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Role-playing can be a powerful tool. It can help us explore difficult emotions like loneliness in a safe environment. But it is important to be safe while exploring these emotions as it possible to go diving into them and struggle to resurface. Especially with solo play. To that end, The Artefact thankfully comes with a warning about responsible play and helpful resources to anyone struggling with loneliness.
The Artefact by Mouse Hole Press is a solo role-playing game in which you play a magical object (a weapon, a shield, or an instrument). Throughout the game you will journey with ‘keepers’, people who have found you and take you with them. From folk heroes and indomitable leaders to pirate captains, bandits, and cults, you will experience a wide selection of keepers as they eventually die or lose you. And this is where The Artefact is really novel. Between each keeper you decide how long you are lost for and sit in darkness for the relevant amount of time. Anywhere from 5 seconds to 6 minutes. During this time you are encouraged to get into the mindset of being trapped in darkness, of being abandoned and lost. It’s intense.
As a solo game, you have a lot of control and it is important to remember that mechanics serve story in a game like this. If you’ve made a choice that doesn’t fit with the mechanics as written, work around them. Do what makes your story better.
Functionally The Artefact is a journal writing game in which you write the history of your artefact. How they feel about their keeper, what sort of journeys they’ve went on, and what happens to their keeper that ends up with them being lost or abandoned. You can write as much or as little as you like and I found that even on an A4 page I was able to create an engaging history though for my next one I’m planning on diving deep into their story.
At each stage you’re prompted to answer a question or change a trait/detail of your artefact. Sometimes positive, sometimes damaging as the years pile on. These small changes add up to create a well defined character for the artefact but they are the same across the three artefact types which is a bit disappointing (except for one question which is slightly reworded for each).
There is one point that I am confused by. In the rules it says to sit in silence for the appropriate amount of time for whatever period of being lost you’ve chosen. But The Artefact comes with an OST and each track is named after these time periods and is the exact length of time you are supposed to sit in silence for. This might be a case of the rules being written first and the OST being a pleasant but unexpected addition. Personally I found sitting with the soundtrack on much easier as it meant I wasn’t having to keep track of time and it provides an excellent ambience to the solitude.
I can’t recommend this one enough, especially to GMs looking for something to make their world feel more real.
You can find The Artefact on Itch.io HERE
- Brilliant Game
- No Shame Here
- 1 player
- Under £10