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[KazeKami Kyoko Kills Kublai Kahn] Kublai Kahn is Dead

Started by Simon C, October 01, 2007, 11:00:42 PM

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Simon C

Over at Snail's Pace (, we've been playing a few pretty unusual games via play-by-post.  Dave Cleaver and I recently finished a game of Jonathan Walton's "KazeKami Kyoko Kills Kublai Khan".  The thread of the actual game is here:

What I found really interesting about the game was how quickly it reset my expectations about what I was getting out of it.  As the Kahn, I had no ability to actually stop Kyoko.  Explicitly, she was able to deal with whatever I threw at her, and the Khan was going to die.  What this meant was that, in play, the focus shifted from trying to come up with things that would stop Kyoko (my first few posts were like this), to creating challenges that would expose more of the world and the characters.  I really enjoyed setting up great opportunities for Kyoko to really shine, while revealing more about the Khan and his life. 

I've played a couple of play-by-post games like this, where there are really no rules for conflict resolution, and conflict becomes a pretty secondary part of the game.  In play, the analogy that comes to mind is volleyball, where the players are setting up the ball for each other.  One player will float the ball gently in front of the net, for the other player to spike.  KKKKK gives great opportunities for this kind of play by enforcing the use of questions in the Khan's ritual phrase.  Because I'm always asking questions, Kyoko alwas has an "in", an answer to provide.

While I'm on the subject, Ritual Phrases! These are so cool! I think they really went a long way towards establishing tone for the game, and formalising the "gameplay" aspect.  Each post felt like a concrete "move" in the game, like sliding forward a chess piece or playing a card.  The joy of the game was in making a move, and then anticipating the other player's response. 

There were a few times that I felt like Dave and I weren't quite on the same page in terms of the tone of the game.  I think I was angling for a slightly darker, more serious game, and his replies often seemed to brush off those untertones in favour of lighter material.  That said, I think we came together really well for the end of the game.  One thing I'd tried to do was create a sense of building tension, using repetition as a device, introducing successively more powerful wives, and then reversing the trend with the last wife being physically weak, but sincerely devoted to the Khan.  I really liked how Dave dealt with that, taking the opportunity to move the game from the realm of how Kyoko kills the Khan, to why she does so.  This was where I really wanted the game to go as well.  It felt like a game that only explored the physical abilities of Kyoko could only end unsatisfyingly, with a conformation that yes, indeed, Kyoko is both a wind spirit and a ninja, and thus unstoppable.  Instead, what we revealed about the relationship between the Khan and Kyoko really felt like a story.

I'd love to play the game again as Kyoko, to see how that changes my experience, and I'd love to hear from Dave about his experience of the game.  I felt like I was really exploring the GM role in the game, as a guide to take the story in interesting directions, while the main character always wins.  I wonder what it's like playing Kyoko.

I thought that occurred to me after looking at the depth of history we'd created through the game was that KKKKK would make an amazing tool for world creation.  I'd love to play a more traditional RPG in a world that had a previous game of KKKKKK as a historical document, myth, or prophesy.