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Of course there’s already an RPG based on that viral sea shanty

O roll, my bully boys, roll.

The viral sea shanty TikTok dominating social media - you know the one - can now be brought to your game night in the form of One Day, the Wellerman Comes, a tabletop RPG now on Itch.io.

Designer and editor Tracy Barnett started the inevitable translation with a Twitter thread on January 14th, perhaps as a quick gag riffing on the explosive popularity of one sea shanty from TikTok user nathanevans.

For those who have missed out thus far, someone begins by recording themselves singing the lyrics to a shanty - a rhythmic song used by sailors while performing menial labor and tasks aboard their ship. Then, successively more sonorous singers jump in, using TikTok’s duet feature to create a chorus of swarthy voices and a highly infectious earworm.

Barnett’s adaptation first listed out the rules in brief sentences, starting with the premise. Each of three players roll a d6 three times to decide their stores of sugar, tea and rum. They then take turns leading scenes as their whaling ship hauls its catch back to port. Their resources are used to form bonds, defuse tension or “avoid a difficult conversation”. Once a player runs out of one of their rations the boat arrives at port so the eponymous Wellerman can restock their stores, and the player who ran empty departs the crew for good.

Barnett continued by listing 14 different variations on their rules that can add complexity or absurdity to the game. One transforms the game into a romantic tragedy where all three players hide their affections for each other and must attempt to process their feelings amid their work. Another gives them superpowers that only work at sea. It certainly runs the gamut.

Their labours not quite finished, Barnett inscribed the thread - and some contributions from the public - into a PDF on their Itch.io page. Wellerman is light on rules and mostly a vehicle for spinning a salty yarn, but what more can be expected from the foundation of a minute-long TikTok? Would-be sailors and sea dogs can grab a copy for $7 (£5.13).

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One Day, the Wellerman Comes

Tabletop Game

About the Author
Chase Carter avatar

Chase Carter


Chase is a freelance journalist and media critic. He enjoys the company of his two cats and always wants to hear more about that thing you love. Follow him on Twitter for photos of said cats and retweeted opinions from smarter folks.