Indie TTRPG Preview: Meanwhile, in the Subway

Next week, as part of The Rat Hole’s ongoing hosting of the November RPG Blog Carnival, I have an interview with game designer Côme Martin and a review of his game Two Summers. But Côme already has another game in the works, currently crowdfunding over on Itch, called Meanwhile, in the Subway. As the crowdfunding ends this Sunday I would feel like I wasn’t doing my job if I failed to draw your attention to this gem of a narrative TTRPG.

If you live in a city with a light rail transit system, you’ve likely spent some time in subway stations, travelling through the dark between stops. Like many liminal spaces, the subway system has an unreal quality to it, detached from the rest of the world. Meanwhile, in the Subway delves deep into that surreal feeling, adding a layer of magic for good measure. You and your fellow players are passengers, technicians, or what have you, travelling on the subway in a fantastical 1920-30s European city. Something goes amiss, an odd event occurs, and the players tell the story of their investigation.

The game itself is elegantly simple and gives itself over to directing narrative play. When I flipped through the PDF for the first time I was surprised to see that only two of the forty three pages had play instructions. The rest of the pages are lists of prompts for things like Characters’ Occupations, Characters’ Hobbies, Characters’ Odd Details, and Unforeseeable Events. Which actually makes sense. The number one thing that slows down a narrative style of game is a player with a block; giving over so much of the game book to helping players past that issue is an excellent use of space. And truly, every list is filled with enticing, evocative entries. For instance, I particularly like “Private Seasoner” from the Characters’ Occupations list. What does a private seasoner even do? I don’t know, but I want to play just to find out.

On its own Meanwhile, in the Subway is a lovely and surreal story game to play with your friends. But I would also suggest that MitS could serve to add an extra dimension to your already existing campaign. The narrative rules are light enough they could slot into next to any other ruleset with no issue. And even if you didn’t want to add the subway system as presented, the prompt lists are an invaluable resource for any Game Master looking to add a surreal tinge to their campaign.

As mentioned, Meanwhile, in the Subway is crowdfunding until Sunday on Itch. It has already reached its initial goal so it will deliver the base game to all backers as promised. While it’s still a ways away, I hold out hope it might reach the $2000 stretch goal; I would love to have a print version of this game for my collection. No matter, I have the current PDF and I’ll get the updated version as well. I would highly recommend picking up a copy for yourself at the Itch funding price, if price is a concern. Barring a sale or bundle I don’t think you’ll see the game this low priced again.

If you pick up the game and like what you see, join me next week over at The Rat Hole! On Monday I’m posting an interview with Côme Martin, and on Friday I’ll have a review of his game Two Summers. And check the comments section of the November RPG Blog Carnival’s launch page for more excellent articles on Indie TTRPGs!