An indie journalling RPG about exploring the ocean depths is seeing a visual overhaul and re-release in an upcoming 'redux' edition.
What Waits Beneath was created by Nevyn Holmes, who originally designed the RPG for roleplaying design event Swimming Jam last spring. (Full disclaimer: Holmes has previously written for Dicebreaker.)
The solo RPG sees a lone player charting their journey into the deep blue, along with the discoveries they make along the way, in a journal.
The gameplay system is driven by a grid of playing cards, which are placed facedown in a five-by-three layout. As the player explores, they roll dice and assign them to different cards in order to turn them face-up, with the cards they reveal determining what they discover. The prompts are then used by the player to create diary-style entries about their experiences.
Results can range from lost treasures to enormous creatures and mysterious plantlife, as well as risking damage to the explorer’s underwater vessel or diving gear, or even loss and near-death experiences.
What Waits Beneath's redux edition revisits the RPG with gameplay improvements and a visual overhaul courtesy of co-designer Julie-Anne ‘Jam’ Muñoz, who drew inspiration from underwater tales such as Jules Verne classic 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea and Wes Anderson film The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou - itself inspired by real-life ocean explorer Jacques Cousteau.
“It's a project that, frankly, I'm proud of from a game design standpoint but have never been entirely in love with from a visuals one,” Holmes said of the original game in a blog post detailing the changes. “Being one of the first projects I did layout for myself, there's simply a lot going on that detracts from the overall game."
“At the time I was looking for a small project to practice on and I thought there was potential for What Waits Beneath," said Muñoz. "The initial game was made for #SwimmingJam and it was full of mistakes because it was hastily put together. However, I still really enjoyed the mechanics of the game. I thought it could be a fun exercise to elevate the project, to overhaul the text and reimagine the aesthetics.”
The re-release will also see the release of a new physical edition of What Waits Beneath in a stitch-bound zine format. Muñoz said that future releases from the designer will see a similar physical release.
Orders for the physical edition will run until July 30th, with a digital release due to follow shortly afterwards via Holmes’ Itch.io page.
Edit: This piece has been updated to correctly attribute comments to Muñoz.