Wednesday, September 17, 2008

The Invisible Kingdom

One evening, I met with a Duke from another kingdom. During our conversation, he asked me to bring him into our kingdom "ASAP". Although we had been discussing his less than desirable relations in his current kingdom, his desperation finally made me do a double take. He had been told that he would be "deleted" from the game, which I translated mentally as "disowned." I finally stopped to ask him, bluntly, "do you know as a practical matter what happens when you are disowned?"

He asked what the outcome would be... "Deleted from the game?"

No, he wouldn't be, and I had the happy chore of telling him that the fears that had been instilled in him by his current kingdom were groundless. He would not be deleted from the game, his HUD would not die, his subjects would not be deleted from the game, either... all of those stories were, at best, misunderstandings on the part of those telling him. (I had my own personal suspicions of worse, but I can't prove anything, nor do I want to- it doesn't matter.)

So what is this 'disown' thing, and why would it be so frightening?

When you have subjects in Tiny Empires, you will occasionally get a message. The wording says, "A farmer knows when it's time to prune dead branches. Will you pay xxxx gold to disown the subject of yours known as ____?" You get to fill in the blank, and pay the amount it asks. (The actual amount varies depending on your personal land holdings.) If you do that, the subject is 'disowned'.

The list that I gave my worried Duke was as follows:

1. You can't get income from your land
2. You won't be in any kingdom
3. You can join someone else for free
4. You get offers to join a random liege decided by the emperor
5. Those under you continue their lives as normal- they just won't be in any kingdom

I finished my list with "as a practical matter, it's a bit uncomfortable for you personally, but hardly a huge disaster."

With his fears relieved, we were able to conduct our business in a better frame of mind and judgement. He is now a happy and productive Prince in Caledon, with a growing list of subjects.

One item that I didn't include on my list was that neither he nor his subjects would show up in the standings page. Understandable that I would leave an item out, I suppose. After all, this was an impromptu list, not a lengthy disquisition on the exact concepts and mechanics of being disowned. I left that for now.

When a person starts the game, she does not have a liege, and with no acres, she ranks as a Wanderer. With no liege, and thus no income from any land (even if she is given any), she subsists on the Emperor's charity. By standing next to someone of the right rank, she will receive a notice that she may offer to join them. If she makes the offer and they accept, she becomes their subject. While all of this is going on, she will receive occasional offers from the Emperor to assign her to a random subject.

This state should be familiar to any TE player, since every one of us started in that exact same position. (How long we remained there is, of course, a matter of personal experience.) My point in bringing it up here is to point out that if you are disowned, you revert back to that exact same state. The difference is that you now still have all of your land, gold, and subjects that you have accumulated in the game. You don't lose any of those at all.

Thus, you are a free agent again, and still with your current rank. Before, the only way to switch subjects was to apply to someone and pay gold to your current liege. Now, your current liege has paid the gold and broken the relationship, so you can apply to someone else and pay nothing!

As for your subjects, they find that their huds no longer list a kingdom after their name. They might also notice that they will no longer receive any tax amnesties, trader visits, or other goodies that depend upon being in a kingdom- but they are still free to get homage income from any subjects they have, and earn gold from their land, just as if nothing had happened.

The one thing that does happen, though, is that none of you show on the standings page anymore. If someone entered your or their name in the search engine there, they would receive "That citizen has no direct line to any of the Kings or Queens." as a result. Yes, you're still out there... somewhere... but in a limbo land, in an invisible kingdom that has no connection to the Emperor or any Monarch.

Which led me one evening to muse over an interesting idea... what would happen if a huge Prince were disowned, and neither he nor any of his subjects ever changed allegience to anyone else? They could actually still have people become their subjects, but the result would be a kingdom that didn't officially exist.

There are no doubt thousands of these invisible people- wanderers who never found a liege, people who were disowned and decided, for whatever reason, not to rejoin. No doubt the vast majority of them are loners, with no subjects... perhaps at most a handful. But considered as a single entity, they are very likely a kingdom larger than any in the Terra Aurean Empire... what would happen if they someday found each other, joined into a single kingdom, and.... who knows what would happen when the Invisible Kingdom realized its potential?

(pssst... want a way to help find the invisible kingdom? While nothing is sure, you do stand a better chance with the TE Companion.)

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