Wonders of the Open Sky

okay, so i have a first draft (version number .02 because i changed the intro stuff a little after feedback from some people here in the first axe thread) of this thing.

here is a link

please play it and tell me about your experience! over the next few months i want to try fixing any problems it might have, and maybe then attempting to fund a print version in kickstarter’s annual zine quest promotion for small ttrpgs? maybe that’s ludicrously ambitious i dunno. it’d be nice though.

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I just played a quick game. This is really cool! That’s my only thought right now. I’m going to play another, more in-depth, game tomorrow and keep a proper journal and post it (by this weekend probably).

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i’m glad you like it, and i’m rreally interested to see your journal :smile_cat:

As promised here is my journal. Besides the stuff I came up with for my character I basically rewrote your stuff to be in a first person past tense point of view to read more like a real journal. I spoilered the stuff you wrote because discovering each of them was part of the fun for me as I’ve only been reading the ones I got from my dice rolls so there are still dozens I haven’t read yet. I added the numbers I drew for each entry and I encourage anyone curious and wanting to follow along to refer to their own copy.

My Travel Journal

Greetings. My name is Topii Tnichtlo of the tribe Tnich. My people are one of several tribes who live on a large, mountainous island in the middle of the ocean. We hunt skywhales for meat and resources and use their skins to make balloons we fill with a gas that emerges regularly from the cracks in the central mountain shared by all tribes. The balloons allow us to tether ourselves to the mountains and float higher and higher to hunt larger skywhales.

Recently the elders of the tribes all gathered and decided we would pool our resources to construct the largest, strongest balloons ever made that can float a fortified shelter on a large, reinforced platform stocked with food and water reserves, as well as a mounted telescope and harpoon. They have decided it is time for us to start exploring the world beyond our island home. A call was put out for volunteers of the most able-bodied who were willing to take the risk of venturing out and possibly never returning. The volunteers who were approved for the journey drew straws to decide who would go. I was afraid at first drawing my straw but when it was revealed to be the shortest I knew in my heart that I was meant to go on this incredible journey.

On the day of my departure all of the tribes gathered to see me off and offer up blessings and prayers. I am keeping this journal to document my initial outing.

Day 1 (52)
After floating for several hours until my island home became little more than a dot on the horizon I encounter an area of sky crackling with lightning despite there being no clouds or other signs of storms. As I got closer the source of the lightning became apparent: I saw what appeared to be two humans, clearly having cultivated within themselves incredible amounts of power, standing in midair, staring each other down in a face off, each seemingly wondering which of the two was stronger and anxious to find out int he near future.

Day 2 (23)
Came upon a vast, empty desert in the middle of which stood a tower whose height would put some mountains to shame. It seems whoever built this tower has long since lost interest in it, though, as it’s clearly fallen into ruin. It’s so tall and so dilapidated that I was actually able to fly the balloon through the tower’s hollowed-out upper echelons. The walls were decorated with stone reliefs depicting the wealth and glory of ancient kings, their names and achievements now forgotten and buried in the sand, save for this one tower.

Day 3 (51)
An enormous city below made its presence known to me via plumes of smoke and racket of alarms, explosions and general noise loud enough to be heard faintly from my position in the sky above. Looking down the city was clearly under attack by one of the largest animals I’ve ever seen, beaten only by the colossal skywhales back home. The city’s battle looked like a losing one, as the massive beast stomped around breathing fire and tearing buildings apart with its claws.

Day 4 (44)
Down below I saw an unusual forest, stretching out for miles and miles. Unlike the browns and greens of most forests, this was a forest of whites, pinks and yellows, as it was made up of huge fungi instead of ancient trees. There were no sounds of insects, birds, or anything else coming from this place, only the occasional sound of clouds of spores being released, that made me glad to be flying so high above.

Day 5 (53)
I woke up today, stepped outside onto the deck and began to panic. The balloon was far closer to the ground than it should have been! All around me was grassland with ancient, partially-overgrown stone ruins dotting the landscape as well as a tree or two here and there. Then I noticed: at a certain point the grassland just stopped and there was only open sky beyond. After some time I had passed over what was clearly an island, floating in the sky, tethered to the ground by an impossibly long chain, and with water spilling endlessly from the mouth of a river on one side.

It was at this point that I decided my journey had gone on long enough and that I should turn back and bring my newfound knowledge of the world to my people.

Day 6
Passing over the strange floating island again I began to wonder about it’s origin: the chain and the ruins suggest that its means of elevation aren’t the product of nature, though the silence and the obvious age of those ruins says whoever caused it is long gone. Maybe when I get back home I can return with a party to try and find out what makes this place tick. Perhaps even see if the technology can be replicated.

Day 7
The forest of fungus stood silent and eerie upon the landscape but not unmoving or unchanging. It was definitely bigger than it was when I last passed by, both in terms of the ground it covered, and in terms of how high the tallest mushrooms reached into the sky. Most horrifying of all, I saw a group of riders on horseback fleeing a wind-blown cloud of spores, the slowest of them being caught up in it and, within seconds, becoming a still white rubbery statue, as yet more fungus sprouted from their entire body.

Day 8
All is now quiet in the area that was once a monster-besieged city. Though only days have passed, where there were once towers of glass, brick, stone and steel, there is now only lush vegetation, almost all signs that this was once a place inhabited by humans are now overgrown. In a clearing at the centre of the late city lies the one who brought it down: curled up in a peaceful sleep.

Day 9
On my second passing through the ruined upper floors of the vast and ancient tower I decided to try and tether the balloon to the structure and get out and look around. However things did not go as planned. The wind continued to blow the balloon along even as it was tied to the tower. I made a mad dash to clamber back aboard but could not untie the rope before the balloon pulled part of the tower over. As I floated away in the direction of home I looked back at that unknowable old structure, now roughly half the height it was when you first encountered it, and thought about how glad I was that there was no one else around to witness my folly.

Day 10
As I came back to the area where the two martial artists were having their standoff, I looked through my telescope and realized I’d have to take something of a detour around them: though they still had yet to start trading blows, the sheer amount of energy coursing through the air around them made it look like it would be as safe to sail through as a hurricane.

As for the experience itself I like how much of a chill, choose-your-own-adventure-with-rng thing it is at the moment. I recall some of the discussion in the last thread when you were first talking about the idea and I don’t remember exactly how much of a game you were wanting to turn this into but there was some talk about having a few stats to keep track of like character HP, balloon/hut HP and Food/Water reserves. I think that could still be a thing that might add to the experience itself without introducing a lot of mental overhead on the player’s part but I would keep it all as simple as possible.

So each day you’d automatically subtract -1 for food/water and then roll a dice to determine if you found anything to replenish your reserve and then roll again to see how much you got if any.

But again all of that would introduce fail states and it’s really about the journey and using your imagination so I don’t know how much adding those types of rules to the game would encourage that. I still feel like I should be rolling the dice more though.

Maybe adding a dice roll each day to decide which cardinal direction you travel in for the next day and that somehow determining… something else about the world. It would imply all these things are in fixed locations though and you would be able to map them out on a piece of paper and that obviously isn’t really a thing that’s possible in its current form.

It might be that it’s just fine as it is and really only needs lots more encounter descriptions for the player to draw from so they can play for a lot longer before encountering repeats. Also instead of using two die I just used one and rolled it twice. In this manner you could keep adding new encounters and just having the player roll an extra time for each new tier you add, without requiring the use of extra dice.

Anyway great work so far! It’s a fun thing to play with.

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i really enjoyed reading your journal! and you’ve mostly come to the same conclusions as i have regarding design. the big problem is that adding more dice rolls massively expands the number of entries for each added die.

i removed the stuff like hp and food supply because i thought that a fail state might take away some of the “relaxing journey” aspect of the game, as well as possibly overcomplicating it? i definitely do want to try writing a more perilous exploration game at some point, though. hmmm, but also, it would add a little bit of “should i keep going, or is it time to go back?” tension… :thinking:

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hasanyone else tried it yet :?D

bump?

I started playing this last night! I had to stop for the night right as I was getting to the half-way point. Since the only other solo play game like this I’ve gone through is Thousand Year Old Vampire, I recognize that’s impossible for me not to see a lot of similarities. Still, I think it’s cool that this game feels like it’s basically built around the return trip in which those early situations change and evolve, whereas those evolving situations were an extremely rare feature of TYOV. Looking forward to finishing my first trip, hopefully tonight.

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no, this is an interesting perspective! the only solo rpgs i’ve played are fighting fantasy books, and four against the darkness, which is also a combat-heavy dungeon crawler. so it’s good to hear from someone familiar with more modern story-focused games, even if it’s only one of them. (though i do have artefact and introduction to practical demonology, i’ve only read them, not got round to actually playing)

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Finally finished my journey.

I am Acren, first navigator of the uplifted.

For generations, we watched as the downthrown struggled in the dirt to survive, and despite the misery of their labors, they seem to be thriving. We watched as the fishers of the coast and the growers of the valley found commonality, and the tracks between them were no longer lost with overgrowth, while the cairn-like buildings they called homes grew to surprising breadth and complexity. The sacred breath does not emerge in that land, yet they have learned skincraft regardless so they might festoon their heavy rafts with wind-breaks. Now, fisher-ships bob toward the horizon every week, and some even seem to find their way back.

Many uplifted stories justify the downthrown fate. Negligence, or waste, or frivolity: the downthrown earned their status dozens of ways. Only in the last decade have we stopped to seriously consider that their lives are merely different, rather than worse.

With this revelation, we have undertaken to descend and meet with them. The skincrafters and windhunters worked in tandem to create a great hunter-ship: a vast balloon held aloft by the breath like those heavy ships the downthrown use to rock in their waters. Such an accumulation of breath is required that the ship must be weighed down with weeks of drinking water to descend, and as their lands yield no breath with which to refill, we must lighten our load at each stop.

26: Less than a day out, we encounter our first crisis: I strayed too near a nesting great-rukh that saw us for the threat we are. Tavid muttered about wasted opportunity for meat, but even he’s not so foolish as to believe we few can hunt such fowl without the entire village behind us. If we cannot find game on our return, though, I wonder how desperate we’ll be.

54: Knowing we must shed most of our weight before ascending back to home, the plan is to pass by the downthrown settlements closest to our cliffs until our return voyage. Even with favoring wind, this process takes longer than expected. A week goes by. During the nights, Parshen holds the course, and on the seventh night she wakens me to a curious sight: the stars here are luminous lanterns hanging higher than even our bravest windhunters would climb. Are the uplifted not the highest dwellers of the creation? The elders should be told, that we might plan a pilgrimage to these new neighbors.

23: Though we have passed out from under the lanterns’ overhang, a new great height soon appears: a wreck of a tower, taller than any cairn the downthrown have ever piled. We fly through its ruined reach, marveling at ancient engravings.

13: Despite our strange discoveries, we find few downthrown settlements to visit, and our plans to trade for supplies seem foiled. We prepared a hunting-net, as well as a scoop-skin for condensing water, and both measures are more than sufficient to refill our reserves. I have to cut loose a ballast-boulder to make up for the excess.

53: Our hunter-ship seemed too low: we drift dangerously close to the ruined cairn-fragments that dot this plain. This made no sense, as our breath supply has not much depleted and we have not taken on extra supplies beyond our our equilibrium. Tavid pointed out the sharpness of the edge, like the uplifted border, but upon passing, this cliff proved more abrupt than expected. The land itself is uplifted, a mere metal tether chaining it to the downthrown soil below. We debate, but find concord: this miracle is the sign to return. Our reversal is ponderous, but our windbreaks true, and we begin making our way back toward the flying island.

THE RETURN

53: The uplifted island is a marvel, but we ponder the tether below. There is no sign of breath holding this material aloft, yet it flies as surely as we do. Though we meant to meet with the downthrown, this may be a far more important discovery, and we must bring word of it home.

13: Our supplies are not much diminished when we reach the wilds of good hunting, but it is an opportunity to take on more food and water. I cut another boulder, and we spend the days optimistic about how well we have handled the journey. We have well-proven our fitness for this lifestyle; we should teach our kin.

23: Perhaps this confidence was folly, for upon spying the tower ruin, I resolve to tie off and examine it more closely. I thought we might find some connection or clue to the uplifted island. I had pinned our cord and encircled the structure to ensure the hunter-ship would not break loose, but no sooner had we set foot on the stone than windbreaks slipped loose on a gust and strained against the structure; the sway of the floor was worse than any fledgling vertigo. We struggled to regain the ship as a pillar far below gave way, and though we escaped with minimal damage, the tower is half-collapsed. We lost much of the cord, and I am hot with frustration.

54: The lanterns we saw were living! Living orbs of liquid breath encasing a burning heart; they are floating ever lower. Were our situation more desperate, we might try catching one, but they remind me of the star-jellies that sometimes float out of the lake at home. Tavid’s kite dissolved when he tried to catch one three summers ago, so he is quick to agree: we leave these alone.

26: The great-rukh is out hunting. Tavid wants to take an egg, for we have no other token of our journey, but Parshen overrules: we are less than a day from home, and we must bring them news of our findings, not feathered vengeance. He grumbles at our decision, and I know it will not be long before he gathers other hunters to raid the nest.

This definitely felt more “just get going!” than Thousand Year Old Vampire, which involves a lot more tracking of resources and memories. I appreciated the approachability, but I think I wouldn’t have minded if my journey was subject to the whims of fate a little more, particularly during the return journey. Maybe it’s just resonance with the voyages of Sindbad the sailor, since those stories are full of ships being destroyed by treacherous landscapes and terrible creatures, of being thrown overboard or marooned by mutineers, but this was still a delight.

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aaaaa i loved reading that! i have recently been thinking of ways to bring back some of the mild resource management that was in an earlier version of the game, as well as adding in a simple unique item system, whereby you can pick stuff up on the outward journey that can change some of the outcomes on the return journey.

i may just consider the current version as “finished” and a future version with that stuff added in as an expanded edition, just out of fear of feature creep making it never be finished.

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when i get around to selling this, would it be okay if i included your play diaries in an appendix at the back, @Mr_Mechanical @jsnlxndrlv ?

(it won’t be for quite some time)

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Absolutely!

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Sure, I have no objections.

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