Once upon a time, not even all that long ago, humans would sit around and entertain each other by telling myths and stories for entertainment. That hasn’t changed, really. We still do the same thing, but the way we do it has changed in a lot of ways. Instead of sitting around a hearth or gathering in a community space of some kind we read books, watch TV shows, go to the movie theater, and play video games. And yes, sometimes we do still sit down and tell each other stories face-to-face as well.
I just finished playing my first game of Solarpunk Futures. Not only was it a blast, but in its own way it helps bring back some of the community based storytelling our culture has lost as it has become both more digital and more consumer driven.
The new utopian storytelling TTRPG card game was created by the Solarpunk Surf Club, and it has a lot going for it. It’s interactive and fun, is all about being creative and telling stories, and it’s light on rules and easy to jump in and start playing, and it doesn’t take hours to play like some RPGs can. It’s a game that encourages imagination and reinforces the utopian value of cooperation through shared narrative creation and collaborative storytelling.
Players each get a set of at least three cards (see below). The group then draws a challenge card that presents them with a scenario, a way in which the world has changed and become more utopian in the future (i.e. something is done differently, something new has been invented, something has been done away with or outlawed, etc). Players then go through a series of rounds using their cards as prompts, guidelines, and parameters to reverse engineer together and tell an improvisational and collaborative story to each other about how our world got from where it is now to the future presented in the challenge card.
The game is available as beautifully crafted art nouveau style cards you can purchase. You can also download free printouts of the cards and the gamebook. The gameplay is based on the cards, of course. Each player gets at least three cards (plus the group challenge card): one ancestor card, at least one tool card, and at least one values card. Here’s a really quick breakdown of what each type of card is for:
Challenge cards represent the transition from capitalist dystopia to a new utopian world.
Ancestor cards represent who players were in the story they will create during the transition from capitalism to utopia.
Tool cards provide insight into the kinds of resources, skills, knowledge, and institutions that were drawn on during the struggle for a better world.
Values cards help determine the ethics that guided the people who created the better world presented in the challenge card and in the story players create.
The way the game is both rooted in the present day real world and is focused on creating a new and utopian future—along with its interactive and cooperative storytelling focus—makes it a wonderful game not only for friends or family members enjoying an evening together, but also as resource and tool for social justice organizations, activists, authors, world builders, and any one else interested and invested in furthering the art of storytelling and creating new worlds, whether real or imagined.
Get this game, play it, tell stories, build utopias.
Justine Norton-Kertson (they/he/she) is the co-editor-in-chief of Solarpunk Magazine. They live in rural Oregon with his partner, puppies, cats, goats, and beehives. She can be found on Twitter @jankwrites.