Onyx Sky: Role-playing our way into the climate apocalypse

Whenever I’m not working on Hero Kids, I’m slaving on Onyx Sky.

Onyx Sky combines two great passions of mine, game design and climate change activism.

For the last few years, most of the my RPG gaming has been in post-apocalyptic settings. These games allow me to explore (and inflict on my fellow players) what our world might look like in a future ravaged by climate change and where our global civilization has collapsed.

However, Onyx Sky isn’t some preachy game about plastic straws.

In many ways Onyx Sky is a traditional role-playing game, with characters and goals and adversaries.

But in the background, Onyx Sky explores the ideas of what kind of society we want to carry into the future and what ethical frameworks underpin that society.



The world is broken.
We waged a terrible war.
We destroyed ourselves.
We destroyed our planet.

The parched land is blasted with craters.
Cities, monuments to our past, crumble.
Nature reclaims our cities and towns.
Among ruin, the survivors scratch out a life.

But the wars did not stop when the great powers fell.
We perfected war machines, and sent them into battle.
Autonomous killing machines now roam the lands.
Swarms of self-replicating nanites blacken the sky.

And in our rebuilding, we forgot the lessons of the past.
We still squabble for the spoils of our victory.
The ashes of our defeat.
Yet the spirit of humankind struggles to survive.

A Dangerous World

All RPGs require enough moving parts to generate interesting opportunities for conflict. For Onyx Sky, one of these moving parts is the war machines left over from a global conventional and nuclear war.

The unique setting elements of Onyx Sky are:

  • Nanites: Microscopic nano-machines that consume metal to self-replicate
  • Droids: Autonomous war robots that were compromised during the war to attack any and all targets
  • Freefall: Civilization in freefall after war and the destruction of technology by the nanites

A World of Consequences

Onyx Sky is a world of consequences. Consequences on a global scale, and consequences on the scale of the game’s characters.

The main theme of Onyx Sky is simple:

When you remove the trappings and comforts of civilization and technology, what’s left?

When I’ve been playing Onyx Sky, I come back to a series of questions to explore the world:

  • How do we behave without law, government, and police?
  • How can we keep our hope and humanity in a harsh world?
  • With our modern knowledge, are we better than our forebears?
  • What happens to the world as technology disappears?
  • What does it look like when nature reclaims the world?
  • What parts of civilization do we try to preserve?
  • How do we want to live?
  • What rules do survivors write for themselves?
  • What is the line between barbarism and civilization?
  • What would you do to protect your family and kin?
  • How do we deal with our elders, sick, poor, infirm, young?
  • Would you exploit others for your own comfort?
  • Would you allow the exploitation of others?
  • If you have knowledge, what do you rebuild?
  • How do you allocate scarce resources?
  • Will there always be people who use violence to get their way?
  • Is it acceptable to use power to get something you want?
  • How do we wield power?

Drop me an email if you’re interested in playtesting Onyx Sky.

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