Every Week It's Wibbley-Wobbley Timey-Wimey Pookie-Reviewery...

Saturday 13 May 2023

Solitaire: Colostle – The Roomlands

Colostle: A Solo RPG Adventure
introduced the Roomlands. A vast castle which covered the whole of the known world and more and whose individual rooms, corridors, stairs, and rafters contained whole environments of their own. Mountains, lakes, deserts, forests, caves, and ancient ruins. Oceans stretch across rooms as far as the eye can see and beyond. Desert sands whip and whirl down long corridors. Forests climb the stairs that seem to rise to nowhere. Whatever the environment, there is always a constant danger to be faced—Rooks. These are walking castles, stone giants that seem to have no purpose, other than to wander aimlessly until something captures their attention and then they erupt in incredible aggression. From Parapette, the greatest city in the Known Roomlands which is built into the body of a Colossal Rook, brave adventurers set out alone to explore the near limitless castle of Colostle. Perhaps fulfilling tasks and quests for the Hunter’s Guild, perhaps to explore on his own, hunt Rooks for the precious , often magical resources they contain, or simply to protect a village or settlement from a rampaging Rooks. Rooks are not the only dangers, there are often bandits and other threats as well, but Rooks remain the most feared.

Colostle: A Solo RPG Adventure is a Journalling game in which a player will write and keep a journal telling of the exploits of an adventurer across the ecumenopolis-sized castle of Colostle. As is usual with this type of game, the player will need no more than an ordinary deck of playing cards, pen and pencil, and a notebook of some kind. The scope and size of Colostle’s setting meant it was ripe for expansion and the supplement, Colostle – The Roomlands is that expansion. In particular, it provides and explores new character options, locations, living in Colostle, rules, options, and more. And of course, it does so in a book that is beautifully illustrated, echoing the style and feel of the Zelda computer game series, and both the Ico and The Shadow of the Colossus, with just a touch of Studio Ghibli. Like any good roleplaying game, the artwork sells the setting, making you wonder and want to wander the vast setting of Colostle, let alone the fact that together Colostle: A Solo RPG Adventure and its companion, Colostle – The Roomlands, provide a unique approach to the fairy tale idea of getting lost in a giant’s castle.

Colostle – The Roomlands begins with new Classes. In Colostle: A Solo RPG Adventure, an adventurer can set out with either with a piece of a Rook grafted on to him, accompanied by a Rookling companion, wearing a scrap helm taken a Rook that grants its wearer magic, or riding a mount devised from Rook scrap. The first of the new Classes is the Allied, in which a pair of adventurers team up and rely upon each other to survive the Roomlands. Together they have higher Exploration and Combat scores, rather than a special ability, and there is guidance too, if one of them is unfortunately killed. The second new Class is the Bastion, recently discovered person-sized stone or Rook constructs who have achieved independence from their former roles as the immune system for Colossal Rooks, the city-sized Rooks which are near legend in the Roomlands (although the City of Parapette built into a former Colossal Rook). Although able to speak and fight, Bastions are feared and distrusted because of their connection to Rooks. The Bastion gives the option for a player to explore the Roomlands through the embrasures of an outsider, whilst the Allied opens up interplay between two characters that the player can record and develop in her journal.

Colostle – The Roomlands adds and expands the rooms available to the player to explore. The Tundroom is an icy wasteland that Ice Rooks are at home in, but where the often-nomadic tribes have learned to defeat Rooks and command the resulting Rook husk as a Rooknaught! These require a crew to operate the various parts, commanded by a Helmed—one of the Class who wears a scrap helm taken from a Rook that grants its wearer magic, and Rooknaught often battle each other, besiege camps and villages, fight Ice Rooks, and so on. This adds an element of mecha combat to Colostle: A Solo RPG Adventure, and the Tundroom is supported with rules for its exploration and fighting Rooknaughts—both as an individual Adventurer (very challenging) or another Rooknaught, as well as tables for encounters, village events, and Tundroom characters. If an Adventurer can defeat a Rooknaught, there is the possibility of finding fantastic treasure, including the Carapace, a set of legendary ice armour! Accompanied by their own encounter tables, the Rafters are another environment, or rather environments, each different, high above in the skies over the Roomlands, the biggest threat being the Gargoyles which abduct lone travellers for reasons unknown…

More interesting are the Crackways. These are the cracks in the walls of Colostle, often carved out and expanded, some leading all the way through a wall to the room next door, others not. Some are safe, others not, and these are often marked as such. These add an element of dungeoneering and perhaps a more scaled-down exploration of the Roomlands.

Colostle – The Roomlands expands upon the information given in Colostle: A Solo RPG Adventure on the city of Parapette. Although it provides an overview of the city—and notes that Parapette is the one constant between one player’s experience of journalling across Colostle and that of another, almost like Michael Moorcock’s Tanelorn—this focuses on the Rook’s Rest tavern and the Hunter’s Guild, the former sprawling, the latter palatial. Together the information builds on the idea of Parapette being a ‘Fixed Location’ between campaigns, suggesting ways in which a player can interact with other players and collaborate in shared storytelling, either face-to-face, on-line, or even via the post. There is even the option for doing via the publisher’s Discord channel, and is further supported with rules for two-player co-operative adventuring, including exploration, combat, and more, using a mix of prompts from complication and oracle tables. This brings a degree of interaction to the play of Colostle: A Solo RPG Adventure as well as roleplaying because it is no longer a case of a player simply developing a story for himself from cards drawn and prompts generated, but instead having think about ways to present his character’s actions and decisions to the other player. In this way, Colostle: A Solo RPG Adventure takes on the performance elements of roleplaying.

In addition there are rules for fighting in Rook. This is an option because it is possible for a character to internally defeat a Rook and turn it into a Rookhome. To do this a player needs to use an ‘Onboarding’ action in combat with a Rook and if successful, then fight from the inside. A character only has the one chance to do it per combat. Although a defeated Rook can be stripped of its treasures, turning it into a Rookhome gives the character an ambulatory home that will make travel that much more easy. He will be able to travel further and do so unmolested by other Rooks. However, Rookhomes are not combat machines, unlike the aforementioned Rooknaughts, and a character must leave a Rookhome to explore or fight on foot. They also require maintenance, so once a character has one, he will need to adventure further to pay for that.

Lastly, Colostle – The Roomlands includes something quite different in a Journalling game—a directed campaign. ‘Search for the Seastone – A Solo Colostle Campaign’ combines the standard exploratory play of Colostle: A Solo RPG Adventure with sections where the decisions will be limited like a ‘choose your own adventure’ book, story sections which work like cut scenes for video games, and map areas which can be more freely explored and have keyed descriptions elsewhere. The campaign sees the character explore the legendary island known as Crown Isle and perhaps delve into the labyrinth below. The campaign is more linear than a ‘choose your own adventure’ book would be, primarily because of the limited space, but also because it is more of a scenario than a campaign. However, it does allow the exploration of a small part the Roomlands without the need to generate procedurally in every scene or location. Meaning that the player will recording details in response to given details rather than random ones. It would be interesting to see if this format could be repeated again, not just for single scenarios, but an actual campaign. Of course, one use of ‘Search for the Seastone – A Solo Colostle Campaign’ would be to run it as a traditional roleplaying scenario if the Game Master has adapted the setting to the mechanics of her choice.

Of course, Colostle – The Roomlands builds on Colostle: A Solo RPG Adventure, opening its scope with visits to new locations—the Tundrooms, Rafters, and Crackways, as well as new options in terms of storytelling, like the co-operative play. They are all great options, the new locations worthy of supplements of their own, as is the format of the directed journalling of ‘Search for the Seastone – A Solo Colostle Campaign’. Colostle – The Roomlands is an absolute must for Colostle: A Solo RPG Adventure, enabling a player to explore further and have more interesting adventures, and if a Game Master wants to take the information presented here and develop more of a setting for traditional roleplaying, then that would be fine too.


Colostle will be at UK Games Expo
from Friday 2nd to Sunday 4th, 2023.

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