Monarchy Games at a Long Con
Background: The convention was a weekend-long one, MinnLoCo, in which we all played in the same group for the duration. There was a Blades in the Dark game, an orcs DramaSystem game, a Dread-themed one, a SCUP one, a Fall of Magic one, and I think another with a variety of games, and there was mine which were all in the theme of exploring monarchy using GM-less games.
Thinking: I decided to run three games together under the same theme and world and it worked out nicely. I considered what games I had access to which were in the same theme and settled on monarchy. I then choose three which I’d never played/facilitated to give me a challenge. (Note: I did watch YouTube videos for Questlandia, The King Is Dead, and For the Queen to help me to understand the rules in play.)
Description: Uneasy Lies the Head That Wears a Crown – Questlandia, The King Is Dead, For the Queen, and maybe also Kingdom) – We will play through a handful of GM-less indie RPGs that explore themes and stories about aspects of monarchy.
Overall, it went very well. We did not use Kingdom, which was fine as I have played that before and it has a fair amount of setup. As it was we didn’t have time to run all of the rounds in the Questlandia game by the convention’s end because we were enjoying the world-building and reincorporation and character discussions. I also feel like we had a great fit as a group and were comfortable using the X-Card and discussing things we liked and didn’t.
Session I: Questlandia, Part 1 – Worldbuilding and the shared creation of three Icons, who were maybe historical figures or fictional, but based on what would become a mythological foundation of the world. Our world was called ViikLoR and was a colonized planet on which the colonizers were unable to return from. There was a native population who were subjugated with the mech technology and polyamorous dueling culture. We went through setup and played one full round before stopping Friday night. War was the greatest Trouble for us and that carried through the rest of the weekend.
Session II: The King Is Dead – Saturday morning after breakfast, we reviewed what we’d done the prior night and what was next, which was to play in the same world using a new rule system to create something more like a history that we would think of with the Houses of ViikLoR instead of Banteave. We noted changes in the world and beliefs and norms through play in the new game. There were sections in The King Is Dead where the rules left us uncertain how to proceed, but we managed after a while. Some of this was from our space elements and such from the prior game. Some of it was from rules which were not clear to us. The Trials by Contest were the most confusing and we only played out two of them as separate events. One which resulted in an unexpected turn of events, suggesting that one of our Icons was now a kind of vengeful god-like psychic being that would threaten all. The Meeting Sword to Sword gave us an amazing fast-paced mech duel. There was going to be a War, but it quickly changed to Stealing Time Together, which I believe was our group’s favorite game to use in the system. I feel like The King Is Dead needs another pass of playtesting and editing before it’s “done” because of how much we struggled with the rules as written. It felt like a wonderful ashcan game. Otherwise, it was a great morning game that helped us to establish our world’s historical dynamics, building on the legends of the three founding Icons and continuing to show ViikLoR as a world in turmoil caught between the needs and desires of three cultures.
Session III: For the Queen – After Saturday’s lunch, we reviewed where we were, looked at the map, the relationship maps, the legends, and talked about our plans with the next game, For the Queen. This game focused an epic story of powers battling for control down to a mix of in- and out-of-character gossip and emotions focused around our characters’ relationships with the Queen, a descendant of the outside alien conqueror who took over in the previous game. We decided on one queen card based on our shared history and got to playing the game. Our group consisted of a cook, a bed-maker, a warrior, an opportunist, and a spy. We had two humans, one native, and two aliens in the group. Resentment, bigotry, machinations, and more came out before our queen was attacked.
Session IV: Questlandia, Part 2 – We picked up our last session on Sunday morning after breakfast. We had a lot to review and a short amount of time in which to play our final game, returning to Questlandia. We decided to play in a time two to three generations from the one used in For the Queen. We made many changes to our map and discussed a lot more in the features and norms about what to keep, change, or replace. We then created our individual characters and with the time remaining played one full round and an epilogue. We explored law, politics, workers’ rights, economics, back-channel politics, faith and religion, racism and classism, what it meant to be a citizen and the duty of a government, all culminating in a sneak attack and coup with a duel and change of power for the throne and its people of ViikLoR. Our epilogues included showing the triumphs and struggles of the new throne, the nobility, outside interference, the religion, and the search for the long lost library of an Icon in the holy mountains north of the royal city.
Closing: It would have been wonderful to have played more rounds with this game, but I feel we all ended the game, and the whole event with a shared enjoyment of what we created. I don’t know if this combination would work for all groups, however, based on the one experience with it, I believe that others could and should give it a go. If you do, please share your experience with me.
- Questlandia: Hannah Shaffer and Evan Rowland, Make Big Things, http://makebigthings.com/questlandia-rpg/
- The King Is Dead: Meguey & Vincent Baker, Lumpley Games, https://lumpley.itch.io/the-king-is-dead
- For the Queen: Alex Roberts, Evil Hat Productions, https://www.evilhat.com/home/for-the-queen/