The King is Dead: What I have learned from actual play
Robin and I have been running a The King is Dead duet for a few weeks now and I learn more about my game world all the time. As I have mentioned repeatedly, I usually just improvise settings and stories. This admittedly makes it difficult for players to strategize and investigate, but I honestly get bored if I plan out too much and Robin doesn’t like strategizing or investigating. I will, of course, not publish a setting that’s 200 pages of “just wing it” in large font (assuming I ever publish this anyway).
Because I didn’t feel ready to deal with the full complexity of vampire society, I decided we would start in the Colonies, specifically with the New York analogue “New Malleus” and a heavy debt to James Fenimore Cooper by way of Michael Mann. Here’s what we’ve discovered in play:
· The colonists of upper New Malleus have a profitable trade relationship with the Six Nations Cruthin. They also greatly admire the comparative democracy of the Six Nations confederation.
· The royal government does not like the pernicious influence of the Cruthin, but can do little to stop it short of declaring war. The presence of poisonous ash wood in Atlantika scares most vampires off of making the voyage to the New World, so the colonial army and the Cruthin are pretty evenly matched.
· Wild wendigo are the descendants of the Roanoke colony, of course. It’s not so much that Cruthin are resistant to Sathaniel’s gift, as it is that the lack of education in how to be a vampire and living in a poisonous environment makes the wendigo savage and feral.
· Adventurous and desperate dunpeals fill the positions of power in the Colonies usually inhabited by vampires. Dunpeals can’t increase their numbers by biting people on the neck or sexual reproduction, so there’s a very small blood-drinker presence in the colonies (no more than the score or two).
· Because of this lack of predation, the colonists have subconsciously adopted typical real-world American attitudes about freedom and personal agency even as the vast majority of them unthinkingly continue the faith of their Mallean ancestors. The arrival of genuine predatory blood-drinkers can be a painful wake-up call. It’s easy to be a sheep when all you have to worry about is being shorn; it’s much harder to be one when you’re mutton.
· Many rebels maintain membership in multiple secret societies. Friends and family members might belong to different societies and have no idea about it.
· Newhouse lives! …As yet another Tennant-voiced Casanova knock-off.
· I am a sucker for puns, anagrams, and just plain dumb jokes. The fearsome Cruthin vampire hunter Wathia (Hiawatha), smuggler Captain Reynolds of the good ship Firefly, conflicted plantation owner William Clinton Jepperson, Albany being called Albania…
· Even male dunpeals wear mourning veils when they go out by daylight.
· Dracula exists as the Prinz von Tepesh, leader of a pseudo-Hessian force of dispossessed mercenaries (thanks, Sleepy Hollow!). His bloodline is resistant to sunlight but not immune to it. He’s on his way to the colonies right now, and only a hasty alliance of Yankee traders and pirates can possibly sink his flagship!
· There is a mysterious masked dunpeal Inspector General. I wouldn’t be surprised if he has a handler named Tarkington.
· Regrettably, the African slave trade still exists in this world. I wanted to ignore it, but it just doesn’t feel like America without slavery and it just doesn’t make sense that people who follow a religion that legitimizes their place as foodstuff for their social betters wouldn’t embrace slavery as their chance to treat fellow humans as livestock. People suck and that doesn’t change if you’re oppressed.
· The Hammer Films-style mélange of English and German names and words is just as fun as I hoped it would be.
· I have created a setting in which the player characters are forced to be assassins, spies, and thieves because the bad guys are the government; this means that the ideal adventure structure is a caper. All goes according to plan. Mwa-ha-hah!