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Kingdomon: Enter the Sub-Verse

In which we dance on the edge of the abyss, as story gamers do.

The Kingdom Legacy game we’ve been playing for almost two years has suddenly taken a bold, dangerous turn. Not content to merely keep having immense fun every week, we made an unplanned and spontaneous escalation that threatens the entire foundation of our campaign.

You guessed it: TIME TRAVEL.

The weird thing is, we had no intention of introducing time travel. None whatsoever. In this era of the history our Kingdom is the SS Melody, an exploratory submarine seeking out new Jedo (read as: Pokemon) and new civilizations on the other side of the globe. We wanted a very Star Trek-meets-Life Aquatic quirky exploration vibe. We had played this era before, and had fun dealing with pirates and discovering “terrifying” Leviafins, but didn’t really hit the tone we had in mind. So months later we decided to return and take the Melody for another voyage with some new cast members.

Adorable Leviafin monster, brought to life by Caroline. Food for scale.

In our first new Crossroad, an accident led to the release of all our captured Jedo, leaving them to scurry all over the ship, and led to some deep philosophical questions about the nature of the “kingdo discs” (q.v. Pokeballs) that we use to capture wild pocket monsters for dueling and training. What’s it even like in there? Are they in stasis? Are they pacing around in a little room? These experiments led to an unlucky human crew member getting sucked into a disc’s crystal matrix. Whoops!

And now the escalation snowball was rolling down the mountain because the next step was *the entire submarine* and the full crew being accidentally sucked into the disc matrix… which, as it turned out, wasn’t just storing things in individual discs. The discs themselves were links to the subatomic world: the “Sub-Verse”, if you will. A whole other microcosmic universe, where the Melody could now sail around exploring realms of matter never before seen by human eyes. Were all the disc’ed Jedo floating around in there, having a good time? Yes they were.

This alone was enough to completely flip our lids, 70 games into this campaign. It fit and explained any number of things we had established in past and future eras of our history.

But of course before we start our next Crossroad, we have to hammer out the details of how it’s going to work. We had wondered before if Jedo were in stasis or perceived time passing while they waited to be summoned for a tournament, so now that we knew that they were conscious and roaming around, we pondered how does time pass here versus the normal world? Slower? Faster? The same? We decided well maybe it varied unpredictably, sometimes months would seem like days, other times it might match the real world perfectly. Aka whatever was the most interesting for the story at any particular time, we could do.

Then Al says something along the lines of “I want us to be able to look out through kingdo discs out into the real world!” Huh? Okay. Sure, that makes sense: we had established the discs were just connections between the Sub-Verse and the normal material world. So we can fire up the sensor table and use it to make “windows” to peek out to where discs are, assuming we find the matching spot in the Sub-Verse or whatever. Because the underlying question of course is whether the Melody can ever return to the normal world, but we don’t want to get into that yet because we’re much more excited to explore this whole new world and not just run away.

But now the alchemy of group creativity starts to get a mind of its own. When you put your ingredients in the pot, sometimes you can’t predict what comes out. Conclusions you did not foresee become irrefutable.

Because if the passage of time varies in the Sub-Verse, or clearly behaves differently than in the normal universe, couldn’t we see out to different points in time? And since we warped in through a disc connection in the first place, couldn’t we go back out again… INTO A DIFFERENT TIME?!?!?

Boom, mic drop. We had, inadvertently, laid a very logical foundation for time travel, without ever intending to create time travel.

Do we close our eyes and back away quietly, shut the door and pretend this never happened? Or do we put our entire beloved campaign at risk by leaping in with both feet, potentially undermining everything we have created together over the last 70 games???

I’ll give you one guess…

NEXT UP: Back to Kin Je’do, or Taking On the Warlord, Take 2!

Ben Robbins | December 6th, 2021 | , , , | 1 comment

Building Better Gods

“I’m the god of fire. I have fire powers”
“Fire powers? What are you, a superhero?”

We’re in the middle of a game and you need to make up a god. Because you know, we’re gamers, we have to create whole worlds, gods, civilizations on the fly. What do you do? The number one approach I see is to say “ah yes, they are the god of X”. Fire, medicine, poetry, death, rainbows, whatever. They are the god of That, capital T. Which is… fine? I guess? But boring. Literally one-dimensional.

Gods deserve to be more than just superheroes. Heck, superheroes deserve more than just being defined by a single power.

But there’s an easy fix. Because have I ever brought a problem to you without including a solution? That’s not how I roll.

Instead of saying they’re god of one thing, list at least three different things. And don’t just pick three related concepts. Spread out and pick things that seem like an odd mix: Fire, Swords, and Matrimony. The Sea, Cities, and Dreams. Theft, Pottery, and Roads.

Sure three things is three times as many as one thing. But it’s not just triple the concept. With three things the imagination starts to fill in the blanks and draw unspoken connections between seemingly unrelated ideas. Death, Wind, and Poetry? Why those three? What does it mean? What does that say about poetry? Or death? Or wind? What’s the philosophy or origin myth there?!?!

Students of the classics will notice this is a lot like mythological gods of our world. Just ask Apollo, god of the sun, music, and medicine (and about seven other things). Because a real religion is complex with lots of nooks and crannies, even contradictions. Only a made-up religion is clean and simple.

Ben Robbins | November 17th, 2021 | , , | 2 comments

Quest: Escape the Haunted House!

They said this old house was haunted, but we didn’t listen. Now we have to escape. Our flashlights are flickering, there’s no coverage, the floorboards are creaking, and the wind is howling through the trees…

The Haunting is a spooky Halloween quest for Follow, ready for you to download and play right now:

We took it for a test run the other night and gave ourselves nightmares, but it should work for a whole range of spooky styles, from lighthearted Scooby Doo hijinks all the way to serious and scary ghost stories. You have been warned!!!

Ben Robbins | October 26th, 2021 | | 2 comments

“If it weren’t for those darn kids..!”

It’s the spooky season, so I’ve been taking a break from other projects to put together a fittingly Halloween quest for Follow: Escape the Haunted House!

They told us the old Harker Manor was haunted, but we didn’t listen. Now our flashlights are flickering, the floorboards are creaking and… what was that noise?!?? Probably just the wind. We’ll probably find a way out faster if we split up…

If I do it right the quest should work for actual scary ghost stories as well as Scooby Doo hijinks (“it was Old Man Withers in a rubber mask all along!”). Will you lose characters along the way? You will almost definitely lose characters along the way.

One of the interesting angles of a story like this is a fellowship that isn’t actually together. Maybe a bunch of the characters are teenagers who’ve snuck into the house on a dare, but elsewhere you could have paranormal investigators asking for directions to the estate while the sheriff warns them not to trespass. As the story unfolds all these characters are part of the fellowship and have a united goal of getting everyone out of the house… at least everyone who survives!

I hope to have it ready soon, so you can take it for a spin while the October chill is still in the air…

UPDATE: It’s ready

Ben Robbins | October 19th, 2021 | | 2 comments

Aushi Finds Their Magic

If you play story games, you probably already know: story games will break your heart.

Aushi was a witch born without magic. It was all they ever wanted. And then they got some. But you know what they say, be careful what you wish for…

Aushi Finds Magic

Art by Ace, who is also playing poor tragic Aushi. This is in our witches Kingdom Legacy campaign, and we’re just about to play our 30th session and find out exactly how things turn out for Aushi and the whole tribe.

Will story games break our heart again, or will things suddenly turn around? Place your bets.

Ben Robbins | October 12th, 2021 | , , , | 1 comment

Mercenaries vs Terraformers

On a lark we sat down (virtually) to play some Microscope, and wound up making a “Day of the Triffids meets the Black Company meets Starship Troopers (the movie)” kind of history.

It was less about the aliens and more about the humans banding together to fight back… or not! Specifically the poor soldiers fighting a whole new kind of enemy… and sometimes getting thrown under the bus by their commanders.

The invasion starts quietly. No one notices when the bugs arrive and start terraforming remote patches of the Amazon and Romania into strange alien biomes. But as they slowly multiply and spread, the crazy rumors of “strange goings on in the wilderness” become undeniable fact, and more and more nations are drawn into a war for survival.

And we’re losing. Humanity is evicted from half of a transformed world before we finally start to turn the tide.

But even in the face of extinction, humans never change. In a huge victory, we liberate South America from the bugs… and then promptly squabble over what nation gets to take it over. Of course.

And yeah, we had planned to do a one-shot but now we are eager to go back and play some more. We used the Utgar’s Chronicles website, which was specifically built to play Microscope online, and I have to say it is a damn fine tool for the job. Easy and straightforward. I recommend it.

Ben Robbins | September 23rd, 2021 | ,