We're playing with a colony ship as our Kingdom. We're still years from the target system when we pick up the signal. Could this be first contact with an alien intelligence? Unfortunately, it's light years out of our way. This is our Crossroad: do we change course to investigate?
The colonists are excited even if it means abandoning our carefully calculated settlement plans. But by now all the players suspect that Captain Browning (ahem, *Acting* Captain Browning) cares more about looking like a good leader than being one. He's in charge and he wants to keep it that way. My character tells the Captain that the data's conclusive: the signal is definitely not natural. But she also mutters that if we're abandoning the plan and just making things up as we go along, pretty soon everyone is going to want a vote.
I'm Perspective so what I predict is true. A Touchstone character showed us what the people wanted. But the Captain has Power. He decides what we do. And I just told him that if he does what the people want his precious authority is going to be a thing of the past.
Captain Browning carefully straightens his uniform, then flips the switch to make a ship-wide address…
A secret school for wayward wizards…
A hospital struggling to keep its doors open…
A platoon fighting its way across war-torn Europe…
A guild of thieves scheming in the shadows of the sleeping city…
These are all Kingdoms. A Kingdom is the game term for the community or organization that your characters all belong to. It's the bond that ties them together and a powerful part of their lives.
What's the Kingdom for? What should it do? Each character might have very different ideas. Can everybody get what they want? Can your vision of the Kingdom work with mine? Play and find out.
There's no GM and there's no preparation. You sit down together and create the Kingdom you want to explore. You can play a one-shot game or explore the same Kingdom session after session. Keep the action tight in the here and now or follow the same Kingdom for centuries as generation after generation steer its path.
One of the neat things about Kingdom is that, because the rules deal with the relationship between individuals and groups, regardless of how or why those people are a group, you can play any kind of community or organization you want. Want to play a star-spanning empire? A warship in the Age of Sail? The PTA of your local elementary school? Those all work.
Want to play the setting from your favorite book or movie? Hogwarts, Battlestar Galactica, Gondor or the Rebel Alliance? Perfect. See how things turn out when you're at the helm.
We've played Kingdoms in a whole slew of different styles, tones and settings:
Dukes of Hell: A drug-dealing, chain-swinging, rubber-burning biker gang doggedly fighting to protect their turf in the Southwest badlands.
Starfall: Weapons-smith to the galaxy. Their technology has no equal in known space. Their weapons can boil oceans or splinter moons, making them the ultimate arbiters of interstellar conflict. The new calculus of war is simple: the side that Starfall arms, wins. But are they neutral as they claim? Or do they aspire to a galaxy where war is a thing of the past and even their own weapons are no longer needed?
KBQX Albuquerque: A local television station struggling against bad ratings and public relations scandals. Can they break out of their slump, convince the outraged citizens groups to stop picketing them and reinvent themselves as a cable news channel? The people of Albuquerque are not holding their breath.
Lost Legion: Far from home, its allies crushed, a lone Roman legion stands surrounded by foes hungering for Roman blood. Can the legion march home, hewing a path through a sea of foes? Or must it seek alliance and sow division between its many enemies? Or do the once proud soldiers give in to despair and let their standards fall into the mire… Eat your heart out, Xenophon.
Santa's Workshop: No seriously, Santa's Workshop. What do the elves do when Santa decides to sit on the couch and watch TV all winter? Start making kids something they really can use, like vaccines and text books? Sure they can build a Robo-Santa and turn to him for love but nothing can soften the hard iron of his lap… or his heart.
Making your own Kingdom is part of the fun of the game, but the book will include some pre-built seeds for Kingdoms that you can use when you want to just sit down and start playing quickly.
Kingdom is a complete game by itself but you can also use it to flesh out other game worlds. Running a regular campaign? Take a break for a night and play Kingdom to explore some hazy corner of your world. That fortress-city that guards the Empire's frontiers from the barbarian hordes? What's going on over there? Let your players put on the heavy mantles of captains and kings and play to find out.
Or combine it with Microscope and make Kingdoms to play out pockets of the epic history you create.
The characters are at the center of the game, but they're bound together by the Kingdom they're all part of. When the Kingdom changes, it impacts each of their lives, for better or worse. The very thing one character wants the most may be the thing you dread the Kingdom will become.
As you play your Kingdom is confronted by Crossroads, critical decisions it has to make. Does the hospital close its free clinic? Does the colony ship settle on this barren rock or wait years for a better opportunity? Do the wizards of the circle unlock the forbidden vault sealed by their predecessors centuries ago?
Each Crossroad is an important chapter in your game. The results may change the Kingdom forever. What will your character do to make the Kingdom do what you want? How far will you go? And what will you do when you fail, when the Kingdom becomes something you hate and pressures you to do things you don't want to do? That's what the game is all about.
Each player gets to affect the outcome of the Crossroad, but how they do it depends on their character's role in the Kingdom, either Touchstone, Perspective or Power. Each role gives you an entirely different way to influence the game. And your role isn't set in stone. Tired of your dire warnings falling on deaf ears? Switch from Perspective to Power and raise an angry mob to storm the castle.
Over the last two years I've played Kingdom with a lot of different people, working out the kinks and making sure it did what I wanted it to do. It owes a lot to the fantastic folks at Story Games Seattle, Go Play NW and Fabricated Realities as well as to playtest groups around the globe, people I've never met but who took the game for a spin and told me what worked for them and what didn't.
There's still a lot of work to do before Kingdom goes to the printer, but the game itself is complete. For the art I've recruited Caroline Hobbs, who has agreed to put down her squids and snails for a while and paint something serious. And for reality-checks on game design and vision, I have as always the secret Kingdom brain trust: the aforementioned Caroline Hobbs, Marc Hobbs and Pat Kemp. They have Perspective.
If you back Kingdom you're going to get it before anyone else. You'll get the PDF before it goes on sale anywhere. When the books are printed they'll be shipped to you before they go on sale in stores.
Be the first kid on your block to make a Kingdom and then fight to keep it from going up in flames. Or laugh maniacally as it burns. Both are pretty fun.
And for the record -- no. Captain Browning did not change course. The colony ship passed up the opportunity of first contact with alien life because of one insecure and petty man. The characters wept. The players cheered. A fantastic game of Kingdom.
So you're sitting down to play Kingdom. What would make it even easier for you to jump in and get straight to the fun? Lots of prepared Kingdom playsets that you can whip out when you don't have time to brainstorm an idea or when you need a little bit of inspiration.
When we hit each level of funding I'll add more playsets to the book so you'll have a bulging toolkit of options at your fingertips:
REACHED! (before you even knew it existed)
- Cactus Flats: In the dusty, sun-baked West, the measure of a man is the measure of his gun. And his horse. And his hat.
- Daily Sentinel: A once-great newspaper and bastion of journalistic integrity, in danger of becoming a dinosaur in the age of digital media, sound-bites and factoid reporting.
$10,000 -- REACHED!
- Eye of Osiris: Wealthy seekers and would-be mystics in 1920s high society. If money can't buy you happiness, what about secrets from beyond the Veil?
- Kuligar Wildlife Refuge: Endangered species, poachers, political instability and endless miles of African savannah.
$12,000 -- REACHED!
- Partisans of Rigel IV: The human colony struggles under the thumb of alien invaders but the Resistance refuses to kneel. For Rigel! For Freedom!
- Eshbal, The Door of Hardship: Implacable fortress-city guarding the gateway to the Empire. Its twisted streets welcome travelers and spices from far-off lands but its looming walls declare 'behold the might of the Empire and despair!'
$14,000 -- REACHED!
- HMS Rubicon: Proudly flying His Majesty's flag on the far side of the world in the age of sail and cannon.
- Kid's Television Workshop (KTW): A small public television studio devoted to making positive children's programming like "Helicopter Junction" and "Little Blue House on the Corner". M is for Muppet!
$16,000 -- REACHED!
- Lost in Luxury Space: If your cruise ship has a hyperdrive malfunction and you're lost in space--for years--aren't you technically still on vacation? So have a tropical drink, soak up some artificial rays and relax. Fixing the ship is a problem for the crew!
- Banner of the Black Serpent: Granted their own lands and strongholds for the blood they've shed for the realm, this order of knights is now an army apart. Do they remain loyal? Or do they sell their swords to the highest bidder? Do they fight for gold, glory, or the honor of the Banner?
$18,000 -- REACHED!
- Starfall: Weapons-smith to the galaxy. Splinter moons. Boil oceans. Turn skies to fire. And perhaps broker peace. The new calculus of war is simple: the side that Starfall arms, wins.
- Dwarf Mountain: The dragon is dead. The dwarves have returned to the halls of their forefathers to rebuild and claim glory anew. But hard-won gold is hard-kept. Thieves are everywhere. Even our trusted allies may covet the treasures of the mountain king…
$20,000 -- REACHED!
- Banana Republic: Juntas, puppet regimes, oppressed citizens and friendly neighborhood CIA advisors. Securing corporate profits and a safe neighbor to the South. It's a win-win!
- Grottos & Griffons: The game that started it all, G&G is adored by fans world-wide. Which might be why so many people would fight tooth and nail over its fate. Edition wars! Retro clones! Lucky dice! And possibly a short-lived Saturday morning cartoon.
$23,000 -- REACHED!
- Battlestar Orion: The last ship of the armada protects a rag-tag fugitive fleet, hoping to build a new home out of the ashes of the old. But have we truly escaped the enemy? Or do they walk among us even now?
- The Lost Legion: Far from home, its allies crushed, a lone legion stands surrounded by foes hungering for Roman blood…
- Bonus Art Goal: Caroline gets a raise! She's hard at work on the art for Kingdom but she deserves more than she agreed to! (To be honest, I'm going to pay her more regardless. Don't tell her!)
$26,000 -- REACHED!
- Sawyer Memorial Hospital: Doctors fighting the system to actually help people in need. But how much good can you do if you can't make enough money to keep the doors open?
- Hammer of the Gods: The Immortals forged the world. They can destroy it. Gods, demigods and heroes toy with the fate of humanity. Are those pesky mortals getting too big for their togas? Failing to pay homage to the Gods in the time-honored fashion? Release the kraken!
- Bandits in the Sheriff's Wood: Are they truly rebels defying the tyranny of an unjust lord, or mere criminals hiding from justice? Sure they're robbing from the rich but are they remembering to give to the poor?
- Winterhook's School for Wayward Wizards: Idle spells are the devil's playground. But is Winterhook's a school to mentor the misguided or a prison to protect the world from the horrors they might become?
Risks and challenges
This is not my first game. I wrote and published Microscope, so I'm already familiar with what it takes to get a finished product out the door and what can go wrong.
Printing is always a potential roadblock, but I've got a printer I've used before and who has been completely reliable. I don't foresee any problems there. I'm using the same editor I used for Microscope, so I expect the text to be crystal clear. Art could take longer to be finalized than I plan, not because of any problems with the artist, but just because I can be extremely picky about this kind of thing.
Then there are apocalypse-level scenarios. Lightning from the heavens could erase all known copies of the text. Good luck finding my many backups, ye wrathful Gods, he said totally not tempting Fate.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
- (26 days)