A metropolis built around the trees, Shine City was too bright. The people's Perfectionism destroyed lives and families, until at last it consumed the city itself.
The riverside village of Purewater was destroyed by its Faith. The Riverlings' refusal to reconcile their religion with the appearance of the new god of land led to violence and divine punishment.
Beautiful and elegant, the people of the Fair Isles fell to their Vanity, for beneath their masks lurked a deep mistrust of anything beyond their comfortable norms.
What Flaw will be the root of your own world's downfall?
Downfall is a tabletop role-playing game that explores the collapse of a society, a cataclysm brought about by a fatal Flaw at work within it. First you sit down and build your world, then you destroy it. You tell the story of a hero who tries to save their home. But in Downfall, the hero fails.
The game works in any kind of setting, from mythical fantasy to the real world to high-flying science fiction. It's made to tell a whole story in a single 2-4 hour session and doesn't require preparation, dice, or a GM.
New to story games? Check out this short documentary. The game they're playing is none other than Downfall.
"The magic of Downfall isn't that you build and destroy a world in a few hours — that’s easy! — it’s that it creates a place and people you actually care about, even as you lovingly take turns burning it to the ground…” -Ben Robbins, creator of Microscope, Kingdom, and Microscope Explorer
You build your setting together, creating a rich physical and cultural landscape to destroy during play. If you enjoy world-building, you'll love making a society in Downfall.
You begin by choosing a Flaw—something like greed, complacency, or loyalty— to serve as the theme of your game. This long-ignored Flaw has finally surfaced to show its teeth. Though the Flaw has always been there, it is just now beginning to destroy everything it created.
Then you create a detailed set of traditions, practices, and beliefs that your society holds dear. These are the pieces you will break throughout play.
"Downfall's unique approach to world creation sets players up with a rich web of referents and cultural artifacts at their fingertips. For relatively little effort at the outset, the crumbling society jumps into vivid focus." - Jackson Tegu, creator of How We Are Like The Storm
"Downfall is, hands-down, the best game I’ve seen at giving you structured, step-by-step tools to build a culture that doesn’t feel like an off-the-peg genre exercise, is fleshed-out enough to be navigable and intriguing, yet doesn’t take the entire game to set up. It produces worlds that are genuinely unexpected, without requiring any vast leaps of creative brilliance."Sam Kabo Ashwell of These Heterogenous Tasks
We role-play to explore the collapse of the world, witnessing and shaping the destruction of our home through our characters.
Downfall features phrase-based escalation in the style of games like Archipelago and Polaris, and one of my favorite things about the game is how smooth it is to go from narrating an intimate scene to executing bold actions and sweeping changes.
Play continues until the characters' home has met its downfall. Sometimes when the game ends you mourn the destruction of the world, but more often it's bittersweet—you see how broken the world was and feel that it was better for it to have burned. Sure, it was awful for the characters, but it made a great story.
"I had no idea the story would get so creative and complex! It was extremely collaborative and we built on each others’ ideas." - Kelly Michelle Baker, author of The Waters of Nyra
"Downfall's key phrases are awesome. With just a few words, you can unlock the innermost feelings of a character, add a hefty price tag to the Hero's brash action, or find out what comes of any move another character makes. They're tools that allow players of any skill-level to make the most of the game." - Marc Hobbs, creator of Eden
I'm really interested in games that focus on a single cohesive story, and Downfall does a great job of delivering that by letting each person take turns playing the hero.
The game features a cast of three main characters, which are created collaboratively, and each character contributes something different to the game. The Hero is the protagonist, trying to save the world. The Fallen is the antagonist, trying to corrupt the Hero and the world. And finally the Pillar is an average person, trying to stifle change.
The characters rotate. After playing two scenes you pass your character sheet to the player on your left. You were just the Hero a moment ago, but now you get to play the Fallen.
Character rotation means you interact with all of the characters from different perspectives as you shift who you are playing throughout the game. It also focuses play on a single story—the story of the Hero's failure.
"Downfall games were my most memorable play experiences of 2015. Sharing characters means the story trumps everything. It is *the* game to play if you have just three players." - Jamie Fristrom, creator of Energy Hook
Downfall has been played at Story Games Seattle, Story Games Olympia, GoPlayNW, in countless cafes from Seattle to South Korea (and who even knows where else), and with people of all experience levels, from those who've never played story games to story game veterans. It works, and I know it works because of the numerous hours that have been put into play-testing it with a wide variety of people over two and a half years.
I've got some crazy skilled editors on hand and a brain-trust of indie game developers to give me good advice, and I myself am a veteran story gamer (I've played a really wide variety of indie-RPG systems—77 by my current count! Wow!). I've made Downfall the kind of game that I love to play over and over again.
Want to see the game in action? Check out this condensed example of play!
Designer/artist/architecture intern Audrey Gibson is doing the art and it looks awesome. The art is all about looking back at collapsed societies and seeing the ghosts of their buildings. She studied images of historical ruins and recreated them to be something a little more fantastic. I wanted someone with an eye for architectural design, and Audrey was the perfect choice.
Downfall is a genre-neutral game, you can play it in any setting that you dream up. But what if you know you want to have a science-fiction or fantasy game right from the beginning?
Guides allow you to gear your game towards a specific genre. They provide carefully-bounded freedom for your world creation.
Guides are essentially the playsets of Downfall. You still create the world together, but they give you some genre-specific jumping-off points to get you started.
- Adventure: a land where heroes are born [UNLOCKED]
- Interstellar: a universe of discovery [UNLOCKED]
- The City: a skyline of glitter and grit [UNLOCKED]
- Creation: a dreamscape full of life and potential [UNLOCKED]
- Web: a network of infinite connections [UNLOCKED]
- Unspeakable: a cacophony of broken landscapes [UNLOCKED]
- Fable: winding paths of bird and beast [UNLOCKED]
- Cyber: the world has been upgraded [UNLOCKED]
- The Present: a normal place where people live normal, modern lives [UNLOCKED]
- Superhuman: a world defended by heroes [UNLOCKED]
Color PDF and book! [UNLOCKED]
Risks and challenges
Downfall has been throughly playtested and is just about ready to go. The rules are complete and I just need to polish up the text and add more advice for play. Game designer Ben Robbins (creator of Microscope, Kingdom, and Microscope Explorer) has been helping me along the way with things like finding a printer and making sure the game is backer-ready.
I have a detailed plan of costs and deadlines that I'm following to a T, and I've got a horde to help bundle things up for shipping.
Basically, sometimes things go wrong, so wrong could, theoretically, happen. HOWEVER, I have confidence that I'll be able to deliver within a timely manner, and I don't think shipping out your rewards will be my downfall. ;)Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
- (29 days)