The Skeletons

May 3, 2019

A game by Jason Morningstar and published by Bully Pulpit games

“ARISE AND PROTECT THE TOMB SKELETAL GUARDIANS!”

These are the first words you hear upon awakening in a dark crypt after untold years in blackened silence.  Jerkingly, you arise from your position, and, in shuddering motions, you grab any nearby equipment and stalk forward to slay the intruders in your silent grave.  As you do so, memories blow through your thoughts like dry leaves. You struggle to remember who you were, why you are here, and who may be with you. For now though, all you must do is remove the threat to your tomb. Years and memories come and go, but in these brief moments of action you are alive once again, until the threat is dealt with. Then you will go back to the eternal embrace of the darkness and silence.

You are a skeletal guardian and this is your existence.

This game takes one of the classic creatures seen in just about any role-playing game, and turns the tables on the players.  Instead of facing down the skeletal remains of creatures guarding a tomb, you ARE the skeletons guarding a crypt.

The major themes of this game focus on storytelling, memories gained and lost, and the slow march of time across the ages.  Interestingly, this game can be played by a single player, in which it becomes more of an exercise in creative writing. With two to six players, however, The Skeletons takes on more of a traditional RPG feel as one game master (GM) guides the players through the ages as their eternal service to guarding the crypt begins.

This is a game less about stats and numbers than it is about rich storytelling.  Which makes it an excellent example of a more narrative based RPG, designed to tell a story and to get your players thinking about what just happened.  The players start off as little more than piles of bones with a few notes about their past, but each session of the story allows them to answer questions about their former existences.  These questions allow players to build a story about their skeletons as well as make connections with the other players, making a rich history of why these beings are in the crypts.

In addition, players and the GM fill out a small map with the details of their crypt.  What is there to be guarded? What features are present? And most importantly; what decays over the ages as time grinds on?

The gameplay takes place in a number of rounds, between which there are pauses where everyone at the table sits silently, possibly in a darkened room, for a few minutes to represent the inevitable march of time between invasions into the ancient tomb.  This pause for reflection and silence is a unique feature of this game, really giving it a feeling of time passing by quickly for untiring guardians.

The game itself ends when a seasoned group of adventurers finally enters the tomb and destroys the ancient guardians, or when players and the GM are satisfied that the story of this dark crypt has been told. In the latter case, the guardians can then rest in darkness for the coming aeons.

Erik S

Erik is a Barrister at the North Shore location. He is most commonly referred to as "Doc" by his friends and is a font of useless information on all topics of RPGs. When not ranting about different role playing game systems, narrative vs simulationist play, or anything to do with education you'll find him helping with Keyforge events or running the kids D&D tables on weekends. He is also a part time mad scientist that is definitely NOT planning world domination using pink fluffy bunnies of DOOM.

Share!
Enjoy the article so far? Recommend it to your friends and peers.