Archipelago III: GMed one-shot for beginners

I was recently asked what I would recommend as a game for an experienced GM and a group of first-time players. This was my suggestion:

Skim the Archipelago III PDF.


Unlike regular Archipelago, have a GM.

Use a setting or genre well-known to the players. (E.g. “space pirates”).

Spend half an hour brainstorming a relationship map, connecting elements like NPCs, places, organizations and «plots». Make sure everyone gets to add a suggestion to the map.

Make character sketches, keeping the setting in mind:

  • Strength/talent, weakness/challenge, goals, concept/name. (“Swarmy the E.T.: Excellent pilot. Indebted to the pirate lord of Badg-ville. Wants to smuggle something green”).
  • What connects the characters? E.g.: Secretly in love with the group’s leader Halcyon Fez.
  • Decide on a common goal for the group, or something that will keep all the characters involved during this oneshot. E.g. “Their ship, The Phantom Eagle, crashes near Badg-ville”.
  • Rephrase “setting element you own” to “element your character is strongly connected with” for the purpose of drawing fate cards. Preferably unique elements to each player. (“Swarmy is strongly connected with Badg-ville, because he was born there”).
  • Make one destiny point for each character collaboratively. (“It would be cool if Swarmy meets his ex in Badg-ville.”) Drive towards these during play, as usual.

Let the cards provide inspiration and twists as usual. Everyone still gets to suggest resolution cards, and everyone still gets to draw one fate card per session.

Let players use the phrases you prefer. I suggest introducing these at first:

  • That might not be so easy (everyone gets to suggest drawing resolution cards)
  • Help

Invite the players to play NPCs and set scenes toward the end of the session, if they seem comfortable doing so.


Illustration: Nasa


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