Video Game: King of Dragon Pass
aka: The King Of Dragon Pass
King of Dragon Pass
is a computer game published by the very-very small developer A Sharp
(A#). The game is set in the past of Glorantha, the fantasy setting for RuneQuest
and Hero Quest
. The player leads a clan of bloodthirsty Orlanthi
to dominance over the freshly colonised land of Dragon Pass by managing the clan's economy, conducting its raids against neighbours and making other wise decisions as the seven-member clan ring.
The gameplay itself is a strange mix of strategy games, RPGs
and Visual Novels
as the usual macromanagement of the clan is spiced by individual decisions of the nobility and story advancing choices made over nice pictures. Should Voskandora the war-leader engage her opposite directly using her axe and battle magic or try to keep herself safe behind her thanes? Should the clan pay the extra five cows worth of goods to try to find a wife for one of the ugly carls? These are all in the player's hand and might have seemingly unrelated long term consequences.
Even though it was published in 1999 the game has aged very well: there is absolutely no animation, only text and really good looking images. The latter are even emphasized by the ability of switching the text off revealing otherwise hidden parts. Its popularity received a surge due to the release of its iOS port
in September of 2011, which featured new scenes and tweaked gameplay. It was re-released through GOG.com
in August of 2012; this version has been patched to play nice with newer operating systems, but does not feature any of the changes from the iOS port.
Lots of RuneQuest
tropes also apply here as a result of the same setting and sometimes even mechanics.
Has an upcoming sequel, Six Ages
This video-game provides examples of:
- 0% Approval Rating: The legendary Bad King Urgrain. If you screw up badly enough, people will compare you to him.
- Action Girl: Worshipers of Vinga, the Orlanthi goddess of Action Girls. Kallyr is a particularly notable example with her own dedicated event chain. There's also a clan known for being led by Vingans.
- The Alliance: What your tribe starts out as.
- All Myths Are True: Particularly notable because if you alter a myth through a Hero Quest, you retroactively alter reality. Note that failing a Hero Quest and altering it aren't the same thing.
- Although it might just be a case of the person who underwent the quest telling their version of what happened, which is more believable than someone from outside of the clan telling the story of what happened.
- Indeed, this ends up being zigzagged a bit. The game documentation mentions the reality-altering aspect, but there's occasionally some leeway. The "correct" choices may fail while substitutes succeed, or the quester may complete the quest but suffer injury (including a permanent decrease in stats). It's less retroactive myth alteration, and more "good enough is good enough."
- Or it's possible that the myth as told and retold over generations was wrong, and the "altered" version is the actual sequence of events. Oral traditions are not renowned for their consistency.
- All of the Other Reindeer: The rest of your clan to Thadart, who has been captured and transformed by the Tusk Riders. As the clan leaders, however, you do have a chance to make sure that he's not just accepted, but respected and beloved by the rest of the clan.
- All Trolls Are Different: Here they are only one of the usual dangers a clan can face in winter. Until some nobles try to explore the far north...
- Alternative Calendar: Made up of five seasons lasting eight weeks, and the two week "Sacred Time". Sea season is roughly equivalent to mid-spring, Fire Season is summer, Earth season is autumn, Dark season is winter, Storm season is late winter to early spring, which then gives way to Sacred Time. There are alternative weekdays, too.
- Always Chaotic Evil: The forces of Chaos.
- Ambadassador: Any noble with high combat and bargaining stats is this, and is a good choice for long trade expeditions.
- Animal Jingoism: Orlanthi are cat people, thanks to a Bad Dog (yes, that's his name) in mythology. They hate dogs, and you may be approached by worshipers of Yinkin who have heard that another tribe has dogs and would like your help in killing them off; helping nets approval from your ancestors.
- Artifact of Doom: The Pharaoh's sorcerers are armed with a few.
- Authority Equals Asskicking: Given in a barbaric tribal society.
- Awesome Moment of Crowning: Do everything right in the long game, and your leader becomes King or Queen of Dragon Pass.
- Badass Beard: All worshipers of Lhankor Mhy have beards. All of them. If genetics have seen fit to deny them the opportunity to grow beards—for instance, because they're women—that only means they have to make them.
- Badass Grandpa / Never Mess with Granny: Because of the way the stat system works, it's entirely possible that your most fearsome War Leader will be a sexagenarian.
- Badass Normal: Your farmers are able to hold their own in a fight pretty well. Although they get overshadowed by the incredible badassery of the weaponthanes, who can each take down 10 footman.
- Badass Pacifist: The goddess Chalana Arroy canonically manages to overcome Elmal, Orlanth, Malia, Urox, and Humakt— all through the power of healing.
- Bad Moon Rising: The red moon in the northern sky is so Chaotic that good Orlanthi try not to even look at it.
- Barbarian Hero: While they wear more clothing than is normal to the trope, pretty much any Orlanthi weaponthane counts.
- Barbarian Tribe: The Orlanthi and their various tribes and clans, of course.
- Berserk Button: Dragonewts have been known to calmly watch Orlanthi looting their temples while only appearing mildly agitated, only to flip out and kill everyone out of nowhere for doing something as innocuous as stepping on a mushroom or humming.
- Beauty Is Never Tarnished: Averted; your warriors all end up looking scarred and grizzled, no matter how pretty they might look at the start.
- Black Magic: Chaos worshippers can do some weird things. One notable sorcerer has a hand for a head— and collects other people's hands for evil purposes.
- Blue and Orange Morality: The Orlanthi have some odd preferences and customs, and you're advised to not bind yourself to a modern moral system. You have to think like an Orlanthi, and even more so think like an Orlanthi who follows his or her clan's history. Dragons also have a very strange moral system as well; for dragons, particularly dragonewts, they very strongly desire to recover their bodies after death, but won't be bothered if you sold that body to another clan or made a suit of armor out of it. They also have utterly bizarre Berserk Buttons (i.e. clearing one's throat, slapping a mosquito, or humming).
- Body Horror: A few examples, from Chaos infestation, to an elven curse that causes vines to grow uncontrollably through the human body, to land-dwelling crayfish that apparently lobotomize their victims.
- Boisterous Bruiser: Largely expected of Orlanthi men, to the point where the stereotype is that women have to do the thinking because men are simple-minded. This goes double for Storm Bulls.
- Bunny-Ears Lawyer: Your ring members might be hyper-competent stat-wise but still exhibit certain eccentricities, such as an obsession with cows or an inexplicable hatred of elves.
- Tricksters may also qualify. They're incomprehensible troublemakers most of the time, but Trickster Magic can be invaluable to the clan.
- Cargo Ship: Eurmal apparently once married a post, then committed adultery with a broom. As god of Cloudcuckoolanders everywhere, this is probably one of the more "normal" things he's done.
- Cassandra Did It: The Ducks spend quite a lot of time trying to get the humans of Dragon Pass to help them fight the undead. This doesn't stop certain clans from believing that the Ducks themselves are minions of a necromancer— specifically, the necromancer the Ducks are trying to defeat.
- Chaotic Stupid: Tricksters are willful idiots with little grasp of dignity or proportion. Their schemes also tend to be Crazy Enough to Work, and they work magic that sane people can't. Placing one on your clan ring puts those talents to work - and makes the clan chief personally responsible for the fool's antics. Is it worth it? Who knows!
- An example of Chaotic Stupid at its finest: Tricksters might give away a score of cattle to another clan because the cows "looked funny".
- There are, however, big advantages to having a Trickster on the ring. Only worshipers of Eurmal can provide a bonus to Heroquests, for example, and simply having them on the ring provides more clan magic. Also, if the Trickster DOES screw up, it's expected, and you can simply eject them from the ring immediately to placate the offended partynote .
- Cloudcuckoolander: Tricksters again, not for the "special" random events they trigger, but for the hilariously terrible or irrelevant advice they tend to give for even mundane situations. It's actually a decent litmus test: if the trickster disagrees with everyone else, the trickster is probably wrong; if anyone agrees with the trickster, then maybe The Cuckoolander Was Right. Maybe.
- Curbstomp Battle: If you push the dragonewts, dwarves, or beastmen too much, you'll get a "dire warning" event, where they tell your clan to knock it off. Provoke them after this event, and they launch an attack that will completely destroy your entire ring, most of your animals, and three-quarters of your population.
- Did You Just Punch Out Cthulhu?: You can send nobles on Hero Quests, wherein they step into the shoes of a god and beat the hell out of Chaos.
- Or step into the shoes of a god and go toe to toe with a god. Many gods get to be badass, but two go above and beyond: Humakt, who fights Orlanth himself to a standstill over several days, and Elmal, who gets dismembered repeatedly while doing his duty.
- And if you screw up, your hero gets dismembered as Elmal and comes back from the Spirit World as gibs. This is disconcerting to everyone involved.
- Don't Fear the Reaper: Humakt isn't the cheeriest god in the pantheon, but he's decidedly one of the good guys.
- Deal with the Devil: You can sometimes choose to propitiate Chaos gods, rather than sacrificing to the Orlanthi patron deities. It's cheaper, but there's usually a long-term downside, the most obvious of which is the fact that you just pissed off your deities.
- Deliberate Values Dissonance: The Orlanthi have a very tribal value system. Peace between clans typically means only occasionally raiding each other for cattle and goods, foreigners are never to be trusted (at least, not above your own people), and while secret murders are prosecutable crimes, killing openly only allows the wronged party to seek vengeance. The manual even says that to succeed, you must put aside your modern morality and think like an Orlanthi.
- Dinosaurs Are Dragons: The relationship between Earthshakers (triceratops) and dragonkin is hinted at, speculated upon, and occasionally stated outright. Some of the Dragonnewts even look like anthropomorphic dinosaurs, such as the hadrosaur mage who asks you which of your values is the most valuable.
- Double Standard: Rape, Female on Male: Though it never uses the r-word, one event has two young married men being abducted by two outlaw women on horseback. It's up to the player whether the trope is played straight, where the men are charged with adultery, one of the worst crimes the Orlanthi have and practically guaranteeing they'll be outlawed, or averted, by declaring that they were forced and are therefore not guilty of anything.
- Child by Rape: After the above scene,] the bandit women return with babies as proof of "adultery".
- Eldritch Abomination: Chaos has lots of these.
- The Empire: the Lunar Empire with whom the Tarshites go to war.
- Early Game Hell: Stabilizing your clan in the first few years can be tough, especially on Hard mode. No one wants to trade with you, the gods don't want to share their secrets with you, the Horse Spawn like to come steal your horses and if your crops fail, you don't have any reserves to fall back on.
- Egopolis: Eventually, your tribe will build a town with two others, and your clan ring often wants to name it after themselves.
- Elves Versus Dwarves: Both species are connected to the earth, but dwarves represent inorganic stasis, while elves represent life and growth.
- Everything's Better with Cows: This being an early medieval society, cattle is used as currency. The more you have, the richer your clan. But if your herd dips below 500, watch out.
- Everything's Better with Dinosaurs: Earthshakers, dinos of the shambling, plant-devouring variety. It pays to be nice to them.
- Everything's Better with Rainbows: Orlanth is the Storm God, so rainbows are sacred to Orlanthi. Seeing one increases your magic and provides opportunities for raiding or making friends.
- Fake Ultimate Hero
- Fantastic Caste System: From lowest to highest, it more or less goes: Thralls (slaves), Cottars (freemen), Carls (landowners), Weaponthanes (soldiers), and Nobles. Not all clans take thralls, and carls compete against weaponthanes for influence.
- They are also more like social classes than actual castes. The nobles represent the best and brightest of your clan, and their positions are not hereditary. If you manage to own cows, you automatically qualify as a carl. If you can afford (or in some cases, get donated) horse and weapons, you're applicable as a weaponthane, and anyone at all can end up as a thrall if they get taken as prisoners of war and their relatives aren't able to ransom them.
- Fantastic Racism: No-one likes the Beastmen, at least not at first. Your avian neighbors can nevertheless prove themselves worthy allies against the undead.
- Some nobles will also have peculiar grudges against particular races, such as the elves, blaming them for everything bad that happens to the clan.
- The Ducks prove themselves time and again as noble warriors who can best your even your elite combat leaders, but even when they earnestly seek alliance, lampooning their efforts is a perfectly valid option.
- Your clan has to have a grudge against someone as part of the clan creation. These can be trolls, beastmen, the Praxians, elves, ice demons, or the ocean.
- Fantasy Counterpart Culture: The Orlanthi culture has Celtic/Germanic overtones.
- Culture Chop Suey: They also practice Eastern-style kite-fighting, and are on the run from a guy calling himself Pharaoh.
- Fertile Blood: Shrines to Maran Gor increase your crop yields when people are killed on your territory.
- Fiery Redhead: All Vingans seem to have red hair, even into old age. It's possible that they dye their hair for religious reasons, making this an Invoked Trope.
- Final Death: Your nobles can die in battles or random events, or of old age. There are circumstances where they can be resurrected, unless they're devoted to Humakt, the god of death.
- Freudian Trio: Your Chieftan is the Ego, your Lawspeaker is the Superego, and your War Leader is the Id.
- Although it's certainly possible to have a Chieftan who is both your best Lawspeaker and Warleader (the chief usually is the warleader, especially with tribes that follow Orlanth or Elmal, who both are strong warrior gods, and so have strong warrior leaders)
- Funny Background Event: During the event where the ducks ask to join your tribe, hiding the text reveals a random guy imitating a duckbill with his hands.
- Genghis Gambit: There are a few different circumstances when you can try this.
- Genre Roulette / Mix and Match: a blend of a resource-management Simulation Game and a Visual Novel, with some RPG elements.
- Giant Enemy Crab: One memorable Chaos monster faced in a Hero Quest looks like a great big vaguely crustacean... thing.
- Goddamn Orks: Your clan's traditional nemeses tend to show up a lot. To the Orlanthi in general, the Horse-Spawn fit this trope.
- Good Old Ways: Your clan's ancestors grant extra magic when you act in accordance with tradition. Tradition is ultimately one of the most important things to consider for the Orlanthi. If you hated dragons centuries ago, then you are expected to hate dragons now and forever. If you break from tradition, you'd better have a good reason to do so, and even if you do, you will be punished for it somehow.
- This doesn't always make sense, especially with regards to dragons. If your clan trusted them in the past, your ancestors punish you when you treat dragons badly despite the fact that they're proudly a race of treacherous bastards.
- This is a bit of a case of All There In The Supporting Material. Dragons turned against humans because they began to misuse dragon magic to their own ends, not For the Evulz. The clan ancestors presumably understand this in afterlife, so they consider the dragons' actions fair. It helps that both the dragons themselves and those who devote themselves to their ways tend to be pretty far in the scale of Blue and Orange Morality.
- It's noticable that when the Orlanthi are presented with an entirely new situation (like the civilized duck people), they have no idea how to react, and it's one of the few situations where every option is perfectly valid.
- Guide Dang It: It'll take a lot of experimenting to figure out how to play the first few times unless you have help.
- Guile Hero: The Talking God Issaries and his followers. Also, Tricksters. Sometimes.
- Honor Before Reason: Many Orlanthi live and die by this axiom. Luckily, you have often have a chance to take a reasonable and honorable third option when they bring their problems before the Ring.
- To the extent that it's perfectly legal to storm into someone's clan hall, brazenly say you will murder the entire clan in their sleep, and then do so. It would actually be considered worse to murder the clan without telling them first.
- Kubrick Stare: One of the trickster portraits does this.
- The Hunter: Followers of Urox the Storm Bull specialise in hunting Chaos, and followers of Humakt specialise in hunting the undead.
- Ice-Cream Koan: Your ring loves to spout them, some more apropos than others. Your dead ancestors might actually get sick of this and come up to complain.
- Insufferable Genius: Lhankor Mhy, called the Knowing God by his worshippers and the Know-It-All God by his detractors.
- Light Is Not Good: Orlanth's archenemy was a sun god known as Yelm the Bright Emperor. The Orlanthi's own sun god used to serve Yelm until Chalana Arroy convinced him to defect along with her.
- Loophole Abuse: The Orlanthi are a highly legalistic people, but often have few qualms about exploiting technicalities in their favor. Like the angry divorcee who wants her dowry of ten cows back. She demands the exact same ten cows.
- Lost Forever: And of course, you will never know.
- It's a Wonderful Failure: Given the narrative format of all events, any less-than-optimal conclusion for your clan is spelled out in a downright depressing level of detail. Messing up the Long Game at the last moment causes a Bittersweet Ending where your clan might pitifully try to assert that having a lot of cows or good relations with neighbors is nearly as good as becoming King of Dragon Pass.
- Made of Iron: During battles and most events, your nobles are very hard to kill. They can be thrown through walls, cut dozens of times, stabbed in the chest, and trampled under a stampede of horses, yet recover fully after a few seasons. If the game doesn't say they're dead, then it's only a flesh wound.
- Morally Ambiguous Ducktorate: The strange and puny duck neighbours, their more formidable cousins in the swamps and their extremely dangerous friends.
- Moral Myopia: Freedom is what Orlanth treasures most, and all Orlanthi are willing to die rather than be enslaved by the Pharaoh. The clans that take thralls don't seem to see anything hypocritical about what they're doing to their fellow Orlanthi. This all falls squarely under Deliberate Values Dissonance.
- Some of the dialogue choices (especially ones that come up when someone is airing a grievance against the clan ring) make it apparent that there's not much in the way of actual law enforcement. Obedience is expected socially and the traditional laws are everywhere... but the only true rule is, "No one can make you do anything."
- Names to Run Away From Really Fast: Elmal, appointed guardian of Orlanth's stead, fights The Eater of Skin, the Author of Sores, and the Maker of Bad Growth. The Teller of Lies doesn't sound that bad until you learn one of its other names is the Breaker of Souls.
- Nobles Who Actually Do Something: From joining in the clan's battles to leading trade expeditions, Orlanthi nobles certainly earn their keep. It helps that Orlanthi nobility isn't a birthright, but rather a segregation of the clan's best and brightest.
- Nonstandard Game Over: You have a clan. It can muster raiding parties. Your neighbors have realms. They can muster armies. It's difficult to get warnings, but if they start, pay attention.
- Not-So-Omniscient Council of Bickering: Your clan ring tends to end up as one of these. Your tribal council pretty much inevitably does.
- The Oathbreaker: Oathbreaking is a huge offense among the Orlanthi. And the god of oaths is also the Grim Reaper...
- Order Versus Chaos: The main cosmological conflict. Your people clearly favor Order, seeing as how their bitterest enemies are creatures of Chaos.
- Orphan's Plot Trinket: Both major heroes.
- Our Dragons Are Different: Intelligent, sly and ultimately unfathomable. Not to mention very dangerous. There's a good reason no one's settled in Dragon Pass for hundreds of years. There's also their strange, humanlike relatives/larval forms, the dragonewts.
- Plague Master: Malia, chaos goddess of sickness.
- Plotline Death: Destinies sometimes end with defeat.
- Psychopathic Manchild: Eurmal shows shades of this, giggling maniacally when he discovers he can kill people permanently with the sword Death.
- Punch Clock Hero: Of a mild sort, Tricksters. They're actually religiously obligated to cause trouble for the clan.
- Rape Is a Special Kind of Evil: The goddess of rape is part of the Unholy Trio, right up there with the goddess of disease and the god of evil himself.
- Relationship Values: With the farmers, with the thanes, with other clans, cults and of course with the Elder Races.
- Religion Is Magic: Just about all magical power is granted by the gods, though there are some exceptions; A clan's ancestors will also give magic if they are pleased by the behavior of the clan, and shamans gain their power from spirits unaligned with any pantheon.
- Religious Bruiser: All your warriors are this, but the Humakti best fit the trope with their particularly rigid vows.
- Resurrection Sickness: Through Chalana Arroy's Resurrection blessing, a hefty sacrifice and good luck, sometimes people can be brought back to life, but they're not quite the same as they once were.
- Revenge Before Reason: Happens quite a bit, since the Orlanthi are so protective of their honor.
- Sacred Hospitality: Hospitality is a prime Orlanthi virtue, but there are a few loopholes in the customs that allow you to treat your guests like dirt without technically being inhospitable.
- Sliding Scale of Anthropomorphism: Some of the gods are portrayed on various levels of it.
- Intellectual Animal: Uralda, goddess of cows, is a cow who can speak like a human. She's also daughter of Ernalda, a completely human goddess; no one comments on precisely how that's possible.
- Petting Zoo People: Yinkin, a minor god of cats, resembles a grey-furred human with a lynx's head, tail, and digitigrade legs with paws (though he has furry human-esque hands). He's also a brother of Orlanth, who appears completely human.
- Spirit World: By physically reenacting a myth, your nobles can enter the spirit world and receive various blessings.
- The Starscream: Nobles with high leadership may try to get the current chief deposed.
- Strange Syntax Speaker: Dwarfs positive their modes of speech, thank much. Keeps smooth functioning on schedule.
- The Strength of Ten Men: Weaponthanes under Humakt's "truesword" blessing. Otherwise they've only got the strength of five.
- Token Jackass Clan Leader: Tricksters can get away with crimes that would get other Orlanthi outlawed. Unless, of course, you expel them yourself.
- Eurmal himself is essentially a Token Chaotic Team Mate in the Orlanthi pantheon. He's tolerated because the results of his mischief are generally better for Orlanth than his enemies.
- In gameplay, this works the same way. Sure, a trickster won't always give stellar advice, and will sometimes bring bad things upon your clan. They can also do fantastically against certain common event chains. Of course, most people take one for the fun factor.
- Trickster Archetype: Eurmal and his followers.
- Unwinnable: Even the manual advises to save a lot after the appearance of the Feathered Horse Queen. One wrong move, one failed test and you might not even realise that you are out of competition.
- Video Game Caring Potential: Towards nobles. And Earthshakers. And your people will become immensely happy if you protect them, hold feasts, and win battles.
- Video Game Cruelty Potential:
- You can raid rival clans, take them as slaves, and sacrifice them to your gods. You can even force them off their lands which will kick them all the way across the map. Then you can petition Eurmal to send curses at them.
- Humakt's sword actually gives you a massive boost in battle when you choose to "kill as many enemies as possible."
- Warrior Poet: A few pop up. Some of your nobles might even qualify.
- Women Are Wiser: While Lhankor Mhy is generally in charge of knowledge, he's also cantankerous and stubborn. Ernalda the earth goddess is supposed to be the guardian of hidden secrets. In Ernalda's honor, Orlanthi women are expected to be cool-headed and astute.
- Worthless Yellow Rocks: To an extent. Most of the currency of the realm is in silver, but being an agrarian society, Orlanthi prefer to barter. Silver is thrown in with the rest of your clan's bric-a-brac as generic "goods". Cattle is much more important, and your clan may actually be wildly disappointed when presented with chests of silver coins instead of cows.
- As far as the Orlanthi are concerned, the Horse-Spawn suffer from this trope; the Horse-Spawn see cattle-raising to be the profession of slaves, and will be insulted when offered cows.
- Goods are the equivalent of cold hard cash, in a way. Cows give various benefits, even if you never sell them. They breed and give you milk, while still being roughly equal in value.