King of Dragon Pass and Six Ages: Ride Like the Wind Catch-All

One of the most influential games in the history of RPGs is also one of the most obscure.
PC PowerPlay, 2017

King of Dragon Pass (PC & Mac, 1999; iOS, 2011; GOG (original windows version), 2012; Android & Windows Phone, 2014; Steam (port of mobile versions), 2015), developed by A Sharp, LLC, is a beloved game in the strategy space.

IMAGE(https://www.rockpapershotgun.com/images/14/oct/kodp1.jpg)

In KoDP, you control a tribe that recently entered tabletop-RPG world Glorantha's Dragon Pass. Unlike every other strategy game in which you can to some extent count rivets or hexes or key terrain as a primary means of assessing progress, in KoDP a large focus of your time is spent pondering over choosing the right dialogue choice, and their effects--whether regarding rival tribes or the many deities relevant in everyday life--are not always immediately apparent. Your progress is composed not only of your tribe's typical metrics such as whether you are producing enough food or have an adequate army to raid and protect your tribe from raids, but more importantly how all the neighboring tribes, the other creatures of Dragon Pass, and the gods feel about you. You want to become king of Dragon Pass, after all, and it's not going to happen by force.

IMAGE(https://cdn.toucharcade.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/04/Photo-2015-04-16-4-46-09-PM.jpg)

King Of Dragon Pass might look simplistic and even a little cheesy, but it is enormous, smart and fiendish. Choose your own adventure writ at the grandest scale, and a chance to tell your own history, not a mere legend. While the ‘new’ version is only a baby step towards technological contemporariness and cuts far too many corners on PC, it is nonetheless a more accessible improvement over its 90s ancestor, and most of all it’s a very good excuse to embark upon one of the most rewarding, compelling and tragedy-strewn adventures you’ll ever have. RPS Review, 2015
There’s nothing quite like King of Dragon Pass. In its days it’d be best described as a cross between Lords of the Realm, Darklands, and Hidden Agenda, and even now it’s basically peerless.....Crusader Kings 2 is perhaps a distant cousin, but The Banner Saga is the only game that can really claim descendance...
RPS Retrospective, 2014

Six Ages: Ride Like the Wind, set 2,000 years prior to KoDP and developed by largely the same team, released on iOS on June 28, 2018 (preorders opened on June 21), and will release in 2019 on platforms to be announced. It was built to alleviate some of the issues that kept KoDP from reaching a wider audience, but without stripping it of its uniqueness.

IMAGE(https://sixages.com/art/raid013.jpg)
IMAGE(https://www.pockettactics.com/assets/BlogPosts/_resampled/ScaleWidthWzExNDBd/FillWzExNDAsNjAwXQ/SixAges-Head.jpg)

Discussion:

  • What were your favorite or least favorite memories of KoDP?
  • When did you play it?
  • Do you need help?
  • Are you into other works by David Dunham, Greg Stafford, Robin D. Laws, or other KoDP/6A developers?
  • What do you want out of 6A?

Please use the spoiler tag for any late-game content in Six Ages until it has been released for a few months. To do so, type or paste {spoiler} before your text and {/spoiler} after it, substituting brackets instead of braces, or use the yellow-triangle spoiler button.

---Links---

KoDP:
official site
Wikipedia entry
Becoming the King (or Queen) of Dragon Pass, excellent strategy guide by Tuomo L
the KoDP wiki, which is especially helpful while heroquesting
Three Moves Ahead episode on KoDP, featuring Jon Shafer, lead developer of Civilization V, 2015
KoDP article in Touch Arcade's RPG Reload series, 2015
The development history of King of Dragon Pass, Eurogamer, 2013

6A:
official site
old development blog and new development blog
Pocket Tactics preview, June 21
interview with David Dunham, PC PowerPlay, September 2017
discord channel
twitter, very responsive

Awesome post! Thanks for making it. I'm going to give KODP a go in the future and will possibly get the new game as well. Hope it all turns out well!

I played the original sometime around 2000 but not for long at all. I was enamored with Counter-Strike and Team Fortress Classic with my dormmates instead, or playing through Homeworld several times. My extensive KoDP play was when it was first re-released on iOS and then not until this month in preparation for 6A.

I just picked up the Steam version! It's $3.59 (USD) until early July!

What I don't like about KoDP, bearing in mind I don't remember the Windows version:

- can't access the Lore pages, including the heroquest stories, while heroquesting. This meant I had to write down preferred paths while heroquesting and, in my recent plays, instead consulted the wiki
- can't see how you spent magic in the current year's sacred time. It reportedly is visible on the original/GOG version (...and I just checked: it's not visible on the Steam version either)
- it takes ages and ages of searching your tula's area, including many found-nothing attempts, before your ancestors say there is no more treasure

What I love about KoDP:
- everything else. Music, art, Gloranthan religion and magic (and I don't RPG), not knowing for weeks if your mission will go well, etc.

So I therefore think that since my dislikes are pretty simply to fix, I'll be annoyed if they're not. To that end, some articles I've seen refer to 6A

Spoiler:

employing an automatic note-taking system.

I came to know Glorantha from the early editions of Runequest, and so I jumped on KoDP when it was first released. It was good to revisit Glorantha, even in just a small part of it, but more interesting was the system. There was a ton of lore and backstory, and in order to get anywhere in the game, you needed to consider not just the roles of the people involved in any given situation, but their rivalries, their personalities and beliefs and fears and prides. For me, that's deep water indeed. I played it on and off for years, and got it for the iPad when that came out too.

So I'm really looking forward to Six Ages. If you are reading this and are new to the games, then try KoDP first, to get a feel for it. It'll help set your feet on the right path.

Been eagerly anticipating Six Ages.

Looks like it's right around the corner on mobile platforms.

I was going to hold out for the PC version, but it looks like that's not happening until 2019, with the iOS version due out in just under a week.

No worries, I'll simply double-dip like I did with the last one. Ironically, I found KoDP looked and played wonderfully on the iPhone Plus sized screen.

Which version of KoDP is the one to buy? I lean towards the Steam one because it supposedly has more content, but I'm leery of PC ports of mobile ports.

MrDeVil909 wrote:

Which version of KoDP is the one to buy?

The iPad (and I assume Android) version is actually excellent. The graphics are nice, the interface is decent, and they removed only minor things from the original and you’ll get a full experience.

I tried the Steam version briefly and you’re right, doing with a mouse and scroll wheel what you could on a tablet with your fingers feels awkward. If they had tweaked it for the control scheme it could be great, but little was done in the porting process beyond changing the inputs. If your screen and resolution are gargantuan, the text size might be blindingly large as well.

If you’re hardcore, the GOG version is serviceable, but is a bit more finicky gameplay-wise and has some (surprisingly few, given its age) minor UI issues.

- - - - - -

In other news, @SixAges has posted a link to the most recent episode of one its dev’s podcasts, discussing 6A development, with a specific spoiler warning:

Robin D. Laws (our writer/designer) and Kenneth Hite talk about tabletop games, esoterica, and #SixAges. I’m told there are mild story spoilers. Skip 48:30 to 50:30 to avoid them. (Also, the podcast is on iTunes if that’s an easier at to listen.)

Link to podcast episode webpage

I scrubbed through the beginning listening for Glorantha stuff. Looks like they only made offhand mentions of KoDP & 6A until dedicated discussion starting at 38:20.

Edit: I’ve listened except for the specified section. Highlights:

- Why “Six Ages” then a subtitle? Supposed to be the first of a set of six games.
- Set in the Storm Age, meaning gods are still physically present in the world
- Implies or mentions that the location is not Dragon Pass; Glorantha is huge
- Sounds like non-human relations will be even more important than in KoDP, mentions trolls a lot
- Your tribe recently was blessed with gift of horses. Apparently no one else has them yet. Horses not cows are the limiting resource.
- Main game systems (politics, combat, random encounters, fortifications) sound the same
- Skill-check is less variable and swingy, is more predictable, than in KoDP

KODP is way near the top of my all-time favorites. I got the boxed version in 1999 or so and played a lot of it then, then jumped immediately on the iOS version. I actually discussed the possibility of an iOS version briefly with David Dunham on the KODP Yahoo list in 2009, so I like to think I helped push it into being.

It was my first introduction to Glorantha and over the years I've bought a bunch of the books. The Hero Wars series on Orlanthi are really good reads with minimal mechanics. I've been using a nice picture of Vinga as my ios wallpaper since forever. I'm also a fan of Robin Laws and will at least look over anything he does.

I think if I were buying KODP for PC today, I'd probably get the steam version with the extra scenes and updated mechanics. Some people complain about a couple of simplified systems like direct management of crafters, but that doesn't bother me. It felt like there was an obvious right way to do it so the decision wasn't interesting. Performance really isn't a consideration, obviously. (I don't actually have either the steam or GOG version; when I last played on PC I made an ISO of my disc and mounted that as my CD drive.

I preordered Six Ages immediately- luckily it will still play on my old ipad 3.

I'll probably play the old one again for a while, before dropping in on the new one. My will is strong. I am the master of my domain. I am...

I'm curious, Robear and qaraq, how much more complicated or interesting is it to roleplay in Glorantha than in the very limited worlds I'm used to from D&D 3 (or 3.5, maybe?) years and years ago? If I were to roleplay again, I'd be drawn to it since, as Troy Goodfellow pointed out in the KoDP 3MA episode, there's never a time in D&D when a cleric's chosen deity has a meaningful effect on the game.

It's a game where everyone should have their lore lined up. Your choice of god, for example, can and should impact play, and you might not be as knowledgeable about someone else's god as yours. Then there are racial and clan histories, etc, etc.

It's a game where you can get really immersed in the mindset and the setting. The more you play, the richer the campaign becomes, if done right.

I haven't done any tabletop gaming in Glorantha, but I'd definitely agree that having a grounding in the lore is critical. There's not much point to playing without it. In, say, D&D you can do equally deep stuff of course (though it would be hard to match the sheer amount of worldbuilding available) or you can clear out all the orcs and gold on a sheet of graph paper, but that wouldn't really fit in a Glorantha game.

The books about religion ("Cults of Sartar" is the one I have but there are newer ones) go into detail about what a worshiper is supposed to do, spending 30%, 60% or 90% of their time doing god-stuff; that's defined and varies pretty far depending on which god you choose. A farmer worshiping Orlanth's aspect as farmer is going to get his 30% just doing his job, but the kind of person who becomes a PC is probably at the higher levels and following a more interesting aspect.

First stream, was last night for an hour and a half. I’m not going to watch, as I try to not even read the detailed articles:

https://www.twitch.tv/videos/276460426

I only discovered KODP in 2012, when it came out on iOS but I was totally absorbed and played it fanatically for >2yrs, it being basically the only game on my phone. I still never completed a long campaign, only the shorter one.

I love the choices, Ring management and how things could come back to bite you (eg how you treat the duck people or pharaoh artefacts). It was such a fun game to make "mistakes" in, to see your choices not go the way you'd expect. I also loved how combat wasn't central to success.

It was such a different kind of RPG that I had a hard time finding faults with it. The iOS interface was very easy to use.

If anything, perhaps there was not enough of an in-game explanation about how some things worked, especially trade and exploring, and I agree that not being able to check lore during heroquests made them a little harder. Mechanically, it seemed super hard to win a long campaign because whenever you got big, your people would always want to split off and start a new tribe, but anyhoo. I definitely had to turn to some wikis and strategy guides.

I've not played any other games by the creators but I'm super excited for 6A. Given that so much of what I liked about KoDP was the non-intuitive choices, I can't really say what I'd like to see ... just more of the flavour of KoDP and some weird surprises.

Yeah, your choices need to be made in the context of the society, and that will often result in outcomes that are different from what you'd expect in our society. It really requires a flexibility of viewpoint from the player.

Lead artist, Jan Pospíšil, explaining how the paintings are made.

He created a gif of the different stages of the painting in that article:

IMAGE(https://media.giphy.com/media/SILxhbxM06HzgU4JGe/giphy.gif)
gif source, twitter

So I know Six Ages is a prequel of sorts, but it's been so long since I played KoDP I'm wondering just how standalone the new game will be.

I certainly don't have time to jump back into KoDP before 6A launches, but I'm curious if I'll be selling myself short diving straight into the new game after being away from the series for so long.

Have the devs commented on the tie-in between the two titles?

The devs said there's a 2000 year difference between the two, and in the new one, things are significantly different. Different locations, tribes, cultures, races, gods, spirits, etc. when compared to the KoDP. I suspect you'll be fine just jumping in, since very little is going to transfer.

Lead developer:

Basically, it’s the same thing, only better. And hopefully, a little bit more approachable. King of Dragon Pass was a very difficult game. And we certainly don’t want to be dumbing it down, for our new game. But we’d like a few more people to be able to complete it.

New from his twitter, an interview with the QA lead, for those of you who like to know a bit about how your sausage is checked between production and distribution. (My wife is a QA manager so this is mandatory reading for me.) There is a new-feature explained at the bottom so don't read the answer to the final question, "Other than Six Ages or King of Dragon Pass, what’s your favorite computer game?", if you want to tabula rasa.

IT’S LIVE!

As much as I’d like to play it all night for the next 15 hours, we are gamers with jobs, so I’ll just take a quick peak until tomorrow night.

Yeah, so happy when my phone bleeped at me that it was ready, even thought it was immediately followed by Habitica scolding me to go to bed . I went through the tutorial and just a couple of turns so far. It's going to be fun learning all the new stories and deities.

I played three years last night and nodded off. So far I'm generally happy but the part about matching leader skills to seven families to gods-worshipped when reorganizing your ring is kind of a UI nightmare.

It really threw me off that I can't micromanage my farmers and hunters! For the better, I guess, since that was essentially busywork, albeit for me fun busywork, in KoDP.

IMPORTANT: to bring up the in-game Bug Report panel, you need to two-finger press within the Controls screen. Please submit them so stuff gets improved.

Welp, I think my first clan is in a downward spiral. Everyone seems to think we are a soft target for raids. Copped 4 raids last fire season! Plus, in order to have someone from each family on the ring, I've got a few real duds on there.

I'm in the same boat. I haven't posted here since I've only gotten to play to year 23 of my first leader (we start at 4, 5?) and figured everyone else was enjoying the game and didn't want spoilers. My tribe has a nice trade network going with ten trading partners--all of the other rider tribes--but that's about all the good news. My adult population is down to 167 adults so having a decent defense force available is tough, and I'm only earning a slight surplus of magic every year.

So far my biggest complaint with KoDP is still here, unfortunately: the heroquests/rituals are still a pain as, even though I have learned the myth and took screenshots of all the text, figuring out the right answer is still a guessing game that too often results in failure.

But I am still enjoying it greatly.

(I'm playing on 'normal', the second difficulty setting, so maybe I should knock that down until I know this game well and not just rely on KoDP experience.)

I never really played KoDP and I must say, I'm pretty confused trying to navigate the interface and I don't have a strong sense of what I should be doing or prioritizing.

It really is a game that throws you into the deep end. I've only begun to work out the strategy differences, but in KODP at the beginning I'd usually emphasize learning magic (sacrificing for Mysteries) and exploring your land. Your ring/council will start to complain about other things you should be doing occasionally like visiting the neighbors and establishing trade routes, so do that from time to time. Building some of the cheap fortifications early can help before you have better numbers of warriors.

Spirits are a new kind of magic and I think I am underusing them because I forget to scroll over that part of the Magic screen.

If you ever get the feeling that you haven't done something in a while (raiding, visiting, magic), listen and do a little bit of it. Both gods and neighbors notice if you've been neglecting one of the things you're "supposed" to be doing.

In KODP one of the most useful early strategies was the 'Peace Bomb'- learn and run the Chalana Arroy (healer goddess) heroquest to reconcile with your neighbors. It was not that hard to succeed at and if you pulled it off you'd suddenly be surrounded by great friends. I don't yet know if there's an equivalent in 6A but that's another kind of opportunity to look for.

For me KoDP starts as a diplo-economic game and then the magic comes second. Thus, I'd spend a lot of time maximizing my farming, immediately gift anyone who had a feud with me to stop that, work on trade and crafting, and then build alliances or at least stop most tribes from hating me by gifting them more stuff and doing as many favors as the game offered. Not until I was comfortable did I start doing heroquests, normally.

In 6A, I've been trying to keep a shrine up for whichever blessing (spell) says it helps leaders maximize their abilities, as well as shrines for many of the farming and economic blessings, but I'm still getting something fundamentally wrong but don't know what.

Certis wrote:

I'm pretty confused trying to navigate the interface and I don't have a strong sense of what I should be doing or prioritizing.

This interface is a big improvement over KoDP in that it shows you the long-term good and deleterious effects that are going on, and, if you press the rune icon, helps associate the possible blessings and gods with their affected area of life. Tapping back to list view instead of the runes is essential, and for any annotation to the right of each menu's button, you should be able to learn more about that annotation from advisers when looking at that menu. For example, if you're on the clan screen, and see something like "crafting stress" to the right of "Wealth", then after tapping on Wealth, at least one adviser should explain why it says that, and other advisers will predict how many trade goods your crafters will produce, which should be a number less than before that stressor occurred. As for prioritization, dealing with any negative annotations should probably be number one. After that, I can only speculate as to 6A, but in KoDP, growing your herds and collecting treasures were perpetual goals that helped everything else.

Certis wrote:

I never really played KoDP and I must say, I'm pretty confused trying to navigate the interface and I don't have a strong sense of what I should be doing or prioritizing.

I haven't completed a 6A game yet, and fully expect my first run to end badly, so I can't advise on how to min-max your clan or the best strategy for winning the game.

In terms of getting a feel for how the game works, though, I agree with Keithustus' comments and would add that talking to & listening to your advisors as much as you can about nearly everything is a good way to start.

Bear in mind, though, they are not experts on every topic -- ask the strong Magic person about magic-related stuff, but ignore them on Diplomacy stuff. Ask the high Leadership person about clan-dispute stuff, but maybe not Food-related stuff, etc etc. Following advice won't always lead to a "best" result, and many decisions can come back to you in unexpected ways, but at least you'll get a feel for what's best in each season, the right time to build, trade, explore, etc etc.

Have had King of Dragon Pass on my ipad for a year now. Have pulled it up three or four times, but I can never quite get over the learning curve enough to have enough fun to continue. Any tips?

1. The Tuomo L strategy guide in my OP.
2. The designer's tips: https://www.a-sharp.com/kodp/tips.html
3. Liberally refer to the wiki during heroquesting

Without those, yes, the game is naturally brutally hard. With those it is a manageably high challenge.

Steam is Coming! Please wishlist it and follow it there so it gets more coverage. Let everyone know.

I've seen some articles and other good info online the last few days but I've been too busy to collect and post them here, or to play. I'll catch up folks on 6A news next week, and hope you're enjoying the game in the meantime.