Edited by Jordan Rocke
On February 5th, 2023, JETs and other English educators from all over Ehime converged in Matsuyama for Ehime AJETs first TTRPG conference for the year! This was the second in-person TTRPG event since the start of the pandemic, and the first not to be hosted in an Australian’s house in Hojo. The game in question was The Skeletons by Jason Morningstar, published by Bully Pulpit. For more information on the game and how to play it, you can check out the itch.io page here, or you can check out game #9 in this previous article by your humble editor here. However, the biggest question is: how did the games unfold? To answer that question, I’ve asked representatives from each of the four tombs to explain how they found the event, and what their impressions were. Please enjoy this tour of the catacombs, far more populated than you would expect!
The First Tomb: GM Sage & the Storytellers
By Joselle Ali
With the Skeletons event, it was quite easy to see that effort went into its organisation and planning. Attendees benefitted from a spacious room, having enough materials, close amenities, and predetermined teams to avoid confusion. The game stuck within the promised timeframe and each group had one person with the skills and knowledge to guide their teammates, spearhead the game, and recentre the players when story telling or discussions got off track. Being a first timer to an event like the Skeletons game, these factors were important in ensuring repeat attendance.
In pertinence to the game itself, I didn’t know what to expect. Expectations ranged from having to do physical team games and clue finding activities, possibly surrounding some theme of treasure finding. I couldn’t be farther off. However, it was no less fun and thought provoking. Set into teams, all attendees were grouped with people you wouldn’t regularly engage with to this extent. There were endless laughs in choosing a skeleton creature one identified with. Furthermore, finding out the reasoning behind those choices ensured the laughs continued. The event also tested one’s drawing skills when creating the map to be used as the setting of the game’s instruction; to which I can confidently say on my behalf, are quite poor. Most importantly, it tested one’s story making and character building capabilities. As a team we were given simple prompts with some guiding details that kept the game in motion. Essentially, skeletons we had to breathe body and life into, in the hopes of creating a complex, hilarious, scintillating story with the most ridiculous backstories, twists, turns and surprises. Creativity was challenged in the best way possible.
Most importantly, it engendered new bonds and, I hope, strengthened existing ones. This is especially true being a non-JET participant, who wouldn’t usually have the leisure of hosting, administrating, or attending events like this. Overall, it was fun, and I definitely recommend it to anyone who wants some peculiar fun!
The Second Tomb: GM Jordan & the Bare Bones
By Apphia Pereira
Challenged to experience a TTRPG with no set parameters and left with only our imagination, the team I was assigned to created an epic quest of love and loss. We were given a “skeleton” plan, all puns intended, with a sheet of the barebones of a deceased guardian with which to build upon. The main point of this game was to keep guarding a “thing of great power” with no memories and no willpower except from an external force compelling us to act.
Designing our tomb was the most challenging, we needed a place that was safe and intriguing and though other groups were more whimsical with their concepts, ours chose a more traditional setup. Ours resembled that of ancient pyramids with a sarcophagus and a hidden WOMB, not tomb. We strategically placed our skeletons in positions that made it easy to defend the sarcophagus and thus the game began.
We were informed at the beginning that though we wouldn’t survive at the end we’d be given situations to defend against throughout the game. Whilst knowing this titbit, we rallied together where we learned things about ourselves, each other, and the world that we existed within. Whether there were memories flooding us, narrative setbacks or exposition, we fought hard to protect our power source.
My favourite rule of this game (there weren’t many) was the breaks in time. We were inactive for years, decades and centuries, according to set time limits where we weren’t allowed to communicate or speak as characters and even as players. This was a creative and unusual concept that I had never encountered since I started playing TTRPG.
However, in my opinion, the game designers missed the opportunity to include traditional dice aspects that would’ve made it a more challenging game. If we were faced with the roll of a die determining our fates, we’d find it more difficult to accomplish the tasks we’d set for ourselves.
The storytelling was left mostly to the players. Luckily, these players had quite imaginative minds that allowed for intrigue and mystery to surround us at every turn.
The Third Tomb: GM Chloe & the Goat Cult
By Victoria Ashley Childers Lopez
On Sunday the 5th, 16 of us gathered for a session on the tabletop role-playing game titled “The Skeletons.” This RPG experience was very unique and had players working together to create a map, slowly develop their characters, and used only a D6 and D4 to determine amounts of time passed, the type of enemies, and effects characters suffered in game. How the enemies and playable characters fought, as well as who was to be affected by lost items or physical ailments was determined by the players themselves, making it both easy for players new to TTRPG to join as well as making every group’s experience very different.
Character creation started with a template where each player could pick one of many skeleton types with some brief descriptions that the player chose how to elaborate on. The blank template also provided a visual base of the skeletons, where we drew little details such as clothes, accessories, and weapons. Each template also gave a single starting prompt, a description of what each player should draw on the map, be it decaying walls or patterns on the floors and walls.Each group was supplied with a white board and markers where these maps were drawn, and at the end of our sessions we all enjoyed walking around to see other groups maps.
Our own group created a story that was a mix of both dark and silly. Basing the story and map shape around goat motifs, many of our characters played the role of religious fanatics or those persecuted by the goat church. By the end of the game all of us had created a relationship with another character, either past or present, tying the story together before all our characters reached a helpless end. The game time when moving at a leisurely pace ran around 4-5 hours and was easily completed in a single setting even with breaks in the middle. It’s a game I’d love to play again and would easily recommend to TTRPG players experienced and new.
The Fourth Tomb: GM Andrew & the Queen’s Beloveds
By Le Lin
In our group of the Skeletons game, we were 4 skeletons guarding the tomb of a queen and her 7 children. The queen, back when she reigned, used this spacious underground palace as a performance hall for the high arts. But, after she passed, the hall ran out of business, and it was converted into a strip club by her sons. There are many rooms in this club: a red carpet, the main performance hall with a pole and bar, the dressing room, a pool, several private bedrooms, 2 dungeons, and a church (in case you need it). Many centuries later, the club remains intact and so do the graves of her highness’s family and their treasures.
As the game progressed and challenges arose, our skeletons’ backstory became more developed. We played as the kind cuckold husband of the queen, the queen’s affair, the illegitimate son of the queen’s affair, and their butler pet peacock. Each one of us has an area to guard: the cuckold king guarded the red carpet entrance, the illegitimate son guarded the main stage, the queen’s affair guarded the dressing room, and the peacock became a decoration behind the bar.
Many funny encounters took place. We battled infesting rats, a huge pregnant spider, the nature spirit Karen, an asylum-seeking family that consisted of a mother and her 7 children (a coincidence you may ask?), mercenaries, loan shark debt collectors, and the final boss and his henchmen. We fought with swords, whips, fire, poison, drugs, and magic gogo boots. My personal favorite is all the coercion we used on these visitors – handing them molded welcome towels, cocktails laced with aphrodisiacs, and invitations to use the pool only to have the pool cover close in on them.
This whole family skeletal drama was very fun to play, and it was definitely exciting to play as things evolved and backstories got developed. It was a great way to get JETs together for a low stress afternoon, and hopefully more one shots like this will happen in the future.