Rafu's "Everway" Archipelago

In a recent post, @Rafu writes:
Everway, in a GM-less variant of my own devising.

It's largely an Archipelago hack, but it also integrates all components from the original game: the Fate Deck, Vision Cards, element wheel, powers and magic, etc. Essentially, what used to be GM prep in classic Everway becomes a collective, ongoing effort of making sense of a Realm's oracle - a process which effectively replaces Archipelago Destiny Points. I also included various bits from a work-in-progress I call The Fourth King (in turn a spin-off from my white whale project Cast Down from Eden) which are meant to give the game a certain episodic structure, with most conflicts exploding and being resolved near the end of an episode.

This was the first session - excepting an afternoon we spent creating characters a couple weeks ago - and, of course, mostly a playstorming. We're satisfied enough to carry on with the experiment, fine-tuning as we go.
I'd love to hear more about what "a collective, ongoing effort of making sense of a Realm's oracle" looks like, and how to encourage or leverage it in play.


  • Sure. How familiar are you with Everway?

    In Everway, the GM was expected to prep "quests". One recommended method of prep was for the GM to draw a spread of tarot-like Fate Cards to represent a Realm's past, present, future, Virtue, Fault and Fate - and to use this as inspiration, designing a Realm and a quest around this read. Vision Cards are another prep tool: they have illustrations on the front and provocative questions on the back, and GMs were told to pick some to inspire their prep, possibly incorporating them in the quest and showing them to the players at the right time.

    The Everway Fate Deck introduced me to the basics of cartomancy when I was in my late teens, and I learned that the human brain's ability to make sense of a random collection of symbols and words is powerful indeed.

    This GM-less remix of Everway I'm now playing is structured around each play session being a trip to a different Realm and the intervention of Spherewalkers never failing to leave that Realm changed in the end.

    We had created our characters according to Everway rules - in fact, we could as well have used pre-gens from the boxed set as they are - except for one very small addition. They are a trio of Spherewalkers who happen to be traveling together because reasons. There was no other prep except char-gen.
    To begin a new session, we each picked a Vision Card to represent a scene, place or character from the Realm we were about to explore and put them all on the table - this helped create shared expectations and more of a coherent aesthetics.
    Next, I laid out a spread of Fate Cards representing this unknown Realm's past, present, future, Virtue, Fault and Fate. We didn't discuss this spread - well, actually we did, but only in terms of what the cards could mean at the most basic level, as I was the only one already familiar with both Everway and tarot-readings in general.

    Then we started playing by (very slightly modified) Archipelago rules - beginning with a scene of our Spherewalkers' arrival to the Realm - but instead of driving toward Destiny Points (which we didn't write), we were playing to explore and discover the Realm and understand what the spread of cards meant.

    (to be continued)
  • (Nice! Looking forward to the rest.)
  • So, that's most there is to it, at least as far as answering your question goes.

    When playing the first (and so far only) session, Barbara came up with a Vision Card depicting some kind of black magic and possibly human sacrifice scene, involving a rope-bound man, a scary looking man wearing feathers and arcane symbols standing beside him, a tome, an owl-like bird, a weasel-like animal and a full moon glowing in the night sky outside. Alessio added a shadowy picture of a half-naked man wearing a scabbard but with no sword being held between two ominous, not quite human figures, in a dark place filled with smoke from a brazier. Since these two pictures were overly dramatic, my contribution was a Vision Card of a more sedate mood: a boulevard in front of a palace, with a man in leopard-spot pants lighting lamps, an armored warrior striding by and lots of signs in some unintelligible writing.

    I then revealed a random spread of cards for the Realm:
    • in its past: Winter (maturity)
    • in its present: the Smith, upside down (an evil effort)
    • in its future: the Unicorn, upside down (temptation)
    • for its Virtue: the Hermit, upside down (isolation)
    • for its Fault: the Eagle, upside down (thoughtlessness)
    • its Fate: the Soldier, sideways (duty vs blind obedience)
    We refrained from discussing these cards or brainstorming their collective meaning, but for a concise briefing in what each meant individually, and launched straight into playing. Barbara framed a scene in which we emerged from a Gate into an enclosed space - a sacred room full of magical paraphernalia - only to discover the Gate from this side looked like a door, ostensibly barred, and were greeted by a considerably upset priest, clad in feathers.

    We played to answer the unspoken questions raised by the cards on the table. Some answers came easy and straightforward... "Maturity" in the past suggested that the Realm had decayed from an older state of greater knowledge, to a current state of widespread ignorance and superstition resulting from its complete isolation from other Spheres. And it's pretty obvious how thoughtlessness can lead to blind obedience, isn't it?
    Some were trickier, though. "Duty" to whom or what? And how is "isolation" a virtue? Turns out that the cabal of wizards in power - ostensibly advisors to the king - had deliberately sabotaged the magical wards on the Gate to allow us in, all because they needed a Spherewalker as a component in a powerful magical ritual they were working - and here's your "evil effort", on a silver platter. It further turned out that the purpose of the ritual was to warp a human subject into a convincing simulacrum of the later king, whose death had been kept a secret from anybody in the Realm except the inner circle of wizards.

    The vision card selected by Barbara ended up providing most of the motifs and characters, including an overblown moon (which was somehow involved in the rituals) and the animals (spies and messengers to the wizards). Mine provided a background (the whole session took place inside the palace) and suggested a coherent aesthetics: people wearing clothing connected to specific animals they were also named after (feathers for priests and wizards, leopard and lion furs for palace guards and warriors), lots of writing, some lamps. Alessio's card was only interpreted symbolically, in retrospect - we realized the sword-less man was a stand-in for the peasants of the Realm, who were being manipulated and lied to and had been made powerless to retaliate against their shady rulers: this was a major theme throughout the game, starting with a crowd congregating at the palace gates because they were scared of the abnormal moon and quickly escalating into armed revolt as soon as one of our Spherewalkers lent the crowd a helping hand.

    Exploring the Realm, finding out these answers, took us the best part of an afternoon and most of the session (to our characters it was instead a long, eventful night, paced as an action movie). When we were satisfied - and our time was about to run out - we moved into the conflict resolution phase of my own design (which is where I strayed the furthest from both Everway and Archipelago). In the end, the cabal of wizard had been exterminated and - after a short time of violent rioting - power had transitioned to the priests, who were earnestly trying to establish a juster rule, thus fulfilling their DUTY to the people of the Realm. Also, my PC had acquired a new companion: an owlbear-like monster. :D
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