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The king is dead

Written by Expy - Published on August 31, 2007

Roleplaying games should always be fun and entertaining. Fun to prepare, fun to play, entertaining to “watch” for the DM. In order to consistently live a fresh and rewarding roleplaying experience, different game styles or concepts might be necessary. Here is a game concept that I enjoyed very much and that should require very little preparation for the DM and players.

The throne war

When I was in college our DM would organize a throne war every now and then. The throne war scenario is quite simple: the king is dead and all the player characters are descendants of the late monarch, most of them claiming they are the rightful heir.

Pitting the players against each other

What makes this game concept unique is that the PCs are competing against each other, matching wits and sometimes swords. For the DM this style of play implies very little prep time, but requires a lot of in-game improvisation.

Splitting the party

The throne war can be played with all the players around the table, but requires good roleplayers if it is played that way. At a convention in Montreal Phil Brucato (co-writer of Mage: The Ascension) game mastered with everyone around the table and the players responded very well by ignoring and forgetting information that wasn’t directed at them.

I personally like a split party approach – which is usually annoying and disruptive to the game flow in a normal game, but not for the throne war.

Getting the party started

Roleplaying games have always been an excuse for my friends and I to all get together. During a throne war we got to do exactly that: hang out. While one player was busy explaining his character’s plot and action to the DM, everyone else was chilling, chatting or role-playing. When the DM called the game off for the night the transition to laid back party was natural.

Competitiveness and favoritism

The only downside to the throne war game is that it usually crowns a winner, so the DM has to be fair throughout the game so that no player feels slighted. If your players are good-humored or mature competitors this shouldn’t be an issue.

The king is dead

Which one of your players has the skills to claim the throne?

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Written by Expy

Meet Expy The Red Dragon

Expy is the mascot for DungeonMastering.com and the real mastermind behind Expy Games. He likes to hoard treasure, terrorize neighbors, burn down villages, and tell white dragon jokes..

No matter how fearful the legends claim dragons are, they always end up being defeated in 5 rounds by adventuring parties they encounter. That’s what dragons are – experience points for the heroes in your Dungeons & Dragon party. And this mascot is no different, hence the name Expy.

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5 Responses to “The king is dead”
  1. Vanir says:

    Man, I LOVE this idea. Chock full of roleplaying potential, and it lets the players indulge those murderous urges that surface now and then.

    As a twist, the king might not actually be dead and is just trying to weed out those who would betray him. Or there’s another stronger guy with aspirations to the throne and the PC’s have to work together to get rid of him AND still make sure they don’t get backstabbed.

    Aw hell now you’ve done it…. you turned on my idea generator! IT WON’T STOP! RUN FOR YOUR LIVES!!!!!

  2. Yax says:

    Run for my life? Are ideas that dangerous?

    I forgot to mention that we played the throne war games in Amber – the world of diceless roleplaying.

    If you’re gonna split the party, you might want to speed things up by rolling few dice.

  3. Robert says:

    For a change of pace we found a Fight Club in the port town we’re currently in. We’ve run two different version of it, about two months apart.

    The first version had teams of 5 in a ring about 30′ diameter, with a few wicker screens up. Only 3 per team are allowed in the ring at any one time, no ranged weapons, magic is allowed so long as there’s no chance to hurt the crowd (fireball might be inappropriate) or disappoint the crowd (Darkness is out). When one team has 3 unconscious they lose. There was an entry fee of at least 100 gp. Winnings were three times whatever you put in for entry fee (your amount back matched by the other team, and matched by the house). Clerics were available to heal everyone up at the end. We were level 2. The DM ran the opposition.

    Later we had a different style of Fight Club, in the same town run by the same people. In the mud flats that resulted from an extreme low tide (half movement) a 100′ square is marked out and magicly illuminated. The DM had prerolled a bunch of NPCs and we were randomly assigned one each, so long as it was basically the same class (two fighter types would be unfair, two mages wouldn’t last long). We were level three. This time is was Player vs Player as we ran the NPC team-mate.

    It was a lot of fun, but you’d have to be careful with the group you did this too. It wasn’t particularly good for group bonding. Round two was rather spiteful.

    The prize was 300 gp to share with your NPC for first, 100 gp to share for 2nd, and 20 gp to share for 3rd.

  4. Yax says:

    Fight club / Arena games are very entertaining and easy to conjure on the fly. It’s an instant board game!


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