Temporary Kingdoms

I was reading about how during the American Revolutionary War, Henry Knox hauled an entire battery of cannons from captured Fort Ticonderoga 300 miles through the dead of winter to give George Washington’s army the artillery it vitally needed to threaten the fortified British. It sounded like an epic trek: cannons falling through the ice of frozen rivers, sledges mired in snow drifts, the works.

My first thought was, naturally, I want to play that Kingdom! Crossroads in the journey just leap out. Do we try to cross the cracking river ice? Do we take a short cut that brings us dangerously near the fighting armies? Do we abandon the heaviest guns to make better time?

It would make a pretty unusual Kingdom because it’s inherently temporary: everyone knows that when the expedition reaches its destination, its job is done. The troops would go on to other duties and the Kingdom would dissolve.

But is a temporary Kingdom really a problem? I don’t think so. There is nothing that would prevent an intentionally short-lived community from being a great Kingdom to play. It might even have certain advantages, particularly for a one-shot game, because it could establish a clear end point for the game: if the Kingdom isn’t destroyed by Crisis or totally side-tracked by the Crossroads it faces, when you are ready to stop playing you can narrate your Kingdom arriving at your goal (victorious or bedraggled, depending on how your game played out). You don’t have to wonder what the future holds for your Kingdom because its job is done.

Lots of ideas for temporary Kingdoms spring to mind:

  • people trying to get somewhere, like a caravan, a merchant ship or the cannon-toting Knox expedition
  • people united to accomplish a finite thing, like a political campaign, a rebellion, or a civil engineering project like building a castle, the Hoover Dam or the Panama Canal
  • a place that only brings people together for a while, like a Renaissance faire, a Woodstock-esque music festival, or a summer camp. When camp’s over, everyone goes home. Promise you’ll write!

The key bit is that everyone knows the Kingdom is temporary. Even if we’re all committed to it right now (and all the characters should be) we know it’s only going to last as long as it takes to get the job done.

A temporary Kingdom could have an extremely short lifespan. The whole Knox expedition took about two months, but that’s plenty of time to make lots happen. Some Crossroads might take just a few days — or even hours! — but my instinct is that it might make play even more dramatic. If you wind up with Time Passing, you would scale them to fit as well. Instead of two years going by, it’s a two-week montage of summer days lazily drifting by at camp…

    Ben Robbins | March 11th, 2014 | , | leave a comment