Everlasting, Neverending Game Night

oops! all eclipses

Published 3 months ago • 2 min read

Hi Reader,

Welcome! Please, come sit by the fire. Tonight, we’re at a campground in the path of the solar eclipse. We have a picnic table to game on. After the game, we can sleep in tents under the stars. In the cool morning, a drop of royal dew will crown each blade of grass. I brought food we can cook over the fire, trail mix, and some black-and-white cookies. They seemed appropriate.

I also brought all the eclipse-themed RPGs I could find. Let's see:

The Dark Sun setting for Dungeons & Dragons 2e is a fantasy world after an apocalypse. Ruinous magic has turned the world into a desert wasteland. Psionics are a big deal, and sorcerers are pariahs. It’s Mad Max in a fantasy setting. It’s also very edgy, including widespread slavery and a history littered with genocides.

What can I tell you, it was the ‘90s.

Despite its issues, many fans and designers love the setting. A couple years ago, Ajit George expressed interest in possibly rebooting the setting, tackling all its societal horrors head-on. I know he could handle it well.

Let's move away from D&D.

Eclipse Phase is a transhumanist science-fiction/horror game. Rogue A.I.s have taken over Earth, sending humanity into exile among the stars. The "eclipse" is of human civilization on Earth, with the game taking place in a sort of far-flung corona.

The word "transhuman" brings good things and bad. It means you can download your character’s consciousness into any body you want, like customized hacks and robot bodies. It also means lots of body horror. The game's warnings about A.I. seem like a cautionary tale for today. Eclipse Phase is in its second edition, and DriveThruRPG shows extensive support for it.

Back to fantasy (but still in the far-flung future), The Dying Earth by Pelgrane Press is set on Earth beneath a decaying, red-giant sun on the brink of going out. It’s based on Jack Vance’s Dying Earth book series, where the world has forgotten more history than we've ever known, the moon is gone, and people wait for the end. It has an elegiac air.

Goodman Games also adapted the setting for Dungeon Crawl Classics RPG, its love letter to all things pulp fantasy.

Another game from Pelgrane is Ashen Stars, a post-utopian, crypto-Star Trek space opera. You're in a lawless galaxy after its version of the Federation of Planets has collapsed. This award-winning setting anticipated many of the themes of the TV show Picard. You play as freelance investigators unraveling mysteries and resolving disputes. The eponymous ashen stars fritz and blink out like old CRT monitors, destabilizing the people and planets orbiting them.

People have written some beautifully bleak and intricate scenarios for it. Kevin Kulp streamlined the mechanics in the Accretion Disk supplement, and I hacked Ashen Stars to make Rogues’ Galaxy. Instead of peacekeepers, you play criminals taking on jobs and struggling to get by.

Taking all these eclipsey games in sum, what are the common themes?

Apocalypse. The ecology collapsing, society unraveling, decadence, and the end of things. The people who go on living afterward.

I suppose that makes sense. When the eclipse came on Monday, the sky went dark, the temperature plummeted, and all the birds either sang night songs or went totally quiet.

It was eerie. The world hung, suspended, for six minutes.

But eclipses are renewals, too.

After the totality passed, a dawn light rose—albeit from the wrong direction. The sky brightened, the air warmed, and the birds checked in with each other to make sure everyone was okay.

For a moment, I felt brand new.

Whether you were here in time to see it or not, I hope you feel that way, too. We need new people. New people are how we tackle the problems of a relentlessly newer world. So I hope you find your own renewal wherever you can.


P.S. Wasn't this supposed to be the lighter game night?

P.P.S. What games do you like that are about renewal? Or what games do you enjoy where society falls apart?

Everlasting, Neverending Game Night

by Chris Sellers, they/them

🌈🚀 Reliable wonder engine. I make narrative role-playing games that imagine a weirder, queerer, more connected world.

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