I built a monastery the other day. Perched on the mile-wide weld ridge between two asteroids, St. Padddd’s is home to an Ursan (Think Fozzy Bear meets Chewbacca) monastic order who’ve dedicated their lives to helping others. St. Padddd’s is part of the Temenos Ark, an emergency evacuation vessel the size of a small moon that fled the solar system when the Song, a piece of sentient alien music, threatened to absorb the minds of every sentient being in the galaxy.
Also they make really good marmalade.
I built St. Padds using The Story Engine. It’s a modular card system, initially with six types (Region, Landmark, Namesake, Origin, Attribute and Advent with a bunch more you can add). You pull one of each, unseen, and lay them out. Some have one item on them, some have two and some have four. A spread looks like this:
So we have; Marsh, Lake, of Lichen, Origin of an unsolved riddle, Extreme seasonal sunlight or darkness and A new gang is aggressively staking their territory.
Here’s what I made out of that:
‘Beyond the ridge St Padds sits on is one of the lungs of the ark. The lichen farms are vast lakes of water and algae, scrubbing the air and keeping it breathable. But Hall 3 is…off. The motion of the ark brings it into direct sunlight and freezing cold regularly and yet somehow the lichen survives. There are rumours. Rumours that this is an ecosystem from an alien world, transplanted here like a cuckoo in a nest. It’s also home to the Arkborn, a separatist group who want nothing to do with any rescue, drink from the lake a little too much and are becoming increasingly hostile.’
The system functions like a Tarot deck, essentially. It sidesteps your biases and habits, puts something in front of you and says ‘Okay, make something with this.’. I LOVE it, and I’m using it every week day as a warm up. I’m also using it to take part in the science fiction version of Dungeon23. Explained beautifully here by Linda Codega, Dungeon23 is a daily writing process for tabletop RPGs. In a nutshell, you write one room a day all year. One room, one hook, or plot or event, and then you map it. At the end of the year, if you have 365 rooms you’ve got a MegaDungeon to throw your players through. Hell if you’ve got 100 rooms you’ve got something impressive. It’s a lovely idea, low impact, fun and easy. The science fiction version, which I’m doing, is Facility 23. I’m, initially, building a location for After the War, the science fiction tabletop RPG Jason Pitre and I co-created. Next time, I’ll walk you through the basics, show you how I’m recording my rooms and talk about the biggest challenge so far.