I wanted to organize my thoughts on this game before it's all forgotten. It also feels that people who haven't played don't actually know the draws of the game. It might also explain the cultural differences that the former players of RfK will bring to the games they go to.
In no particular order, there were various layers of the game that you could explore. You could almost view them as code-supported minigames, except they had setting-wide impact and allowed a character to exert control over the ingame world.
Use of boons/prestation was encouraged sphere-wide. It was worded on the wiki, if someone holds prestation over you, they have an interest in seeing you succeed. I thought it was a kinda hammy and obvious "encouragement," but in practice - players actually used them. Firstly, they were a great tool to resolve conflict. You accidentally poached in someone's territory, or kissed someone's ghoul? Pay prestation, and it's fine. Secondly, they were a tool for establishing power dynamics, so powerful because one could use them to influence votes. You have a status raise which you want to pass without trouble, whether it's in your clan, covenant or even Praxis-wide to be Prince? You start trading and collecting prestation over the important movers. Yes, prestation could be traded by players in the coded system.
Harpies had access to more boons code, oversight of all prestation in the Praxis and the ability to arbitrate it, or even deny it.There was a system with two Harpies, one of the current government regime and another opposed to it, to serve as each other's check and balance. The position of Harpy entailed a lot of work but also wielded a lot of practical power. For example, I wish I could've started charging trivial boons to reveal who holds prestation over who! (There was so little time, so much to do.) Status was the Harpies' other job, with 'laurels' also coded into the system. So with every Harpy report, the status positions on the Characters main page would shift and change. Status had bearing on other background aspects, Primacy I think. The Prince also had laurels to give, so he could greatly influence status.
I'm probably the worst person to write about this, as I'm not savvy with game mechanics, so I will only cover the aspects I found significant. The Territories system was something I enjoyed playing with. It was like a Risk-type minigame which actually affected where you could hunt for blood (among other things). This was the first time in my mushing history that I found the Socialize skill useful! It was used for finessing territories when acquiring them. You had to know which skills and stats you could game, and it was very exciting knowing that someone else was probably also doing it, and your rolls would be compared to see who wins.
Once you had a territory, you could improve its various stats over time, you could make it hold more blood for the +hunt code that let you feed (it was also possible to overhunt a territory). A territory also had Sites which had bonuses, for instance the Speakeasy would give you a +5 to Socialize, which you could use while rolling in jobs. The Regent of the territory could decide who to let feed there, or allow to use sites, or whether to charge prestation for that. You could also cause crises in your rival's territories, to mess with them.
Where this system completely broke down was, when covenants put their entire weight into gaining a particular territory. If I remember well, it almost led to an outright war between the Invictus and the Carthians. It also created these huge jobs where everyone from the covenant spammed all their dice so that a territory is won. I was not a fan of the feudal system staff changed to from this. I would've preferred if they'd corrected the former system in some way. It felt nice to roll your dice and use your sheet stats to gain a territory.
In the new system, the Prince chose the Governors, who chose the Stewards, who chose their Regents for particular territories and charged them rent. It was a boon-trading pyramid, where Stewards paid a major boon to the Governors to get Stewardship, and the Regents paid a minor to Stewards to stay in their territory. There was a possibility of monthly rent charging, as well as rumors of extortion. It would've been interesting to see how this system played out, and what long-term flaws or consequences it would've brought. Also, in the old system a character could hold a number of territories equal to their Status + some other stuff (Primacy?). In the new system, a character could only hold one. I'm guessing this was to stop territory-hoarding and I approve of that, because it would let more players get a stab at holding one.
Cants. This was seriously such a tiny addition to the game, requiring so little staff-work, yet it immensely simplified many aspects of vampire interaction. See a cant on a person? You're instantly aware they're a ghoul, who they belong to and who they're working for.
I love the way this game did rumors. I liked that you got beats for posting rumors on someone's wiki, that you could cover up who posted it, and that the rumor could be investigated to learn who posted it. I liked that rumors on the Cacophony board could also be squashed until they disappeared.
Beatsheets in general were awesome. You could claim a limited number of beats each week, for scenes, for theme, for aspirations, for frenzy, for +squees which were basically +reccs. I think maybe they should've lowered the number of +squees you could give per week. I disliked how they turned into something commonplace and reciprocative; I don't want to write congratulatory praise for normal RP. Still, maybe it encouraged people to be nice to each other, even if the motive is to get a +squee in return?
I know that beats were looked over by Shava before approving them, and it added to the workload. I think it should've been auto-approved, with an option for staff to look at them later. So when there's time, there'd still be a way to get to that juicy info, but it wouldn't be a workload requirement every week. With beats capped, what damage could it do anyway?
There were other systems I don't know much about, like Primacy and the various Influence tiers. There was not enough time to explore all the aspects of the game, at least to me. I wonder if the complexity is what made the better players come out on top? Make it hard and only those who can do it, will thrive? It also encouraged cooperation, because one person could not keep up with everything. I also loved that Resources mattered more than just for buying equipment, you could actually use them to get bonus dice on rolls. Bribe and buy your way to success! Many stats feel like sheet fluff, outside of RfK.
Ghouls being useful, that's already been mentioned elsewhere. Vampires didn't have as much +dt to do stuff in the system. Ghouls had much more, so a vampire would be smart with their downtime and delegate to the ghoul. Of course, this drove in the theme that vampires only have the short hours of the night to accomplish anything. Just the monthly upkeep for your retainers already took some of your downtime and blood.
Whatever you might say about Shavalyoth as a staffer, one thing stood out for me - she was unfailingly nice and kind to her players, and made an effort to be helpful. This is a standard that should be an example to anyone who wishes to staff. I know that some of the new staffers did their best to follow in these footsteps because I experienced it in brief interactions. It bridges the usual rift between staff and players, and makes mushing a much more pleasant experience.
Now, I have to be honest. It was obvious that the game was a source of ego-boost for Shava, a certain kind of personality cult which brought her an endless stream of praise and love from the players. It can't hurt to connect to a game where people send you adoring messages. Of course, nobody is that perfect. However, with how much work she was putting into the game, I guess that's a fair quid-pro-quo?
I won't go into the attempts to scale the game and bring in more staff, and how that failed. I just want to outline the constructive elements. However, while praising one good aspect of Shava's behavior, I have to keep perspective. The kindness in her approach to players is a good thing, the personality cult is a bit iffy.
The underlying plot of the game was possible to explore, and it's funny but to me it seemed something that ghoul and mortal players latched on more than vampires. It seemed that vampires were too busy. I know there was a God-Machine clock, and the Green Flame, and… something about a sleeping force that should be kept buried and asleep. I also loved that the Strix, VII and the Hunters were threats that felt real, from their occasional appearance through plots.
In my time on the game, I witnessed the fall and rise of two governments. Almost? I came in to a stabile Invictus rule and hear about the failed Carthian experiment. As Carthian underdogs, I witnessed and aided their climb to power, and then the beginnings of transition to yet another rule. I loved this knowledge that no government would last forever, and there was always something to scheme and plot towards.
To summarize, all of these background systems enabled a constructive game of vampire politics to take place. With so many ways that promoted subtle conflict, the more obvious and crude combat-conflict rarely happened. If a game had even just one of these systems implemented, for instance coded boons, it would already have better support for political play. If you want politics to work, you need to give your players tools for it. RfK's systems were too convoluted and complex, but I can see a pared-down, skeleton version of them working really well.
The difference between those of us who played on RfK and others, is that we know politics can work on a vampire game. It can work really well. I have my own horror stories of politics on other games, and how quickly it turned into a thoroughly unpleasant experience for everyone involved. For that reason, I completely understand why games would try to avoid it.
It's a culture shock to come down to. I suspect staff on other games will see former RfK players trying to grasp for political play even if there aren't any underlying systems to promote it. It's a huge difference in mindsets. The rest of you have the memories of horrors, we have the fresh experience of how engaging and constructive it can be. I'm not sure politics can work out on games that don't have the background build for it. It will inevitably boil down to the same shit that soured political play for many. This is a warning to former RfK players to be cautious with their enthusiasm. Otherwise you'll just make the rift deeper.
After playing on a game which offered so much, going elsewhere feels like stepping into a wasteland. What is there to do? Sandbox and TS, do the occasional plot…? One could argue that Requiem for Kingsmouth offered too much, leaving its players spoiled and ruined for other games.