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Ashfall is a game designed for short campaigns and ideally 3-5 players. Its design follows some notable principles:

1. Tell impactful stories.
2. Keep campaigns from becoming too long.
3. Divide GM work between players, while ensuring it isn't too hard for anyone.
4. Share music and set tone often.
5. Be radio friendly.
6. Give an extensible and re-playable experience.

Keep reading to learn more.

Telling impactful stories:
The biggest inspiration for Ashfall is Life Is Strange: Before The Storm by Deck Nine. The Life Is Strange series was initially developed by a French studio called Don't Nod (happy 15th anniversary to them, by the way! Completely coincidental.) and told a powerful coming of age/climate change/mystery story. However, in many places it fell short on subtlety, or the characters just felt a little off. This paved the way for Deck Nine studios to create a prequel that is most notable for the love and detail it puts into deeply humanizing the characters of the first game, even the most despicable ones. The perfect tone-setting soundtrack, and the story that constantly teeters between loving and grieving struck such a chord with me that I set to work on what would be the first four playbooks of Ashfall: The Town, The Power, The Disaster, and The Fate.

With these in hand I considered what other stories Ashfall might tell. I drew connections to other media that hurt in the same way: Vivy, Summertime Rendering, Suzume, FLCL, Transistor, Horizon, Reminiscence. All this drove me to strive for a system that understood how to emphasize what is important to the story - when to play quietly and when to play LOUD. Eventually this became the Trigger Action mechanic, which introduces pivotal moments only at narratively pleasing intervals, and allows them to resolve either gently, ominously, or with frightful chaos.

Running short campaigns:
A barrier some groups have to beginning a game is the long-term commitment involved. Ashfall mitigates this somewhat with the Doom Clock mechanic. With each player's clock constantly ticking down, the chance of a campaign running longer than 6 sessions is pretty low. It's my hope that this will allow more people the opportunity to roleplay in a campaign style setting without the fear that someone will drop out of the group.

Sharing the work:
Ashfall is a shared storytelling game intended for groups wanting to play a game without putting all the work and responsibilities upon their GM. To achieve this, it divides the story into multiple genres, and treats those genres as playbooks, dividing the task of preparing plot points between every player, and also dividing it between every session. The Doom Clock system allows players to have a good sense of the direction the story will take, but only asks them to plan ahead one step at a time. This also introduces the biggest problem of the game itself, which is that some trouble may arise in the organizing of NPCs, especially regarding weaving them into plot elements coming from different playbooks. Generally an NPC will exist due to a specific playbook and most of the time that playbook can assume ownership of the character, but sometimes hiccups occur. As the rulebook is intentionally short, currently there is no section addressing this, but it may be added in a future update.

Sharing the music:
Though I have played two games from the Life Is Strange series myself, most of the time I've spent with them has been in a twitch stream, watching them being played by podcast-famous improvisers Mike Migdall and Eleni Sauvageu. The games intentionally give players a lot of opportunities to simply take a long break and enjoy the superb soft rock soundtracks they have (we affectionately referred to this as Having A Moment). Replicating this experience became a big aim for Ashfall, and while it did (sadly) become less and less of a focus as I iterated on the earlier designs, creating and listening to a shared playlist with friends was one of the best parts of playtesting this game. The emotional bleed of discussing each other's character's feelings and what songs are about them is a sublime experience, and I'm excited for people to have the opportunity to hear music from genres, regions, and languages they don't know about in a context that they understand at least on a deep-rooted emotional level.

Befriending the airwaves:
Arguably, actual plays, whether podcast, video on demand, stream, or live event, have the widest reach in terms of letting many people enjoy a game together. As such I try to make it a priority to consider how a game might play out as a broadcast. My initial idea for Ashfall went through a lot of simplification, and a large reason for that is to not create  broadcasts where people are bogged down by superfluous rules and mechanics. Ashfall has a heavy focus on freeform roleplaying while still giving players ample opportunity to introduce chance to a dramatic moment or to add some new plot elements if they're feeling stuck. Beside the question of how you want to handle DMCA with the playlist, Ashfall is relatively friendly to content creators.

And so on, and so on, and so on:
Though a campaign of Ashfall ends briskly, for those who want to continue to explore the lives of their characters it's always possible to pick up a new playbook and simply continue the game. This is much less disruptive than rolling up a new character, as your character is completely distinct from your role as a storyteller, so you can keep them around as long as you like.

Of course, the tricky part is deciding what role you want to take next. The current version of Ashfall includes only 4 playbooks, so there's not much to pick from. But fortunately -making- a playbook is as simple as choosing a genre you like, identifying the actions that most drive its plot, summarizing how the genre typically works, then breaking that summary down into 6 generalized statements. It's one of the easiest things to homebrew, and I already have plans to release some new playbooks in future updates. Look forward to some sci-fi, fantasy, and horror.


Anyway, that's almost all from me. Just want to give a HUGE shout out to my initial playtesters Rachel, Eóin, Wythe, and Eva, who were frankly VERY patient with the messy designs I gave them and the long time I took to fix things. They also collaborated incredibly to keep up with telling a shared story in a completely new system that kept changing under their feet.

Don't forget to check out what else is going on for Kiwi RPG week at https://kiwirpg.com/info

Look out for updates and upcoming releases. Ciao~

CategoryPhysical game
Rated 5.0 out of 5 stars
(1 total ratings)
Tagsclimate-change, Noir, smalltown, supernatural, Tabletop


Buy Now$25.00 USD or more

In order to download this game you must purchase it at or above the minimum price of $25 USD. You will get access to the following files:

Ashfall v23.06.06.pdf 26 MB

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