“Would You Search Through the Lonely Earth For Me?” is a one-player journaling role-playing game (RPG) written by Michael Whelan and Zoe Delahunty-Light. To the uninitiated, one-player journaling RPGs usually use a six-sided die or a deck of cards that act as writing prompts, according to a table, and leads you on an adventure that you can play entirely on your own. Anyone who has played a tabletop RPG can tell you how difficult it can be to organise a group to play together – single player adventures like these can take out that uncertainty, allowing you to play at your own time, on your own terms.
Michael Whelan has a huge passion for board games and RPGs, and is a co-host of Dicebreaker, a website and YouTube channel bringing board games, RPGs and tabletop games to everyone. Whelan has already written a rules-light one-page RPG called Wiz-Nerds, where you play as a freshman wizard.
“Would You Search Through the Lonely Earth For Me?” was inspired by the first line of Zoe Delahunty-Light’s favourite song – “Detectorists” by Johnny Flynn. According to Whelan, when he heard it, it sparked an idea in his head. When he told Delahunty-Light, according to Whelan, she was excited by the idea and they decided to write it together.
Now, enough of the game’s backstory – what is it about?
You are a treasure. What that treasure is entirely up to you. It’s you, after all. The game is designed to work in any setting – dystopia, fantasy, the far flung past, the modern day, it is entirely up to you. All you need is somewhere to write it, and a 10-sided die. You roll the die 4 times each round. Using the results, you construct the Where, Who, How Long, and Tone. Where are you? Who possesses you? How long will you be there? What is the tone of your time there? The one page of rules reminds you to keep certain questions in mind as you write about your experiences, such as how lonely you are, and how are you treated?
For my first playthrough, I’ve decided I am a stone. Small, unassuming, smooth, and I swiftly warm to the touch. After all – a treasure is what you make of it. I have had small stones that I have picked up in the past, from beaches or from spiritual stores while picking up scented oils for my oil burner (I’m a sucker for lavender). So that’s where I started.
I was in a place of transition. I was picked up by a thief. We spent years together. And the tone was fearful. So, my stone’s story beings in a prison yard, where I am cared for and hidden away, kept secret from other prisoners and guards. I am stroked with his thumb often within his pocket. I was passed to his daughter, a university student, who kept me in her pencil case, neglected, covered in graphite shavings, before thrown across a river, where I was picked up by a priest.
The prompts worked out better than I had even imagined they would once I started. I rolled my die, wrote down the 4 results, and jotted down what they corresponded to. And from there, the words would flow.
I’ve always been a writer – heck, I’m writing now, aren’t I? – but that hobby had fallen down the wayside as life got in the way. But I found myself struggling to stop, as my stone’s story unfolded before me. If it weren’t for my insistence to write on pen and paper combined with a wrist injury, I might have written even more before jumping into this review.
“Would You Search Through the Lonely Earth For Me?” is a thoughtful exercise in creativity and insight, with no time limit, and no restrictions. You can play it all in one day, or you can spread it across weeks, months, years. You’re not being graded or judged. Only you have to see it. I’ve always been a fan of journaling – I’ve found it can really help your mental health to get the intrusive thoughts onto paper and out of your head – and this is a new way to approach it in an imaginative setting. Be your own treasure. Explore the world. Or, just stay in a thief’s pocket. It’s entirely up to you.
“Would You Search Through the Lonely Earth For Me?” can be purchased at https://wheelsrpgs.itch.io/, along with other RPGs written by Wheelan. You can find Wheelan at @kubewhelan and on Dicebreaker, and you can find Delahunty-Light at @zoe_dels and on Eurogamer.