[The King Is Dead] Hacked into Dragon/Knight/Princess

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
* passionate

Guy playing Sir Roland
* last of the elves
* analytical
* 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
* traditionalist

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.



  • A Revelation: in which Sir Roland meets Princess Kazra and immediately notes the demonic presence pervading her being, connecting it to the mysterious disappearance of many threats to the Realm in past years.

    Commentary: I chose A Revelation again because I was trying to aim for something involving that last “peasants, words of power, famine” endgame question. Didn’t work out the way I planned, we instead talked about the High Priest, so I guess I got half my wish. Again this scene type was simple, perfectly fine, not standout.

    An Overture: in which Princess Kazra and Sir Roland discuss their respective motivations, and the princess attempts some very formal flirting which goes unnoticed, but secures a promise from Sir Roland that he will “remove” the “corrupt” high priest of the Realm.

    Commentary: Whoops! Mike was laying down some innuendo that the Audience didn’t pick up on, so he didn’t get to claim the best of his cards. Lessons learned: be more obvious. Other lessons learned: watch what level the Audience says you’re going to and if it’s lower than you think, be more obvious or nudge someone.

    Teaching A Lesson: in which Krondokk is confuddled about how to care for a newly hatched dragon, and Princess Kazra shows herm how to gently show support and not accidentally crisp her new little dragon.

    Commentary: A sweet scene. Thomas was initially confused on how to choose a good scene to make the hatching happen, but we came up with two nice alternatives: either this one, or an animated disagreement to determine which of the knight or princess the baby would imprint on. He went with this, which worked well. First had the princess show him how to stroke gently enough for the baby’s delicate new scales, then almost crisped her daughter but the princess noticed the mistake and stopped Krondokk from breathing in time, finally heated up a stone to provide radiant heat for the newborn.

    Fate of the Realm: in which Krondokk leaves the Realm with her daughter when she realizes she can’t be with the princess; Sir Roland kills the high priest and is cursed by the sun god but brings Krondokk’s knowledge to the peasants so they can survive the sun god’s wrath; and Princess Kazra sacrifices herself to the Earl of Lost Books to remove the Realm from this plane and thus from its enemies.

    Commentary: We were pretty sure we wanted to wrap up, gave everyone a moment or two to interject with a final scene, then Mike declared Fate. This game was unfortunately disconnected somewhat from a lot of what happened before. Two forces conspired: first, the endgame questions weren’t particularly compelling, and second, we didn’t play toward them much during the game. Probably changing the sequence/structure here to be generate characters first, then each player chooses one of the endgame questions in turn and says a little about it, rather than picking three at random and trying to just go with it.

    Appendix A:
    Here’s the list of games we used. Robin really wanted to see A Proof of Worth happen, which is basically just Trials by Contest from The King Is Dead but it never came up. I really wanted to see Potent Sorceries happen, but it didn’t really fit the tone. Though it did fit the chosen endgame questions. And I think it would work just fine as a scene type in The King Is Dead, really.

    Character Studies - Flesh out a fellow character
    A Violent Intent - Have a fight
    Potent Sorceries - Costly magics, large effects
    An Animated Disagreement - Argue in front of an audience
    A Revelation - Explore a character’s secret
    Swashbuckling - Jump around, adventure, maybe even fight
    Teaching A Lesson - One character imparts knowledge to another
    A Proof of Worth - Trials of strength, daring, endurance, etc
    A Negotiation - Get/give something from/to a character
    A Chase - One hunter, one quarry
    An Overture - Warm up to a character, if they’ll reciprocate
    The Fate of the Realm - Discover the parts you play in the future

    Appendix B:
    Here’s Potent Sorceries for you: https://docs.google.com/document/d/1BFtppQOT85sMBKHImBwFT2jhdBCoRDoCgQ3zW8ghcOM
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