As promised/threatened in my review of the wonderful, minimalist solo TTRPG Alone Among the Stars yesterday, I wanted to share the results of my first play of the game. Do please bear in mind that this was an entirely improvised, unpolished stream-of-consciousness writing exercise that arose from exploring a single planet in-game.
For those of you unaware of Alone Among the Stars, it’s a tabletop RPG designed with minimal rules, played with a single six-sided die and a standard pack of playing cards. You first roll the die to determine how many features you’ll be able to discover on the planet you’ve landed on, then roll the die again each time you want to reveal a card – it’s that roll which determines how you find the feature you uncover, and it’s the number and suit of the card that determines what you’ve found. You then write an entry in your journal to describe what you’ve discovered and the circumstances in which it was found. Though the discoveries are only vaguely described in the game’s documents and the rules incredibly light, the game lends itself brilliantly to setting your imagination off and immersing you in discovering strange new worlds – and, perhaps, new civilisations.
So without further ado, I present to you my exploration of Refractia, the planet that I landed on in my small, ill-equipped starship.
Spotting the shining surface from afar, I landed next to a deep canyon that was formed of beautifully shimmering, rainbow-coloured crystal. Exploring the site, I was mesmerised by the strange, enormous formations in their vivid, translucent, multi-coloured shapes. I wondered what other sights this planet could offer.
Though difficult to ascend, using most of the energy in my traversal suit’s thrusters I managed to reach the site of a crashed vessel, embedded in a translucent cliff face. The crystal, shining in the sunlight, seemed to have grown around the wrecked ship – the origin of which wasn’t entirely clear. Glimpses of its shape and markings revealed it to be from a non-Earth civilisation, but without mining equipment I was unable to glean any further information as to where it may have come from. The way that the glassy crystal had claimed the craft was fascinating, however – and I made a note of its coordinates to ensure that I could find it again once I was able to return with the appropriate equipment.
While taking a well earned rest from further exploration, I spotted another alien craft, seemingly similar to the one I’d seen the day before. The markings on its saucer-shaped surface – near identical to my earlier discovery – were a giveaway, but unfortunately this time further investigation was impeded by a different problem: the second ship was embedded in the snowy peak of an otherwise glowing, crystalline mountain. Again, a note was made of its position before I returned to my ship for the night.
Throwing caution to the wind, I decided to try and scale the mountain. Unfortunately, due to the steep, arduous conditions, I wasn’t able to make it anywhere near the peak. However, due to the distance I was able to ascend, I did manage to observe a green, gaseous cloud around the ship at the peak. Was this a more recently crashed vessel than the previous one? Given that the crystal had yet to form around the ship and claim it, I had to surmise that this was the case. Had it been sent to find the previous vessel that had been swallowed by the nearby cliff? It certainly seemed to be a strong possibility; it was a little sad to me that this ship had met a similar fate as its predecessor.
I decided to stick closer to the ship as the days wore on, conscious that fuel and supplies were dwindling. Being the closest area of interest, I ventured into the crystalline canyon once more and quite suddenly discovered that one of the crystal formations resembled an obelisk; seemingly carved to a point, with strange symbols etched into all four sides. Could this have been a message? A warning? Perhaps a story, like mine? The symbols were unfortunately impossible to decipher, but I ensured that I documented them nonetheless.
While taking a breather during my final preparations for leaving the planet, I spotted movement in a field of tall shards of sharp-looking glass-like fronds. Moving unlike the gently swaying fronds, the shape I observed appeared – upon closer inspection – to be a spectacularly beautiful, impressively camouflaged giant insect. Seemingly formed of the same colourful crystal material as the planet’s surface, the creature dotted between the blades, looking and moving not unlike a praying mantis, albeit somewhere in the region of three metres tall.
With my time on the planet at an end – energy, fuel and supplies needed urgently, giving me no choice but to leave – I took off, taking care to ensure that all of my discoveries were properly photographed and documented. Perhaps I’d return; I’d certainly like to.
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