[Anarktica] New free story game for Archipelago

By on 17 June 2012

AnarkticaIt may be summer right now, but below the equator it’s cold… dead cold. Come journey to Anarktica.

It is the year 1899 and the world is in the grip of the Great Game as Victoria, the Everqueen of the British Empire, duels with the North Tsar of Russia for global supremacy. Despite Tsarist advances in Central Asia, the British conquests of Afghanistan and Sudan have given them the upper hand. But now the Scryers of the Court of St. James foretell the emergence of the greatest threat to the Empire since the demon Napoleon a century before.

A new power is rising from beyond the realms of the human nations, from the uncharted lands at the base of the world.

The frozen continent of Anarktica.

– The game had an unusual birth. It was created by a group of four strangers (only two of whom had met before) at one of the London Indie RPG meetups as part of a ‘create a new game in the first session and play it in the second’. We followed a pre-defined process to first gather inspiration, choose an idea and then develop the concept and the characters. We played the resulting – extremely raw – scenario (which we named Fate of Heroes) in the second session. With agreement from the others, I took what we made away, developed it further, and this is the result.

Anarktica: Fate of Heroes is a steampunk story game. It is completely free to download, to reproduce and distribute. It tells the story of a group of four heroes, their journey across the land of Anarktica, and their encounters with its inhabitants, creatures, monsters and mysteries. Outwardly brave and resolute, each hero is saddled with a terrible secret that tears at their soul and taints their trust in their companions until finally they encounter the Adversary and their true nature is revealed.

It’s a low prep, quick playing scenario based on the Archipelago 2nd edition rule-set by Matthijs Holter and inspired by its gaming offspring Love in the Time of Seið by Matthijs Holter and Jason Morningstar. It requires five players and should take three to five hours.

Where can I get it?
Download it from here Anarktica

More about the rules
– The structure of scene framing, contribution and story element ownership is exactly that of Archipelago and it uses the same ritual phrases as Love in the Time of Seið
– Like Love in the Time of Seið you have a fixed choice of one of five characters to play – one of four Heroes or the Adversary
– There’s inbuilt character imbalance – playing as the Adversary is very different from playing as one of the Heroes. (And, in a smaller way, one of the Heroes is given a means of controlling or restraining one of the others.)
– There’s a means of pacing the game by choosing to ‘Journey’ or to ‘Rest’.
– There is (almost) no initial character set-up, instead you make decisions about your character’s abilities and nature when you encounter certain elements of the fiction.
– The one decision you have to make at the beginning is the nature of your character’s Terrible Secret. These are the equivalent of the Dark Fates from The Mountain Witch, but – rather than being drawn randomly – you pick from those suggested by the other players.

What it’s worth
Writing Anarktica was never intended to be a commercial project. The time and effort it took were part and parcel of the commitment I originally made to complete it. But I’m proud of the result; I want to share it with as many folk as are interested, and I’d like to give them a means – if they want to – to do more than just say ‘Thanks’. Anarktica is completely free for anyone who wants to play it, but if they do play it, and enjoy it, and have the means and the interest, then there is a note inside the book which asks them to make a donation of whatever amount they feel the game was worth to them.

Anarktica is built on Archipelago by Matthijs Holter and inspired by Love in the Time of Seið by the same author & Jason Morningstar. Matthijs and Jason decided to donate all profits from Love in the Time of Seið to the Mines Advisory Group. They both very kindly allowed me to use their work to create Anarktica and so I, likewise, encourage donations to MAG to honour their kindness.

You can donate at
www.justgiving.com/anarktica (UK) or
www.firstgiving.com/fundraiser/anarktica/anarktica (US)

The Mines Advisory Group is a neutral, impartial humanitarian organisation dedicated to clearing the remnants of conflict and enabling the recovery of affected people.

Not only is it free RPG day, but it’s also the June day for the London Indie RPG Meetup. Five months after it was conceived there, I took along a dozen physical copies I’d printed up to hand out there as a thank you to the group who brought the creators together in the first place.

About Dave McAlister

Dave has been roleplaying for over 30 years, having played and/or run most mainstream systems with the espionage genre being an early favourite. So much so that, in 1999, he started Modus Operandi. That same year he joined the Sarbreenar “Living” campaign team as their plotline controller before moving across to the Living Spycraft campaign team (as UK Regional Branch Director) in 2003. 2003 also saw the birth of UK Role Players as well as Dave’s first freelance writing appointment (co-writing World Militaries and consulting on both US Militaries and Battlegrounds, all for Spycraft).

Since then, Dave has concentrated on supporting the UK gaming scene. He has organised and run several small, one-day, events and was the RPG Area Manager for Gen Con UK in 2004. His current favourite systems are Dungeons & Dragons (specifically 5th Edition), Savage Worlds and Cinematic Unisystem. He has a (currently neglected) blog at dave.mcalister.org.uk and runs a D&D 5e SRD website at DnD5e.info.

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