Advice for Players

Playing Karst is a straightforward affair, but there is more to the game than rules alone. What follows are a number of notes about playing, both as a character and as a group. Included within these notes are a few ideas and suggestions. They can—and should—be modified to fit your group’s tastes and preferences.

Motivations and Goals

As a player in the game, you have two goals: The first is pretty obvious—your role is to embody one of the story’s protagonists. The second goal—like the second rule of the game—is to serve the story.

Serving the story may sometimes require going against your first goal; there will be times when the story is better served by your character not getting what they want. During play, it can be easy to think of the narrator as being the opposition, but this is not the case. In the moment, they may be against you, but in the end, you are playing together. There will also be times when the motivations of different characters are opposed, and this is good; some of the most interesting and fun stories come from casts of characters that don’t always get along.

What matters most is that you as players (and the narrator) are enjoying the story. Some groups may enjoy a lot of drama between characters, while others might prefer playing as a unified team. Above all else, it’s about how you, as a group, want to play the game. Before you get started, talk to your fellow players about how you want to approach the game together. Likewise, be sure to let the narrator know your preferences.

Embodying a Character

On paper, characters are nothing more than a few abilities, knacks, and items, plus a background and a name. Each ability, knack, and item is nothing more than a few words and a modifier. In your hands, through your actions and imagination, these traits become something more: a part of the shared language of storytelling.

Abilities tell the story of a character’s innate talents. Knacks illustrate how a character has spent their time, what lessons they have learned, and what skills they have gained. Items, too, may give some indication of a character’s origins and backstory. What kind of folk a character is may speak to the perspectives they were raised with. Less concretely, but no less important, a character’s background is the thread that weaves it all together, allowing each knack and ability to stand out as part of a woven whole: the why behind each what.

When playing, always keep your character’s talents and background in mind. Think not of what modifiers you might add to a roll, but of what your character—with their particular knacks, abilities, and experience—would do in a given situation. Abilities are strengths and knacks are trained habits: they are both things that a character should play to—at times to a fault.

Journaling and Storytelling

As you play, you will create new stories and memories— and if you want, you can make plans to keep them. Some of the roles described in the next section can assist in this endeavor, but it is up to you, together as a group or as an individual, to see it through.

The story of the Karst Archipelago is a shared canon, one that you are encouraged to contribute to; the tales found within these pages are from previous voyages upon the Mirror Sea. If you would like to publish your creations—in any capacity—the Karst Archipelago Historical Society encourages you to do so and would be delighted to highlight your work, if you wish. Find more information and guidelines at the end of this publication on the copyright page. If you have any questions or want to share your creations, don’t hesitate to reach out.

Playing as a Party

Unless you are but one, playing together as a party is an important part of the game. Parties and players can operate more efficiently when they designate and delegate certain tasks. This can also make things simpler for your narrator—who, no doubt, will be thankful.

Depending on the size and needs of the group, some or all of the following roles may be worth assigning to certain players or characters. It’s up to you to determine which roles to include, whether you want you, as players, or your actual characters to perform the roles, and whether these roles rotate after each chapter or story.


Discovery is central to the game of Karst. Having someone map where you are going and where you have been while you are exploring the wilderness, diving into caves, or even navigating a town can prevent you from getting lost and help you find your way back again. Besides, there is a simple joy in creating maps of imaginary places.


Keeping a diary or log of the group’s experiences can make it a lot easier to pick up where the group left off at the end of a session and also gives you a wonderful post-game memento. In fact, a diary can be a great way to turn a game of Karst into a short story or novella should you want to share your adventure with others and add to the broader tale of the archipelago. Much of the motivation that led to Karst came from the desire to have a system that lent itself to written storytelling in the form of characters’ journals and memoirs.

Of course, documenting a game takes time, and this task is not for everyone. There is absolutely no requirement that you write anything down; Karst can be enjoyed without any amount of journaling whatsoever.


Whether or not you want to map or record your adventures, every group needs some kind of shared ledger or inventory—and it can help to have an appointed bookkeeper maintain it. Unless your group instantly divides everything—rewards and obligations—you are going to have a few shared items, treasures, and concerns, which someone will need to keep track of. If you’re really lucky, you might even have a whole ship to worry about.


A lead describes to the narrator what the group is doing— especially during scenes of exploration—while making sure to step back and give the other players an opportu- nity to chime in when it is their characters’ time to shine. The lead does not control the party but acts as their chief representative. Not all groups need or even want a lead, but larger parties may find one invaluable. If your group decides to have a lead, it is worth first having a conver- sation about who this will be, whether the role will rotate, how the lead will make space for others, and how others should go about giving feedback if they feel that the role is not working for them or the group.

A Final Note for Players

As a player, you drive the story—make it your tale. The narrator has set the stage; you have created a character; now, it’s your time to act. Enjoy.