This is the seventy-eighth entry in the Scratching That Itch series, wherein I randomly select and write about one of the 1741 games and game-related things included in the itch.io Bundle for Racial Justice and Equality. The Bundle raised $8,149,829.66 split evenly between the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund and Community Bail Fund, but don’t worry if you missed it. There are plenty of ways you can help support the vital cause of racial justice; try here for a start. Lastly, as always, you may click on images to view larger versions.
a solo roleplaying game about coming to terms with your past
At last! We have uncovered a tabletop roleplaying game that I can actually play, since it’s designed as a solo experience!
Actually, describing Alone With Your Ghost as a roleplaying game is a bit of a stretch. It’s a tabletop game, for sure, but it does not ask players to play a role. Instead, it asks players to explore their own memories, specifically unpleasant ones, as a way of facing the ghost that haunts them. It is a hack of Alone Among the Stars by Takuma Okada. That one isn’t in the bundle, but another hack by original author Takuma Okada called Alone in the Ancient City is, as is another hack called Alone By Distant Shores, by Geostatonary (sic). All that is required to play is a standard deck of 52 playing cards, and somewhere to write things down.
The PDF rules are a brief two pages. The simple premise is that a ghost is haunting the player, leaving them unable to rest. The only way to exorcise it is to face the corpses of the past. To do so, players draw a card at random from the deck to act as a prompt. Each suit represents a particular emotion: anger, guilt/shame, isolation, or fear. The value of the card acts as a more specific prompt for a memory associated with that emotion. I was going to list a couple of examples, but I realized that for some these prompts may recall trauma and pain, so I decided to refrain. Suffice it to say that the prompts ask a specific question of the player. From this prompt, players write a few sentences describing the memory. They continue to draw cards for new prompts, and string the memories together into a story as they go. The game ends when they feel they understand why the ghost haunts them. Since memories like these can be triggering to many, there is a prominent warning telling players to stop playing immediately if they feel hurt or disturbed.
I like the idea of this one. It reminded me of Propagating Love, with a similar intent to help players, in this case by coming to terms with difficult memories and finding a way to heal. But it didn’t fully work for me when I tried playing, and I’m not sure how much of that is the game design and how much of that is me. Part of the issue was that the memory that came to mind from the first prompt is one I’ve already thought a lot about, and then the need to chain the memories together into a story meant that I kept going to related memories, instead of unrelated ones that may have been more interesting to consider. Also, it wasn’t long until I’d drawn the same card from two different suits, which meant I had an identical prompt with the only difference being the associated emotion. This made it difficult to pick a new memory, rather than just the same one again in a different context.
This is a shame, because I (and I assume many others) have had painful memories that come back to haunt me. Often they are memories of embarrassment, situations that other people have likely forgotten but which became enshrined in my memory and can summon the same feelings again at inopportune times. Dealing with these memories can be difficult, so a game that can help with the process is certainly welcome. I suspect that Alone With Your Ghost might work much better on someone else, someone more inclined towards creative writing or describing feelings and reactions. I had trouble writing things in response to the prompts that went beyond simple descriptions of what happened, and felt I wasn’t digging into the emotional core of the memories as much as I should. Those who find writing therapeutic would likely get more out of Alone With Your Ghost, but of course you should only try it if you feel comfortable bringing up unpleasant memories. If you are interested, and missed it in the bundle, Alone With Your Ghost is available for a minimum price of $2.
That’s 78 down, and only 1663 to go!