First of the three games I created during the Forge's Iron Game Chef competition of April, 2004, Island at the Dawn of Time is one of those games that is complete, and I believe fully playable, but lacks a spark. Creating it was educational, and I haven't given up on making it catchy yet, but right now it's as it is. If you do wind up playing it, please let me know the results!
Island at the Dawn of Time
A chilly wind picks up as the sun begins to rise; you feel the first touches of warmth on your cheek. It is the first time - your first sunrise, the first sunrise ever, and as you awaken you look over the island on which the Creator set you before he turned off the lights and walked away. The ice is melting on the island, but as you look out upon the frozen sea all around you, you realize there is so much work to do.
It is the dawn of a universe, a world waiting to be born, and your characters are its Adams and Eves. It is your job to name the things in this world, and in doing so give them form and purpose. But the long night before the first day has frozen those things in the sea, encased them in ice. And the ice will not give up its secrets easily.
Armed with nothing but your Names, you and your fellow children of the Creator prepare to make war with the ice, to free the world that is waiting to be born.
Gather some players - 2 is the absolute minimum, but 3 or more is preferred - and two sheets of notebook paper. Write "Creation Roster" on the top of the first sheet, and tear the other one into equal parts, one for each player. Each player writes their character's name on their sheet, and one of them fills out the Creation Roster. The Roster includes all the character's Names, each starting at a value of 4, and the Island, also rated at 4. As Names are addressed and added, things will change, so make sure to write everything down in pencil.
Things To Know
In Island at the Dawn of Time, there are two types of points - one for Names, and the other for players. The first type, called Nomen, are the points that determine how important a Name is, and thus how substantial the concept behind it has become. At 7 Nomen, a Named thing has become perpetual - it can no longer be unmade. If a Name ever goes below zero, it has been Unmade and can never be re-created.
The other type of point is the Machina, or Machinae for plural. Players track these as they collect them on their sheet of paper. For every Name that a player brings up to 7 points, he earns a single Machina; for every Name that a player creates that is brought to 7 points, he earns another Machina (thus earning up to two Machinae per Name, if they both create it and make it perpetual). Machinae are mainly a point of prestige, tracking who "wins," but they do have a few in-game uses.
Finally, a note for those who have played other roleplaying games - Island at the Dawn of Time does not name a specific player as the GM. Everyone gets a character.
Playing the Game
Island at the Dawn of Time is played in turns, each turn signifying a day (from dawn to dusk). These turns are subdivided into three phases:
At the dawn of each day, before anything else happens, each qualifying player is given a Nomen they must immediately spend. This can be put into a new Name, or it can be given to an existing thing. New Names should be added to the Creation Roster, along with the name of the character that created them, and get a value of 1. No more than one Nomen may be given to a single Name in the Dawn phase. If any character's Name has reached 7, or dropped below 0, their player skips the Dawn phase altogether.
Every player gets one 'turn' a day. On the first day, players go in alphabetical order. On subsequent turns, the turn order goes from most Machinae to least - if two players have earned the same amount, the player who earned it first has seniority. Those with zero remain in alphabetical order amongst themselves. Turn order is always determined at the start of the Day phase, and does not change until the next turn.
For each player's turn at the day phase, the player next in line will take on the role of the Unmaker, personifying the forces that are assaulting Creation. The last person in line has the very first person as their Unmaker. During their turn, the player must describe what their character is doing during the course of the day, and as a result which Names they are addressing. A character always addresses their own name, but may address any other Names as desired - apart from the Names of other players, which you may only address if they okay it. Names that have reached 7 may also not be chosen - once they become perpetual, they are out of the running.
Once the Names the player is addressing are decided, there comes the guessing game. For each Name they've chosen to address, their Unmaker will pick a number between 1 and 12. The player then tries to guess that number. The player, however, may add or subtract a number of steps equal to that Name's current value - with a 0 sitting between 12 and 1, making the continuum a loop. A character may guess zero, if he feels it's strategic, but the Unmaker may only ever pick a number from 1 to 12. If the player's range contains the Unmaker's number, it is considered a success. If the target number is guessed exactly, that Name's value is automatically raised one Nomen, regardless of the outcome of the entire contest.
The player needs at least half his choices to be successes. If this happens, all the Names he was attempting to address have their Nomen raised by one - even the failures. If the player has less than half his choices as successes, then the Names don't change at all.
As suggested above, there are special cases for those players whose character's Names have dropped below zero, or brought up to 7. A player whose character's Name has reached 7 is now a part of the world - he has lost the stuff of creation, and cannot Name new things. However, their existence can still be useful - on their turn during the Day, they can add one Nomen to any single Named entity. In addition, they may attempt to guess a number that their Unmaker chooses - if they succeed, they get one more Nomen to spend.
A player whose Name has dropped below zero finds their character has become an agent of the Unmaker. During their turn, they may subtract a point from any Name. If any Name falls below 0 due to their actions - either now, or during the Dusk phase - they earn an additional Machina, or two if that Name was their own. This player may also attempt to guess a number that their Unmaker chooses - if they succeed, they can create a new Name, at 1. With luck, they can Unmake it on the next Day.
At dusk, every player must compare their Name's score to their Machinae. If the value of their Machinae is higher than their Name, their Name's value rises by one. If their Machinae value is lower than their Name, their Name falls by one. A character can sacrifice a single Machina to keep their Name the same. After this comparison, any player whose Name has reached 7 may pick one Name that they wish to protect. This Name is unaffected by the frost.
The frost happens at the end of the Dusk phase. Each and every Name that hasn't become perpetual is reduced by one Nomen. Names already at 0 become Unmade, never to be Named again.
Once there are no more Names in flux, the game is over. The player with the most Machinae is the winner.