The elements of The Yellow King Roleplaying Game Game currently exciting folks who’ve read the preview version are its new, quick, player-facing combat system and the alluring status effects of its Shock and Injury cards.
What players who take part in your campaign will most remember about are the interconnections their different characters experience between the game’s four variously shattered realities.
How this works can be a little hard to spot in the preview version, because the key bits appear in the character generation rules for the three later segments: The Wars, Aftermath, and This is Normal Now. Their simple elements create an emergent dynamic in play. Once it happens, any GM capable of basic improv will see what’s going on, react accordingly, and before you know it, you’ll see all the possibilities for an epic, player-driven arc flower before your Yellow Sign-besotted eyes. Trust yourself, and the tools provided to you by the game, and when you need it to turn on, the light bulb will turn on.
I’ll be getting at this more directly in the finished books with additional detailed GM guidance, thanks to the room supplied by a recently-toppled stretch goal.
But for the moment, let’s look at a bit of actual play from my own in-house game.
A couple of weeks back we switched settings for the second time, moving on from The Wars to the Aftermath segment.
As previously described, the versions of the characters fighting The Wars were bedeviled by awful fox creatures. They were introduced into the arc by a player who made a creepy fox part of her Damned Peculiar Thing. Each player supplies this vignette of haunted backstory during character creation.
(The foxes do not appear in the books. Rather than supply you prefab foxes to creep out your players, the game gives you a mechanism encouraging players to make up their own equivalents.)
Now another player—admittedly one who has just joined us and has a more sanguine attitude about the foxes—brought them back in with this segment’s equivalent of the Damned Peculiar Thing. When he described his Worst Memory, as a flashback from the successful revolution the heroes of Aftermath recently fought in, there were the foxes, grinning at him and eating people.
Needless to say this provoked a degree of groaning from other players.
But what kind of continuity doesn’t from time to time bring back its big bad in a new guise and context?
That’s basically what you’re shooting for—the idea that elements from past segments show up as Easter eggs in the current one. They may remain as cool references, or return to occupy center stage once more.
The last session of The Wars began to heavily suggest the interleaving of the settings. While house-to-house fighting raged overhead, the squad met a villain from 1895 and some weirdly modern opponents in the sewers of Marseille.
Whether this reality leakage becomes a big element of Aftermath or fades into the scenery for a while depends on what feels right as we explore this new reality and the similar-but-different set of characters.
Seeing the fox move, another member of my crew decided to try it in reverse. He figured that he could introduce into dialogue the fact that they’d killed an antagonist from the first few segments. He said that they’d killed an enemy clearly meant to be the vampire who scared and frustrated both in Paris and The Wars.
Of course, this was a throwaway line of dialogue, not part of his character creation.
I guess that completely stymies me because there’s no possible way as GM I can think how to bring back a vampire the heroes think they’ve bumped off. He couldn’t think that the vampire is dead but turn out to be wrong about that. Nope, the beginning of every Hammer Dracula movie offers me no guidance whatsoever.
On the other hand, I could let this stand for this segment, as a change of pace and establish that she really is dead in this go-round.
As I said, the way it unfolds will become apparent by doing.
Just don’t tell the players who had to be absent that night about the foxes…