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SO, WHAT IS ORBITAL?

ORBITAL gives us airlocks and control panels, pensive faces looking out into the cosmos, improvised fixes for critical systems, military-sponsored subterfuge, warm embraces in the cold vacuum, frantic struggles in zero-gravity and unknowable ancient technology, asking WHAT DO YOU DO NEXT?

Cover art for ORBITAL, by turbo.torbo, showing a space station with 'ORBITAL' written down the side.

Imagine an all-consuming interstellar war, spread across a vast galaxy and involving trillions of willing and conscripted participants. Then imagine a lone space station, floating in the cosmos, that is somehow set apart from this conflict.

Through significant effort and fortuitous circumstance this place has remained unaffiliated and relatively peaceful, providing a sanctuary for the lovers and thinkers who refuse to side with the two warring powers.

A quote from Mobile Suit Gundam 0079: 'This is only the beginning of our war. We have been putting more and more money into our efforts towards making our military stronger than ever. The Federation has done the same. Many of your fathers and brothers have perished valiantly in the face of a contemptible enemy. We must never forget what the Federation has done to our people!

But this hard-won neutrality is not secure, not even slightly. There’s always someone offering vital resources in exchange for a little influence, or plotting to displace our leaders, or smuggling military equipment into forgotten corners of the station.

Holding off these myriad threats is an informal network of dependable sorts, each with a stake in the continuing vitality of the station. These characters; politicos, artisans, brokers and so on, may not be officially recognised leaders—but their influence is felt strongly across the community.

They might not get along — they might not even like each other. But they are united by their belief that the station is a cherished place that must be protected. The question is: when the pressure is rising, can they put their differences & personal motivations aside for the good of the community?

NO BUT LIKE, WHAT IS ORBITAL?

ORBITAL employs the No Dice, No Masters system, utilising the core structure & mechanics from the wonderful Dream Askew by Avery Alder. This means two main things:

  •  There are no dice —players use tokens when they want their characters to take action, making 'moves'Strong moves, which show the character at their best, require a token to be spentWeak moves, which show the character's flaws or worst impulses, earn you a token. These tokens help you to weave dramatic arcs for your characters with far more control and simplicity than capricious dice, and make it easy for just about anyone to jump in and start playing.
  •  There are no masters—each player controls both a character and a share of the role of game master, taking responsibility for all of the NPCs and narrative pressures within one aspect of the setting (for example, THE INTERSTELLAR WAR or THE SCUM & VILLAINY). It's more like you're all taking turns playing the antagonists & introducing complications, rather than playing a game entirely without a GM.

Also drawing from Dream Askew, ORBITAL is a game of Belonging Outside Belonging. This means it focuses on stories on marginalised, precarious communities working to live independently from a dominant culture.

A slice of chapter art, by turbo.torbo, showing a person looking out an observation window at ships manoeuvring in space.

Like many of our favourite role-playing games, ORBITAL begins with everyone sitting down to make their characters. You’ll each choose from six CHARACTER ROLES—archetypes that help you create a distinctive main character. You’ll each also choose & personalise one of six SETTING ELEMENTS—aspects of the game world that can introduce challenges and complicate your character’s lives. Filling the two sheets out is quick, fun, and will generate a messy web of story threads to start mulling over.

A quote from Star Trek: Deep Space 9: 'Let me tell you something about hu-mons, nephew. They're a wonderful, friendly people, as long as their bellies are full and their holosuites are working. But take away their creature comforts, deprive them of food, sleep, sonic showers, put their lives in jeopardy over an extended period of time and those same friendly, intelligent, wonderful people... will become as nasty and as violent as the most bloodthirsty Klingon. You don't believe me? Look at those faces. Look in their eyes.

Finally, you'll work together to create your STATION. This place, unique to your table, will be a hopeful space that is struggling against pressures both within and without. You'll think about what it looks like, how it's structured, and choose a few things that are frequent sources of strife within the community. You'll also choose one pressing threat — a perilous event that threatens to light a spark to all the powder built up within your ragtag, turbulent space station.

As you start to explore these threats, you’ll ask questions which will lead to scenes between characters, using your various moves to shape the narrative in material, concrete directions. You’ll bargain and gossip, analyse and manage, love and celebrate, struggle and fight, and all the rest.

Ultimately, through play, you’ll decide the fate of your community and the station as equal storytellers in your own unique tale.

You can play a satisfying one-shot in 3-4 hours, or play through a series of sessions to explore your station further and further complicate your character's relationships. It can be played with up to 6 players, and will also includes rules for playing with a GM and 1-4 players when fully released.

Updated 22 days ago
StatusReleased
CategoryPhysical game
Rating
Rated 5.0 out of 5 stars
(85)
AuthorJack Harrison
GenreRole Playing
TagsAnime, Sci-fi, Space, Story Rich
MentionsAnnouncing the itch.io Summer Sale and T...

Purchase

Get this game and 2 more for $20.00 USD
View bundle
Buy Now
On Sale!
25% Off
$12.00 $9.00 USD or more

In order to download this game you must purchase it at or above the minimum price of $9 USD. You will get access to the following files:

00 - Introduction.txt 1 kB
01 - Orbital Play Materials.zip 15 MB
02 - Orbital Play Materials (Printable).zip 6 MB
03 - Orbital Play Materials (Plain Text).zip 417 kB
04 - Soundtrack.zip 329 MB
05 - Playing Online.txt 1 kB
06 - Satellite Descent.zip 3 MB

Community Copies

Support this game at or above a special price point to receive something exclusive.

Community Copy

Claim a free copy of ORBITAL if you are marginalised/in need. Copies will be limited but I'll be adding more here as people donate.

Thanks to my generous Kickstarter backers, we have more than 2,000 copies to share with the community. Cheers!

If there are no community copies available, please DM me on Twitter (@mouseholepress) or drop me an email to jack@mousehole.press and I'll get you a download key; no questions asked, no explanation preferred.

Donate a Community Copy

For $24 you'll get a copy of ORBITAL and donate a copy of the game for others to claim. 

Development log

Comments

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Hey where can I purchase a physical copy. I backed this game on kickstarter and would like to get one as a gift.

I just got my stock back so I’ll be opening up orders on mousehole.press again soon! Follow my newsletter if you want a reminder :)

(+1)

Hey! I was looking at a way to make this work on roll20 but saw you had a miro board. is it still up and i just have no idea how to use the website or was it a Kickstarter only thing? thank you!

(+2)

Yeah it should be, if you look at ‘05 - Playing Online.txt’ it should have all the details (let me know if it isn’t working!!)

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My group played through this game over a couple of sessions (could easily have gone longer). It was an absolute blast! Our first foray into GMless games. Never had to wonder what to do. There's always something interesting happening for you to interact with. 


It does take a VERY different mindset to play than D&D. So be aware of that if you come from D&D or similar games. But give it a chance and I'm sure your group will love it!


Also, I'm now using Starflung Missives from the bonus material for a letter writing game with my penpal. Lots of fun! 

(+1)

I’m so glad you had a good time with it! Well done on jumping into a GMless game, it can definitely feel shaky at first to adjust to a more freeform system but it sounds like you did great.

(+2)

Saw that it says physical copies are sold out, just wanted to drop by and say a few are still available here at floating chair club -> https://floatingchair.club/products/orbital

(+1)

There is Japanese text throughout the book. Is this just color or is there a parallel Japanese edition? I live in Kyoto and would love to play with my friends.

Hey Ben! I commissioned the Japanese text on the illustrations because there are plans to release a Japanese language version, but the person I was collaborating with has had to take a break from the work for the moment. Still plans to do so in future though!

Thank you so much Jack!

A great discovery and a very rewarding read. I haven't had a chance to play it yet, but I hope it will come soon.

About satellite descent (copied from my comment on the Kickstarter update): At the Unreasonable Demands game, in the Porblems section (page 5) you're outright missing the problems caused by drawing a 10! There's both problems from a draw of 9 and J, but not 10. It's not a huge problem, you can always choose from other problems, but I thought you ought to know :)

Aha, thanks good spot. I’ll sort it!

(+3)

Played this with a group of 5, including one who had almost never played RPGs before and one who had only played D&D before, and we had a fantastic time! The setup, reading the rules, and reading and filling in all the pillars on the Miro board took a bit longer than we expected (close to 2 hours), and we didn't use the pillars much in the end.


We played very cinematically, and our group of a half-man half-machine Wrench, a shapeshifter Shadow that turned out to be the reluctant villain, a deserter military AI Heart, a multi-legged multi-armed multi-tentacled orb-creature Monitor, and our shapeshifter Source dealt with a cyber-bomb planted by the Shadow that shut off the life support in our station. The military AI Heart turned evil and revealed themself to the Shadow, who then had to decide whether to complete his mission and kidnap the Heart, or sacrifice his mission to save the station, all while the Wrench and the Monitor fought to keep the station afloat.

It was really some of the best improv I had done in a long time — I really like the head fake of how the collaborative station building prompts define the station, but also build groupthink. :P


We were able to start Belonging-outside-Belonging lucid-dreaming after the second round, which was also really cool to experience.

The graphic design is super nifty and really captures the Belonging-outside-Belonging feeling of the station.


Highly recommend this system for a sleek, virtual-friendly (seriously, the Miro board and instructions is really helpful for online play) RPG that's beginner friendly and fairly rules-light! Very cool picklists for characters as well.

(+1)

Thanks so much for your lovely feedback 😊

(+1)

Very curious about what you said here, are you able to elaborate at all? 

"We were able to start Belonging-outside-Belonging lucid-dreaming after the second round, which was also really cool to experience."

thanks for sharing! 

(+1)

"Belonging-outside-Belonging lucid-dreaming" is me rephrasing/repurposing/bastardizing a line from Riley Rethal's excellent Galactic 2e. In her words:

"as you're brainstorming ideas and discussing the shape of your story, you're entering a mode of play called idle dreaming. this mode is all about curiosity: asking questions, following tangents, brainstorming together. talk about the setting you're building and the things that you find interesting, confusing, or important."

At the start of Orbital, when answering the setting questions and fleshing out the Aspects, we engaged in exactlywhat Riley Rethal describes.

However, during play after the second round, we were all collaboratively storytelling in what felt like a mix between "idle dreaming" as described above and long-form (U.S. American) improv, where we were implicitly passing focus and taking turns to define scenes and pick who would be in each scene. We trusted each other and the story we were building together - building the setting together built groupthink to the point that players were playing up/off motifs that other players were setting up and building themes in the narrative. It really did feel like good long-form improv crossed with being in a TV writer's room, since we were describing film camera shot compositions during our scenes and building the visual aspect and bringing up running color motifs and so on. That's why I described it a bit differently as "lucid" dreaming, because we basically didn't use the rules at all at that point. We were just naturally passing focus without turn order and asking questions like "I have a really good scene idea, do you trust me?" or "I think X should go next, I want to see how their character reacts to what just happened."

Appreciate the interest, hope this helps!

(+1)

Excited to play this does anyone know of a group looking for players?

(+1)

some pals and i are doing a one-shot on tuesday july 6th at 7pm eastern US time on discord voice, if you're available/interested i'll give you my discord info :)

(+1)

Sweet thank you, id totally be down.

(1 edit)

my discord is [removed now that contact was made]  :)

sent

(+2)

Had a really good time playing this game with a group recently. Between the players & the game itself, I think we had a really memorable adventure with some great cinematic moments. Highly recommend Orbital for people interested in a fun and collaborative storytelling game.

Congratulations on the Kickstarter! Can this game be played solo? I was a little confused with the way it was described. 

Nope! You need 3 players, I should make that clear as I currently say ‘up to 6!’

(+1)

Thanks for the reply. Yeah, I was confused whether there was a missing comma.  GM, and/or 1-6 players. Congratulations again. This looks amazing!

(+1)

Hello

Your game is really excellent and promising, just already with the playtest kit.

I really liked the No Dice No Masters system and the way you integrated the Dream Askew principles into your game.

Really, a very good game. I'm looking forward to the full version.

And a very nice alternative for playing in a SF context.

Thanks so much! Can’t wait till you see the finished product :)

I did a review (in French) about ORBITAL on my blog.

http://www.jeepeeonline.be/2021/01/orbital-retour-de-lecture.html

There is a real interest about Belonging Outside Belonging games for French players (France, Belgium and maybe Quebec)

(+1)

Wow; just wow!

(+1)

This looks so promising. I will definitely take a look when I have time. The aesthetic alone is captivating.