If a campaign goes on long enough the players involved will eventually get to the point that they will want to strike out on their own, apart from other sources of authority in the story, and establish their own domains. Whether these are truly independent of an NPC ruler such as a King or an Archbishop or some other form of governance or merely granted a more generous form of semi-autonomous self-rule by an authority that trusts the player(s) enough to give them more leeway in furtherance of their own goals is a matter to be decided by both the players and the Game Master. This is a significant development in any story line and should be taken seriously and with due consideration to all of the ramifications. The time has come now for my game as the players, affectionately referred to as “The Troublemakers”, have begun to discuss Maelonbourg becoming an independent nation.
The first thing to consider is what sort of power shift will this create in the game world. There are not many kings that would sanction some portion of their realm being carved off and given away, no matter how problematic it might have been. There might be others that would be inspired by this and try to break off as well or overthrow the king completely. Having the blessing of a monarch or whatever ruler a land has to go ahead and set up a new nation is key to the success of that new nation. Even if everyone else nearby hates the idea you have at least one friendly ally willing to say “Hey, leave them alone. I think its a fine idea.” In the case of Maelonbourg there is abundant evidence to suggest that the King of Fanolania might just support their independence. The place is small, has a number of hostile neighbors, and so far has devoured more resources than it has provided. There isn’t any sign that Fanolania is wanting to keep Maelonbourg so maybe this means the King would sanction their going off on their own.
The second thing to consider is who or what is going to take over the rulership of this new state. This is a tricky thing for Game Masters. The desire to control every little thing at this point needs to be set aside. If the players are looking to set up their own nation then the players need to decide what they want it to look like. The Game Master then sets to making sure this is as realistic as possible given the constraints already established in the game world. What obstacles might the players encounter in trying to set up this new land? What allies do they have, and what enemies? How has becoming free of outside governance impacted the way that the players are now forced to interact with their friends and foes? And while the Game Master might have a desire to see one or another of the individual players rise to the top and be the ultimate leader, but again this has to be set aside. The Game Master must resist the urge to play king maker even though that is literally what they do all of the time in every other circumstance. For this the players absolutely must be allowed to set this thing up as they want to. The Game Master can provide the obstacles and rewards, but don’t try to steer this into what you want it to be. This is a shared story. While it is never advisable for one of the players to take the reins of power personally even if it is a small country like Maelonbourg you got to let the players make their own mistakes.
This brings us to the third most important thing to consider as the players begin nation-building. If the players are savvy enough to realize that the higher up they get on the power structure the more ridiculous the difficulties they are going to face, then they are probably going to select an NPC to govern their new country or at the very least set up a system by which they share responsibility so that none of them are tied down to running the place when there is adventure to be had. Now the bar has been raised. The players are no longer going to be content with hunting the rogue manotaur that has been a nuisance in the nearby forest for decades. Now they are looking at taking on entire nation states. They will, unless an NPC is in charge, have to figure out a way to defend their country, feed the citizens, and make sure everyone is generally happy and content to prevent them from being overthrown by yet another threat. The Game Master now has to think of the players from an entirely different perspective in addition to being the individual adventurers that they are. Their enemies are going to become more formidable as the stakes rise on how valuable the players have become. Essentially the entire game has shifted into a higher gear.
For Maelonbourg these are all issues that the players have yet to really dive into. It only came up as a matter of discussion in yesterday’s game, so this is all quite new. And I am thrilled to be a part of this story development. It is by far the most striking plot development yet in a game filled to over flowing with twists and turns. I can’t wait to see where this goes. There is plenty to suggest in entries already made here in this blog that an independent nation born out of Maelonbourg isn’t that far-fetched an idea. Plenty of clues have been scattered in the game and here to give the players plenty of hope that they can see themselves as independent rulers with little real difficulty. Why would it be easy? Oh come now. Can you imagine the trouble a Game Master can throw at players when they haven’t got anyone more powerful than them to hide behind? I am all for this!