Quiet Year at the Bottom of the Sea

Tonight we played Quiet Year by Avery Alder where we explore the life of the community at Research Station 59 at the bottom of the sea after a nuclear apocalypse ends civilization on the surface. Early after the apocalypse, a typhoon destroys one of the station’s two water intake engines, so engineer W begins and completes repairs in a few weeks. Drs. Sanders and Xu continue, even after the apocalypse, to fight between themselves over their competing theories regarding the purpose of whale song. Research intern Varick spots the elusive sea butterflies migrating, and takes that as a good sign, but then Dr. Sparks confesses that his early sonar research was responsible for the mass death of whale populations years ago. We successfully harvest the algae nodules that grow nearby and bring them inside, but will putting them in our greenhouse contaminate the indoor plants? We discover an unexploded nuclear missile loose on the sea floor, so disarm it and dump it into the nearby sea trench to keep it from drifting too close to the station. Despite all the turmoil, we stick to our morning ritual of sharing coffee and pastries (as long as they last) to keep the group together.

Triplets are born on the station to Quinn, wife of research scientist Donatella. An audit of Dr. Sparks sonar data shows that, whatever he may have done in the past, his current work is reliable science. Whale pods are spotted south of the station and the most beautiful thing nearby is the bioluminescent valley filled with multicolored fish. The sudden encroaching of the algae fields spark panic and conspiracy as people worry that it could overtake and disable the station. Furthering the panic, Dr. Xu disappears when returning from a mission outside the dome to study the whale movements. Not long after that, three survivors from an underwater luxury condo project arrive at the station in a caviar submarine. We discover that a stone with the astrological sign for pisces on it provides people with the ability to see from another’s point-of-view, and Dr. Sparks leaves the community to live in the luxury condos alone. By rotating the station, we’re able to change the light dynamics and halt the advance of the algae, quieting the mass sense of panic.

After working many weeks, construction of a parabolic mirror to gather and redirect sunlight from the surface down to the station is completed, bringing us much needed light for growing plants and for mental and physical health. Our efforts to fish using the algae as bait are successful and a crew of full-time fishers is established. Dr. Sander’s whale study reveals that the sea trench is actually a whale graveyard, and after much discussion, the community eventually begins a project to dismantle the missile and remove it piecemeal until the whale’s sacred land is clear of contamination. Before that project gets underway, Dr. Sparks dies trying to remove the missile on his own. Just as rumors begin to swirl suspecting Sanders of causing Xu’s death, Dr. Xu reappears, having gotten lost in the algae fields while carrying out new studies on the plants.

The triplets begin to cry constantly causing serious consternation in the community until the observation deck is transformed into a nursery where the babies can get more light and see the beauties of the sea. Water temperature readings reveal a new deep sea vent opening, and after Dr. Xu’s studies reveal additional uses for algae when subjected to heat, we move algae containers near the vents. A refugee from the condo settlement arrives begging to join the community and brings a cache of paper as a bribe to be let inside. Then the sea butterflies return, we complete the dismantling of the rocket, and we organize a community event to celebrate our survival for almost a year. The arrival of the Frost Shepherds signals the end of the game.

Quiet Year on the Clock

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.

Drawing of our post-apocalyptic community including play materials for the Quiet Year.
Our communities map.

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.

Quiet Year on a Generation (Party) Ship

Tonight we spent a Quiet Year (by Avery Alder) on the generation ship Grooveline after the destruction caused by the comet Jackal crashed into the ship and destroyed part of our food stores and threatening our oxygen supply. Although our bank of display panels can provide us with almost any information we need, we have lost any knowledge of how to navigate the ship and the automated systems have taken us off course. We are losing any faith that we’ll ever reach our destination and a faction on board are advocating we fly into the trio of black holes our sensors detect in the distance. As we begin our year aboard, the sensors detect a possibly inhabitable planet ahead and salvageable space debris just behind us. The population are torn on whether we should try for the former or the latter, but a group begins a project to take control of the ships steering mechanism so we can veer toward the planet.

Drawing or Map of our Generation Ship from the Quiet Year with representations of each moment in our story.

While that project is progressing a young boy, who should have been asleep with the other children in the hibernation chambers, returns to the main deck from the ships innards with a previously unknown repair droid by his side. We plant a vegetable garden in the arboretum to supplement the food stores, and certify a cadre of people on operating the AutoDoc so we can improve medical care. The crew are too busy to do more than note when we pass a beautiful nebula, and Keily-Mae leads a group of rebellious teens in a naked, circular dance ritual, but no one seems to mind or care about their transgression. The steering project fails, possibly due to sabotage as a navigation cable broke or was cut, and the ship continues on its original course.

On the memorial deck, where we honor and remember the deceased, a gravestone has been desecrated, and we discover near the communal sleeping chamber a mysterious machine that would, if functioning, allow multi-colored lights to shine through the floor and reflect off a multi-faceted mirrored globe. But the biggest news is that a small shuttle docks with our ship, a shuttle that contains a single alien life form, the humanoid Borthus. As the engineers begin to repair the navigation cables to make another try at diverting our course, a group begins advocating for procreation with the alien in order to diversify our gene pool. As more Borthusians arrive, inter-species dating ensues and our people are much less lonely. Our attempts to discover whose memorial was desecrated reveals that the Jackal strike destroyed some considerable portion of our data banks as well as the food stores, but our engineers are able to catalog the extent of what is missing, and to modify the oxygen scrubbers to extend the longevity of the our current supply.

The boy and his robot take control of the ship, the droid plugging into the system and override any security and demand that the children be released from cryogenic sleep, but they are not taken seriously and mostly ignored by the crew as we didn’t have much control of the ship before. In order to facilitate the commingling of the species, the communal sleeping quarters are redesigned into a series of pods that can easily accommodate two or three in privacy. Edna, the last crew member with any direct knowledge of our origin who often shared the stories her grandmother had told her of Earth, dies from what the medics claim was murder. People are spending more and more time in the new sleeping quarters and it isn’t long before Bellah is impregnated and an image of a black hole begins to form on her belly. Sadly, her friend Lillian disappears, vanishing before our very eyes.

The space debris seems to break apart and shards of dangerous junk come hurtling toward the ship. The disco light machine is destroyed when the repair teams begin to argue about the best way to use the machine once it is repaired. However, another team, working on developing a manual steering mechanism tied directly to the ships engines are successful in getting their contraption installed, but not before Neil, the strongest among us, is killed in a steering accident. Imagine our shock when another comet strikes the front of the ship and destroys our bank of display panels, cutting us off from our information datastore. Not long after, a group of religious zealots calling themselves the Parish arrive and begin trying to convince the Borthusians to abandon us and return to celibacy before marriage. Hastily assembling a makeshift machine, the engineers are able to scoop up the incoming space debris and use the icy substance as raw material to improve the air quality. Our oxygen deficiency is addressed at last.

Now that we have met most of our needs, we decide it’s time to retake control of the ship and forcibly remove and deactivate the robot giving the boy nominal control. As we begin deciding what to do with our newfound control and ability to direct the ship, the memorial desecrators are caught when some of the scientific progressives are found trying to destroy another memorial in order to free us from the tyranny of the past. In response the community broadens the memorial to include not only lost people but lost projects and endeavors. Bellah is examined by our medical team, and the ultrasound shows an image of the nebula passed earlier to the consternation of all. The Parish curse us as fornicators and lost causes and abandon our ship, but a functional disco machine is discovered and the community uses it to celebrate the Parish’s departure. But then the Frost Shepherds reveal themselves as the source of the comets that continue to buffet the ship when they send a killer comet to destroy us before we can approach their dominion.

Quiet Hatpennings at the Mall

White playmat with map of the mall and symbols of all the things that happened in our game.
Quiet Year map of our mall after the zombie apocalypse.


Tonight, we had a Quiet Year (by Avery Alder) in a burned out mall where a hundred souls have sought refuge now that the Jackals, the hoard of zombies who until recently ravaged our land, have been defeated. Our society is built around the rites of the wishing fountain at the mall’s center, where we plead with the fates and they take more than our coins from us in exchange. Early in the year, a series of events shape us profoundly: the pre-teen girls form a hermetic enclave in the Claire shop, a man named Joel who has been ravaged by Jackals but remains uninfected arrives, and a pack of wild dogs arrive and begin nosing through Jackal corpses as they thaw in the mall’s parking lot. More pressing, however, is the war that begins with the Moneytaking Clan, who kidnap and murder our emissaries and attack any who come near. By scavenging far and near, we accumulate enough guns and makeshift weapons to teach them not to mess with us. Soon thereafter, the Claires begin scientific experiments on Joel.

To deal with our shortages of food, sleep, and shelter, we plant veggies in the median strips in the parking lot, compile every available piece of bedding or cushioning, and work to repair any holes in the outer walls. But across the parking lot a jeep of soldiers arrives and set up camp; soon afterward a small band of Jackal stragglers arrive. The two groups fight and the Jackals are wiped out, but the soldiers mysteriously disappear that night. To restore the communities connection and trust, the former mall employees begin planning an orgy festival, but the planning goes poorly and the event fails to come together. Joel and several of the elderly members of the community are found dead in various places. No one knows why. And winter is coming.

We build fire barrels to warm the halls, but tests reveal that a number of our members have contracted the Jackal disease so must be quarantined; the Claires inject one of the employees with an unknown substance and throw him into the quarantine. Coins mysteriously reappear in the fountain after having been thrown out long ago. We harvest our vegetables and collect some miraculously still frozen goods from a local Arby’s in preparation for the coming cold. The Claires reveal that the employee they threw into quarantine was a test of the vaccine they created from their experiments on Joel, and they inoculate the population. We’re ready for winter when the Frost Shepherds, at last, arrive to evacuate us from our home.

Apocalyptic Horsemen’s Quiet Year

Tonight, we played Quiet Year by Avery Alder in a world after the Four Horsemen of the Biblical apocalypse has destroyed much of the world, focused on a community surviving in a small exurban hospital. After salvaging gasoline from abandoned cars strewn along the highway and putting out the fires in the forests, we settled down to finding meaning in our pitiful existence, building shrines to the mysterious Donut manufactory, communicating with the talking fish, and worshiping at the utensil vortex. We had to come together to wage war with the utensil-armed marauders who were carting off our foods and our people, a war we won thanks to the opiate-haze that Dr. Jakinov induced in them before the battle. Along the way, we managed to repair some homes, fix the roof and explore the collapsed tunnel, even as we saw visions of the Horsemen returned and were visited by a manhorse and the righteous Parish. The Parish wanted us to return to the old God in repentance, while others wanted us to turn to the vortex for guidance. The religious infighting between us left us ill-prepared when the Frost Shepherds at least returned with the first snows of winter.

Prehistoric Quiet Year

Our session of Quiet Year from Avery Alder this week was set in a prehistoric Ice Age, along an icy river cutting through the tundra, near a glacier, a hotspring fissure, and a schist jutting out of the earth. Our small community began with an abundance of mythology but warmth, game, and healing were scarce. We hunted for game and water fowl, carved caves from the glacier and attempted to appease the gods through sacrifices. When we attempted to build a new totem pole to please the angry gods, things turned dark. A storm ruined our construction, and an earthquake the bridge we tried to build across the river to visit the other community that lived there. When we attempted to dig a memorial pit to mimic their rituals, we failed yet again, and before we could right ourselves, the Frost Shepherds came riding out of the North with their war dogs, a veritable army of nomadic people. The people from across the river claimed to have driven them off once before and called for us to join them in protecting these lands from the Northern invaders.

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Puritanical Quiet Year

Tonight, we played Quiet Year by Avery Alder with a group of Puritans trapped between a sea they despised and a forest they feared. After much internal strife about how best to serve the Lord, we finally came together as a community just before the ghostly remnants of a witch coven returned to the our village and destroyed our harmony.