Actual Play: I created a hack of The King Is Dead! Or at least of one of the playtest versions combined with the livestreams from the Kickstarter. Based on the Dragon Slayer tale, we sit down with 3 players, playing the Dragon, the Knight, and the Princess. The structure is as expected: make characters, take turns choosing a game and playing it, find out what happens at the end. Many games are the same or slightly changed from The King Is Dead, some (like War) are removed, and some new games are added.
Thomas playing the dragon Krondokk
* secretly eggnant
* minor stone magics
* never lies
Guy playing Sir Roland
* last of the elves
* always fulfilling his oaths
* an eternal optimist
Mike playing Princess Kazra
* devout worshipper of the demon Earl of Lost Books
* a healer
* all glory to god
Robin, sick, sometimes present and sometimes not, adding to the Audience at times.
Commentary: character creation is via a random table. Secrets were great, codes okay, abilities okayish, disposition okayish. The contrast between the princess’ demon worship and “all glory to god” was pretty great.
At the end of the game, we will determine who lives longer than everyone else because the others die prematurely; who will become the new High Priest; and who will bring the words of power to the peasantry to save them from famine.
Commentary: pretty weak. See commentary on last game. We mostly ignored these results for a while and then brought them in a little when it looked like the end was near. They were determined randomly from a table. One entry was “the king is dead, who will now rule”, of course.
10 Games Were Played:
A Revelation: in which Sir Roland, having heard the peasants spreading stories of the dragon Krondokk having kidnapped a princess, discovers that in fact Krondokk was talking about “her precious jewel” and such -- the dragon has laid an egg, which is near to hatching!
Commentary: I started with this one, as my rules said to do. Simple start, went okay, nothing standout.
An Overture: in which Krondokk meets Princess Kazra on the princess’ own tower and asks to stage a kidnapping and rescue, so that the peasants stop thinking there are princesses stowed away in Krondokk’s cave.
Commentary: Thomas wasn’t sure how to have a scene with the princess but knew he wanted to, so we encouraged him to aggressively scene frame and don’t worry about in-game timing. Both the dragon and the princess started at curt/impolite, escalating pretty quickly through formal/polite to casual/friendly. At the very end, Thomas slipped up and started flirting, which was beyond Krondokk’s initial boundaries. He didn’t get quite all the rewards he could have, but it certainly set the Krondokk/Kazra tone. The card mechanics worked here but were pretty hard to explain. Probably worth simplifying.
Swashbuckling: in which Krondokk swoops amongst peasants and guards, putting on a show as she (consensually!) carries off Princess Kazra. They both take quite an interest in each other! Budding crush? Krondokk doesn't seem to be consciously aware of it…
Commentary: Mike following up the previous scene. Super fun. This game is basically the same as “A Dance” from The King Is Dead, except the flavor is romance during jumping around and swashbuckling rather than romance during a dance. Sounds like it might not work, but it totally fit.
A Chase: in which Sir Roland rides after the dragon, believing the dastardly display! He is adept at maneuvering through tight places and treacherous climbs, but isn’t quite so strong at keeping up with a flying dragon over open countryside.
Commentary: I followed up again with the obvious scene. Worked just fine, but was a little dry. Not very dramatic. Probably because the dragon was going to a location that the knight pretty much knew about, so even if dragon escapes, knight will reappear shortly. Also because the dragon and knight didn't really have a lot of chemistry going into it. Seems a little too difficult for the hunter to win with the mechanics I used, especially if down to 3 cards. But maybe too easy if 5-6 cards. Needs more testing and/or knowing how the real The King Is Dead does it.
Character Studies: in which Princess Kazra explores the wizardly laboratory within the caves of Krondokk. Our dragon Krondokk is a great (and scholarly) wizard, it seems! Arcane equipments and old (human-sized) tomes line the cave.
Commentary: Mike chose this one and picked A Secret as the category, which totally makes sense because the other categories are much more so-so. Solid entry, not standout.
A Negotiation: in which Krondokk brings Sir Roland on board with her plan to hoodwink/pacify the peasantry. Sir Roland agrees to put on a show if he can watch the birth of the hatchling, and agrees to leave his weapons outside.
Commentary: Thomas wanted to bring the knight in, and asked whether it was okay to say we were negotiating. After all, what if the knight came up spoiling for a fight, shouldn’t it be A Violent Intent instead? We said go ahead and choose what you want, it’s okay to “force” characters into doing what you want by your scene choice. Mechanics were a little clunky. We made them work out, but right now you have to essentially make an admission that you don’t have as much power in this negotiation as it seems before you can propose a compromise, before every single proposal.