“No matter what happens kid, you done good.”
-Narrator, The Bastion
Most if not all major myths and tales place in the mythical Kingdom or Nation which acts as the ubiquitous Damsel-In-Distress of lands. Hyrule, the Capital Wasteland or perhaps or a combination of various countries such as Rohan and Gondor in Middle Earth. In other cases it might simply be an powerful Empire which is being wracked or invaded and thus requires the aide of a hero (such as in the Riftwar Saga). No matter what it is, the Kingdom is a key feature of many settings to a point that much like the “Evil Empire” or the “Federation” it is a primary mainstay in modern fictional writing.
The best way to define it is much like a Damsel or a McGuffin the Kingdom is a representative of a central role of a story’s plot. In the Legend of Zelda the world we existed in as Link is always “Hyrule” and even though we often are saving or helping Princesses the greater danger is to Hyrule itself. When Link fighters Ganon he does it to say the Kingdom of Hyrule and everyone he loves. This is no different than say the Guardians defending the Galaxy, only that the Kingdom is a more present setting rather than an ultimately vast one. The Kingdom is just that part of the world, and not necessarily the -entire- world itself.
Why People Want to Takeover or Invade the Kingdom
The Kingdom isn’t just a no-man’s land home to wandering kids and weapons. It is a place usually central to a key strategy for the invading Empire or has something to offer that someone wants. Now before we can understand all of that we have to break down the various villains or ruffians want to control the Kingdom. Usually, the nation is home to a resource or perhaps a McGuffin that is important to the villain or invades. A Kingdom might be rich itself and in fact may just be a prat to everyone else. So why it is invaded is much like why other nations are invaded, a civilized place filled with riches for the taking.
The resource the Kingdom is often a form of ‘magical material’ (or in trope terms phlebotinum). This material might powerful crystal in the Crown City in Final Fantasy Fifteen or the unobtanium in the Avatar movie. This resource can also be land (the reason the Fire Nation invaded the Air Nomads and the Earth Kingdom). Or might be to attain a material rare in their home (the reason for the Riftwar).
Another option is that the Kingdom itself is just a major strategical point in a larger war. Rohan was attacked by Saruman to prevent giving aide to a major player in the defense of the Free Peoples. Last but not least the Kingdom might just fall because some villain decides to usurp the rule. Or a rightful rebellion occurs and goes awry resulting in a bloody amount of fallout (see Shadow Campaign series).
Properties for the Kingdom
Since the Kingdom is the thing to be “saved” in our story it has a lot of means of being expressed in a creative endeavor. The Kingdom can be much more than a damsel as it can be the end result of the heroes work or something that can be restored. The Calamity in the Bastion destroyed the world before leaving little left for the hero to rebuild. In the ongoing saga of the game, the kid spends much of his time rebuilding pieces and trying to find solace in what remains. From the kid’s experiences, they see that the world that they once knew might be gone, but one still exists.
Stories of restoration can often provide a strong groundwork for a sense that the Kingdom is dead and buried. Most stories focus on the notion that the Kingdom is saved and thus the story ends happily ever after. But that isn’t how the real world works. Of course, we can’t just toss in a grimdark for the feeling of it. Sometimes it is best to focus on the trials and tribulations of the Kingdom. To have multiple heroes rise to save the day and see how the world changes. Perhaps one reason why Elder Scrolls feels so alive is that every time a different portion of the Kingdom is saved or history is changed. We fell in love with Skyrim just as much as we did with Morrowind years before.
For any of these aspects to fit the Kingdom has to have enough of a social character that we care about it as an entity. Gondor has Minas Tirith the beautiful city of high walls which gallantly stands against the evil horde. Skyrim was a land rocked by civil unrest, a popular rebellion, and a myriad of peoples trying to make life after an unfavorable treaty. We are asked at one point by a Stormcloak “Are you a true son or daughter of Skyrim?” The land itself has character and a story unto itself.
So when we make the Kingdom we need treat it as one of our character’s we write to live in it. It needs a sense of history which sets it apart from other lands. The Kingdom needs something we want to feel toward it either as a land to be saved, restored, or balanced to prevent catastrophe. Without it, it is just another faceless random world we pass through and no attachment is given to it.