Who cares for the dead when the reaper is away?
Bodies are forever; souls are temporary. The god of death is missing, their vital function forgotten. Nothing living is dying.
Gods of fate stave off disaster, weaving new souls into these old bodies, but their patch won’t hold. Emissaries search for the god of death to restore the cycle of life.
– Description from author
Note from the reviewer: This is both a solo and multiplayer game. This review will only talk about the solo experience.
While most PUSH-based games provide a single story, goal, or mission to achieve, Transient Souls includes three adventure arcs.
Progress tracks are marked off in each arc when scenes and challenges are completed. At the time of review, there are 13 boxes or challenges to complete.
This makes Transient Souls quite different from other PUSH games I have reviewed. Having multiple arcs and multiple progress tracks provide more extended gameplay with a much deeper story path.
The agenda is a set of goals for the entire game.
- Gain ancient lore
- Venture into somewhere indescribable
- Find unstudied magics
- Experience death
- Discover a truth about a deathless world
- Gain a valuable resource
The agenda is achieved when the characters venture forth and discover the location of death. (Arc 1)
Once they have located death, they gather the knowledge and supplies to resurrect death. (Arc 2)
Finally, the characters perform the ancient ritual to return death to the world. (Arc 3)
Each arc has a matrix of 36 prompts to drive the story to its conclusion. Traits are also added at the end of each arc if enough goals are achieved.
The Push System
Transient Souls is based on the Push gaming system.
Push games use a single D6 dice to resolve decisions.
Instead of using stats, a traditional Push game allows you to take a risk to avoid complications and change a weak success into a complete success.
But you need to be careful because you may fail altogether and face a misfortune if you push too hard.
Transient Souls expands on the PUSH concept by introducing stats for vitality and doom, which are also affected by your rolls.
When you get too much vitality, your character dies (which is OK in the context of this game).
The doom and fate scores are adjusted when your character dies and your body continues with a new soul. You also learn a new ability as the ties between the soul, the fates, and the body grow stronger.
If you die too many times, the game is over, and the world is broken forever.
The standard PUSH engine utilizes oracles to determine strong or weak hits and outright misses. When you get a weak hit or a miss, you would typically introduce a complication by rolling on a secondary table.
In the case of Transient Souls, the complications are built into the oracles themselves. It’s up to the player to decide which one they select.
The rules come with everything you need to create a character, deal with complications, set scenes, and run a three arc campaign.
To learn more about how Push games work, refer to my post on the Push SRD.
Creating a Character
When it comes time to create a character, you will select traits from 6 different tables.
The traits fall into the following general categories:
- Strength: A fundamental strength of a character, positive personality traits.
- Belief: A core belief that the character follows.
- Quirk: A small flaw or habit that sets a character apart.
- Physique: A character’s physical presence or attributes.
- Armaments: What a character carries to protect and arm themselves.
- Trinket: Items of importance that a character carries.
In an interesting twist, the first three traits are linked to the souls and change each time you die. The final three traits stay with you throughout the entire campaign.
Types of Complications
All of the complications are from the standard Push system list. Things can become difficult, or a character can be affected somehow.
A lot of thought has been put into creating the 36 prompts for each game arc.
They are specific enough to tie them to one of the three missions but are generic enough that you can let your imagination flow.
By combining the matrix prompts with the supplied challenge options (barrier, task, fight, trap, chase, debate, contest, mystery, negotiation, endurance, threat, puzzle), a whole range of ideas come to mind.
This is a well-put-together adventure with multiple missions (arcs) and progress steps to ensure a longer than regular PUSH-based gaming experience.
There is plenty of content and opportunity to play through the missions multiple times.
Replacing various traits during the game is a brilliant idea. For example, switching from an Impulsive trait to a Forgetful trait mid-game introduces some interesting issues and certainly changes the story’s direction.
The Oracles are well explained, and the author has included several examples of how to use them within the rules. It includes an excellent example of “Chained Questions.”
You don’t usually see PUSH games with multiple story arcs. The author has done a lot of work to tie the three arcs together. The linkage is exceptionally well done.
Allowing the player to select the complications works better than rolling a D6 dice. Instead of getting a random problem, the player can choose the best option for the context of the current story/adventure.
Verdict : VERY HIGHLY RECOMMENDED : GET IT WHEN IT COMES OUT
This game includes themes of journeys, hidden knowledge, magic rituals, reincarnation, small frays, and fantastic anomalies.
Keep in mind that you can take a break or stop completely at any time. Your mental health is important, and this is just a game.
If you ever roll a prompt that makes you uncomfortable, discard it and roll again.
Remember that you can change, ignore, rewrite or abandon any part of this game that you want.
How to get it
Designed by Lindsey Bonnette @LindseyBonnette
Download from : https://itch.io/jam/push/entries
Note: The game had not been published on itch at the time of writing. The final artwork was being completed before submission to the Push Jam, which closes on May 29th, 2022.
This review is based on an unformatted pre-release text version. If the game is not available yet, make sure you follow Lindsey Bonnette on itch to be notified when it is released.
Note: I don't post actual prompts in my reviews. This is to protect the IP of the designer. You will need to buy the game to read the actual prompts.