Review: Chiron’s Doom by Nick Bate

Disclaimer: I received a free copy of Chiron’s Doom from the author in exchange for a copy of The Synth Convergence.

There is a monument at the edge of civilisation, an enigmatic object known as Chiron’s Doom. Nobody knows what it does, or who made it, or why. It has defied all previous attempts at understanding. Countless expeditions have torn themselves apart trying to learn its secrets.

There’s no reason to think your expedition will be any different, but here you are. Three more explorers standing before the monument, driven to try where all others have failed. How much are you willing to sacrifice to solve the mystery of Chiron’s Doom?

Over the past few weeks I have been slowly making my way through a solo playthrough of Chiron’s Doom, published by Nick Bate and available on itch.io. The game chronicles the story of a doomed expedition as they set out to explore a foreboding and mysterious monument. Each scene is driven by a narrative prompt, chosen by drawing from a randomised deck, after which it is up to the players to decide how events play out. The expedition deck starts with a selection of Diamonds and the 2’s of the other suits. Draw any of those 2’s and you introduce a disaster deck – four additional cards that serve to build the danger and threat to your explorers. Draw a King and an explorer pays the ultimate price in their search for knowledge.

Playing solo I took charge of the trio of explorers and set out to explore the Dyson Array 03x65a, a massive orbital satellite from The Dyson Eclipse, a space opera setting that I am slowly developing. For the playthrough I decided to run the game as a series of blog posts, which start here and from the outset things got complicated for the intrepid explorers. By the end two of them had been taken by the monument while Arol, a wayward navigator had been shown his new path, tasked with protecting the secrets of the array from those that unknowingly walked the way of the light.

While I have written numerous pieces of short fiction in the past this was the first time I have taken to playing a solo RPG in this manner and I have to say that not only did I really enjoy the process but the prompts helped to flesh out the setting of The Dyson Eclipse in ways that I had not imagined. With the exception of the Arrays and the XenoArchaeology Protectorate virtually every detail in the setting was developed or fleshed out using inspiration drawn from the prompts. As a tool it was tremendously useful and I suspect I will do further playthroughs if only to help develop ideas.

Playing solo, and choosing to focus on only short scenes for each card, I did find that a number of the prompts difficult to use. For example the very first card I drew, the 8 of diamonds, reads

You experience a sudden, dramatic shift in perspective. What happened?
What does your new view reveal?

and it took me quite a while to work out how to incorporate a sudden shift in perspective into the very first scene. In a similar vein I found it difficult to link a couple of the draws to one another, although I suspect this would have been easier if I had played out each scene further than I did.

The one thing that I felt was missing from the game was the sense of the journey. The card prompts did well in representing revelations and challenges but I wanted more about the expedition itself, something that portrayed the more mundane steps in between revelations, perhaps as a separate deck that you draw from after round of drawing from the expedition deck.

Overall I would recommend picking up Chiron’s Doom if you are interested in exploring your own expedition, either with friends or as a solo storytelling game. It drew me into the unfolding story, piqued my interest in solo RPGs and I know that I’ll be replaying it in the future.

All reviews are rated out of 10, with Natural 20s reserved for products that go above and beyond my expectations.

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