I’m making a small-scale, play-by-mail game. It’s an analog exploration MMO that’s a cross between Dwarf Fortress and ZZT, with me as the dungeon master. There are no computers involved. I mail out a postcard with a small view of the world, players fill out an action sheet and mail it back. At specific times of the month, I go through and simulate the world based on players' actions and resolve any issues. All players are in the same game world and assigned to one of two teams.

As part of the simulation, I write up what happened and I can modify the action sheet available to players. For example, the first thing you can choose to do is move to collect your backpack. On your next postcard you’ll now have inventory slots and a badge identifying which team you’re on. After that you might walk on your house’s sign and I’ll send you back a template to fill out so you can write your own message on the sign, visible to all players if they visit. Because I enforce the rules, I can react to any situation and, as long as it fits on a postcard, I can resolve it with the player. Even if it doesn’t fit on a postcard, I can mail auxiliary items.

Each turn, players will be left with their half of the game card: on one side a story and any instructions, on the other, their small 11x11 view of the world on their PARCELSCOPE. I hope players keep these and assemble a history of where they’ve been and build up a larger view of the world over time.

I love the physical, “arts & crafts” aspect to this project. I ended up getting an electronic typewriter and I’m slowly learning how to use it more efficiently. I love the mistakes, misalignments, and overall hand-made feel. I believe there’s something intrinsically valuable in an object which another person has put physical work into. Too much of our world is digital, synthetic, and intangible. There’s something fun about using markers, messy ink from typewriters, stencils, and stamps. Players will also do some basic arts & crafts to play the game. At a minimum, they’ll mark up their actions on their ACTIONGRAPH and cut the card in half and mail it back. As they start using their inventory, they’ll physically cut items from their inventory PACK and physically paste them into their ACTIONGRAPH.

There’s also something fun about slowing down the dopamine hits to a laughably slow pace of a few times a month. I’m hopeful that for both me and the players, going to get the mail will become a ritual that holds some excitement and whimsy. It’s magical to me that I can put something in a box and raise a flag and a few days later that thing appears in a box somewhere else, far away. That magic loses its luster when most of what appears is unsolicited flyers and bills, but the magic is still there.

These are aspirational goals, but I’m having fun in the process. To make it easier on myself and up the quality, I ordered custom stamps. I’m really excited to use them in the next round of cards.

Here’s what the first version of the game cards look like:

I’m leaning in to the typewriter and using the style and tone to make it feel bureaucratic. The idea is that you’ll be collecting Parcels of land for a central Parcel Command as you move around the world. You’ll see trails left by other explorers. You might even track them down to trade goods or messages.

Here are the custom stamps in action (with QA by River Milk):

And a view of all the stamps. I’m still getting used to how to ink and apply them!

This is not a game that will scale up to a lot of players, but that’s what I like about it. I’d like to add a few more people as I work out the kinks. If you’re interested, you can DM me on my Discord.