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Roll20’s PocketQuest 2023 game jam sent more than 50 tabletop designers to space camp, sort of.

This is Ground Control to Player Tom.

Restruct artwork from PocketQuest 2023
Image credit: Luke Saunders

Tabletop platforms have been gradually stepping up efforts to support smaller, often independent creators in recent years. Kickstarter’s annual Zinequest (and its grassroots offshoot, Zine Month) might be the most well-known, but virtual tabletop platform Roll20 is gunning for some of the spotlight.

Roll20 just wrapped the second year of its PocketQuest game jam, which sported a space theme for 2023. The jam invited smaller and first-time creators to design and submit a “pocket-sized” tabletop RPG according to a few simple rules: anything with rules must fit within 20 pages; it must be about space in some fashion, and it must use either the designer’s own system or one available through a third-party licence.

A press release from Roll20 claimed that more than 95 designers took part, sending their creativity among the stars and vying to collect a double handful of digital merit badges along the way. Reportedly, over half the submissions came from first-time game designers and many of the rest returned from PocketQuest’s inaugural year.

The 15 best solo RPGs to play in 2023.Watch on YouTube

Creators had two months to concept, design and execute a tabletop RPG, and while there was no competition or winners the game jam atmosphere accreted several fascinating titles - all of which can be viewed on its dedicated DriveThruRPG store page.

Solo RPG Delivered! melds journaling prompt-based play with the seeming monotony of hauling packages across the vast emptiness of space. Balancing responsibility with boredom and all the other expectations saddled on the underappreciated delivery drivers out there will form the meat of the experience, but who knows what all can happen out there beyond the planets’ gravity wells.

Entity, on the other hand, folds a hard sci-fi genre approach and crunchier rules into its execution of a solo RPG. Players embody an AI-powered astronaut exploring a massive stretch of alien architecture and technology, using two ten-sided dice and a single sheet of various skills and abilities to navigate the unknown in the pursuit of understanding and knowledge. This “NASA-punk” title leans realistic in its science and storytelling, both.

Those looking for something with a little more humour and apparent style should peek at Lemuria Space Station, a GM-less adventure through the eponymous stations where all of the players are droid hunters searching for the errant VoidDroids - essentially glorified toys with murderous capacity - infesting its many vertical levels. Armed with scavenged gear and a taste for metal vengeance, the players will need to balance their meagre funds and the exacting demands of the bounty to make it out alive and with their payday intact.

All of the titles submitted for Roll20’s PocketQuest 2023 game jam are available online and neatly collected on DriveThruRPG. It’s worth scrolling through the entries, as there’s a heap of different takes, artistic styles and game types on display. Whether you’re looking for the next contemplative journaling title or a 3-hour horror adventure for your weekly group, there’s something inside that’ll suit your tastes. Additionally, many are on sale for a limited time after the conclusion of the event.

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