To Win the Royal Heart
a role-playing game and submission to the rpg.net TRO challenge by user, Gene Freak
To Win the Royal Heart is a game designed as a response to the TRO game-fu challenge and the specific ingredients given by the judges. In Royal Heart players take on the role of either the ready-to-wed Princess or one of her Suitors. It is a time when the Princess has just come of age to marry when both of her parents tragically pass. So who will succeed the king as the new ruler of the kingdom? That's what the game is all about! Taking on the role of her Suitors, the players will attempt to persuade the Princess that they are the best man for the job. Winning the Princess' royal heart means winning the throne of the kingdom.
The ingredients I will be using from the TRO challenge are: "a game mechanic that is specifically tied to the setting" (the Affection system for romance), "structured pacing and scene mechanics" (scenes operate by providing new ways for the Suitors to woo the Princess and are ended when the terms of the scene conclude), "events surrounding a contested succession - royal" (because all of the Suitors are contending to be the next king), and "dowry" (because the Princess' dowry just happens to be the keys to the kingdom!).
Before the game begins, one player should elect themselves to be the Princess. This person fulfills a role very similar to that of the Game Master of other RPGs (you may call this person the Princess Master if you like). It is the Princess' job to narrate the elements of the scene other than the characters playing the game and to describe the basic setting. The Princess should also arrange her Virtues and select which Scenes will take place all before the start of the game. She should reveal these decisions to no one. Just as with the Suitors, the Princess also has a list of questions which she should answer before the start of play. Unlike the Suitors, however, some of the answers to her questions will dictate the nature of the setting and so she should endeavor to answer them in advance so that the other players may take them into account. If at all possible, if you anticipate being the Princess for a game of To Win the Royal Heart you should prepare all of the above in advance. More details below in the Playing the Princess section.
After the Princess has prepared to run the game, every other player will select a Suitor. The Suitors may be selected from the list in the Playing a Suitor section.
The Princess then chooses which Scene to begin with and narrates the introduction. The Suitors then do their best to shower the Princess with their amorous attentions! By playing to the Suitor's Charms, the Scene's Events, and the Princess' favor they garner her Affection. The Scenes continue as selected by the Princess until one Scene has been played per player (including the Princess). At the end of the last Scene, the Princess will announce who has her highest Affection and the game is over. That Suitor has won the Princess' heart and is in line to be the next king of the kingdom!
Any time a dice roll is called for in To Win the Royal Heart the player may roll any sided dice he wishes, even coins if he has no dice. Anything that is over half the value of the die (so 11 or higher on a d20, 7 or higher on a d12, 6 or higher on a d10, etc.) or a heads if the player is using coins, counts as a success. For Virtue tests, a Suitor need only roll a single successful die to have succeeded.
When reading Suitor's Charms and Scene's Events, note that any action a Suitor wishes to take the player must act out. For instance, the Court Jester doesn't burp unless the player does and the Suitors don't arm wrestle unless the players do. Events that require Virtue tests should be narrated.
Playing the Princess
As mentioned previously, the player playing the Princess essentially acts as a narrator and arbiter (in addition to the actual Princess character) in the game. Before play begins the Princess should create her character and select which Scenes will take place in the game. The first thing a Princess must do is assign ratings to her Virtues. As the Princess of a king-less kingdom, the poor young lady is certain to be assaulted ceaselessly by the advances of suitors. The only thing standing between her heart and the suitor's intentions are her Virtues. At the end of every Scene, the Suitors will roll however many dice they earned and compare that against the most applicable Virtue the Princess has. If, for example, the Suitor spent much of his time crudely hitting on the Princess or making sexual innuendo, she would resist with her Purity virtue. If the Suitor attempts to use obtuse and obscure language to mystify and marvel the Princess, she will resist with her Intelligence virtue.
The Royal Virtues are; Independence, Intelligence, and Purity. Independence is used to resist any Suitor that attempts to coddle, control, or put the Princess in her place. Intelligence is used to resist any Suitor who tries to outwit, verbally bully, or deceive her. Purity allows the Princess to resist all sexual or crude advances against her by her Suitors. The Princess should choose one of these Virtues to be rated 3, one to be rated 2, and the last one to be rated 1.
Next, the Princess will decide which Scenes will take place in the game. Because different Scenes play to the strength of different Suitors, they should be selected before players select their Suitors and they should remain a secret until after the players have selected their Suitors. The Princess should select one Scene for every player playing Royal Heart, including herself. Any special rules regarding a Scene will be described in the Scenes section later.
Finally, the Princess answers a few background questions about herself and the setting before play begins. The background questions provided are just examples: feel free to use any or none of them. It's only necessary to answer as many questions as it takes to get a good sense of who the Princess is and what the setting is like. If you feel like you can do that in 4 questions, great, but sometimes it may require as many as 10 or more. The background questions can be found here:
Once play begins, the Princess selects the first Scene. She describes the Scene, giving any details she sees fit, and then play has begun. The Suitors may begin interacting with the Princess or anyone else within the scene (other Suitors or other characters being played by the Princess Master). Though the Suitors have ways of gaining dice specific to their character and the Scene, the Princess also has a number of dice equal to the number of Suitors playing that she may hand out over the course of the game. These dice represent the Princess' Favor and the Princess may give them to whoever she wants for whatever reason she wants. Once a Suitor uses one of the dice given to him as Princess' Favor the die is removed from the game.
Playing a Suitor
Playing a Suitor requires significantly less prep time. You just select which Suitor you prefer to play as and answer a few of the background questions. This will help flesh out the character and breathe a bit of life into them. Though the same Suitors may be available every game, the background questions allow great variance within the archetype.
When you select a Suitor you will notice two things: Virtues and Charms. The Suitor's Virtues are: Machismo, Suave, and Cunning. Machismo reflects the Suitors manliness, physical strength, athletic prowess, and combat ability. Suave represents the characters innate charisma, presence, way with words, and dance moves. Cunning determines the character's education, strength of will, reasoning, and foresight. The rating next to each of these Virtues represents how many dice the Suitor gets when he is called upon to test that Virtue. Every Scene will present the opportunity to earn dice from Events by requiring the Suitor to succeed at various Virtue tests. All that is required to pass a Virtue test is a single successful die.
Charms are endearing qualities particular to the Suitor. Every time the terms of the Charm are fulfilled he may add a number of dice equal to the number next to the Charm to his pool to be rolled at the end of the Scene. Suitors may only get dice from any given Charm once per scene. So the Court Jester could get 2 dice from making the Princess laugh and 2 from making another Suitor laugh but he could not collect again on either for the rest of the Scene.
At the end of every Scene every Suitor rolls all the dice he earned and counts his successes. He then subtracts the appropriate Princess' Virtue from this total and this is his new Affection rating. The Suitor with the highest Affection at the end of the game wins! All players should agree which Princess' Virtue was targeted each Scene with any disputes being resolved by the Princess.
The list of Suitors, including their Virtues, Charms, and Background Questions, may be found here:
Every Scene in a game of To Win the Royal Heart is an opportunity for the Suitors to impress their would-be beloved. There are three main parts to every Scene: their description, the Events that might take place in it, and the End of Scene Event. The description is exactly what it sounds like. It explains what the Scene is about and what is happening in the Scene. The Events that could take place in the Scene are actions that the Suitors can take in the Scene that, if successful, will give them extra dice at the end of the Scene when they roll for Affection. Like Charms, the number listed next to the Event is the number of dice the Suitor gets for accomplishing that Event. Finally, the End of Scene Terms is the Event or Events that, when completed, will end the Scene. Once the End of Scene Terms are completed, all Suitors roll the dice they have earned over the course of that Scene and compare it against the Princess' Virtue for Affection (as described in the Playing a Suitor section above).
Some Scenes also have special rules, such as the Royal Wedding Scene which can only be played when it is the last Scene of the game.
The full list of Scenes is available below:
Advice on Playing To Win the Royal Heart
To Win the Royal Heart runs primarily on the presumption that all the players are very comfortable with one another and don't mind acting a bit goofy. Unlike many RPGs, there isn't a whole lot of "game" in Royal Heart to hide behind if you feel uncomfortable acting a part. So here is my master tip for advanced Princess Masters: bring a bottle of wine with you to the game. Two or three depending on the number of Suitors coming. The game is meant to be light hearted and comical (and, ok, maybe romantic), what better than a bottle of red or white to set the mood?
That's the extent of my advice. The game's not complicated.
Potential Refinements of To Win the Royal Heart
The absolute first thing I would do with more time is refine the Charms of the Suitors and the Events of the Scenes. The fun of To Win the Royal Heart is to be found in the ludicrous behaviors the players engage in to win those dice for the Affection roll at the end of the scene so the more interesting and interactive the Charms and Events are, the better. The writing could no doubt use a bit of brushing up as well.
Following that, an example of play might go a long way towards showing what the game is all about. Sometimes when you read a game that's very easy you try to make it more complicated than it is...examples go a long way to show you how simplicity functions. Once those two most crucial things were taken care of, I'd try to include a few more Suitors and Scenes.
After that, various "themed" settings could come out. The Princess could be a gothic lolita, for instance, being pursued by such Suitors as Count Dracula, Frankenstein's Monster, and the Slimey Gillman. Or the Princess could be the daughter of a now extinct shogun whose caught the interest of Suitors as diverse as a Wandering Ronin, Elite Ninja Master, and a Wise Old Sage. In fact, where I to develop alternate settings, those would likely be the first two.
Finally, if you wanted to add a bit more inter-Suitor interactions there is room to develop some kind of dueling system between characters. Perhaps Suitors can challenge each other to a Duel (of Machismo, Suave, or Cunning) to win away dice from another but at the possibility of losing one themselves. Not sure, just spitballing, and in the end such a sub-system might only detract from the forward thrust of the game anyway.