how long have i been awake? it’s impossible to tell.
i’m lost without you in these woods. if only i could hear your voice again.
of course that’s not possible either. nothing can be spoken aloud here.
there are only two things i can do. three, if i count… nevermind.
i have this notebook and i can write down things i want to say to you. i think you can feel them when i do. i feel closer to you, but you’re so deep in this forest. these messages lead me to you, for just a moment.
i have this lighter and i can try to find my way out of this forest. the little flame isn’t bright enough on its own, but if i burn pages of the notebook then i can find this shifting, winding path.
i will keep looking for you, even in silence, even in darkness. i am so tired but i will keep looking for that flickering connection.
Rules: You do not need to read all the rules before you begin playing. Read as far as you need to to begin taking actions and only continue reading when you need further direction.
What You Need To Play: A pencil, a few sheets of paper, a six-sided die, a lighter (optional)
Setting Up: At the top of the paper, make twenty boxes—these correspond to the pages of your notebook.
One sheet of paper is used for writing messages. If you choose to literally burn sheets of paper, conserve paper by using small amounts for each message and make you do so in a safe place that’s not in danger of spreading fire. Crossing out messages is also fine for keeping track of what’s been burnt.
The rest of the paper is used for descriptions. You will write brief notes about the forest and your time in it. These are not notes your character is writing down in the notebook, so they do not count against the page limit. However, you cannot write about the person you’re looking for or any messages to them; do not write from the emotional perspective of the character, but as a neutral observer limited in perception by the same conditions that limit the character. For example, if it’s dark, describe sounds, smells, etc; the “observer” cannot see either.
Notebook: The notebook has ten double-sided sheets, or twenty pages. Whatever it’s been used for up until this moment doesn’t matter: All that’s left are ten pages, blank on both sides. When you write a message, check one box. When you burn a page, black out two boxes.
Lighter: The lighter isn’t at risk of running out of fuel, but it doesn’t create enough light on its own to be useful. Tear a page out of the notebook and use the lighter to burn it, which creates enough light to see.
The night goes on in Steps, which may be a second of sprinting or an hour of wandering. Neither time nor distance is measured by Steps. Each Step, you take an action. You either write on a page (which uses one side per message) or you burn a page. If you only write messages, you can write twenty. If you only burn pages, you can burn ten.
Writing a Message: Think about this person you’re looking for, who you’re very distant from. You cannot speak out loud, for the forest is too dangerous. You can write a message in your notebook and, for a Step, that helps you feel closer to the person. You can use this feeling to move closer to them for some time without needing to see.
Write a short message that you would like to say out loud to the person, if given the chance. This consumes one side of a page. You explore more of the forest, but you cannot see your surroundings. On a separate sheet of paper, your “Log”, describe this Step. Do not use distinct visuals or emotional language. There is no path or easy trail for the character to follow. Beyond that, think about a forest and describe in a few sentences the act of walking through with purpose but no light. Eventually the feeling wanes and direction is lost.
Burn a Page: Burning a page for a Step creates enough light to discover a trail and follow it some distance. As above, briefly describe in your Log the discovery of the path and the experience of following it. Eventually the light fades away and some time after the trail is lost. The Step concludes.
Trails represent chance: They go in two directions. When a page is burnt, roll the die and write down the number. Odd numbers are tracked in one column and even numbers in another. You may sum the columns separately as you go.
Burning a page with a message on it (either one side or both) calls back for an instant the feeling of connection the message brought, but then severs it. This flash of feeling helps contextualize the direction of the trails; roll the die twice and choose which value to record. Describe this Step in your Log as usual.
Taking Steps: Play progresses as the character writes messages and burns pages, moving around the forest. At the beginning of each step, you’re free to choose whether to write a message or burn a page. However, if at any point you write in your Log about the person the character is looking for or the connection between them—even begins to, without actually putting down words—the current Step immediately ends and the character must write a message.
You now have the information you need to play. Read on once you are out of options.
The End: Eventually the notebook will run out of pages, either being full of messages or all burnt up. Once this happens, there is now a third choice: Go to Sleep. If there are still messages left, the character may take additional Steps to burn them or they may choose to Sleep. If all the pages of the notebook have been burnt, the character must Sleep.
Going to Sleep: Once this option is taken, write a final entry into the log. The character’s wanders are now over. If it’s late, the player may wish to go to sleep at this time too.
Upon waking, the character is no longer in the forest, but in an environment familiar and comfortable to them. Review the log and compare the columns of even numbers and odd numbers. Of course this information is hardly relevant outside the forest, but it might be useful if ever the character ends up in that dark place again, lost and longing.