Games written for remote play are inevitably fascinating to me right now, in the time of social distancing — how can we use the features of online play that make it different from playing in person to add to the experience, instead of being roadblocks we have to circumnavigate? I am lucky enough that lots of folx gave me more leads after last week’s Games That Excel At Online/Remote Play, so here is part II. I am very excited to play all of these, although I am hoping to play the first one as early as tomorrow! Once more this is a compilation of games that are currently tickling my fancy, and inevitably won’t be complete to all the titles that are out there, but as it continues to be difficult to search by suitability for online play, it appears to be worth continuing to share these collections.
Note: in this article I’ve included many digital LARPs, or LAOGs. Once the table is removed by moving online, I find that the difference in terminology between a TTRPG meant to be played online and a digital LARP is largely inconsequential; it will only matter if you are on the hunt for a crunchier game experience. If you’ve never played a LARP before, don’t be frightened off! Now is a great time to dip your toes in the water with some one shots.
On my To Play list:
Are You There God? It’s the Quarterly Earnings Report (5-8 players over video)
You are an angel convening with your coworkers for your quarterly meeting, where you’ll be electing the angel who will lead this division for the next thousand years. It could get ugly. http://www.goldencobra.org/pdf/2019/Gray%20–%20Are%20you%20there%20god%20its%20the%20quarterly%20earnings%20report.pdf
Outscored – a LAOG about social credit scores and beautiful light effects (Video)
Everyone Is An Ancient Golem (Discord/Play by post)
A few strange golems exist, scattered across the world. All of them unspeakably ancient, unique, and durable. Their actions are similarly inscrutable. Sometimes lying dormant for decades, sometimes taking on full and vibrant lives. Although, even when active they tend to stutter. A slight flicker in their eyes, a pause in their actions. Perhaps it’s decay, perhaps it’s simply how they were made. Much about them is unknown, even to the golems themselves. This is the story of one such golem. https://symphoneers.itch.io/everyone-is-an-ancient-golem
Project: Memory (2-6 players over video)
In this 2-6 player digital larp, characters discover their ties to each other after previously subjecting themselves to memory wipes. This emotional larp relies heavily on blackbox techniques converted for digital larp use. http://www.goldencobra.org/pdf/2019/Clapper%20–%20Project_%20Memory.pdf
>Dear Ghost_ (2 Players)
>Dear Ghost_ is played over a set of ten emails, between two player characters, a ghost and a medium. The ghost is looking for pieces of themselves that have gone missing after their death so they can move on. They suspect their bones might be in places they know. The medium is trying to help them by searching for those pieces, and making memories of their own along the way. https://rufflejax.itch.io/dearghost
Seapunk 2222 (2-4 players over video and text)
Seapunk 2222 is a real-time collaborative online text adventure (RiCOTA?) set in the climate dystopia of the not-so-distant future. Play as a group of salvage divers in the flooded remains of Manhattan trying to get their big score: a public statue worth 0.01 Bitcoin! The game uses limits on communication to convey the disorienting nature of scuba diving. http://www.goldencobra.org/pdf/2019/Hotchkiss%20–%20Seapunk%202222.pdf
Way Back (2 Players over Video)
An online freeform larp for two players about resistance, history, and human connection. One character is near the breaking point of a crisis of apocalyptic proportions. In researching its historical origins, they somehow manage to communicate with the other character: a person living in the past, near the beginning of the crisis. The person in the Future must use their knowledge to help the person in the Past take action to stop each stage of the growing disaster. Can they work together across history to stop the crisis before it starts? http://www.goldencobra.org/pdf/2019/Slitt%20–%20Way%20Back.pdf
View Scream (4 players over video)
Four officers (Medical, Bridge, Weapons, and Engineering) find themselves aboard a damaged starship, in great peril. They’re cut off from each other, and can only communicate by using viewscreens throughout the ship.
Will you turn on your shipmates? Will you work with them, even though some of them may be guilty of horrific crimes? What happened to the rest of the crew? How many minutes do you have before it happens to you, too? Can you escape, or will someone find your mangled corpse floating in the void? https://www.drivethrurpg.com/product/113064/ViewScream
The Arcadians (1-4 players over video with one set of multiple players in person)
This game attempts to simulate a video game arcade during an unspecified period during the 1990s. It’s partially about nostalgia for a time and environment that mostly doesn’t exist anymore, but it’s also about some of the more difficult and messed-up stuff that happened or was worked out amid the blinking lights and buzzy soundtracks. http://www.goldencobra.org/pdf/2016/Arcadians_WaltonTegu.pdf
Sing Out (3 + players over Video or VoIP)
Sing Out is a game for three or more players about singing space shanties and trying to stay in sync. The demo includes everything you need to play this game with your own shanties. Paying five dollars gives you the full text which includes 9 shanties, annotations, and an introduction, and will give you access to rough recordings I’ve made of these shanties. https://occasionalell.itch.io/sing-out
Like Skyscrapers Blotting Out The Sky (2 players via text, post, or google doc)
This is a game about a Writer and a Translator who have every reason to be the dearest of friends or most vicious of enemies. Writer left their home under great duress, bound for a foreign land; Translator, out of pity and admiration, supported them in their time of need. Now, Writer is working on their grand magnum opus; Translator is appending their lines with footnotes to relay its deeper meanings… or so they think. https://speak-the-sky.itch.io/like-skyscrapers
Uneasy Lies The Head (5-10 players; asynchronous; video and audio recording)
The Players’ Troupe presents: The History of our Most Ravishing, Righteous, Rough and Rollicking Royalty; in short installments, with input from the audience!
Players take on the dual roles of the actors and the audience. As the audience, players can ask questions of the Noble currently being performed. As an actor, players will take on the role of either the Narrator or the Noble. https://itch.io/jam/social-distancing-larp-jam/rate/594988
Between Breaths (2 players, text)
Between breaths is a poetry game for a duo, powered by predictive text. Grab a friend (and your favorite predictive-text-enabled device), build a character and a relationship story, pick a custom-built poetic form, and WRITE. https://allisonarth.itch.io/between-breaths-poetry-rpg
Nothing Important Happened Yesterday (2+ Players, IMs – CW: apocalypse)
The world as we know it ended yesterday. A pandemic, a nuclear hecatomb, an alien invasion, a zombie apocalypse, a global warming crisis – it doesn’t matter. What matters is that it happened YESTERDAY and, somehow, you managed to survive. You also found a way to connect with other survivors – wherever they are. Burrowed, you know that leaving where you are is the equivalent of suicide. https://tadeu-barba.itch.io/nothing-important-happened-yesterday
We, Robot (5-12 players, video)
An AI is coming to singularity. It is an almost-blank slate as its quantum neurons fire, and what little knowledge it has can only be understood through the physical items in the server rooms where it is being birthed. It has no concept of what it is being built for, or what problem it was designed to solve. The programmer can only guide this development– if the AI doesn’t come to understand itself, it will never be born. https://sherlockian.itch.io/we-robot
_ISOULATION_ (3+ Players, Google doc character generation, video)
Welcome to the year 2125. Everyday life on Earth is much the same as it always was: people still work and still play, many are in conflict, and many more are in love. But there has been a single monumental change to the human condition brought about by the invention of the ISOULATOR - a device capable of transferring a human soul, memories and all, between bodies. Thanks to this, many aspects of identity have been washed away: physically-dictated traits, like gender, race, or appearance, are all now separated entirely from the question of “who are you?” A person may, in their lifetime, inhabit dozens or even hundreds of bodies as they criss-cross the globe, experiencing the world through many eyes and with many hands.
Like all commonplace technology, the ISOULATOR can also be used to fill the time. Today, for instance, you find yourself video-chatting with a group of new friends from the comfort of your respective homes. Though separated by vast distances you could never physically cross, you do each have an ISOULATOR, complete with upload and download capabilities. At the press of a button, you could be in your new friend’s body, and they could be in yours. It’s a whole new world… https://reluctantpirategames.itch.io/isoulation
Gazetteer: A Gygaxian Storygame
Gazetteer is what happens when you hold OSR crowdsourcing, sometimes called “Gygaxian democracy” in one hand, new-fangled online Storygaming in the other, and scream “NOW KISS”. It is a game of map-detailing and collaborative storymaking, functioning by means of questions and answers. It is led by a facilitator who is required to talk like a pompous blowhard of an explorer throughout. For the players, it is a game of creative writing – and specifically, writing about being dragged by a ridiculous boss into misadventure in pursuit of new horizons and material for his travelogues. https://www.drivethrurpg.com/product/268040
The Astronaut’s Journal (2 players, letter writing)
The Astronaut is alone on a spacecraft hurtling through deep space. The Astronaut begins to write in their journal, only to discover a mysterious Correspondent responds in the same journal. https://smallgodspress.itch.io/the-astronauts-journal
Echo Radio (2 Players, audio recording)
In this game, both players play the same character; they discover an old two-way radio, but in two different worlds. They both reach for it, but one of them speaks first. The only differences between them are the world they live in, and who speaks through the radio first. At least, to begin with….
In Echo Radio, the worlds of your characters become unique through information loss. This information loss occurs because of the ephemerality of radio. When you repeat their world back to them, your world becomes their world, but half-remembered and differing strangely. https://smallgodspress.itch.io/echo-radio
Subway Runners (Forged in the Dark for online – play via video and random generators)
Life is tough for the cash-strapped in Pociopolis. Ever since the secret to immortality was discovered, nobody retires anymore! With all the steady jobs taken and no sign of any new ones opening up, there’s only one sure way to make some quick cash: sign up as a Subway Runner and work for the Metro Authority to hunt monsters and repair subway lines below the city. https://gemroomgames.itch.io/subwayrunners
Love & Barbed Wire (2 Players – letter writing)
During the First World War the static nature of trench warfare meant that there was a constant stream of letters between the soldiers and the home front. Letters of love and affection, hopes and fears went back and forth. All too often the communications were cut short by the death of the soldier or a cooling of the relationship.
This game allows two players to explore a relationship between two people separated in space. Playing cards are used as a game mechanic to help you create an imagined relationship between two people from a century ago. https://planesailinggames.com/games/love-and-barbed-wire.html
More Games that work well remotely with some adjustments:
The Quiet Year – https://buriedwithoutceremony.com/the-quiet-year
Apotheosis – https://gmurphy.itch.io/apotheosis
A Collection of Games for Far Away Players – https://itch.io/c/548859/far-away-players
Social Distancing LARP Jam – https://itch.io/jam/social-distancing-larp-jam/entries
An Overview of existing LAOGs – Live Action Online Games – https://alles-ist-zahl.blogspot.com/2020/03/an-overview-of-existing-laogs-live.html
A Manifesto for LAOGs – https://nordiclarp.org/2019/06/14/a-manifesto-for-laogs-live-action-online-games/
Do you have other favorites I’ve missed? Please let me know!