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Sunless Skies sails out of early access in January, but here's a free pen and paper RPG

Exploring the world of Sunless Skies with a mouse and keyboard is all well and good, but now you can do it solely with your imagination – and the rulebook to Skyfarer. It’s an official pen & paper RPG based on Sunless Skies, released by Failbetter Games for free on Saturday. You might recognise designers Grant Howitt and Chris Taylor, with their impressive tabletop chops.

Skyfarer wasn’t the only reveal from Failbetter over the weekend – we now know that Sunless Skies will tootle out of early access on January 31st.

Howitt and Taylor are famed for making short, lively role-playing games like Spire, Honey Heist, Goblin Quest and One Last Job – and Skyfarer is supposed to be similarly snappy. They’ve collaborated with Sunless Skies narrative director Chris Gardiner to pen a pen and paper RPG set in the same world as Sunless Skies. Here’s how he bills it:

“We’ve tried to make the game friendly to new and experienced roleplayers, and to provide evocative adventure seeds to get things moving in an appropriately Failbettery direction. The game is completely true to our universe: player will find mystery, adventure, bad decisions, improbable characters, nocturnal horrors, and tentacles.

“While Sunless Skies puts the player in the role of a Captain aboard a locomotive engine, cruising the skies looking for adventure and profit, Skyfarer gives players the opportunity to play the crew. Gunners, quartermasters, engineers, signallers – even mascots – are brought to the fore as the Captain is struck down by misfortune and the crew must band together to get out of, and probably into, trouble.”

The character abilities sure do sound appropriately Failbettery. There are only four of them. ‘Iron’, ‘mirrors’, ‘veils’, and ‘hearts” correspond to familiar archetypes: being strong, perceptive, deceptive or charming. The only P&P RPG I’ve played for any length of time is D&D, so I appreciate seeing character sheets that aren’t drowning in numbers.

There’s an emphasis on improvisation: you start a game by sketching out the premise for an adventure and then just launch into things. You can spin the story out into a multi-session campaign if you like, or try to wrap up your escapades within a few hours. You can grab the free rulebook here.

If you’d rather stick to exploring space by yourself and via a screen, feel free to boot up the early access version of Sunless Skies. If you’d rather wait till it’s tuned up all good and proper, you’ll have to wait until the ‘finished’ version comes out on January 31st.

Sunless Skies is available on Steam Early Access, GOG and the Humble store for £19/$25/€23.

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Matt Cox

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Matt is the founding member of RPS's youth contingent. He's played more games of Dota than you've had hot dinners.

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