MR-KR-GR: The Death Rolled Kingdom, a playtest

MR-KR-GR (and A Thousand Thousand Islands)

Through lucky circumstances, I ran into a G+ thread on an intriguing project, sometime back... a SouthEast Asia inspired fantasy setting. Joining a bunch of others proclaiming "can I have one too?" I was lucky enough to get a copy of these zines shipped all the way from Malaysia. Thanks, Zedeck Siew!

Reading the text of the setting book was impressive. There was a level of prose to it, and the wording was evocative, and yet very light and simple. A land of crocodile masters, ancient ruins of a lost land,  My instinct was immediately to try and run something in this land. I have the urge to introduce it to others. I have the urge to explore stories in this land.

(Curious what it looks like? You can see a few preview images in this Twitter thread by Aaron Lim.)

 Image by Aaron Lim on Twitter  @ ehronlime

Image by Aaron Lim on Twitter @ehronlime

As it turns out, Munkao and Zedeck Siew are working on a whole series of lands in this setting: The Thousand Thousand Islands. Munkao describes this project as: a Southeast Asian-themed fantasy visual world-building project. The goal isn’t to imagine a bog-standard medieval fantasy world, superficially re-skinned with kerises and brown people. In my notes and illustrations, I will be digging deeper, looking into regional folklore and history – trying to discover what a fantasy world truly rooted in the myths and lived experience of Indochina, Suvarnabhumi and the Nusantara look like

Designing around MR-KR-GR

It took time before I was inspired as far as how to run this. I mean, it's not written in any traditional style for a module or setting. There are no stat blocks. Or dungeon maps. Or explicitly stated webs connecting the pieces. But there are hints of things. Subtle connections between people, or more accurately, the thoughts of those people and the roles they inhabit. In some ways it's close to what a Dungeon World dungeon starter might look like, but I'd argue even less structure than that. More like a compilation of Jason Cordova's 7-3-1 design principals, but more like 50-3-1.

I was considering the very rules-light World of Dungeons, but that also felt like much more rules than I really wanted. I didn't need hit points and armor, savings throws, lists of skills, weapons to purchase... it felt like too much. And so at some point the connection between this very loose structure, and Munkao's drawings and how they were so similar to those found in another game I love, led me to: Fall of Magic.

That little spark led me to some fledgling design ideas. I thought about running a version of MR-KR-GR using the fantastic images, but with some story prompts that helped initially guide the story and character creation. However, because the MR-KR-GR setting and land have such interesting lore, people, and things to explore, I would make the experience loosely guided, as in a GM-based game. I decided to use World of Dungeons as a backbone to adjudicate conflicts and provide some mechanics to the game; Fall of Magic has little.

(Want to read a more in-depth rumination on this topic? See my first post in the Gauntlet Blog about MR-KR-GR).

An Initial Playtest

So, I setup an ad hoc game of MR-KR-GR up on the Gauntlet calendar and got lucky with some superstar players: Lauren, Ary and Ellen. I didn't want to spend too much time on character generation prior to jumping into the game, and so said they could just fill in some stock stat numbers, and even skills and such, as it came up in play. That said, we did use a World of Dungeons character keeper in Google sheets (provided by the Gauntlet's amazing Play Aids repository), and had:

MR-KR-GR_Playtest_WoDsheet.jpg

As it turned out, World of Dungeons was complete overkill, system-wise. We pretty much had a story game on our hands, and occasionally wanted to make some sort of die roll so we'd all be surprised with the outcome.

All of us had played games such as Fall of Magic and Lady Blackbird, games which can be played as a conversation and with scene framing, so the flow of the game worked very well with the players contributing heavily to the narrative and direction of the story. I would push here, and tweak there, play a few NPCs, and flavor the world... it was a truly enjoyable experience for me, and I'm happy that this thing came to some sort of fruition. Things that need fixing? Definitely. And I will write more about that in the second playtest I ran, in a face-to-face game. 

Curious about how the game went? You can watch the recording: