Thursday, May 12, 2022


(I recently learned about the concept of "depletion dice" mechanics and decided to graft it onto an older idea I had. You'll probably see a lot of similarities between this quick draft and my Desolate Days post, another single(ish) page RPG, though I think Detritus distinguishes itself enough in tone to have the right to exist. You could also probably use this as the chassis for a Crypt-Cities game, too. Just swap constructs for corpses.)
FF1 Guardian by Yoshitaka Amano

Detritus is a game about loss. Not loss in the sense of just going along, making progress until you inevitably face something too great for you, or luck ceases to go your way- though that may also be the case.

Loss in the sense of constant, incremental decline. You do not level up in Detritus, you level down. Tools break as easily as your body. Wear, tear, and time force painful decisions on you, and the best you can do is cut your losses for the moment. You may get frustrated, or you may enjoy the challenge- both feelings are irrelevant. All is fleeting, soon to be dust.

In Detritus you play as a simulacrum cobbled together from scrap and garbage and endowed/burdened with a semblance of life. You are of approximately humanoid shape, lopsided and misproportioned. Your creators, and the means by which they created and repaired you, are long-lost.

You “live” on borrowed time as stone crumbles, wood splinters, and the gears in your head rust. You are soon to be nothing, and you have nothing except for one last order screaming over and over on a fraying ribbon inside your brain as you wander a dead, ruined world:

F̶̦͛Ḯ̴̦Ṉ̸͑D̵͇͝ ̸̯̐T̶̫͋H̴͙̉E̴͍̐ ̴͔͝A̵̩͘Ǹ̷͖T̵̤̈́I̷̪̍-̴͎̒T̷̯͆Ȍ̶̧Ŵ̶̤E̵̗̚R̷͙̈́

T̴̻̏U̶̫̾R̵̪̉N̷̛͔ ̶̉ͅŤ̷̞H̷̭̔E̵̪͗ ̶̤̒K̵̰̊Ě̷͔Y̴̹̅

Making sense of this agonizing geas, to say nothing of actually achieving it, presents you with an insurmountable task: survive in this world that is fast rejecting your existence. Brave continent-blotting sandstorms, plumb the hollowed-out shell of the planet, climb the shattered heights of the tetrahedral sky, all without your (mal?)functioning kin stripping you down for parts.

Simulacra have the stats Force, Finesse, and Focus.

  • Force holds things together or tears them apart.
  • Finesse navigates fragile things and deadly places.
  • Focus maintains your fraying mind and senses.

Assign d12, d10, and d8 to your stats. Smaller dice are worse. Everything will weaken and crumble.

Only roll dice when you want to do something and there is serious risk and meaningful consequence for failure, or when the world or its denizens have thrown something harmful at you. Roll the most relevant stat's die and test against the risk's Target Number, which can be anything from 2 up to ~14.

Roll sparingly and reluctantly, but remember that you will inevitably fail.

Roll at or above a target number to succeed or avoid harm. Rolling below the target number is a failure, and causes Breakage. Rolling a 1 is a critical failure, and causes double Breakage. Rolling the max number on a die is always a critical success regardless of Target Number, but also causes Breakage.

Breakage is the wear and tear on your body made manifest. When you suffer Breakage, reduce the rolled stat by 1 die size: d12 becomes d10, d10 becomes d8, etc. If you suffer double Breakage from a Natural 1, you reduce the die size by 2 steps. This reduction is permanent. Stats can break all the way down to d2. When a d2 stat is tested and breaks, your simulacrum breaks down into the Wreck it was always destined to be. When all simulacra wreck, the game ends.

You can stave off Breakage by using Tools, and Cannibalizing.

Tools are leftover machines, devices, and aids that can be scavenged from the dead world around you. If you're lucky, they make up for the resources you expend trying to get them. Tools come in d2 and d4 sizes and have an associated stat. You can choose to roll 1 Tool die alongside a stat and add the results together before determining if it succeeds or fails. Rolling the maximum number on a tool die is not an automatic success, but it does still break. Each simulacrum can carry up to 3 Tools each.

There's a rumor/theory/lie that better, less worn-out tools of d6 or even bigger size are somewhere out there, hidden by the Makers.

Cannibalizing is a bit like scavenging for Tools, except the heaps of rubble you rifle through are your fellow mismade simulacra. When another character (whether PC or NPC) is wrecked, you can harvest their body for repairs, spare parts, and the rare upgrade. Cannibalizing allows you to replace 1 or 2 of your stat dice with the dice your target had at the time of death, excluding the broken stat. Replaced dice must share the same stat; you can't replace your d6 Finesse with a d12 taken from a wreck's Force, for example.

You will probably happen upon the wrecks of your previous player characters and their Tools while on subsequent excursions, and should take advantage of any you find. Incremental progress measured in dust and failure.

At the end of every session (or with each major milestone reached), every simulacrum takes 1 step of Breakage in every stat from the inexorable passage of time, unless that would drop a stat below d2- that thread will break when its time comes.


  1. Sorry for maybe too shallow of the question, but have you ever played Primordia (by Wadjet Eye Games), by any chance?

    1. I have not heard of it before now, but upon looking it up I think it seems pretty neat! Definitely in line with some of the mood I was going for. Higher-tech than my mind's eye, but the desolate beauty is perfect.

      Have you played it? What did you think?

    2. I like a lot of Wadjet Eye games but this is probably my favourite standalone one (Blackwell is also very good, but it is a series). I'd highly recommend it, especially if you wish to imbue yourself with a mood in the post above.