The Knight, The Rogue, The Princess, and the Dragon is a quick little story-telling game for four players. Take the face cards and aces from a deck of regular playing cards, and distribute them to the players, so that each player has the Jack, Queen, King, and Ace of a suit. Each player should shuffle their four cards and place them in a pile face-down in front of them. For the purpose of this game, we will refer to the cards as the Knight (the King), the Princess (the Queen), the Rogue (the Jack), and the Dragon (the Ace).
Starting with the youngest player, take turns flipping over the top card of your stack until someone turns up their Knight. That will be the starting player. If any of the other players have not turned over a card yet, they should do so now, so that everyone has at least one face-up card showing. The starting player begins the story by holding up the Knight and saying something like, “Once upon a time, there was a brave (or rich, or young, or ambitious, or proud) Knight…” They may describe the Knight however they like, telling the other players what he looks like, how he behaves, or what he thinks. Just take a sentence or two to do this, and then hand the Knight to one of the other players. That player puts the Knight card that was given to them face-up under their draw pile, and continues the story.
To continue the story, the new storyteller takes the card that they have turned face-up in front of them, and proceeds to tell how the Knight encounters or interacts with that new character. For example, the Knight may know the Princess that the new storyteller has in front of them – describe her as beautiful, or as a tomboy, or generous, or vain, or lonely, or how she loves cupcakes, or perhaps she is the Knight’s sister. Or, if the new storyteller has a Dragon in front of them, they may tell how the Knight heard an old tale about a rich dragon sitting on a pile of gold in his cave, or he may meet a tiny baby dragon stuck in a tree, or he may have to defeat a dragon to rescue his King, or the dragon may be his steed, or anything! A Rogue may be incorporated into the story by having him try to trick the Knight somehow, or rob him while he sleeps, or maybe he wants to become a knight himself somehow. The new storyteller’s card may even be a second Knight, in which case they may either further describe the original Knight, or tell more of his past adventures or his motivations or who he serves, or it may be another actual knight in the story who he meets, or who he has fought with, or who is is friend, or his captain, or his rival. Any of these things – or anything else the new storyteller may think of – are wonderful ways to continue the story.
Once the second player has added their piece of the story, and how their card connects with the Knight at the beginning, they then take their character’s card and give it to another player, just as the first Knight was given to them. The new storyteller takes that card and puts it face-up underneath their draw pile, and if they don’t already have a card face-up in front of them, they must turn over a new one now, and continue the story in the same way. The Princess told him this, or the Rogue attacked the Dragon sneakily, or the Knight challenged her to a game of chess, or the Dragon flew off with something valuable, or anything that you can imagine. Play continues this way, with each player adding a new bit according to the card that they have showing, giving that card to the next player, until every player has used all four of their cards in the telling of the story. (Make sure not to pass your character card to a player that has already used all four of their cards!) Eventually, all the players will wind up with a pile of face-up cards that have been given to them by other players, and there will be one player holding a character card, with nobody to give it to after they have added their bit to the story.
This last player should place their final character’s card face-up in the middle of the table. You should have a relatively involved little story spun out now, but how to end it? Well, as the final card is played to the table – this will become the “story pile” – that player may begin to wrap things up, telling how that character has succeeded in whatever they need to do to get what they need in the story. Maybe it’s a Knight card, and he has retrieved the queen’s necklace from the Dragon’s swamp. Or perhaps the Princess has finally trained the Dragon to be her new pet, or the Rogue has become the new king. Maybe the Dragon has even managed to eat all of the other characters at this point!
But this is not the end! All of the players may now look at the card on top of their face-up pile of cards that they have received from the other players, and if they can play a card on top of the story pile that beats the card that’s currently on the top of the stack, they may add something that allows their card’s character to reverse their fortune and achieve their desires instead! The cards beat each other in the following manner:
- Knight slays Dragon
- Dragon captures Princess
- Princess charms Rogue
- Rogue deceives Knight
These are not necessarily strictly the actions that happen in the story when one card beats another, but they are just a handy way to remember which card beats which. Of course, if you want to use those elements in the story as the end twists and turns, please, feel free to do so!
Eventually, there will come a point where none of the players are able to play one of their cards onto the story pile. Or perhaps all of the players decide that they like the ending as it stands, and do not wish to play another character card, even though they are able to. The player who laid down the last card on the story pile may finish up the story with a sentence or two, wrapping it up with a moral or a happily aver after if they wish.
Of course, that may not be the true end of the story, but just the beginning of the next one…