Names are hard. Except when they’re extremely easy. Some names just fly out of the ether and can’t be avoided (Microscope, Kingdom). But more often you have to sit and fiddle and poke and prod.

So it’s always an important step in game design when a project gets a proper codename. A name that feels like it is going to stick. A name that fits like a glove.

Today’s name: Evergreen.

And that’s all for now (tease!), because I’m closer to the beginning than the end, and I don’t generally talk about projects until they’re ready to roll, except to say: Happy Birthday, L! The greatest of oaks grows from the smallest of sprouts.

Ben Robbins | July 18th, 2021 | , | 5 comments

Feelings > Actions

When I’m playing a role-playing game, I’m much more interested in hearing what someone’s character feels about a situation than what they do.

If we understand the character’s feelings, even taking no action is informative. And if we don’t know their feelings, any action remains a mystery. Why did they do that? We don’t know.

And if you ask a player what their character feels about something and they can’t answer, all the more reason to slow down, dive in, and let them figure that out. Take that time! Understanding your character’s feelings makes deciding what they would do a whole lot easier.

There’s a very old school tendency to tunnel vision on problem solving: there’s a situation, so our characters have to fix it. That’s our job! In the worst case, the characters just become tools doing what the situation demands, without ever showing us what they personally want or think about things. They become interchangeable troubleshooters rather than people with their own desires or biases.

I want to hear if your character is passionate about finding a cure for the Duke or thinks it’s a fools errand or is just doing it for the money. Maybe you wind up doing the exact same thing, but I want to know how you felt about it. That’s what makes it a story.

Ben Robbins | July 9th, 2021 | ,

A Careful Balance of Agreement & Disagreement

Any role-playing game is a careful balance between agreement and disagreement.

We need agreement because the game world only exists in our minds. If we can’t agree about what’s true, we’re going to contradict each other. If you think there are walls around the city and I don’t, our game will crash.

Since agreement is so important, you might think disagreement was the enemy, something we want to avoid at all costs. But that’s impossible. Players come to the table preloaded with disagreement. We all have different tastes, interests, and viewpoints, so it’s completely natural not to want exactly the same things.

And not only is disagreement unavoidable, it’s actually beneficial. If we agree about everything that happens, there’s no tension or surprise. We play with other people—instead of scribbling a novel in our lonely tower—precisely because their contributions surprise us. Our conflicting ideas about what should happen are what makes play interesting. Can we save the city from the invaders? Will that character fall in love? You may think so, I may not, but ultimately we don’t know yet. Let’s play and find out!

But disagreement has to be managed. That’s what good game rules do: they help us navigate this social/creative minefield. Good rules tell everyone where we need to agree and where we can disagree. Then they help us resolve our disagreements at the right time and turn them into satisfying new agreements about what is true.

This is an excerpt from the new edition of Kingdom, so the next line is “How does Kingdom do that?”, followed by a discussion of how the Kingdom itself is the core agreement that builds consensus and then each Crossroad is an invitation to disagree.

But the core principle is, I think, true of all role-playing games. Disagreement is not the enemy. It is unavoidable and actually beneficial, if the rules are designed to handle it.

Ben Robbins | July 3rd, 2021 | , , ,

K2: Books Are Shipping!

Kingdom books have arrived and are shipping!

If you pre-ordered, keep your eyes peeled! Soon it’s time for Summer Kingdoms…

Ben Robbins | June 28th, 2021 | ,

K2: Start the Presses

Ahh, the age-old tale of getting a book ready for print! It goes a little something like this:

Send the file to the printer. They ship you the print. Make some adjustments.

Do another test. Make some more adjustments.

Do another test. Love the test. Approve the test.

Start the presses.

K2 print test

And isn’t that a good looking cover? Kudos again to my artist, Al Lukehart.

Ben Robbins | May 25th, 2021 | ,

Kingdom Is Ready to Play

After many, many, many (many) revisions, the second edition of Kingdom is done and ready to play.

You can get the PDF right now. Books will be printed as soon as print tests are done, but you can pre-order those now too. If you bought the advance release, you should have already received an email with a download link. If you didn’t, give me a holler at info at If you’ve got your original purchase email with your download link, that will work too.

Now go make some Kingdoms!

Ben Robbins | April 19th, 2021 | , | 1 comment