King of Games Background

By: Jesse C Cohoon

 

The King of Games is a concept that’s in popular culture: in the animes everything from the ones based around the game of “Go” (Reversi) to fighting monster games such as Pokémon to Yu-Gi-Oh (and any number of the spin off titles), to “No Game, No Life” to various titles where everyone in the series is trapped into a virtual reality game and one person is adapting quite well, in fact far better than others, and seems to do well no matter what situation they’re placed in. This idea also exists in real life, but those who specialize in a single game: chess masters. Scrabble masters. People who show up on game shows and win huge jackpots.

You’ve been studying games all your life by the side of a master of the art. This could be some old codger that has a proclivity for games you found living on the street or it could be a tutor in a rich household. You could be a military brat, whose tutors delight in games. Whatever the circumstances, you grew up to love games of all stripes. Such games include: Chess. Cards. Roulette. Checkers. Fighting. Sports. Horse racing. Roleplaying games. Riddles. Puzzles. Games that test your knowledge of lore and wit. Your strength and speed. Your charm and guile. Games of luck. Games of skill. In a modern day setting these games could include electronic ones played on a gaming system or immersive virtual reality.  You’ve incorporated the ideas of these games into your daily life to such an extent that you’re an expert strategist, able to analyze a situation and adapt in a matter of moments. You’re ready to go out into the world, play the game of life and you always play to win.

Skill Proficiencies: Knowledge: (games), Sleight of Hand

Tool Proficiencies: Dice & other gaming implements.

Language: Military stratagem*

Equipment: Same as for whatever class, with the addition of a notebook filled with drawings, diagrams, designs, and notes for games they’ve either played or are wanting to develop, as well as a lucky set of die or game piece.

*Military stratagem is the language of commanding troops. Using these commands allows a person with this language to direct troops or their teammates on the battlefield with amazing efficiency. Experts at this language will actually use changeable code words or plan phrases and coach their teammates for various situations so enemy troops don’t catch on to what’s going on. For instance, on the battlefield the King of Games may shout: enact “Plan 33-B” and each teammate who’s been coached on the plan knows what to do, and if the plan is a good one, will help defeat the enemy / enemies easier.

Feature:

Loophole abuse: By understanding the rules of the game, you’re able to find features in a game that were not meant to be exploited by the designer(s) of the game. In doing, so you’re able to win most any game. Others can’t say you’re cheating because what you’re doing is actually allowed by the rules.

Alternate Feature:

Change the rules: By knowing the ins and outs of the rules of the game, you’re able to interject changes into the games rules, overriding what the rules would normally be into something you directly control, allowing you to win when otherwise you would lose. Others can’t say that you’re actually cheating because the old rules no longer are valid.

Cheat with Impunity: You’re actually able to cheat, but you do so with such smoothness, carefree attitude, and panache that no one cares or will bother to comment on it unless it is to congratulate you on getting away with it. (Actually saying that you’re doing this in character will break the effect, however because you’re admitting to cheating!)  

Pattern master: By observing a pattern you can predict what comes next, if advancing, or what came before if needing to predict in reverse order with 100% accuracy. This ability works with even irregular patterns, or ones that don’t seem to follow the same set of rules all the time.  

Luck of the Devil himself: When playing a game based on luck such as a card or dice game, you’ll (almost) always get the roll or card you need to win the game at the last minute by careful observation of the ebb and flow of the game, and know exactly how to use it once you get it.

Suggested characteristics

A King of Games views everything as a game. In learning and playing games they’re able to exercise any number of social and / or physical skills necessary for daily life. They are typically calm in battle because they view the possibilities of the battlefield as a type of chess. They are most at home when they’re playing a game of their choice. They know they won’t ever grow to become better at the games they love or discover new games by staying at home, and that’s why they risk the danger of the world to adventure, as well as spreading the word of any games they themselves create. Typically, a King of Games will get swept up in a plot where they will need to use their gaming skills in order to save the world.

D12 Personality traits
1 I am going to do all I can to get better at games; therefore I need to travel to play all the people I can
2 I am running away from past debt and failures; I am afraid what will happen if they catch up with me.
3 As long as I view things as a game, there’s nothing to fear, I play to win.
4 I am a student of the world; games are the lens that I use to learn from it.
5 Life is too simple. I prefer gaming’s complexities
6 I become (or merge with/ swap) another “me” when playing games.
7 Games are the only thing that I feel I’m good at; I need to make the best at what I do.
8 Life is too complex; games simplify things because of the self-contained rules
9 Gaming is only a means to an end – money, wealth, power
10 I prefer dealing with games to dealing with people, because games are much more predictable.
11 I like to confuse my friends and enemies with mind games
12 You won’t like me if you get between me and my games.

d12 Ideals
1 Fairness: Games are meant to be fair. If they are not, I will step in and referee. (Lawful)
2 Luck: I’m at one with the odds/ chance. Bring it on baby! (Chaos)
3 Winning: I will win no matter the cost to get ahead, even if I have to cheat or betray others to do so. (Evil)
4 Skill: Games are my life; therefore I will play with all the skill I have, as well as prove my skill over any who dares to challenge me. (Any)
5 Learning: I will do what I can to learn all the games I can (Neutral)
6 Greed: I’m playing because I want to get rich off the money/ prizes offered. (Evil)
7 Love: I’m playing because someone I love’s life is at stake (this could be some evil person/ organization holds them captive and the only way that they’ll be released is to win or simply because they need a medical procedure and winning would mean that you can afford to pay for it) (Good)
8 Charity: I’m playing for a special cause that I’m donating to (Good)
9 Performance: I enjoy playing games as a spectator sport (Neutral)
10 Justice: The court/ legal system is a game to be played by only showing the evidence you want, while repressing the evidence you don’t want (Chaos)
11 Aspiration: I want to be the best King of Games ever. (Any)
12 Tradition: Games are the heart and soul of a society, in learning and passing on the knowledge of games to the next generation, I am able to ensure heart and soul continues. (Lawful)

D8 Bonds
1 I remember my teacher/ tutor who taught me my very first game; I still keep a gamepiece of theirs as a token of remembrance
2 My rival beat me once at (fill in the game), I must get better at it so I can challenge him next time we meet.
3 Someone close to me (a teacher, a friend, family member) died shortly after showing me a drawing for a game s/he created; in his/her honor I will create it
4 I once read the text of an ancient culture in an ancient book; in its pages it described a game that I want to create, but the book was stolen by a rival or enemy and I must get it back or find another copy.
5 I will teach others how to play the games I know to my dying day.
6 The games I play with friends are the unbreakable bonds of friendship I share with them.
7 I am starting a school to teach others how to be a King of Games, they will pass along my legacy.
8 Games are what keep me grounded to reality; without their influence, I’m a different person altogether.

 

D10 Flaws
1 I will win no matter what, even if I have to cheat or cast aside those that care about me.
2 I treat everyone else poorly, because if you’re not winning/ #1, you’re a looser.
3 I gamble excessively and am heavily in debt because of past losses. My “kinghood” doesn’t include this type of a game.
4 I spend all my spare time devising strategies for the game, such to the extent that I have no true friends.
5 I play with my relationships as if they are a game, and have hurt several people in the process without regret in the past.
6 No poker face. Others can tell if I have a good hand (dice roll, etc) by watching me
7 I am paralyzed by the possibility of failure.
8 I have another “me” that I’m afraid to let loose in games, lest it hurt those I love
9 I get lost in the games, so much so that I lose track of time
10 I am overconfident in my abilities/ role as the King of Games.

d12 types of games (there may be some overlaps)
1 Board games: Chess (includes 3D/ Dragon Chess)/ checkers, Chinese checkers, “Chutes and ladders”
2 Shape games I (ink blot, drawing games)
3 Shape games II (manipulating 3D objects, including assembly like jigsaw puzzles)
4 Word Games (scrabble, boggle, “Madd Libs,” and word search/ scramble games)
5 Card or Dice games
6 Puzzles (millennium puzzle, jigsaw, word) / number games (think Sudoku)
7 Trivia Games (Jeopardy)
8 Pattern games (patterns as in “which of these things don’t belong” and as in “match the pattern”
9 Games of sheer luck (drawing an item from an enclosed bag for instance, getting the number you need from a random table)
10 Fighting games (arm wrestling, fencing, Jousting, martial art games)
11 Cooking games (Iron Chef, “Chopped,” Guy’s Grocery Games)
12 Shadow games (Yu-Gi-Oh)

 

Try adding this background to your game and letting me know how it turns out in the comments, below!

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  • Any comments on the background would be welcome!

  • Sporelord0179

    I’ve seen a few of your backgrounds now and they’ve confused me more than anything. I’m going to just do a top down review right now.

    First, you keep referring to knowledge checks. Those aren’t a thing in 5E. I would replace it with either performance or acrobatics. Sleight of hand fits excellently and is a good skill to top though.

    You need to name an actual number of tool proficiencies. Even if it is just “all gaming sets”. Personally, I’d throw in a musical instrument too.

    Secondly, I really, /really/ don’t like the idea of the “Military Stratagem” language because that’s something I’d allow /anyone/ to do after about 5 minutes of table talk – if that. It’s both weak and these kinds of abilities either stop the other party members doing it (obviously BOO) or achieve nothing at all and make the player upset a feature of his is useless. I don’t think this background needs a language at all but that’s me.

    Alternate features:
    – “Change the rules”. No, just no. A chess grandmaster cannot change the fundamental rules of chess.
    – “Cheat with impunity.” I like this actually, having such an intimate knowledge of rules combined with your confidence allowing you to get away with cheating. I despise how it forces NPCs to be fine with it though. That noble doesn’t care how smooth you are, he’ll still have you executed for trying to rob him.
    – “Pattern Master.” “100% accuracy”. Every time a feature other than magic missile has that or something similar a puppy gets terminally ill. It’s a gotcha ability and gotcha abilities suck.
    – “Luck of the devil himself.” No.

    Background features are supposed to be plot hooks rather than raw abilities. Your past backgrounds have had actual, mechanical benefits which is completely counter to the point but this one doesn’t so it’s a moot point. I like the ideal of loophole abuse but I hate the wording.RAW it’s “hah, I win, suck it DM”. I’d phrase it more like you have an extremely intimate knowledge of rules and you’re good at picking up new rules. Game theory is commonly applied to a lot of other things like businesses and military tactics so maybe try and incorporate that.

    The personality traits, ideals, bonds and flaws are okay though theres some odd overlap. Personality trait 2 is more a flaw than a personality trait.

    • First of all, I’d like to thank you for taking the time to write a review. I’m always looking for ways of improving my writing.

      But to respond directly to your comments…

      Ironically enough you’ve hit the nail on the head. These backgrounds, the class ideas, the magic systems I propose in my articles, the dangers for players to face — both on here and anywhere else I am posting them… these aren’t ideas meant to be used as is and put into someone’s game, without playtesting, without figuring out how it fits into their gaming world, without figuring out if X rule will unbalance the game to the point of unplayability. In fact nothing in gaming should be like that, IMHO. And the owner of this website acknowledged that last article.That’s not my intent. The purpose for my ideas are to simply give GMs a starting point, a springboard as it were from which to use the ideas contained therein to develop their own worlds. I lampshaded it in my previous article: I play fast and loose with the rules. Why? 1) it’s more fun that way. 2) it gives me more creative leeway with how I do things, how I present ideas.I do that on purpose because I’m not the type of GM who’s super concerned about the fact that there’s no skill that does X, I’ll make up a skill if it suits me. I’ll playtest it as I go along (and encourage any GM who looks at my ideas and thinks that they’re good enough to implement), and if it doesn’t quite work the way that I think it should, I’ll tweak it.

      Having said that, please keep in mind that I’m still learning 5th edition, its rules, its nuances, its quirks as compared to previous editions. As I get better at this, these types of errors will lessen.

      Please feel free to continue reading my articles, and when you see room for improvement, let me know and I’ll try better next time!

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