The Origins of Divine Right

The Origins of Divine Right

A while back I was invited to a group that was playing Divine Right on VASSAL several times a month - and we went out of our way to not only play the game, but over time, to figure out the ways to break the rules, and to find the edge cases.

It is a game worthy of repeated play and attention, with every faction needing a different playstyle to win - and every faction having a chance.

As a result, I enjoyed this interview over at Dev Game on the origins of the game and how it was built.  

Divine Right was originally published in 1979, revised in 1980, and went out of print in 1982. The game had been very popular, but its designers, my brother Kenneth and myself, expected that DR would simply pass out of sight and out of mind like so many other games before it. To our surprise and gratification, it kept appearing at conventions as a tournament game long after it had become unavailable. Every now and then, we were contacted by persons asking if it was ever going to be reissued. More recently, the word “classic” began being applied to Divine Right, and the designers dared to hope that we had perhaps managed to create something enduring. In 2002, The Right Stuf International, Inc. published a 25th-anniversary edition of Divine Right, putting the game back in print for the first time in twenty years.

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The Metagaming copy of Your Excellency finally came back rejected in 1978. Like most creative people, we decided that the editors involved just didn’t appreciate quality and innovation. Nonetheless, months had already passed, and we had some new ideas that we wanted to introduce to the game. Kenneth set energetically to work redesigning the map, and before long, he presented me with an entirely new map done in a jolly-looking antique style, one that would be recognizable as the rough draft of the published classic. It had a colorful and richly satiric quality that would inspire much of the subsequent design as well as much of the writing for the yet-to-be created Minarian mythos.

Kenneth had most of the place names written in by the time I first saw the map, and it was only left for me to help with the details and the polishing. The Crater of the Punishing Star was one of my additions, as was the Altars of Greystaff. I also contributed the names of Zorn, Pon, Minaria, and the Invisible School of Thaumaturgy. Zorn came from out of a phone book, and Pon was the name of a mountain kingdom created in a story cycle of mine, only two episodes of which ever saw the light of day in amateur publication. Minaria was the name of a kingdom I had used in an earlier bit of fictional juvenilia. I think that I was unconsciously echoing “Mnar,” an arcane land mentioned by Lovecraft, or maybe even Minnesota, my home state.

For those willing to give it a shot, VASSAL can be found here, and the DR module, here.

About Last Redoubt

Ex nuke mechanic, jack of all trades.