Connection Lost

You are an astronaut aboard a broken space vessel. Systems are malfunctioning; inevitably your craft will be pulled through the atmosphere where you will meet your grimly demise. In your final hour, you hear an unfamiliar voice crackle over the intercom. "Red Rover, this is Command, what are your coordinates?"  

At first, you think that you are saved, but soon you realize that the voice cannot help you. Maybe your situation is too dire, maybe there isn't enough time, maybe the voice wants you to perish. You sigh. "At least I don't have to die alone." 

Connection Lost is a two-player RPG designed by Filipino game designer Tobie Abad. One player acts as a doomed astronaut, while the other player acts as an unknown voice talking over a loudspeaker. The voice tries to comfort the doomed soul, but they have a secret. If the astronaut knew the voice's secret, he might feel very different about their bewildering conversation. 

To play Connection Lost, you will need a deck of cards for each player, a timer, and a song to play at the climax of the story. To start, players draw cards to fill in pieces of their back story. For example, the game asks the astronaut, "Why are you trapped?" The player draws a card. It is a club. You consult the starting questions section of the rules which read, "Club - You are gravely injured and cannot move from your current position." 

After each player answers their questions, set the timer for one hour. This is the amount of time remaining until the astronaut dies. For the duration of the game, the players improvise dialogue about their situation and their memories of Earth. The astronaut will quickly realize that the conversation is not what they expected. After an hour is up, the astronaut gets 1 minute to wrap up the story before their ship explodes and the end of game music is played. Sound fun? It is. 

Whenever you are unsure of where to take the conversation, the game has you discreetly draw a card. These act as "Sparks" or "Prompts." Sparks are used to answer questions if you don't know how to answer them. For example: 

P1: "When you were a little kid, what did you want to be when you grew up?" 

P2: Can't think of an answer, or just wants to let fate direct him. 

Draws card. It is a spade: talk about regrets. Using this spark of inspiration, P2 answers the question. "You know I always wanted to be an artist, but my dad said it was impossible. I wish I would have given it a try at least." 

Prompts, on the other hand, help you ask questions to the other player if the conversation lags. 

p1: ... can't think of a question. Draws a card. It is a club: talk about dreams. 

"What do you want to do after you retire?" 

If improvising conversations isn't a strong suit of yours, these prompts and sparks certainly help you get out of a rut. However, this game is so rules-light that I wish the designer had done more to make it feel less of an improv exercise and more of a game. A number of times, my partner and I got stuck, didn't know what to say, and needed to talk out of character to make the game run smoothly again. If I were to play again, I would shorten the timer maybe to half an hour to avoid awkward silences and increase the impact of the game. 

With that being said, as with any game that allows you to confront death in such a personal way, I found Connection Lost to be a very emotional experience. 

I played Doug, an astronaut who forgot why he was in space. "I've been to space before," I told the voice, "I just don't remember what mission I'm on or why there isn't any other crew." I quickly realized that the voice on the radio was like no other person I had ever talked to. When I asked him what his favorite books were, he replied "Websters English Dictionary," and "Microsoft Excel Index Logs 2007-2008." Despite our different preferences in reading material, we developed a quirky friendship. One of my favorite moments was when the voice blasted Darius Rucker's song "Wagon Wheel" over the intercom when I mentioned it was my Dad's favorite song. I talked to the voice about watching basketball with my dad and sister while growing up in up northern New York. In the end, the voice was trying to help me. I scrambled to follow the voice's complicated directions. I needed to get life support operational. My hands were shaking and it was too little too late. In my final breaths, I told the voice that I was glad not to die alone. The voice played Scott Joplin's Solace over the intercom and wished me farewell. 

You can get Connection Lost by purchasing You & I: Roleplaying Games for Two on DrivethruRPG. The collection is 8.40$ for a pdf or 21$ for a softcover book (which also includes a pdf version). Follow on Tobie Abad Twitter @AllTobieNoShade