This week we lived through a Quiet Year (game by Avery Alder) as a community living in a city reclaimed by nature after a long-ago apocalypse. Having harvested all the foods, metal, and fuel available in the ruins during the recently-ended war with the outsider Jackals, we struggle with building a community that will thrive next to a large municipal building in which a clock tower, miraculously, still functions. Luckily we have an abundance of small livestock to provide milk and eggs, and occasionally meat, as we follow the lead of the Clockkeepers, who maintain the Clock and order our days and months around the movements of time.
We work diligently to surmount the problems we face. We build a wooden barrier to protect our food stores from the rising river, and build a path that will allow us to transfer stores from the riverside warehouse to the clock tower. We build more permanent housing to address our disparate sleeping situation, harvest honey from the local bees, and fell trees from a dense forested area to create wood stores.
We send expeditionary parties into the sewer tunnels only to learn that the sewers are collapsed and impassible, upriver to investigate the sudden proliferation of red pollutants in the water, and into the subway system to search for our missing Clockmaster, who disappeared as he completed the ritual to exorcise the subway of the haunting sounds coming from it. The party upriver is turned back before discovering the pollutions source by raiders who have occasionally attacked our settlement, and the subway party returns without having found our missing leader. After learning of the scale of the raider threat, we begin to form and train a militia, build defensive fortifications eventually known as Fort Franklin in honor of our expeditionary leader who was felled by the diseases caused by the pollution, and make fire weapons using the fuel we uncover after the city’s stadium collapses due to our unsuccessful attempts to strip it of metal.
And we’re visited by many people over that year, including a wandering stranger who joins us for a time before leaving again and refugees from the upriver raiders who become permanent members of our community. From the subway emerges a group called the Parrish, who come, they say, in answer to the call of the Clock. When we learn the truth—that the Second Clockkeeper had conspired with the Parrish to eliminate the Clockmaster and replace him—we exile the Second and his followers and the Parrish, who disappear back down into the subway tunnels. With so many clock keepers gone, our lack of leadership makes it difficult for us to integrate the newcomers, who grow in size when the wanderer returns with more refugees from various places.
To remedy this, we institute a new weekly social gathering to bring people together and create more cohesion, and hold an election for leader. During the campaign, one candidate goes missing, but the election turns on the question of whether we should complete the damming of the river, a foolish project begun during a moment of strife in our community. The anti-dam candidate wins in a landslide and converts the project rather than abandons it, providing us with a lumber mill to process our wood stores and aid our building efforts, and to screen some of the pollutants still flowing from upriver. Giving everyone a voice in the running of the community brings us together just in time, as the Frost Shepherd arrives, blanketing the land and our community with freezing temperatures that still the river, still the clock which had ordered our lives, and drive us indoors for the foreseeable future. Our preparations in food, housing, fuel, wood, and social harmony should, however, allow us to survive and prosper through the long winter to come.