Author – Nicolas Ronvel (@Gulix)
I mean, are we obsessed with the work of Nicolas “Gulix” Ronvel? I don’t think so. Sure, we did interview him for a Hearthside Chat. And yes, we put out a two-part actual play of his fantastic game Facing the Titan. But “obsessed” seems like a strong word.
Anyway, here’s a review of my best friend* Nicolas’ game, After the Accident.
After the Accident is a solo card-based journaling RPG available in both French and English. In it, players take on the role of a character trying to survive after some disaster has struck. The rules surrounding setting creation are loose and able to accommodate any world or disaster players can come up with. If that freedom is more burdensome than helpful, the author also provided a list of 13 disparate and interesting settings at the end of the text. This list serves two purposes, though I’m not sure if both are intentional.
Firstly, if a player is stuck on what they want to play, these evocative settings can greatly speed up getting into the game. Secondly, the settings are so wildly different they do an excellent job of proving just how far you can push the system thematically without it breaking. After the Accident can handle a story about being stuck in a computer network after a neural link gone bad or a story about an injured magpie trying to regain its strength, and that pliability is exceptional.
As with other card-based solo games, After the Accident depends on drawing cards randomly to propel the story. Each game takes place over three acts, with each act consisting of one suit of cards. The fourth suit, the spades, does not get its own act. As players draw cards each day, certain prompts require them to grab one of the set-aside spade cards and assign one of three words to it. For example, here’s the entry for the 9 of hearts:
If the player drew this card, they would first answer the prompt for that day’s journal entry and then, before proceeding to the next day, they would choose one of the three bold words and assign that to one of the spade cards. Once they’ve recorded what word they chose and what spade card it is tied do, they shuffle the spade card into the next few prompts. When it comes up again in the near future, the player will follow the prompt associated with that word for that day’s journal entry.
Initially, I didn’t understand the purpose of this. Why not just discard the spades entirely or make it a four-act game? The system of assigning words to cards and shuffling them into the story deck seemed onerous and unimportant at first blush. As I was playing, however, it started to click. By letting players choose what prompts they want to see in the game, they have a more active hand in deciding the tone. If you have the choice between Spirit, Animal, or Dying, you can avoid certain topics or reinforce themes you’ve already established or would like to introduce. My reservations were unfounded – Gulix’s method of using the spades is really clever design.
All in all, After the Accident is an inspiring solo RPG experience. The scaffolding it provides in terms of card prompts and rules are liberating rather than limiting, though it never feels like a day dream generator like some of the less successful journaling RPGs out there. I’m glad to see there’s an SRD of the system because the system behind this game, the Leads System, deserves to be in the same pantheon as Carta and Wretched and Alone.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to go figure out if my injured magpie survived her ordeal. Also, how the hell she was recording her daily activities in a journal.
DISCLAIMER: I do not know anyone involved with this game, nor did I receive anything for free in exchange for this review. I plan on reviewing more solo RPGs for the next few months in an effort to bring more attention to the amazing Solo But Not Alone #2 bundle on itch.io. I hope you’ll stick around and consider supporting an amazing charity that’s doing a lot of good work to help prevent suicides.
*okay so he’s not my best friend. A guy can dream…