Publisher – The Afterthought Committee (@KingQyote)
Where to Buy – https://afterthought-committee.itch.io/cast-away
I have always loved survival horror. I’m talking anything from mundane stuff like shipwrecks and plane crashes to more exotic things like zombie apocalypses and alien invasions. It all seems so exciting! Gone are the trappings of a broken society! Survivors persist based on their individual skills and the strength of the community they’ve forged in the face of impossible odds!
Sign me up!
I mean…don’t sign me up. That actually sounds terrible. But I’d be down to experience a close facsimile of that from the safety of my living room! Enter Cast Away, a TTRPG by the Afterthought Committee.
In Cast Away, characters struggle against challenges put forth by the Navigator by calling upon a handful of skills and risking their physical and mental fortitude. As the game progresses and characters struggle, they slowly gain conditions (exhausted, sick, panicked, etc.) which make future successes even harder to achieve. How the game achieves this is wonderful and reminds me a bit of Savage Worlds, where the size of the dice correlates to the ability of the player.
All players start with a d12 as their highest die and that’s what they’ll use to face their first handful of challenges. Eventually, however, they will incur a condition due to a low roll. They’ll discard their d12 and move onto the d10 until their next failed roll. This slow decline from d12, d10, d8, d6, and ultimately d4 does an excellent job of reinforcing the desperation characters face as the threats gradually wear them down.
Characters can regain lost dice as long as they can clear the condition afflicting them. Of course, it’s not as likely they’ll succeed when using the smaller dice. This death spiral can eventually lead to characters losing their d4 and dying as a result. It only takes having five conditions marked on a character sheet for this to happen and, depending on how often a) the Navigator asks for rolls and b) the difficulty threshold of the roll, this can happen fairly quickly.
And so what do you do when your character inevitably eats the wrong berry and shuffles off this mortal coil?
As with most good horror games, death is not the end in Cast Away! While many other games encourage players to simply roll up another character and hop back into action, that’s not a viable solution in Cast Away, given the premise of isolation in the game. Instead, dead characters are still involved for a time in the form of haunts. Each dead character is given three d6 which can be spent to buoy or penalize the surviving players as the ghost sees fit. When the dice run out, the character’s influence fades from the game.
Ultimately, the game ends when players either find salvation or succumb to their conditions. Regardless of which way the adventure goes, one thing is for certain: Cast Away is genre emulation at its finest. This game is all the fun of survival horror without any of the dysentery!
DISCLAIMER: I do not know anyone involved with this book, nor did I receive anything for free in exchange for this review. I mean, the game is pay what you want (and it shouldn’t be – the production quality is LUDICROUSLY HIGH for a potentially free game) but I paid for it, dammit. Support independent game designers!