Uncharted Worlds and Storytelling

In April of 2020 the four of us (Jib, Lizzie, Maddie and Sarai) decided to play every second Sunday in an RPG. We had separately and collectively all been playing using the D&D 5e system for a number of years, and I had previously DMed for all of them. However, we didn’t want to play something so rule heavy or restrictive, and instead wanted to stretch our storytelling capabilities. I have for a while now been following EssentialNPCs as a podcast and in Season 3 they used a system called Uncharted Worlds, Powered by the Apocalypse where the GM had used the open system within her own created world. So this is what we went with, using the loose game system to run a story heavy interaction in a future version of the Sol system as we know it.

I (Sarai) was the GM and designed the environment. I did a little pre-planning of the Nexus machine and the general setting of the future world they begin in, but otherwise I chose to play the rest of the game through Improv techniques. We played for 3 months and just wrapped the campaign.

Overall we were really pleased with both the framework provided by Uncharted Worlds and by the ease of the underlying system Powered by the Apocalypse. Early on there were a few hitches players often wanted to roll as a way to gain additional information, as you would in 5e, rather than adding to the story, but quickly they overcame this and it became much less about my input as the GM and more about their observations and character engagement. We found the rules light approach meant there was less disruption during the scenes and when it was used it allowed for randomisation and consequences to actions that helped drive the story forward and often created hurdles for them to face (some really bad rolls throughout!). Limitations were that it required very high player engagement which does remove the downtime feel of “playing a game”. Overall though, this was exactly what we were looking for and a great inspiration for our own creative works.

Recommendation: 4 1/2 Stars!

You can check out what developed in the story through our found artefacts approach here.

Below is the character breakdowns of my players:

Character stats

Pre-play set up provided to the players

EARTH 3020

It is the 31st century. Earth was saved from the expectations of apocalypse due to climate change, over population, resource losses, and pandemics of the 21st century only by the technological advancement in terraforming and space travel that has allowed humans to set up homes on Venus (underground bunkers primarily focused on mineral mining), Mars (bubble colonies, closest version to life on Earth), the Moon (industrial and technological focuses, but also huge entertainment districts with direct shuttles to Earth and Mars) and the Moons of Jupiter (Europa is a scientific station only, Ganymede has had successful agriculture and is the primary source for food and materials for Io and Callisto, Io and Callisto are both largely residential and scientific inquiry focused on space travel).

This collection of planets immediately gained independence and belong to a larger Galactic Committee of Planets, which has many sub-departments. You all work for Galactic Council of Scientific Exploration (GCSE) and are known as Galactic Emissary Members (GEMs), which provides you with the equivalence of diplomatic rights to move between planets outside of standard immigration rules.

You are currently working with a small team on Europa. Europa does not have an established population as the last 200 years has been the systematic stripping of ice cover to be used for the terraforming of the other three moons. With most two thirds of the ice removed it has allowed access finally to the earthen crust and it appears that there is an interconnected honeycomb of caves beneath the surface. The GCSE has been permitted a limited time to examine and catalogue anything of note before terraforming begins. You have been posted here for two months already and have begun to notice that the caves are not naturally formed, but appear to have been deliberately shaped…

First session read alouds

SESSION ONE:

1. Character creation.

2. Opening.

FLASH BACK 2 MONTHS AGO….

You have all been working for GCSE for a number of years – primarily what have you been doing for them? Where have you been doing this?

Your current contracts have come to an end and you have been invited to the GCSE Head Offices on the Moon to participate in conference weekend that is finishing with an application process to secure another contract as a GEM. The focus of the weekend is on sustainable fuel practices in the harvesting of resources on Venus (if from there you are also presenting) and a review of the scientific discoveries of the molecular make-up of the water on Europa, but a series of smaller sessions also occur on GCSE process, all of you are presenting – what do you present about?

On the last day you head to the application rooms on the fifth floor – you have all been through this process before and know that it is usually a series of puzzles or tasks that are used to determine your capabilities. One year it was puzzle rooms, another it was all physical tasks when they were looking for people for Venus, once it was an exam for 6 hours.

3. Think Tank Scenario Job Interview

You are met at the elevator by a female technician, a little dumpy wearing a white lab coat with the GCSE logo, over white legged black pants and her dark hair back in a high bun. She leads you down the first part of the hall with a series of identical white doors with numbers, she takes you to room 8 and directs you inside. Taken into a white room you are indicated to take a seat at a metal table, there are enough seats for each of you.

4. After application

The technician returns and lets you know to head down the hall to conference room 8B. These doors at the far end of the hall are wooden but all have similar numbers but marked also with a letter.

Inside are 6 people in a variety of corporate or lab wear. They indicate for you to take a seat.

“Thank you for your application. We have determined that the 3 of you are a functional team and we are posting you to Europa for the review and exploration of a new cave system we have discovered”

* Receive One additional Level 1 item of choice (kit, armour, weapon)

FLASH FORWARD TO NOW…

5. Now

You have been working down here for 2 months now. The initial month was setting up the team, securing the location and a working base. You’ve only had a month of exploration, how’s that been going?

- Roll for cramped quarters.

Today you have had a collective realisation that this is not natural formations. You’ve been circling around this realisation for a while now but it has seemed so ridiculous that you did not think it could be true – now you are certain. What would you like to do?

Resources:

Game setting and core rules: https://uncharted-worlds.com/

Gaming system: http://apocalypse-world.com/

Source of inspiration: https://www.essentialnpcs.com/episodes.html

The stories we told: http://www.saraimw.com/the-sol-stones

If you have any questions feel free to hit me up on Twitter @Mwsarai