A Kingdom In Letters

A clever player asked me an interesting question: could you play Kingdom with characters writing letters on their turn instead of playing scenes? Very unexpected and very intriguing. The more I think about it, the more I think that not only could it work, it could be fantastic.

The one-sided monologue of a letter opens up a very different flavor of narrative. A character can dive deeply into their thoughts or concerns, without any immediate dramatic response. Sure, maybe your letter recounts a daring raid you executed on the castle and all the lives lost, or maybe you just ponder where your Kingdom is headed, wallowing in doubt and regret.

To start off with, create your Kingdom as usual. This player specifically asked how it would work with only two people, and in that case I’d would recommend each player make two characters instead of one to give you a little more material to work with. For three or more players, stick with one character each.

On your turn, instead of playing a scene, your character writes a letter. It could be to another main character, a secondary character, or even just a journal entry talking to yourself. All players get to see the letters no matter who they’re written too and can decide for themselves how much their characters know about what happened. Include a postscript noting mechanical effects, like predictions, highlighting popular attitudes revealed by Touchstones or what boxes get checked.

Does the next letter have to be a reply to the last sender? Not at all. We may never see that actual reply, even if that recipient is the very next player. Each letter could jump much farther forward, showing us the struggle over the Crossroad unfolding over time. Focus on the stuff that interests you rather than just covering the obvious. Seven pages of personal reflection and then one postscript that the barbarians are at the gates.

Want to get even more radical? Get rid of character ownership. On your turn you can pick up the quill as any of the main characters. You may even be describing them seeing characters other than the one you’re writing doing things and using their Roles to shape the Kingdom. Effectively on your turn you could be controlling the actions of all the characters except the one you’re writing the letter to.

And the wonderful bonus of a letter-writing game is that you are creating an actual chronicle of your story as you go. But the same events might be viewed very differently by various letter writers. To avoid a Rashomon-like spiral of confusion, make sure it’s clear what actually happened versus what is just opinion. Did the Baron save us from the mob or conduct a coup? That depends on who you ask, but we definitely know he lead a cavalry charge straight through the crowded marketplace. Was it justified or cruel? Was he a savior or a monster? Only history will decide.

    Ben Robbins | November 22nd, 2019 | | leave a comment