Kingdom Management

Kingdom Management is largely narrative-driven, supported by mechanics from the REIGN RPG.

A kingdom turn represents an entire season. Over the course of a kingdom turn, players adventure, explore, roleplay, and more, all of which can direct the course of the kingdom. In addition, the kingdom itself may take “actions” under the direction of PCs.

A kingdom is defined by five core Attributes: Might, Treasure, Influence, Territory, Sovereignty. These reflect the overall health and strength of the kingdom in various ways and are rated from 0 through 6. The fiction dictates the rating: if the kingdom was defended by a small group of untrained but properly equipped soldiers, it would have a Might of 2. But rating also dictates the fiction: if something reduced the kingdom’s Might by 1, the fiction would have to explain why the soldiers are less effective now.

Related to this, the kingdom may have other modifiers called ‘tags’. Rather than being numeric modifiers, tags are narrative modifiers, reflecting the special resources or challenges in the kingdom. If the PCs employed sages, for example, the kingdom would gain a “Sages” tag, which the players could reference when they narrate their actions. Tags create narrative opportunities that otherwise wouldn’t exist. They can also provide a bonus to checks when referenced as part of an action.

Other tags may not be beneficial, and can be used by the GM for penalties or for unpleasant narrative. “Crop Failure” might be a tag that temporarily penalizes kingdom attributes, or could result in food riots or emigration.

KINGDOM ATTRIBUTES

The PC kingdom is defined by five core Attributes: Might, Treasure, Influence, Territory, Sovereignty. These reflect the overall characteristics of the kingdom. In addition, the kingdom may have other modifiers called ‘tags’. Rather than number modifiers, tags are narrative modifiers.

Each Attribute reflects your kingdom’s ability to get things done in the world. “Get things done” is vague, and there’s a reason for that — kingdoms are versatile. Spying out secrets, changing governments, waging war and making a fortune — all these are actions that can be attempted and accomplished by a kingdom. The five Attributes (Influence, Might, Treasure, Territory and Sovereignty) are discussed in detail later, but each is measured on a scale of 0-6.

This scale is nonlinear. An increase in rank is something like an order of magnitude greater than the previous rank.

Attributes are highly abstract, because there are so many elements that determine the wealth of a nation or the value of its lands. Keeping track of them all would be incredibly tedious, and thereby counteract this game’s goal of being incredibly fun. Instead of tracking exactly how many battle sorcerers and infantry and light cavalry your army contains, it’s much simpler to give you a single digit and be done with it. The details as to what makes up that number matters – it shapes the verisimilitude and affects the game – but it doesn’t need to be very granular.

The actions of the player characters have a direct and dramatic impact on the fate of the kingdom. If their kingdom has Attributes of 5 or 6, they are literally the people on whom the fate of nations hinge. By acting smartly and succeeding, you can provide bonuses to your kingdom rolls. On the other hand, PCs who make gross misjudgments or fail miserably in their strategies penalize their kingdom’s pools.

MIGHT
Might is a crude gauge of a kingdom’s martial prowess. It encompasses the number of soldiers active at a given time, their degree of training and equipment, their access to enchantment, and the brilliance (or foolishness) of their commanders. Different combinations of characteristics can result in the same ranking: A vast and unruly mob of peasants inflamed by dodgy religious dogma can have the same Might score as a group of a dozen well-armed, veteran cavalry soldiers.
Attribute Example

  1. Well-meaning but poorly trained spearmen, possibly with leather caps.
  2. A thin rank of untrained soldiers with adequate weapons, or adequate soldiers with poor weapons.
  3. The typical large city guard, a small corps of elite soldiers, or a huge gaggle of undisciplined scrappers.
  4. Good troops with excellent leadership, or vice versa.
  5. A well-honed, confident, experienced, superbly balanced fighting force.
  6. Tough, experienced veterans, well organized and commanded, with plenty of magic backup.

Might can be raised even further (temporarily) through narrative actions and tags, such as fighting from behind defenses, surprise maneuvers, demoralizing the enemy, assassinating commanders or otherwise disrupting command & control, sabotaging supply lines, hiring mercenaries, and more.

TREASURE
Treasure is an easy Attribute to understand, for the most part. It measures how much money a group can access, be it in the form of promissory notes or big jingly bags of coin, or raw materials at its disposal. More than that, however, Treasure represents a certain intangible fiscal infrastructure – the ability to secure financing based on reputation, to access favorable loans through the major financial houses, etc.
Attribute Example

  1. Every level of the operation is visibly pitiful — worn out tools, ragged clothing, scurvy livestock, bad haircuts and so on.
  2. A struggling kingdom working very close to the margin, with little in the way of a fiscal safety net.
  3. Perhaps a small but tightly run kingdom, or a large and shabby one, or a variable settlement with areas of poverty and prosperity.
  4. A prosperous kingdom, well-managed and profitable.
  5. With deep reserves and a strong record of success, the kingdom can take greater risks without the chance of being utterly wiped out.
  6. The kingdom radiates casual opulence, and possesses not only such significant reserves that it cannot count them, but also an evolved fiscal system.

Treasure is fiendishly difficult to increase with temporary bonuses. Narrative actions/tags that could improve your Treasure are asking for a loan from another kingdom or major investor, raising funds from your citizens, using your Might to shake down creditors / debtors / bystanders into giving you some financial flex.

INFLUENCE
Influence is less tangible than Treasure or Might, since it measures how much a kingdom knows and how easily it can learn. More than that, it gauges how powerfully (and subtly) a group can sway the opinions of other groups. This is not the power to redraw national borders directly, but the power to learn what a neighboring ruler believes, and perhaps persuade him otherwise.
Attribute Example

  1. Self-absorbed and unknown, your kingdom has negligible pull.
  2. A group like this might stumble on a fact now and then, or through sheer luck change the mind of someone noteworthy.
  3. Your kingdom can make its opinions known directly, and can learn of major events in a fairly timely fashion.
  4. Well-informed of current events for a decent sized area, your group understands the intangible connections between people and groups and social trends. Your knowledge lets you choose arguments most calculated to persuade.
  5. An array of sources can be checked against one another for maximum accuracy, while your legions of advisers (or blackmailers) can make your will felt throughout a nation.
  6. For your kingdom, the walls have ears and the hills have eyes. When you whisper, generals shout and soldiers scream.

Temporary boosts to Influence can be narratively earned by such roleplaying as impressing dignitaries or key personages, bluffs, threats, or bribes.

TERRITORY
Another very abstract Attribute, Territory measures more than just acreage (though that’s part of it). Territory means population, it means the strength of the land and its fertility, it means mills and workshops and cattle. Good Territory indicates educated followers and efficient workers. It is the measure of your kingdom’s physical ability to grow and to recover from setbacks.

Attribute Example

  1. A village and the surrounding farms, a small town, or a neighborhood within a city. It could also be a small church, a minor organization of tradespeople, or a single large ship with crew.
  2. A town, a modest duchy, legitimate authority over a large part of a big city. Alternately, a caravan of decent size, or a broad-but-shallow national conspiracy.
  3. A very small country, a fair sized region or a very large independent city. If not physical land, this could stand for a prominent regional religion, or a national merchant empire, or a very large mercenary troupe.
  4. A large region within a large nation, or a nation of medium size in its entirety, or a huge independent city and its surrounding area.
  5. A large country.
  6. A vast and varied nation with a proud history and a highly-developed culture.

It’s hard to accelerate the productivity of something as big and amorphous as a nation, because any easy improvements have already been made. But there’s one way to squeeze out a bit extra – overworking a resource. Maybe it’s making your craftsmen work 16-hour shifts, or borrowing against money that’s already earmarked for something – you can trade a short-term gain for a longer-term cost.

SOVEREIGNTY
Perhaps the least-tangible Attribute, Sovereignty indicates the inner strength of your society. It measures the loyalty of the people to the kingdom and its leaders, and more, their dedication to one another. It is, essentially, their identity as followers or vassals. Kingdoms with high Sovereignty can expect a great deal of voluntary aid from even its lowliest followers — acting not from hope of reward, but out of a sense of pride or civic duty. Kingdoms with low Sovereignty may dissolve from within, even when there’s no external threat.

Sovereignty is different from every other Attribute in one important way: Every kingdom must have at least one point in it every turn. It can be a temporary point caused by strenuous leadership, but it has to be there. Otherwise the kingdom dissolves. You can survive hitting zero in anything else. But if your group identity dies, your group dies.

Attribute Example

  1. Barely-suppressed hatred and rage.
  2. Grudging obedience with more resentment than initiative.
  3. Typical loyalty: The followers gripe about the leaders to one another, but band together and demonstrate patriotism when an outsider makes remarks.
  4. Unusual dedication, due perhaps personal charisma, positive events, or the abject terror of those under a tyrant.
  5. The commoners take actual pleasure in promoting the nation, and feel pride when they do their civic duty. If there’s rule by fear, it’s backed with equal amounts of glorious rhetoric, probably something about having a manifest destiny.
  6. Total cultural cohesion to the point of xenophobia (or at least condescending snobbery). Profound devotion to the ruling clique.

Being such fluid concept, there are several ways to temporarily raise Sovereignty through narrative actions. When the players throw holidays, sponsor bread & circuses, and other forms of largess. Giving the appearance of just rulership, or giving the impression of cronyism and corruption, may raise or lower it accordingly. Simple tranquility over a period of time can even give a bonus.

KINGDOM TURN

A kingdom turn consists of the PCs roleplaying their characters and interacting with the tags and events in play. It also involves the players enacting kingdom actions.

PC actions take several forms. In the course of normal adventuring, the party will make allies, discover resources, learn intelligence, slay enemies, etc. These actions may generate/remove a tag or a provide bonus to the kingdom’s actions this turn. For example, let’s say an army was marching towards the PC’s kingdom. If the players are able to capture and interrogate some of the enemy, they may learn valuable intelligence. This would give the kingdom a bonus to any Might checks that utilizes this information. Conversely, ineptitude on the part of the PCs may give a penalty to kingdom checks.

PCs can also influence the success of the kingdom through normal roleplaying. When a character settles a dispute, or banishes a troublemaker, or even buys a round of beers for the right people at the right time, this could result in gaining a tag or a bonus for the kingdom, or removing a negative tag. These actions may often involve a Leadership Check from the PC.

Kingdom actions are used when the resources and authority of the state to accomplish things. These are generally, though not always, of much bigger scope than the actions of one, or even a few, people. Fighting battles, dispatching scouts, gathering information from informants, expanding territory, building fortifications – that sort of stuff.

Kingdom actions usually require a combined check using two Attributes, the specific ones depending on the fiction. When a kingdom Attribute is used, it is temporarily reduced by 1. If an Attribute is at 0, the action cannot be attempted (unless the PCs are able to raise the Attribute with a bonus from a tag or PC action).

All kingdom Attributes recover 1 point at the end of a kingdom turn. If no kingdom actions are attempted in a turn, the kingdom will recover an additional point in all Attributes.

MOVES

A move is whenever fiction is proposed which moves the story along. Players make moves when they propose actions where the outcome is uncertain, and there may be a consequence for failure. Trying to convince two feuding factions to come to an agreement is an action that may have a consequence. Typically a player move will require a roll of some sort, and in kingdom management that’s usually a Leadership Check.

GM moves generally don’t involve rolls, they follow intuitively from the fiction. The GM makes two kinds of moves: hard and soft (aw, yeah!). When the GM says something like “there are rumors of organized trolls raiding to the south” or “the townspeople are in a panic about the unsolved murders”, these are examples of soft moves. Soft moves set up some sort of action but leave it hanging on the verge of execution. The end with the hanging question, “What do you do?” The hard move is what happens when the soft move comes to fruition.

Think of it like a punch: the guy narrows his eyes, makes a fist, and pulls his arm back. That’s the soft move! The hard move is the resolution: If nothing is done about it, the fist flies forward and cracks you in the jaw. But in between, you get to act!

Moves generally follow this structure:
1. The player describes what it is they, or their kingdom, is up to. This description follows the fiction – no rules speak. Some dialogue/clarifications may ensue in order to ensure the move reflects the preexisting fiction.
2. The GM assigns a test. It should logically follow from the player’s fiction.
3. The player rolls 2D6+(1/2 attribute)+mods

  • 10+: Success
  • 7-9+: Success, but with complications (create a “soft move”)
  • 6 or less: GM determines what happens (create a “soft move” or execute a “hard move”)

The GM has a list of tests. Whenever players narrate something, the GM browses the list and chooses the most appropriate one. Similarly, the GM has a big list of moves. Moves should follow logically from the fiction, but there are an enormous range of options.

“Success” means that whatever the fiction the player described was more-or-less comes true. It may also mean a tag is gained or removed, or provide a bonus to a kingdom Attributes under specific circumstances.

Moves and successes must logically follow the fiction. If the kingdom is attacked by a horde of rampaging stone giants, your Might 1 militia will never, ever, defeat them in a stand-up fight, even with bonuses and rolling double ‘6’s. Such an outcome doesn’t follow from the fiction. If a player proposed such an action, the GM would ask a bunch of questions that would try to make sense of it narratively. If the PC then proposed a plan for the militia to lure the giants to the cliff edge and then use gunpowder to collapse the cliff, then maybe we could make a test.

The difficulty of an action can be scaled in several ways. First and foremost, the fiction prescribes a range of possible outcomes. Second, penalties and bonuses can be added to die rolls (this is particularly true of opposed actions, like sending out troops to fight an enemy). Third, a single action may be broken up into a series of constituent actions. And lastly, the consequences for failure or partial success can be dialed up or down.

If a player or kingdom rolls a failure, the GM may execute a new soft move, or escalate into another soft move or even a hard move. A soft move is one without immediate, irrevocable consequences. That usually means it’s something not all that bad, like revealing that the PCs can squelch the bandit problem by offering them amnesty and hiring them into your militia (offer an opportunity with cost). It can also mean that it’s something bad, but they have time to avoid it, like hearing about some dissatisfied settlers planning a meeting (show signs of an approaching threat) with a chance for the PCs to squelch this danger. A soft move typically ends on the question “What do you do?”

A hard move is the follow-through on a soft move – it has immediate consequences. If the players don’t do anything about the dissatisfied settlers, maybe because the PCs are too busy dealing with another problem or because they failed to find out who the people were or where the meeting was being held, the GM may make a hard move. Perhaps the settlers get organized and publicly petition the PCs for reform and otherwise cause political headaches, and thereby reduce the kingdom’s Sovereignty!

Moves can also be used for off-screen action – while the consequences may be immediate, the PCs may not know about it. It might occur several hexes over, or come to fruition months from now. Moves can sometimes be tangentially or even unrelated to the trigger if it feels appropriate, perhaps in a “While you were off dealing with this, this other thing has started occurring” sort of way.

GM moves can be invoked at one other time, besides a bad roll: When the players aren’t moving the fiction. If everyone is looking at the GM to find out what happens next, that’s a golden opportunity for a move.

Example Kingdom Actions

Kingdom Management

Warhammer Quest Kingmakers snuh