Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Kingdom RPG: On Fae and Samurai

My copy of Kingdom arrived in the mail a few days ago. I’m a huge fan of Microscope- both as a game as an rpg collaboration tool. Kingdom targets a facet of gaming I particularly love: communities and groups. Players create a community and play through the challenges facing it, called Crossroads. Kingdom's diceless system and collaborative resolution echoes Microscope’s play. As with Microscope I immediately began to think how this could be used to frame or support an rpg campaign. I think it can function more as an expander than a tool, an easy way to explore new areas within an existing setting.

"Kingdom Seeds" make up a little over a third of the core book. They offer an easily adaptable framework (a little like the series pitches from DramaSystem). A few offer fantastical settings, but often they’re more concrete and down to earth. Ben Robbins suggests players begin with the simple and more mundane. His previous advice regarding Microscope really helped game play, so I suspect he’s right about that. When I try Kingdom at the table I’ll begin with something less complex and better known to the player group. That being said I have several existing rpg worlds I’d like to try out Kingdom with, in particular Legend of the Five Rings, Changeling the Lost, Ars Magica, Earthdawn, and even Fading Suns. I know this would only really work with players familiar with the setting. So why do this? It offers a solid and game-able way to explore new facets of these worlds. The simple structure could be used to play a quick and novel game in the setting or look at an area further away. It could also be used as a starting point like Microscope. Imagine playing out the story of a Ars Magica Covenant in Winter and its history. Then players could make up characters for a new Spring Covenant coming in. The group effectively creates the backstory together. You could do that with Microscope, but Kingdom narrows the focus and concentrates on characters and issues of community.

Originally I’d thought to organize this arounda Court within a Freehold. Instead it makes more sense to have the Kingdom be the Freehold as a whole. Players can then have characters from different seasons- a high ranking Winter Lord versus a lowly Summer foot solider. It also means that the players can choose another Court alignment (as presented in Winter Masques). The shift of roles for the players can also represent the change of seasons. A Power who wishes to take on the Perspective role might describe the changing of the days and the shift in control. Players could frame challenges this way.

Our freehold lies in the city of (choose location). Our city has (but one freehold/another freehold in a different section). Currently the (No Court/One of the Courts) holds dominance over affairs. The Courts themselves (are at each other’s throats/stand apart/grudgingly accept the change of seasons/hold shared council). The Freehold is (bigger than it ought to be for a city this size/balanced and just right in size/unexpectedly tiny). The strictures and control of the Courts are (tight and controlling, affecting everyone’s lives/oppressive from time to time/organized but quiet/loose and often ignored). The protections of the Court mean that (Keepers have been forgotten/the others are rarely seen/we have to maintain our vigil/threats stalk us from every shadow).

  • Influx of New Changelings from a nearby destroyed Freehold
  • A Keeper breaches the Freeholds protections and sets up shop
  • Mortals discover and publish some of their secrets
  • The Black Market network’s raided by mortal authorities
  • Neighboring Freehold demands fealty
  • Some agitate for a new set of Courts
  • Bridge Burners begin to destroy Hedge Access
  • The number of vanishings continues to rise
  • Slavers roam the streets

  • The Goblin Market
  • An ancient Hollow
  • Wrecking Yard Token Vault
  • The Hedge Arena
  • The Trod Crossroads
  • The Wizened Brewer-run bar
  • The favored Dance club of the Spring Court
  • The Summer Court’s Underground Parking Garage
  • The abandoned strip mall of the Autumn Court
  • The night-time playground of the Winter Court
  • The basement which houses Radio Free Changeling

Obviously any kind of kith and seeming could work in this setting. Having a diversity of types will make the game stronger. They also offer some archetypes which everyone can work with and play against. A flip through the CtL core book and Lords of Summer will offer some ideas.
  • Power: The Winter Enforcer; the Benevolent prince of the Spring Court; The Manipulative Autumn Vizer; the Summer Lord of War.
  • Touchstone: The new arrival trying to find their way; the black market fixer who knows everyone; the tavernkeep who hears all the stories; the hedge scavenging street dweller.
  • Perspective: The Fairest advocate; the Truefriend Beast; the Darkling who hears the whispers of the dead; the Wizened Oracle

  • Do we take in the refugees or do we send them on their way?
  • Should the Freehold submit to the demands for fealty from our neighbors?
  • Should we connect the freehold to the criminal underground for survival?
  • Should we eliminate mortal witnesses or attempt to co-opt them?
  • Give the Keeper the sacrifices she demands?
  • Expand the reach of the Freehold?
  • Reorganize the Courts themselves?
  • Hunt down all of the fetches?
  • Send parties into the Hedge to affect rescues?
  • Overthrow the current Prince?

L5R offers a great and sweeping story. I’ve been running a community-based campaign using Fate. I can imagine running a Kingdom session with an existing family, a new family of a clan, or with a minor clan (new or old).

We are the (family name) of the (choose) Clan. While Rokugan has been (quiet and settled /seeing ripples of changes /suffering from unexpected events /in the midst of internal conflict /battling against external threats /in a time of chaos and disorder), our family has been (the same /quiet and settled /seeing ripples of changes /suffering from unexpected events /in the midst of internal conflict /battling against external threats /in a time of chaos and disorder). Our family is (small but ancient /tiny and relatively new /just right for our lands /too large for the region we have /expansive across our wide holdings). 

Our family is known for its adherence to the Bushido virtue of (Honesty and Justice /Polite Courtesy /Courage /Honor /Compassion /Sincerity /Duty and Loyalty). Historically our region has been known for its (Mines/Shrines/Forests/Fierce Warriors/Battle Against a Foe/Rivers and Lakes/Skill with Magic/Brilliant Courtiers/Secrecy/Brilliant Merchants/Choose other). Our daimyos have a reputation as (Scholarly /Drunken /Letcherous /Superstitious /Greedy /Obsessives /Moody /Kind-Hearted /Cruel /Choose other) men. Our hated foe and rival comes from (another Clan /the Shadowlands /Bandits /Bloodspeakers /Yobanjin /Ronin).

  • Imperial Inspection
  • Demands for levies
  • Bandit Raiders
  • Act of Embarrassment
  • Peasant Insurrection
  • Command to build a (dam/bridge/fortification) for the Hantei
  • Starvation
  • Monstrous Incursions
  • Enemy at the Court
  • Clan Rivals threat Invasion
  • Increased Taxation
  • Plague
  • Deadly Swordmaster Challenger

  • Tea House
  • Crossroads post
  • Daimyo’s Court
  • Entryway of an abandoned temple
  • Rice paddies
  • Mountainside Shrine
  • Local Monastery
  • Sake Works
  • Dojo Grounds
  • A Bridge at Night
  • Mill wheel
  • Local Geisha House

Hatamoto / General; Shireikan / Commander; Karo / Seneschal; Gokenin / Estate Manager; Kaishaku / Champion; Onibawan / Spy Master; Onmyoji / Spiritual Advisor; Takumi / Courtier; Yojimbo / Captain of the Honor Guard; Gaikoukan / Diplomat; Daishonin / Records Keeper; Sensei / Dojo Master; Meishou / Minister of Industries; Hangan / Magistrate; Saishu / Ceremonial Master; Eirinsho / Cartographer; Kaikeikan / Treasurer; Hitojichi / Honored Hostage; Haiguusha / Consort; Hakushi / Physician; Daimyo; Member of Daimyo’s Household; Wealthy Merchant; local Abbot; Ambitious Samurai or Ronin

  • Should we press the people or open the storehouses to complete the project demanded?
  • Should we murder the challenger killing our best samurai?
  • Should we strike back at the bandits in full force?
  • Should we hide our most skilled craftsmen from the Imperial levies?
  • Should we negotiate a marriage with our hated rivals?
  • Should we engage in smuggling to cover our taxation shortfall?
  • Should we put on a grand Winter Court to gain honor?
  • Should we kill our honored hostage for the recent affront?
  • Should we accept more ronin refugees?
  • Should we force the hand of family member who refused/demands to commit seppuku?

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