Switching things up a bit from Something Awesome to Something Spooky. As some of you may or may not know, I have a side hustle as a professional game master, where I run TTRPGs like Dungeons and Dragons, the Marvel Multiverse RPG, and Star Trek Adventures for groups both online and in-person. I’ve been a gamer ever since I was a kid, and I have a deep love for the art form. To help scratch that itch between sessions, I’ve decided to try playing a solo RPG right here on my blog.
I stumbled across Lighthouse at the End of the World, a solo journaling RPG at Geeky Teas, my friendly local game store, just a few weeks ago. I was struck by its simplicity and elegance. Story beats are decided with a single six-sided die, a deck of cards, a handful of coins, and a Jenga tower. A couple coin flips at the top of the game decide if I’m writing a journal for myself, or letters to someone back home. From there, I roll a d6 to determine how many cards I draw from the deck. Each card is tied to a prompt for something to write about in each week’s log entry as I stand watch over the world’s most distant coastal lighthouse.
Oh, and the lighthouse is haunted. Sometimes the cards I draw will prompt me to pull from the Jenga tower. If the tower falls, it means I’ve been possessed by one of the ghosts and the game ends.
I’ll just say up front that it’s rare this game ends well for the player’s character. This game’s much more about the journey than the destination.
So, with that in mind, I hereby present my first journal entry as the new keeper of the Lighthouse at the End of the World, followed by my pulls for next week’s writing prompts.
They say that confession is good for the soul. Then may this blank leather tome soon become my confessor and bear the weight of my secrets, for I have no one else to turn to.
I’ve been here a month now. Thirty days since I disembarked the Radiant and took up my station as the new Lighthouse keeper at Point Fatal. Sailing from Petit Gaule, the ship dropped me on this godforsaken rock located at the absolute ass-end of the world before continuing on their merry way to civilization in the west. The captain, a bearded gentleman of middle age and portly stature, clad in a navy turtleneck and impossibly clean white cap, said they’d be back in six months with relief, and with a wink told me to keep out of trouble. If only he knew.
My official instructions are to tend the light, and in doing so, hopefully stave off disaster for the ships traversing these waters. Seems simple enough.
Simple, perhaps. But not necessarily easy.
The weather is rarely calm this far south. More often than not, you can see the storms coming, but I’ve already been surprised more than once by sudden squalls that seemingly come up out of nowhere, causing great waves and sheets of rain to batter the ivory tower within which I reside. Even when the weather’s clear, violent gusts of wind pummel and rattle the glass windows surrounding the beacon, causing a never-ending din that only now, after weeks of being subjected to it, I’m able to shut out.
Weather’s not the only concern, of course, but the persistent threat it presents certainly puts it at top of mind.
It didn’t take long to familiarize myself with both the lighthouse and the island upon which it stands; an easy task when there’s not much to explore. And yet, I can’t help but sense an air of mystery about this place. My gut tells me that the lighthouse is too large a structure for such a small interior, but I’ve been unable to discover any hidden spaces or long-forgotten chambers. So far, at least. An uneducated man might believe the tower’s walls to be exceptionally thick and sturdy as to withstand the constant storms.
But me, I know better.
Speaking of secrets, my employer did not reveal much about the circumstances of my predecessor’s unceremonious departure. Only that he’d been terminated. I’m not certain how literally I should take his choice of words.
Doesn’t matter, though. I have my own reasons for being here that I wasn’t keen to share with my employer. Fair’s fair, right? And truth be told, the timing of this unexpected opportunity couldn’t be more fortuitous.
It’s lonely out here. That’s not to say I’m alone, though. Far from it. The gulls keep me company. And on calm days my life is accompanied by the singing of my neighbors over on Roberts Island, about a mile off. Their voices, set to the steady rhythmic tink-tink of great hammers chipping away at stone, drift over the water to fill my open ears from sunrise to sunset. Just hearing that melody makes my knees throb and back ache all over again.
Like clockwork, shortly after my arrival here, the warden sent me the customary introductory letter with its welcoming tone and an invitation to dine with him and his wife. I haven’t responded yet. My intention is to put off sending a reply for as long as politely possible, and even then I’ll sandbag any effort to set a date for any communal breaking of bread. I cannot afford to put my purpose here at risk by discovery. Sure, I’ve gained back some weight, shaved the beard, and gotten a smart haircut, but there’s no sense in taking unnecessary chances. Besides, time marches ever onward, and it won’t be long before I begin to bear a passing resemblance to the man I once was. I hope to be long gone from this place before that comes to pass.
I came here with the assumption that the stories I’d heard were true. Well, most of them, at least. The ones that spoke of a hidden bounty that could set a man for life. The stashed ill-gotten gains of a former resident of Roberts Island. One who supposedly had the good fortune to escape captivity and successfully make the swim across to the lighthouse. What became of him from there, no one can say for sure. Still, that tale caught in my brain and inflamed my imagination.
Although it’s been a month now, and so far I’m still no closer to unlocking the secrets of this place.
I have to admit, I’m beginning to have my doubts.
Hopefully they’re not as fictional as the rest of the tales told about this island. Tales of ghosts and specters and things that go bump in the night. I’ve yet to experience anything that could change my stance on the (non-)existence of the supernatural, and I sincerely doubt that this island, for all of its dark nooks and unsettling noises, will provide me with any sort of conclusive evidence.
Common ghost stories are to the mind what idle hands are to the devil, and should be forsaken as such.
Drawing my writing prompts for Lighthouse at the End of the World Session Two
My writing prompts for next week are the Seven of Diamonds, the King of Diamonds, the Nine of Diamonds, and the Seven of Clubs. Drawing the King of Diamonds is not great. But then I realized that I had to make not one, not two, but three separate pulls from the Jenga tower right out the gate. And no lie, for a minute there I thought this was going to be a really short game.
Come back next week to find out what happens next!
About Lighthouse at the End of the World, a solo journaling RPG
Tend the light. Fend off the dead. In all things, persist.
You play a lighthouse keeper at the furthest reaches of civilization. Your tormentors are numerous: the crushing solitude, the chaotic weather, the penal colony nearby, and a legion of unquiet dead conspire to erode your sanity until one of them claims you.
You may well die. But you will not go quietly.
With a die, a tower, a deck of cards and a handful of coins, you will reveal why you came to be here, document the uncanny perils and numbing drudgery of life in the lighthouse, and explore the unraveling mystery of your ghostly companions. For discovering their true identities may be the one way to end their suffering… and consequently your own.
Live or die, by the end of Lighthouse at the End of the World you will have penned a strange tale of doom, perseverance and grace in the face of certain oblivion.
Lighthouse at the End of the World is a 32-page sourcebook written by Ken Lowery with cover art by Sally Cantirino. Published by Bannerless Games.