I am a rocket head. I know, I know, why did I start a website called the Wizard’s Respite if I enjoy sci-fi so much? Obviously, I’m a person with many interests. The fantasy genre certainly dominates the TTRPG market; the largest being Dungeons & Dragons. And I love fantasy! So the Wizard’s Respite needed to be focused on fantasy. However, I also love sci-fi, and it’s high time I did a review for a TTRPG game set amongst the stars.
When I sat down to read, Lost Among the Starlit Wreckage, I didn’t know how lucky I was that this would be my first science-fiction TTRPG review. This game strikes right at the heart of what makes Science Fiction a unique and powerful genre. A far too often neglected literary tool provided by science fiction will always be the laser point focus on the human experience provided by the setting. Starlit Wreckage does not make this mistake. In fact, it functions as an unambiguous yet elegant reminder of how traveling to the stars can really be about traveling within the human soul.
I know that may seem counterintuitive to some. Sci-fi is about laser battles, space aliens, black holes and lightspeed, right? Yes but no. What makes science-fiction so special is its malleability. In this case, however, we find that the setting provides the opportunity to explore a vast range of human emotions and situations. Removing characters, very relatable characters, from a familiar and Terran setting, allows the author the ability to explore these characters without the influence of our everyday lives and circumstances. Science fiction can be a sterile laboratory when examining why people think and behave the way they do. Lost Among the Starlit Wreckage proves this.
What’s it about?
Lost Among the Starlit Wreckage is a solo or two-player journaling TTRPG game. I’m sure I have confused some readers with that statement. Dungeons & Dragons, Pathfinder, and Warhammer are often what people immediately think of when beginning a conversation about tabletop role-playing games. Images of players seated around a table in someone’s basement game room à la stranger things, but epic campaigns lasting months and years only represent a small portion of the play styles available. Yes, it is certainly the most popular type of TTRPG, but it is not the only type of game.
Journaling TTRPG systems often provide a series of writing prompts that are explored at random. As you might imagine, these games are often one player, but not always, and not in this case. In Starlit Wreckage, the players are given dialogue writing prompts and the opportunity to explore how people respond to desperate situations.
The setting is literally stated in the game’s title. One player creates the pilot of a badly damaged battle mecha. If you’re not familiar with this sub-genre, mechas are giant robots piloted and controlled by people; think Pacific Rim. The first player’s character has recently survived a terrible interstellar battle. Their mecha is severely damaged and unable to move leaving the pilot stranded and adrift in space.
The second player writes the role of the “rescuer”. This character hears the pilot’s distress signal and moves to intercept the damaged mecha and rescue the pilot. The game primarily centers around writing an interesting dialogue between these two characters. Various writing prompts are provided to help develop the conversation, but the players can also explore interesting topics as they arise organically.
Ultimately, this game serves as an improvisational and collaborative writing exercise. You start by writing a little about your characters and whether or not they know each other. As the game progresses, you develop these characters through their dialogue and conversation. You get to know each other.
This game can get deep, and it can get deep fast. You’re writing characters in a life and death situation and exploring how they handle that kind of pressure, and you’re doing it in “real-time”. The complexity of the character’s relationship prior to the start of the game can compound the intensity of the impromptu dialogue. Are the pilot and rescuer husband-and-wife, father and daughter, brothers or rivals? The answer can drastically change the interaction between the two players.
It’s easy to feel a sense of connection to your character in any tabletop role-playing game, and as this game is played, you actively develop that connection. Playing this game is the process of writing your character, which means it is the process of getting to know and connecting with your character.
How does it work?
Lost among the Starlit Wreckage is easy to learn and fairly simple. It’s not about strategy or puzzle-solving, it’s about writing. The game mechanics primarily provides you with two things; the tools necessary to write dialogue and the incentive to write from the heart.
The book is about 35 pages and the game requires only a deck of playing cards and a six-sided dice. Overall, the game is pretty lightweight and can be learned within one readthrough. I had a solid understanding of how to run this game within 30 minutes. That being said, the paths this game can take you down are innumerable. The system provides a structure for your writing, and the writing process composes the backbone of this game. That means this story can go anywhere you want it to.
Because the game structure and system are so straightforward and easy to pick up, I don’t want to dive too deep into the nuts and bolts of this game. I would be doing the writers a disservice if I gave away their system mechanics. They obviously worked hard on this book, so I don’t want to undermine that hard work by popping the proverbial hood and dissecting the machinery. Instead, I’ll give a big picture overview of what you can expect when you sit down with this innovative game.
With that in mind, I would make the recommendation of trying to play Starlit Wreckage with a second player. Yes, there is a system provided for solo gameplay, and it’s a good system. I recommend that system as well. But the depth of emotion that can be explored between the two players is profound. Your characters are dealing with life-and-death stakes, and you need to embody that mindset in order to write their dialogue. When you have another speaking to you, replying to you, calling to you for help, you can’t help but get pulled into the cockpit.
I would also recommend recording the session. You’re going to come up with some good stuff. Some really good stuff. And you’re going to want to remember not only what you said but how it felt. Recording the dialogue instead of immediately writing it down frees up your attention and allows you to focus on the personality you are manifesting.
If you play this solo, the intensity will unavoidably be diminished, but you do receive a benefit in exchange. At its core, Starlit Wreckage provides a writing exercise. On your own, you have the opportunity to take your time and craft a more polished dialogue. This approach hones your skills in a way that the fast-paced two-player style can’t really match.
Either solo or two-player, this game provides you with the space and the tools to hone your writing. However, journaling games have a tendency to be played solo. They’re often designed that way. Here, we have journaling TTRPG that effectively provides an opportunity to explore a collaborative writing experience. I implore you, do not ignore this rare and unique jewel.
Who is this game for?
Other people too, but definitely writers. Lost Among the Starlit Wreckage exercises your writing muscles and pushes you in ways that I have never seen from any “conventional” writing drill. If you’re a writer, published or otherwise, I recommend picking up this game. It will challenge you in ways you may never have experienced before. It will make you a better writer.
Even if you’re not a sci-fi genre writer, you will still get a lot out of this game. We are actively composing characters in desperate situations and need to find a way to trust and relate to each other. If your novel doesn’t have that, what does it have? Besides, pushing yourself beyond the limits of your genre often opens you up to unexplored possibilities within the types of stories you prefer to write.
Aside from writers, TTRPG enthusiasts that really enjoy the role-playing aspect of these games will get a lot out of Starlit Wreckage. Again, if sci-fi isn’t your thing, I would still recommend giving it a shot because the draw to this system is the role-play. The game isn’t about starships and space robots, it’s about the human condition. If you love the “role-play” in “role-playing games”, you’re going to love this game.
If you play Dungeons & Dragons and have only ever played Dungeons & Dragons, I would highly recommend this game. It will make your role-play better in Dungeons & Dragons, but aside from that, it’s good to get a broader perspective on TTRPG in general. It’s a pretty big genre and this is an excellent book to start looking at what else is out there. It’s easy to learn, fast-paced, and fun.
If you are a gamer that loves strategy, number crunching, building stats, and so on, this may not be for you. If you like all those things and you’re looking to try something new, yeah, definitely give this one a shot. But if you know that TTRPG journaling games just aren’t for you, then Starlit Wreckage probably won’t be either.
So overall, this game will work great for writers of all shapes, sizes, and genres. Role-players will absolutely love crafting the intense emotional moments provided within the gameplay, and people looking to explore what other types of TT RPG will be hard-pressed to find a better system to start with. Lost Among the Starlit Wreckage checks a lot of boxes for a lot of people.
My overall impression of this game was a sense of awe. That’s what I love about sci-fi. It provides you with a lens to examine outward and inward. It speaks of the vastness of the universe just as much as it does the vast depth of our souls. I think that’s why I really enjoyed this game. It embodies what I love about science fiction by forcing me to be a science fiction writer.
I greatly enjoyed reading this game system and playing it with my partner. I look forward to playing again as well as introducing others to the game. I know a number of writers that I can’t wait to lure to my house for a game night. I’m sure they’ll get hooked just as I was.
I would also mention that this game is exceedingly affordable. It’s available at drivethrurpg.com for $7. At the time of writing this review, they even had a special. You could pick up the digital PDF as well as a colored softcover physical book for just $10. You rarely see physical copies at that price point.
Lost Among the Starlit Wreckage has my emphatic recommendation. If you want to pick it up, I’m providing links below. If you have any suggestions for future reviews or deep dives, please leave a comment or reach out to me.
My communication systems are always running and I’m scanning the stars for a signal. If you send a message, I won’t leave you stranded out there.
If you’d like to pick up Lost Among the Star Lit Wreckage, you can find it at DriveTruRPG. The Link is provided.