The Quiet Year
For a long time, we were at war with The Jackals. Now, finally, we’ve driven them off, and we’re left with this: a year of relative peace. One quiet year, with which to build our community up and learn again how to work together. Come Winter, the Frost Shepherds will arrive and we might not survive the encounter. This is when the game will end. But we don’t know about that yet. What we know is that right now, in this moment, there is an opportunity to build something.
What Are Our Tools?
We have a map, which is currently a blank image. Before playing, we'll establish some of the landscape. As we play, we will continually update it with new discoveries, conflicts, opportunities. We'll avoid writing words on it. We are all responsible for drawing on the map, even if poorly or crudely.
We have a record list, detailing our abundances, scarcities, important people, and projects.
We have points of Contempt, representing any tension and frustration that might arise in the community as play progresses.
We have a deck of cards, divided by suit; these are our seasons, and they will guide us through the game, week by week.
There are four seasons in the game, as there is in real life. We start the game at the beginning of Spring, and we play through the quiet year that follows. Each season has 13 cards, represented by a single suit. We divide the deck into suits, then shuffle and stack them to make a year of cards, in seasonal order. While all the cards will tell a player to make a decision about the direction of the community, there is a special card, the King of Spades. When this card is drawn, the game will be over. It could come at any time during Winter.
Spring is represented by Hearts. Spring will ask us many questions, which will help us develop the landscape and inner workings of the community. There won't be a lot of conflict in this season, necessarily, but this is fine.
Summer is represented by Diamonds. In this season, threats will emerge, but so will progress. We'll define our community and sow the beginnings of discontent through our actions.
Autumn is represented by Clubs. Danger and failure will become become more visible in this, the most trying season.
Winter is represented by Spades. The community will continue its work and preparations, but the players will know that the Frost Shepherds might arrive at any time.
Who We Are
As players, we each have two roles to play. We are representatives of the community at a slightly zoomed-out scale, caring about its fate. But we are also dispassionate observers, introducers of dilemmas, experimenters of a sort. The Quiet Year asks us to move between these roles. We don't represent specific characters; we don't act out scenes. We represent currents of thought, and when we speak or take action, we might be a single person or a great many. But we care about their fate regardless, and allowing ourselves to do so creates a richer experience, a peek into the struggles of a community in conflict.
We will often be given opportunities to introduce new issues for the community to deal with, whether by drawing a card or choosing to Discover Something New as an action. By dispassionately putting these dilemmas forward, then assuming our other role as community representatives, we generate tension and make the successes of the community seem real. If there's something you struggle with in real life (like if violence is ever justified), introduce situations that bring it into question.
Before we start, we have to establish some facts about the community and its surroundings. We start with a brief discussion about the general terrain and environment of the area, and after we agree on a setting (a rocky desert; a windswept coastline), we introduce details. Everyone names one detail about the local terrain, and sketches it onto the map where they feel it fits. These sketches should be rough and simple, nothing grand or elaborate, leaving plenty of blank space. There will be plenty of things to throw on the map, over time. Assume our community has between 60 and 80 members.
For example, a group might set their game on a rocky coastline. The first player introduces a detail: "Okay, on the shoreline is a series of washed up cargo containers where the community has settled". The next adds, "And there's the wreckage of a container ship, just a bit too far in the water." The third adds, "There's a lighthouse on an outcropping just off the coast." The last player says, "A thick woodland starts just in from where the lighthouse is."
Next, each of us declares an important resource, something the community might have in abundance or scarcity. Things like clean drinking water, food, shelter, children, sleep, hope. Choosing a resource makes it important, as well; whether abundant or scarce, they are something the community wants and needs.
Then we choose one of these resources to be in abundance. It gets noted in the Records as such, and whoever named it gets to draw an abundance of the resource on the map. The other resources become scarcities; they are noted as such on the Records, and their absence or scarcity is noted on the map by the people who named them. Symbols and symbolic representation is fine; words are to be avoided.
We progress through the game by weeks. Each player takes one turn at a time, and shouldn't take too long to deal with. During the week, the following things are done:
- The next card is given to the current player; they choose the option that most interests them, post it in-thread, resolve it, and follow any bolded text.
- Project counters are reduced by 1, and any finished projects are resolved by the person who started them.
- The current player chooses and takes an action (Discover Something New, Hold a Discussion, or Start a Project).
- The week ends.
How much should we write?
- When you discover something new, introduce a new situation to the map, be it opportunity, problem, person, or all three. Draw it on the map, usually on the smaller side. Use this to introduce new dilemmas to the map when things seem to controlled or easy.
- When you hold a discussion, pose a question or a statement to the group for discussion. Everyone weighs in with a short response to the discussion - if it was a question, the person who asked can add their thoughts. If it was a statement, that's it. Each discussion should be tied to a situation on the map, and we'll mark those situations with a small dot to signify the community has spoken on this issue in the past.
- When you start a project, choose a situation and declare what the community will do to resolve it. There's no consultation, the community simply gets to work. Name how long you think the project will take. Projects can take up to six weeks to complete. Be realistic about how long it would take the community - whether they have the right skills, tools, supplies, etc. - and if it seems like it would take longer than six weeks, it might need to become a multi-stage project.
Here's some rough guidelines for in-game posting:
- For an answer to a card's query, work in the range of around three sentences at most.
- For a response to a Hold A Discussion, two sentence max, with twitter's 140 characters as a eyeball.
- For finishing a project, two or three sentences, the more concise the better.