvious Role. Perspective a couple shades less so. Touchstone considerably after that.

P.S. I should add that though for the vast majority of our first game there was one PC in each Role, it definitely doesn't have to be that way. The game has rules to accommodate multiple people in the same Role who disagree, and what happens when nobody holds one of the three Roles. In fact, the only restriction on who has what Role is that at the very beginning of the game, not everyone can have the same Role.

P.P.S. There's still a few days left in the Kickstarter!
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Two bits of news:

The Kickstarter just ended, at the pleasantly palindromic value of $30303. :) And 1113 backers - not bad!

And we just started our new game of Kingdom in Emporopolis tonight, getting halfway through the first Crossroad and with Crisis already on the verge of breaking out!

I could write it up if anyone's interested? We're trying to keep better records this time around, recording things on Google Drive as we go. (The original game was an in-person marathon session.)

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