Folklore is full of civilisations constructed upon the backs of colossal, near-godlike beasts that roam the earth or the universe. Popular science fiction is no different - Terry Pratchett’s Discworld novels famously take place upon the back of four elephants that are themselves standing on a galaxy-striding turtle.
The Marvelous Children of Inang-Uri, the latest tabletop RPG from the designer of ARC, borrows from this legacy by combining this narrative set up with the reflective gameplay made famous in Avery Alder’s excellent The Quiet Year. The result is a competitive worldmaking game steeped in factional rivalry and Southeast Asian culture.
Three to six players begin this game by collaboratively constructing an entire civilisation atop a massive chimeric beast known as Inang-Uri. Each player controls a faction with particular interests that put them at odds with their fellow citizens, even if everyone believes they have Inang-Uri’s best interests at heart. Prestige will create rivalries, and those rivalries will stress the delicate health and disposition of the beast bearing their home through the world.
Much like The Quiet Year, turns consist of creating and furthering projects based on narrative prompts. Perhaps one player wishes to create a festival in honour of the changing seasons, while another begins planning an expedition to the far side of the world chasing rumours of a dark presence. The implications and ultimate effect of these projects will create new roleplay opportunities for all of the factions - everything is fair game once it has been sketched into the world.
As generations change and the story progresses, Inang-Uri will fall prey to disease, old age or the machinations of outside influences. Whether the players’ faction will band together in order to safeguard their home will depend on their specific major and minor objectives, as not everyone will want to see their deity-adjacent protector continue to carry her burden - or at least not in her current incarnation.
The Marvelous Children of Inang-Uri plants two competing interests - individual ambition and caring for a wider community - into a shared plot of soil. What takes root and eventually flowers depends on the group tending to this metaphorical plant, and momatoes' narrative sensibilities as a Southeast Asian designer means those concerns and tension don’t always mesh with Western sensibilities. This is a refreshing take on a well-loved genre of tabletop RPGs that will immediately tickle your storytelling muscles.
At the end of the game, the ultimate fate of Inang-Uri will depend on how well - or poorly - the players managed to work together. Will hidden traitors bring down this storied civilisation by killing its steward, or will she reach the end of her life in a way the shepherds new life and a brighter future for those who come after?
The Marvelous Children of Inang-Uri will launch on Itch.io on November 13th, selling a 60-page coloured zine in momatoes’ gorgeous and evocative style. According to a press release, all profits from the sale of the tabletop RPG on itch.io until December 12th will be donated to Doctors Without Borders. More information about this international organisation and their mission to provide humanitarian aid and healthcare in war-affected regions can be found on their official website.