[Compass Rose, The Dance
    of Kingdoms]

Gentle Introduction to Compass Rose

Table of Contents


I've asked several people how they're enjoying Compass Rose so far, and while they're all very excited about it, some of them find the huge variety of choices and information a little overwhelming. I know this will get easier with time, but I thought I'd try to address that.

Disclaimer: I'm not an expert, don't try this at home, take with a grain of salt, yadda yadda. I'm just a player with no more information than anyone else, so these are my own biased perceptions of the game. But since I'm not feeling overwhelmed I thought I'd try helping other people feel the same.

The most basic question is, "So what do I do?" Since the real answer to that is "That's up to you!" I'm going to see if I can help describe the wide variety of choices there really are.

Roleplayers might find the game a little intimidating because it feels like a wargame. Wargamers might find it a little intimidating because many of the inner workings are deliberately kept obscure from the players; they can't just see all the point costs on their sheet.

That's okay, because the system is being arbitrated and is designed to be rewarding to both extroverts and people who want to hang around building nifty things in their kingdoms for a while before talking to anyone.

This is, as stated by the GMs, a hard game for people treating it as "just" a wargame. But I suspect that people could treat it as "just" an RPG and still have fun, and not let all the choices dominate them. But I encourage them to learn enough about the mechanics that they don't feel like they're leaving anything out.

The Turn Page

First, pull up your turn. This will be easier if you follow along. I only have one turn as of this writing, so I expect this section will be evolving.

The turn page is your current situation and your character sheet; it describes all of the current country-sized options and resources available to you right now. This is where you see how your country is doing overall, and it's what you'll be making as a framework for decisions about your country's future.

The Turn Report

Mine contains climate and geography, a history blurb, and the writeups of my PCs and some important defined NPCs. There are also subsections for Notable Features, Culture, Military Strength, Neighbors, and Projects. These will tell you useful things about yourself and your neighbors. This is the more or less non-mechanical part of the turn and can be used to generate lots of different play ideas.

If you don't have a climate or history section, you might not have made any hints to the GMs. They had a lot to go over at the beginning of the game! Here's where you can help by submitting a few sentences about your country's history. How was your country formed? Or was it a mystery? Are the current ruling class invaders from another country or peaceful settlers? Is there a great deal of strife or has recent history been uneventful? Since the GMs have put all our countries together in a big quilt, your first attempt may not be a perfect fit for the area, so consider this section a work in progress until it's approved.

If you're ever stuck for ideas about what to do in general the neighbor report is a great place to look, ask yourself questions about your neighbors: Are those people dangerous? Will they try to invade me? Or do they have something I can trade with them? Do they have notable families, cultures, or natural features I might want to look into?

The Map

Below the turn report is the map of your country. It's well worth getting the map viewer and blowing it up to see the detail.


I stopped here and looked at the map and at my neighbors, and tried to get a feel for what each neighbor was like, placing them on the map. This gave me more ideas for what I might want to talk to them about, or what they might want to talk to me about.


This contains battle reports and the locations of friendly, allied, neutral, and enemy units. If you look at your map, land sections are labelled with a letter and a number, and sea sections with just a number. You should see army and navy icons on the provinces or seas with units listed in them.

Questions to ask here: Are there any enemy armies near my borders that I should be worried about? Do I have enough armies for what my country wants to do? Are we pacifists? (This ties into your country's culture; some countries might be satisfied with no armies, while some are never satisfied.)

Trade and Diplomacy

This has sections for the current Allies, Enemies, and Trade Routes you might have. It also lists available trade routes.

It is possible to be loosely affiliated or allied with someone without being a formal ally; it means you're generally well-disposed but don't intend to let their troops onto your land. This is where allies are listed that have the specific mechanical traits associated with being allies.

Trade routes can be unilateral or reciprocal between nations. If you build one, you get monetary income from every other turn. It if the other nation reciprocates, you both get money, every other turn. Even if there's only one, both nations can freely exchange resources. Note that trade routes are a Construction.

Questions to ask here: Do I want to have a lot of trade routes? Where would be a good place to trade? With what I know right now, who would make good allies for me? Are there any likely enemies that I should be defending myself against? If there were a market with stalls selling all kinds of things, which stalls would my people be clustered around?


This is probably the most complicated section, so I'm going to devote more attention to it below. What you will find in here is a list of anything you're currently constructing, Completed Constructions, and what you have available to construct.

I grabbed the whole list and sorted them in the order I wanted to build them, which let me know what I was feeling like concentrating on. This helps reduce the swarm of choices.

Questions to ask here: What do I feel is lacking? Do I want to build constructions that will help me do something I want to do? What is the national character, perspective, or outlook of my people? What kind of things would they like to build? Do they want to build beautiful palaces, or powerful fortresses, or wealth-generating trade routes?

You can work on one Construction project at no penalty to anything else you are doing. If you construct multiple things it will slow you down. Both Agents and Resources can assist.


Similar to Constructions, you should find a list of what you are currently researching, your completed research, and what you have available to research.

Similar to constructions, I grabbed this list and sorted it in order of my current interest.

Questions to ask here: Is there anything here of immense national interest? What kinds of things would my people be most deeply interested in right now?

You can work on one Research project at no penalty to anything else you are doing. If you research multiple things it will slow you down. Agents can assist.


The sections are: currently discovering, completed discoveries, and available to discover. Use the same procedure here as you would above; think about what your people would enjoy or need discovering.

This is another good place to think about how your people's interests bend. If you don't have a good feel for it, pattern it off the character of your ruler, or pick something that sounds fun!

You can work on one Discovery at no penalty to anything else you are doing. If you are discovering multiple things it will slow you down. Agents can assist.


The sections are: currently exploring, completed exploration, and available to explore. Interacting with your neighbors may give you more ideas here, or reading their country blurbs.

If you're playing a chatty sort of Agent, you might really enjoy combining exploration with roleplay. Send email to your neighbor describing your agent and what they'd be interested in! This could be really fun. Sneaky agents can have fun exploring around a neighbor's country, communicating with the GMs about it, and trying not to get spotted.

You can work on one Exploration at no penalty to anything else you are doing. If you are exploring multiple places it will slow you down. Agents can assist.


This contains your current currency (in Sapphire Notes) and your Resources. This is most important when thinking about Constructions, but since they can be traded to other nations along trade routes, or given to heroes, they have other uses as well.

Things to think about: What do I want to use these for? What do I need more of? Am I okay with the resources I have? Do I even need resources at all?

On Roleplaying

You don't have to do a lot of roleplay, especially your first turn! If you do want to roleplay but don't want to get overwhelmed thinking of things, you don't have to be an extrovert to have fun; you can wait until you get interesting letters from the GMs or other players, with things you can react to. You shouldn't have to feel that you're falling behind if you're not roleplaying a lot, because everyone has the same mechanical turn, and it's easy to submit a mechanical turn.

If you're feeling like doing a lot, though, there's lots you can do. Not sure where to start? Think about your two PCs: your ruler and your agent. What's their relationship to each other? Do they have any other immediate family? Are they representative examples of your country, or are they black sheep? Are they loyal or do they shirk their duty? If you're nervous about playing with other PCs just yet, you could do a scene with NPC people in your country, just to establish character; you might find you have some interesting NPCs, too!

Details and culture: you can make up anything that's not already established. If you're not sure if it fits or not, ask the GMs. Make up people and situations out of whole cloth; just make sure it doesn't contradict any of the information written on your turn sheet. Think of all the details not filled in on the turn sheet as a wonderful blank canvas where you can come up with culture and society and people to make your country alive.

If someone were making an ethnic joke about your country, what would be a stereotypical trait of your countrymen as seen by outsiders? Lighthearted? Angry? Stoic? Stupid? Snide? Greedy? Proud? Steadfast?

Ready to interact with other people? Send them letters! You can do this IC, or OOC (though I prefer IC letters.) Send envoys or delegates! If you send your Agent or Ruler, you'll even get to participate in the scene; otherwise you'll just be setting up a situation for another ruler to play with.

Not sure what to talk to them about? Well, do they have any interesting natural features you're curious about? Something famous listed in the "what everyone knows" report? Famous people you're curious about? Does your son have a crush on their Crown Princess? There's lots of possibilities. There are lots of ways to create conflict or "plots" here, I'm sure. Send an urgent emissary to your neighbor that your prince got turned into a swan and was last seen flying this way! (You'd better be able to eventually produce a swan prince or you might get a reputation as a practical joker....)

And remember: NPCs are people too. Just because their email all comes from the same place, they are different people and should be roleplayed with as PCs are. You might have more time to be detailed with PCs, because they're in fewer conversations at once, but NPCs are all real people in the milieu of the world. Even the ones you originally made up!

On Constructions

The Basic Construction List is very helpful when deciding what to construct, since you can speed up constructions with resources.

If you have permanent natural resource sources, then you will get one resource per turn from each source. If you build a mine on this resource you will double the production. You can also build a mine using temporary resources; it will produce one resource per turn and then go away, played out. And yes, you can build horse mines!

If you want to build a lot of things, you probably want to develop your resources first, so that you can speed up the process. You might want to build trade routes to increase your available currency, which can be another way to create resources.

The other development to think about for resources is Industry. An Industry turns one unit of raw resources into one unit of finished resources. An example could be a paper industry that turns lumber (or papyrus, maybe?) into paper.

You don't have to put resources into construction; it just speeds it up.

Your Agent, and your King, if you have the Bureaucracy virtue, can help you speed up constructions. I highly recommend that before you construct something, you find out how long it would take!

Annotated Links

Compass Rose Resources
Czr's collection of resources. I'm only cross-linking to the most immediately important resources, so use this as the definitive guide.
Sample of Play
Sometimes it's easier to learn by example...
Turn Template
An ASCII turn template, for use when sending in your turn.
Constructions, Resources, and Industries
This is the character generation guide to writing up constructions and coming up with resources and industries.
Basic Construction List
This is a list that shows which resources can be used to accelerate construction projects.
Compass Rose Intro Jokes Template [Text] Herria

Compass Rose / Gretchen / Flick / © 2002 The Other Gretchen
Last modified: March 13, 2002 / gretchen@flick.com