The Smuggler

By Ash Alder

Chapter 1

A Last Tea Shop Play through.

Video produced and narration performed

by Zachariah Van Sluyters.


The Last Tea Shop is an incredibly imaginative solo, journaling tabletop role-playing game. In many ways, this game serves as a series of writing prompts that stimulate your creativity and imagination. After reading the game, I knew I found something special. I’ve already done a deep dive review, and I encourage you to read it. This, however, is the actual playthrough of that game.

For this playthrough, I wanted to stick to the rules and formula of the game as close as I could. That being said, The Last Tea Shop encourages players to make it their own and to allow the dialogue to wander where it will. In keeping with that spirit, I made two or three minor adjustments to the structure of the game, but the majority of the following chapter was constructed using the game’s system.

I hope you enjoy the tale.

Ash Alder

My Shop

Time has been strange. Days and memories blur. Nobody visited yesterday, of that I’m sure. Perhaps someone passed last week? If they did, I don’t remember their face. So many days pass exactly as the one before. I wake up and pull a thin silken sheet off of my face. The sheer fabric does little to keep the morning light out of my eyes. I get dressed and walk out of my bedroom and into my tea shop.

A teapot any secret cave

I can’t remember who was here before me, but the tiny little shop is mine now. It’s nestled in a shallow cave directly behind a silver waterfall. It faces south, or was it north? In the morning, I gaze upon the flowing water as the golden light illuminates it from the left. In the evening, the sun sets on the right turning the cascade into burning shades of malted embers.

A surreal tea shop built under a waterfall.

Two dusty dirt roads converge to the east of my cave and become one. Combined, they pass under the waterfall and directly in front of my shop’s threshold before leading out of my cave to the west. Visitors stopping for one final cup of tea find a tidy shop with clean bamboo-plank floors and a polished bar. A single chair waits at the bar, and a tiny wood-burning stove on the opposing side warms the space. The walls are made of backless bookshelves filled with teacups and teapots.

From behind my bar, I look right through the shelves and watch where the Dice Road and the Lantern Road entwine. From there, I wait for my next visitor, or is it my first visitor? The last few days have been so cloudy. I try and fail to remember who was here before. But then, I see someone walking down the Dice Road. I stoke the fire in my tiny stove.

An indigo woman walking a dusty cliffside path overlooking the ocean.

The Smuggler

A woman, dampened by an indigo drizzle crossed my threshold.

Much like the rain, she possessed an aura of gentle sadness. I begin to heat the water as she takes a seat at my tea bar. As we waited, I turned and asked, “Everyone who walks the Dice Road Walks Alone. Now that you take up this journey, who will be left to miss you?”

Her melancholy smile could not hide the gentle sadness from her voice. “I truly don’t know. I don’t know if anyone will even know that I’m gone.”

When the water is heated, I pour it over dried sage and make a pot of my Comforting Brew. I place a deck of cards face down on the bar between us. I say, “This is my Deck of Secrets, pull the card from the top.” She does so and turns it over. Face up, the card is revealed to be a portrait of a young girl sitting in a field of flowers and staring after a butterfly. I then asked her, “what do you think lies beyond the tea shop?”

Her eyes, never lifting from the card, fill with tears that refused to fall. She says, “my daughter.”

I serve the tea as she continues to stare at the card. After it is poured, I ask, “Before you traveled the Dice Trail, you sought something. What was it?”

A secret tea shop barHidden behind a waterfall.

Her watery brown eyes looked at me as she sipped her tea. She says, “For many years I found many things for many people. Some things were wondrous, some things were devious, but never anything evil. In return, I received fortune, luxury, adventure, and danger. Those were the things I wanted.”

I asked her, “why did you seek such things?”

“The first two I sought to fill a hole in my heart. The second two I sought to distract myself after the first two failed.”

The tears fell from her eyes as she drank her tea. After the cup was emptied, her tears stopped falling. She looked to her left and down the trail before her. She said, “This cold blue drizzle wore me down. But your tea has warmed me. I should get going now. Someone is waiting for me. Thank you.”

I nodded, but I don’t think she noticed. Before leaving my shop, she placed a small package on the bar. Then she held up her card and asked, “May I trade my last smuggled good for the card I drew?”

I shook my head “No trade, the card was already yours. It has always been yours. I just helped you find it.”

She smiled; warmth was in it. “Keep the package anyways. They’re gifts, and they are more useful to you than to me.”

After she left, I open the package and found it full of ginkgo leaves. They would make a wondrous tea.

Follow Up

This is the first chapter and first visitor. Every week, I will post another chapter. Keep in mind, that this is only one person’s playthrough of an exceptionally flexible game that implores you to use your own imagination. My chapters ran a little long, and yours might be longer or shorter. It all depends on your own style and imagination.

I highly recommend picking up The Last Tea Shop for yourself and giving it a try. I posted a link below to where you can find this game. If you do pick up and play the game, please, leave a comment and let me know. I would love to read it.

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