The Premise: How the World Began
Two beings at the start of it all — through love, conflict, change and transformation — make a world. The game begins at the world’s dawning. Play fresh and imagine the world that arises through this creation. Or create a myth for a world or culture that is the background for another role playing game.
How well I know! — Old Qwfwq cried, the rest of you can’t remember, but I can. We had her on top of us all the time, that enormous Moon: when she was full — nights as bright as day but with a butter-colored light — it looked as if she were going to crush us; when she was new, she rolled around in the sky like a black umbrella blown by the wind; and when she was waxing, she came forward with her horns so low she seemed about to stick into the peak of a promontory and get caught there.
— Italo Calvino, “The Distance of the Moon,” from Cosmicomics.
Over the course of two to three hours two players tell the tale of the creation of a world. The two primordial beings shake out of their initial static relationship, and begin the process of creation. Over time they color and populate the world, with objects, beings and institutions that govern how the beings related. In response, feelings and emotions enter the world, bringing sometimes hope, destruction or curiosity for the unknown.
Structure of Play
This game uses tabletop freeform rules, inspired by Breaking the Ice. No dice are needed.
Play takes place in three Cycles. At the end of the third Cycle, the creation of the world is complete.
Each Cycle is made of Arcs. In the first Cycle play out one Arc. In the second, two. In the third, three.
Each Arc is made up of three Turns. With each Arc, alternate who goes first.
For Example: Sun goes first in the first Arc of the first Cycle. Moon takes the next turn. Sun completes the Arc and the Cycle by taking the third turn. On the next Arc, Moon goes first, followed by Sun, then Moon goes again, completing the Arc. And so on.
On a Turn, the player has their Being respond to the dynamic between them, or to earlier events and create some part of the world.
When they start a Cycle, players each choose a new Color to use describe elements of the world.
At the end of a Cycle, players each choose an emotion or feeling the Primordial Being feels — called a Dream.
Before starting to play, first create two PRIMORDIAL BEINGS, the FUNDAMENT they existed in before the world, and the DYNAMIC between them.
1) Together, choose a pair of two Primordial Beings.
These are iconic entities which are the primal movers in this universe. They will have will, they can speak and have fantastic powers to make things come into being.
Each should be one of the following: an animal, a feature of the natural world, a mythical creature, a celestial object, a spirit or entity. Perhaps a crafted object like a net or sword or mirror.
Choose from this list or create your own pair:
Sun and Moon
Wind and a Leaf
Starlight and the Deep
Rabbit and Bear
The Weaver and the Child
Snake and Phoenix
Other examples: Mirror and the Ocean, Sword and Stone, Butterfly and Snail
Do not choose each element independently. Create the pair together and come to agreement about it.
Find some way you feel the two relate — are they archetypal complementary opposites like the Sun and Moon? Or are they similar creatures with contrasting qualities like Rabbit and Bear? Or are they thematically similar yet with strongly different associations like Snake and Phoenix? Can you see some way that they could interact and have partnerships and oppositions like the Weaver and the Child? If not, choose again.
2) Once a pair is chosen, each player picks one to play. Write the Beings down on the World sheet.
3) Describe the Primordial Beings — the players create a word web of associations about the Being.
Each player writes down the name of their Being on a blank sheet of paper.
Going back and forth between the two players, choose words associated with the Being. Write them down and connect them to the Being’s name, or to another word on the web with a line.
The player of the Being goes first.
Go back and forth three times, writing six words in total.
When you are done, each player will have a word-web with their Being’s name at the center, with six words around it.
4) Write a brief Description
Using the word-web, each player alone writes down a sentence describing the Being that uses some of the words from their web, or that is inspired by it.
Li-ling is playing the Moon. She and Ariel create a word web with the following words: Silver — Tarnish; Starlight — Dark; Face, Crater.
She writes the following sentence: The Moon is a tarnished-silver, cratered face in the sky.
Ariel is playing the Sun. They and Li-ling create a word web with the following words: Warmth, Nurture; Orb — crown; Summer; Bright.
They write the following sentence: The Sun is a crowned orb seated on the bright throne of summer.
The Primordial Beings are now complete. Now to place them at the start of time, Fundament.
Where are the two Beings? This is all there is at the start. It is a brief framework or stage upon which the creation will take place. It should be sparse, just a concrete detail or two. It is perfectly fine if it is fantastic and does not meet contemporary understandings of the physical structure of the Universe. In fact, both those things are recommended.
…Sun and Moon are in the velvet blue sky.
…Starlight and the Deep meet at a cove filled with glowing jellyfish.
…the Weaver and the Child wake together in a brown and silver wood.
…Rabbit and Bear are curled fast asleep in the lone cave.
…Snake and Phoenix are each in their egg, waiting to hatch.
Write this on the World sheet. Then decide together on a tension between them, their Dynamic.
As they exist before the world begins, the two Beings related and have inter-related — perhaps for an eternity, perhaps for a day. But there is something between them which will now push them toward change. Their dynamic is ready to cause a shift, starting them on the path of creation. and impelling them on the course to create a world.
Pick one word to represent the Dynamic, or write a phrase to explain it.
…Sun and Moon’s Dynamic is “stasis”, they have been orbiting around one another the same way always.
…Rabbit and Bear’s Dynamic is “in each others way”, they keep stumbling over one another
…Mirror and the Ocean’s Dynamic is “reflecting”, both reflect the world, but one is still and one is in motion
…Sword and Stone’s Dynamic is “sharpening”, stone sharpens sword
Come to agreement, and then write this on the World sheet.
Set-up is complete. You are now ready to play.
Use the World sheet to record information about the Primordial Beings, to keep track of how far along you are in the game, what to do next, and to record what the Beings have created in the world.
There is one shared World sheet. The players may also make notes on separate pieces of paper.
ETIQUETTE OF PLAY
No dice are needed, just take turns creating, and write down what occurs.
Listen to one another and follow up on what the other person creates.
Each Being can only affect the other Being with that player’s consent.
All the rest of the world is open for you to create, transform or damage. There is no veto power. It does not matter who created something. Anyone can destroy or change it.
At three points you must come to agreement: when choosing the pair of Primordial Beings, creating the Fundament and finding the Dynamic. If you cannot, set the game aside and do not play.
Creating the World
To play, take TURNS creating ELEMENTS of the world. Use COLORS to inspire and describe the Elements.
On a Turn, a Being takes some action in the world as a response to the Dynamic between the Primal Pair, or to follow up on something that has happened in a previous Turn.
This action changes things, and brings some Element of the world into being.
The player records this on the World sheet.
ELEMENTS OF THE WORLD
Record the parts of the world under these three categories on the World sheet:
BOLE: inanimate matter such as rocks, stones, mountains, trees, lichen, mushrooms, stars
BRANCH: animate creatures and matter, such as birds, ants, gazelles, apes, people, water, wind
LEAF: institutions and social structures, such as family, polis, social group, marriage, enmity, war
The players create a list of Colors of the Elements they have created.
Add a new Color to your list during your first Turn of each Arc.
If you have a second Turn in an Arc, the Element created may be of the new Color, or any other on your list.
Each player will choose six Colors over the course of the game.
For the First Color, choose one associated with the Primordial Being itself.
Use the choice of color as an opportunity to plan ahead: want to create water and fish? Perhaps you want to choose “blue.”
Feel like you are running out of colors? Use neutral colors (black, white, grey), metallic colors (bronze, gold, silver), or specific shades (light blue, dark green), or unusual or fancy color names (crimson, teal, veridian).
*Please note. The inclusion of more colors should not be mistaken for the Berlin and Key universal color evolution hypothesis. For further reading on this issue please see:
Wierzbicka, A. (2008), “Why there are no ‘colour universals’ in language and thought”. Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute, 14: 407–425. doi: 10.1111/j.1467–9655.2008.00509.x
Arcs and Turns
Three Turns makes an ARC. The game lasts three Cycles, made up of an increasing number of Arcs. Create a DREAM at the end of each Cycle.
Three Turns makes an ARC.
One player takes the first Turn of the Arc. They Begins the other player Follows.
The Beginning player takes a turn.
Then the one who Follows takes a turn responding to what the Beginning player did.
Then, the Beginner takes another turn, ending the Arc.
In the next Arc, the players switch roles: the one who Followed now Begins, and vice versa.
Play out the game in three Cycles:
In the first Cycle, play out one Arc
In the second Cycle, play out two Arcs
In the third Cycle, play out three Arcs
At the end of a Cycle, the players choose a new DREAM which has entered the World.
Dreams are emotions, prides and shames which are felt by the Beings or elements of the world.
At the end of each Cycle, think about what kinds of feelings or aspects of relating were demonstrated.
Write down a concept like love, honor, faith, despair, anger, gratitude, reconciliation, hope, or fear that reflects the events of play.
There is a line for the Dream for each Primordial Being at the end of each Cycle on the World sheet.
Ending the Game
When the third Cycle is through, the game is done. The world is complete.
Give a brief epilogue:
How does each Primordial Being feel about the World?
How do the beings of the World relate to the Primordial Beings?
How do the Primordial Beings feel about each other?
Example of Play:
Ariel as Sun takes the first Turn, of the first Arc. They respond to the “static” dynamic between Sun and Moon.
“Sun and Moon always circle round one another, in the velvet sky of the Fundament, Sun has gotten a little weary of it always being the same, so she goes a little too, close to Moon. Pieces of her flames lick at Moon, then break off and scatter. They fall in a rain of Golden sparks which strike the sky and make the Stars.”
Gold is the Color chosen — Ariel adds Gold to Sun’s Color list
Stars are the Element created — because stars seem to stay still in the sky, Ariel writes down “Stars — Gold” as a Bole on Sun’s part of the World Sheet
Li-ling as Moon takes the second Turn of this Arc. She narrates Moon’s response to Sun’s action.
“Moon is startled by Sun coming so close, and the new light of the Stars. She exhales in surprise, and a White Cloud comes out of her covering over the Stars.”
White is the Color chosen — Li-ling adds it to Moon’s Color list
Clouds are the Element created — since clouds move, Li-ling writes it down under Bole on Moon’s part of the World sheet.
Ariel as Sun takes the third and final Turn of the first Arc.
“The Sun was admiring her handiwork, so she is upset that the clouds block her view of the stars. She moves into the clouds, and her spinning churns them up making a storm. Golden lightning leaps from cloud to cloud.”
Ariel adds “Lightning” as a Branch on Sun’s part of the World sheet.
Since this is the first Cycle, with the completion of one Arc, the Cycle is over.
Ariel and Li-ling both add a Dream to their Being’s part of the World sheet.
Ariel adds: “Anger” — since the Sun felt that something had been taken from it
Li-ling adds: “Surprise” — since the Moon experienced shock at being confronted with new creation
Starting the second Cycle, Li-Ling as the Moon Begin this time. Ariel as the Sun Follows.
Li-ling describes the Moon watching the lightning leaping from cloud to cloud. One bolt strikes the Moon, and a great explosion takes place. A piece of the Moon flies off into space (that is how the Moon got it’s biggest crater). It is scorched by the lightning and becomes the Brown ground of the Earth.
Brown is the Color chosen — Li-ling writes it down beneath “White” on the Moon’s Color list
Ground is the Element — Li-ling writes down “Brown Earth” as a Bole since it is solid an unmoving
Ariel as the Sun spins around the earth, and light and shadows move and fall. The red light gleams golden on the first sunset ever seen on Earth.
Night follows Day is the Element created — this is a new convention of the universe, Ariel writes it down as a “Leaf” on the Sun’s part of the World sheet. This is a new state of being, or celestial institution.
Ariel used “Red” as the new color, to describe the Sunset. Ariel writes it on the Sun’s Color list…
Thank you for playing!
Credits and Thanks:
Sun and Moon illustrations from openclipart.com
Many thanks to playtesters Kate Freedman, Whitney Beltrán, Meguey Baker, Vincent Baker and Epidiah Ravachol.
Thank you to all the Romance Trilogy Hacks & Mods Patreon supporters. Please enjoy, and thank you for helping make this possible.
© 2015 Black & Green Games, Emily Care Boss