the amazing RPG you create while you play •


It’s amazing what can be created from so little. It’s all the more remarkable how often I’ve told myself that I can’t do something because I don’t have the time. In just two and a half hours over the weekend, I helped create a world from scratch and played a one-off campaign in it. To put it very clearly: nothing was prepared beforehand. In fact, you were the only real rule in the game can not prepare beforehand. Otherwise, everything is created in place in You Awaken in a Strange Place, a pen-and-paper role-playing game.

At the beginning, you jointly determine the entire game world and the rules of the game. The game master asks you individually questions that will shape the world. A person thinks of a genre, a person thinks of a place, and a person thinks of an adjective about that place. We’re dreaming up “a steaming steampunk library” – you can see how it is on site.

Then we individually make statements about the world that become rules and reality. The library is underwater, say, trains can fly, and then, unexpectedly, the library is alive too. Then we briefly connect the dots. Maybe the library is in a leviathan. You might need the trains to travel across the sea to find it. But how do you get in? hot tubs! That’s how you find it and that’s how you get on.

You Awaken in a Strange Place is played by the game’s creator, Jacob Andrews, on the Drawfee YouTube channel he is well known for.

Then we make our characters. “Berty, who are you?” That’s how long you can think. “Um, I’m a skeleton and I wear a cloak of skin and pretend to be human. I’m very old but I have a bad memory so I keep a diary to remind me what to do. And my name is Fiddles, uh, Clanky.” With me are a half-octopus engineer named Kruk and a metaphysics professor with a laser eye and a mechanical arm named Rowan. The only limit here is your imagination.

Then we come up with the skills that will not only define who we are, but how we will play with the world. For example, I choose to be awesome overfly and I’m good at it pretendingbut I’m not that good at it fuse (I pretend to be a security guard) and I’m terrible at it Recall. These verbs then become abilities with appropriate modifiers for me, but they also become usable abilities for everyone else in the game. And the 16 possible skills we come up with (the GM also makes four) are these only In-game skills that we can use.

Finally, it takes the GM five minutes to come up with a story before dropping it on us in the middle of the action. And the game begins as always, with the words “You wake up in a strange place”.

My page of doodled notes from the game. See all those notches near my HP? That’s how many times I’ve failed a throw. Yes.

In about half an hour we’ll be playing in an environment that’s as vibrant as any I’ve played in Dungeons & Dragons – maybe even more so due to our collaborative efforts in creating it. We were forced to imagine it. And a library in a leviathan accessible via gliders and whirlpools? That would be a memorable place in any game, pen and paper or otherwise. I can see it in Torment: Tides of Numenera or a Pillars of Eternity game or even something like Mass Effect.

And for the next two hours, we laugh as our characters use made-up abilities to achieve our goals, asking questions like, “Can I Fashion a bandage from my skin cloak?” Yes, but you now have a slab of dead skin on your face and you have an obvious hole in your body. Or, “Can I try kiss the metaphysician as a thank you for saving me?” Yes, but it won’t go well (and it won’t).

I’m not sure I could ever think of something like a living library myself

We use simple dice rolls to determine the outcomes, although mostly our imagination is at play, and eventually we reach our climax in the fabled library. There’s the book I need to get my body back! But our enemies use it to perform a mysterious ritual. A fight ensues. I overfly to find spells that we can use. Rowan used precision to fry our enemies with her laser eye. jar gripper with its tentacles. We succeed and I disrupt the ritual and then I get sucked into a black hole and disappear. Game ends, mission complete.

All of this in two and a half hours. Given the amount of time it takes to do anything in Dungeons & Dragons, it feels like a miracle to accomplish so much. But it’s the thrill of creation that makes me want to play again. This idea that next time we play we’ll conjure up something exciting again. Something almost too wild to pull off on your own, an idea that can only come from multiple minds – a bit like those collaborative characters you draw as kids in the classroom, fold the piece of paper and pass it along when you do have drawn corresponding body part. I’m not sure I could ever think of something like a living library – and more importantly, I’m not sure I would want to.

You Awaken in a Strange Place was created by Jacob Andrews of Drawfee and is available as a pay-what-you-want PDF download from


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