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Icarus: How Great Civilizations Fall
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Icarus: How Great Civilizations Fall

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Icarus is a collaborative storytelling game about how great civilizations fall, written and designed by first-time designer Spenser Starke. This collaborative storytelling game begins with Icarus: A city-nation of your design. 

At the height of its power, your city of Icarus has decided to erect a massive, ever-growing monument in the center of town to display its sophistication and prestige to the world. 

Those who have played “The Quiet Year” or “Tales of the Arabian Nights” may be familiar with the format of this game; rather than individual stories of adventurers going on dungeon crawling adventures, players will take on the roles of Diplomats, Scientists, Marshalls, Actors, Politicians, and Business Moguls as they describe events taking place over months, and sometimes years, that will help shape the fall of a powerful civilization.

Icarus is played using the rulebook, a deck of 52 cards, some notecards, and a set of dice. Over the course of the game, players will be stacking dice to represent the growing hubris of the great city, and the failures that characters generate will contribute to the tower as their nation falters and decays. Once the dice tower itself tumbles, the city goes with it.

Icarus invites you to build your own utopia, but also comes with a handful of setting suggestions to get your game up and running quickly. With fascinating and evocative civilizations like:

  • The cradle of early mankind
  • A fantasy city imbued with magic 
  • A booming western town along the ever-expanding railroad 
  • A mystical jungle city full of divine secrets 
  • The first major city on Mars 
  • A burgeoning space colony of alien life-forms 
  • and more!

You'll have all the details you need to get a game off the ground within minutes.

Though the range of settings for Icarus are endless, it is important that Icarus features a tower that shall rise and a city that will fall. Because of this, Icarus is also the perfect tool to use during your campaign’s ‘Session 0’ before hopping into the RPG of your choice. As a game designed specifically for one-shot play (once the tower falls, the game comes to an end), it can serve as both a satisfying single session and as a rich campaign starter for your group's next adventure!

By leading players through the sprawling, epic stories of a civilization’s fight to survive against insurmountable odds, the game creates a world with memorable lore, momentous events, and tragic heroes. 

Exploring a Exploring a "Retro Sci-Fi" version of Icarus on the surface of Mars.

For games like Outbreak: Undead.., Apocalypse World, or any other dystopian/post-apocalyptic systems, Icarus effectively puts a "World Bible" into your hands that can be used to immediately jump into a fully-realized and player-generated universe, where characters are intimately tied to the history and lore of the world they must now fight to stay alive in.

Writer: Marvel Comics, DC Comics, Dark Horse, Valiant, IDWWriter: Marvel Comics, DC Comics, Dark Horse, Valiant, IDW
Relics & Rarities, We're Alive: Frontier, Sags of Sundry, King of the NerdsRelics & Rarities, We're Alive: Frontier, Sags of Sundry, King of the Nerds

Each Player will be dealt a ‘Pillar of Society’ card that will represent a key element of Icarus that you will explore during the game.

  • Art
  • Technology
  • Agriculture
  • Law
  • Energy
  • Social Structures
  • Etc

Each of the Pillar of Society cards have the choice of either a strength or a weakness prompt to answer. Players will collectively choose only one of their Pillars to be a weakness at the beginning of the game - but that crumbling Pillar will serve as a crucial narrative force in the story to come.

STRENGTH: The people of Icarus feel safer here than anywhere else, why? WEAKNESS: The people of Icarus all share a common fear, what is it? And where did it come from?STRENGTH: The people of Icarus feel safer here than anywhere else, why?
WEAKNESS: The people of Icarus all share a common fear, what is it? And where did it come from?

A single Pillar card will also be placed in the center, to represent the monument of Icarus.

Afterward, players will create characters that serve as keystones and cracks in the foundation of society.

These characters are usually a major player in this city's infrastructure and are tied to their pillar and Motive they receive during character creation. While players can create archetypal relationships (such as a Marshall that represents the pillar ‘Law’ in a western city and whose motive is to “Protect The Citizens”) they can also explore deeper, more subtle roles that can manipulate the city in big ways (a Judge, Lawless Mercenary, Parent who has a position on city council, or a Silent Film Star who has taken a personal interest in politics).

Your Motives will guide you into affecting the narrative in distinct, powerful ways as it unfolds. 

During gameplay, each turn a player will draw a Story Card, which will provide them with a prompt they will answer to drive forward the city's narrative. They'll record these answers on notecards as phrases or sentences called 'Aspects' and use them to create a mindmap of the city on the table in front of them.

An 'Aspect' might be something like “city has a fear of mutants” or “We’re running out of water!” It can also relate to a certain character like “President says dissenters should be executed” or “Jacob is the only survivor of his expedition”. 

Aspects are the creative powerhouse of the game, and will be added and replaced often in order to build the narrative. Consider each one like a 'Scene' in a TV/Movie Drama or a 'Major Event' in the history books telling the tale of this civilization's collapse. 

This is where players can roleplay how/when they either resolve or escalate 'Aspects' in the game.

As characters attempt to affect the world around them in accordance with their motives, players place dice on the Aspects their characters are looking to change within the city. 

When resolving these dice, on a success the die returns to the pool and the player has the chance to create or modify an Aspect to reflect that success. But on a failure, the problem escalates, and the dice must be added to the ever-growing tower at the center of the table.

Ultimately, the dice tower you’re building will fall. This triggers the final collapse of civilization and the end of the game.

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Discussions (2)
Customer avatar
Marcos S October 07, 2019 9:10 pm UTC
Is there a printable version of the cards in the PDF?
Customer avatar
Ivan V October 07, 2019 9:55 pm UTC
Yes there are!
Customer avatar
Braydon M October 07, 2019 1:19 am UTC
Does the 'Cards in Tuckbox' option come with dice?
Customer avatar
Ivan V October 07, 2019 3:01 am UTC
Sadly, DTRPG doesn't provide print on demand dice.

However, you can easily play this with a set of exact size D6 from a set. We recommend anywhere from 20 to 30 for a lengthy session.
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File Last Updated:
October 17, 2019
This title was added to our catalog on June 07, 2019.