Quiet Year @ OwlCon 34

Quiet Year
OwlCon XXXIV | Sunday 3pm - 7pm

Thank you to players Ben, Sabrina, Ray, and Todd for great story and a great time!

A chill game for the last slot at OwlCon XXXIV.

A chill game for the last slot at OwlCon XXXIV.

For this session, I played with very lax rules and allowed players to ask questions or add details out of turn. I find this is best in terms of keeping new players engaged (quick feedback, unforseen potentials brought to light through questions) but still let the player keep control, as they have final say on what's story and what's not. It's also fun! Our story had many neat little details, so many that we ran out of time- four hours was not enough for 52 weeks of story! I shortened the game by removing half the remaining cards left. Below, I wrote down all story said during card draw. I have included a few player actions as well, but not all.

Typically, a turn looks like this:

  • Draw a card. Choose a prompt or do what it says: Make story that is about one to three sentences long.
  • Draw on the map place, events, or objects that pertain to the card drawn.
  • Do your week's action: either discover something new, start a project, or hold a discussion. Make story not more than two sentences on the action chosen. Other players here can only speak if you chose to hold a discussion.
  • Other players are allowed to take a Contempt token if they disagree or feel frustrated by your action this turn.
  • Draw on the map your discovery, project, or discussion.
  • All project die tick down.
  • If a project is completed this turn, the player whose project is completed makes story.

More about this game here.


At the beginning of the game, two things happen: we decide who we are and how many, then each take a turn to draw on the map our starting discoveries, abundances, and scarcities. Together we decided we were going to play in the style of the Borrowers: one-inch to two-inch tall humanoids living in the world after the disappearance of all “normal” sized human beings. Our starting map “discoveries” were a toy Ferris wheel, a closed toy chest, a door with a smaller plastic door in which the Dreadwhiskerbeast appears, a marble field, and a ceramic and tall Eternal Self-Filling Spring. We had a stable source of water, but need more food, cloth and energy. Now the game starts!



Where does everyone sleep? Who is unhappy with this arrangement and why? We sleep in shoe boxes lined with found human clothes. It makes people unhappy because some people sleep in larger shoe boxes with better clothes in warmer spots...


What is the most beautiful thing in this area? A prism hangs in front of the window which reflects the most beautiful thing in this world: a rainbow.


A young boy starts digging in the ground, and discovers something unexpected. What is it? A boy digs in the marble fields and finds an old jack. He wonders what it is for. May this be a weapon of lost times? He tells his mother and they are subsequently studied by the community. The tips are sharped and the jacks are moved closer to the village- they are used as slicers, hole-punchers and for sharp defenses.


Where are you storing your food? Why is this a risky place to store things? We are storing our food in the original pantry in the Bigkitchen. High heights and hungry pests make it a risky place to store food.

A bell is cleverly installed in front of the beastrap so that the Dreadwhiskerbeast can surprise us no longer.


There is a disquieting legend about this place. What is it? We know of the Bigs and that they created the Jackals. They bred their guard creatures to be abarrant killing machines, teeth and ears with bloodlust. It seems the Bigs were driven by extinction by own creation. But we hear that the original and thus most aberrant jackals live nearby.. the elderjackals. In a cave somewhere in the near world they hide.


There's another community somewhere on the map. Where are they? What sets them apart from you? There are the Squeakers in the walls that we hear once in a while. We hear them squeak and rustle and tumble in the walls. They seem to be unintelligent- we've tried communicating with them to no avail.


Are there children in the community? If there are, what is their role in the community? We are a child-centered community and share the responsibility in raising and caring for them. The community collectively teaches them all that they know. We make sure they play and play and play.


An old piece of machinery is discovered, broken but perhaps repairable. What is it? What would it be useful for? We have found a big-wheeled, pink bigmachine. We think that it may work again. We've seen the little-bigs use it, out in sunny days with summer sprinklers and lemonade picnics under the watchful eye of their parents. With it repaired, we may be able to use to move heavy objects and to explore the outside.

Once it is repaired, a crew is assigned to it. They need a few down below decks for the pedal, a few for cargo, a few for steering, and a captain. Captain Baja is the first captain of the Goodship Lollipop.


You see a good omen. What is it? The stars have stopped falling.


What group has the highest status in the community? What must people do to gain inclusion in this group? The Guardians who defend us from the hostilities of this world. The highest status are the Order of the Future, Guardians whom have saved children from the evil creatures of the world. They keep our future safe.


Two of the community's younger members get into a fight. What provoked them? Dusk and Dawn, two young brothers, fight over corruption. Dusk so desperately wanted to be promoted to the Order of the Future that he knowingly put a child in danger so that he may save his life. Dawn caught him. The community does not know of Dusk's dark ambitions.


A charismatic young girl tries to tempt many into a sinful or dangerous activity. Why does she do this? How does the community respond? A young girl named Lizbit leads a group of curious children in Operation Squeaker. They are more audible once the stars have stopped falling. The adults have concluded they are dumb, but children are more lever and more insightful than boring adult minds. They have started carving little holes in walls to deliver message packages to the Squeakers, which worries their parents.

[NOTE: I really don't like this prompt, and my friend Ben also was disappointed. It plays upon sexist tropes of women as temptresses (think Eve's “fault” in offering Adam the apple). Every time this card is played, I like to remind everyone that it can be boy or girl.]


There's a large body of water on the map. Where is it? What does it look like? A severed autumn-colored pipe from a busted bigwall has turned the carpet padding into a smelly swamp by the Eternal Self-Filling Spring.



A project finishes early. Which one? Why?


The eldest among you dies. What caused the death? Old Gaver, angered by the youth-corrupting, tradition-slaying salvaging machine, stood in front of its large wheels in protest. He would rather die than see this blasphemy continue, he said. The Captain Baja, realizing that Gaver bluffed not, signalled to his crew to hit the Stoperator, but an tragic misunderstanding pressed the Acceleratrix instead. The Goodship Lollipop then flattens Old Gaver into oblivion.

Old Gaver is buried in solemn ceremony in our graveyard. He is dropped into the darkness below without sound.


Something goes foul and supplies are ruined. Add a new scarcity. One day in Summer, the weekly routine pull of the Miracle Lever brought no new water into the Eternal Self-Filling Spring. We need to discover a new stable source of water.


Introduce a mystery at the edge of the map. Captain Slicer's new patrol has discovered a metal box whose door was found propped open on the side of the bighouse. Upon further inspection, it contains rows upon rows of levers, all found in the <OFF> position. Captain Slicer has no idea what it is for.


A headstrong community member decides to put one of their ideas in motion. Start a foolish project. Shortly after Old Gaver's death, MAGL – or Mothers Against the Goodship Lollipop – organize in attempts to convince the communtiy to stop the use of this dangerous ship. To prove that there are safer alternatives, they start contruction on attaching a wheeled-shoe to the Ferris wheel to create a new, more community-friendly ship.

MAGL's fierce leadership forced the community to hold consul on whehter or not the captain should be held responsible for Old Gaver's death. What will be the proper punishment, if any should be carried out? Multiple voices were heard: some cruel, some forgiving, some just. MAGL asserted that Captain Baja be punished, as death happened at his command, despite it being an accident. He is sentenced to hand-testing the Jacks with his hands. Renamed Baja Jacktester, he pricks his fingers daily for a hopefully short time. [A player takes two contempt tokens for this action. I allow it. Normally you only can take one per turn.]


Predators and bad omens are afoot. You are careless, and someone goes missing under ominous circumstances. Who? Dawn is missing.

The voices of the dead start to rise. Everybody hears them, like a radio turned on in the next room: the voice is recognizable, but the words are lost.


A scarcity has gone unaddressed for too long! Start a project that will alleviate that scarcity. The activities and heat of spring and summer have left many of our clothes tattered and forever soiled. A few of us start salvaging wallpaper that our seamstresses can easily use.


Summer is a time for conquest and the gathering of might. Start a project related to military readiness and conquest. Dusk cannot shake the anxiety and grief over his missing brother. He takes a poll of all available Guardians to investigate the world outside. Dusk believes this will kill three birds with one stone: Where is Dusk? Who emptied the Self-Filling Spring? What is outside this bighouse? It's time for military-lead exploration to start getting things done. One of the first things they explore is what is beyond the darkness behind that basement door.


A project finishes early. What led to its early completion? A loud, winged creature was captured in the beastweb early in the week. MAGL harnessed the power of this creature through leather and cloth straps that attached it to the Wheeled Ferris-wheel.


A contingent within the community have acted on their frustrations. What have they damaged, and why did they damage it? Is it permanent? The Wheeled Ferris was tied to the interior of a door knob and was pushed down the stairs, closing this door forever. The expedition led by Dusk has no means to return now. No new volunteers have risen up to take their ranks.



The community has becomes obsessed with a single project. Which one? Why? After the grim details of the forever closed basement door and the lost expedition, the school board stresses that the school's curriculum must be perfect. They realize that they themselves have a lot to learn about a just and free society. They take three weeks longer than expected.


Someone leaves the community after issuing a dire warning. Who? What is the warning? The community witch hears the voices of the dead more acutely than everyone around her. After a certain time, she finally snapped and runs to the outside, croaking “The Jackals and the Frost Shepherds have always been working together.”


Disease spreads through the community. A strong flu spreads among the school board. They are quarantined and are unable to continue on their work. The children are idle in their play.


Someone sabotages a project and the project fails as a result. Who did this? Why? An 11 year old named Sara Smithers starts having awful and powerfully psychic nightmares surrounding the voices of the dead- she is convinced that pursuing them will only invite death into our community. After the community is retold her tale by her very concerned parents, they put a stop on the spelunky project that attempt to find the source of these talking bones.


A natural disaster strikes the area. A cardboard filled with red-tipped sticks are set aflame and leave an ashen floor and wall with suffocating results. Luckily it rained that day.


The community works constantly, and as a result a project finishes early. With death, lost community members, disease and other struggles fresh in their minds, the School Board decides a new set of values are needed in the community: a new cult of pragmatism rises in our midst. They Jackals along with their horrors are always and will always stalk us, only hard work, preparation, and the warm bosom of pragmatism will keep us surviving.


Something goes foul and supplies are ruined. Add a new Scarcity. The Goodship Lollipop has been heavy in use: batteries are now scarce.


A small gang of marauders is making its way through local terrain. How many are there? What weapons do they carry? A handful of armed marauders armed with strange weapons with a strong, odd smell that result in skin and nose burns attack a few of our furry sailors and steal their nuts.



Winter elements leave everyone cold, tired and miserable. Dawn is found and condemns Dusk as a murderer. The community is in shock and disbelief, but are releaved Dawn is fine. Project dice are not reduced this week.


Someone goes missing. They're alone it he winter elements. No one hears from that person again. Captain Slicer gets lose in the winds of a winter storm. He was found half-drowned in the bighouse gutters.


The Frost Shepherds arrive. The game is over.
Tiny skeletons rise up through the hole in the floor. Shaped like familiar beasts, they creep and creak.

This was very fun and I hope to run it again in next year's con! I'll be posting images of the map when I have a chance!