People play tabletop role-playing games for all sorts of reasons. Some enjoy the social and creative atmosphere. Others love rolling up bad-ass, nigh-rule-breaking characters. Still others play as a way to escape from the stress and ennui of everyday life. There are a lot more, and if we’re being honest, most people play for multiple reasons—and there’s no right or wrong way to draw enjoyment from role-playing as an activity.
But lately, as I’ve been role-playing more regularly as both as a player and a GM, I realize that what I enjoy most about it is the opportunity to tell a collaborative story. I love to read fantasy novels as much as the next geek, but in the end there’s just something fascinating about being the characters about whom the story is told, rather than simply reading about them. Sometimes we can get so caught up in the mechanics of dice-rolling and skill modifiers and whatnot that we lose track of why the dice are there in the first place, which is to facilitate—not dictate—the act of role-play itself. Some newer games work to emphasize the concept of role-playing as a storytelling medium, with the rules acting to support the medium rather than dominate it. Sixty Mile Sky, designed by local geek Benjamin Arndt, is one such game.
Sixty Mile Sky draws on diverse tropes within the interstellar future genre, incorporating elements such as aliens, giant robots, and science mages. The game uses a simple roll-and-add system that mirrors the d20 system of Dungeons & Dragons, with d10s replacing the d20s. Beyond that, you might look at it as a stripped-down version of D&D’s more complex mechanics, with a backdrop that I would describe as “low sci fi,” by which I mean that while the concepts are fantastical in nature—I doubt our future holds the promise of giant humanoid mechs or psionic mages, as cool as they might sound—the setting at large is more gritty, more down-to-earth, so to speak. For example, when you’re fighting a giant robot on foot, the game doesn’t give you any leeway that would allow you to perform heroic David-and-Goliath feats; you’ve got to play smart or you’re gonna die.
There are five races (robot being one of them) and 12 classes to choose from in Sixty Mile Sky. Three of the classes focus on MAVRICs, the giant robots in the setting; three involve physical and/or psychic augmentation through future science; three deal with the more applicable sciences of the future, such as terraforming and chemistry; and the remaining three deal with stealth and subterfuge, be it the classic Han Solo archetype or the cyberpunk hacker who fights wars in the digital world of corporate espionage.
Benjamin Arndt is currently raising funds for Sixty Mile Sky through a Kickstarter campaign, which runs until 10:05 a.m. on July 6, 2017, and has accumulated just over a quarter of its $6,500 pledge goal at the time of this writing. The game is set to print locally this fall should it meet this base funding. You can find out more about the game from its Facebook page.