ars ludi

if you asked Ben's brain about gaming, this is what it would say

Aaron Allston

A long, long time ago, Aaron Allston sent me my very first rejection letter. He did me a huge favor.

Rest In Peace.

“How Weirdly Powerless”

How weirdly powerless Power is. There’s a built-in irony, caused by these limitations, by not allowing a character both perspective and power. And of course, that makes perfect real-world sense, doesn’t it? When you take power, you become something set apart from your peers, and can’t claim to properly represent them. You have, in fact, set yourself as being someone exceptional, and therefore by definition not a member of the community. But you aren’t apart from the community the way Perspective is… so distanced as to be able to understand how it works. You are in a very real way trapped by your power. Neat!

– Ed Turner, reflecting on Kingdom after the fantastic Drift game we played

Actual Play Roundup: A Beetle Pushing the Sun

A few of the latest and greatest Kingdom games from around the world. Are they playing Kingdom in Korea? The answer is yes.

  • Plains Tribes — “Originally I was a little bit worried about how the tribal roleplaying would turn out, whether it would descend into a stereotype-fest a la every Hollywood movie with Indians or faux Indians ever.” I think they nailed it.
  • Android Megacorp — No, that link’s not broken: it’s a second game write-up in the same thread as the Plains Tribe. Corporate mergers and unethical uses of technology. “…Power ordered that, if the androids were developed, they would only be used for sex work and not factory labor or security.” Make that unethical and immoral.
  • Battleship Orion — AKA the Trouble with AIs. Can you still have a Crisis if you put the whole population into cryogenic storage? Or is that the very definition of a Crisis?

It’s pretty great having Kingdom finished, because I get to play it and have some fun too:

  • The Drift — Outcasts and ruffians, the very dregs of society, trying to survive in their make-shift space habitat. Crime, squalor and a little interplanetary blackmail. A great game with a bunch of Kingdom first-timers at Story Games Seattle.
  • Eye of Osiris — More Story Games Seattle fun. What’s a sure sign that dabbling in Egyptian mysticism has gotten out of hand? When you look up and see a beetle pushing the sun across the sky. Over New York. And then the hounds of Anubis come looking to weigh your living heart…

If you’ve got a Kingdom game report you want to share, post a link in the comments.

Kingdom on IPR & Amazon

Kingdom is now also available through Indie Press Revolution and Amazon. Amazon is actually out of stock (already) but there are more on the way to their warehouse. And of course you can always buy the book or PDF direct.

Indie Press Revolution distributes to various cool Friendly Local Game Stores, so if you want to see Kingdom on the shelves, let your Friendly Local Game Staff know they should order it. They’re not mind readers: they would love to know what you want them to stock.

“Unpredictability is Key”

In Microscope, the sense of not knowing what’s going to happen next is provided by the simple fact that humans are unpredictable, and your fellow players are human.

Spot on.

A Battle of Men Against Men

It was Sam’s first view of a battle of Men against Men, and he did not like it much. He was glad that he could not see the dead face. He wondered what the man’s name was and where he came from; and if he was really evil of heart, or what lies or threats had led him on the long march from his home; and if he would not really rather have stayed there in peace…

The Two Towers, J. R. R. Tolkien

Pretty much what you’d expect, right? Now look at the lines right before that:

Then suddenly straight over the rim of the sheltering back, a man fell, crashing through the slender trees, nearly on top of them. He came to rest in the fern a few feet away, face downward, green arrow-feathers sticking from his neck below a golden collar. His scarlet robes were tattered, his corset of overlapping brazen plates was rent and hewn, his black plaits of hair braided with gold were drenched with blood. His brown hand still clutched the hilt of a broken sword.

It was Sam’s first view of a battle of Men against Men…

That’s the first appearance of a black person in Lord of the Rings. Does Sam say “holy shit, look at that guy’s skin?!?” No. He doesn’t even bat an eye. He thinks of him as just another person caught in this war and wonders if he would have been happier at home.