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Story Games Seattle Message Board What We Played › Royal Empirical Society (Kingdom)

Royal Empirical Society (Kingdom)

Ben R.
thatsabigrobot
Group Organizer
Seattle, WA
Post #: 326
players: Terry, Sam, Alex, Ben

We were so busy reflecting about the game right up until the lounge closed that we forgot to decide who was starting the thread. I've got the papers so I'll do the deed.

Our Kingdom was the Royal Empirical Society, a 19th century English fraternity of science and exploration, in tireless pursuit of knowledge, truth and (sometimes) academic glory and national bragging rights.

Doctor Frederick von Fructer (Terry) -- Austrian ex-patriate and outspoken medical doctor. Yeah he's not from around here.

Richard Chapman (Alex) -- Adventurer, sailor, explorer. Rick to his friends. Always sailing to far away lands. Hides his massive debts rather well.

Harris Gilchrist (Sam) -- The gatekeeper of society resources. Not adverse to angling for profit. He suffers fools poorly so he has his work cut out for him.

Lord Holborne (Ben) -- Idle young noble and dilettante. Enjoys basking in all this wonderful science stuff, wot? Technically Lord Edwin Drax Plunkett Malbury Holborne, but hey, we're all friends here so just call me Lord Holborne.

I loved the wringers everyone got put through:

Chapman spiraling from an enthusiastic adventurer to a bitter rebel against the Society's shackles. Ruining the traitorous Blumkraut: not just replacing him in the voyage, uncharacteristically making that extra effort to crush the guy.

Foreign-born von Fructer getting put under the microscope when isolationism, nationalism and xenophobia were running high, and then nobly leaving his name off his revolutionary medical text so that the British would use it and save lives instead of rejecting it out of hand as "foreign deviltry". That was a great moment for von Fructer and Holborne too, because for him it was a shining example of what the Society was really about (leading him to sacrifice his own happiness to protect that idealism from itself).

Sam's great "Hmm, I think that's a bridge too far for my character…" when Gilchrist opted not to try to re-seize power and spit in the eye of the aristocracy. Well played.

We talked a bunch right after the game, but if you have more thoughts about Kingdom or our game in particular I'm all ears. Also I sent you guys links to download the rules, so let me know if you didn't get it. Reading the rules may also make it clear some of things I was trying to convey (read as: shout in the loud room).
Sam Kabo A.
user 30231972
Honolulu, HI
Post #: 12
Definitely a good system; but also takes a bit of getting used to. Next time around I'll try to make more aggressive use of the mechanics.

Also, I didn't have the most awesome time, but that was basically my own fault for making a character who had some pretty strong limitations -- class and jerkitude -- and who was kind of stuck in a straight-man role. When I make characters I really need to remind myself to ask the question: what is this character likely to do that is fun or entertaining or dramatic? (Not that I had a bad time or anything, but I didn't come away from it feeling all woo! amazing!)
A former member
Post #: 18
When I make characters I really need to remind myself to ask the question: what is this character likely to do that is fun or entertaining or dramatic?

I need to have this tattooed on the insides of my eyelids. It makes it so much easier to play when you have a character that goes out and does stuff, even if it involves making really really bad decisions.
Sam Kabo A.
user 30231972
Honolulu, HI
Post #: 13
Well, my default style of play seems to gravitate towards Fiasco-y over-the-top comic + dark. When the tone's a little more serious than that, my brain apparently decides I R SERIUS, NO FUN SHALL BE HAD.

I mean, the Fiasco model of "people make bad decisions and suffer hilarious consequences" is a damn good model, but I'd like it if that wasn't every session, you know?
Terry F.
user 27520232
Seattle, WA
Post #: 22
I don't know, I rather liked Gilchrist... he was obstinant, callous and self serving. He drove a lot of the conflict in the Society.

Fiasco is designed to build inter-character conflicts, something we have to put effort into for our other story based games - especially games like Microscope/Kingdom where there are no character based antagonists built into the rules.

When making characters I try to recall what Ben once said about setting up Microscope scenes: that reversal questions make for interesting scenes: "Why didn't X do Y, when normally X always does Y". The task is to set up a character that is automatically going to come in conflict with what the main theme of the game, session, scene is. This way all I have to do is play it straight and conflict automatically happens. When I lose the conflict that means my character either bends or breaks, when I win the theme goes opposite of what we wanted as a group. Either way it's fun.

I make this seem simple, and it isn't, but it's central to story gaming - that fundamentally the actions of characters drive the fun in these games. It's something we forget as we try to up each other with interesting themes and ideas. A lot of our story games are particularly susceptible to this, complex themes and big ideas overwhelm the foundation of great stories which is great characters.

With Von Fructer, I sussed out the main theme and tried to make a character that would automatically come into conflict with it. The theme was: - a caste based xenophobic society that has a tenuous hold on science. So I made an upper middle class highly trained scientist that is a foreigner. Now I have conflict on several axis: an emerging class trying to wrest control from the lords, a trained scientist in the midst of amateurs, and a foreigner that loved his adopted country, but this appreciation wasn't reciprocated.

Alex also played a conflict rich character. Quite useful in a world where daring do is needed, but as we saw, the cost of his adventures and his personality were no longer cherished, except by a gentry that vicariously lived through his exploits. He was forced to find a new role for himself. Finding new roles is rich for conflict as Chapman needed to assert himself in the academy, no longer satisfied by being sent on trips by Gilchrist (who I suspected sent him off to get him out of the academy.)

Ben played the epitome of the member of the Academy and society as a whole, but his conflict rises as the society inevitably changes towards a more bourgeois, science based world. Ben's character created conflict just by his presence. Possibly the most "good" character in the bunch, he also fed the dark side of our little Academy. He came into conflict with Gilchrist over the direction of the Academy, fed Chapman's bad habits and ultimately drove away Von Fructer.


Ben R.
thatsabigrobot
Group Organizer
Seattle, WA
Post #: 329
When I make characters I really need to remind myself to ask the question: what is this character likely to do that is fun or entertaining or dramatic?
Spot on, Sam. Just like Jess said, that's a good reminder for all the games, all the time.

Terry, that's a great analysis. I think Gilchrist actually did pass the test of being central to the themes and creating good tension for the Kingdom (by definition, a good character for the story), but that's entirely different than being a character a particular player (in this case Sam) enjoys playing.

I thought I was picking up vibes during the game that you were only so-so on Gilchrist, Sam, but I was too distracted by playtesting to do what I normally would have done which is to ask if you wanted to tweak things. Like everything else in a game, a bad character can be rescued. I think it's totally legit to just pause the game and say "hmm, I'm not really enjoying playing this guy, what can we do to change this up?" Often it's pretty easy to just shed new light on the character or have them go through a little growth that makes them more fun -- particularly in something like Kingdom where growing and changing Roles are part of normal play. One of my favorite "mid-game character make-over" anecdotes was from a session of Love in the Time of Seid. Jamie was playing the knight-werewolf but not really loving it, so we stopped and jumped into a Q&A to flesh out his motives, finally inventing a whole backstory to explain why he was doing the things he was doing. Suddenly the character was one of the most interesting characters in the game, totally sympathetic though still working for the bad guy. It was a complete turn around.
A former member
Post #: 19
I mean, the Fiasco model of "people make bad decisions and suffer hilarious consequences" is a damn good model, but I'd like it if that wasn't every session, you know?

This is getting a bit OT, but I just wanted to point out that the consequences of bad decisions don't have to be "hilarity ensues". What I was talking about is more that, in real life, I try to be reasonable, empathetic, give every point of view a fair shake, use my words when relating to people, etc. That doesn't necessarily translate to fascinating gameplay every time. Sometimes you need an unreasonable idealogue in the game, or someone who doesn't care about other people's feelings. I guess that's my specific version of how I might accidentally make a character who doesn't do much to progress the story.

Actually, maybe this takes it back on topic, but I did have this problem in a game of Kingdom last night. Overly reasonable characters make this game very talky-talky.
Ben R.
thatsabigrobot
Group Organizer
Seattle, WA
Post #: 330
Overly reasonable characters make this game very talky-talky.
That's definitely a thing that happens in Kingdom (and other games too): instead of living as their characters in the moment players retreat to a birds-eye view and talk about problems in a very reasonable committee style. Cerebral instead of personal.

Kingdom tries to foil it by bringing in the Side-Effect. Even if no one disagrees about the Crossroad, someone is going to get bit. That puts things back in a personal space, even if someone just pays a price to buy off the side-effect.
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