#63: A Crowning Event
This article originally appeared in the July/August 2023 issue.
Writing as the Coronation of King Charles III1 takes place there’s the usual excitement from fans of the royal family, the protests from anti-monarchists, and as ever with such big state occasions, our national broadcaster going into frothing overdrive. It has been a once in a lifetime event after all2 so I suppose all these reactions and more are understandable, although it’s quite possible the next coronation will be along much sooner. I was surprised, even as a believer, just how Christian the whole service was. From Charles’ line at the very start about wanting to serve rather than be served, to the reciting of the titles, or styles, of God more than those of the king3, and not to mention the Archbishop’s addresss. It was interesting, too, to see other faiths included at different points.
I’m struck by some of the protesters’ placards which read ‘Not my king’ which is clearly untrue unless they’re foreign nationals or planning on emigrating. But the sentiment is strong despite Charles having no actual authority, having devoted himself to serving the country for seventy years, celebrating over a thousand years of our nation’s history, drawing considerable sums of tourism pounds each year, and surveys of other countries (and even our own parliament) suggesting that elected representatives may be no better and can be much worse. (I’m not suggesting binning democracy, I’m just not convinced that abolishing the UK’s royal family would contribute much to an increase in actual democracy in this country.)I’m reminded of Philip Pullman4 and his refusal to believe in a kingdom of heaven because he saw it as undemocratic. He talks about a ‘republic of heaven’ which seems to be very confused about the nature of kingship and any belief in the idea of a creation that might include a heaven as well as an earth.
What’s all this got to do with Traveller? The thought occurred to me that role playing games are one arena in which we do allow the referee to have near total and godlike authority. Of course, we might like to hope that they’re running their game in consultation with what the players want, and the players are free to go elsewhere if they don’t like what’s happening, but in a typical game or campaign, we cede a lot of power to the referee and hope that our needs and wants are going to be taken into account. But it’s a hope. TPKs happen, mismatches between different ideas of what the game should ‘be’ occur, and with a few exceptions it’s generally going to be the referee’s idea of setting and plot and NPCs that prevails. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not advocating for dictatorial referee’s riding roughshod over unhappy or uncomfortable players. I’m simply celebrating those who are willing to take on the work and preparation so I can have some fun. I haven’t quite worked out whether this translates into a meaningful observation or two regarding King Charles or God!