In King of Dragon Pass, the player controls a human clan in the magical world of Glorantha. Players manage their clan's health, mood, relations with other clans, and cattle, all while responding to events such as settling a trade dispute or dealing with a ghost haunting one of the clan's steads. Eventually, the clan can join with nearby clans to form a tribe, with the ultimate goal being to make one of the player's clan king or queen of the tribe and later King or Queen of Dragon Pass.
The game is turn-based: each turn, the player can perform an action, such as sacrificing to a god for a blessing, sending a party to explore Dragon Pass or raiding another clan. Then they must deal random event; depending on variables from the strategy layer or consequences from previous event, these be anything from handling a messy divorce within the clan to duckmen asking for help stopping the undead. Events are presented as a block of text and an image with a list of possible choices.The seven nobles on the clan ring will give different, often conflicting advice based on their personalities, skills, the god they worship, and the status of the clan. In general, there is no single correct choice, and most options can lead to success or failure depending on chance and the skills of the clan ring.