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sinopiasaur

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A member registered Dec 25, 2016 · View creator page →

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(2 edits)

Smol but peaceful way to get myself to remember that tea is actually beneficial to me in the morning.  And this little microgame reminded me that it's ok to actually do something other than stare at the computer or my phone while the tea steeps. That helped a *lot*. 

You can also of course add other sorts of tea "times" and occaisons for yourself, like evening, bedtime, afternoon slog etc. 

I made my own recipe that I'm sharing here: 

  • Purpose: Awakening spirit 
  • Tea: Celestial Seasonings Morning Thunder (actually an herbal roasted tea without caffeine)
  • Time: 4 mins
  • Adds: quarter tsp coffee powder, milk, cinnamon 
  • While tea steeps: Ground oneself with the Earth

Worked super well this morning for me. Mornings are extremely difficult for me for a variety of reasons, so little routines like this are incredibly helpful.

One of the few games here I would make time to pay attention to for an expansion. This is a wish come true. Thank you so much.

Here's a very useful initial map of a town I created for use in a campaign. Note that in the process of map creation you also create elements of locational history and culture, very useful for world building!


I've played one Descended from the Queen game, The Wizard's Tower, and quite enjoyed it even as a solo experience (which involved moving the final question card a bit up in the draw deck). I feel that this guide describes well the essence and soul of a game that uses this framework, and gives good advice for designers thinking about creating a Descended from the Queen game.

One particular detail I liked is the examples given from a few Descended from the Queen game to show what can be done with the framework, from varying the theme, varying the "queen", and varying the final goal(s). 

Also the last section is more general advice about playtesting, though it has some specificity to the Descended from the Queen framework, which I feel is extremely valuable for those starting out in game design. I've known board game designers before, and these are similar principles that work there, too.

A very relaxing journaling game/exercise! Creating weather forecasts for imaginary regions is easy and quick using the tables, a d6, and a pack of cards.

https://starshinescribbles.itch.io/the-forecast

I actually used a Tarot deck instead of a regular deck to generate ten region names (draw two cards for inspiration), then for the rest of the game ignored majors and page court cards, redrawing them. (Mapping suits for most tarot decks to a regular deck is usually cups to hearts, swords to spades, wands to clubs, and pentacles to diamonds.)

For each region's weather report, I imagined what I might say on the live radio cast to describe each region, and then added a small tag of commentary based on the report and aspects of the region, to keep things fresh.

Note: sometimes some of the weather conditions can clash, so I either added a fantastical excuse for the clash, a boggled reaction, or altered one condition as I saw fit.

I needed a small journaling game to reward myself for a little achievement, and I much appreciated this game.

-- 

An excerpt of a sample playthrough of the Forecast. Note: you can look up the beaufort scale to get specific knots for each wind speed if you like.

--

And now, the forecast...

Barren Point: wind blowing east, 43 knots, strong gales. Heavy snow... yet perfect visibility, if you're of the yetifolk persuasion. Later on winds will decrease slightly to about 35 knots, the gales slowing a bit. Truly fitting weather over there!

Celebration Town: winds blowing north, gentle breezes and almost calm. There's frost however! Visibility very good. Everyone should consider partying indoors.

Fool's Lake: winds blowing north just barely, extremely calm. Very bright and sunny, though visibility is occasionally poor from the perpetual sulfurous steam rising from the lake. The lake waters are good for fishing but take care sailing!

Sorrow's Ridge: winds blowing west, quite a gentle breeze. Still, there's a thunderstorm. Visibility bad occasionally. Perfect weather for King Lear.

Indecisive River: winds blowing south at storm-level forces. Naturally there's a thunderstorm there. Yet visibility is occasionally good. Later the winds will change direction eastwards. Truly even the wind can't make up its mind there!

I've started making small plant friends in my bullet journal, either on daily pages or in the day squares of the month calendar. It's turned into a quicker and more motivating kind of notation for me to repeat smaller self-care daily routines I need, from drinking water to meditating, using different leaf sizes and different plant parts—like flowers, tiny berry clusters,  and even squiggly outgrowths.

Really appreciate this game for inproving my life day to day.

Still at it most every day. This has helped me a lot in staying on target with developing good habits and even decreasing bad ones, with a margin of forgiveness that doesn't trigger my anxiety. Especially when my CPTSD flares up. Love it. Still working on my original six plants gradually.

I'm still going and quite enjoying the game and journaling. I've filled my first room with furniture,  though there's still room for more decor and details, and I'm gradually working towards gathering enough seeds for a second room.

I enjoy journaling now when I can, especially knowing it doesn't have to be a full-page entry. Including a recent event or thought I want to remember, and one good memory, has helped me a lot towards seeking the small positives every day—even days when I don't journal.

The sense of progress on the rooms is also a very pleasant touch, as is the gathering of resources. It's a bit of achievement I can make even on bad days.

Oh wow, thank you! I'm glad lots of people are playing this, it's a very good gamification of what I feel is the best of what the itch.io community can do for each other!

Oh wow. I have apparently been playing this game for months, except for the legionnaire attack phase.

I've not been able to pay for most of the games I've played, I make use of community copies whenever possible and only if I feel like there is a huge chance of me enjoying the game, same as if I were going to buy it outright. So I review and play and write and rate to try to make up for it.

I've started to also post sample playthroughs under my reviews (excerpted to show enough of the mechanics, play loop, and general feeling without being too long or too spoilery). I think writing up a sample playthrough is +5 archivist points.

My only fault I think is that as a result of being sick constantly I am really, really slow. ^_^; But it is just how I do things.

I don't think I want to incorporate the legionnaire attack phase. I just like seeing number go up.

A sample playthrough. 

I used a d20; the result of the roll is enclosed in [].

[18] 2♣ - beauty - new wilderness - bridge

A suspended bridge over the bay covered in plant growth. The killer whales have returned. Birds nest among the leaves on the bridge pillars.

[11] 10♦ - a glimpse - desolation - fragment of the past, preserved

An old, run-down house standing beside a telephone pole still with a ground wire. The grassy lawn still looks as if someone just cut it. A small pond, quite still, like a mirror.

[9] 3♥ - beauty - new humanity - a resource

A new farmstead with many solar panels. In the early morning light they wait for the sun to rise.

[15] J♦ - beauty, danger - desolation - encounter someone strange

In front of me is an automated tank that belonged to the police from the time the world ended. It spots my car and points its guns towards me. I speed up a lot to escape, then when I am safe I call the hacker hotline to notify them of the rogue tank so they can shut it down. I had barely noticed the lovely green fields on either side of the highway.

[3] 7♥ - beauty - new humanity - obscured land

A settlement surrounded by walls resembling those of a fairytale castle, one of those amusement parks from before times. The walls are tall, with watchtowers, and an unnatural sparkling white that stands starkly against the scoured grounds.

[10] A♣ - danger - new wilderness - solitary structure

A distance from the side of the road is an elongated  field thick with tall grass, wide and expansive with a single tower, and full of those mutated cougars that often eat people. I drive on quite quickly.

[4] 8♥ - sorrow - new humanity - obstacle

On either side of the road a cemetary seemingly stretching into the horizons on in all directions without end. I stop because a funeral procession is crossing in front of me. The mourners wear white áo dài. Monks sing a slow song of grieving, the sound floating following the solemn ringing of bells.

I pray for the dead and the living as they cross, and wait.

[6] K♠ - beauty - bones of the old world - encounter new web of power

I have to pay a toll in order to continue driving. On the cold cement walls are murals, quite faded, of tropical gardens alien to the area.

Afterwards I drive onwards without resting again.

[12] K♣ - beauty, sorrow - new wilderness - encounter new web of power

I again must pay a toll to drive through and onto the backround winding through a forest planted two decades in the world before the end times. At the end of the road is a sustainable co-op settlement, an artist's retreat. I park, and someone comes to claim the vehicle as scrap.

I walk into the main building. The walls are decorated with artworks and sculptures. I head up to my room, where I'll spend the rest of my days.

The End

A sample playthrough.

Beginnings

I'm a witch specializing in plants and greenery: growing them, speaking with them, how to use them in many types of spells and charms.

Today I come to this new steading. The cottage here is quite simple: one main room and one bathroom, connected by a short hallway. The walls are made of gray stone, the floor of dark, clean wood, the roof of dried bamboo.

Behind the house is a garden with a large variety of herbs, and around the entire house is a lavender garden for protection.

The First Ritual

In the northeast corner of the house is a bottle the color of smoke full of silver stardust. The bottle belonged to some previous witch.

I take out a black, smooth stone the size of the palm of my hand. While holding the stone in both hands, I close my eyes, then speak with the kami.

As the ritual nears its end, the power of the steading flows into me. I am filled with a feeling that reality is steady, firm. I needed that because reality is usually quite shakey.

The Second Ritual

One day I receive a letter delivered by the messenger bird. (Chim khách in Vietnamese.)

I prepare for a meeting this night by packaging containing a pinecone from an enormous and ancient tree, nestled in soft, black fabric. I head out to the place when night starts.

After waiting silently, a stag slowly steps towards me. From his mouth hangs a bundle smelling of burnt wood, from a mighty and ancient pine reduced to ashes. I take it solemnly and gift the seed cone to the stag. He leaves, disappearing amongst the trees of the forest.

I bury the bundle leaving no mark except for white flowers already growing, already budding.

For the first time I feel the earth full with the potential of life.

The Third Ritual

Several months after, I feel prepared to place my stone in the corner of the main room, beside the bottle from the previous witch.

The steading has become a place growing green and healthy full of the lifeblood of the kami.

I finally am at peace, entirely, firmly standing in reality.

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These are excerpts of a sample playthrough.

Day 1. Tower count: 0.



Morning (I: The Magician). I decided to visit the Buddhist temple on this island. At the temple I feel like the world is still alive and thriving. The monks here maintain the natural scenery even though global warming has devastated so many places, including my island. I meditate here.

Noon (VI: The Lovers). I ask the head monk if I could become a monk here too. They said no because they can't support too many people here, however there are other temples I can apply to.

I decide to study how to become a Buddhist monk while I send applications for work at other temples.

Evening (XIII: Death). I discover that I can't leave the island anyways. Travel has been blocked by the government because of the fuel shortage.

Day 2. Tower count: 0.

Morning (XV: The Devil*). [As a trigger card, I now add the Tower and the World to the deck.] As morning dawns, I've been studying Buddhism all through the previous night. I think about how we need to meet each other halfway during the end of the world. Nowadays helping other people is the best and most important way for us all to survive.

Noon (XVIII: The Star). I brew tea and cook a comfort meal of sweet rice with Chinese sausage. I eat lunch while chatting on IRC with my best friend. Afterwards I eat mikan while thinking about how much I've healed from the past.

Evening (X: The Wheel of Fortune). Many people have left the island by being rich enough to escape the Earth into space. Afterwards, day by day, more and more animals returned. Tonight I watch a snowy owl fly across the clearing silent like a pale ghost.

Day 3. Tower count 0; the Tower and World are in the deck.

Morning (III: The Empress). The Washington State government has started a program to distribute food to everyone left. Surprisingly the quantity and quality of the food boxes were pretty good! There's even multiple options for food sensitivties and allergies. These days the farmers have food surpluses.

Noon (XVI: The Tower). [Tower count increases by one, and the Tower is reshuffled into the deck.] Global warming is currently causing devastating weather.

Evening (VIII: Strength). I apply to keep my current housing now that the landlord corporation has disbanded due to leadership rocketing off the Earth. At least I'll have a roof over my head.

Day 4. Tower count 1.

Morning (XX: Judgement). [Tower count resets to 0.] Currently I can't do much to improve my situation as my job in the previous world permanently disabled me, even before the world began falling apart. I start painting again.

Noon (II: The High Priestess). I learn about a program where people can get financial support to move to another place as long as they have family (including found family) there. I think about applying...

Evening (XI: Justice). I chat with my dearest friends about using this program to reunite with them. We decided to also apply for an additional program where we can send packages to each other for free.

--- days of nail-biting setbacks and determination pass ---

Day 8. Tower count: 1. Deck is very, very thin.

Morning (XVI: The Tower). [Tower count increases by 1 to 2, Tower shuffled back into deck. If we draw it again we end the game prematurely.] I get on a ferry off the island, then get on a plane to get to the agreed-upon meeting place.

Noon (XIV: Temperance). [There's like two cards left in the deck after drawing this one, and one of them is the Tower...] I and my found family find each other in the airport and embrace.

Evening (XXI: The World). [We drew the World before the Tower count hit 3! The world is not destroyed.] We stay at a hotel while we plan out our new life together as we watch the news report about the world starting to stabilize now that the rich people are gone and no longer taking up all the food, water, housing, farmable land and crops, and fuel.

The End

PS: I can only assume the Tower ended up hitting the rich people rocket instead.

A more thorough review:


All Towers is a post-apocalyptic game that uses the 22 Major Arcana of a Tarot deck, though you don't need to know the meaning of the Arcana to use them in this game.

At the heart of All Towers is the Tower countdown mechanism that creates a pacing and tension that can get rather intense; after all, your deck of inspiration is only 20 cards in size at the start of the game and whittles down further and further.

Despite the small deck size, All Towers doesn't generate games that end in just a few turns due to how the Tower is used:

* the Tower and World (the "world is saved" card) aren't inserted until you hit specific trigger cards in the deck (such The Sun or the Hanged Man)

* you need to come across the Tower three times for the world to be destroyed if you haven't drawn the World yet;

* and drawing Judgement acts as a Tower count reset.

This creates rising tension, as you have a period of time where the threat of Tower looms in the distance, then the Tower comes closer and closer to ending your game as your deck whittles down; but you can have a temporary reprive in Judgement---indeed, the way Judgement is used, it's almost guaranteed to happen.

I'll note that the use of the Tower card specifically as the countdown to doom mechanism, and Judgement as a reprieve, and the World as salvation are extremely thematic to their original meanings in Tarot, which I find neat.

The rest of the cards have prompts tied to them with nice inspiration examples to make use of.

I always recommend inspiration aids (Story Cubes, opening a book to a random page and picking a random significant word, etc) when playing solo journaling games, because you don't have other players to bounce ideas off of.

I very much like All Towers, because it's provided me with much-needed catharsis as I imagine a world I survive and make better, rather than sinking into catastrophizing despair, even though I prefer quieter games. For those who like a tense experience rather than one more at ease, All Towers is ideal.

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This is an unofficial set of digital dice for the Boardnaut Custom Image Dice android app.

https://sinopiasaur.itch.io/story-icon-dice-set

I used them often for inspiration when playing journaling/RPG games when I didn't have access to a set of Story Cubes. I hope this helps other folks who don't have access to other similar inspiration aids, because I have found inspiration aids to be pretty invaluable to kickstarting my imagination when I'm on my own.

In lieu of payment, I recommend making a donation to RAINN, a non-profit near and dear to my heart.

💙

Thanks!

Some play examples, with brief summaries, from an 16-chapter campaign:

--

Chapter 0: Simple Character Build

My character is a growing, young academic; they dream of following in the footsteps of their two mothers in finding great archaeological evidence that rocks the academic world; they love beautiful, serene landscapes and hate loud noises.

I didn't end up using the quirk or much else in the way of characteristics or items; I prefer to let some aspects of my character develop on the fly.

Chapter 1: XI Justice

Directions for Justice: Draw 2 cards. Setting for Justice: an ancient court or other place of law.

Drew two cards; reveal the first as Queen of Coins. Coins means treasures, valuable discoveries, and the like; a Queen is part of the rank interval that indicates whatever I decide to use this card for, it must be very impactful to the narrative (rather than a temporary obstacle). 

I decide that, since this is an ancient court of law, that my character discovers tablets enscribed upon the walls the legal code of the ancient civilization that used to be here, never before discovered. 

I reveal the next card to see what else I add to the mix. I reveal the 10 of Swords, a dire danger (or a dire revelation, as I prefer to play) that requires a big sacrifice to get out of the situation. 

I decide that the chamber I'm in suddenly locks me in, Indiana Jones style, and a mysterious ghost appears before me. The ghost tells me I can't leave with my notes because the last generation of this civilization wanted this place and its culture to be forgotten, because a terrible injustice had been committed that destroyed them. 

I leave the notes (essentially sacrificing that big turn of events) and I'm allowed to leave. What I carry with me is the knowledge in my head of what the ghost told me, even if I don't have the notes to translate what the undiscovered legal code was.

--

Chapter 6: X The Wheel of Fortune

Directions for The Wheel of Fortune: draw three cards. Situation for The Wheel of Fortune: things do not go well, luck changes for the worst.

Draw three cards: the first I draw is the King of Coins; so a treasure/discovery of value that changes the direction of the story as a significant moment. 

At this point in my campaign, my professor somehow found me during my trek through this part of the region and is helping me out. Uh, "helping" me. In the previous chapter it turned out we disagreed about what exactly is important in exploring an ancient site. 

So I use the element of my professor and the element of our head-butting approaches to archeology, and come up with a possible scenario based on the King of Coins: there's something significant here about the value of archeological finds, and we're probably not going to agree. 

I decide to turn the next card over for more inspiration to add. I reveal the Queen of Cups. That's another significant element to add to this chapter. Cups are the realm of emotions and feelings, and what stronger feeling could come up for me than something about one of my mothers? 

Thinking about what could come up next, as the Wheel of Fortune turned out to be harder to write about than a Major like Strength, I reveal the third card: the Ten of Swords. A dire situation of danger (or a dire revelation, as I play it), with a high intensity that means something must be sacrificed to survive and/or keep going.

With all these taken into account, I decide that what happens is that my professor and I have lost our way; it's an arduous journey over rocky terrain that you trip and fall over and scrape your knees all to heck, it's hot and the water is running out, and that small kerfuffle we had in the previous Strength chapter comes out to a boiling moment where we fight over how to return to camp: 

My professor reveals how much he hated the valuable research one of my mothers did, because he didn't like her interpretations and thought she wasn't objective enough in her conclusions. He asks me whether I was foolish enough to follow in her footsteps; and I of course say YES. He turns away from me, hunched over in anger, frustration, and disappointment.

We find our way back to camp, whereupon he immediately packs his things and departs. I have lost my companion who, while not agreeing with me, did make exploration a lot safer. I carry with me the weight of not knowing what happened in the past between him and my mother.

-- 

Chapter 12: XVIII The Sun

Directions for the Sun: draw three cards, but resolve each card completely before revealing the next. Setting for the Sun: desert ruins.

I draw three cards, and I'll have to resolve each one before I reveal the next, very unlike previous chapters (especially the Wheel of Fortune). 

At this point in my story I'm deep in debt to the University because my former professor cut ties with me, which also meant my stipend and tuition waiver were lost. In previous chapters I managed to convince another professor to take me under her wing, but it turns out that perhaps my University department has an unscrupulous culture because she wanted me to destroy a site to gain a treasure that was otherwise unobtainable, and so I really am on my own with this debt. 

Before I reveal a card, I think about what my character would do next. They need valuable finds they can turn into cash, but that might be rare; so they might now take on odd jobs and missions from local inhabitants to earn some money, or at least food and board and supplies to keep going. 

I cautiously turn over the Eight of Wands. Wands means I need to add a being (a creature, a human, etc) to my story. The eight means whatever the situation is, it's going to require sacrifice. 

Ok. I have to resolve this all the way first. I decide that I've got to rescue something (a herd animal from a village nearby! Perhaps a sheep) from the building that a desert lion is prowling around. So I've got to get through to the building, but if I don't put down that lion for long enough, I'm not going to get out alive.

But I still don't want to hurt or kill animals---a character trait I added here, to make the situation require sacrificing something important to me. I decide to shoot a tranquilizer dart into the lion, but it'll last maybe half an hour. I'm sacrificing the softer part of my principles but also my ability to get away scot-free.

First obstacle down, I'm in the building. Time for the next card: the Knight of Swords. Ok; a serious revelation that will change the course of the story somehow. 

I decide: I find the sheep deep inside the building, resting in the dust underneath an enormous tapestry depicting an important religious figure we have little information about. This tapestry depicts multiple folk tales. A very serious revelation indeed.

But. I am torn. I stare at the tapestry. I decide that I suddenly realize my life goals have changed due to my negative experiences with important, close authority figures in my field, as well as my experience in the first chapter with the ghost that wanted their people to be forgotten. I stop wanting to steal away with the secrets of ancient civilizations, even if I still want to discover them for myself. 

I rescue the sheep and not the tapestry; time is running out, that tapestry is huge and heavy, and I need money and also to not die in the desert.

Obstacle resolved; next card: the Five of Swords. Holy crap, a lucky break of sorts; it's not a high intensity Swords, so discovering that desert lion has woken up and is coming at me has a simple sacrifice to make: I throw my beef sandwiches at it. The desert lion, very very starved and thin, immediately smells the meat and starts devouring the sandwiches, and the sheep and I run VERY FAST and FAR AWAY across the dunes.

carry with me in the end this sheep as a reward, along with some food.

--

Chapter 16: XX Judgement

The ending and last scene of my campaign. 

Directions for Judgement: draw five cards, discard up to four, deal with them in any order you like. No rules limits otherwise. Situation: here you end your adventures.

I draw: the 4 of Coins, the Page of Coins, the 7 of Swords, the Page of Cups, the Knight of Coins.

I've decided in the previous chapter that what my character now wants most of all is to live a quiet life, in a small village near the sea somewhere. I keep the 4 of Coins, the 7 of Swords, and the Page of Cups; I discard the rest. What I choose to discard might dictate some other inspirations for me, too; we're in the overtime of epilogue and there are no more limits.

With the 4 of Coins I have a pretty easy out of my debt: I turn over all the artifacts I've found, several of them very valuable, to the department and clear my debt entirely. With the 7 of Swords I decide that the revelation is to the world my mothers' private notes which I inherited, and some of which I found at a market in trade for the sheep I rescued (a few chapters ago). I donate all of that to a museum I trust and respect.

With the Page of Cups, I change my life in an emotional way. In this case, I decide that emotion is fulfillment and content. My character retires to a small fishing village near the ocean. They spend the rest of their life catching fish, painting sunsets, and thinking about a life well-lived, in the end. There isn't any desire for revenge on the professors who ruined my career, and I don't ever check to see how they're getting on. 

I have my peace, and that was always going to be the best reward. I really do hate loud sounds, after all; and I love beautiful, quiet scenery.

The End

I enjoyed Ruin Explorer very, very much. I used the Portal Tarot (same designer as the GameMaster's Apprentice decks, Larcenous Designs), although you can use a d20 and a plain playing card deck instead.

This game utilizes the structure of the Tarot very well, in particular the division between the Major and Minor arcana, separated into two decks. 

From one deck, you draw the Major arcana, and follow the directions in the rulebook for each one. Each Major gives unique guidance for a particular setting, for a particular situation, or for a quiet moment of contemplation; many of them change the rules slightly with regards to how you deal with and interpret the Minor arcana.

From the Minor arcana deck, you draw cards that give you inspiration for various elements to add to your tale for this particular Major arcana, effectively a chapter in the life of your explorer. You don't need knowledge of Tarot in order to use the Minor arcana (or the Majors), since the rules provide an easy guide that covers the characteristics of each suit with a scale of intensity for intervals of ranks. No need to memorize individual card meanings.

The nature of the prompts (at the time of this writing; another version is in the works to add more detailed prompts) are very open-ended while giving a bit of guidance, there is an elegance and briefness to the main play loop alongside a lack of stats/states to track, and a lot of freedom between stages of play (the chapters here) to create my own plots and links between them---basically the kind of journaling game I love the best.

Played as a campaign that can stretch over ten chapters, I found Ruin Explorer a pleasant way to create a story in this particular genre with an intensity that ebbs and flows thanks to the different natures of many of the Majors.

Highly recommended if you love open and non-crunchy journaling games that create a narrative with quite a lot of story beats built into the inherent structure of how the Tarot is used.

Notes:

Some may ask what happens if you only get to do one chapter, as in you draw the Judgement card straight away from the Majors deck, or if you end up needing all 22 Majors. Here is my recommendation: the game is not bound by rules the same way many board games and crunchier RPGs are, so you're very free to reshuffle the Judgement card back into the deck if you don't want to deal with it at any time, or to conclude early with Judgement at any time you want. This will not break your game.

Also, feel free to use inspiration aids whenever you need ideas. This mechanic is actually explicitly built into a few RPGs, but it's something you can do for any narrative game.

This doesn't seem like it should be tagged as solo.

You did really well adapting the Rider-Waite themes! 

Spades as Revelations has continued being an excellent tweak for me. I was not actually prepared for my research professor to, at a very unfortunate Wheel of Fortune situation, reveal just how much he despised my mother's approach to interpreting archeological finds, have a fight with me while we are trying to locate camp, then him leaving without a word.

Except for the next major (Death) where the university notified me that he had terminated my stipend and tuition waiver and that I had a new bill of thousands of dollars that I needed to figure out how to pay.

It would have actually caused less lasting damage to my character had they fallen into a river and lost everything but their life lol. But I still prefer revelations.

The campaign still continueth.

Currently enjoying a campaign, and have a couple tweaks I've been using, followed by a recommendation on generating inspiration to write each chapter entry:

  1. I'm not keen on danger, so have been using spades/swords as "revelations and epiphanies" instead, which is also a characteristic of this suit in tarot.
  2. Multiple times I ended up using the meanings of specific minor arcana rather than just the game's default meanings. It feels more natural to me as someone a little familiar with tarot readings, though the game's guidance is pretty close to the development of each suit's traditional themes.

I recommend that even players without experience in Tarot look at the card illustrations in their deck for inspiration for story elements. It's an advantage most tarot decks have over most playing card decks. A lot of tarot decks have repeated motifs that appear throughout cards as well, which can inspire linking elements throughout the journey.

Will report back when I finish.

This game was intense for me, and definitely felt a lot like a Studio Ghibli film—I'm thinking about Castle in the Sky, Nausicaä, and Princess Mononoke. The hearts helped weave a sense of the past, the diamonds provided a plethora of different seeds for future plot events, the clubs created silent moments of contemplation, and the spades definitely, definitely create conflict. All that plus being able to use almost all of the polyhedral dice set I have (all except the d20) made for a pretty wonderful if a bit more stressful session for me—if you like a game with some conflict in it, that is a good stress.

I prefer quieter games, but I think this is an extraordinarily good story telling game.

(I did not at all expect that the enemy that came after me throughout the years would eventually come to take over my watch. It was very, very Studio Ghibli.)

Being a witch in space was a lot more interesting than I expected! I tend to stay away from science fiction (especially hard scifi) but Familiar Unfamiliar wedded witchcraft to generational spaceships seamlessly, and for once I felt very natural playing in a scifi space.

I used the Way of (Tarot) Cards but at some point I want to play again with the throwing stones version instead, though using the Way of Cards can let you draw more from your own familiarity with the cards if you want. 

I found the mechanism of 25 casts/cards divided any way you see fit among the 7 parts of the game freeing after I got used to it. Some folks may get hung up on a specific cast result, but it's much easier to think of each phase as a different freeform tarot-style reading rather than indicating specific questions or elements in the game text.

This was delightful! A pretty cozy and small game of contemplation as a pangolin who plays the piano. I found the questions and prompts pretty intriguing even without considering it's a pangolin playing a piano, which is also just awesome and adorable.

By the way, the Vietnamese word for pangolin is "tê tê" which is adorable af.

A short journaling game of contemplation with evocative prompts and a small mechanic I did like—gradually adding up the 2d6 results rolled to pick a question from each phase to create a final score, giving a brief epitaph that I found created a nice capstone for the experience. There are no bad ends unless you want to make them yourself.

An incredibly intense experience. The use of the Tarot deck is wonderful, with the Major Arcana playing an inspirational role throughout the entire game rather than being just additional prompts (like the minor arcana) and really shows what a Tarot deck can do for a journaling game. Due to how the Major Arcana are often highly unique from deck to deck, playing with different decks will yield different inspirations, especially with decks that have detailed Major Arcana. 

My first game I used as self reflection, remembering a point of time in my life when I was lost and walking through it to finding myself again.

My second game was entirely about a fictional character that the game built with depth as each act passed. I was not prepared to find myself playing a lawyer fired from their law firm because they walked away from prosecuting a case against a nature activist who, it turns out, was protecting an ancient tree in the city that someone wanted destroyed. It did not go well for anyone, and in the aftermath my lawyer remembered her partner, who left her an acorn from said ancient tree, and now she is going to go find a location to plant it that is more worthy than the city (which no longer exists).

I highly recommend this game as one of the best character exploration engines.

I am terrified because from the examples this game is *fucking accurate* and very real! I speak as someone trapped in the high tech industry for over a decade from the surprisingly and unfortunately formative years of my mid-twenties and onwards.

It does and doesn't but that's ok, I generally lack the ability to understand complexity and nuance, so I think it's just me at this point. I don't think further explaining would help as you've done a lot of it already and I'm pretty sure everyone else gets it even if I likely won't.

Re feedback, not all feedback is valuable. But you probably already know that! Plus, I don't think my feedback here for you is useful.

Thanks for the thread.

Ah, could you remove the

very long repeated dashes?

They make your comment so

wide I can't read without

copy/paste into a separate text app.

And it seems to wreck formatting

of comments here.


So my further thoughts are:

1. I don't think I understand why repeated prompts are bad still? I'm also not sure how you get a good enough sense of how jounaling would go without doing it at least a little. As for why anything should happen, isn't that something you create? The prompts guide you. At least that is my experience with all journaling games save for the CARTA system. There are other solo games with a huge array of tables and that guide the experience more, but the idea that randomly generated prompts need priors from the game to happen is weird. For myself I chained elements from previous entries I'd written, and that is a lot harder to do when you aren't doing journal entries.

Through that methodology I feel you missed some of the mark here, and it hurts the review.

2. I know you weren't condemning them, but I wondered indeed why you thought the game couldn't wander into deep wells of feelings. That was what struck me as strange.

3. I had a lot of experience with RPGs but journaling games tend to be very different beasts. My surprise was at how some of the things that felt pretty normal in journaling games that were present in San Sibilia elicted surprise from you, so I wasn't sure you had experience with journaling games specifically. That experience still doesn't come across to me.

4. This is where it gets weird because I had one extremely short run (6 days) and I don't run much character gen. And that was the session that made me fall in love with the game. I still had a great time and made a bunch of stuff happen with a follow-through storyline, so the idea that a short run results in nothing sounds strange to me.

Though this is where we differ the most, in that I end up feeling frustrated when more guidance is present, and you seem to feel more frustrated when there is less guidance in general. So that's likely why our views on the game are polar opposites, save that we both agree the game has a good core though I feel that part's just sense.

And yes, being honest about reviews is great but I feel like there was something missing in yours, and I'm trying to pin it down. It is obvious you do good reviews, I just wasn't sure why this one didn't feel up to par with your standard. However I shall have to chalk it up to my lack of reading comprehension.

On discussion of tweaks, A.ii isn't difficult. Add up the ranks of each card you pull, and when you hit blackjack (say, a sum of 21, but I think a larger sum would also make sense) mark a progress box. I'm sure I presented it incorrectly for you to have that impression.

Re B. I don't think I understand since I was mostly thinking about ways that prompt variety is achieved in other journaling games, and Alone Among the Stars is one of the core games of this nature that is amenable to hacking, which you're maybe familiar with. I don't think prompt variety makes the game a wholly different one. Then again, I'm no designer nor writer.

An example of an unusually short visit. A lot of this is brief, like the short daily entries the character would write, without verbose narrative flow, but enough that I remember the story I was constructing and imagining in my head long after.

Person dramatis: A melancholy poet
Name: (Ông) Đỗ Hào Huệ

Day 1:

I was at a tavern, drinking to forget a terrible span of time, when I spotted a door no one else seemed to notice.

I crossed the strange threshold and entered a hotel I had never seen before.

Ten years ago I dreamed about this city.

The hotel I found myself in seemed old-fashioned, with many iron railings, decorated with designs of flora; a Persian rug; and an old elevator that rattled.

I didn't meet anyone, nor did I want to meet anyone.

When I went through the door leading to here I only had the clothes I was wearing.

Day 7

A harrowing trip to the market. There were many policemen all over the place, staring intently at every person there. I left.

Throughout the day I noticed a policeman following me everywhere I went.

Day 10

A mysterious excursion to a ruin. But my fellow travel companions all around me stood stock-still in absolute silence like stone statues.

Day 15

A trip to the market, this time shocking. I saw a policeman turn a citizen into a stone statue!

I ran away quickly. The sunny skies changed to heavy rains.

Day 21

A serendipitous meeting with ruffians. I unexpectedly yet fortunately ran into a gang of thieves. I was searching the city for a way home when they ambushed me.

I turned right around and fled in the direction of the policeman following behind me and past him. The thieves  ran straight into him. While they fought I escaped.

Day 27

A hopeful night at the opera (theater): an old woman sitting next to me whispered the way home.

After an intermission started and the presentation stopped, I walked through a door near the stage. Because the entertainment was not yet finished I was able to go home.

I entered the tavern of my own city and breathed a sigh of relief.

Tonight I'm going to write a poem.

The End

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Oh, forgot to add under B. advice, there's the "every card is a unique prompt" approach, which is used well in games like The Last Stop, games in the Descended from the Queen family, games in the Follow the Leads family, and games in the CARTA family, and they really hit themes *hard* at the expense of lots more writing.

I read your longer review and have a few comments.

1. I am a bit confused about the idea of repeated pairs of location and event being simply a copy of the same combination.  I assumed if you get the same combination you add variation in what happens, not that the same event repeats moment for moment. If I have two stressful visits to a pawn shop I can shape that into two extremely different experiences, and I'm not exactly brilliant at storytelling. However I do appreciate that this is a Me approach that doesn't work for everyone.

2. Minor nitpick but safety tools aren't an extraneous addition for games like these. You can get into really dark places easily with the themes of San Sibilia, and it is extremely helpful to be reminded you can get outta there. It's actually kind of responsible but that is just my opinion. By contrast, a game that focuses on touristing without the specific thematic pull of San Sibilia doesn't need safety tools as much or perhaps even at all. (I think about Alone in the Ancient City here.)

3. I generally play journaling games with an additional inspiration tool like story cubes, but there are other methods (random word generators,  grab a book and flip to random page and random line, I think the second is actually used in a particular game system somewhere on itch). RPGs often need an idea mill especially if you GM, and journaling games are no different (where the GM is effectively you).

4. Game length variation is not necessarily an issue in something like this but that is a pretty personal feel. I think the idea behind the particular mechanic here is to add tension by making it uncertain when exactly you get out of the weird city that shouldn't exist. However I think a warning on this might help set expectations and is lacking in the game doc. For myself, I break journaling games that end up long over a couple of days.

Apologies if you have already taken all this into account and have tons of journaling game experience, though! I don't always read that well so may have missed that. I myself bounced super hard off a decent journaling game myself for personal reasons, so I know that weird feeling. (I don't leave reviews in that case when I know it's deeply personal, but this can't be everyone's approach.)

As for advice on tuning the game, I have played a lot of journaling games so have some ideas for the game designer given what has troubled you.

A. Re advice on more consistent game lengths; I've played numerous journaling games and there are three approaches I would suggest:

i. Quick exit: allow the player to create the exit scenario on the fly. I think this is the easiest option with the most player agency but sacrifices the original tension.

ii. Tie progression to a specific sum of cards drawn, so for instance on a sum of 21 you mark the next box regardless of what happens. This strikes a middle ground by forcing progression without overburdened rules,  yet keeping some of the original tension. This is an approach taken by Chill Out, which actually highly needs that mechanic even though it is an avowedly longish journaling experience.

iii. Add additional Changes on heart-diamond and clubs-spades draw conditions. This is the most complex alteration and would need a lot of fine tuning, and potentially keeps tension in.

B. Re: advice on more varied prompts, I recommend the Alone Among the Stars approach, which ties each suit to a theme and each rank to a more specific prompt (like location). As each suit-rank pair is unique in a single deck of playing cards, this generates unique prompts each time. Additional RNG in the form of one d6 can add contextual circumstances. I was surprised actually that this approach wasn't taken, so was prepared to use my story cubes for extra inspiration help.

Still, I'm neither a game designer nor a story teller so my advice is always grain of salty.

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Wow, that was intense and extremely cathartic. With just 22 cards (the Major Arcana) All Towers creates an apocalyptic yet hopeful journey of about eight (in game) days. The Tower mechanic creates rising tension, appropriate as this is a mid-apocalyptic rather than post-apocalyptic game, yet there is more than enough to keep hope alive and allow you to come up with ways to survive. Despite the small number of cards, the way the Tower mechanism is designed you won't find yourself cut off too early, and it is far more likely you will finish the game at the wire. 

I needed this game, after being in the Pacific Northwest where we all recently baked nearly to death to the point that roads buckled and powerlines melted. Being able to envision a realistic way to survive climate change helped me a lot to get my head back on straight.

I enjoyed this game very, very much. Chill Out builds on the framework of Alone Among the Stars and creates a relaxing road trip with elements of wonder and the unexpected by alternating sections of Alone-style prompts with significant stops that use the cards in different ways. As a result, the game is a cohesive and satisfyingly complete journey, though this means the length of the game isn't flexible. I made my road trip over the course of two days, and enjoyed my time immensely.

I didn't print out a map, as I don't always have access to a printer, so I just drew a rough simple map, enough so that I could annotate where certain landmarks occur to get a sense of the journey taken.

One thing I would add are additional, optional reflection prompts for the end of the trip.

Excellent and among the best of road trip journal games I've played.

This is a sweet and relaxing way to pass a couple hours of a summer afternoon. The game is more focused on the logistics of exploring and learning your hive's dance language to get your hive full of honey, with some outlet for journaling if you want. There aren't additional rules to enforce specific ways of playing either; you're very free to set your own goals as opposed to trying to optimize via skating close to the limit of some hypothetical set of stricter rules. 

I used graph paper to draw hexagons on (there's a simple way to do this folks can google, even if it results in slightly tall hexagrams) and an abacus to count up the honey cells instead of the scoresheet.

I like that I have both this and "I'm a Bee" (which has much more focus on journaling) for all my bee rpg needs.

This turned out to be a wonderful game where you're encouraged to write in a journal about your real life while earning feathers, drops, and seeds to create a safe space in a separate document. The space can be developed collaboratively with friends, and none of you need to share your journals to do this, just the separate document.

What I like is that Heart Home has been helping me journal in a healthy way for me. I stopped writing a long while back because I had reached the point where spilling blood on the page no longer helped me process my trauma. In Heart Home I'm reminded to write about memories only if I want to hold onto them. It's not toxic positivity nor bleeding on the page, and for that I am grateful.

I also like that even playing solo Heart Home reminds you to connect with friends in a meaningful manner.

Heart Home is a gradual game and I quite heart it.

This is a lovely game that, for me, gets me to do some things every day more reliably without being micromanaging nor unforgiving of my high flare-up days. 

I don't have room to lay out a plot of mandrakes nor playing cards to spare, so I cut up cards and made an envelope for them, and that works for me. You can also do a pure journaling version if drawing isn't your thing.

I am just growing some flowers from Việt Nam in my sanctuary. You can be very flexible with the theme.

I always have one plant growing in Retort's soil mixture (activates if you survive the day), and that is enough to keep me going even if I wasn't able to activate any of the other mixtures that day.

Thank you so much for the game!

I like that idea a lot and will try it in future games! Taking a page from After the Accident, I think I will also shuffle cards like that into say the top ten cards of the deck amd then stack 5 cards from under the deck on top, to get a sooner yet still unpredictable time of return.

A meditative and peaceful experience for me, although the system is flexible enough to create more drama on the journey if you want. You can tinker this to be just about any kind of vehicle you like, including horses and spaceships, and not just cars on a highway—you just need a journey with multiple places to stop.

I like that this game additionally encourages you to add different flavors to your journey setting, too, with a simple table for 2d6.

As this game features one road of multiple stops represented by cards, should the journey seem too short with the die roll, I like to add 6 for 2d6 and 3 for a shorter 1d6 journey.

I have a lot of trouble falling asleep, and staying asleep. Thus it wasn't at all long before I got to start playing the main game and mini game. I have to say, tending to the lighthouse at the end of the universe is relaxing even with unsettling storms, and interesting even on calm nights. A lot of flexibility and thought is in the prompts, and I liked having different stages of play that used the cards and d6 a bit differently. And the setting makes highly fantastical story directions quite natural. 

I'm very happy with this game as a night ritual/routine, and something to do when my sleep is inevitably interrupted.

I have thus far found a kitten (space kitten?), had the gravity turn off and sprained my ankle, managed to caulk up a crack in the tower wall, and now the kitten is purring next to my ankle trying to heal it. As this is a space cat, I think it'll manage it and I'll be better in a couple nights.

Thank you for this lovely game.