Last night I finally got to have my playtest session for Kingdom, the hopefully soon-to-be released game by Ben Robbins. The game focuses on characters who have a vested interest in the fate of their greater community, the eponymous Kingdom. Within the game, the Kingdom can be any community in any genre the players want, provided that it has at least 10 times as many citizens/employess/members as there are players; there is no upper limit to the size of the Kingdom.
After some back and forth brainstorming, we ended up making our Kingdom the town of Lugnut, a “post-apocalyptic steampunk fantasy western frontier trading hub.” Imagine Bartertown with more bowler hats, six-shooters, and dwarves, and you’ve got the idea. Characters in the game have to have a vested interest in the Kingdom and a role that allows them some degree of influence over its course of action (though the role-playing justification for how that manifests can vary greatly).
The cast of characters and the roles they filled at the start:
- Chester Cornelius Chapman Esq., owner of the Rusted Wrench saloon; Power role
- Doc Seth Cross, gnome sawbones, scholar, and narcotics manufacturer; Perspective role
- Otis, minotaur greasemonkey, owner of junkyard/stable; Perspective role
- Silas Lang, one-armed sheriff; Power role
- Benjamin Von Dietfried, dwarf “bazaar barker” and fence; Touchstone role
The three roles dictate how a character fits into the Kingdom and give some mechanical reinforcement to that, and a character’s role can change through play. In brief, Power characters can take direct action through the community as a whole or its governing forces, Perspective characters can foresee the repercussions of the community’s actions and any predictions they make will most likely come true, and Touchstone characters understand the hearts and minds of the masses and can push the community toward a crisis if they don’t think the people like the way things are being run.
Roleplaying the community leaders of this ragtag outpost as they faced threats from a growing mutant-worshipping cult and internal political strife proved to be a great time. Probably the greatest moment came when the usually reticent Otis publicly confronted Benjamin, stealing his Touchstone role while simultaneously forcing the resolution of the “Crossroad” that Lugnut was then facing, a decision as to whether we should outlaw the Church of the Atom and drive the faithful into the wasteland. Otis managed to turn the town away from the church and riled up an angry mob to drive out the cult’s leaders, though in the process a lot of potentially useful old machinery got smashed to bits.
Bear in mind that this is a diceless, GM-less story game that demands a lot of on-the-spot creativity from all the players, so it’s not going to be everyone’s cup of tea. But if it that sort of play sounds interesting or you’re already playing similar games, I can’t recommend Kingdom enough. I will certainly be purchasing the final version as soon as it is released.