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DOWNFALL

CAROLINE HOBBS
DOWNFALL

Copyright © 2015 by Caroline Hobbs

All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced or


transmitted in any form or by any means without written permission
from the author.

Game by Caroline Hobbs

Art by Audrey Gibson & Caroline Hobbs

Edited by Marc Hobbs and Ben Robbins

Interior art based on photographs courtesy of Getty Images

First Edition 2015

ISBN 978-0-9967062-0-9
Dedicated to Story Games Seattle
for opening so many new worlds
CONTENTS
INTRODUCTION HAVEN GUIDES
What is Downfall?������������������� 7 What are Guides?������������������ 44
What you Need������������������������ 7 Adventure�����������������������������45
Facilitating a Game����������������� 7 The City������������������������������ 46
Creation��������������������������������47
CREATE THE WORLD Cyber����������������������������������� 48
Overview: Creation����������������10 Dystopia�������������������������������49
Define the Flaw�����������������������11 Fable������������������������������������ 50
Describe the Haven����������������12 Interstellar����������������������������51
Step 1: Choose the Elements���12 Society����������������������������������52
Step 2: Define the Setting��������13 Superhuman�������������������������53
Traditions��������������������������������14 Unspeakable������������������������ 54
Step 1: Choose a Category������14 Web��������������������������������������55
Step 2: Create a Tradition�������15
Step 3: Add a Symbol��������������16 DISCUSSION & AFTERWORD
Step 4: Repeat��������������������������16 Play Advice���������������������������� 58
Name the Haven���������������������17 Facilitator Tips������������������������ 58
Overview: Characters������������18 Choosing a Flaw��������������������� 59
The Hero����������������������������������19 Custom Elements�������������������� 59
The Fallen������������������������������� 20 Sharing Characters����������������� 60
The Pillar���������������������������������21 Roots���������������������������������������61
Example Haven Creation������ 22 Thank You����������������������������� 62
Example Character Creation���26 Playtesters������������������������������ 63

DESTROY THE WORLD MATERIALS


Overview: Destruction���������� 30 Character Sheets�������������������� 66
Corruption����������������������������� 32 Hero����������������������������������������� 66
Scenes������������������������������������� 33 Fallen��������������������������������������� 67
Framing Scenes����������������������� 33 Pillar���������������������������������������� 68
Playing Scenes ������������������������ 34 Downfall Reference��������������� 70
Secondary Characters������������ 35
Ending Scenes������������������������� 36
Dying��������������������������������������� 36
Consequences������������������������� 37
Reflection������������������������������� 39
Rotate Characters������������������ 40
Collapse�����������������������������������41

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INTRODUCTION
Our home is breaking, and we have no one to blame but ourselves.
We built a flawed society, and soon it will destroy itself.

Though most of us can’t perceive the coming doom,


a Hero arises to fight against the impending collapse.

Downfall is the story of how we try to save


our society and ourselves, and fail.

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WHAT IS DOWNFALL?
Downfall is a collaborative role-playing game for 3 people. The
game takes 2-4 hours to play. During play we’ll create a fictional
society together, then play out its destruction.

The object of the game is to find out how our society collapses and
to make its downfall tragic, beautiful, and meaningful. Together
we’ll create a rich world, play characters struggling amidst the
growing chaos, and witness the self-destruction of our home.

WHAT YOU NEED


The game is designed to be played from scratch. You don’t need to
prepare any plot or character materials beforehand. Simply gather
the following items:

ཙཙ One copy of each character sheet


ཙཙ 7 index cards
ཙཙ A pen or pencil for each player

FACILITATING A GAME
It’s best to have read the rules before playing for the first time. The
text is laid out so that it should be easy to flip through the book to
remind yourself of the next step when you’re teaching the game.

Each section has an overview of information, and there’s a quick


reference of the rules on page 70.

7
8
CREATE THE WORLD

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OVERVIEW: CREATION
Our game is set in the Haven, a flourishing society that is ultimately
destined to fall. The cause of this destruction is the Flaw. It is a
human trait that we’ll see expressed through the culture of our
Haven, and is the philosophical foundation upon which the Haven
was built. The Flaw is the core theme of our game.

We’ll craft our home by selecting Elements, which are ideas we’ll
take as inspiration to help us make a unique world. Once we’ve
established the physical details of the Haven, we’ll create the
society’s Traditions.

Traditions are the practices and beliefs that define our Haven’s
culture. They embody the Flaw. Traditions seem benign at the
outset, but during play we’ll gradually twist them into sources of
corruption within the Haven.

With these few simple steps, we’ll have created a whole society
together, complete with a rich physical description and an
interesting and detailed culture.

If you don’t want to build a setting from scratch or what to work


within a specific genre, you can use one of the Guides in the back
of this book.

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DEFINE THE FLAW
At the root of our society is a Flaw, a human failing that will cause
our self-destruction. The Flaw is a social trait that most people in
our society believe is beneficial. Our culture was built on the Flaw,
but ultimately the Flaw will cause our downfall.

Choose the Flaw together, then discuss what it means. The


Flaw will be the theme of the game, so we should choose one that
interests everyone. We should discuss the Flaw enough that we all
agree on its definition.

Write the Flaw in the center of an index card. Save space above and
below it. We will describe how the Flaw manifests itself within the
society in a later step.

Example Flaws
Ambition Jealousy Pride
Classism Loyalty Racism
Complacency Materialism Selfishness
Cowardice Nationalism Sexism
Greed Perfectionism Vanity

PERFECTIONISM

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DESCRIBE THE HAVEN
Together we’ll create the setting for our game. The society we’ll be
exploring throughout the game is called the Haven. The Haven is
about to be destroyed by its own failings, but now, when we create
it, the Haven still seems like a healthy, thriving society.

STEP 1: CHOOSE THE ELEMENTS


Each of us contributes an Element that will inspire the setting.
These Elements are the foundation of the world we’ll create.

Secretly choose one of the Elements from the list below. Write your
Element on a scrap of paper or just remember it for a moment. After
we’ve individually chosen our Elements, share them with the group
and then write them on the index card beneath the Flaw.

Don’t change your mind after you’ve seen the other Elements. A
surprising combination is part of the fun.

Elements

Air Echo Islands Silence


Blood Empire Light Sky
Cave Fire Mountain Smog
Chains Grass Music Steam
Clouds Grave Noise Steel
Death Gravity Rain Swarm
Dirt Highway Red Trees
Dream Hills Sand Void
Dust Ink Sea Water

or make your own

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STEP 2: DEFINE THE SETTING
Using the three Elements, create the physical world and the Haven
that exists within it. Brainstorm the setting together, spending a
few minutes describing how each Element (or their combinations)
defines the world and the Haven. Make sure to use all three
Elements. Don’t talk about the culture yet; we’ll do that in the next
step.

Our goal is to have a short, clear description of what the Haven


looks like–something you’d be able to summarize in a few sentences.

The Elements are trees, ink, and noise. After talking about it for a
few minutes, we decide the Haven is a large forest atop an intricate
system of rivers. The river-water runs thick and black, like ink,
from the tree sap that leaks into it. We live in a boisterous city
formed by trees that have been shaped into buildings. The noise
comes from the bustle of the city and the creaking of trees as they
twist into new shapes. Outside the boundary of our tree-city are
bands of rogue forest dwellers–outsiders that we rarely see. Beyond
the forest are hilly plains shrouded in mist.
Make sure you have enough of a setting to really know what the
place looks like. You might want to spend a little bit of time talking
about the world beyond the Haven as well. It might not always be
applicable, but it’s often useful to know what surrounds our Haven.

This isn’t the end of our discussion about what the setting looks like.
We should continue talking about the setting in later steps, learning
more about it throughout the whole game.

PERFECTIONISM
trees, ink, noise

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TRADITIONS
The Haven was built with the Flaw at its center, and the Flaw
reveals itself in our culture through Traditions.

Traditions are the customs, beliefs, and practices that show how
the Flaw manifests itself in the society. They are something we do or
believe. Traditions can describe how we interact within the Haven
or even how we interact with groups or forces outside of the Haven.

We’ll create six Traditions that embody the Flaw and show us
the culture of our society, and during play we’ll watch as they are
corrupted.

STEP 1: CHOOSE A CATEGORY


Give everyone an index card. Take turns choosing a category for
the Tradition you want to create from the list below. Tell the other
players what category you choose, and write it in small letters in the
top right corner of your index card. Don’t choose the same category
as another player.

Categories
Architecture Employment Hospitality
Art Entertainment Justice
Birth Family Love
Communication Fashion Military
Death Food Naming
Economics Government Relationships
Education Grief Religion

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STEP 2: CREATE A TRADITION
Each player creates one Tradition. We’ll take turns creating
Traditions–we can go in any order.

Think of a Tradition related to the category you chose. Then


describe the Tradition and explain how it reflects the Flaw. If you
can’t think of a reason why it embodies or exemplifies the Flaw,
think of a different Tradition.

After you’ve described your Tradition to the other players, write it


on the top half of your index card, under the category, and draw a
line below it. Write as few words as necessary–what you say is more
important than what you write.

Other players can ask questions, but they shouldn’t give suggestions.
Answer any questions the other players have, taking your time and
making sure everyone understands the Tradition before moving
on.

RELATIONSHIPS
People proclaim their love in the
Forbidden Grove

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STEP 3: ADD A SYMBOL
We’ll create a symbol for each Tradition. A symbol is a person,
place, or thing that’s emblematic of the Tradition. Symbols give us
additional information about the Tradition and provide a tangible
way to show the Tradition in play.

Symbols can be objects, tools, icons, locations, emblems, people,


etc. For example, a white flag is emblematic of surrender, rings
represent marriage, the Office of the President is an symbol of
executive power, etc. Symbols can be general (e.g. trees) or specific
(e.g. The Elder Tree).

Pass your index card to the left, and add a symbol to the Tradition
you received. Describe the symbol, then write it on the bottom of
the card. You can also draw a picture of your symbol if you want to.

Other players can ask questions to get more details about the symbol.

RELATIONSHIPS
People proclaim their love in the
Forbidden Grove


Black leaf kept by the couple as
proof

STEP 4: REPEAT
We each create another Tradition. This time, we pass our Traditions
to the right to add a symbol. In the end, there should be a total of
six completed Traditions.

You can pick a category that was already used in the first round, just
don’t choose the same category someone else chooses this round.

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NAME THE HAVEN
Finally, think of a name for the Haven together, and write it on
the index card above the Flaw. This name is how we refer to our
society, even if the outside world calls us something different.

Keep the Haven information and the Traditions in the center of the
table where everyone can access them easily.

Forest of Drasil

PERFECTIONISM
trees, ink, noise

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OVERVIEW: CHARACTERS
At the center of our game is a Hero, someone willing to stand
against the Flaw in the face of the Haven’s coming destruction. The
Hero is our main character, and through their struggles we see the
world fall.

There are many forces at work leading to the destruction of the


Haven. Even as the Hero works to save the world, the Fallen works
to promote the very Flaw that will destroy it. The Fallen is our
main antagonist, representing the people who try to strengthen
and enforce the Flaw, even if it spells doom for the Haven.

The society also has many average citizens, who are content with
life in the flawed Haven. The Pillar is the character that represents
these ordinary people–they accept the Flaw and the status quo
while ignoring or apologizing for the harm the Flaw does to the
Haven.

We’ll take turns playing the Hero as the Haven collapses. When
you aren’t playing the Hero, you’ll play a supporting role as either
the Fallen or the Pillar.

Create the three characters together. Character creation is a


collaborative process. Go for the obvious, create tight relationships,
and don’t worry about fleshing out the characters fully during
creation. We’ll get to know them more as we play.

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THE HERO
The main character of our game is called the Hero. The Hero
recognizes the Haven's coming doom and tries to prevent it. They
are our only hope, and yet they will fail.

To create the Hero, discuss each of the following questions as a


group and write your answers on the Hero’s character sheet:

ཙཙ Occupation: Choose a Tradition and give the Hero a


position or role in the Haven that relates to it.

ཙཙ Rebellion: Choose a Tradition that the Hero disagrees


with, and explain why they oppose it. This can be a
different Tradition from their Occupation, or the same
one.

ཙཙ Identity: Describe the Hero. What do they look like?


What’s their name?

The Hero wants to save the Haven. When you play the Hero,
recognize and fix the problems growing inside the Haven as it
collapses. Fight in earnest, despite your inevitable failure.

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THE FALLEN
The Fallen actively promotes the Flaw’s growth within the Haven.
There are many in the Haven who support the Flaw; the Fallen is
just one of them. They are an antagonist who creates challenges for
the Hero throughout play.

Discuss and write the following on the Fallen’s character sheet:

ཙཙ Relationship to the Hero: What is the connection


between the Fallen and the Hero? Choose one and
describe it: family, friend, guardian, leader, lover

ཙཙ Occupation: Choose a Tradition and give the Fallen a


position or role in the Haven that relates to it.

ཙཙ Identity: Describe the Fallen. What does the Fallen look


like? What’s their name?

When you play the Fallen, your role is to challenge and oppose the
Hero while advocating for the Flaw.

While we as players know the Flaw is going to destroy us, the


Fallen might honestly believe it won’t. Alternatively, they might be
fully aware of the danger but have other reasons for proceeding
regardless.

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THE PILLAR
The Pillar is a normal person in the Haven, content to live in
the society they are a part of. There are many within the Haven
who are complacent; the Pillar is just one of them. They push the
Hero toward accepting the status quo. However, the Pillar is not
necessarily opposed to the Hero–they’re someone the Hero can
talk to about the Haven.

Discuss and write the following on the Pillar’s character sheet:

ཙཙ Relationship to the Hero: What is the connection


between the Pillar and the Hero? Choose one and describe
it: family, friend, guardian, leader, lover

ཙཙ Occupation: Choose a Tradition and give the Pillar a


position or role in the Haven that relates to it.

ཙཙ Identity: Describe the Pillar. What does the Pillar look


like? What’s their name?

When you play the Pillar, resist change. Apologize for or ignore the
harm caused by the Flaw. Your role is to complicate and support
the Hero while upholding the Flaw.

Don’t worry about giving the Pillar a connection to the Fallen.


The characters’ connections to the Hero are what drive the game
forward.

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EXAMPLE HAVEN CREATION
CHOOSING THE FLAW
Dale, Mez, and Amie are sitting down to play a game of
Downfall. First they choose the Flaw. Amie is interested in
exploring Distrust, and Mez and Dale agree. They decide that
for this game Distrust means not knowing who you can trust,
including whether you can really rely on yourself. Amie writes
Distrust in large letters in the center of an index card.

DISTRUST

DESCRIBING THE HAVEN


Each player secretly chooses an Element. They choose rain,
dream, and echo. They write the words on the index card beneath
the Flaw.

DISTRUST
rain, dream, echo

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Dale: So let’s talk about the physical world. We have echo,
rain, and dream.
A mie: Yeah. I’m picturing a city where it’s always rainy. But
like, there’s neon and stuff. It’s grung y and moody.
Dale: Cyberpunk?
A mie: Totally.
M ez: And maybe the echo part is like what the city used to
be. Like it was once a shining, prosperous place, but now it’s
decaying.
Dale: Sounds cool. What about the dream part?
A mie: If the city was once really fancy, maybe it was like a
‘city of tomorrow’ kind of thing. Like a dream city, an ideal
city.
Dale: That sounds awesome! So it’s all retrofitted with new
tech on top of old buildings and outdated machines?
M ez: Yeah, and what if the rain is from a broken weather
machine? Like, it was supposed to keep the city sunny and
perfect, but now it’s just stuck on rain?
A mie: That’s really cool. This place is really film noir.
M ez: Cyber noir!
A mie: Yes!
M ez: It sounds like we have a pretty clear idea of what the
Haven looks like. Are you ready to move on and start talking
about our culture? …

CREATING TRADITIONS
Mez picks hospitality for her category, Dale picks justice, and
Amie picks relationships. They think for a minute, then Mez has
an idea for a Tradition, so she goes first.

M ez: I have an idea for Hospitality. So what if we don’t


reveal our names to people when we meet them? Instead we just
speak in generalities and vague terms. There’s a lot of ‘friend’

23
and nicknames based on what you’re wearing, like ‘top hat’
or something.
A mie: Seems obvious, but let’s make sure: how does it relate
to the Flaw?
M ez: People don’t trust each other. Revealing your name to
someone is a huge deal, so you don’t do that until you’re really
far into a relationship.
After everyone has created their first Tradition, they pass their
Traditions to the left.

Dale creates a symbol for Mez’s tradition. He describes how


people decide upon a password when they are getting to know
someone, and that they exchange passwords when they meet
again as a sign of intimacy.

M ez: So how do people exchange the passwords?


Dale: Well, the passwords are always compound nouns, so
maybe I’d say, “Sun” and you’d reply, “Rise”.

HOSPITALITY
We don’t reveal our names when
meeting someone.

A password you both decide


on when you begin working
together.

The other players create symbols for the remaining two


Traditions, then everyone picks categories again to make three
more Traditions.

NAMING THE HAVEN


They decide to name the Haven Beacon City.

24
Beacon City
DISTRUST
rain, dream, echo

HOSPITALITY RELATIONSHIPS
We don’t reveal our names when We hire detectives to follow any
meeting someone. new would-be friends or partners.

A password you both decide Private eye: detectives have one


on when you begin working cybernetic eye that they conceal
together. with a contact lens.

JUSTICE DEATH
Everyone knows the police are Faking your own death is common
paid to serve their wealthy in order to get out of trouble.
patrons, not the people.
Paper runs daily obits where
Can’t trust people because they
people hide messages to tell
might be undercover cops–can’t
friends they’re not dead. Reading
know until you see their badge.
obits is a common pastime.

ENTERTAINMENT EMPLOYMENT
We drink hallucinatory booze to Everyone’s a temp. Jobs are
escape our loneliness. dispensed by contract vending
machines.

“Hooch” comes in many colors Rare ‘Golden Contracts’ worth


and has various side effects. more, but involve crime and can’t
be refused.

25
EXAMPLE CHARACTER CREATION
CREATING THE HERO
They take out the Hero’s character sheet and start discussing
the Hero’s occupation. They end up choosing the “We hire
detectives to follow any new would-be friends or partners”
Tradition and decide the Hero is a hard-boiled detective with
a chip on her shoulder and a quick trigger finger.

For the Hero’s rebellion, they choose the “Everyone’s a temp”


Tradition. The Hero believes that some level of trust should be
formed between employer and employee, so she always meets
her clients in person, rather than through a screen or letter.

They decide the Hero is 32-year-old Ruby, a professional


detective in a fedora and trench coat. She has long black hair
and an even longer gaze. Her one organic eye is sharp and
black, with a matching contact covering her “private eye.”

CREATING THE FALLEN


They go on to create the Fallen. They decide the Hero and the
Fallen are in a romantic relationship, and, after discussing it
for a moment, decide that the Hero and Fallen are occasional
lovers who keep their private lives totally separate from their
encounters with each other.

For the Fallen, they choose the “Everyone knows the police are
paid to serve their wealthy patrons, not the people” Tradition.
Unbeknown to Ruby, the Fallen is an undercover officer.

The Fallen is Jupiter, an attractive cop who works to further


the interests of the corporations and citizens who sponsor him.
He has a careworn face and a cautious, but kind smile–he’s
seen enough of people to know they can’t be trusted. His skin is
a deep bronze, and he keeps his hair short and slicked.

26
CREATING THE PILLAR
Finally they take out the Pillar’s character sheet. For the
relationship with the Hero, they decide the Pillar is the Hero’s
sister.

For the Pillar’s occupation they choose the “We drink


hallucinatory booze to escape our loneliness” Tradition. They
decide the Pillar works at a local speakeasy called The Lam.

She’s a tough bartender with lots of tattoos, piercings, and


cybernetic implants. Her name is Diane, but everyone calls her
Frosty for two reasons: because of her most pronounced Hooch
side-effect, ice-white eyes, and because of her fake friendliness
that masks her distrust of everyone around her.

27
28
DESTROY THE WORLD

29
OVERVIEW: DESTRUCTION
Now that we’ve created our unique Haven, we’ll play scenes and
narrate the story to see how it is destroyed by the Flaw and the
failures of the people who live there. We’ll take turns playing
the characters in their dying world and explore their roles in the
downfall of their home. This overview is a summary of playing the
game–each step is covered in detail in this chapter.

Choose someone to play the Hero first. Give them the Hero’s
character sheet. The person on their left will play the Fallen first,
and the person on their right will play the Pillar first. We’ll role-
play each character in turn. The Pillar’s player is responsible for
making sure everyone has the correct character sheet throughout
the game.

STEP 1: CORRUPTION
The Pillar’s player describes a Tradition being corrupted by the Flaw.

STEP 2: HERO FRAMES A SCENE


The Hero’s player frames a scene about the Hero. The scene may
be a reaction to the corruption or something unrelated in the
Hero’s life.

STEP 3: FALLEN FRAMES A SCENE


The Fallen’s player frames a scene about the Hero. This can be a
continuation of the previous scene or something else happening in
the Hero’s life. Show how the downfall develops based on what the
Hero did or didn’t do to help the Haven. Challenge the Hero and
make life difficult for them.

STEP 4: REFLECTION
The Hero reflects on the current state of the Haven. The Hero
briefly narrates their thoughts and feelings about the Haven as a
reflection on the previous two scenes.

30
After the reflection in the second round of play (and on every
subsequent round of play) we’ll decide together if we are close to
the end of the game. If we decide it’s time to destroy the Haven,
the following round will be the final one, and instead of rotating
characters we’ll continue to the Collapse.

STEP 5: ROTATE CHARACTERS


Give your character sheet to the player on your right.

COLLAPSE
After the final scene, each player narrates a short vignette from the
Hero’s perspective about the Haven as it collapses.

31
CORRUPTION
At the heart of our self-destruction is the Flaw. Although the Flaw
helped us build our Haven, it is now destroying our home by
corrupting our Traditions.

Whoever has the Pillar’s character sheet narrates the corrupting


force of the Flaw within the Haven. While the Pillar’s player is the
one who narrates the corruption, the Pillar character is not the one
causing the event to occur.

The Pillar’s player chooses a Tradition, then describes a


new situation or current event where the Flaw is causing the
Tradition to become harmful. You should be able to describe the
corruption in a sentence or two, and it must relate to the Tradition
you chose.

The corruption is common knowledge, and most people in the


Haven should be aware of its existence even if they have different
interpretations of its significance.

M ez (P illar): I want to corrupt the “Jobs are dispersed by


vending machines” Tradition. So the police have started creating
illegal golden contracts and then tracking and arresting the people
who take them.
Dale: Whoa, so we can’t even trust the jobs we get anymore.
M ez (P illar): Yep. A golden job might mean a lot of money, or it
might mean instant arrest. You have to be careful.
In the beginning of your game you can start with low-key problems,
or jump right into huge disasters. It’s fine to showcase the same
corruption multiple times, just make sure it grows with each
iteration. Throughout play we’ll build up to greater and greater
instances of corruption until at last the Haven collapses.

32
SCENES
Scenes are always about the Hero, and the Hero must be in
every scene. Use scenes to challenge the Hero while exploring
their life and relationships. During scenes we get to explore the
Flaw and its corruption of the Haven.

We’ll play at least six scenes (two as each character). We can choose
to destroy the world and end the game after we’ve played all six
scenes and each person has played the Hero.

FRAMING SCENES
The Hero’s player frames the first scene and the Fallen’s player
frames the second scene.

As the Hero, you should frame scenes that explore the Hero’s life,
show how the Hero reacts to the corruption, or show how the Hero
works to save the Haven from the Flaw.

As the Fallen, frame scenes that challenge the Hero. Show the
repercussions of the Hero’s actions (or inaction) from the previous
scene and put the Hero in difficult situations.

Frame scenes by giving the following information:


ཙཙ Where is the Hero?
ཙཙ Who is with the Hero?
ཙཙ What is the situation?

Assign secondary characters. The scene-framer chooses who is


in the scene and who is going to play any secondary characters
that might be involved. Because the Hero is in every scene, the
Hero must always role-play themselves. The Fallen and Pillar may
play secondary characters as the scene demands. It’s okay to frame
scenes with just one or two characters. If you want a character to
join mid-scene, you need the scene-framer’s permission to do so.

Dan (Fallen, Lt. Griego): Okay, so I’m at a banquet


celebrating the opening of a new military medical facility. I’m going
to blackmail the Major to give me access to the research lab. So,

33
Gene, you’ll obviously play the Major, since she’s the Pillar. Lee,
can you play my escort?
L ee (Hero, Col . Rogers): No dude, I have to play the Hero.
Remember, every scene is about the Hero.
Dan (Fallen, Lt. Griego): Oh duh. Sorry. Let me re-frame
that so the Hero’s featured. Instead of blackmailing the Major I’m
going to enlist the support of the Hero. Rogers is moving from group
to group, looking very pleased with himself. As we saw in the last
scene, it’s due to his bargain with the senate that this facility ever
got funded. Gene, sorry but I think this scene is just me and the
Hero.
Gene (P illar, M aj. Chen): No problem.
L ee (Hero, Col . Rogers): Awesome. When I see Lt. Griego
approaching I raise my eyebrows.…

PLAYING SCENES
During scenes, describe what your character says, does, thinks, and
feels. Express your character as fully as possible. You have a limited
amount of time to play each character before the next person gets
them.

When you play your character, say what you do and what
the outcomes of your actions are. Sometimes your actions will
affect other characters; that's okay. You can describe what you do
to another character and what happens to them. You just can't say
what another character does or thinks.

Each character has a different role to play in the story. When


you play a character, try to stick to your role. The Hero is the star of
every scene, so all scenes should be about them and their life. When
you play the Hero, your role is to try to save the Haven from its
destruction. Even if the Hero is someone insignificant in the Haven,
they have the ability to perform meaningful actions. The Hero can
raise armies, overthrow governments, shape religions–they have
great power, but often at a cost.

34
Like the Hero, the Fallen can have a lot of power in the Haven.
However, they always support the Flaw. When you play the Fallen,
you should challenge and antagonize the Hero. Put the Hero in
situations where they must either support the Flaw or lose something
that they care about. Give the Hero’s actions consequences.

The Pillar is different. The Pillar is an average member of the Haven,


content with the status quo. When you play the Pillar, provide the
Hero someone to communicate with about their problems. Don’t
try to change the Haven. Leave that to the Fallen and the Hero.

SECONDARY CHARACTERS
Secondary characters are everyone aside from the Hero, Fallen,
and Pillar, and may include people just introduced or people who
were introduced in previous scenes.

When the Pillar or Fallen plays a secondary character, they


should continue playing their role. When the Fallen controls a
secondary character, they should use that character to challenge the
Hero and support the Flaw. When the Pillar controls a secondary
character, they should use them to show the life and attitudes of an
average citizen.

A secondary character can be played by the Fallen in one


scene and by the Pillar in another. A change in control between
scenes may signal a change in the character’s attitude.

In the previous scene the Pillar controlled Giselle, a secondary


character who was wary of the Haven’s military intervention in the
north. Now the Fallen is controlling Giselle, and describes how she
changed her mind and enlisted after her brother was kidnapped by
northern forces.

35
ENDING SCENES
Limit your scenes to one cohesive segment of action. When the
purpose of the scene has been fulfilled, it’s time to end it.

Anyone can decide that the scene should end. If you think the
scene has reached a natural conclusion, simply say “Scene.”

Fallen: I sneer at B-66. “Oh proud android that you are. See
how you’ve abandoned your post to follow your foolish ideals.” I
laugh at the obvious hypocrisy.
Hero: “My post is meaningless if the whole ship falls apart.”
B-66 reattaches its arm and rolls away. Scene.
If someone has one more short thing they’d like to add at the end of
the scene, that’s fine, but limit it to one or two sentences only, and
don’t extend the action.

DYING
The Hero cannot die during play.

If the Fallen or Pillar dies, continue playing the same role but
with secondary characters. We also have the option to claim
one of the already-established secondary characters or create a
new secondary character to fill the role. That character is now
exclusively the Pillar’s or Fallen’s to play.

Constantine is playing the Fallen and his character dies. Together


we choose to assign a secondary character, the Hero’s daughter, as
the new Fallen. The Pillar can no longer play the daughter in
future scenes. Because the Fallen now controls the daughter, it’s
clear that she’s going to be an antagonistic force in the Hero’s life.
We don’t have to assign someone to fill the role of a dead character
and can just continue playing secondary characters if we’d prefer.
Likewise, we don’t need to choose a character right away. It may
become apparent later on that a secondary character should now
be permanently attached to a particular role.

36
CONSEQUENCES
During scenes the Hero may do something you think should result
in an unforeseen consequence. When you play as the Fallen, you
should look for opportunities to create consequences for the Hero’s
actions.

A consequence is something that happens to the Hero or the Haven


as a result of the Hero’s action. It’s the cost of action–what the Hero
sacrifices when they get their way.

When you play the Hero and you want to do something, simply
narrate what the Hero does and what the outcome is. After the
Hero has stated what they do and the results, the Fallen has the
option to add a consequence.

If the Fallen thinks that something the Hero does deserves a


consequence, the Fallen says “But there is a consequence…”
The Fallen then narrates the consequence that results from
the Hero’s action. After describing the consequence, the scene
continues. A scene can have multiple consequences, but there can
only be one consequence for each action taken by the Hero.

Consequences should be meaningful sacrifices or unfortunate


outcomes that naturally result from the Hero’s actions. They
shouldn’t undo what the Hero wanted to have happen or negate
the Hero’s intended outcome. While the Fallen’s player narrates
consequences, the Fallen’s character is not necessarily causing them.

The Fallen doesn’t need to be in the scene to describe a


consequence. Furthermore, the Fallen doesn’t need to add a
consequence for every significant action.

Hero: I hold the dying Jessica in my arms. “I can save you,” I


whisper. I use my ring to call energ y from the trees into her body.
She takes a deep breath and smiles, light returning to her eyes.
Fallen: But there is a consequence. By drawing energ y
from the trees, you have also drawn out their life. They wither even
as Jessica reawakens, the Grove of Sages dead at last.

37
Deciding when the Hero’s action requires a consequence is a matter
of your own judgment. If it feels like the Hero is doing something to
change the Haven or to change their situation in a major way, there
is probably a consequence. The Hero’s actions don’t necessarily
need to be huge or monumental. They can be small but significant
actions.

Hero: I take the crown from the dead king’s head. (Hero pauses,
expecting a consequence)
Fallen: You’re totally the king. There’s no consequence for that.
Hero: Great. I take the crown and scepter. Using my new power I
call the former king’s son to the chamber and say to him, “Now you
will serve your new parent.” The prince bows down before me and
raises a glowing orb, saying, “My magic is yours.”
Fallen: Cool. But there is a consequence. Your own child
is jealous of the prince. She backs away from you and hides behind
the throne, grasping the jeweled dagger you gave her.

38
REFLECTION
After two scenes, the Hero’s player says how the Hero feels about
the current state of the Haven. Does the Hero feel like the Haven is
stable? Or is the Haven about to collapse? Describe how the Hero
feels about the current state of the Haven in a sentence or two.

Hero: I now know that more augmentation will just lead to more
suffering–this endless quest for perfection is destroying our ability
to do anything else. I feel frustrated and angry, but most of all I feel
driven to do something about it.
Reflection allows us to pace our game. The Hero’s impressions help
us to judge how close the Haven is to its downfall. Use reflections
to highlight the Hero’s internal struggles as the world they love
destroys itself.

It also gives us a way to pass the Hero off to the next player. You can
use reflection to show the next player how the Hero might behave
in future scenes.

After we’ve played two rounds (two players have played the
Hero), we can decide if we’re ready to start the Haven’s final
collapse after the next round. After the reflection, decide if we
want the following round to be our last. If we decide it’s time to end
the game and destroy the Haven, then we’ll play two more scenes
and return to the reflection. After the final reflection we’ll move on
to the Collapse.

Each player must play the Hero before the Haven can be destroyed.

We don’t have to end after only three rounds. After each subsequent
reflection, just check in to see if the next round will be the last.

39
ROTATE CHARACTERS
After the Hero has reflected on the current state of the Haven, we
rotate characters.

Pass your character sheet to the player on your right. If you


played the Hero in this scene, you should receive the Fallen’s
character sheet. If you played the Fallen, you’ll get the Pillar’s
character sheet, and if you played the Pillar, you’ll receive the
Hero’s character sheet.

After we rotate characters, we start the cycle all over again–the


Pillar narrates corruption, the Hero frames a scene, the Fallen
frames a scene, reflection, rotation, and repeat.

Rotating characters can be hard–we’re all different players and


we have different interpretations of each character. It’s up to us to
make a character’s transition between players work well.

40
COLLAPSE
After we’ve role-played the last scene, each player gets to narrate a
final short moment as the Haven collapses.

If we haven’t seen the Haven collapse yet, this is the time to describe
its final destruction. At this point, the Hero is allowed to die if we
want.

Give the Pillar’s current player the index card with the
Haven’s information on it, and flip over the character sheets.
The player holding the card describes the Haven’s collapse
through the Hero’s perspective.

Pass the card to the right and repeat until everyone has narrated
a short vignette of the Haven’s collapse. Once every player has
narrated a final moment, the game ends.

The Hero sees the village’s agate houses shattered. He can’t tell
which is redder, the sky or the blood that runs along the ice.
He sees the survivors scattering, each carrying a shard from their
former home.
He looks at his reflection in the thinning ice, then falls to his knees,
pounding the ice until it cracks.
If the Hero dies before you make your vignette, use your vignette to
describe how their death worsens the Haven’s downfall.

The Haven has fallen, brought low by the very Flaw that once made
it great. Our Hero’s futile task is complete. Perhaps one day we can
salvage something from the ruins of our former home. Perhaps not.

41
42
HAVEN GUIDES

43
WHAT ARE GUIDES?
The Guides are playsets that help you generate a Haven with a specific
genre in mind. Each Guide includes Flaws, Elements, and Traditions
that fit the setting and help you create your world more quickly.

ཙཙ Pick the Flaw and Elements as normal, but use the list in the
Guide.

ཙཙ For the first three Traditions, pick a Starting Tradition and


complete the prompt. Then create symbols by passing the
Tradition to the left, as usual.

ཙཙ For the second three Traditions, pick a category from the list
provided and create the Traditions as usual.

Each Guide includes a list of names that you can use for characters.

Guides by Genre
Fantasy Modern Sci-fi
Adventure The City Cyber
Creation Dystopia Interstellar
Fable Society Superhuman
Unspeakable Web

44
ADVENTURE
We are heroes and conquerers in a noble kingdom, where
might, honor, and daring determine one’s fate.
Adventure is a medieval fantasy setting. We are a kingdom, province,
small nation, or large empire. We believe in magic and gods, but who
can say whether those things are real or not?

FLAWS
Ambition, Loyalty, Pride

ELEMENTS
Altar, Banner, Blade, Blood, Bridge, Cliff, Forge, Hammer, Hearth,
Horn, Oracle, Potion, Pyre, Summit, Tower

STARTING TRADITIONS
Our youth come of age when they […].
We obtain our weapons by […].
We […] outsiders.
Only […] may perform magic.
The gods favor those who […].
Our ruler is chosen by […].

TRADITION CATEGORIES
Death, Family, Government, Grief, Justice, Love, Military, Naming,
Religion

NAMES
Ademar, Afaon, Amir, Balan, Bayad, Bernart, Calia, Caradoc,
Dagonet, Elaine, Fleur, Gwrlais, Helyan, Lionel, Lucius, Morian,
Olorun, Ryons, Sagramont, Tristan

45
THE CITY
We live in a city so large we cannot see the horizon
or the stars or any mountain or forest beyond. We are
cultured. We are cosmopolitan. We are shallow.
This is a modern, multi-cultural megalopolis. The sprawl of the city is
almost endless, and what lies beyond is irrelevant.

FLAWS
Greed, Vanity, Xenophobia

ELEMENTS
Alley, Drone, Cables, Electricity, Factory, Highway, Mask, Mirror,
Neon, Security, Shout, Siren, Slum, Traffic, Tunnel

STARTING TRADITIONS
[…] separates one neighborhood from another.
We celebrate […] each year.
The proof of one’s greatness is one’s […].
We elect leaders by […].
Those who can’t support themselves […].
We choose lovers based on […].

TRADITION CATEGORIES
Architecture, Art, Economics, Education, Food, Government,
Hospitality, Justice, Transportation

NAMES
Aarav, Aiden, Andrei, Ava, Dhruv, Fozia, Hiroto, Jie, Luiza, Mason,
Miguel, Myra, Reza, Saanvi, Sophia, Usman, Wei, Xiuying, Yelena,
Yuina, Zahra

46
CREATION
We are creation and we are destruction–the spirits at the beginning
of the world. We are power, and glory, and life itself.
Creation is a mythic setting at the dawn of time. We are gods with
great power, forming the world as it was in the beginning. The whole
of creation is ours for cultivating.

FLAWS
Arrogance, Curiosity, Empathy

ELEMENTS
Bud, Cave, Dew, Feather, Light, Lightning, Moon, Pebble, Rainbow,
Reflection, Shadow, Spark, Tooth, Void, Water

STARTING TRADITIONS
We create new forms of life by […].
A god is created when […].
We share our lovers because we […].
We can destroy anything by […].
Evil spirits are created when […].
We meet together each night in order to […].

TRADITION CATEGORIES
Birth, Cultivation, Death, Hunting, Love, Magic, Music, Naming,
Ritual

NAMES
Aria, Ash, Autumn, Blaze, Breeze, Chaos, Cloud, Echo, Ember, Flora,
Forest, Gale, Hunter, Light, Mirage, Night, River, Stone, Storm,
Wilderness, Wind

47
CYBER
We are people upgraded from flesh. Cybernetic, Post-
human, Android, Robot. We are superior.
This near-future civilization inhabits an artificial world. We have
expanded the boundaries of organic ability. We are androids, cyborgs,
and robots redefining what it means to be human.

FLAWS
Apathy, Perfectionism, Vanity

ELEMENTS
Capsule, Chain, Circuitry, Diamond, Eye, Flesh, Ghost, Light,
Mercury, Mirror, Net, Shell, Static, Swarm, Vibration

STARTING TRADITIONS
Only […] may upgrade our bodies.
We […] defective individuals.
Our minds are shaped by […].
Fully organic beings are treated with […].
The materials we use to upgrade our bodies come from […].
We reproduce by […].

TRADITION CATEGORIES
Architecture, Communication, Death, Economics, Government,
Justice, Military, Relationships, Reproduction

NAMES
Bezalel, Chelm, Chorost, Clynes, Gavra, Karel, Kline, Harbiss, Lu
Ban, Makoto, Mozi, Nycta, Otto, Ribas, Steele, Valente, Vilna, Vinge,
Voight, Wick, Zhora

48
DYSTOPIA
We live this way because we have to. Control? Freedom?
These things mean nothing without security.
We are the drones living in a totalitarian state, kept content and
complacent enough to prevent rebellion. But perhaps it’s for the best.
After all, the world is a dangerous place.

FLAWS
Complacency, Cowardice, Trust

ELEMENTS
Car, Clock, Concrete, Cube, Drug, Eyes, Garbage, Glass, Grey, Hive,
Money, Needle, Plastic, Screen, Wall

STARTING TRADITIONS
We distract ourselves by […].
We report people who […].
Our labor supports […].
We believe our society is perfect because […].
We euthanize people when they […].
We maintain family bonds because […].

TRADITION CATEGORIES
Birth, Education, Employment, Entertainment, Fashion, Food,
Gender, Military, Security

NAMES
Anderson, Brown, Chan, Clark, Couchard, Davis, Gagnon, Garcia,
Hernandez, Johnson, Lam, Lee, Lewis, Martin, Martinez, Robinson,
Rodriguez, Smith, Tremblay, Williams, Young

49
FABLE
We are birds and beasts unburdened by the dominion of Man. We speak
and act with will and wit. We are the things morals are made of.
This magical setting takes place in a beautiful, lush country. We are
the animals of this fresh and enchanted land. The animals in Fable
behave like humans and communicate with each other.

FLAWS
Ambition, Jealousy, Vanity

ELEMENTS
Apple, Axe, Costume, Dance, Egg, Farm, Feast, Forest, Game, Gold,
House, Laughter, Milk, Story, Youth

STARTING TRADITIONS
We do not trust […].
Only those who […] can grant wishes.
An animal may change its shape by […].
Tricksters and thieves are treated with […].
Community meetings are only called when […].
When an animal deserves punishment, we […] them.

TRADITION CATEGORIES
Communication, Entertainment, Family, Food, Grief, Hospitality,
Justice, Love, Relationships

NAMES
Ass, Cat, Crane, Crow, Deer, Dog, Fox, Frog, Hen, Goat, Goldfinch,
Grasshopper, Lamb, Lion, Mouse, Ox, Rabbit, Serpent, Swallow,
Tiger, Wolf

50
INTERSTELLAR
The universe is ours for the taking, the stars within our eager grasp.
Perhaps we will find the answers we seek. Perhaps much more.
We are explorers who left our Earth long ago on a starship to seek
a better future. What we find may not be so bright. Interstellar is a
colony–it can be a generation ship, a planetary outpost, or a space
station.

FLAWS
Curiosity, Greed, Hope

ELEMENTS
Alien, Android, Comet, Computer, Distortion, Dome, Freight, Laser,
Maze, Monitor, Orbit, Pylon, Reflection, Starlight, Tether

STARTING TRADITIONS
We honor our former home by […].
We obtain our supplies through […].
We modify our bodies so they can […].
Our purpose in life is to […].
[…] keeps us safe.
We welcome outsiders because […].

TRADITION CATEGORIES
Birth, Communication, Death, Education, Entertainment, Govern-
ment, Military, Relationships, Sexuality

NAMES
Adrastea, Aegir, Amalthea, Ananke, Aoede, Carme, Deimos,
Dysnomia, Fenrir, Helike, Hi’iaka, Ijiraz, Kalyke, Kiviuq, Narvi, Nix,
Phobos, Praxidike, Sao, Thyone, Umbriel

51
SOCIETY
We are the elite. We are rich, the world is ours, and
we can do with it what we will.
This Haven is set in a small monarchy. It’s an enlightened time, where
modern technology is just beginning to develop. We are the nobles,
monarchs, and elite that govern the state at the expense of the poor.

FLAWS
Attachment, Ignorance, Vanity

ELEMENTS
Cake, Feast, Fur, Garden, Horse, Jewelry, Lace, Marble, Music, Salon,
Sapphire, Servant, Silk, Steam, Wig

STARTING TRADITIONS
We entertain ourselves by […].
Our noble titles are passed down to our […].
We accumulate wealth by […].
We are obeyed because […].
We use religion to […].
Our clothing shows other people our […].

TRADITION CATEGORIES
Architecture, Art, Class, Entertainment, Fashion, Government,
Hospitality, Military, Religion

NAMES
Adelaide, Aethelstan, Alfred, Anne, Birger, Charles, Edward,
Elizabeth, Eric, Eschiva, George, Gustavus, Isabella, Jeanne, John,
Louis, Marguerite, Maria, Richard, Sibylle, William

52
SUPERHUMAN
There are two kinds of humans–those with power and those without.
In a city plagued by crime, we coexist, or at least we try to.
In the modern day, superheroes rise up to defend the people, using
their powers to enforce the law, but whose law, and at what cost?

FLAWS
Nationalism, Pride, Wrath

ELEMENTS
Beacon, Crowds, Crystal, Downpour, Needle, Night, Rift, Ring,
Shadow, Sludge, Steam, Sun, Tower, Tunnel, Wind

STARTING TRADITIONS
Superhumans can be identified by their […].
Lawbreakers are punished by […].
Our Powers come from […].
[…] is above the law.
Superhumans rely on humans for […].
We honor those who […].

TRADITION CATEGORIES
Beauty, Entertainment, Family, Judgment, Justice, Love, Relationships,
Revenge, War

NAMES
The Alabaster Assassin, The Arbiter, The Assistant, Brigand, Doctor
Thunder, Eclipse, Ginger, Integrity, Jack, Lady Lash, Monkeywrench,
Pike, Pinpoint, Piston, Poise, The Scavenger, The Vicomtesse, Vigil,
The Visitor, The Weaver

53
UNSPEAKABLE
We are the keepers of a dark truth and a sinister power. We
have met with demons and ghosts and powers beyond
comprehension, and we have opened our minds to them.
We are a secretive but massive cult that appears like a normal
community to outsiders in an era before instant communication and
ready disbelief.

FLAWS
Distrust, Faith, Knowledge

ELEMENTS
Artifact, Color, Cove, Echo, Dust, Hourglass, Murmur, Refuge, Ruins,
Sea, Shadow, Stone, Tome, Vault, Window

STARTING TRADITIONS
We keep an evil promise to […].
We tell our secrets to those who […].
We stay sane by […].
We gain power by […].
We keep occult forces at bay by […].
We […] those who stumble upon our secrets.

TRADITION CATEGORIES
Art, Architecture, Death, Education, Grief, Hospitality, Naming,
Race, Religion

NAMES
Albany, Angela, Arthur, Baird, Belknap, Blake, Bloch, Dexter, Doria,
Herbert, Howard, Joshi, Kalem, Lopez, McNeil, Morton, Phillips,
Sonia, Sprague, Tilton, Warren

54
WEB
We are beings of information, untethered by our former bodies. We live
inside a web of data, and we flow along the frail tendrils of electric shock.
We have abandoned our bodies to exist entirely as information. The
physical setting is the network that we inhabit–this can manifest itself
in many ways and can change according to the needs of the users.

FLAWS
Attachment, Desire, Patience

ELEMENTS
Blindfold, Chime, Disease, Dream, Echo, Katana, Light, Master,
Mouth, Nest, Pit, Rain, Shadow, Static, Whispers

STARTING TRADITIONS
Legends say we left our bodies to enter the web because […].
We nurture each other by […].
We entertain ourselves by […].
We replicate ourselves because […].
We use viruses to […].
We demonstrate trust in another being by […].

TRADITION CATEGORIES
Architecture, Art, Communication, Entertainment, Identity, Language,
Mythology, Reproduction, Violence

NAMES
01101111, 301, Bit, Brain, cat, Chip, Circuit, Diode, Drive, Hive,
Link, Mal, <meta>, Nautilus, Pascal, Proxy, Ram, Random, Spindle,
Synapse, whoami

55
56
DISCUSSION &
AFTERWORD

57
PLAY ADVICE
FACILITATOR TIPS
When you’re teaching Downfall to new players, there are a few things
you can do so people have an easier time learning to play the game.
First, think about how you’re sitting. I strongly recommend sitting
in a circle; if you’re sitting at a four-sided table, put two players on
opposite sides and the third player at the end. You want the space
to remind players that everyone is equal.

Once you’re all settled and ready to start, remind everyone that
this is a collaborative game. Although you’re facilitating, you aren’t
in the role of GM. Remind everyone that they have equal creative
authority. They’ll get to express that authority at different times,
but they should all feel like equal contributors to the game.

Absolutely don’t skip defining the Flaw. While it might seem


obvious what Materialism is, it’s crucial to have a consensus about
its definition. Each Flaw has many flavors. Making sure you’re all
talking about the same thing is essential.

When you’re facilitating, try to create the first Tradition and the
first symbol. Showing that a Tradition can have a wide scope and
that a symbol can be very specific are good moves. Write and draw
the symbol if you can to show that both are options.

Play the Fallen or Pillar first. If you’re the Fallen, try as hard as you
can to have a “but there is a consequence” somewhere in the first
two scenes. If you play the Pillar, start with a broad and obvious
corruption that does not escalate the action too quickly, but gives
the Hero something to deal with during their first scene.

At the beginning of the game you have to make up a lot of facts


about the world together. It’s important that everyone has the
opportunity to voice their ideas. If you’re facilitating the game, try
your best to give everyone time to think of their ideas and weigh in.
Listen to everyone’s ideas and use them to make the game unique.

58
Sometimes you can feel like there’s a lot of pressure to be creative.
Don’t panic. The first thing you think of is often very interesting
and surprising to the people you’re playing with. Remind everyone
to feel free to draw upon stories they’ve heard elsewhere, and above
all, roll with what the other players are saying. Listen carefully and
ask questions to clarify or to learn more about their cool ideas.

CHOOSING A FLAW
When choosing a Flaw, you face a critical decision. The Flaw will
more or less decide the subject matter of your game. Is it better
to choose something clearly ‘bad’ like Greed, or should you choose
something ‘good’ like Hope?

A ‘bad’ Flaw generally provides better fodder for creating a society


that is clearly broken. However, ‘good’ ones can result in very
complex, interesting cultures. I recommend selecting a ‘bad’ Flaw
if this is your first time playing, and the list in the rules is a great
place to start.

A dditional Flaws:
Apathy, Attachment, Courage, Curiosity, Distrust, Empathy,
Faith, Forgiveness, Honesty, Hope, Ignorance, Knowledge, Love,
Trust, Wisdom, Wrath
You can create your own Flaws, too. The key thing is that they are
general concepts, not narrow behaviors. For example, Environmental
Degradation is not a Flaw, but Greed is–the Flaw is the root cause.

CUSTOM ELEMENTS
You’re free to use Elements that aren’t included in the text. Elements
should be things or ideas that we can sense. Colors, materials,
sounds, natural phenomena, and tools make strong Elements.

An Element should not be a specific person, place, or thing (e.g. Bob,


the Eiffel Tower, the Constitution). It should also not be an abstract
idea (e.g. history, affection, democracy, etc.).

59
SHARING CHARACTERS
By requiring you to alternate between different characters, you are
being asked to do a few challenging things that I think make for
really exciting play. First, you must create a cast together that all of
you find interesting. If you’re truly working together, you shouldn’t
end up with a character that you have no interest in.

Sharing characters generates a certain role-playing magic–when


you have an idea about the personality or internal thoughts of a
character, you have a clear incentive to show it to the other players.
Likewise, when you’re listening to another player, you really
have to pay attention to what they're doing in order to maintain
consistency. When those two things happen together, you get these
wonderful moments when another player hears your idea, takes it,
and adds something to it that surprises you.

Finally, and most importantly, in Downfall we are able to focus on


the Hero because we all get to play, comfort, and antagonize them
through different roles. This deep connection to the Hero allows us
to relate to them as the tragedy unfolds. When their world finally
collapses, we care because we’ve each been the Hero. We’ve each
failed to save their home.

We all have different ways of describing and expressing ourselves


when we role-play. By taking turns role-playing a character, I
think we give that character a chance to be as multidimensional as
possible. Be forgiving of other players’ portrayals of the characters.
If a character behaves differently between players, don’t think of it
as inconsistency. Instead, consider that the character is growing or
changing.

60
ROOTS
No game is created in isolation, and this one isn’t any different.
The idea for Downfall came in 2012 after a really awesome session
of Polaris by Ben Lehman, and fans of that game will recognize the
thematic similarities between the two games.

My husband Marc and I were talking about how we love the


backdrop of the collapsing society and how it makes such a poignant
game to know that the world will soon be over. I wanted to explore
that idea, so I started working on Downfall.

Character rotation was central to my design from the start. I


wanted the opportunity to tell one cohesive story without players
being sidelined by their roles.

I also wanted a game where the world was as important as the


characters. Part of that importance comes from investing the time
and energy to make the world your own when you play. I very
purposefully didn’t create a hard-and-fast setting; player ownership
over the world means greater investment and a lot of fun.

Lehman’s Polaris, Matthijs Holter’s Archipelago, and Ben Robbins’


Kingdom were inspirations for the scene mechanics. The Tradition-
making process was inspired in various ways by Joshua AC
Newman’s Shock: Social Science Fiction, Tim Koppang’s Mars Colony,
Jackson Tegu’s Bibliomancer, and Ben Robbins’ Microscope.

61
THANK YOU
Creating Downfall has been a difficult and rewarding three-year
journey, and I’ve shared it with some of the best and most supportive
minds in game design. I never would have made it through the process
without their help and encouragement.

Marc Hobbs and Ben Robbins were unending sources of support.


Whenever I had a new idea for the game or some sticky point that I
wanted to talk about, they were there for me. I can’t thank these two
enough.

Marc–thank you for sharing my triumphs and failures, for answering


countless ‘what ifs’, and for never doubting Downfall for a moment.
Thank you for always being excited about the game and for keeping
me excited about it too.

Ben–thank you for your endless hours of advice, your relentless


perfectionism, and for your encouragement through it all. When I told
you I had an idea for a game years ago you encouraged me to go for it
right from the start. Thank you for pushing me to stick to my ‘maxims’
and for helping me create the game I envisioned.

My favorite part of developing Downfall was listening to people talk


about their awesome games with me. That enthusiasm carried me over
the finish line.

Thank you Marc and Adrienne for the first game of Downfall ever–may
your flower ever bloom a rainbow.

Thank you Jamie for all the messages telling me you’d played the game
and had a great time. They always made my day.

Thank you Sam for your clear articulation of what makes Downfall
special.

And thank you Jackson, Kelly, Evelyn, and Jonathan for bringing fresh
eyes and fresh enthusiasm to the game when I really needed both.

62
PLAYTESTERS
Playtesters are the true heroes behind every game. Downfall was
developed with the help of many dedicated and brilliant gamers.

Abi Nighthill, Adrienne Mueller, Alex Guerrero-Randall, Ali


Baker, Andrea Duarte-Schrank, Ben Robbins, Brenna Leker,
Cathy Mardiguian, Colin, Connor Wood, Dani Laney, Drew
Besse, Elin Roe Ramsey, Emily Ryan, Erik Hamilton, Evan
Young, Evelyn Hobbs, Feiya Wang, Garrett, Henry Branscombe,
Jackson Tegu, Jacqueline Ashwell, Jamie Fristrom, JC Lundberg,
Karyssa Perry, Kelly Baker, Kyann Wilkinson, Marc Hobbs,
Marina Valentina, Morgan Stinson, Natalie Holt, Orion Canning,
Pat Kemp, Robert Bruce, Ross Cowman, Ryan Blazecka, Sam
Ashwell, Sarah Mendonca, Sarah Winterthorn, Shimon Alkon,
Shuo Meng, Tanner Schrank, Thanin Winterthorn, Tim Mauldin,
Tomilyn Rupert, Veles Svitlychny, Wiley Book, Wilson Zorn, and
Xander Veerhoff
Thank you for bringing this game to life–it simply would not have been
possible without you.

63
64
MATERIALS

65
HERO

HERO

You are the protagonist struggling against the Flaw.


Recognize the problems in the Haven and try to fix them.

OCCUPATION What do you do? What Tradition is your occupation connected to?

REBELLION What Tradition do you oppose? Why do you oppose it?

IDENTITY Describe yourself. What do you look like?

[You’ll play the Fallen next]


FALLEN

FALLEN

You are one of many who promote the Flaw.


Challenge the Hero and make their struggle difficult.

RELATIONSHIP TO THE HERO Choose one: family, friend, guardian, leader, lover

OCCUPATION What do you do? What Tradition is your occupation connected to?

IDENTITY Describe yourself. What do you look like?

To make the Hero’s action have a consequence, use the phrase:


“BUT THERE IS A CONSEQUENCE...”

[You’ll play the Pillar next.]


PILLAR

PILLAR

You are one of many ordinary people in the Haven.


Apologize for or ignore the harm caused by the Flaw.
Reflect the average citizen.

RELATIONSHIP TO THE HERO Choose one: family, friend, guardian, leader, lover

OCCUPATION What do you do? What Tradition is your occupation connected to?

IDENTITY Describe yourself. What do you look like?

Check to make sure everyone has the correct character sheet.


THE HERO SHOULD BE ON YOUR LEFT, THE FALLEN ON YOUR RIGHT.

[You’ll play the Hero next.]


DOWNFALL REFERENCE
CREATE THE WORLD DESTROY THE WORLD SCENES
1. Define the Flaw Choose someone to play the Hero first. The person Framing Scenes: The Hero is in every
•  Choose a Flaw together and discuss on their left plays the Fallen first and the person scene. The Hero frames the first scene.
what it means. on their right plays the Pillar first. Distribute the The Fallen frames the second scene.
character sheets. Frame scenes by answering:
2. Describe the Haven Where is the Hero?
•  Choose one Element each. 1. Describe the Corruption
Who is with the Hero?
•  Use the Elements to create the set- •  The Pillar describes a Tradition
What is the situation?
ting. being corrupted by the Flaw.
2. The Hero Frames a Scene About the Hero Playing Scenes: Show us what your char-
3. Create Traditions acter thinks, does, and feels.
•  Take turns choosing one category 3. The Fallen Frames a Scene About the Hero
each. Consequences: To create a consequence
•  Take turns describing, then writing a 4. The Hero’s Reflection for the Hero’s action, the Fallen can say
Tradition for your category. •  The Hero describes how they feel “But there is a consequence…” Then nar-
•  Pass all three Traditions to the player about the current state of the Haven. rate an unforeseen consequence or out-
to the left. Add a symbol to the Tradi- 5. Rotate Characters come that results from the Hero’s action.
tion you received. •  Everyone passes their character sheet Secondary Characters: When the Fall-
•  Repeat choosing categories and cre- to the right. en or Pillar plays another character, they
ating Traditions, this time passing continue to embody their role.
the three Traditions to the right to Repeat until you decide that it’s time to end the
add a symbol. You should have 6 Tra- game. Then proceed to the Collapse. Ending Scenes: When you feel like the
ditions in total. scene has come to an end, say “Scene”.
4. Name the Haven COLLAPSE
5. Create Characters The Pillar takes the index card with the
•  Create the Hero, the Fallen, then the Haven information on it. Flip over the DOWNFALL
Pillar together. character sheets. The player with the index
card narrates a short vignette of the Haven. lessthanthreegames.com
©2015 Caroline Hobbs all rights reserved
Pass the index card to the right and repeat.

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