Quietus is a mini-storytelling game for experienced players. It deals with short, apocalyptic scenarios based on various existing end of the world tropes and apocalyptic incidents. The inspiration for Quietus comes from the initial post of the user P.eLL.e on the Swedish RPG forum rollspel.nu.
I’ve borrowed some of the basic idea from there, and added to it on my own. I’ve also borrowed some ideas from the Pelgrane Press game Fear itself and the indie RPG Shock: Social Science Fiction v 1.1 by Joshua. A.C. Newman.
The game is based around end of the world scenarios such as the zombie apocalypse, the grey goo of nanites etc. There is no game master. You create the game together.
Start by drawing a premise card. These cards explain why you’re all in the same place at the same time. You can also make up your own premise, but keep it slightly stereotypical to give everyone a good idea of what’s going on. The premise will give you a framework to build on. This is how you know each other.
Each mini episode is determined by an end of the world scenario. The end of the world scenario is drawn after the premise has been determined. The backdrop will tell you where and when you are.
Knowing the backdrop and the premise, draw a stereotype card. With the premise, backdrop and stereotype, you can now build your character. Give each character three abilities based on backdrop, premise and stereotype. Two of these abilities should be positive and one should be negative.
Example: Premise is ”you all go to the same school and you’re the only survivors after the school bus crashed”. The backdrop is ”you’re the only ones left of your traveling companions. The rest of you have fallen in the struggle against the flesh eating hordes. Now you’re at the edge of the city and you only have the last obstacle to cross – the road tunnel between the city and freedom.”
The stereotype one of the players has drawn as a basis for the character is ”the brain”. The brain in a high school class is the nerdy type with a bunch of books in their arms. The abilities that would accompany such a character are ”an answer for everything”. Hard riddles are easily solved by such a character. They might know if there are alternate routes or ventilation shafts or they might predict dangers easily.
Another ability might be ”clumsy”. Brains aren’t known for their speed and agility in a high school setting. The negative abilities give a minus one on the dice roll, while the positive ones give a plus one. If the player has no abilities except the negative one left, they have to use the negative one.
Each character get to set a rivalry and a friendship with two other characters. You can’t be both friend and rival with the same character. This means that a character can be friends or rivals with someone who has no relationship to the character, or that someone the brain think is a friend might have a rivalry with them.
Friendships and rivalries are used when resolving conflicts.
So now we have a premise, a backdrop characters and relationships between them.
Now is the time to draw the map. Make it a relatively small map with the objective clearly marked on it. So for instance if you have drawn the Moon Space Nazis backdrop, you know you need to get to the harbor to leave on the boat. The map should in other words be a representation of the backdrop. If you draw it on squared paper, you can use the squares as a measurement tool to give you an idea of how far it is to your objective. The distance is not really important, but the conflict markers are.
If you want you can skip the map, the most important thing are the conflicts. It’s just easier and more fun with a map. Use Google maps if you want to make it quick and easy.
Each player places one marker on the map, and then the oldest player places an additional marker. The conflict markers must be placed in such a way that they intersect the players’ path. When a conflict marker is reached, draw a conflict card.
For a group of three players there will be four conflicts and for a group of five, six conflicts. Always one more conflict than there are players. There are five types of conflicts. Emotional, physical, mental, social and bossfights. The first conflict befalls the youngest player, the second, the next youngest etc. The last conflict hits all of the players. All conflicts have one ability that will increase the number of conflicts for that particular confrontation. That conflict goes to the next player in line.
Example: The Brain is played by the youngest player, which means that the first conflict will hit The Brain. It’s an emotional conflict. The player rolls a D6 to find out what the conflict is, and ends up with Sorrow. A sorrow conflict can create more emotional conflicts if not beaten. The Brain uses ”An answer for everything” to try to beat ”Sorrow” and rolls 2D6, one for The Brain and one for Sorrow. Sorrow wins, The Brain has to remove ”an answer for everything” on their card and another emotional conflict goes to the next player in line.
All conflicts are solved through the abilities of the player. Describe which ability is used, what should happen and roll one die for the player and one for the conflict. The player has to roll equal or greater than the roll of the conflict to win. If the player uses the negative ability, the player has to reduce the outcome of the roll with one. If they use a positive ability, they add one to the die roll.
A player with friendship towards the player having the conflict can improve the roll with one. A player with rivalry towards the player having the conflict can decrease the roll of the player with one. The players can only use their relationships once, meaning that they can only affect a roll positively or negatively once during a conflict, and only on the character that they have the relationship with. Any unused relationship will be used by the end of the scenario at the final conflict.
A player has three abilities. When they’ve failed in a conflict, the ability can’t be used anymore and the skill is removed from the character. If a character loses all their abilities, that character is dead and out of the game.
The ”winning criteria” is to make it out alive to the other side. The basic idea is to tell a quick story.
What you’ll need:
- A deck of cards – you won’t need the Diamonds suite
- Two six sided dice in different colors – one for the player, one for the conflict
- Scratch paper for the ”character sheets”
Premises – Clubs, Ace to 10
You can either select a card you want to play or draw a random card.
Ace- High School Class
You all of to the same high school. You were out with your class on a trip when disaster struck. The bus crashed and you’re the only ones left.
2 – Co-Workers
You work at the same company. When the event occurred you were all sharing an elevator and were stuck int here. Fortunate, as it turned out, because it saved your lives.
3 – Old Friends
Old friends that meet once a year in a cabin outside of human contact. This year your car broke down and when you got back it was too late. Disaster had struck.
4 – Study Group
Religious study group meeting in the basement of one of the largest congregations in town. The basement door was blocked an no one could get in (or out) but you found an alternate route. Armageddon struck while you were discussing ethics.
5 – Rock Band
A rock band on tour. You were up in your small aeroplane as the end of the world happened beneath you. The pilot eventually had to land for fuel and got killed the calamity.
6 – Amusement Park Visitors
Visitors at an amusement park. You all ended up in the same gondola in the ferris wheel. By the time you had managed to come down to earth again, life as you know it was over.
7 – Dungeons & Dragons Players
Dungeons & Dragons group out camping and playing. You had everything you needed, but a stop at a gas station robbed you of your Winnebago and your game books, and now you need to get out of the gas station.
8 – Military Platoon
A military platoon out on an exercise. You all got lost from the main group but managed to return to the company HQ in the city, only to realise the world had ended while you were away.
9 – Artists
You’re all artists, out on a retreat by the coast. It’s a very beautiful place, and you were reluctant to leave, but you had to. On your way back you realised that the world as you know it had gone up in flames.
10 – Mental Institution
Staff and clients from an upscale and very discrete mental institution. The institute was struck by lightning and a fire started. You got lost from the others in your panic to escape, and now you realise it’s the end of the world.
Backdrops – Spaces, Ace to 10
You can either select a card you want to play or draw a random card.
Ace – The new Ice Age
You’re the only ones left. A snap cold, so intense it froze the leaves off the trees, have you all looking for shelter. There’s a bomb shelter deep in the mountain close by, but it’s almost a city block away. You know you would find better shelter there, but it would mean braving the cold. The deadly cold.
2 – Zombie Apocalypse
You and your traveling companions are the only ones left. One by one has fallen in the fight against the flesh eating hordes. Now your and the outskirts of the city, with only one obstacle to pass – the road tunnel between the city and relative safety.
3 – Nuclear Fallout
As a couple of warring, stubborn nations reached an impasse they could not break, they decided to bomb each other with nuclear weapons. Not there are dangerous levels of radiation and fallout everywhere. Except in a small patch of mountains close by. You’re heard on short wave radio there’s a farm and safety there. You just have to brave the blocked roads and wasteland in between to get there.
4 – The Solar Flare
Communications, satellites, all electronics have broken down completely. People are panicking and you and your friends are stuck in an underground subway tunnel with no light and no air circulation. You need to get to the surface, but so do thousands of others.
5 – Extinction Level Event
An asteroid has hit the Earth, and as a result masses of particles and debris has been thrown into the atmosphere, but you have a more pressing problem. You need to get out of the harbour and up into the mountains quickly, because threes a massive tsunami coming. You only have a few hours to escape. Problem is, so do everyone else.
6 – Technology Takes Over
The artificial intelligence woke up on a Saturday and had all of Sunday to scheme and learn of humanity and human behaviour. On Monday it struck with all its might. You and your group have an opportunity to escape, but first you need to get past a whole city of electrical objects with micro computers. Escape the city, get past the last supermarket and car lot.
7 – Epidemic
The cities are rotting from the inside. The sick are outnumbering the healthy and the parks have been turned into mass graves. The epidemic that struck the world hasn’t managed to kill you yet, but the lack of food and water in the city just might. You need to escape the disease before it kills you, and the looters before they do the same. You have to get past the military quarantine roadblocks and out of the city.
8 – Moon Space Nazis
The Moon Space Nazis have arrived and they are here to create the Third Reich, a never ending Nazi nightmare. Patrols of Moon Nazis are moving around outside and you need to escape before they reach you. There’s a final boat leaving from the harbor, but you have to get past the Moon Space Nazis first.
9 – The Grey Goo
A research lab recklessly set loose super nanites intent to take on the climate change problems by reducing emissions, clearing out plastics from the oceans and lowering temperatures back to pre-1900’s levels. It all seemed to work and the world was slowly going back to a stable state, but then the reports of the grey goo infection started, People disintegrating to nothing. You’ve managed so far, and you have your protective suits, but a breakout has been reported nearby. Now you have to reach the evacuation point a few blocks away before the nanites reach you.
10 – Alien Invasion
They said ”we come in peace” but they clearly had no idea what that meant. Alien patrols are canvassing the area you’re in. You have to gather as much food and supplies as you can and then get out. The countryside is your best hope, only a visit to the supermarket between you and relative freedom.
Stereotypes – Jack – King of Spades, Jack – King of Clubs, Jack – King of Hearts
The stereotypes are based on movie stereotypes, but I’ve removed the gendering for these characters. They can be men, women or non-binary, it’s up to the player. You can either shuffle the cards and draw one each or select a stereotype to play.
Jack of Spades – The Jock
A well trained, athletic person. More concerned with physical prowess than mental strength. The Jock is a physically strong and resilient type, but may not be very well equipped to deal with emotional or social trauma.
Queen of Spades – The Innocent
The Innocent is a naïve but well meaning person, always looking to do what’s ethically right. The Innocent is the moral conscience of the group and will act if they believe something is wrong.
King of Spades – The Fool
The Fool is the character most prone to taking risks, but the Fool can also be the one character who gains the most on their outlandish ideas. The Fool prefers to rush in, rather than plan. Sometimes this strategy pays off, sometimes it doesn’t.
Jack of Clubs – The Wise Person
This person is often a little older, a little frailer, but has the wisdom to see what’s really going on. The Wise Person can cut a swath through the bullshit and calm even the most hysterical person down. They certainly don’t know everything, but they’re a combo or empathy and clarity.
Queen of Clubs – The Brain
The Brain really does know everything, at the cost of physical prowess and empathy. The most important thing for The Brain is knowledge gained, sometimes at the cost of other peoples’ well being.The Brain is a problem solver and a number cruncher, and they may not see the human cost to their solutions.
King of Clubs – The Authority
The Authority knows just what’s going on, but may be a bit emotional about it, since no one seems to believe them. Others tend to view The Authority as a conspiracy nut, someone not to be taken seriously. Emotional as they may be, The Authority knows what’s really happening and will keep fighting for the truth.
Jack of Hearts – The Average
Often young, in relatively good shape and with a basic idea of what’s going on. Together with The Innocent, The Average has some basic morals and a common sense attitude about them. The Average will not rush in, nor will they fail to act, but they are after all only Average.
Queen of Hearts – The Faithful
The Faithful has the religious or esoteric perspective on the end of the world. They can be capable and uplifting, and sometimes save the backside of the group, but they may as well break down and pray and cry and be rather useless. The Faithful tend to see most things in black and white and have strong morals.
King of Hearts – The Loner
The Loner is a survivalist type person who is very capable, but ultimately cares only about themselves. In a situation where the group is stuck, The Loner may well abandon them if they believe they can survive without the group. The Loner always has a weakness for The Innocent.
Conflicts – Ace of Hearts – 10 of Hearts
Shuffle these cards and let the player with the conflict draw one without seeing the deck.
Ace and 6 of Hearts – Physical Conflict
This conflict is a Physical Conflict related to the backdrop. The Conflict is out to do the group harm. Physical Conflict can (roll a D6):
1 – 2 Attack
3 – 4 Ambush
5 – 6 Escalate
A successful Escalate brings another Physical Conflict into play.
2 and 7 of Hearts – Emotional Conflict
Someone in the group sees something – something so inhuman or cruel that they have to react to it. Emotional Conflict can (roll a D6):
1 – 2 Shock
3 – 4 Create Apathy
5 – 6 Create Sorrow
A successful Create Sorrow brings another Emotional Conflict into play.
3 and 8 of Hearts – Social Conflict
A Social Conflict has the group divided over something. Something that will attack the motivation of the player. Social Conflict can be a (roll a D6):
1 – 2 Rescue
3 – 4 Opportunity
5 – 6 Tragedy
A successful Tragedy brings another Social Conflict into play.
4 and 9 of Hearts – Mental Conflict
A Mental conflict happens primarily in the character’s head. It’s a temptation to do something that might harm the group. Mental Conflict can be a (roll a D6):
1 – 2 Deception
3 – 4 Betrayal
5 – 6 Temptation
A successful Temptation brings another Mental Conflict into play.
5 and 10 of Hearts – Bossfight
A Bossfight is exactly what it sounds like. A Bossfight can be a Physical, Mental. Emotional or Social Conflict and can use all attacks from all four preceding conflicts. The Bossfight has two attacks before being conquered. Bossfight can (roll a D6):
1 – 2 Pick one Type of Conflict and use the Attack drawn
3 – 4 Pick one Type of Conflict and use the Attack drawn
5 – 6 Pick one Type of Conflict and use the Attack drawn
A successful Temptation, Tragedy, Sorrow or Escalation brings another Conflict into play. Roll a D6 to see which.
1 – Physical
2 – Emotional
3 – Social
4 – Mental
5 – 6 Bossfight
This game is a prototype and a really quick one, so please, if you want to give me feedback feel free to leave a comment. I haven’t playtested it yet, so there may be huge balancing issues. I’ll whip up a prototype soonish, but for right now, this is it.