Prelude to the Wars of the Three Kingdoms Role-Playing Game
Geoff Gimse (University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee)
Courtney Herber (University of Nebraska-Lincoln)
Concept and Background
History didn’t have to go the way it did. There is always a precarious nature to its course, filled with opportunity, loss, and the messy nuance and unpredictability that people inherently bring to the table. By focusing our scholarship on names, dates, and events, especially on the memorization of those key pieces of data, we often create the impression that the course of history was inevitable. Games give us an opportunity to bring individuals into dialog with these events in ways that traditional scholarship does not. By turning historical events into games, we can create a contextualized space where players interact with these events to better understand the causes and motivations of the people involved.
Tabletop roleplaying games (RPGs), in particular, give players an opportunity to step outside their environment and take on the personas of characters in a different time and place. In the construction and playing of these characters, the players learn about the time period and people but must also confront the ripple of consequences that these events have had even in their own time. As a social game, a tabletop RPG encourages players to learn from and consider the others in their group. From a critical perspective, the game itself, its development, and the subsequent playing of the game provide avenues for critique, discussion, and imagined interventions into ideologies of power and displacement.
For this project, we will develop a campaign sourcebook and an accompanying trio of short one-shot game modules. The subject of the campaign sourcebook will be the lead-up to a major event in the history of the British Isles – the Wars of the Three Kingdoms (also commonly known as the English Civil War). The Wars of the Three Kingdoms were a series of bloody conflicts between England, Scotland, and Ireland during the rule of Charles Stuart I. To do a game of the entirety of the Wars of the Three Kingdoms would be far too complicated for an initial project, so we are going to focus on one particular event in the Wars – The Irish Uprising of 1641.
For this game module, we will be utilizing the Fate Accelerated Edition, hereafter FAE, to turn the historical setting of Ireland in the early 1640s into a multi-faceted tabletop roleplaying game. One of the benefits of FAE is that it uses an aspect system which allows for every potential benefit to have a cost. The very black and white nature of the usual game systems are already subverted which will allow us to more successfully meld the game to fit our needs. FAE is published by Evil Hat Productions and is a complete roleplaying framework. This will allow us to focus on game design and modification rather than developing a completely new game framework. It is also free-to-play and free-to-use. This, as well as its usability, makes it an ideal choice for an academic game.
During game development, we will post bi-weekly updates to Prelude’s Forge. This will allow us to track the evolution and challenges of the game while also helping to keep us accountable. One of the challenges we are interested in addressing in this development process is the translation of historical complexities into game mechanics. How do we translate these issues in ways that remain true and respectful to the historical realities of the time while developing an engaging and challenging game narrative?