The Skeletons is meditative structured freeform game for 1-6 players. You’ll need a few hours and a private space.
Years fly by like dead leaves. Everything is darkness. Everything is silence. You stand vigilant before the sarcophagus without thought or breath-such is your compulsion. You do not remember your name and still you watch. The flesh has fallen off your bones and still you watch.
And then one day there is light and motion and you weigh your bearded axe and raise your shield, lusting for the fray, eager to measure your skill against these tomb-robbing children so full of blood. You’ll never be alive again, but in this moment-in the chaos between violation and destruction-you truly live, and you remember what you once were, and you taste the sun.
The Skeletons flips the script on the classic dungeon crawl— here you play not the intruders, but the guardians, cursed to spend all of eternity defending a tomb. As time passes, both the tomb and its guardians will change. Ferocious battles are fought and won, and the skeletons slowly remember who and what they once were. Melancholy, introspective and spanning epochs, The Skeletons is unlike anything you’ve ever played.
The printed edition is a 60 page, 6×9 booklet game that includes the rules for the basic game as well as variant settings by Jason Morningstar and Sara Williamson. The digital edition (included with the book) is a 15 page, letter-sized PDF of the rules and An additional 9 page PDF for the character sheets (see below), each loaded with unique, interconnecting questions whose answers will be revealed in play.
Developer and fan Larry Lade produced a handy web app to provide evocative, mournful audio cues to the game’s meditative intervals. You can find the app here: The Skeleton Tomb.
Our friends at Bored Ghost produced two two-part episodes of Skeletons actual play, which you can listen to here:
“Well, that’s a first for me. I’ve never been asked to imagine myself as a cursed skeleton condemned to guard a sarcophagus for centuries until finally meeting my tragic end at the hands of a mad necromancer! That was definitely a lot of fun and an excellent example of how gamification can foster creativity and how games can become vehicles for helping students think about writing from an unexpected and unconventional angle. I love how the game challenges kids to flesh out (ha! get it?) their characters gradually. The idea of only being able to answer a few questions at a time after each round is genius … It gets them thinking about genres and ways to twist them in new and exciting ways. Awesome lesson.” – Steve Krueger, English Department Chair, Trinity Preparatory School
“The mechanics were light enough to not be a pain but existent enough that I didn’t feel abandoned by the writers or anything. Great replayability potential, and it led us in some storytelling directions I don’t think we would have gone on our own. Easily worth the price for the PDF, and I can imagine buying a hard copy to make it easier to play IRL. This might be a good game to play with (older) kids to introduce them to the idea of tabletop gaming; I can definitely see my younger cousins, nieces, and nephews, having fun with this.” – Annie C, DrivethruRPG
“Played this game tonight with my regular group instead of our regular game. I hadn’t done my prep this week so it seemed like a good excuse to pull this one off the shelf. I was skeptical if this game was going to work as intended, but was pleasantly surprised at how quickly my players picked it up. We made a great story about honor, loss, and what meaning a human life can have after it is long forgotten. I would recommend this game to GMs needing a one shot to fill a week when you don’t have time to prep or to any story gamer types to be part of your regular rotation of games.” – Scott A, DrivethruRPG
“I read through the rules a few weeks back, and one thing that impressed me was the concept of time passing. During many points of the game, time will pass, and that informs how long the players then sit, in the dark, in silence (or with appropriate ambient music playing). I also liked the way the play seemed smooth and simple, with questions and cues.” – Art of Story Through Gaming: The Skeletons