It’s day five of this year’s RPG a Day, and the prompt was Throne. I looked at it and the others for a day or two, trying to figure out which I wanted to tackle, and whether I had anything worthwhile to say about them. (Assuming, of course, that other prompts have rendered something worthwhile…)

A throne or symbolic seat of power. The sometimes goal of a fantasy campaign character, and certainly the outcome of some of the more famous literary barbarians and space royalty. Conan, Gor, Paul Atreides — to name a few. I’m sure there are plenty of game campaigns out there where the player or character’s goal was attaining or destroying some kind of seat of power — getting promoted to the captain’s chair in a Star Trek game, fighting for the rule of a kingdom; or toppling of an evil empire, a crazed god, or an evil corporation looking to rule over the people. A throne doesn’t have to be a throne, per se; it can be any kind of symbol of power.

In a recent D&D game, one of the characters is a scion of Ishtar — a paladin who is part oread/part god — who has been played with excellent (and annoyingly to the other characters) focus on his mission. He’s been founding temple/brothels to her honor, slaying creatures, fathering bastards around the Euxine Sea with enthusiasm. (As you might be able to tell, this is a Roman Empire-period alternate Earth with heavy Mesopotamian and Greek influence.) His goal has been to procreate with his mother and also find his way to apotheosis. (Don’t “ew!”, read those old myths sometime!) A throne isn’t enough; he wants godhood!

In another D&D campaign tangentially related to that one, we have a group of adventurers in Arthurian Scotland. One of the characters is a cousin of the righ (the king) of the Caledonii who was raised by one of the few chieftainesses of the country. In the adventures with the other players, she has killed the Saxon king invading the Briton’s lands and the king of the Circind tribe in Eastern Scotland, she’s bested a dragon (with a lot of help), fought a bunch of Celtic ghouls, and recently aided in the rescue of Merlin from one of the many women he’s pissed off. Along the way, she’s caused great concern for the righ, who sees her as rising in popularity and power too quickly, and her being a regicidal opportunist. To buy her off and settle her down, he’s made her a chief of what will later be Dundee.

Our Alien RPG sees a group of folks banding together — a former marine, a techie type, a doctor with a drinking problem and tragic past, and a pilot looking for adventure — with an android and a formerly rich corporate scientist to stop Weyland-Yutani and Lasalle Bionational from getting a hold of the black goo from Prometheus, or worse. They’ve been trying to stay ahead of hit squads, legal woes, poverty, and nasty bioweapons not to become wealthy or famous, or powerful…but to stop those that would use the ancient alien technology to do so. However, the lure of power and money is dangled in front of them the entire time.

One thing about a throne: it’s also a trap. Howard’s Conan discovers this when he finally rules his own kingdom “under a heavy brow.” Thrones bring responsibility, bureaucracy (however large or small), challenges to your rule, limitations to what you can do and stay legitimate. The throne might be the end of a campaign, or the start of a new one, with challenges you can’t just solve with a sword and a plucky attitude.